NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a darkly-lit cheap motel, photographer Jonathan Leder encourages a young female model posing semi-naked in a hot tub to lean toward the camera.
If that image of a nude young woman seems a tired cliche and cheap way to sell magazines, the makers of “Jacques” would beg to differ. For rival publishers it might pay to listen because “Jacques” is breaking a downward trend in periodical publishing where cost-cutting is the norm.
And publishers might be surprised to hear “Jacques” is not the latest high-end fashion magazine, but an adult publication that aims to be a kitschy vintage throwback to pin-up magazines of the 1960s and ‘70s with centerfolds of models such as a recent, topless woman posing on a vintage motorcycle.
“It’s a question of quality,” Leder, the magazine’s creative director told Reuters about the reason “Jacques” had increased in popularity while other magazines were failing.
“Unfortunately, publishers, like many other people in this day and age, seem to think, ‘why not, if we can do it cheaper, let’s just do it cheaper and sell it for less.’”
The “Jacques” mantra: spend a little on quality, and your book will sell for more — to more people.
In a frantic publishing climate where many magazines have struggled with the rise of the Internet, “Jacques” launched in May 2009, a year that would see some 282 magazines fold in the first nine months, according to Marketingcharts.com.
Just 1,000 copies of “Jacques” were printed on its first run and of those, 175 were sold at newsstands. Now, the new issue of the quarterly magazine, which has a cover price of $9, has a print run of 14,000, is sold at bookstores including Barnes & Noble and Borders and has an overseas distributor.
By contrast, Playboy’s traditional magazine business has been hard hit by declining circulation and advertising revenue as people turn to free pornography on the Internet. This year’s second quarter advertising revenues declined $6.2 million, or 38 per cent, the company said.
While other publishers adapt to the digital age, “Jacques” stands out among rival adult magazines by using old-fashioned film and natural light to shoot pictorials of naked women with a retro-inspired aesthetic. The magazine is printed on quality paper stock and the pictures are high-gloss.
“Jacques” has capitalized on a trend in vogue for several years in the fashion and film worlds by redesigning looks from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, which is similar to one of the magazine’s first major advertisers, American Apparel.
Leder, 37, runs the magazine with his wife Danielle from the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. He said their high-art aesthetic was inspired by publications ranging from “Gent and Sir in the ‘50s and ‘60s to Escapade and the early Playboys and Penthouses.”
The pair capitalized on a gap in a market flooded with what they described as “vulgar, cheap, adult” publications, and he declined to classify “Jacques” as pornography — “a cheap word,” he said.
Models are mostly in the 20s with natural curves and little or no cosmetic surgery or silicone implants.
“We want to get back to what Playboy originally set out to do and that was feature the girl next door,” said Danielle, 24, a former model herself. “We don’t do retouching. If they have a freckle, a scar, if they have a stretch mark, it’s there.”
Model Lisa Delphia saw “Jacques” as “different.”
“If it’s artistically done and tastefully done then it’s different than being in a porno,” Delphia said.
The Leders declined to specify current profit margins, and disagreed with the idea — long held by anti-porn activists — that they were profiting from vulnerable young women.
They said the booking agents who send them models inform the women in advance of the type of magazine “Jacques” is.
“That’s not our goal,” Jonathan Leder said.
The pair is also adamant about another thing: people are buying Jacques for the pictures. When it comes to the articles, Jonathan says: “That’s not our strong point.”
editing by Bob Tourtellotte