Life after Death?

One minor footnote to the demise of the Houston Post is the future of Houston Life, the independently published magazine that has been appearing as a once-a-month Sunday insert in the newspaper.

Life publisher Mark Inabnit says his glossy, four-color monthly paean to leisure and affluence is being printed as scheduled in Minnesota, and he plans to distribute 200,000 copies of the next issue free to selected zip codes to promote paid subscriptions. Inabnit is banking that new readers and Post readers familiar with the magazine's first 15 issues will pay $24 for an annual subscription, which is well above the $12-to-$15 rates of many national magazines and the $18 to $20 subscription costs for Texas Monthly. Inabnit says he has secured a newsstand distribution deal with East Texas Periodicals, and the magazine should be available on newsstands at $2.95 a pop by early May.

Inabnit called a press conference in the wake of the Post's death to announce his plans, saying the magazine had been inundated with thousands of phone calls of support, including some from the likes of developer and oilman George Mitchell, Enron chairman Ken Lay and adman Larry Sachnowitz, as well as a fifth-grade class from Brill Elementary in Spring.

Inabnit said that despite financial hardships that led to staff reductions this year, he expects to take the magazine to a profit by May or June. That will be quite a task, since he will have to add staff to create a circulation department.

Smelling the magazine's blood in the water, advertising representatives from Texas Monthly began offering Houston Life's advertisers deals if they wanted to jump publications. Inabnit immediately complained to Texas Monthly publisher Michael Levy, threatening in a phone message to "level" the Monthly with legal action and bad publicity if he didn't pull his ad reps back.

Despite months of rumors foretelling the Post's demise, Inabnit says he was left scrambling to put together a new distribution system after learning of the newspaper's fate. Inabnit says he did try to inquire about the possibility of striking a deal with the Chronicle, but neither executives from the city's only remaining daily nor its owner, Hearst, returned his calls.

-- Michael Berryhill


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