In a surprise boost for Martha Stewart (search), her lifestyle magazine, Martha Stewart Living, was nominated yesterday for the magazine industry's highest award.

The coveted nomination for a National Magazine Award (search) could help lure back advertisers, who've been reluctant to keep buying ads in her magazine because of Stewart's legal troubles. Ads were down 44 percent last year.

The 2.4 million-circulation magazine garnered a top nomination - for general excellence of a title with 2 million-plus circulation - alongside four other established giants: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic and O, The Oprah Magazine. A panel of 190 judges picked nominees over the past six weeks.

Some industry sources say the nomination is ample proof the Martha Stewart brand still has its luster despite her legal hassles. Indeed, her television show was nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards (search) shortly before her conviction.

"It's such an irony - it's her first nomination and it came at this particularly difficult time for her," said a source close to Stewart.

Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), said it "has never been prouder of Martha Stewart Living magazine."

Sweeping the nominations for the seventh consecutive year was The New Yorker, with 11 nominations in nine categories.

Noticeably absent from the short list was Vanity Fair (search), which has been either a finalist or winner for years.

Among the newcomer nominees were Teen Vogue, CIO Magazine and Budget Living.

Others nominated for general excellence include: Business Week, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN the Magazine, Popular Science, Real Simple and Vogue (in the 1 million to 2 million circulation category); and Gourmet, House & Garden, National Geographic Traveler, The New Yorker and Wired (500,000 to 1 million).