Archive for December, 2007

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The “Kettle” Calling the “Pot” Black…

December 30, 2007

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In an article published in The New York Times on May 9, 2005 Janice Min, the editor in chief of US Weekly, justified the fact that her magazine paid $500,000 for the pictures of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the beach together by telling the Times’ reporter Lia Miller “that every magazine was still looking for that one special photograph. ‘Usually the big-ticket photos involve a pregnancy, a wedding, a breakup or a hook-up.’” Well, last week OK Weekly landed such a picture of the pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears. Us Weekly, in this week’s issue, slams Jamie Lynn’s mother Lynne Spears for selling the story to OK Weekly. US Weekly goes on to write, “Lynne soon sought out OK! magazine, a struggling British-owned tabloid that pays generously for celeb interviews…” OK Weekly is now a struggling tabloid! OK Weekly, in fact has been growing in circulation in the United States and have published several editions world-wide. I, for one, do not agree with the concept of anyone been paid to be interviewed, but for the kettle (US Weekly) to call the pot (OK Weekly) black strikes me as funny to say the least. If Lynne Spears made the same offer to US Weekly, those same pictures would have appeared on the cover of US Weekly, and no other magazine would have attacked the rest of the magazines because they did not win the bidding. It is amazing what passes today as journalism; journalism with no profound impact on the life of any of the readers. Shame on all of us and on all of those who try to push this type of media as journalism.

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The Best Use of “Christmas” in a Magazine…

December 24, 2007

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New Statesman magazine bills itself “Britain’s award-winning current affairs weekly,” and keeping with current affairs this week’s issue celebrates Christmas and the New Year in a very special way. The magazine offers “100 pages of the finest writing…” inside this end-of-the-year issue. Included in the issue is more than one defense of the use of the terms Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas rather than the so-called politically correct Happy Holidays. What caught my attention was the essay by Richard Dawkins, the Oxford University professor and self professed atheist and author of The God Delusion book. He writes,

“For better or worse, ours is historically a Christian culture, and children who grow up ignorant of biblical literature are diminished, unable to take literary allusions, actually impoverished. I am no lover of Christianity, and I loathe the annual orgy of waste and reckless reciprocal spending, but I must say I’d rather wish you ‘Happy Christmas’ than ‘Happy Holiday Season.”

New Statesman magazine is filled with Christmas essays, fiction, quizzes and awards. Very well done and best usage of the word Christmas that I have seen in a long long time…

And for those of us who celebrate the birth of Jesus, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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How Many Magazines Debuted This Year?

December 22, 2007

The Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy tackles this issue on his blog and provides some explanations for all the numbers floating around, including my own numbers. The Numbers Guy Carl Bialik starts his blog stating, “If you want to know how many magazines debuted in the U.S. this year, you have to start by answering the question: What is a magazine launch?Click here to read his entire blog.

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“You’ve come a long way baby…”

December 22, 2007

ok.jpg… And the baby here refers to both OK magazine and Britney Spears’ little sister Jamie Lynn. OK and Jamie Lynn were both born with silver spoons in their mouths and they were both in the shadows of other front runners, siblings or no siblings. With the latest “pregnancy” news both Jamie Lynn Spears and OK magazine landed a prime spot in the world of celebrity gossip. The pregnant teenager landed on the cover of OK magazine and together with her mom gave the magazine an exclusive interview. The rest of the media sadly jumped on the band wagon and spent hours reporting about the pregnancy and the exclusivity of the interview in OK magazine. What some may consider a great coup for OK magazine, I feel it is a sad day for a country where teen-age pregnancy has always been a problem. Rather than addressing the problem and the role and responsibilities of the parents, we are now celebrating kid pregnancies and referring to the pregnant teen as “the brave teenager.” Call me old-fashioned, but this is where I draw the line.

By the way, just in case you did not catch the irony behind the headline of this blog entry, “You’ve come a long way baby…” Here’s a brief explanation, it was the headline for an ad for a brand of cigarettes aimed at women. Well, now you know the rest of that story… need I say more!

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Mr. Magazine’s™ 7 Great Magazine Moments in 07

December 17, 2007

“So, how is the magazine business?” a friend whom I have not seen for more than a year asked me. What do you tell someone who has not been on the scene for more than a year?“ Great! It has been great,” was my answer and I proceeded to tell him, in a true magazine fashion, what I consider as my 7 great magazine moments of 2007:

1. The launch of Condé Nast Portfolio: It single handedly brought back the faith in new magazine launches from a major media company who still considers magazine business as its core business. Thank you S. I. Newhouse Jr., David Carey and Joanne Lipman.

2. The reinvention of Time magazine: The weekly has gone through a major reinvention bringing relevance and intelligence to its contents and readers. The new Time set the stage for changes at both Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. Thank you Richard Stengel and Edward McCarrick.

3. The creation of a new genre of man’s magazines: The launch of Outside’s Go and Men’s Health Living magazines created a new genre of man’s magazines that cater to non-woman related issues in a man’s life. Both magazines are catering to a new niche that has gone unfulfilled for years: travel that meets the needs of the active man and interior design and home that meets the needs of the affluent man. Thank you Larry Burke and David Zinczenko.

4. Giving a new meaning to Garden and Gun: Through the launch of the new regional magazine Garden & Gun the two terms bestowed a new meaning on both of the words. One no longer thinks gardening or guns when they hear the two words, rather they think “21st Century Southern America.” Thank you Rebecca Darwin and welcome Sid Evans.

5. The Week is not for sale: With the sale of all the U.S. properties, Dennis Publishing did not include The Week on its “For sale” announcement. Felix Dennis once told me that he is a poor consumer of popular media. “I watch no television, see no movies and couldn’t, quite frankly, care less about magazines, with the exception of The Week…”Thank you Felix Dennis.

6. The Mook, a new word in the magazine world: Monocle magazine launched in London and few other international cities at the same time, added a new word to the English language and gave a brand new meaning and respect to the world of book-a-zines: The Mook. A magazine that looks and feels like a book, but reads as a magazine with all new content and non of the recycled content book-a-zines accustomed us to see. Thank you Tyler Brulé.

7. The launch of Everywhere and the re-launch of JPG: Both magazines, published by 8020 Publishing, show that a partnership can exist between both technologies: paper and pixels. Just give to paper what is paper’s and to pixels what is pixels’. Thank you Paul Cloutier.

So here you have it, 7 great moments in the life of the magazine industry in 2007.I’m looking forward to a great 2008.All the best to all, and here’s for a great new year.

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Snap a picture, write a post-card, and you will have a magazine you can call your own: Everywhere

December 14, 2007

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You’ve heard me sing the praises of JPG magazine, the photo magazine that uses the best of the on-line and off-line technologies. (For those of you who need an explanation, that is the web and ink on paper combined). Now JPG has a sibling, and a very good one for that matter. Everywhere magazine which follows the same model as JPG is unlike any other travel magazine out there. They’ve claimed it a unique travel magazine and I agree. The magazine follows six easy steps in the process of its creation: See the world (that is you the reader), document your trip (that is your trip documented with words and pictures), upload your travel tales and photos on www.everywheremag.com, peer review (that is the rest of your travel community who did exactly the same thing that you’ve done), final selection (that is where the editors role and journalism come to play), and finally get published, get paid and receive a free subscription.
The entire idea of the magazine reminds me of a former student of mine and a good friend, who everywhere he travels, he buys postcards and addresses them to himself. He once told me that is how he keeps track of all his travels and all the great places he visits. At home, he has all the postcards in a folder that opens like a magazine page. Everywhere magazine is like that folder. Imagine yourself writing a postcard and sharing both the picture and the words on the web. Now imagine you have the opportunity to share it with the rest of the world. All of sudden you are part of a travel community who are only interested in sharing their trips and comparing notes with each other. Now, stop imagining because it is no longer a piece of fiction. It is a dream come true.
So sit back, relax and order yourself a copy of Everywhere…you don’t have to take my word for it, but rest assured it is not your father’s travel magazine. As I’ve mentioned earlier JPG and Everywhere are reinventing the way we combine two of the best technologies that have been invented so far, paper and on-line and the results should give hope to any one who believes in the future of reader interaction and consumer satisfaction.

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Good things come in 3s (x 3): American Profile, Relish and now Spry

December 12, 2007

Spry will be the latest 9 million circulation new magazine launch from the Franklin, TN based Publishing Group of America (PGA). Spry, which will debut in Sept. 08, will be devoted to health and fitness and will join two other siblings, the weekly general interest magazine, American Profile (9.8 million circ.) and the food monthly, Relish (now at 9, next Jan. will hit 12 million circulation). The success story of PGA reached a new milestone today by being acquired by Bain Capital Ventures and Shamrock Capital Growth Fund (Roy Disney family). In a press release issued today the new owners said, “The deal opens a new chapter in the phenomenal growth of PGA, which has bucked the magazine industry trend by turning newspapers into a pipeline for innovation in magazines, digital media and branded content.”
Both American Profile and Relish have received the Most Notable Magazine Launch Award in their 2000 and 2006 launch years respectively from Mr. Magazine website and Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines.

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The future of newspapers: The problem is in the newsroom, not the newspaper

December 10, 2007

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I recently gave a speech at the Paper and Pulp Products Council (PPPC) European Summit in Brussels, Belgium on the future of ink on paper and the magazine and newspaper’s future as we know it today. I noted that the problem is not with the medium but rather the problem is with the message. In fact, after further reflection and several visits with newspaper newsrooms both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, I am more of the opinion now that the problem is rather with the newsroom also and not only with the message. In fact, I do not know if we can separate our message problems from our newsroom problems.
The majority of the newsrooms that I have visited are still operating in the same way they operated when I was working in a newsroom as if nothing has changed. Yes, we no longer use typewriters (we are talking 70s here) but we still have the beat system and the division of the newsroom between reporters, writers, editors and designers. The territorial divisions in the newspaper are still alive, well and kicking the newspaper to its grave. Try to tell the folks in the newsroom that the reporter from the city council beat needs to work with the reporter from the world beat and see what will happen. Try to tell the reporters to ignore yesterday’s news because their readers have already heard and seen the news and see their reaction. The newsroom has to go beyond the news and the reporters working there have to do the same.
As we move to adapt in this rapidly moving technology era, we need to make sure that our reporters and editors will focus their content on the right medium. That is why some forward thinking newspapers are moving more in the direction of content editors and directors rather than news editors.
I believe that we need to have two newsrooms in each paper, one to operate the on-line edition which will continue to operate like the old fashioned newsroom with beat reporters whose sole job is to chase and report the news (from their virtual office to the web directly) and a contents-room for journalists who are going to stop the news-race and rather focus on analyzing and studying the news in order to create information out of the news as the editor-in-chief of the Dutch newspaper nrc•next Hans Nijenhuis likes to say, “News is free, but information is not.” He told Monocle magazine last month, “We feel that Next is actually a daily magazine. Traditional papers are done page by page and sent off to the press to be put together. At Next we put all the pages on the floor at 18:00 and see how it works as a whole…”
The technology of paper (and yes paper is a technology for those who tend to forget that) may no longer be the best home for most of the news, but it sure IS the best technology to provide the information that is needed to link our yesterday with our tomorrow. The good paper technology still provides its customers with a “beyond the news” detailed information that as Bruce Brandfon, the publisher of Scientific American says “will have a profound impact” on its users. We must keep that in mind and start to implement that profound impact in our newsrooms.
Change should start from within, or the prophets of doom and gloom will continue to predict the demise of the newspapers. A paper (notice that I did not use newspaper) must be that, a paper that offers unique journalism that will have that profound impact on the lives of its readers whether political, culture, financial, or even entertainment and lifestyle (Such as in the British paper The Independent). Profound is the key for a successful journalism paper in this century and beyond. The fun thing about the aforementioned is that it is not new. The necessity of journalism is as important today as it has ever been. The only change is in the way journalism is delivered. The paper technology is great for some journalism and the web technology is great for some other journalism. The key is to change and adapt. Change must come from the inside, inside the newsroom, otherwise, newspapers will be committing mass suicide in this country and their numbers will continue to drop. If your newspaper is not necessary and sufficient you can start counting the days to the grave, and if you are still talking about the need to change, IT IS TOO LATE.
The papers in this country can still have a great future if we free the newsroom and the way we do business in the newsrooms. Trimming the staff, redesigning the paper and closing national and overseas offices are nothing but band-aids on a major, deep cut that will not help the healing process. Now is the time to hit the brakes and rethink our entire strategy of the future. A strategy that should begin today and it should begin from within the newsroom.

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New Magazine Launches: A Healthy November in a not so healthy year…

December 5, 2007

The November numbers of new magazine launches are in and they are almost as high as November of last year. The ones published four times or more were exactly the same as those of last year, the annuals and specials fell short 11 titles. So, recapping the November numbers, a total of 65 new titles were launched compared to that of 76 last November bringing the number of new magazines so far to 636 which is short 206 of the 842 new titles launched in the same period of 2006. The overall number of new titles launched with a frequency of four times or above so far this year has reached 221 compared to that of 312 for the same reporting period of 2006. It looks like the number for new magazine launches this year is going to be the lowest in more than a decade. It was 1992 when the number of new magazine launches was in the 600 figure. For a complete list and images of all the new titles of November 2007 and the rest of the new titles of the year so far please click here.

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