Archive for March, 2012

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The Power of Print: Enjoy The Journey

March 27, 2012

A spoken poem, in sound and picture, captivates the power of print. Released by InkGlobal in the United Kingdom The Journey is a must see. Enjoy the “Spoken poem; print is not dying. Produced by Ink, written and directed by David Bowden @ The Garden Studios.” Thank you Simon for sharing.

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Size Does Matter… and Shape, Weight and Volume… My Latest Publishing Executive magazine column

March 18, 2012

My latest column from the March/April issue of Publishing Executive magazine… Enjoy and Comment!


Mr. Magazine’s M.O. : Size Does Matter
Why Hearst and other publishers are going bigger with their print mags.
March 2012 By Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni

I just returned from a trip overseas, and as with all my travel, I am always in a hunting mood for new magazines. Well, I was able to find some first editions, as well as some American magazines that took the journey across the Atlantic. The size, weight and shape of some of these magazines led to this month’s column (and let’s not forget the additional cost of carrying the magazines on the plane with me all the way from Amsterdam to Memphis).

Size Does Matter …

But first things first: Size does matter. I read during my visit an article in the International Herald Tribune that talked about research that some psychologists have been doing regarding children and e-reading. They have noted that it is important for the development of the child to be able to see the different sizes, shapes, volumes of the books he or she is reading, as opposed to one-size-fits-all on the tablets.

This could not be truer than the first issue of Exhibition, an oversized magazine (imagine six copies of Time laid next to each other) published in France. The magazine cost almost $50 and is a beauty to hold and look at. Yes, it can be presented on the iPad or any other tablet, but that majestic size will disappear. It is like the difference between owning the “Mona Lisa” and owning a print of the famous painting. Size does matter when it comes to showing the breathtaking power of print and the way magazines are utilizing the ink on paper. Pixels on the screen will not do it for that publication.

Best in Class…

The same is true in the latest revamp of Harper’s Bazaar. The March issue of the magazine extends the width of the magazine by 1 inch and heavies up on the paper quality. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, explained to me in a recent interview why Hearst is upsizing its magazines: “We are investing in a number of our editions because we do want to be best in class in all of our titles. We do know that as far as advertising, we want to be, ideally, one, two, maybe three; in terms of a category, you don’t want to be four or five.” In the last three years, Hearst has upsized Country Living and Good Housekeeping, and published both Food Network and HGTV magazines in a larger size than the majority of the magazines in the marketplace.

Weight and Volume, Too …

Hunger magazine is a new title from the United Kingdom and it weighs at least 3 pounds, I kid you not. It is as heavy, if not heavier, than the September issues (and, I can easily say, the March issues) of the women’s fashion titles. Holding those magazines in one’s hands adds a feeling unlike any on a tablet, invented or in the process of being invented. The weight and volume of those magazines give you three-dimensional tactile feelings that do not exist on the tablet.

Tablets are competing to create very light machines with very little depth. Printed magazines are doing just the opposite. They are creating “heavy” experiences that you can feel with every issue and every page as you flip through them. Magazines are 3-D without the need for special eyeglasses. They are real 3-D, not virtual 3-D.

The size, weight and volume of a printed magazine will continue to provide a “real experience” that goes beyond “good content.” So, if you are in the mood for some reading, grab your tablet and read. But, if you are in the mood for a “great experience” that you can enjoy with all your senses, pick up a copy of an ink-on-paper magazine and judge for yourself. Who said all experiences are created equal? Enjoy. PE

For other columns and articles from Publishing Executive magazine and website click here.

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A Long Love Affair With Magazines: The American Journalism Review Profile on Mr. Magazine™

March 15, 2012

In celebration of my half century love affair with magazines, the American Journalism Review publication ran a profile on me on March 13, 2011. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Samir Husni has been carrying on a well-publicized love affair for almost half a century. It’s one of his greatest passions, and he has no intention of quitting any time soon. Oddly enough, his wife knows about it and is completely cool with it.

Husni, 59, is widely regarded as the United States’ leading authority on magazines. So much so that he has officially trademarked his nickname, “Mr. Magazine.”

To read the entire profile click here.

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My Love Affair with Magazines Turns 50… Love and Magazines, Both Eternal

March 12, 2012

The more magazines change, the more they remain the same. Fifty years ago I started on this journey that began as a hobby of buying and collecting first editions. It turned into an education that culminated in a Ph.D. in journalism and ended as a never-ending life-time profession of magazine education and consulting.

From the first time I bought a magazine at the ripe age of 9, I fell in love. I felt, all of sudden, that all the stories that my father and grandfather used to tell were captured in the palms of my hands. I was in control of the story. I had the story, the whole story, under my control. I was no longer dependent on my dad or my granddad to start or finish a story. It was there. Every page I turned made the experience of knowing the story and controlling its pace even more exceptional. The more I got hooked into the story the faster I was turning the pages. It was unlike any experience I have ever had with stories and story telling.

The first time I felt the pages, read the stories, and had the power to control both (flipping the pages and the pacing of the stories), I was hooked. I had never experienced anything like it. I was addicted. Needless to say that there was no way on earth, 50 years ago, I would have been able to define a magazine as an “experience maker” rather than a “content provider”; but now, after all these years, it is all clear to me. I can explain my addiction. I can explain my love affair. I can explain why I say that the more magazines change the more they stay the same. Magazines are much more than content providers; they are experience makers.

My hobby of collecting first issues that began 50 years ago turned into an education of studying those first issues and a profession of teaching and consulting on magazines. My hobby is still going strong, better yet, stronger than ever. My love of magazines is still as powerful as that very first love that I felt when I bought my very first issue in my hometown of Tripoli, Lebanon. Little did I know that there was no turning back.

What I’ve learned over the past 50 years is one thing that I know for sure: my love for those experience makers called magazines is forever.

Photo by Mark K. Dolan, taken on my birthday March 8 in my office at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

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Garden & Gun’s editor-in-chief David DiBenedetto to Samir Husni: We Are Not in the Business of Bashing Other Magazines…

March 1, 2012

In the spirit of more is less, the editor in chief of Garden & Gun magazine, David DiBenedetto, decided to respond to The Oxford American’s editor Marc Smirnoff’s 3,600-word “critical analysis” of G&G. His response, exclusively via the Mr. Magazine™ blog follows:

Garden & Gun is not in the business of bashing other magazines, especially Southern ones. And while Mr. Smirnoff is entitled to his 3,600-word (and by his own admission “biased”) opinion, he seems to have either ignored or just not paid much attention to the bulk of G&G’s content. It would most likely come as a surprise to the many Southern artisans, craftsmen, farmers, shop owners, musicians, artists, authors, designers, dog trainers, sportsmen, chefs, barkeeps, filmmakers, pit masters, and others whom we’ve featured to learn that they don’t represent the real South. It would also surprise the long list of great writers who have contributed to G&G (some of whom, as Mr. Smirnoff notes, also contribute to the Oxford American) to hear that their work is devoid of substance. In any case, we do agree that the South is a big, dynamic, and diverse place, and there is more than enough room for a variety of viewpoints and magazines—even those that don’t appreciate a good porch. – David DiBenedetto

Read my interview with the editor of The Oxford American Marc Smirnoff below.

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Marc Smirnoff to Samir Husni: “You have gone on record calling Garden & Gun great. That is critical analysis. The same thing that I did. The only difference is that my critical analysis of G&G is negative and yours is positive.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Marc Smirnoff, Editor, Oxford American magazine

March 1, 2012

“Is it pure trashiness for The Oxford American’s editor to bash another Southern magazine?” The question is not mine, but that of Marc Smirnoff, editor of The Oxford American magazine who wrote a three-page “critical analysis” of Garden & Gun magazine.

It is one of those rare moments in the history of American magazines, let alone Southern magazines, where one editor bashes another editor in public. Since moving to the South in 1984 I was told time and time again that it is not the “southern thing” to do, to air your dirty laundry in public.

So with that in mind, I emailed Marc Smirnoff to request an interview with him about the Garden & Gun “critical analysis”, The Oxford American, the future of print and what keeps him up at night. Marc declined to be interviewed on camera, but accepted to do an email interview.

What follows are, in typical Mr. Magazine™ Interviews style, the sound-bites first, followed by the unedited email interview.

The Sound-bites

On media-on-media attacks: What the BLEEP, Samir? We in the media shouldn’t act like we are members of a Good Ole Boys Club.

On why he wrote the critical analysis of G & G: Hype for a superficial magazine intent on dumbing down (and commodifying) a subject that I love was, finally, more than I could be silent about.

On the reasons behind The Oxford American survival: We fill a true void. We aren’t copying anybody; we aren’t redundant.

On the difference between print and digital: The online or electronic experience is not conducive to serious reading of the kind THE OXFORD AMERICAN strives to offer.

On his most pleasurable moment in the history of The Oxford American: I’d have to brood on it for days to single out one highlight from so many!

On what keeps him up at night: Magazine-creation, done ambitiously, shouldn’t be sleep-inducing…to readers or editors….


And now for the entire unedited interview with Marc Smirnoff, editor of The Oxford American:

Samir Husni: It is rare in the magazine business for one magazine to attack another magazine in public. Why now and why did you decide to break your “print silence” after 5 years of the launch of Garden & Gun?

Marc Smirnoff: “Attack”? Gee, I just thought it was a simple, but honest, critical analysis. But let’s use your term. There have been numerous such attacks in the history of magazines, and the writers who have attacked before me—like H.L. Mencken, Elizabeth Hardwick, Dwight Macdonald, or A.J. Liebling, to name just some—did so with lasting meaning.

In any case, I am sure you’ve noticed that magazines attack A LOT OF OTHER THINGS all the time. Since you don’t seem to have a problem with that, the implication is that you just don’t like media-on-media attacks. What the BLEEP, Samir? We in the media shouldn’t act like we are members of a Good Ole Boys Club; we shouldn’t just dish it out to strangers.

I don’t play golf, or make big business deals or racist jokes, so the idea of hanging out in a sauna with a bunch of good ole boys at The Club just does not do it for me. (I overheard one wag say, “GARDEN & GUN is a magazine for Republicans produced by Democrats.”)

I’ll also note that, from the start, you, Mister Magazine, have gone on record in calling G&G “great.” That is critical analysis. The same thing that I did. The only difference is that my critical analysis of G&G is negative and yours is positive.

SH: Some may say it is the “unsouthern thing” to do to air your dirty laundry on the pages of the magazine. How does your recent editorial help the cause of The Oxford American?

MS: The matter of Southern magazines, and how they examine or treat the South, is something that I care about and think about. I’m fine with you disagreeing with my assessment, but you seem to be bothered by the very act of my speaking up!

In the piece itself, I go into detail about why I finally chose to write about G&G, so I won’t repeat myself here. [Those in your audience who wish to see the piece for themselves can go to: http://oxfordamerican.org/articles/2012/feb/23/gg-me-buccellati-silver-spoon/ ] The short version is that I would not have written a substantive critique of GARDEN & GUN if somebody else had beaten me to it. But nobody did. Until now, all that existed in regard to critical analysis of G&G was vacuous praise (and, from G&G itself, vacuous self-praise). Hype for a superficial magazine intent on dumbing down (and commodifying) a subject that I love was, finally, more than I could be silent about.

Here are some of GARDEN & GUN’s flaws: They have a weird position on race (that’s me being kind of nice, actually). They promote a vulgar and aggressive materialism. They worship at the veranda of The Old South Plantation Myth. All that, and still they claim to be the “Soul of the South”; still they claim to speak for everyone.

THE OXFORD AMERICAN has flaws (by God, we do!), but they are different from GARDEN & GUN’s flaws—and I don’t mind saying so in print.

As far as whether the publishing of my editorial has helped the cause of THE OXFORD AMERICAN, all I can say is that I am convinced that our readership expects us to try to be honest and insightful. Why don’t YOU tell me how such an approach hurts the cause of THE OXFORD AMERICAN?

SH: The Oxford American has been the magazine with so many “near-death situations.” Twenty years later you are still at the helm of the magazine you’ve created. What is the secret of your survival? What is the secret of the magazine’s survival?

MS: Obviously, we want profitability. But first—and always first—THE OXFORD AMERICAN aims to forge true, deep connections with its readers. I like to think our readers respect that we don’t put moneymaking first. I hope they find that refreshing.

Another reason that THE OA keeps on going is that we fill a true void. We aren’t copying anybody; we aren’t redundant. We exist because the South—the American region that has produced, and produces, this country’s greatest writers—needs to have at least one ambitious magazine springing from its depths.

For a long time, whenever a good Southern writer wanted to appear in an ambitious magazine, she or he had to reach out or genuflect to New York magazines. We want to have a role in changing that pattern and keeping some of the action in-house.

SH: With an industry so engaged in digital, what do you think is the future of print in a digital age?

MS: The online or electronic experience is not conducive to serious reading of the kind THE OXFORD AMERICAN strives to offer. To paraphrase Harold Bloom, serious reading allows us to create a deeper relationship with ourselves. And the online experience, with all its chattering and blipping, and pushy, pulsating neon advertisements, is not friendly to the kind of prolonged, profound soul-exploration that serious reading provokes. That’s why people, when they find long and intellectually engaging articles online, often print them out. (The Internet is best suited for quick-hit reading.) One of these days, there will be an electronic invention that will completely duplicate the quiet, tactile, seemingly unbeatable technology of print-on-paper, but until that invention manifests itself, hard-copy magazines will have a place—for some of us, for enough of us. The majority, though, will probably give up on paper. With that group, we are as doomed as dinosaurs, Samir. Until then, though, I say: Viven los dinosaurs!

SH: What is the biggest hurdle facing The Oxford American today?

MS: We can best serve our contributors, and best address our money issues, by attracting more readers, more subscribers. As a poor nonprofit, we are often stifled by a lack of money. We’d love to have more staffers (and pay them better), bigger editorial budgets, BIG marketing budgets, paid interns, etc. Being poor increases the size of the hurdles, yes, but such hurdles just make our hard heads harder.

SH: What has been the most pleasurable moment in the history of The Oxford American?

MS: Wow. Very nice question, but I’d have to brood on it for days to single out one highlight from so many! Let’s keep it hush, but magazine editors have the most rewarding, enjoyable gig in the world.

SH: What keeps Marc Smirnoff up at night?

MS: William Faulkner once uttered writing advice that also works as editing advice. He said: “Be better than yourself.” The problem is that if you follow his (profound) decree, restless nights will dog you. On the other hand, hell, magazine-creation, done ambitiously, shouldn’t be sleep-inducing…to readers or editors….

SH: Thank you.

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