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Magazine covers in 2020 have featured Black subjects three times more than the previous 90 years

October 16, 2020

Today, a first-time visitor to a newsstand would see something long-sought: a mainstreaming of Black people into American life.

This article that I wrote with two of my colleagues at the School of Journalism and New Media appeared on Poynter’s on Wed. October 14. Click here to read the entire article on Poynter’s website.

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L’Officiel’s First-Ever Global Issue Launches To Focus Not On What Divides Us, But What Unites Us – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Contributing Global Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi…

October 6, 2020

“I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.” Stefano Tonchi…

For a century now, L’Officiel has served as an official voice of fashion, beginning as an elegant base for French Couture in Paris and evolving into a collection of international publications. The very first issue, in Fall 1921, was already in 3 languages—French, English, and Spanish, and today L’Officiel publishes 31 editions with distribution in 80 countries. L’Officiel’s social media footprint is 21 million followers, including new growth across Italy, France, and China, among other markets and on digital L’Officiel has 40 million total page views across its global network in 2020 (up 12% vs 2019). Fashion, both past and present has always been the deciding voice for the brand.

With the launch of its very first global issue, L’Officiel seeks to foster a constructive, respectful dialogue across cultures and continents, races and genders. And no one better to lead that dialogue that the brand’s Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi. As the former editor of W, Stefano forged ahead with diversity and inclusivity as staunchly as he did with good fashion. And he is the epitome of fashion, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I spoke with Stefano recently and we talked about this great new journey before him with L’Officiel and how he wants to create “a unique and global voice” that emphasizes its Eurocentric and French sensibility and point of view, but bring new audiences into the fold too. Such as Americans who want to find that global voice to speak to their communities. It’s an intriguing challenge that Stefano is more than up for.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who knows good fashion and knows his way around that world, Stefano Tonchi, contributing global chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

But first the sound-bites:

On how he approached launching the very first global issue of L’Officiel, a brand that is known worldwide and that is 100 years old: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

On his decision to have one black and one white on the cover of the first global issue of L’Officiel: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face since coming to L’Officiel: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

On whether they will continue to publish L’Officiel in English: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S. And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy.

On which role he thinks L’Officiel will play globally, an initiator or a reflector of culture and people: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

On what he thinks the future holds for L’Officiel: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

On why he thinks a reader would pick up L’Officiel over another fashion brand: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

On anything he’d like to add: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution.

On what keeps him up at night: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

Samir Husni: As a content creator and curator, you’re now at a magazine that has a century under its belt. Next year L’Officiel will celebrate 100 years. How did you approach launching the very first global issue for this brand that’s known worldwide?

Joshua Glass, Stefano Tonchi, Anthony Cenname, photo by  Emily Soto

Stefano Tonchi: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

I looked at that history and looked at how this brand, this publication, always wanted to be international. The first issue in 1921 was already in French, English and Spanish. So they always had the idea of talking with the world from Paris.

Now the magazine, especially in the last 20 years, has been expanding and opening outposts all over the world. Some are owned by the company and some are licenses. They are in Ukraine, in Turkey, China, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. I think it will be in Chile very soon. So, they kept that kind of international vision.

I came in and I was asked to handle all of these different identities together that the magazine has developed over all of these years, especially internationally. And I’m trying to create for them a common ground and a common language, especially visually. But not colonizing from Paris or from New York, but really involving all the editors in this process. At least right now, the ones who are closer to me and that I can work with daily for the magazines that are totally owned by the holding. That means France, Italy, Brazil, the U.S. and a few others. And then talking to the other companies and the editors in chief in those countries.

So, for me, it’s very important to define global as almost a collaboration, as a common space to work in and not as creating content in Paris or New York, then distributing it on a global scale.

Samir Husni: We know that things are changing in the magazine world, and for the first time, in at least my history of tracking magazines, there is so much diversity in magazine covers. You name the magazine, from fashion to Bible study magazines, to sports; all of them have this amazing cover diversity. You had been doing a lot of that in W. In fact, W was probably one of the most diverse magazines when it was under your tenure. Why do you think the time is now for such diversity? Or do you think this is just a blip on the radar and everything will revert back once this pivotal moment in time ends?

Stefano Tonchi: I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.

It’s very easy sometimes to think about global as being something that is very bland with no identity. So, it’s like how can you create an identity that has a relevance in the local community as much as it has a global appeal? And that’s really the challenge.

Samir Husni: I see that for your first cover you went with two people, one black and one white. Can your share your thinking behind that decision for this first global issue?

Stefano Tonchi: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

Samir Husni:  Since you took this position at L’Officiel, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it? Or has it been a walk in a rose garden for you?

Stefano Tonchi: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

So, a brand with 100 years of history, you have to kind of restart. It’s almost like you have to find a common ground from where you can erect a new building. So, the challenge has been to put together a new team. And I had really just started to think about what to do when we went into lockdown in most of the west. And it was really difficult to communicate and to try and hire people to do projects, talk to photographers remotely.

But we did it and I was surprised in a good way that we were able to put together this magazine totally remotely. I still have not seen a print issue. That is the first time in my life. I’ve seen only the digital reproduction. All the decisions were made onscreen. All the assignments were made onscreen and all the editing and all the photography. So, it was a very interesting process, because mentally we are used to first putting together the print issue and then distributing it digitally. This was like reverse print. We created something that was totally digital with a digital strategy behind it and then we will see the print version as almost like an added value. Something very special. Something that was the final result and came after.

The old idea of how to rethink a magazine has to do with having a digital strategy. We need to think in a way that isn’t about a monthly. I said that a long time ago at W. about how you have to move away from a monthly or weekly kind of publishing schedule.  We have to focus more on larger themes and create almost like platforms where you put together your content and you distribute it in different ways. L’Officiel has a platform for women’s wear, one for men, art, and one for entertainment. And they all live at the same time. They find moments when some of this content is published into an actual print product, but they all live more as platforms focused on specific thematics.

Samir Husni: Are you going to continue publishing L’Officiel in English?

Stefano Tonchi: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S.

And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy. We put together a schedule of the stories we want in the issue and we use the resources where they are, so if we’re doing a story about a French designer, the French team will take care of it. If we’re doing a story about someone in the U.S., the American team will handle it. So we use our contributors all around the world.

It’s also a financial solution, in terms of one of the biggest problems for magazines that operate on a global scale is the duplicating of the resources, such as having two fashion directors, three editors in chief, two IT directors and so on. We are trying to use the best resources where they are. For L’Officiel, we have very strong digital and technical teams that are based in Italy. We have a very strong fashion and visual team based in Paris, casting director, fashion production. We have journalistic and pop culture features that are based in New York. So, we take the best from the company and try not to duplicate the jobs.

Samir Husni: You’ve always been a force for inclusion and glo-local, bringing the global to the local communities. Do you think the magazine audience at large, regardless of the platform, is going to find more of that mentality, that they are going to engage more with magazines like L’Officiel because it will reflect their own personalities or do you feel you will be more of an initiator than a reflector?

Stefano Tonchi: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

In Europe, especially between France and Italy, there is much more of a community of cultural references, so there is a lot of content that they share. But they still have very specific features that are of that market. And don’t forget, everybody has a different language too.

Samir Husni: As you move forward and settle into this position, and hopefully the pandemic will be behind us, along with the elections, and as we move toward a new spring, what do you think the future holds for L’Officiel?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

I think what is very interesting and what will be driving the future is how much can we know about our readers. Data managing is really one of the big issues here. We did a little bit of an  experiment in our own small world, our L’Officiel world. We created a portfolio with the most wanted accessories from the fashion season. We asked readers on Instagram 300 questions and we got 600,000 responses. The questions were like what kind of product do you like; what do you like from one brand and what do you not like from another brand. And we collected a lot of information that we read and analyzed. We put together a feature with the 12 greatest accessories for the season chosen by our readers.

So, it’s a combination of data, editorial choices, because don’t forget, the first selection is by the editors. I’m going to create a series of questions and that is already an editorial decision, what kind of questions. So, it’s not really user-generated content, it is editorial-generated content. But the users, the audience, have the opportunity to express their opinions. And then you have again the editors who are going to look through this material and analyze it, and then bring out things from the analytics, but also from the feelings behind it. So, it’s a combination of data and editorial knowledge. That’s what is interesting. How will we combine it? And that’s something that only a magazine brand can do.

Samir Husni: If you could give me only one reason a reader might pick up the print magazine, L’Officiel, or go to the website or the social media outlets you have out there, from an array of other fashion magazines and digital sites, what would that reason be? Why will they choose L’Officiel instead of another fashion brand?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

So, in a sense it’s a little less U.S. centric and more globally centric, but it’s also the new position that we have to take as Americans. I’m American and I think if America wants to play the game on a global scale, they have to start to listen to global voices. They can’t just dictate the conversation, that was the past. The future is going to be a dialogue with the rest of the world if America wants to talk about the global field in the future.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Stefano Tonchi: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution. But I think it’s nice when we can find that kind of visual common ground with understandable typography and images in  a language that explains what you’re looking at. We have sometimes been taking too much for granted. And I think it’s nice to step back before going too far, so we know where we are.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Stefano Tonchi: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines Celebrate Blackness. Is This The New Normal? A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

September 29, 2020

Change is taking place right before our very eyes, important changes in the world and in the world of magazines and magazine media.  From A to Z, magazines are celebrating blackness like they never have before.  Some are asking if this is the new normal, and some are lamenting about what took magazines so long to discover people of color in general and blacks in particular?  Blacks have appeared on covers of magazines in the past, but they were few and far between.  Yet, in the last few months I was able to buy more than  100 magazines with blacks and/or Black Lives Matter statements adorning their covers.  Change is taking place and change is good as the folks at GQ magazine stated in their global editorial (see below)…

I have decided that a picture is still worth a 1,000 words. So I assembled all the 106 magazines I bought or acquired in the poster below followed by excerpts from three magazine editorials.

 What follows are few excerpts from editors’ letters of three selected magazines ….

2020 IS NOT CANCELLED – IT’S GAME-CHANGING

By Toby Wiseman, editor in chief

UK Men’s Health magazine

              As I write this in late June, the past couple of weeks have proved fairly tumultuous for people working in the predominantly white UK magazine industry. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the US and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the world, there has been a lot of belated hand-wringing and understandable brow-beating, as well as some unhelpful, imprudent sabre-rattling.

Editors have rightly been examining their consciences, reflecting on unconscious attitudes towards diversity, as reflected through their brands in past years, and how best to address them in the immediate future and beyond. Some have realised that they have work to do and have pledged as much.  Others have been guilty of rather cack-handed, disingenuous responses.

IT’S BEEN A LOT

By Ben Cobb, editor in chief

UK LOVE magazine

            We’re little more than halfway through 2020 and it’s already hard to grasp the biblical change that have tossed us around and spat us out into this alternate reality.  I read something recently that made some sense to me.  It was a quote by Lenin.  He said, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” I don’t know about you, but the past four months feel like centuries have happened.

…Meanwhile we had a magazine to make… The industry shutters had come down, Lockdown was in full effect: there were no clothes to shoot, no talent to work with.  Think, think. Rethink. We had the freedom now to do something different. Nature had triggered its reset button and so should we. It was time for photographers to turn their cameras inwards and explore their immediate worlds. Time to produce heartfelt projects that reflected this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The brief was simple: let’s dream again.  As the pages began to fill with beautiful images, we felt buoyed.

Then came the three words that shattered any complacency: I Can’t Breathe. Eight minutes and 46 seconds of abject horror. Stop. WTF. The eyes of the world watched as George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. There was nowhere else to look. This time there were no distractions; the pandemic had made sure of that. It was a perfect storm. Some day, we will look back and fully understand the inextricable link between these two moments – the Covid crisis and the BLM uprising that sprang from it – but right now, the future was suddenly there for the taking. Introspection flipped to action.  Outrage hotwired an ongoing process of re-education and accountability.  The gears had shifted and, with them, our focus at the magazine.

March to June.  Four months that saw humankind brought to its knees, the global economy eviscerated, sovereignties shaken, bronze gods toppled and 400 years of black oppression at the top of every agenda. So far, so fucking monumental. Maybe 2020 wasn’t so bad after all.

What We Mean When We Say “Change Is Good”

By Will Welch, editor in chief

US GQ magazine

            …Welcome to the special “Change Is Good” issue of GQ. It is a response to the wildly varied and overlapping forces of change – social, political, cultural, technological, economic—we are experiencing. The issue is intended as an instrument of inspiration and hope…

… As you’ll soon see, much of this issue found its purpose in the Black Lives Matter protests and larger racial-injustice reckoning that has followed.  When it comes to this moment of potential for true structural change, several of our profile subjects are setting an impeccable example of presenting ideas that are leading the way…

… So think of this issue as proof of concept—and each of these individuals’ stories as evidence. At GQ, we say change is good because change represents an opportunity—just add smart ideas, hard work, care for the community, and unflinching moral conviction , and suddenly you don’t have change, you have progress.

This notion has already gone global: “Change Is Good” is a rallying cry that is being projected out to some 50 million readers by all 21 worldwide editions of GQ simultaneously…

… GQ’s global unification around this idea is a first for us, and it represents a proud moment for our very worldwide brand…

 

Change is taking place.  Magazines are celebrating blackness. My only hope is that one day we don’t need to ask the question, is this the new normal, but just move on as if it is the normal thing to do rather than identifying it as new or anything else.  Change is good.  Agreed.

 

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ musing, all my best

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

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Redesigning A Legacy – The Nation Magazine Gets A Fresh New Print Look With Content That Goes Deeper & Richer – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With D.D. Guttenplan, Editor & Robert Best, Creative Director…

September 29, 2020

“I wanted something that was unabashedly in print. First of all, I don’t think print journalism is dead; I think it’s actually coming back and it’s coming back in a way that only print can do. And that isn’t breaking urgent news on paper; we do that, we break news every day. We publish between seven and 11 stories a day on The Nation dotcom. Ken Klippenstein had a story about DHS monitoring protestors, tapping protestor’s telephone calls and reporter’s telephone calls that led to questions being asked in Congress, so we break significant news all of the time. But that isn’t what people turn to the print Nation for.” D.D. Guttenplan…

“It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.” Robert Best…

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism. D.D. Guttenplan is today’s editor and Robert Best, the brand’s creative director, and two of the people who helped redesign this legacy title.

Recently, I spoke to both gentlemen about the new design that has brought a fresh new change to the magazine. Don Guttenplan said that with this new upgrade, which will be showcased in the October 5/12, 2020 edition, they asked print readers what they wanted more of, their answers were clear: more investigative journalism, more political news unavailable elsewhere, and more analysis from The Nation’s distinctive progressive perspective. More great stories. More strong arguments. More fearless reporting. With more time between issues to enjoy each print edition of The Nation. So that’s what The Nation is going to deliver—twice a month, with 20 percent more pages in each issue (four of those will be special 64-page double issues) that offer even more room for vivid reporting, long-form analysis, and hard-hitting investigations.

The print redesign was handled in-house by The Nation’s enormously talented creative director, Robert Best, and it will inform a digital overhaul in 2021. The idea behind the redesigned logo, marking the broader redesign, was to retain the history of the magazine’s logo, while bringing it forward: The classic logo type is now layered with a clean modern red square, and there is a strong contrast echoing the past and marking the next chapter. The new look is bold, eye-catching, and leans to the left—all appropriate for The Nation.

And now I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with D.D. Guttenplan, editor and Robert Best, creative director, The Nation.

D.D. Guttenplan

But first the sound-bites:

On why the redesign and changes with The Nation now (D.D. Guttenplan): One of the things that I did when I took over was to take stock, and that means both looking at our journalism in terms of content and looking at everything we do, from how many pieces we publish a day on the web to what we’re putting in print. And I think I told you when we spoke last, when I first took over, that it was very important for me that we be clear on what we’re doing with print and what we’re doing with the web and what they are each for. And that they serve distinct purposes.

On what Robert Best was thinking when it came to a new design for a magazine with a more than 150-year-old history (Robert Best): It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.

On their process or approach to the redesign (D.D. Guttenplan): Robert and I decided that we were going to do this and we discussed it with the business side and Katrina (vanden Heuvel), editorial director and publisher of The Nation, so everybody was onboard. Then we created a working group, a print redesign working group, which had people from editorial, but it also had people from business and circulation, We would meet regularly. Of course, that was still in the days when you could meet face to face.

Robert Best

On their process or approach to the redesign (Robert Best): I’ve been doing this a long time and I want to solve problems. And I want things to look the way they should look based on those problems getting solved. One of the problems with The Nation was the paper wasn’t the best paper, so part of the design solution has to be something that whitens the paper visually. And that is the use of darks and lights, the contrast that I’m creating throughout the design. From the front of the book, there is a very small dot pattern that’s, if you called it a one to 10 spectrum, it would be the one. And all the black bars and the heavy black type would be the 10. And that’s what gets that high contrast level, because we have a lot of text, but we still needed to be something that people want to approach.

On whether the all-cap “N” they took from the logo all the way to the inside pages was part of the visual magnet to stop a reader before keeping them on the page (Robert Best): As far as using it on the logo, they both sort of worked hand-in-hand in how they came to the issue. The logo was as you said history, and retaining that history, while sort of layering it onto this modernistic look of the red square, where it becomes something else, yet you remember where it came from. On the inside, the drop-caps were again sort of a…our colors are black and red obviously throughout the magazine, and that just sort of brings a modern quality to a drop-cap and is a good starting point.

On what role they feel journalism can play now in our world of division and the pandemic (D.D. Guttenplan): I don’t think it’s our job to offer people false hope and I also don’t think it’s our job to be Chicken Little; I think it’s our job to tell people the truth. And I suppose part of that is when you know what you’re talking about you don’t have to shout, so in that sense I very much appreciated Robert’s metaphor which he’s used throughout changing our tone of voice a bit. The Nation is not a consumer magazine, so we’re never going to write about the best pizza parlor in Chicago, but we may write about things you can do to make your vote actually count or this is what you can do to get involved on Election Day. We can give people useful information certainly. So, our role is to do that and to tell people the truth.

On the human being The Nation would be if it were suddenly struck with a magic wand that produced that person (D.D. Guttenplan): It’s not a he or she, it’s they. It’s always going to be a “they.” I think one of the things that makes The Nation different from any other magazine is our genuine openness to debate. It’s not that we’re necessarily contrary and provocateurs, we’re not here as the line, here is the correct thing to think. The Nation is one way to think about it, but within the progressive frame that we’re all committed to as a magazine. There are other ways to think about it, and here are some of them, so The Nation is never one person knocking on your door. It’s not me; it wasn’t Katrina before; it wasn’t Victor Navasky before that.

On whether they believe there is a good exchange of ideas in our country or it’s just everyone shouting at everyone else (D.D. Guttenplan): Everybody is clearly shouting everyone, that’s what Twitter is for. (Laughs) I feel like there are magazines that matter, and that’s becoming increasingly true during the pandemic because people are spending more time at home. One of the things that you can do at home is read. And we want to be part of that; we want to be a part of people’s intellectual lives. Part of the political life of the country as we have been for 155 years.

On anything they would like to add (Robert Best): It’s ideas and a new voice, like we talked about. And what we’re finding now as we finish up the second issue is finding a familiarity to that voice and knowing that it’s not going to stay the same. It will start moving left and right, and that’s an exciting time. It’s invigorating to have a certain sense of feeling a little off balance, because we’re not used to it. And that’s going to bring fresh ideas and content, so that we’re not resting on what we’re used to.

On what keeps them up at night (D.D. Guttenplan): What keeps me up at night is trying to find a way through this pandemic to keep The Nation relevant and keep my staff happy without being able to meet face to face. That has been a challenge. It’s a challenge for all of us, but it is what keeps me up at night. How to manage when we can’t actually be together in a room. Robert and I have very good rapport, so we were able to do this even though we were very far apart geographically.

On what keeps them up at night (Robert Best): What keeps me up at night – well, since Don is in England right now, it’s not the nights, it’s the mornings. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with D.D. Guttenplan, editor and Robert Best, creative director, The Nation magazine.

Samir Husni: We know change is the only constant in journalism and the media business, but why change The Nation now?

D.D. Guttenplan: There are a couple of reasons. One of the things that I did when I took over was to take stock, and that means both looking at our journalism in terms of content and looking at everything we do, from how many pieces we publish a day on the web to what we’re putting in print. And I think I told you when we spoke last, when I first took over, that it was very important for me that we be clear on what we’re doing with print and what we’re doing with the web and what they are each for. And that they serve distinct purposes.

My view then was that our print magazine was not clear about why we were still in print; why we are on paper. What kind of experience do we want people to have and what kind of experience do our subscribers want? The second part of that equation, what kind of experience do our subscribers want is important, because those are the people at this point in our funding model, who pay our salaries. In other words, we could imagine a world in which The Nation was supported by supporters who donate because of the wonderful things we publish on the web and that would be a different model, but that isn’t the model we’re in. The model we’re in is where the bulk of our revenue comes from subscriptions. Not all of the subscriptions are print, but the majority of them are print.

So, I needed some time to find out from our print subscribers just what it was they wanted and that meant talking to our businesspeople, talking to circulation; designing a questionnaire, getting it out, getting responses. So part of this was I always felt that we needed to change but we weren’t able to change until we had data. And some of that data is what do our subscribers want.

When the data came back it was very clear what they wanted. And you probably know this already because you pay a lot of attention to magazines, but if you look at the cover of The Nation and then you look at the cover of, for example, The Atlantic or Harper’s, they are on slick paper and we are not. They’re on coated stock and we aren’t. The reason for that is because our readers have always been very clear, they want our money to go into the journalism. It’s not that they don’t care how it looks, they do care. I’m sure they appreciate good design as much as I do, or almost as much as I do, since I think I appreciate the design enormously. I certainly appreciate my good fortune in having a genius like Robert Best on staff, because we couldn’t have done this otherwise.

It’s very important that you know this was all done in-house. We did not go to some consultant and ask how can we look better? This was done under the lead of someone who has been working on designing, had his hands on our product for seven years. He is very deeply immersed in what we do.

Our subscribers said that what they wanted was stories with more impact; stories that could go deeper; stories that you’re happy to spend more time with; more investigative reporting; more in depth analysis, and they were at the very least not fussed about whether it came every week or every other week. Again, this wasn’t a thing that was widely noticed, but The Nation hasn’t published 52 issues a year in a very long time.

We had this rhythm of going biweekly in the summer, biweekly at Christmas, but I was also getting complaints from people saying they didn’t get their issue. Then I would go to circulation and ask what happened to that person’s issue and they would say they received their magazine, it’s just that we went biweekly. And they didn’t realize that and thought they had missed an issue.

So, there was this message that they wanted more; they wanted a bigger canvas. And they would be very happy to have more time to read what we were giving them. All of those things together led to this shift where we’re quite regular twice a month and predictable. And where there is more time between issues than there was some of the time, because some of the time we were already publishing on this schedule, but now we’re on this schedule all of the time. And now each issue is bigger, we added 20 percent length to each issue, so the features well got four extra pages, the front of the book section, which is editorials, comments, and short pieces got two pages; the books and the arts section got two extra pages, and we also have these four double issues, four times per year, of 64 pages. The next issue that comes out, the fall book issue will be one of those double issues and it will be 64 pages.

In terms of total  pages, published in the course of a year, there’s not that much change. And of course, that means we’re not actually saving much money doing this; we’re saving money on postage, but in terms of publishing costs it’s pretty much a wash. But we are able to go deeper and to give people more. What I wanted in that case was a design that people would be happier to spend more time with. I felt in my gut that our previous versions were done at a time when the Internet and social media were transforming journalism and leading a lot of people to think that it was dying.

I wanted something that was unabashedly in print. First of all, I don’t think print journalism is dead; I think it’s actually coming back and it’s coming back in a way that only print can do. And that isn’t breaking urgent news on paper; we do that, we break news every day. We publish between seven and 11 stories a day on The Nation dotcom. Ken Klippenstein had a story about DHS monitoring protestors, tapping protestor’s telephone calls and reporter’s telephone calls that led to questions being asked in Congress, so we break significant news all of the time. But that isn’t what people turn to the print Nation for.

It was thinking about what people turn to a print magazine for and what we need to change to meet those needs and desires and to create a product that people will be happy spending more time with. And hopefully be more happy to pay for. We want more subscribers.

Samir Husni: Robert, what was your thinking when it came to a new design for a magazine with more than a 150-year-old history? You don’t want to touch the DNA, yet you want to give it a new look. Was it just a new look or was it what Don said about taking a deeper dive into journalism and presenting it in a way that only print can do?

Robert Best: It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.

Samir Husni: How did you use the data that was collected to see what readers wanted from a print magazine to create the new design? What was the process, the approach?

D.D. Guttenplan: Robert and I decided that we were going to do this and we discussed it with the business side and Katrina (vanden Heuvel), editorial director and publisher of The Nation, so everybody was onboard. Then we created a working group, a print redesign working group, which had people from editorial, but it also had people from business and circulation, We would meet regularly. Of course, that was still in the days when you could meet face to face.

The Nation has a very nice conference room, I miss it, with a view over 8th Avenue, and we would meet in there. Actually, in early February I got a couple of bulletin boards on legs and people would put up pages from magazines that they liked or things that they thought worked well.

So, we had those meetings and those meetings continued on Google Chat regularly even  after we closed our office on March 17. And the group was chaired very capably by Rose D’Amora who is our managing editor. Everybody had input and we came up with what was called a strategic document for the redesign. And that was what Robert and I steered by.

There’s an important point that I want to make. Very early in this process Robert made a distinction between a redecoration and a redesign and I’m going to let him explain it to you. Because of that distinction, we thought it was very important for people to talk about what they wanted the print magazine to do. What were our what’s? So we spent a lot of time in these meetings asking people what it was they wanted to see in the new version; what they wanted it to do. Not how they wanted it to look, but what kinds of things they wanted to create space for.

For example, we have a piece in this issue called “The Argument” where someone makes a strong polemical statement. That was one of the “what’s” that came out of these meetings. We have a thing in this issue called “The Leak” where Ken Klippenstein takes a document that has been leaked to him and he annotates it in a way that shows readers what is significant about this document. That was also one of the “what’s.”

But I think it’s very important that you hear from Robert because he is very eloquent about why he didn’t want us to talk about how it should look and the distinction between a redecoration and a redesign.

Robert Best: I’ve been doing this a long time and I want to solve problems. And I want things to look the way they should look based on those problems getting solved. One of the problems with The Nation was the paper wasn’t the best paper, so part of the design solution has to be something that whitens the paper visually. And that is the use of darks and lights, the contrast that I’m creating throughout the design. From the front of the book, there is a very small dot pattern that’s, if you called it a one to 10 spectrum, it would be the one. And all the black bars and the heavy black type would be the 10. And that’s what gets that high contrast level, because we have a lot of text, but we still needed to be something that people want to approach.

As far as the “what’s,” I really believe people want to feel familiar with the magazine; want to expect certain things, that when they go to it, they go to those things first. I was at New York Magazine for years and our research said that best bets, there were certain intelligencers, certain pages that people looked forward to. The features are the extra stuff, the things that they don’t expect, and that’s great.

Creating brands for the magazine that heightens the writers and heightens the series like “The Leak” will become something that when you mention it people will say, oh yes, that’s the piece that was in The Nation magazine. So we wanted brands that can be parts of conversations.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed also from the all-cap “N,” you took that theme from the logo all the way to the inside pages, was that part of that visual magnet to stop a reader before keeping them on the page?

Robert Best: As far as using it on the logo, they both sort of worked hand-in-hand in how they came to the issue. The logo was as you said history, and retaining that history, while sort of layering it onto this modernistic look of the red square, where it becomes something else, yet you remember where it came from. On the inside, the drop-caps were again sort of a…our colors are black and red obviously throughout the magazine, and that just sort of brings a modern quality to a drop-cap and is a good starting point.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about the need in this day and age for the type of journalism The Nation offers. What role do you feel journalism can play now in our world of division and the pandemic?

D.D. Guttenplan: We live in a very polarized country and we live in very perilous times. If you think about what has been in the national conversation during the last week, we don’tknow whether we’re going to have a second wave of the pandemic that will be even worse than the first. We know that America has squandered a lot of the experience we could have had in the first wave, in terms of preparing. There is still not testing on demand, there’s still not adequate testing provisions, there is still not national provisions of PPE, there is no track and trace infrastructure in place; all the things that other countries have done, we haven’t done. So, we’re all living with uncertainty as to what is going to happen with our physical health now.

One of the things that occurred to me in March was we all have opinions about the Coronavirus, but you know what they say about opinions… everybody has one. So, I wanted someone who I knew would know what they were talking about, so I reached out to an epidemiologist, Gregg Gonsalves, who is at the Yale School of Public Health and who now writes a column for us every two weeks or so. But it’s online; I think he’s been in print once. But the pandemic is one big element of uncertainty.

Whether the results of the presidential election are going to be disputed, and we don’t know if there will be a peaceful transition of power that the Constitution takes for granted, but doesn’t actually guarantee. So, there is a lot of uncertainty.

I don’t think it’s our job to offer people false hope and I also don’t think it’s our job to be Chicken Little; I think it’s our job to tell people the truth. And I suppose part of that is when you know what you’re talking about you don’t have to shout, so in that sense I very much appreciated Robert’s metaphor which he’s used throughout changing our tone of voice a bit. But also nobody wants to spend two weeks with somebody shouting at them from their coffee table or from their kitchen table or from wherever you keep the things that you read and don’t throw away the same day. You don’t want the magazines shouting at you and you don’t want them to be so time-tied that they’re disposable. You want them to have things that you feel you’ve learned something from or that have made you think or have been useful for your life.

The Nation is not a consumer magazine, so we’re never going to write about the best pizza parlor in Chicago, but we may write about things you can do to make your vote actually count or this is what you can do to get involved on Election Day. We can give people useful information certainly.

So, our role is to do that and to tell people the truth. One of the things I wanted from the design and this is where I think Robert has succeeded brilliantly is I wanted our pages to be sticky. I wanted people flipping through it to think this is something they would want to read. And for them not to feel like the magazine was something that had already seen yet again. I mean, you want a certain amount of predictability, where people come to you for certain voices, our columnists are wonderful and we have a great rotation and an amazing diversity of voices, but in the rest of the magazine I want people to be able to be surprised. And I want there to be a variety of different kinds of sticky articles so that people will want to spend time with it, because that’s the thing, we’re all competing for readers’ time.

I feel like what print can do is it can give you a lean-back, time-to-think-about-it, explaining complexity, living with complexity depth that you can’t get from a screen.

D.D. Guttenplan

Samir Husni: If I could give you a magic wand to strike this new The Nation magazine with and a human being suddenly popped out, who would it be? Can you describe that person?

D.D. Guttenplan: It’s not a he or she, it’s they. It’s always going to be a “they.” I think one of the things that makes The Nation different from any other magazine is our genuine openness to debate. It’s not that we’re necessarily contrary and provocateurs, we’re not here as the line, here is the correct thing to think. The Nation is one way to think about it, but within the progressive frame that we’re all committed to as a magazine. There are other ways to think about it, and here are some of them, so The Nation is never one person knocking on your door. It’s not me; it wasn’t Katrina before; it wasn’t Victor Navasky before that.

The Nation is more like Christmas carolers coming to your door; it’s more of a group. And some people hate them, but some people like them and they usually sing more than one carol. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Robert, are you the leader of that Christmas caroling group? (Laughs)

Robert Best: (Laughs too) No, I’m in the back row.

Robert Best

Samir Husni: Do you feel we have a good exchange of ideas in the country or everybody is shouting at everyone else?

D.D. Guttenplan: Everybody is clearly shouting everyone, that’s what Twitter is for. (Laughs) I feel like there are magazines that matter, and that’s becoming increasingly true during the pandemic because people are spending more time at home. One of the things that you can do at home is read. And we want to be part of that; we want to be a part of people’s intellectual lives. Part of the political life of the country as we have been for 155 years.

And I also think that was Robert said is true; a tremendous amount of work and thought went into this first redesigned issue. But that’s just the first one. There’s a lot of modularity and flexibility so that we can move things around within a structure. One of the things that I think Robert is so brilliant at is using visual hierarchies to organize people’s reading experiences.

I used to use this word a lot with my staff, but I stopped because they started making fun of me, which is intentionality. But I think there is  a lot of intentionality in this design. It’s very considered. We have discovered the features of this new house that we’ve built and what we can do with it, and then we take that to our digital and we redesign that too. That will be the next phase, which will probably be about a year off. And getting to know the house will undoubtedly shape that. Digital is a different thing than print, so it will be its own thing. But we now have a visual vocabulary that we’ll want to carry over when we do the digital redesign.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

D.D. Guttenplan: One of the things that Robert told me and the staff when we were starting this was that the difference between a redesign and a redecoration was that a redesign is driven by ideas. Robert, would you like to elaborate on that?

Robert Best: It’s ideas and a new voice, like we talked about. And what we’re finding now as we finish up the second issue is finding a familiarity to that voice and knowing that it’s not going to stay the same. It will start moving left and right, and that’s an exciting time. It’s invigorating to have a certain sense of feeling a little off balance, because we’re not used to it. And that’s going to bring fresh ideas and content, so that we’re not resting on what we’re used to. The redesign is just beginning, actually. And it will continue with good content, good thinking, excitement and enthusiasm.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

D.D. Guttenplan: What keeps me up at night is trying to find a way through this pandemic to keep The Nation relevant and keep my staff happy without being able to meet face to face. That has been a challenge. It’s a challenge for all of us, but it is what keeps me up at night. How to manage when we can’t actually be together in a room. Robert and I have very good rapport, so we were able to do this even though we were very far apart geographically.

Maintaining that kind of rapport with every member of my editorial team takes a lot. And that’s what keeps me up at night. It used to be so easy in The Nation’s office. When I opened my door I could see Robert sitting at his desk. I could walk over and ask him what do you think about this or that? And that was true with everyone in the office. I might not be able to see them directly in my office, but I knew they were there. But now it’s harder.

Robert Best: I’d like to say that working with Katrina over the years, and now Don, these are two editors that have always trusted me and the entire staff. They trust us and let us have our own voice. And that makes for a really great place to work.

What keeps me up at night – well, since Don is in England right now, it’s not the nights, it’s the mornings. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Men’s Lifestyle Magazines 1953. The Magazines And I. Chapter Five. Part Two

September 25, 2020

Chapter Five, Part Two

Men’s Lifestyle Magazines … is the fifth chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter five, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

 

ESQUIRE

Esquire was founded in 1933 by David A. Smart, Henry L. Jackson and Arnold Gingrich. The magazine was supposed to have a quarterly press run of a hundred thousand copies, but the demand was so high that by its second issue (January 1934) it revamped itself into a more sophisticated periodical and focused on men’s fashion and written contributions by people like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If you ever read the editorial statement for the first issue of Esquire you could immediately tell that it was a rebel magazine. It was a magazine that was founded in rebellion of what was going on in the marketing and advertising world as it relates to the magazine publishing field. Here are a few comments from the editorial in the first issue of the magazine (keep in mind, the year is 1933):

It is our belief, in offering Esquire to the American male, that we are only getting around at last to a job that should have been done a long time ago – that of giving the masculine reader a break. The general magazines, in the mad scramble to increase the woman readership that seems to be so highly prized by national advertisers, have bent over backward in catering to the special interests and tastes of the feminine audience. This has reached a point, in some of the more extreme instances, where the male reader, in looking through what purports to be a general magazine, is made to feel like an intruder upon gynaecic mysteries. Occasionally, features are included for his special attention, but somewhat after the manner in which scraps are tossed to the patient dog beneath the table.

Controversy had a way of touching the early magazine as in the 1940s charges were brought against the magazine on behalf of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, alleging that Esquire had used the U.S. Postal Service to promote “lewd images.” In the end, Esquire was redeemed and the magazine continued to use the post office.

As a men’s magazine, Esquire was and still is an upscale brand that personifies distinctiveness and good taste. Since 1986, the magazine has been published by the Hearst Corporation and also has over 20 international editions. It’s published eight times per year and remains a vibrant part of the world of men’s magazines.

The March 1953 issue is oversized and coffee table perfect. The cover is a weather vane with beautiful models resting seductively on each arrow of the directions, with the blond, pop-eyed, mustachioed character named “Esky” (created by cartoonists E. Simms Campbell and Sam Berman), sitting on the very top. The character appeared on almost every Esquire front page for over a quarter of a century, depicting the refined character of the magazine and its readership. From the articles to the fiction; the pictorials to the travel and personalities, the March 1953 issue was synonymous with the title’s then-tagline: The Magazine for Men.

GENTRY

As we talked about in the introduction to this chapter, Gentry was a brilliant 1950s men’s magazine, founded by William C. Sega. It reflected the wide interests of the contemporary gentleman of that time. It was beautifully illustrated and lasted seven years during the 1950s.

William C. Segal was not just a magazine art director and designer, he was also the founder and managing director of Reporter Publications in New York City. Gentry ran from 1951 to 1957 and was an image of its founder whose goal was “to allow people to see the esthetic element that was a factor in choosing clothing.” He believed that the importance of Gentry was to make the clothing part of the fine art of living. It was upscale and incorporated surprises in each issue: booklets, limited prints, die-cuts, half-sheets, fabrics–even a flattened bag of oats to accompany a story about horses. Innovation at a time when it wasn’t necessarily vital to a magazine’s existence.

The March 1953 issue was no exception. It was beautiful, unique and a visual masterpiece. Of all the men’s magazines of March 1953, Gentry was definitely a standout. The cover was colorful and represented springtime, with flowers and a single sailboat on the cover. It was an issue that had content such as articles about spring gardening, a fashion portfolio and an interesting piece by Burl Ives on folksongs.

To say Gentry was special would be an understatement. To think it only lasted seven years is unbelievable.

TRUE

True was known as “The Man’s Magazine” and was touted as the “Largest Selling Man’s Magazine” of its time. The magazine was published by Fawcett Publications from 1937 until 1974. It featured high adventure, sports profiles and articles that depicted many dramatic conflicts, in addition to pictorials and humorous pieces.

In the early 1950s, Ken Purdy was True’s editor. At that time Newsweek described it as “a man’s magazine with a class all its own, and the largest circulation of the bunch.” The magazine inspired many books, such as “True, A Treasury of True: The Best from 20 Years of the Man’s Magazine.”  The magazine was a real stepping stone for authors like Donald E. Keyhoe, who wrote an article in the January 1950 issue that sold-out, suggesting that extraterrestrials could be piloting flying saucers. The story was redone by Keyhoe into a best-selling paperback book, “The Flying Saucers Are Real.”

The March 1953 issue cover was a colorful painting of a trio of very knowledgeable and wise looking giraffes that beckoned the reader to open the magazine’s pages and discover that manly wisdom for themselves. Inside were stories on science, sports, an “in the news” section, and true adventure stories. The magazine described itself as “The Fact Story Magazine for Men.” It was definitely a compelling read for its audience.

PLETHORA OF MEN’S MAGAZINES

From Men to Man to Man; Mr. to Modern Man; March 1953 presented a host of men’s magazines designed to show the male of that generation adventure and excitement. After World War II, magazines for men took on a new direction, one of rugged heroes and bold adventures with males who could take out a Nazi in one swipe of their bowie knife or handle a vicious animal encounter with one hand tied behind their back. Men’s true adventure magazines became all the rage.

The cover art on these titles were oftentimes lurid and could be gratuitously violent or harrowing. For example on the cover of the March 1953 issue of Men, published by Zenith Publishing, the cover depicts a sinking military ship that apparently hit an iceberg, with men jumping overboard and some drowning. The cover lines were: “I Escaped from Little Alcatraz” and “Wichita – Wide-Open and Wicked.”

Real – the exciting magazine for men – the March 1953 cover art featured a big game hunter, rifle pointed, treeing a huge leopard, obviously going in for the kill. In today’s world, that kind of implication would do many things, but selling a magazine would not be one of them. The times were different, the magazines designed for men and their “true” adventures were many times based on what readers feared, but always conquered in the pages of these magazines.

Then there were magazines like Mr.  – Mister…To You, published by Mr. Magazines Inc. The cover of the March 1953 issue was a cartoon caricature of a soldier and a ticket girl, who was wearing a very revealing swimsuit that promoted her ample bosom, with the soldier’s hand placed carefully on her tiny waist. This ran column-like on one side of the cover, while the other side featured a smaller image of Rocky Marciano  and writer Charley Goldman, and an image of fashion model, Barbara Barkin, exotically decked out.

Between the humorous caricatures and the wildly perilous covers and content of the adventure titles, many of the March 1953 men’s magazines consisted of busty females, dangerous adventure, heroic feats and downright over-the-top stories. But one thing they all had in common was they were never boring.

BODYBUILDING

The pioneers of bodybuilding were featured in magazines like Iron Man, Tomorrow’s Man, and Muscle Power. Iron Manwas founded in 1936 by two Nebraska natives, Peary Rader and his wife, Mabel Rader. In the early 1950s, Iron Man was the first weight-training publication to show women working out with weights as part of their overall fitness regimen. The magazine  even presented a pregnant woman training with weights, thus educating readers on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy; thoroughly modern concepts certainly decades ahead of their time.

Many of the bodybuilding titles also served another audience that they may or may not have been aware of. At a time when being gay was not something talked about openly, magazines were still exploring their parameters. Some men’s health or fitness magazines, titles such as Muscle Power and Muscle Man were magnets for a gay audience . Many of the readers were primarily gay men who enjoyed looking at the physiques of other men, but because of the times, publishers offered these consumers what they wanted in the form of bodybuilding.

The covers of these magazines were of very handsome men, physiques perfectly attuned with the tights they wore. Often, the men on the cover were champions, such as the April 1953 cover of Iron Man which featured Clarence Ross, Mr. America, Mr. U.S.A. and holder of several other titles. They were eye candy for some and goals for others.

As usual magazines were reflectors of society, even in March 1953. Whether many of them knew it or not. The wisdom we can learn from these earlier titles is crucial when looking to the future of the magazine industry. As they say: you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.

Speaking of wisdom, in the next chapter we’ll get a little “Wee Wisdom” from some magazines that educated and enlightened the children and teens of March 1953. Let’s read on and see…

To be continued…

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Men’s Lifestyle Magazines 1953… The Magazines And I, A Serialized Book. Chapter Five, Part One

September 18, 2020

Chapter Five, Part One

Men’s Lifestyle Magazines … is the fifth chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter five, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

In 1951, Hugh Hefner landed a job as a copywriter at Esquire; this was two years before he launched Playboy. The first issue of Playboy was launched in December 1953. It was 44 pages and had a 50 cent cover price. Esquire was being published at that time for the same cover price, but was over large-size 280 pages. When Hef started Playboy,  many believe he used Esquire as a planogram of what a men’s magazine should be, because in 1953 Esquire also had nudity, including a centerfold that they called “Esquire’s Lady Fair,” and was first launched in the March 1953 issue. So, in actuality, there wasn’t anything too original in Playboy when it first hit newsstands.

Now, while this chapter is certainly not just about Hef and two of the most influential men’s magazines around in 1950s, namely Esquire and Playboy, it is about the development of American men’s magazines during that timeframe. It’s about true adventure, grit, masculinity, bodybuilding, virility and ultimately, the journalistic foundation for today’s sophisticated men’s titles. It’s all about what made a man a man in 1953 (according to the content gurus of that era), and it’s about the challenges many titles faced when trying to change some of those cultural constrictions of masculinity of that decade.

The men’s magazines of 1953 were both cutting edge and deliberately predictable. There were the familiar culprits, such as the Great Outdoors, the beautiful women, and the adventure stories, but there were also magazines like Gentry,founded by William C. Segal; it was a forward-thinking, eclectic style bible, where readers would be as likely to read an article on the manufacturing of Scottish tweed as one on the architecture of the American ranch house.

So without further ado, let’s take a look…

ARGOSY

Argosy magazine began as a pulp title way back in 1882. In fact, it is credited with being the first American pulp magazine. It actually began as a children’s weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy. Right before the Second World War, the magazine was considered one of the Big Four pulp magazines, along with Blue Book, Adventure and Short Stories. In December 1888 the title was changed to The Argosy.

In 1920, the magazine merged with publisher Frank Munsey’s The All-Story Magazine, resulting in a new title, Argosy All-Story Weekly. By November 1941 the magazine had switched to a biweekly publication, then became monthly in 1942.

In 1943, the magazine switched from pulp to slick paper and took a step back from its all-fiction content, expanding the idea that Argosy was becoming more and more a “men’s magazine.” Soon it became associated with the men’s adventure genre of that time. While not particularly successful, Argosy began running a new true crime column, “Court of Last Resort” in the late 1940s and 1950s and saw a substantial boost in sales.  The final issue of the original magazine was published in November 1978.

The March 1953 issue of Argosy with the tagline “The Complete Man’s Magazine” has a cover image that would have been many men’s dream getaway: pipe in-mouth, fishing pole in hand, a lone gentleman standing knee-deep in the crystal clear waters of some mountain lake, complete with waterfall behind him. This issue featured four fiction pieces, several articles, and the all-important “Court of Last Resort” offering. The departments were all about the male psyche: “Men’s Books,” “Hunting and Fishing,” “Records for Men,” and many others.

Harry Steeger was the publisher and his commentary in the beginning of the issue was entitled: “Great Hunting – Rocky Mountain Style.” The advertisements in the magazine matched the overall outdoorsy feel: ammunition, fishing lures, and the smooth taste of a good whiskey. It was definitely a magazine that exuded a certain kind of testosterone.

BLUEBOOK

Women’s service journalism  had Redbook, the men of March 1953 had Bluebook. Bluebook ran 70 years under many different titles and in fact was a brother to The Red Book Magazine and The Green Book Magazine. It was published from 1905 to 1975. At first, the magazine was aimed at both male and female readers, but eventually the title became a men’s adventure magazine, publishing purportedly true stories. The magazine was named “King of the Pulps” in the 1930s and some notables in the industry have said that between the 1910s and the 1950s Blue Book achieved and sustained a level of excellence reached by few other magazines.

The March 1953 issue had a gentleman who appeared to be dressed for the desert on the cover with a very ominous look alive in his eyes. He had a cigarette poised to hit his lips and held a shiny-barreled gun of some kind in his hand and was staring menacingly off to the side. Be he a good guy or a bad guy, he was certainly an illustration that grabbed attention.

The content was filled with short stories, articles such as “How To Make a Million Dollars” and even excerpts from adventure novels. Bluebook’s tagline in March 1953 was “Adventure In Fact And Fiction.” Maybe it was up to the reader to decide one from the other.

CLIMAX

Climax was a men’s high adventure magazine that was published by Macfadden Publications, which was owned by Pulp and physical fitness pioneer Bernarr Macfadden. The magazine also featured some of the best cover illustration art ever made. War stories – both fiction and non-fiction – were a common feature in men’s adventure magazines, as were advice and expose stories and news features specifically geared for veterans and active duty serviceman.

The March 1953 issue of Climax was its premier issue, Vol. 1, No. 1. The cover was an illustration of a mercenary type, complete with drapes of bullets banded across his chest and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The cover lines were stories such as “Chain Gang for the Klan!,” “I Hitchhiked Around the World,” and “Time Check for Control.” The magazine’s content had fiction, crime, war, a department called “For the G.I.,” and other articles and shorter fiction following the same wildly machismo-type stories.

Climax added another facet of “True Adventure” and hardcore action to the men’s magazines of March 1953. And the genre welcomed it.

COUNTRY GENTLEMAN

The Country Gentleman was an American agricultural magazine founded in 1852 in Albany, New York, by Luther Tucker. Tucker also started Genesee Farmer in 1831, which merged with The Cultivator, and was then merged into The Country Gentleman. When the magazine was sold in 1911 to Curtis Publishing, the title began to focus on the business side of farming, which was mostly ignored by the agricultural magazines of the time.

By 1955, The Country Gentleman was the second most popular agricultural magazine in the U.S., with a circulation of 2,870,380. The same year it was purchased by, and merged into, Farm Journal, an agricultural magazine with a slightly larger circulation.

The March 1953 issue was filled with everything a farmer of that era needed to know. The cover was alive with black cows all-in-a-row, farmers considering those bovine, and a red brick barn in the background. Inside were the magazine’s regular features, such as “Country Gentleman Salutes,” “Letters,” “Today,” and other topics of interest.

There were general articles: “Better Stick With Those Beef Cows,” “Triple Your Pasture Yields,” and “Cheap Way To Banish Mud Roads,” among others, one story of fiction and many other items of interest.  Weed control was broached and the advertisements were endemic to the content: tractors, lawn mowers, and cigarettes. We all know it was healthier to smoke in the ‘50s, at least according to the ads.

The Country Gentleman was a magazine that did its job. It handled the everyday life of the agricultural farmer and offered him advice, solutions, and education about new farm implements or anything that was innovative at that time for the land.

To be continued…

 

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The Magazines And I. Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part Three.

September 11, 2020

Chapter Four, Part Three

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part three.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

OTHER WOMEN’S SERVICE MAGAZINES OF MARCH 1953

The Seven Sisters weren’t the only women’s magazines out there in March 1953 serving the women of the nation. There were titles such as Everywoman’s and Today’s Woman; The American Magazine and Better Living; Cosmopolitan and Mademoiselle; and Woman’s Home Companion. Let’s look at these great titles individually.

BETTER LIVING

In 1951, McCall Corporation began publishing Better Living magazine. The 100-page monthly magazine sold for five cents, and was distributed through stores that were members of the Super Market Institute. It ceased publication in 1956. The magazine was filled with recipes, tips on child care, fashion and beauty and many other topics of interest for women.

The March 1953 cover was of two adorable kittens staring into the camera lovingly. The magazine served its audience that month with articles such as breakfast pep-ups, better homework from your child and short stories that offered engaging fiction, as well as tips on what to do before you buy a house.

COSMOPOLITAN

Cosmopolitan is of course still being published today. The magazine began as The Cosmopolitan and was first published in March 1886. It began as a family magazine and was later transitioned into a literary title, only to become a women’s magazine in 1965 when the infamous Helen Gurley Brown became its editor in chief. Today, the magazine is known for its sexually explicit cover lines and bikini-clad cover models.

The March 1953 issue’s cover was a bit more sedate in style. Then Broadway actress Vanessa Brown graced the cover in a red velvet dress and very extravagant jewels, complete with formal elbow-length white gloves. The cover lines then were also more placid, such as “Queen Elizabeth’s Man,” “Are Modern Mothers Misled,” and “A World-Famous Art Collection.”

The masthead of the March 1953 issue had John J. O’Connell as editor and service articles like “What’s New In Medicine” and “The Cosmopolitan Look.” The magazine has certainly evolved with the times, but the vintage issue from March 1953 shows a definite class and style that stands out greatly.

EVERYWOMAN’S

With the tagline: The Woman’s Guide to Better Living, Everywoman’s was a monthly magazine published by Everywoman’s Magazine, Inc. starting in the 1940s. The magazine was eventually absorbed by Family Circle in 1958, which then published it as Everywoman’s Family Circle through 1962 before reverting to its original name.

The March 1953 issue had an endearing cover of a baby glancing out at you with one blue eye, the other being covered up by his arm. Inside the covers was articles on food, fashion, homemaking and of course, the wonderful fiction the era was known for. Regular features were also prevalent, from “Everywoman’s Woman” to “Where’s That Pot of Gold.”

MADEMOISELLE

Mademoiselle was first published in 1935 by the New York publisher Street & Smith. It was eventually acquired by Condé Nast Publications. Mademoiselle was known as a fashion magazine and for publishing short stories by famous authors like Truman Capote and William Faulkner, among many others. The August 1961 “college issue” of Mademoiselle included a photo of UCLA senior class president Willette Murphy, who did not realize she was making history as the first African American model to appear in a mainstream fashion magazine.

In the 1960s, the magazine focused on making itself more aimed at the “smart young woman.” The magazine ceased publication in November 2001.

The March 1953 issue had a very smartly-dressed model for her era on the cover standing in front of a typewriter. The dress she is wearing is a box-pleated shirtdress, tailored and simply cut. It’s a very arresting cover. The articles inside are quite hefty on fashion and health and beauty. But there is fiction, jobs and futures, and a section known as the “College Board.”

THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE

The American Magazine was a periodical that was founded in June 1906. The magazine’s original title was Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly and actually began publication in 1876. It was renamed Leslie’s Monthly Magazine in 1904, and then was renamed again as Leslie’s Magazine in 1905. It became The American Magazine in June 1906 when journalists Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell left McClure’s to help create it. The magazine focused on human interest stories, social issues and fiction. It folded in 1956.

The March 1953 issue was chocked full of women’s interest stories, such as “Should You Marry Your Soldier – Or Wait?” and “The Matchmaker.” The cover is hilarious as a seemingly naked man sits in the tub beneath dripping nylons and other female unmentionables, all entirely drawn in cartoon fashion, of course. There’s romance stories, novels, and articles that inspire and inform. A great magazine, gone but not forgotten.

TODAY’S WOMAN

Today’s Woman, with the tagline “For Young Wives,” was published by Fawcett Publications and became only one of many in the company’s hoard of successful titles. Fawcett published magazines such as Family Circle, Hollywood, Motion Picture, Movie Story, and many, many others.

The magazine provided helpful information for young wives when it came to their children, their homes and according to one article in the March 1953 issue, their very own worth: “Your Cash Value As A Wife.” That month’s cover was of a lovely two-story red painted home with a manicured lawn and the cover line “A Real Fun Story,” with a top cover line that read “Boy or Girl? How Your Doctor Can Tell Before Birth.” No sonograms in those days.

WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION

Woman’s Home Companion was published from 1873 to 1957. The magazine became highly successful and had a circulation of more than four million during the 1930s and 1940s. The magazine went through editor and editorial changes over the years, giving into some influence of the muckraking journalism of the times, but pushing toward becoming more of a general interest magazine. Eventually, there was coverage of art and music, architecture, books in addition to the regular departments dealing with fashion and the home. The Woman’s Home Companion came to an end January 1957, shortly after the first 1957 issues were distributed, owned then by Crowell-Collier Publishing, the same people who published Collier’s.

The March 1953 issue had a very bright-eyed model with a stylish-for-the-times hairdo above the cover line: “Try Our New Hairdos.” The other cover lines were a mixture of celebrity: “Gracie Allen’s Own Gay Story, Inside Me” and “Can Love Survive Mixed Religion in Marriage?”

The content went from fashion to home service. And the fiction was aimed at women and romance. The  magazine was oversized and definitely made its presence known.

***

Women’s service magazines were and still are an important part of magazine publishing and always will be. They provide relevant and useful information that never goes out of style.

Next up, in Chapter Five, we’ll be looking at the men’s magazines of March 1953. Some may surprise you!

 

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Anxiety Empire – A New British Title That Shines A Light On Mental Health As Sometimes Only A Magazine Can…

September 8, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Magazines  have always been reflectors of society. Their role as mediator and advocate for important issues of the day is evident by many of the tried and true brands that have been around for decades and by many of  the new titles that are being brought into the world today. Such as a new British title called Anxiety Empire.

Anxiety Empire was birthed into existence using Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to publish the magazine, and in unheard approach to a business model is offered to the public free of charge, although there is no advertising in the magazine to foot the bill. It explores mental health as not just an individual issue, but as an issue of society and how we live our lives, and thus believes that the magazine should be available to its audience free of charge.

The founder, creative director and editor in chief, Zoë Hough, writes in the inaugural edition of the new print magazine:

“When I started the Instagram account @anxietyempire in late 2017, I did so because – after working in a job which felt pretty damaging to my own mental health – I felt there was a need for more discussion around mental health in the workplace. But work is of course only one system of society which has a big impact on our mental health, and I found myself wanting to explore these systems in depth, which is how the idea for this print magazine came about; to look at macro systems of society and explore the impact they have on the mental health of us as individuals.”

Anxiety Empire is more of a project for its creator and was made free to the public – because the powers-that-be at the magazine believe that mental health resources should be accessible for all. As Hough added in the introduction to the first issue: “We all have mental health.”

Indeed.

The inaugural issue examines the world of media and its effect on mental health. Issue 02 will explore the ways in which the education system impacts our mental health. Exploring the many facets of society in regards to the impact each macro system has on our psyches and emotional reactions  is an avenue well worth exploring.

Anxiety Empire  truly offers what a magazine does best: informs, educates and inspires. This new magazine is something that will provide all of those things to people about a subject that has been taboo for generations, but is finally beginning to come to light using reason, education and compassion. Anxiety Empire deserves a special mention as it strives to provide a connection that sometimes only a magazine can: a deep, personal curiosity and caring that brings people together.  And remember if it is not ink on paper it is not a magazine.

And in today’s uncertain world that is something worth noting.

Until next time,

Mr. Magazine™

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The Magazines And I: Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part Two.

September 4, 2020

Chapter fFour, Part Two

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL

Ladies’ Home Journal was first published on February 16, 1883 as The Ladies’ Home Journal. The magazine’s publisher, Cyrus H.K. Curtis, developed the magazine from a popular supplement that was originally started in the magazine Tribune and Farmer. The supplement was at that time called Women at Home and Curtis’s wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis wrote it. Once it became an independent magazine itself, Louisa became editor for the first six years of its existence. The title was The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but the last three words were eliminated in 1886. It reached a circulation of more than one million copies by 1903, and became the first magazine to do so.

Curtis publishing sold the magazine to Downe Communications in 1968 and eventually Meredith Corporation bought it from its “then” owner Family Media, as it was sold two more times after the Curtis family sold it. When it began to lose circulation in the late 20th century, Meredith announced it would no longer be a monthly, so it became a quarterly “special interest” title available only on newsstands. Its last issue was published in 2016.

The March 1953 title, with the tagline “The Magazine Women Believe In,” was an oversized morsel of entertaining fiction stories and special features that consisted of: “Before One God; The Old Bible and the New; Youth Accepts Responsibility; along with many more. The cover was of a beautiful baby that wore pastels in contrast to the striped blanket in leaned against.

MCCALL’S

McCall’s Magazine was first created as a small format title that was originally called The Queen in 1873. By 1897, the magazine was retitled McCall’s Magazine – The Queen of Fashion, and then eventually shortened to McCall’s. As one of the Seven Sisters, McCall’s grew into a large format glossy title that boasted a column by Eleanor Roosevelt from June 1949 until her death in November 1962, among many other notable authors.

For years, the Betsy McCall paper doll was printed in most issues of the magazine and became so popular that the regular feature was eventually made into a vinyl, 14” doll that children could hold and play with. Magazines are good at creating iconic figures.

The March 1953 cover featured a beautiful model wearing the latest in Easter hats, with an entire article about Easter frocks and their accessories. McCall’s brought women a view of what the women of the day were wearing when it came to holiday attire. The meat of the content inside the magazine was filled with short stories and serious articles, along with whimsical, fun things like “How Much Does Your Husband Annoy you?”  McCall’s was a member of the Seven Sisters proudly, also serving women with household tips and recipes.

REDBOOK

In May 1903, The Red Book Illustrated was first published by a firm of Chicago retail merchants. The name was quickly changed to The Red Book Magazine. The McCall Corporation bought the title in the summer of 1929 and it became known as simply Redbook. In 1937, circulation hit one million and the magazine had amazing success until the late 1940s when television began to rise and the magazine began to lose touch with its demographic.

Longtime editor, Edwin Balmer, was replaced during that time and Wade Hampton Nichols, who had edited various movie magazines, took over and decided to focus on young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. By 1950, circulation reached two million and the cover price was upped to 35 cents.

Despite the early success of Redbook, as the years went by the audience changed and so did the magazine’s editors. By the 1980s,  the covers became more celebrity-oriented and the content based on more fitness, exercise and nutrition. Its last owner, Hearst Corporation, ceased publication of Redbook in 2018.

The March 1953 cover was also celebrity-oriented, however, with the inimitable Marilyn Monroe on its cover. The issue celebrated Redbook’s 14th Annual Movie Award and displayed Monroe on March’s cover as the best young box-office personality.

Other content included a book-length novel called “Triangle of Chance” by Joseph Laurence Marx, short stories and many articles and features, such as “How To Bring Up Parents,” “Are Mother’s Necessary,” and many others. The departments in Redbook were fan favorites; from “Picture of the Month” to “Fashions” and “Television,” Redbook served its audience from every angle.

WOMAN’S DAY

Woman’s Day is one of the Seven Sisters that’s still being published today. The magazine was started in 1931 by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (better known as A&P – the grocery chain); the current publisher is Hearst Corporation. The U.S. edition was originally a free in-store menu/recipe planner which gave customers incentive to buy more by giving them meal ideas within its pages. A&P expanded Woman’s Day in 1937, featuring articles on childcare, crafts, food preparation and cooking, home decoration, needlework and health.

Sold exclusively in A&P stores, Woman’s Day had a circulation of 3,000,000 by 1944. The magazine had reached 4,000,000 by the time A&P sold the magazine to Fawcett Publications in 1958. By 1965, Woman’s Day had climbed to a circulation of 6,500,000. In 1988, Woman’s Day was acquired by Hachette Filipacchi Media. Hearst Magazines bought the Hachette magazines in the US in 2011.

The March 1953 cover had a very photogenic child, complete with Easter bonnet on its cover, smiling naturally into the photographer’s lens.  And for a magazine that is strictly sold on the newsstands, it is good to note that the cover of  Woman’s Day had no cover lines (a must these days for newsstand titles) what so ever. Stories inside included fiction and articles on needlework, home workshop projects, fashion, food and regular monthly features, such as “News and Gossip,” and “The How To Section.”

While the Woman’s Day of today and yesterday have a few things in common, such as a Bible verse, great recipes and home projects, the 21st century is very present with stories on virtual games you can play and TikTok dances used to spread joy. But as it did in yesteryears, Woman’s Day is still serving its readers with relevant information and inspiring stories.

To be continued…

 

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The Magazines And I: Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part One.

August 28, 2020

Chapter fFour, Part One

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Service journalism is just that. It “serves” consumers with many things, such as advice, how-to projects, tips on home, fashion, food and travel, gardening, and all sorts of other necessary items.

Women’s service journalism is what one might think: services directed at women. In 1953 that focused mainly on married women who were maintaining home and hearth, dealing with children, decorating and gardening. We begin this chapter with the group of magazines that were dedicated to all of the women out there who either belonged to that category or wanted to: The Seven Sisters.

THE SEVEN SISTERS

The Seven Sisters were a group of titles that were traditionally aimed at married women who were homemakers with husbands and children, rather than single and workingwomen. The name is derived from the Greek myth of the “seven sisters,” also known as the Pleiades. These magazines were a major force in 20th century American magazine publishing, but today only three of the titles are still published as physical magazines:

Another sister, McCall’s, ceased publication in 2002 after an ill-fated attempt to rebrand itself under the name Rosie by teaming up with talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell.  Ladies’ Home Journal ceased monthly publication in April 2014. Publisher Meredith Corporation stated it would be “transitioning Ladies’ Home Journal to a special interest publication.” The last issue was in 2016.

Hearst transitioned Redbook to a digital-only property in 2017. Meredith announced Family Circle would publish its last issue in December 2019.

After a wave of consolidation and mergers, two companies now own the three remaining sisters: Meredith Corporation publishes Better Homes and Gardens and Hearst Corporation publishes Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day. While their circulation has slipped a little from their figures in the 1960s and 1970s, they are among the highest circulation magazines in the United States.

The Seven Sisters were much more than a “group” of women’s service magazines, however. They were the connection that women needed throughout the decades for fashion, home décor, cooking, gardening, great stories, and just that feeling of camaraderie that the titles provided. They were a membership into a circle of friends nationwide that brought women together and gave them inspiration and hope.

THE SEVEN SISTERS

BETTER HOMES and GARDENS

Better Homes and Gardens is one of the Seven Sisters that is still being published today. It has a circulation of 7.6 million and is the largest non-membership paid magazine circulation in the United States. Better Homes and Gardens focuses on interests regarding homes, cooking, gardening, crafts, healthy living, decorating, and entertaining. The Meredith Corporation publishes the magazine 12 times per year. Edwin Meredith, who had previously been the United States Secretary of Agriculture under Woodrow Wilson, founded it in 1922. The original name was Fruit, Garden and Home from 1922 to 1924. The name was changed in 1925 to Better Homes and Gardens.

The March 1953 issue of Better Homes and Gardens is chocked full of the latest garden news, how-to projects for the handyman, articles about well-groomed windows and pulling a room together and many other home projects. BH&G was and still is a service journalism title that provides today’s woman (married or otherwise) a variety of hints and tips about their home atmosphere.

FAMILY CIRCLE

Family Circle was published monthly first, then 17 times a year, every three weeks, then back to 10 times a year until it folded.  It was the magazine that focused on home and women’s topics, published from 1932 through the end of 2019. Originally distributed only at supermarkets with no subscriptions, it was included as one of the “Seven Sisters,” a group of seven traditional “women’s service” magazines centered on household issues.

The March 1953 issue had a blend of great fiction for women when they needed a break from their everyday lives, to awesome articles on fashion and needlework, your children and you, and all around the home. The cover was an adorable picture of a cocker spaniel with an inside feature of more color photos of the breed with an option to order the photos. It was a magazine in March 1953 that proclaimed on its cover: Serving more than 4,000,000 families.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

Good Housekeeping is another one of the Seven Sisters that is still alive and going strong today. Hearst Corporation owns the title and the circulation reaches around four million readers, which includes the unique Walmart edition the company launched in 2018.

The March 1953 issue had fiction, stories that lifted and inspired; articles and features that served the interests of women for that era, such as “Will it Make Your Hair Curl?” and “The Point Count Wins at Bridge” and many other topics that captured the hearts of women across the country.

There were sections on needlework and sewing; beauty; fashion; medicine and health; food; appliances and home care. There was even a children’s center and automobile article. The magazine of March 1953 was a mix of the times and topics of interest for then, and a really good balance of helpful tips and ideas.

To be continued…

 

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