Archive for July, 2013

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A Cover in Print is Worth Thousands of Tweets: Controversy Anyone? Just Visit Your Nearest Newsstand. See And Feel The Power Of The Magazine Cover. It’s A Rush Like No Other…

July 31, 2013

photo-2My recent trip to Lebanon and the controversies surrounding magazine covers in the United States reminded me of an important milestone in my life-long magazine journey.

I used to think I was special… due to the powers that Superman telepathically sent me when I was a child through the cover of the first Arabic edition of the comic book. The moment I traced the outline of the Man-of-Steel blasting into the atmosphere from Earth on that magazine cover, I knew the connection we made was distinctive and very personal.

Surely Superman had chosen only me to follow in his footsteps.

Alas, eventually I realized the power that magazine covers wield is very far-reaching and extends to humans around the globe, not just young boys growing up in Tripoli, Lebanon.

If covers can breed controversy and ignite the digital fires of social media better than the latest neighborhood gossip, then I believe it’s safe to say magazine covers command a power not unlike a knight brandishing the winning lance in a tournament: swift and to the point.

The debate about covers reminded me of what my brother Shukri, the philosopher and historian of the family, and his illustration about the two great Greek philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus.

Parmenides is the pre-platonic Greek philosopher who theorized about permanence as reality; what is permanent, what lasts and what is stable. What you cannot get rid of, in other words, is really what is real and true.

Heraclitus, on the other hand, was the theorician of change. He’s the one famous for saying, “You cannot step in the same river twice,” basically because the water keeps on changing. Effectively, to him, change was the one reality. The only permanent thing in the universe according to Heraclitus is change.

But Parmenides insisted that only what lasts is real. What is in print lasts. What is in print is actually what remains in your face. You can dispose of it, you can tear it apart, but there will always be somebody who kept a copy in print. That’s actually the origin of documentation. Documentation is what you can keep.

While social media is more in liquid form and change form, like the water of Heraclitus, it keeps on changing and moving. It’s so mobile that, very often, by the time you realize whether it’s true or not, it has changed already.

And this is a significant part of the power a magazine cover has. The power to hit you with that first in-your-face impact and then, unlike the Facebook pages filled with posts that eventually scroll into the great digital abyss, the magazine cover remains there in all its firestorm of glory to forever remind you of the message it delivers.

RSThe cover of Rolling Stone recently unleashed a maelstrom of controversy by putting Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on its August 2013 cover. Right, wrong or indifferent; Rolling Stone made an impact. They didn’t have to parry, they knocked the competition off their steeds in one fell swoop.

Even though some stores refused to stock the issue, single copy sales of this issue are already up. I believe you could describe that as a definitive impact.

So why critics focused on the photo itself – describing it rock-star-like, rather than as a murder suspect – and not the content of the article.

The fact is that study after study shows that the picture is the first thing that stops readers when looking at a magazine. So it is normal for the audience to look at the picture; the surprise is when media people stop at just the picture too. We are reaching such a state of non-journalism by allowing mass emotions and social media to dictate what is and is not journalism.

I am sure Rolling Stone did not mean to cause a stir with their provocative subject; not at all. It was an editorial decision based on an investigative piece of journalism; a rarity in today’s world. We need more magazines to follow in the footsteps of Rolling Stone, ignoring the mass emotional reaction of a knowledge-less mass basing their opinions on perception and not reality.

Magazine covers have been known to blow a few minds in their time and lately they seem more determined than ever to cause people the SMH syndrome…that most wonderful of social media verbal shortcuts defined as “shaking my head.”

New YorkerTake The New Yorker’s Bert and Ernie’s “Moment of Joy,” created by artist Jack Hunter. As the two Sesame Street characters sit cuddling on the couch together, staring at a TV still of the Supreme Court Justices, after their ruling on same-sex marriages, the world looks on with two faces. The one side is ecstatic by the decision, the other appalled. But the magazine makes its point and the best knight wins: Sir Cover.

Untitled-4Bloomberg Businessweek made a rather “exaggerated” point with a cover about hedge funds and the supposed great return on investments a person can make, with the picture of a man, complete with jacket slung over his shoulder, glancing down at an overextended arrow pointing outward from the direction of his pants zipper. The caption above the arrow: perception. Then “reality” falls somewhere short of the fantasy and there’s a much smaller squiggly arrow lying on the floor at his feet, teasing the reader with the correlation between the mythical male body part and the truth. Controversial and comical, yes…but once again a magazine cover packs a punch.

espnESPN the Magazine is not to be outdone by the implied parts of the male anatomy. Their annual edition called “The Body Issue” came out in July and has NHRA racer, Courtney Force, posing nude for the magazine. While the cover is strategically done so that nothing describable is actually shown, the picture lends more than an illusion of Ms. Force’s shapeliness. While covers such as this may have once been reserved for magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, ESPN the Magazine proves that it’s not just bunnies and pinups that emanate allure; even race car drivers can grace a cover with enticing comeliness. And if you think that last description was overflowing with adjectives; once again the power of a magazine cover ignites a passionate response.

nyThe July 29 – August 5 issue of New York Magazine is a double issue featuring intertwined male and female legs hanging above, through and below the magazine’s name. What is the image’s significance, you might ask? Sex, what else. The cover story involves first times, sneaky cheating and trysts all over the place, and something thrown in there about fetishism.

It’s a melting pot of all things sexual and boiling over with a spicy brew that has spurred many a conversation. Nothing like a magazine cover to get things stirred up, right?

The New YorkerAnthony Weiner sexting, straddling the Empire State Building as though he were the human version of King Kong; this is the August 5 cover of The New Yorker, created by artist John Cuneo. The cover says it all in a funny and original way and proves that politicians who revel in their own deceptions sometimes can’t hide from the press even from the tallest building.

Untitled-7And then of course, the baby the world had been waiting on: the Royal tyke who would be King. The Times in London had the infant and its proud parents, Prince William and Kate, splashed across front and back, announcing the first “royal wave” from little hands reaching out from beneath the august blanket. It’s a cover that touched hearts and displays a legacy the child will never outrun (even if he wants to), the heritage of his birthright – the future King of England.

peopleBut People Magazine grabbed the first headline of “It’s A Prince” on their cover and called it a special collector’s issue, featuring a spectacular photo of the royal parents and their little bundle of joy. But it’s the cover that grabs the attention immediately and proves yet again that magazines and the wrappings they wear definitely make an impression.

In-your-face, controversial, heartrending, funny; magazine covers run the gamut of emotions and tirades. From quiet and serene conversations that last for months, to spitting quarrels and shouts of boycott all across the country; the cover of a magazine can spark a reaction better than any other type of media. Digital headlines are instantaneous and satisfy the moment very sufficiently, but they’re fleeting and can become a lost link in the blink of an eye. Not so with a magazine cover. Once it’s printed and becomes a reality, there is no disappearing. That cover will stare up at you from your coffee table until you’re old and gray if you don’t remove it. It’s solid, not liquid like digital. There is a difference in form and there is a difference in impact. And its impetus is in the never-ending moment and the platform.

And as the buying public, we get to be a part of that moment, sometimes a part of history-in-the-making. And it’s a delightful experience. Whether you agree or disagree with their statement, you must admit the power of the magazine cover gives new meaning to an old phrase paraphrased: a cover in print is worth thousands of tweets.

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Audience First and Other Essentials for Magazines and Magazine Media Survival in a Digital Age

July 8, 2013

The following is a review of my presentation at the MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace conference By Karlene Lukovitz in IPDA Daily Publishing & Retail News, June 14, 2013.

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Perception Vs. Reality: Print’s Power in a Digital Age
Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni offered statistics and arguments demonstrating the ongoing relevance of print magazines, as well as the futility (at least to date) of trying to turn a print-plus-digital magazine brand into an economically viable digital-only entity.

While estimates of the total number of magazines currently sold at retail in the U.S. vary depending on how one defines a magazine, MagNet puts the number at approximately 10,000, noted Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

Husni, who tracks print magazine launches on an ongoing basis, found and purchased 870 new magazine titles in retail stores last year alone, 237 of which launched with regular frequencies (published quarterly or more often). “I’m seeing no signs of a slowdown,” he reported. Further, the numbers of magazines being folded are considerably smaller than the numbers being launched.

Those who point to Newsweek or other instances of high-profile print magazines being converted to an all-digital model, or folded, as evidence that the print magazine medium as a whole is on its last legs are ignoring the current and historical context, Husni argues.

“If one magazine dies, it’s not the end of the industry,” he said. “Do I need to tell you how many TV shows have come and gone over the years? Yet nobody said that television was dead.”

While the industry is rightfully focused on addressing magazine retail sales declines through innovation and collaboration with retailers and other supply-chain partners, the larger context is that discretionary products of all kinds experience sales declines when the economy forces many consumers to forgo non-essential purchases as they struggle to meet basic living needs, he said.

Moreover, overall print magazine circulation is stable to slightly up, and both print and digital magazine readership is increasing–while other traditional media are experiencing overall declines in audience or circulation, he added.

Meanwhile, for all of their growth, magazine apps are up against formidable odds, Husni said. As of January 2013, publishing consultant Thea Selby reported that there were 446 magazine apps available through the Nexus Google Play store, 744 in the Amazon Kindle store, and 2,954 in the Apple iTunes store. But those apps are competing for visibility, discovery and consumer dollars and time with at least 850,000 total apps of all kinds in the marketplace, he said.

The Age of ‘Transcended Infinite Media’

Many seem determined to deny the reality that all media have always been subject to change brought about by technology and other mega-trends, Husni observed.

He believes that, after a “bubble” lasting about 150 years, the age of mass media–characterized by a relatively small number of companies and media realizing large profits by reaching mass audiences–is giving way to what he calls the “transcended infinite media age,” characterized by burgeoning numbers of interpersonal networks and new technological platforms and devices.

Today, “we have the major media outlets seeing shrinking influence, and clusters of audiences who are talking and negotiating and engaging within themselves,” he said. At a time when consumers have hundreds of television channels, along with seemingly limitless blogs, Web sites and other media from which to choose, the media and the world at large need to accept the reality that audience segmentation means smaller revenues for individual media, as revenue is spread across the plethora of options available, he asserted.

Magazines have always had life cycles, he pointed out: “New magazines arrive on the scene, and other magazines depart the scene. There’s nothing new here.” This year and last, some magazines that are over a hundred years old have been publishing their largest-ever issues, he noted.

“There is a [print] magazine for every age group…for every interest…magazines large and small” and magazines spanning a wide variety of formats, he pointed out. “There are more magazines in the marketplace than ever,” even without counting digital replica versions, which have doubled in number since 2011, he said. In fact, there were just 2,000 print magazines in 1980, versus today’s 10,000.

At the same time, the models of magazines and all media are being transformed by those “transcended infinite media” dynamics, which have put far greater power and choice in the hands of consumers, he said.

The Internet and social media have enabled consumers to be content creators, forcing traditional media to “play catch-up,” Husni observed. However, with all of their ability to create or shape or choose their own media experiences (including expanded choices in terms of immediacy and formats viewable on a wide variety of devices and screen sizes), consumers still want content from trusted sources–a major advantage for trusted magazine brands, he said.

However, Husni cautioned that magazines need to beware of falling into a syndrome that’s become all too common in the media world: Surrendering content creation, which is resulting in a “welfare information society.”

Amid all of this change, the one constant is the primary importance of magazines knowing their audiences and serving them with relevant, useful, compelling content, he stressed.

The Futility of Converting Print Brands to Digital-Only

Turning to the subject of print magazines going to all-digital models, Husni listed a roster of brands that have attempted this, only to become weak presences at best on the Web, or disappear altogether.

He said that he’s been unable to identify a single magazine brand that has succeeded or thrived by going digital-only. He quoted an observation from electronic media analyst/author Thad Mcllroy: “Few magazine publishers could survive the loss of ad revenue if they discontinued their print versions. While they are becoming increasingly adept at generating revenue from their Web sites, Web-only publishing models cannot supplant a print and Web model.”

“When a print magazine is about to draw its last breath of ink, is digital really a life support for it, or just prolonging the inevitable…defining a vegetative state as new life?,” Husni asked.

His own answer: “A print magazine that can’t make it in print is not going to make it in the digital sphere. The problem is not with the medium–the problem is with the magazine.”

When a magazine declares that it’s going digital-only, several “death signs” can be counted on: staff reduction, leadership changes, blaming the advertisers, blaming the economy, and blaming the changing habits of the audience, he noted.

“If you fail to connect with your customers/readers time and time again, going to digital online heaven can’t save you,” he declared. “Cut your losses, let your magazine die in peace and don’t torture it anymore.”

However, while print magazines can’t live solely as digital entities, “there is absolutely no reason that the two can’t live side-by-side,” Husni stressed.

“In fact, today, the question is not print versus digital media. Media now are not either/or, but rather all,” he said. “And at the end of the day, it is audience first, not digital or print first.”

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64 New Magazines Arrive in June: 11 With Frequency and 53 Specials and Bookazines

July 2, 2013

The titles for June are just as eclectic and interesting as your imagination. You can Discover Your Roots while reading your Guide to Field and Lawn Care where you might discover you’re related to Vikings who love Monsters U. From Raising the Royal Baby to What Justin Bieber Wants in a Girl – the selections for mid-summer span the spectrum of something else a reader might want to absorb while they’re soaking up their summer rays. Oddly enough not one bridal issue in the bunch…hmm…
Check each and every one of the 64 new titles on the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor here.

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The Battle of Gettysburg: For Those Who Can Still Hear the Guns: Mr. Magazine™ Relives the Battle in Eight Different Ink on Paper Publications…

July 1, 2013

Television can’t do it.
Apps can’t do it.
Magazines can and are doing it on a regular basis. That in-your-face, on-your-coffee-table display with constant and instant recall of memories of days gone by, is no more evident than in the latest show of force in the titles devoted to the Battle of Gettysburg. Touted as the battle with the largest number of casualties during the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg lasted for three days – July 1-3, 1863. Today (Monday July 1) is the 150th anniversary of this significant military fray (some call it the turning point of the entire Civil War). And magazines are well-armed for the occasion.

Gettysburg150-8Gettysburg USA-9Gettysburg NG-7Gettysburg Media Source-4Gettysburg last-10Gettysburg courage-6Gettysburg - TIMEBBC American CIvil-5

From Time to National Geographic, Civil War Times to The Media Source, print is ready to do battle with any other media platform to gain your undivided attention during this commemorative observance. The first to arrive on the scene was I-5’s Gettysburg: 150th Anniversary with the cover line, Three Days That Saved The United States, and a glossy cover worthy of coffee table display.

The Time Bookazine presents you with a day-by-day account of the campaign and The Media Source offers you 130 pages devoted to anything and everything you could possibly want to know about the illustrious battle; I find myself curling my mustache with the tips of my fingers, contemplative and amazed, much like I imagine Gen. Robert E. Lee was when he realized his invasion of the North just wasn’t working out for him.

Niche marketing is pushing the naysayers of print back, just as the Union did with the Confederacy when they tried to take the war onto the road. And Bookazines are wearing their Union blue very well, assisting General “Niche” quite nicely.

So I ask you, truthfully, in what other medium, besides print, could you relive such an historic event as the Battle of Gettysburg with the true, stirring experience of emotion? I ask that because of the tactile combination of content, real-life photos and pages that fairly come to life beneath your fingertips as you turn the pages.

Sure, you can go online and read and observe – and it’s a fantastic interlude, but can you touch the pages? Can you trace each word as though running your fingertips across a name on an old, battered tombstone in some long-forgotten cemetery left over from the war? Can you hold the pictures closer, for a better examination of a gun used back then or the clothes worn, when you peruse a website to research just where the battle went (pardon the pun) – South for General Lee?

Without doubt, the print experience is still the only way to exact true emotion and that sense of ownership you feel when you purchase your one-and-only copy of that magazine or Bookazine that can transport you smack dab into the middle of the battle – or anywhere you happen to want to go.

And with the “cater-to” mentality of today’s niche marketing – from the Bookazines to the Special Editions, there is always something on the newsstands for everyone.

So, to all you history buffs out there who are planning on a commemorative respite from the rest of the world by kicking back and enjoying one of the eight magazines shown here devoted to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg– I wish you happy reading, indulgent fantasies and the agility to duck when you hear the cannons!

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