Between The Age Of Possibilities & The Age Of Impossibilities. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…July 30, 2015
Having just returned from 19 days in my native Lebanon, via the City of Lights (Paris), and meeting with an array of journalists and editors; perusing as many newsstands as possible (a Mr. Magazine™ fait accompli when he travels) and enjoying a multitude of new titles that both captivated and fascinated me; it is my opinion that print is alive and well and living abroad.
Despite war and the revilement’s of the ravaging that has gone on in Lebanon and the entire Middle East region, hope is strong and the pleasant approach to media downright refreshing. With all of the problems that conflict can bring to a country and its people, Lebanon has had a renewed spirit and strength when it comes to magazine media and media in general.
While in Lebanon I did an interview with Ibrahim Nehme, founder and editor-in-chief of The Outpost magazine, which I published earlier this week this blog. The interview was nothing short of amazing due to this young man’s passion and drive when it comes to the possibilities that are out there for young Arabs. He is beyond adamant about the potential of the Arab nation, starting with the youth and continuing on through Arab adults who need his publication’s vision of hope and promise in a world sometimes gone mad with brutality and harshness.
Ibrahim’s magazine media approach and the mission of his magazine, which seeks to promote the positive and facilitate real change within the Arab world, reminded me of a very famous adage that I use quite often in my teachings and in my own publishing philosophy, and which I also have on a plaque in my office: there is always hope. And that dictum carries so much weight not only in the Arab world, but also in our own American media: he who knows the word hope doesn’t recognize the word impossible.
That statement hit me right between the eyes when I returned to the States a few days ago. I have interviewed some of the most influential and knowledgeable men and women of the publishing industry over the years and no one has basically told me anything that even remotely goes against the statement of there is always hope.
Upon my return, I saw articles ranging in negativity from the one on Time Inc.’s CEO, Joe Ripp’s clock is ticking to the statements that have been made recently by some media critics that TIME magazine is no longer relevant, and Self and Details maybe shutting down. It was then that I said to myself, when are media critics going to stop being the bearers of “predicted” bad news? It’s not even factual, on-paper bad news; yet somehow critics always manage to spin negativity on the stories they foretell about the future of magazines and magazine media. They paint a picture so dark and sinister, that it’s totally incongruous to the hundreds of new launches that I personally record on Mr. Magazine’s™ Launch Monitor each and every month. So, who exactly is correct? The Wizards of Woe who thrive on somber speculations or the bright, exciting covers that are scanned and published each month from the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss? I challenge you to be the judge.
To all of these people who respond to my opinion with: but look what’s happening at Hearst or Condè Nast or Meredith; I ask them now; what exactly is happening? As I said; I’ve interviewed all of these CEO’s and I’ve talked extensively with them; they’re not telling media anything as apocalyptic as some are reporting. It’s how the media and some of the media reporters are taking the information and running with it as if they’re being paid to basically dig their own media graves. Instead of promoting positivity the way Ibrahim Nehme from Lebanon’s The Outpost magazine does, they’re biting the very hand that feeds them, and then repeating the obscene gesture over and over again. Isn’t that a bit nonsensical or is it just me?
And have those naysayers seen what folks in Japan are paying for the Financial Times newspaper? When all of the media reporting only reflects one side of a supposed picture, we become cocooned. I guess I’ll have to challenge people to hop on a plane and visit newsstands abroad. The news isn’t nearly as bleak as sometimes reported.
I wrote about The Outpost, of course, since I interviewed its founder and editor-in-chief, but while in Lebanon I also picked up many other magazines, such as Executive Life Magazine, a new title that just came out in English, and by the way it’s amazing how the English language has spilled over into the world, not just in Lebanon, but all over; everywhere English is not necessarily the native language, we are seeing a lot of English-language magazines being born.
From the editorial of the first issue of Executive Life magazine:
Ceci n’est pas un magazine. (This is not a magazine) If you don’t believe me, just read further. Tired of focusing on everything that goes wrong in Lebanon – and there’s a lot – the team at Executive Magazine decided to explore what’s going right in the country; those creating beauty, exploring new frontiers, engendering hope. We found a whole new world of Lebanese artist, connoisseurs and visionaries producing a rich bounty of new ideas, designs and concepts – and now we’re on a mission to promote these people and the beauty they create…This is not a magazine, but a cause – and we want you to join it. Become a believer.
If we substitute the word Lebanon for the words magazines and magazine media and focus on the positive things that are happening in today’s magazine media world; all the new publications that are coming into the marketplace; all the established magazines that are still doing extremely well and making billions of dollars in revenue; if we focus our energies on all these creative ideas that are out there; there’s no impossibilities that can’t be met with possibilities.
Since my ancestors, the Phoenicians, created the alphabet; what if there were never any alphabet, the ABC’s you learned in school? You wouldn’t have been able to read this book today! This is the story of the birth of the alphabet, the story of a magical link between a sound and a sign. (From the Little Book of the Phoenician Alphabet)
That magical link that we also create in magazines; those magical ideas that keep coming time after time, whether someone is creating a new magazine or a whole series of new coloring magazines, such as the ones I picked up abroad – Jeux èvasion and Flèchès èvasion, which are not for children, but for adults; one title after another of coloring magazines for adults are coming to the marketplace worldwide.
All of these new titles are hitting the newsstands, from coloring to puzzles, just look at the number of titles out there; it’s amazing. I found magazines celebrating the nightlife of Beirut (RagMag – the Beirut Nights issue), magazines celebrating the marketing and advertising resources and all the changes that are taking place (Communicate), stories of pride everywhere, magazines celebrating the international face of Lebanon, such as Taste & Flavors with Salma Hayek and the movie The Prophet.
I just received the first issue of a new magazine called Out Living It. It’s the First Descents Magazine coming from Colorado in which the founder of First Descents, Brad Ludden, writes:
This magazine serves to inspire and document the people, places, organizations, companies, and lifestyle choices that represent our collective desire to meet life head-on with undeniable passion. I hope its pages further inspire you to be Out Living It.
After those 19 days overseas, I returned with the conclusion that through all the gloom and doom, through all of these predictions of this or that CEO fading out, or this or that magazine dying; at the end of the day magazines and magazine media are going to be Out Living It and most probably Out Living Us and digital, mobile, or anything yet to be invented, if we continue to be strong and focus on the positive.
People, from both east and west, are exhausted from the negativism that is all over politics and the media… they never see or hear anything good. It’s time for a new wind of thinking to blow through the minds of media reporting. It’s long overdue.
Take it from me; as long as I have that plaque hanging in my office, there is hope, I’ll never give up on magazines or magazine media. They have found their own place in the marketplace since conception and they aren’t going anywhere. Except maybe new frontiers they have yet to explore. A newsstand on the moon perhaps…
Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…