Archive for June, 2021

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True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines: The Magazines And I. Chapter 8, Part 2.

June 17, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

FRONT PAGE DETECTIVE

In 1921, George T. Delacorte, Jr., founded the Dell Publishing Company with the intent of entertaining readers dissatisfied with the genteel publications of the time. Known more for puzzle magazines, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineAsimov’s Science Fiction, and Analog Science Fiction and FactFront Page Detective was still in the mystery genre, but had more of a “true crime” feel and look.

The March 1953 issue offered up a very beautiful redhead on the cover with the line: Necklace of Death for Rosamond. With ads galore and stories as murderously sensational, the magazine fit right in with the crime drama sections of newsstands.

HEADQUARTERS DETECTIVE

Published by Hillman Periodicals, who were also known for their true confession and true crime magazines, and for the long-running general-interest magazine Pageant, Headquarters Detective was another “true” crime title. Competing with MacFadden and Fawcett, Hillman put out titles such as true confessions magazines (Real Story, Real ConfessionsReal Romances) and crime magazines (Crime DetectiveReal DetectiveCrime Confessions).

The April 1953 issue had cover lines such as Honeymoon of Horror and My Girl’s Being Murdered and offered 16 extra pages, with a very voluptuous blonde woman on the cover. A photograph made to look like an illustration, of course, the 1953 cover was striking, while the cover lines were definitely alluring. 

INSIDE DETECTIVE

Another Dell publication, Inside Detective fell into step with Front Page Detective and the other “true crime” titles on the market. 

The March 1953 issue proclaimed: She Was A Kiss and Tell Killer and had a young woman with a glass of alcohol sitting at her elbow on the cover. The magazine had professional models within the pages, yet had the same sense of “true crime” style throughout.

MANHUNT

Launched in January 1953 as a monthly digest, it played briefly (from March 1957 to May 1958) with a larger format to enhance newsstand sales. However, that wasn’t successful, and it soon went back to its digest size and shortened its frequency to bimonthly. The magazine ran for almost 15 years and brought on a succession of reprints, from the U.K. to Australia.

The March 1953 issue had a fantastic cover with a wide-eyed woman, fear plain in her gaze, and a man’s hand heading for her throat, with no cover lines, but a list of magnificent authors. From Mickey Spillane to Craig Rice and stating every story new, the issue may have been digest-sized, but it was chocked full of great content, including a serial by Mickey Spillane called “Everybody’s Watching Me.”

MASTER DETECTIVE

Master Detective was one of Bernarr MacFadden’s publications and was a sister title to MacFadden’s highly successful True Detective. These titles appealed to the same working class audience as its pulp fiction competitors, and became very popular with audiences. The March 1953 cover of Master Detective has a wide-eyed woman with flaming red hair above a cover line that reads “Beautiful, But Deadly. She had a way with men, a gun to back it up.” Apparently, women were deadly creatures in March 1953. In the world of true crime magazines anyway.

The magazine itself is filled with stories about women with evil intent and the men they intended to bestow that evil upon. True? Possibly. Within the genre, True Detective was regarded as the standard bearer of quality and reliability. Maybe its sister Master Detective followed suit.

STARTLING DETECTIVE

Startling Detective is another Fawcett Publication and makes a play for real life mystery stories by using actual photographs as its illustrations. The March 1953 issue contains 10 true features including Two Telegrams From A Corpse and Fickle Fiancée and Murder. And of course, all the stories lend well to illustration. The actual photographs coupled with the very good illustrations make this magazine a definite standout. 

To be continued…

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HGTV Magazine Celebrates Its 10th Birthday With Color, Excitement & Special Fun – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, & Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine…

June 14, 2021

“There is a digital research company called Kantar Millward Brown and we do a lot of convergent partnerships with our partners HGTV and we obviously do a lot of research to see how a campaign does and whenever print was added into the mix, everything went up. Likelihood to buy went up; preference for the brand went up. It happens so often that I literally said to the director who was running this digital research company, I keep noticing that print keeps raising the numbers. And he said that was always true. And I’ve always felt this way, but it continues to be proven by the research. Print adds a lot to the formula.” Vicki Wellington…

“I sometimes take the magazine home and look at it in home-lighting because I know that’s how people are going to look at it, not in an office setting with calibrated fluorescent lights. They’re going to probably have a 60-watt bulb in their lamp. So I ask myself, can you see the type? Can you read it okay? Things like that are fun for me when making the magazine. So, print matters because it makes the experience of seeing a story special.” Sara Peterson…

HGTV Magazine will be celebrating its 10th birthday this year in October. But the magazine is taking a celebratory stance in every issue, according to its Chief Revenue Officer Vicki Wellington. It’s doing so by celebrating phenomenal subscription sales, renewals and newsstand numbers, and by, according to Editor in Chief Sara Peterson, providing the value of insider advice from trusted experts, as well as the enjoyment of taking a look inside real people’s homes with its “decorating truths” and upbeat, friendly content. Even during a pandemic, HGTV Magazine seeks to bring light-hearted and useful content to its loyal readers. And for that colorful continuity, I’m sure we’re all very thankful.

I spoke with Vicki and Sara recently about the 10th birthday and all their celebratory plans for this powerhouse brand. And about the special issue that will showcase why the magazine’s longevity was never in question. It’s a fun interview with two people who have a mutual respect and camaraderie that shines through in their conversation. A conversation that covers the earlier, darker days of the pandemic, yet shows the hope and determination of people who never gave up on their mission: to provide service journalism as heartily and enjoyably as possible, without forgetting what the entire world was going through and showing that compassion accordingly.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how HGTV Magazine is doing during the changes the pandemic brought (Sara Peterson): We’ve always been “change is good” type of people, so we’re good at adapting and keeping on going; it’s so nice to look back on the year of the pandemic, to look back instead of just being in the midst of it. Whenever things are challenging or tough, either in your personal life or in the world in general, I always like to focus on the work and the great distraction and fun of making a magazine. That didn’t change.

On whether the business side of selling is easy to do virtually (Vicki Wellington): It is totally different. But I will say this, one thing that’s positive is now our meetings are super-tight and condensed. So, where we might have had an hour with an advertiser or a client, now it’s much less time but it’s great because we focus in on what we want to talk about. So remarkably, it’s really been fine. We’ve gotten clients on the phone; everybody is open for meetings. I’m amazed with all that’s gone on, HGTV Magazine is having a great year.

On HGTV Magazine being one of the few magazines that did not cut its print frequency during the pandemic (Vicki Wellington): And still has a nice variety of advertisers. Fifty percent are “home” advertisers, but fifty percent are still other things. We get a lot of food, a lot of business and finance. If you’re on Zoom constantly, you love when the magazine arrives and you get to sit back, relax and enjoy it. And in this case, really do something with it. Shop from it and create a new world for yourself inside. And I think business has reflected that as hard as it’s been.

On creating “fun” during the dark days of the pandemic (Sara Peterson): Well, you have fun momentum. You are this brand and I have a lot of adjectives that I can substitute for fun: positive outlook, upbeat, friendly, colorful; that attitude and personality. And the conversational copy that we have in the magazine. I think those are ways that we deliver “fun.”

On Vicki Wellington being the chief revenue officer for both HGTV Magazine and the Food Network Magazine (Vicki Wellington): Yes, I’m a lucky girl, Samir. Who’s luckier than me? I mean, Food Network and HGTV are gigantic global brands. It’s awesome and I love it. And I haven’t been here with Sara for the whole 10 years, I came in about a year and a half ago. So she and her team deserve the credit much more than I do. I’m actually the pandemic publisher for HGTV Magazine. I’m just very lucky to be here.

On the plans for celebrating the magazine’s 10th birthday (Sara Peterson): This was a lot of planning. You can imagine. All the thinking about how you’re going to make this issue special. You only get one 10th birthday to do. I’ve always loved the fact that in magazines, you always get another issue, so you always have another take to do that story you wanted or another cover idea, but the feeling of having a birthday issue, the 10th birthday, and we did have a fifth birthday issue, but 10 is bigger. So the pressure was on, but also the opportunities were there. How were we going to celebrate ourselves and all we’ve done. but also still deliver new ideas and new content in the magazine, not just do a look-back?

On the role print plays in this digital age (Vicki Wellington): People want less time on the computer and we can prove it. Right now our subscriptions are up. They’re purchased digitally, but they’re print subscriptions. Just as an example, our renewals are up. HGTV Magazine happens to have one of the highest renewal rates in the company. And that’s between $30 and $45, so that’s a lot of money as you know for a magazine subscription.

On anything either of them would like to add (Vicki Wellington): Just that HGTV Magazine is having a very strong year. I think the product continues to serve a purpose, part of a major power brand. It’s nice to have such a powerful brand that’s so well-recognized and loved. And it’s safe; it’s not about the pandemic; it’s not about politics. And I think advertising has backed all that up in every category. All my vital signs are good. Subscriptions are good; newsstand is good; renewals are good; advertising is good. Those are all the positives.

On what keeps them up at night (Vicki Wellington): After going through a pandemic, you know what, I don’t worry as much. It really put things into perspective. What am I worrying about? Once we’ve gotten through this crazy time and we don’t have to worry about just going out of our houses or going out without gloves. So honestly for me, I don’t worry about a lot because we’ve lived through this crazy time. The minor things at this point would be just doing a good job and getting my work done.

On what keeps them up at night (Sara Peterson): I find myself thinking how much better I’m sleeping lately. There were times in 2020 where many nights I was wide awake between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would think about people I missed, work, things I needed to do, was my Amazon order going to arrive on time. Did I get the groceries delivered or should I go there? Should I buy more masks and which masks, that sort of stuff. And having that tone down a little, the anxiety level, that hopefully we’ve all lowered some anxiety, sleeping better and also knowing there’s a plan now for the immediate future, has helped.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine. 

Samir Husni: Change is the only constant in the magazine media business, and with everything that has happened within the last year, between the pandemic and the unrest the country has seen, change has been paramount. So, with those changes, how are things going at HGTV Magazine?

Sara Peterson: We’ve always been “change is good” type of people, so we’re good at adapting and keeping on going; it’s so nice to look back on the year of the pandemic, to look back instead of just being in the midst of it. Whenever things are challenging or tough, either in your personal life or in the world in general, I always like to focus on the work and the great distraction and fun of making a magazine. That didn’t change. 

We still had readers that expected a magazine on the newsstand, in the mailbox, and that was like a comfort; it’s always a comfort, but especially in times of enormous change and unknowns. And that’s a constant. We know how many pages we had to fill; every issue we had to plan the stories as usual; we still had to do photo shoots and write stories and do layouts. I found myself especially thankful to have that work that I love and the people who I really enjoy working with to do those things that we know how to do and that we’ve been doing for 10 years now. 

Vicki Wellington: And I’m shocked, as I think the world is, that everyone acclimated so quickly. I was one of the last people out of the Hearst Tower. I was packing up my stuff and I found myself thinking, how was all of this going to work? And remarkably, everyone did great. It really is amazing what people are capable of doing and learning and troubleshooting; every one of us had all kinds of IT issues.

Sara Peterson: I had not heard of Zoom; I had never done Zoom. 

Vicki Wellington: It’s just amazing. And I’m impressed, to be honest, not only with our team, but with the entire company and the entire country and world. I think we’ve discovered this whole other avenue, the silver lining to the insanity of it all. The ability of people to adjust and adapt because you have to immediately.

Sara Peterson: And it was overnight. Literally, one day we were in the office, another day we were told not to come in. And we didn’t know for how long, but it was literally overnight that we all started working from home. From watching the news and the cases that were popping up, I had the thought in early March that everyone should have a laptop. 

Before the pandemic, we didn’t all have laptops. We really collaborated and worked in the office, routing physical paper copies of stories. Sure, we emailed and we had Slack, and we used those tools in the office sometimes, but not anything to the extent of physically sharing and routing in the office. So it was a real shift to virtual work.

Samir Husni: When it comes to the business side, the selling part, was it easy to do that virtually?

Vicki Wellington: It is totally different. But I will say this, one thing that’s positive is now our meetings are super-tight and condensed. So, where we might have had an hour with an advertiser or a client, now it’s much less time but it’s great because we focus in on what we want to talk about. So remarkably, it’s really been fine. We’ve gotten clients on the phone; everybody is open for meetings. I’m amazed with all that’s gone on, HGTV Magazine is having a great year. 

You know it’s a birthday year, and of course we’ll talk about that, but we’re up. I don’t know if you’ve seen our most recent issue, which I love, the July/August issue; I just love it. Every issue Sara does I love. 

Sara Peterson: Oh, thank you, Vicki. I don’t know if you felt this, but because the whole world was in this together, no one could look ahead that far during this time and that made it kind of easier, because we were all trying to figure it out together. If you’re the only one changing, it can be more difficult. There were moments in the beginning where we would ask ourselves how we wanted to do this, but we adapted very well.

Vicki Wellington: And when all our screens were blank and no one had their cameras on, we put the rule in that our staff show their faces, that’s how we roll. But so many people not on staff had a blank screen, so you’re presenting to clients and you’re excited, but it’s difficult speaking to a blank screen. 

But think about what went on this year. Again, this brand, HGTV was also a silver lining, the perfect brand to help the country during this. We played a part and to be a piece of such a big, fun, exciting brand that’s all about the home where everybody is living, what an advantage from my side, the business side, because that’s what was hot and happening. We saw the advantage of that, our subscriptions are way up, everybody has been into their homes, and who does home better than us?

We happened to have been lucky and coincidentally had research out in the field; we worked with a company called MarketCast and had this national research study being done while we were home. So we knew people painted and made things, did things they never did before and they took their money and created rooms for themselves and took on projects and were successful at them. So what an advantage to be at HGTV Magazine during this crazy year. 

Sara Peterson: We delivered what we always had, but in an even bigger way because we were doing more. So cleaning, decorating, DIY gardening; all of it, inside and out, but we were also changing rooms into offices, making them dual-functioning. That’s how we touched on the times. We’re all more intimately acquainted with our homes now than we ever were before. 

Samir Husni: During the pandemic, HGTV is one of the few magazines that did not cut its print frequency and is still doing very well. Still has the same number of pages.

Vicki Wellington: And still has a nice variety of advertisers. Fifty percent are “home” advertisers, but fifty percent are still other things. We get a lot of food, a lot of business and finance. If you’re on Zoom constantly, you love when the magazine arrives and you get to sit back, relax and enjoy it. And in this case, really do something with it. Shop from it and create a new world for yourself inside. And I think business has reflected that as hard as it’s been. 

Sara Peterson: I’m not sure if it was a silver lining, but it was definitely an advantage being HGTV Magazine. I’ve always thought of us as being the magazine that works the hardest at being really relatable, real and authentic about your home. And featuring real people in their homes has always been a thing of ours. In the house tours and the decorating stories, there’s a lot of people in the photos in the magazine; we always photograph the homeowner with their home. And that makes it feel more relatable and real when you see kids and dogs and maybe the cereal and milk is still left out on the counter in the kitchen, these are things you can relate to in real life. 

Samir Husni: Sara, I interviewed you when the magazine was first launched 10 years ago and you talked a lot about how much fun HGTV Magazine was going to be. Tell me, how can you create “fun” during a time when fun was not exactly a word people were using?

Sara Peterson: Yes, in an un-fun time. Well, you have fun momentum. You are this brand and I have a lot of adjectives that I can substitute for fun: positive outlook, upbeat, friendly, colorful; that attitude and personality. And the conversational copy that we have in the magazine. I think those are ways that we deliver “fun.” 

Maybe we weren’t having parties, but we were still picking out beautiful flowers to look at in our yards and in our homes; we were picking out paint colors and trying different DIY projects that hadn’t been tried before. Making things, but also food and entertaining ways to distract ourselves. We couldn’t go out, so we had to do stuff at home. So that’s how we delivered the fun.

We did have this long-running column from the first issue called “How Bad Is It.” Answers, conundrums and scratch-your-head questions about home life across the board. Things like how bad is it to leave the laundry in overnight, to leave it in the washing machine, just questions you might have about your household things. 

But I had seen different magazines talking about how bad is it in terms of the pandemic, with the numbers and all. And I wasn’t worried about how we were going to deliver cheerful, upbeat, fun ideas, but would it seem like we were ignoring some really bad stuff, if we had a column called “How Bad Is It,” and it was about how bad is it to have a conversation with your dog. Was that too superficial or too shallow, that it seemed to be ignoring the big worry?

So we tweaked the design and we had less serious questions and I think, if I’m not mistaken, that we skipped it one or two issues. We just didn’t run it. I did see The New York Times often did “how bad is it” with the pandemic numbers, the stats on everything, so I didn’t think it was always appropriate. 

Samir Husni: Vicki, you’re the chief revenue officer for both the Food Network Magazine and for HGTV Magazine.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, I’m a lucky girl, Samir. Who’s luckier than me? I mean, Food Network and HGTV are gigantic global brands. It’s awesome and I love it. And I haven’t been here with Sara for the whole 10 years, I came in about a year and a half ago. So she and her team deserve the credit much more than I do. I’m actually the pandemic publisher for HGTV Magazine. I’m just very lucky to be here. 

Samir Husni: As you get ready to celebrate the magazine’s 10th birthday in October, what are the plans?

Sara Peterson: This was a lot of planning. You can imagine. All the thinking about how you’re going to make this issue special. You only get one 10th birthday to do. I’ve always loved the fact that in magazines, you always get another issue, so you always have another take to do that story you wanted or another cover idea, but the feeling of having a birthday issue, the 10th birthday, and we did have a fifth birthday issue, but 10 is bigger. So the pressure was on, but also the opportunities were there. How were we going to celebrate ourselves and all we’ve done. but also still deliver new ideas and new content in the magazine, not just do a look-back?

The biggest section is called the “Giant Birthday Special” and that is a celebration of our Top 10 decorating truths. Now, we don’t really like decorating rules at HGTV Magazine because so many people are creative in their homes and inventive and express their personalities. So imposing rules on decorating isn’t really our style. But our decorating truths – after going into homes and seeing how people live and decorate for 10 years, you pick up on some patterns. And you pick up on things that have worked well for people and designers in every style of home. Small homes, big homes, cottages, ranch-style homes, brick homes, just every style you can imagine.

We’re taking these Top 10 truths and making little chapters in the magazine section about those Top 10. One chapter in the section is “Add a Pop of Color.” We have always loved adding pops of color, so we’re talking about the ideas that we’ve loved, to mix old and new things. I feel that people do that so well. I’ve always been impressed at how people mix old and new things in their homes to tell their story. Things like inherited pieces or some cool flea market finds and then some new pieces throughout your home too. But that mix is always really interesting for the storytelling. 

We like to really tell the story of the home as well as the decorating ideas that people can replicate. And the mixing of old and new is really a good one too. 

Vicki Wellington: And on the business side, we have a number of things that we’re selling. We’ve got three different levels, silver, gold and platinum, and what’s nice is there’s something special for everybody. Some are native ideas, some are high-impact units. Many will be running in October, but we are celebrating the birthday in every single issue.

Sara Peterson: When Vicki invites me to a client meeting, I always use the word “special,” because it’s true. It is a special issue like no other. And if you want to be in the issue, you’re coming to a party. You’re coming to a birthday party. So, we want to have a celebratory vibe. We’ve been working on native ideas with clients that feel like a celebration. It will feel like a birthday. 

We’re also asking a ton of HGTV stars to wish us a Happy Birthday. Stars who have been in the magazine throughout the years and have had photo shoots and fun times with us. And it’s fun to see their quotes and answers, because some have been with us from the beginning too. The Property Brothers were just launching their show on HGTV when we were launching the magazine. So they go way back. And there are a lot of other stars too. And it’s fun to see them all together. 

Samir Husni: What role does the print magazine play in this digital age? 

Vicki Wellington: People want less time on the computer and we can prove it. Right now our subscriptions are up. They’re purchased digitally, but they’re print subscriptions. Just as an example, our renewals are up. HGTV Magazine happens to have one of the highest renewal rates in the company. And that’s between $30 and $45, so that’s a lot of money as you know for a magazine subscription. 

Sara Peterson: And I’m pretty proud of our newsstand numbers.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, we’ve been in the Top 10 forever. And as an example, talking about young people, our millennial numbers have grown. In the past five years, it’s grown over 30 percent. So, what the numbers tell me is that we have people buying and enjoying reading the magazine. 

And as another example, there is a digital research company called Kantar Millward Brown and we do a lot of convergent partnerships with our partners HGTV and we obviously do a lot of research to see how a campaign does and whenever print was added into the mix, everything went up. Likelihood to buy went up; preference for the brand went up. It happens so often that I literally said to the director who was running this digital research company, I keep noticing that print keeps raising the numbers. And he said that was always true. And I’ve always felt this way, but it continues to be proven by the research. Print adds a lot to the formula.

And from our circulation numbers, which are all strong, we see that people are buying and reading. They’re being pushed to go online. They love the way Sara and her team curate. They go online and it can be so overwhelming. Sara puts out this beautifully orchestrated, curated product for people first, then they go online and do their shopping.

Sara Peterson: If you ask me to talk to students, they all want to be storytellers. We’re all storytellers. And you can do that well a lot of different ways. You can pick your platform. You can have multiple platforms. You can do videos, blogs, digital; you can do a book, a magazine, a newspaper. There does come a time when you want to pick your medium for how you want to tell your story. Once you do that, what is it about that particular medium that is special and unique that can’t be done by others with your story? And what is the experience you want your readers to have with a magazine? 

With me early on, back to college, it was so satisfying to make a product. It is physical. You have this thing that you make. Sometimes I joke about being in the manufacturing business. We have to be aware of things like ink, printing, glue. I can’t tell you how much I know about glue. (Laughs) These things you need to learn about manufacturing your product. There is something so satisfying about having your hands on the thing that you make. 

I sometimes take the magazine home and look at it in home-lighting because I know that’s how people are going to look at it, not in an office setting with calibrated fluorescent lights. They’re going to probably have a 60-watt bulb in their lamp. So I ask myself, can you see the type? Can you read it okay? Things like that are fun for me when making the magazine. So, print matters because it makes the experience of seeing a story special. 

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

Vicki Wellington: Just that HGTV Magazine is having a very strong year. I think the product continues to serve a purpose, part of a major power brand. It’s nice to have such a powerful brand that’s so well-recognized and loved. And it’s safe; it’s not about the pandemic; it’s not about politics. And I think advertising has backed all that up in every category. All my vital signs are good. Subscriptions are good; newsstand is good; renewals are good; advertising is good. Those are all the positives.

We continue to work with the brand on convergent ideas and that’s an advantage for this product as well. Not everybody can do that in that kind of major way. We’ve got on-air involved, digital involved. 

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

Vicki Wellington: After going through a pandemic, you know what, I don’t worry as much. It really put things into perspective. What am I worrying about? Once we’ve gotten through this crazy time and we don’t have to worry about just going out of our houses or going out without gloves. So honestly for me, I don’t worry about a lot because we’ve all lived through this crazy time. The minor things at this point would be just doing a good job and getting my work done. 

Sara Peterson: I find myself thinking how much better I’m sleeping lately. There were times in 2020 where many nights I was wide awake between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would think about people I missed, work, things I needed to do, was my Amazon order going to arrive on time. Did I get the groceries delivered or should I go there? Should I buy more masks and which masks, that sort of stuff. And having that tone down a little, the anxiety level, that hopefully we’ve all lowered some anxiety, sleeping better and also knowing there’s a plan now for the immediate future, has helped. 

We know our summer schedule for work. We know we’re going to phase back to the office starting in September. It’s crucial for magazine editors to have plans; we’re always planning in advance, sometimes a year in advance. And to not have a roadmap is really unnerving. So to have some things on the calendar feels good and I’m sleeping better. 

I will say the birthday issue did keep me up because I was thinking this was an amazing chance, and did I get it right? Did I do everything that I could? I had one shot; it was like my Olympics. I had been training for this for 10 issues and I had one shot. All of the issues are important to me, of course, but this one just felt so special and I wanted to be sure to get it right. So yes, that kept me up. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines 1953. The Magazines And I: Chapter 8, Part 1

June 10, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Confession magazines were a staple of March 1953. And “truth” be told (pun intended) they’re still on  newsstands today, just not as plentiful. True Story was the first of the confessions magazine genre, having launched in 1919. With the tagline Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, the magazine set out to prove just that. 

True Story was published by Bernarr MacFadden, of Physical Culture fame. The magazine was actually MacFadden’s wife’s idea. According to Mary MacFadden’s memoir of she and Bernarr’s life together, Dumbbells and Carrot Sticks, “Broken-hearted women sent [MacFadden’s Physical Culture magazine] letters after they had done two hundred knee bends, twice a day, and thrown away their corsets, only to find that the Greek gods wouldn’t give them a tumble. These are true stories…Let’s get out a magazine to be called True Story, written by its readers in the first person.”

Originally, the magazine was just what it professed: true stories sent in entirely by readers. Mary did confess that clergymen were brought in to censor the stories somewhat and give them a sense of decency according to the times. But as far as fact-checking to make sure the stories were in fact “true,” there was no proof of that. 

In fact, MacFadden had become embroiled in a feud with Anthony Comstock, who founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice because of his  “Monster Physical Culture Exhibition” showing men and women exercising in leotards. Mr. Comstock had Bernarr arrested for public indecency. The two men despised each other after that — and True Story became an attempt on MacFadden’s part to demonstrate that he too could be a guiding moral compass.

According to studies done, one by sociologist George Gerbner, there were about forty romance/confession magazines on the market by the year 1950, with a circulation of about sixteen million. These titles were sold for the most part in small southern and Midwestern towns with females of course the target audience. These magazines were the entertainment and sustenance for many of these small town women, dealing with taboo issues such as pre-marital sex, illegitimacy, adultery, unemployment, social relations, and crime, with the occasional still photo of each story’s most dramatic moments, a kiss, a temptation, and then horrible realization of what they had done and a vow to make it right.

MacFadden became so enamored of the confession/romance genre that he garnered his own Women’s Group eventually and expanded it to include: True StoryTrue Confessions, True RomanceTrue Experience, Modern Romances, and True Love, and hired writers to keep up with the demand, many male freelancers.

Looking at this genre for March 1953, let’s explore these fascinating magazines that may very well have been one the largest category of the 1950s.

CONFIDENTIAL CONFESSIONS

Confidential Confessions magazine was published under the Periodical House name, but was a part of the Ace Magazines stable. Aaron and Rose Wyn, who had been publishing pulp fiction since 1928, owned Ace Magazines, and were also well known for their comics, which they published between 1940 and 1956. Their romance and confession titles were sensationalistic and spicy, fitting the genre perfectly.

The March 1953 issue had cover lines such as No Chance To Be Good, All-Night Date and Our Marriage Became A Scandal. If a lover of confessions and romance-type magazines couldn’t get into this one, they probably needed to reevaluate the content they liked to read.

CRIME DETECTIVE

Hillman Periodicals was in direct competition with Bernarr MacFadden and Fawcett Publications. With Crime Detectivemagazine they offered up a title that vied for newsstand space admirably. Crime Detective was the longest running of all of Hillman’s “true crime” pulp titles. When it came to the content of the magazine, it was very much like all of the other true crime titles, however the cover was where it differentiated. Each issue featured a cover painting of a woman reacting to an unseen danger. It never varied.

The March 1953 issue offered up a cover line of Who Killed The Redheaded Actress and had a very beautiful woman staring back at you with a question in her brown-eyed gaze. It promised 16 extra pages and didn’t disappoint.

DARING DETECTIVE

A Fawcett Publication, Daring Detective was one among many of the magazines that Wilford Hamilton “Captain Billy” Fawcett had in his stable of titles. From Daring Detective to Dynamic Detective to Cavalier, Fawcett knew how to cater to his readers and put out magazines. 

In the March 1953 issue of Daring Detective, the cover story was Sin Slave – Murder of the Betrayed Redhead and had a very seductive redhead on the cover in minimal attire. Features included: The Kiss-Off, Out of the Deep, and The Trooper Played a Hunch. The magazine was published bimonthly and followed along the lines of the other detective titles of its time. 

DETECTIVE WORLD

Action, adventure and true crime cases, Detective World magazine put it all on the line. The magazine was published bimonthly and could sometimes ask the burning question: What Makes Gangsters Glamorous? as it did in the March 1953 issue. In this issue the magazine promised seven spectacular new crimes and three shocking exposes. Plus inside features that showed the world how the underworld worked. It was a magazine that knew it had plenty of competition and did what it had to do to remain relevant among its more widely-read counterparts. 

To be continued…

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