Archive for October, 2021

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The Art Of Show And Tell…

October 13, 2021

In 2019, Jugular magazine asked me to write an essay about their special issue that focused on words and images. What follows is my essay as it appeared in the magazine. Enjoy

The Art of Show and Tell

Words By Samir  Husni

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Since the beginning of time there have been words—the best of words and the worst of words, and a whole lot more in between. From the start, there was no question which came first, the word or the image. Words were, are, and will remain center stage in any delivery platform. Specifically, when it comes to the magazine platform, words are the heart of the body that keeps on ticking and the pivot that keeps the world of information turning.

Both well-executed sentences and poorly chosen words can create all kinds of reactions: physical and emotional reactions, calming and violent reactions, and soothing and hurtful reactions. After all, it has been said the pen is mightier than the sword. But here is the question at hand: Is the word mightier than the image?

Needless to say, it was the magazine that first united the word with the image. It was the magazine that introduced the world to the concept of storytelling in which words and pictures went hand in hand. Generations before movies and television, which incorporated audio into the experience of storytelling, magazine pages pioneered the art of show and tell. 

And since the word came first, like any other new invention, once the image was created, it took over and the word climbed into the backseat. Just think about when digital was first introduced and compare that to print; suddenly digital was the new seductive mistress roaming the streets, while print continued to be the loving, patient spouse waiting for its partner to regain its senses and end the fascination with this new thing called digital.  The same happened with the word when the image arrived, but what about now? If the combination of the word and image was the first reproduction of humanity’s ability to speak and see, then how has human communication changed in how we connect today? It used to be necessary to meet in person in order to engage in a conversation, but now dialogue is mainly conducted through virtual connectivity or what I call isolated connectivity. We feel today like we are so connected, yet were sitting alone with a phone or a laptop, with no one else in the room. Is this the future? Images without words?  Well, if you are happy with just looking at a person without speaking a word, then you will enjoy just looking at the images without reading a word. Often, not even a caption.

There is no doubt that images provide us with a lot of satisfaction mentally, emotionally, and physically, but remember the old saying, “you can’t judge a person by just looking at him or her.” I believe that using images or words by themselves is like being in a relationship with oneself. It may be satisfying for some time, but at the end of the day, it is never as fulfilling.  The combination of the word and the image is what takes that mono-relationship and changes it from just looking and observing to doing. That combination is what changes the content from just content to an experience,  an experience that will manifest itself in a quick relationship, a one night stand, a fiery short-term relationship, a love affair, or a long lasting relationship that goes through the good, the bad, and the ugly—a marriage if you will.

None of these relationships can exist without the viewer’s engagement and that’s my belief behind the power of the combination of the word and the image. It is that engagement that requires the combination of the two. It is the difference between making love with your eyes and making love with your entire body. I don’t need to expand on this, you be the judge.  To paraphrase the famous art director George Lewis, it is the difference between looking at a person and making love to a person. There is no comparison.

So in this digital world we live in, the engagement between the word and the image is what creates that experience and transports us to whatever world the content is creating. The marriage of words and images becomes one of true love and commitment, one that we lose ourselves in willingly and completely. With words added to the images there is a beginning and  an end to the story, just as in any good relationship. With just images, such as the digital world offers, there is no end. You can continue to stare at the images and continue to travel through the virtual world endlessly, a meaningless relationship that actually takes you nowhere. With words, as with ink on paper pages, there is an end. A full stop. A reminder of reality that something is over.

To me that is the power of the word. The reminder that something is over and you can now take a deep breath, relax, and bask in the fact that you’ve accomplished something to the end.  Your mind now can feel at ease, can stop wondering and you can feel fulfilled.

So, can you have a magazine without words?  Sure you can, but to me it will be like watching a movie with the mute button on. Words and images combined are a reflection of our human nature, and the more they interact with each other the better the engagement and the experience. 

You don’t have to take my word for it. This issue of Jugular provides you with your own experiment. Take a look, judge for yourself, and hope the words you discover will be the blood that flows through your own jugular vein, making your heart race with all kinds of emotions. And when you finally close that last page of the magazine, you will know then that you’ve reached the end of the race. You’ve arrived.

Sit back, relax, engage, and enjoy the art of storytelling in a way that no other platform can provide, the magazine. In the beginning was the word, and in the end the word will be. It is the Alpha and Omega. 

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Mr. Magazine™ & BoSacks: So What Is A Magazine, Really? Point & Counterpoint From The Vault….

October 7, 2021

The following point & counterpoint, between my friend BoSacks and I, on attempting to define a magazine was first published on my blog and in the ACT Experience magazine of 2010. I believe it is still as valid today as it was in 2010. Enjoy.

Point: So What Is A Magazine, Really?

By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

President & CEO, Magazine Consulting & Research, Inc.

Being in the content business and being in the magazine business are two completely different worlds. While the magazine business deals with content, content is only but a fraction of what makes a magazine. The myth that is now sweeping our industry that we are content providers and it does not matter how our customers get their information may be the Trojan horse that will aid some publishers continue on their print suicide path.

Content is good and content will continue to be king and queen of our profession, but magazines are not going to live and survive by content alone. It never stops to amaze me how the majority of people jumped on the bandwagon of equating magazines to music and wanted to sell magazines like the iTune store sells music. I said that before and I will say again, the only similarity between magazines and music is the letter m. Everything else is different. As a child I listened to music on the little transistor radio. Later I listened to records, tapes and even listened to music on television. I listened to my favorite songs over and over. I used earphones, loud speakers, any and all the things created to help me listen to the music. The goal was always to listen to my favorite song over and over again. I did not care how the song was broadcasted or delivered. I was not holding to that radio or television set, because the medium did not matter in that case. It was the message that mattered. It was so easy to separate the message from the medium, and it did not matter what medium delivered that message to me, because my addiction was to the message that I kept listening to, time after time. It was not a message meant for a one-time use. The physical medium was just the vehicle to deliver the message and it was never part of the message.

That brings me back to the printed magazine. Like music, each and every magazine can be used as a medium to deliver a message, but if that was all what magazines do, than we would have been out of business long time ago and we would have one format, maybe an iMagazine that delivers all the content you need to select and choose from for your daily needs, wants and desires. 

Magazines are much more than content. Magazines are much more than information, words, pictures and colors all combined in a platform that serves nothing but as a delivery vehicle. Magazines, each and every one and each and every issue of every one, are a total experience that engages the customers five senses. Nothing is left to chance. It is a total package. Without the ink, the paper, the touch, the smell, the look, the taste, it will not be called a magazine. Every issue is a complete new experience with a sense of ownership, showmanship and membership and is renewed with the arrival of the next issue. The total experience of flipping through the pages of a magazine, looking at the different dimensions, shapes, and other physical properties (including the colors we use on every issue whether it is the famous TIME red border or National Geographic yellow border) create a unique relationship with the customer issue after issue. 

So before we close the book on this great technology we call ink on paper and start moving with the tide of this new digital world, stop and think for a moment on what makes a magazine a magazine and why in this digital age millions of magazines worldwide are still thriving in ink on paper creating daily experiences, one issue at a time. Magazines are much more than content and they are even much more than ink on paper. The total physical aspect of each “storehouse” to use the original meaning of what a magazine is include all of its properties, from the size of the store to the content of the store, seen and felt together.

Take time and think about it. The digital age is helping us create new platforms and new media, but do not fool yourself and think you can recreate a similar experience to that we have in ink on paper magazines. It is one of a kind and I if we only devote five percent of our time, money and energy in this digital age focusing on how to enhance this existing ink on paper technology and what it is delivering, our business will be in a much better shape. Magazines are not just content providers, they are experience makers, one printed issue at a time. And, if it is not ink on paper, please try to find another name to define that new medium, because in my book if it is not printed it is not a magazine. I am living the digital age (you name the gadget I have it, including the iPad) but I am not living in a dream world. I have yet to see anything comes close to what an ink on paper magazine can deliver and do for its customers at such a great feel, not to mention a great price too. Go grab a magazine, any magazine and then let’s start talking about experience making! 

Counterpoint: So What Is A Magazine, Really?

By Bo Sacks

Founder & President, Precision Media Group

 As most of you know I have been debating my friend Samir Husni across the country for almost a decade. He is an admitted tree hugger and I lean mightily towards a digital future for our industry. Our debates are great fun not only for the audience but for the two of us as well. We enjoy taking opposite sides of important magazine issues. 

As you might expect when I saw the headline of his recent posting “So, What is a Magazine, Really?” I started reading with great interest. That is when I read the following lines by Samir 

“Without the ink, the paper, the touch, the smell, the look, the taste, it will not be called a magazine.” … And, if it is not ink on paper, please try to find another name to define that new medium, because in my book if it is not printed it is not a magazine.”

From my perspective these words and thoughts couldn’t be more wrong. I firmly believe that ink is not one of the major components necessary for a magazine. 

In working with my partners at mediaIdeas five years ago we developed a set of criteria for the definition of a magazine. We believe that a magazine must be paginated, edited, designed, date stamped, permanent, and periodic. But it does not have to use either ink or paper to be an ‘official’ magazine. Ink and paper are an unnecessary restriction in the 21st century. Of course, a magazine can be printed with ink on paper, but to demand that it be so is unrealistic and would doom an otherwise vibrant industry to the monasteries of time long past. 

The best-selling book of all times was originally written on a scroll. Then eventually printed on paper by our friend Guttenberg. The Bible is now available digitally. Does the digital delivery mean it’s not a book? I think rather that the words and thinking that are important and not the substrate. 

Of course, it may not be fair but I can’t help pointing out that Samir delivered his article “So What is a Magazine Really?” in a digital blog and not in a printed magazine.

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The Past, The Present, And The Future: Everything Will Change Except The Experience And Ink On Paper…

October 5, 2021

In 2009 I was asked to write an article for the German magazine GIT VERLAG in celebration of their 40th anniversary. My article focused on magazines in 2049. Here is, for the first time, the English version of the article that appeared in the German magazine… Keep in mind this article was written in 2009 and is published here with no editing or changes. Hope you enjoy this journey through memory lane.

Magazines 2049

It’s a daunting task to try and think about what the world of print will look like in 40 years. While trying to see the future of this industry I began to think back to 40 years ago and tried to imagine the changes I have seen happening all over again.

Forty years ago I was a teenager in Tripoli, Lebanon when I befriended the wholesaler for all of Tripoli. As a schoolboy I would go by his shop once a day in the morning before school. I would look at all the magazine’s being distributed to shop owners and news- agents and admire the many magazines getting ready to leave the warehouse and head to the stands. Ultimately this would make me late for school. One day he decided to take pity on me and told me to come by the night before so that I wouldn’t get in trouble at school for being late over and over again. 

I was a kid in a candy store. Each week I would be able to see the magazines before anyone else in town, and my friend the wholesaler would even let me take copies home with me. I became his newsagent who will order only one copy of each magazine. The wholesaler allowing me early access to the day’s publications was a part of the experience that those magazines created with me. The paper, the ink, the photos; all of it formed an interactive relationship with me that got me hooked and kept giving me reasons to return week after week after week. 

Fast forward 40 years, I am in the United States sitting in my house in new home country, far away from my home in Lebanon, and reading a paper from Lebanon.  Yes, reading the same paper published in Lebanon on the same day of publication.  If you told me that 40 years ago, I would have laughed at you and accused you of being crazy. I never would have believed you.  But today, with the eight-hour time difference I can sit at my computer in the evening and see the next day’s newspaper from Lebanon before it hits newsstands over there.  Once I download the paper, hit print, I know it will be sitting in the printer at my office the next morning. Whom are you calling crazy now?

Since I first picked up a copy of a Superman comic book when I was a boy and got hooked on ink on paper, I have always wanted to pick up a magazine to lose myself in its pages. No changes in technology can ever replace that. So instead of talking about technology and how it will change our industry over the next 40 years, editors and publishers need to continue to ask the question how can I provide quality content in my magazine, newsletter, newspaper or other publication for those readers who are looking for a complete experience without having to travel to another medium to get it all. We have to ask that question because each time our prospective customers pick up our product they ask themselves the exact same thing: what is in this for me?

All this is to say that while many things have changed in the last 40 years, and while many things will change over the next 40, the experience will always stay the same. Compared to when I was a teenager, printing quality is better, publications may be more specialized, magazine dimensions have greater range and marketing may be more exact and targeted, but I still go to magazines for the experience I can only have with ink on paper.  The ONLY experience that I “lose myself” through it and in it.

And this is why I have created the Magazine Innovation Center. The sole purpose of this organization is to AMLIFY the future of print. We are not a dead medium with nothing to offer and we should stop bemoaning our own demise. We have become stagnant in an economy that calls for movement and change. It just takes the right thinking to get there. Because there will be changes. There is no way around it. Change is the only constant in our lives. 

Progress will be made, but progress for the sake of progress moves us no closer to a better future. We are already seeing progress in the forms of smaller printers, more advanced office printers, virtual publications, immediate and instant delivery of printed products to your desktop and personal printer and even a drastic decline in waste in the printing and distribution world. With all of this our industry can stay current with technology and the like, but it still doesn’t change the fact that we are based off of experiences our customers have with us, and when we lose sight of that we can’t regain ground with gimmicks on the internet or special inks on our covers. 

One of the biggest changes will be a change in our mentality about everything. We will change the way we think about how we do publications and how we conduct business. I have been saying for quite some time now that the way we do business is outdated and acting as an anchor for our industry. We cannot continue to give content away for a devalued price or for free while advertising reigns as the make or break factor in our publications. If we create good content, people will want to read it and also want to pay for it. 

For the last 60 years  in the United States of  America we have relied on a publishing model that devalued subscribers and focused heavily on the customers supplying the advertising, but not the customers we were actually supposed to reach: the readers themselves. 

I know it may be disappointing to some of you that my forecast for the next 40 years is based on the last 40 years, but would I have believed when I was walking to the wholesaler in Tripoli that 40 years later I would be reading magazines and newspapers from thousands of miles away in the exact same way today?  

There are three things that the future will benefit from if we constantly consider. First, we must make sure we focus on the present. For all the talk about tomorrow and next year, there is no point planning for the future if we can’t survive today. 

Second, we must create the complete experience. As everything changes around us, our publications must provide a total package. We don’t need to create something that relies on another medium to finish our job. Readers shouldn’t have to go to another outlet or source to get the rest of our stories. Henry Luce recognized this 80 some years ago when he started Time magazine. With over 20 newspapers in New York City at the time, he saw that readers wanted a one-stop alternative to get their news in less time and less space.

Third, there will be more need to know our readers. With increased technology, it is becoming easier and easier to know more and more information about out readers. We have to start treating them like customers: know what they want, who they are, what the like to read and what they like to buy. The more we let technology help us learn about our readers, the better we can serve them as customers. 

I know you expected me to write about the future and create a vision of the next 40 years, but as I have said before, there are only two people who can tell the future: God and a fool. I know I am not God, but if you want to read it, here is a future scenario of a fool. Everything I have written to this point I can guarantee, but feel free to read the rest at your own risk.

In 2049 I will receive a box in the mail. I place the box on my desk, open it and find a magazine called Samir’s, the magazine about my lifestyle. The cover has a striking image of exactly what I am wearing except in a different color. It is trendy, hip and relevant. In big type below the title is a tagline that screams “The magazine you can read, listen to and watch.” I open the cover and turn to the first of the 90 high quality glossy pages. As I open it I am greeted by a screen in the middle of the pages, a disposable screen with a menu that allows me to interact with the magazine in different ways unique to the articles I have flipped through. After I have read a great review about the latest Britney Spears Golden Oldies music collection, I have the option of bringing up the interactive screen to view videos from her years gone by. The paper provides me with the experience I have always loves and cherished. I am able to touch and feel the pages while the disposable, interactive screen hooks me with its multimedia experience. With all the benefits of this publication it still remains under 15 dollars ensuring that I won’t feel guilty leaving the magazine behind somewhere after I have enjoyed it, exactly like a chocolate bar I am able to eat and leave the wrapper when I’m done. Inside the magazine are subscription offers for Samir’s sister publication Elliott, the magazine for grandchildren

Time to wake up.  Forty years from now I will be still reading the magazines the same way I read them today and the same way I read them 40 years ago.  Others maybe engaged in other types of new media, but as for me the past, the present and the future are all summed in that wonderful “lose myself” experience while reading the printed magazine. You don’t have to take my word for it, just see me 40 years from now and we will see if my present is still my future.  

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