Archive for the ‘A Mr. Magazine™ Musing’ Category

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A Tale Of Two Magazines: Esquire & Playboy, Separated At 20. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

February 16, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Lately, Esquire and Playboy have been in the news; Esquire for having a white, teenaged boy on the cover of its March issue, and Playboy for becoming a quarterly magazine with no advertising. It’s amazing how these two magazines share a lot of common history. And I thought it would be a good idea to go back in time, dig into my collection of magazines, and see how these two publications revolutionized the men’s magazine market, from as far back as 1933 when the first issue of Esquire was published.

If you read the editorial statement for the first issue of Esquire you can 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 that 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.

Twenty years later, Hugh Hefner, who was working in the accounting department at Esquire, left his job at the magazine and decided to start a magazine that would compete with Esquire. Whether that was his intention or not, I don’t know, but I do know one thing for sure, there are a lot of similarities between the Playboy of the ‘50s and the Esquire of the ‘50s. Check out Hefner’s message to the reader in the first issue:

If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you. If you like your entertainment served up with humor, sophistication and spice, Playboy will become a very special favorite. We want to make clear from the very start; we aren’t a “family magazine.” If you’re somebody’s sister, wife or mother-in-law and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to your Ladies Home Companion.

Most of today’s “magazines for men” spend all their time out-of-doors – thrashing through thorny thickets or splashing about in fast flowing streams. We’ll be out there too, occasionally, but we don’t mind telling you in advance – we plan on spending most of our time inside. We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.

Just take a look at the first issue of Playboy from 1953 and look at the December issue of Esquire 1953. They shared many similarities, from the Magazine for Men to Entertainment for Men, the nudity, the centerfold, which actually was in Esquire as the Esquire’s Lady Fair, and then later in Playboy as the Playboy Centerfold or Playmate.

However, if you take a look at the content of those two magazines from December 1953, you will notice that Esquire had almost 280 pages with a cover price of 50 cents, while Playboy had the same cover price, 50 cents, but only 44 pages.

And not only those two magazines, there were plenty of magazines out there for men, but they didn’t have the same sophistication that Esquire had or that Playboy would later have. Look again at the cover, which has been hailed by some as the reason for Playboy’s famous status among men’s magazines, the sensual Marilyn Monroe gracing that cover with a reprinted nude Monroe pin up inside taken from a calendar page. However, more December 1953 magazines had Marilyn Monroe on the cover, 3-D Star Pin-Ups came with 3-D glasses for the inside pictures. The magazine People Today, a pocket-sized magazine, had Monroe on the cover, plus a series of pictures where she was specifically posing for that magazine. And there was Modern Man, Argosy, Real, the exciting magazine for men, Man to Man, and Flirt, just to name a few.

So, you wonder what was it really that gave Playboy that later advantage? From its humble beginnings, it exceeded Esquire’s circulation in the ‘60s and ‘70s, reaching as high as 7.2 million copies, where Esquire peaked in 1972 at 1.25 million. Maybe it was the Playboy Interview or maybe the millions of men who will “get the magazine for the articles.”

Of course, if we take a deeper look at those two titles, you will notice that both the sophistication and the presentation were and continue to be an essential part of those two magazines. In fact, a lot of people referred to that era of men’s magazines in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s as the men’s sophisticate magazines. Maybe that was a code word for sex, which Esquire was not known for after the early ‘60s, but Playboy definitely was.

With all of the changes in the editorial direction, in the editorial content, in the social fabric of society, in the type of nudes or no-nudes in those magazines, it could easily be deduced that neither Playboy nor Esquire are today what they used to be back in those early years of men’s magazines, but they still have the same fighting DNA that one can see if they follow the magazine issue after issue and don’t just look at one cover or one story as a separate entity.

Esquire moved from just being “The Magazine for Men,” to “Man At His Best,” to “Build A Life That Matters,” which is the tagline on its latest cover. And Playboy moved from “Entertainment For Men,” “To Entertainment For All,” to no tagline at all.

Esquire continues to be a very sophisticated publication that still offers a mixture of literary giants, celebrities, and also has its finger on the pulse of the American man’s magazine culture.

While Playboy has become a shadow of what it used to be in terms of circulation, advertising and frequency, with very limited circulation and no advertising, and a quarterly frequency rather than monthly. Even a cover price of $24.95, which can easily buy you two years of Esquire today and used to get two years of the monthly Playboy.

However, the fact that these two magazines are still making waves in the news today, after all of these years, is just a reminder to all who follow the magazine industry, as I mentioned earlier, that the DNA of those titles is still there and remains the foundation. One is still a rabble-rouser and the other is still offering sophistication for men in a completely different way than that sophistication appears in the other.

In fact, Playboy has gone from sending women off to the kitchen to cook and read their Ladies Home Companion as it advised in the premier 1953 issue, to its 65th anniversary issue being produced by an editorial staff that was more than 50 percent women. Yes, quite the change from 1953.

Either way, whether you want to pick up a copy of Esquire or you want to pick up a copy of Playboy, you’re certainly going to be in the middle of this raging firestorm that is taking place, where some are accusing both magazines of doing things that are not appropriate or not right.

The sad thing about some social media postings and other media outlets and commentators is that they apparently have never studied, or took the time to study, or have any institutional memory of what those two magazines have offered our society and pop culture over the years. Magazines are a living entity and the whole magazine is larger than the sum of its issues. And that’s one reason I am never quick to jump to conclusions, but I will be quick to remind people that before you judge, study your subject matter, study your magazines. And I’m sure you’ll see how these two great magazines have survived through all of these years, winning too many wars to give up the battle just yet.

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Moment…

See you at the newsstands…

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When The Mrs. Came Before The Ms. (As In Magazines, Of Course)…

October 30, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

As they say “There’s nothing new under the sun.” It’s amazing when you start looking at the history of magazines and what has been done and what continues to be done, you quickly discover that there really is nothing new under the sun.

Way before there was a Ms. magazine, which was started by Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes in 1971, Dell Publishing Company had Mrs. magazine that was published in 1939. The magazine is amazing in terms of design; from the cover to the content, to its purse-replica effect and size, the aesthetics are simply brilliant.


And when it comes to actual content, Ms. magazine may get credit for being the historic leader in the Women’s Rights Movement, with articles on abortion, birth control and other, at the time, controversial topics, Mrs. magazine may have been the forerunner for that title. The latter’s articles, such as “Birth Control Is Here To Stay,” “Had My Face Lifted,” “How To Lose A Man,” “Divorce, 57 Varieties,” and “Should My Daughter Be An Actress?” for 1939 were extremely controversial topics themselves. The most amazing thing in the magazine is a divorce “Relief Map of the United States” in which the author notes, “The East is the hardest place for divorce. About 150 marriages collapse out of every thousand. Hollywood holds world championship for divorces. Most Ohio divorces are for neglect and vagrancy. Chicago is the easiest city for divorce, if one is a resident. Divorce rate has increased, but not as fast as the marriage rate. Divorce will never threaten marriage.”

There’s an article that is an actual debate between a husband and wife on whether a husband should have a night off, with the husband saying yes and the wife saying no, a story about women in medicine and why females should not be doctors – written by a woman. Some of the content is certainly reflective of the times, but also very cutting edge for those same times.

And of course, the ads in Ms. are also reflective of our times today as birth control can now be obtained online and of course with no ads in Mrs. (which was completely ad free, similar to what Ms. magazine did during part of its life span) to compare to, who knows if there would have been similarities there as well.

But for a magazine in 1939 called Mrs., I can see some of the cornerstones of a magazine that’s still in print today, Ms. Another striking and surreal similarity (and an accidental one I feel certain) is the resemblance in the most recent cover of Ms. with Mrs. Issue No. 2, the copy I have included with this musing.

This just proves that what’s old becomes new and that beautiful and evocative magazines never go out of style.

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands!

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“Iconic Magazine Covers” By Ian Birch… A Book You WANT To OWN. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

October 4, 2018

I have been known to drop everything to engage with a magazine that captures my attention (and lately there have been quite a few of those). But to be completely honest, never, and I do mean never, have I dropped everything to engage with a book. Yesterday I did just that, right after I received and read the intro to “Iconic Magazine Covers” by Ian Birch. I could not stop reading it. I lost myself in the reading experience. When I reached page 251, I was surprised at how much time had passed and what an awe-inspiring experience it was reading this book.

The inside stories of one iconic magazine cover after the other since the late 1950s, told by the folks who actually created them, were riveting. There were no slow moments reading the book; I felt as though I “wolfed” it down. Today, I am starting to digest the rich content and the wonderful stories that can only be told in print, where you can look and touch the cover as you read its creation story.

Ian Birch has been called the “Irish Magazine Whisperer,” and unlike his nickname, this book has no whispers. It comes out loud and clear: magazine covers tell stories and engage readers-turned-customers like no other medium. Unlike a newspaper front page or an opening scene in a movie or television program, the magazine cover tells the entire story of the magazine and solidifies its DNA, issue in and issue out.

Iconic covers, 94 of them, ranging from the little known One, The Homosexual Viewpoint, magazine cover from 1958, to the famous Esquire and National Lampoon covers, Vanity Fair and Spy, to Time Out, Nova, Private Eye and The New York Times Sunday Magazine. The stories of how those covers were created are even more captivating than the covers themselves.

The book is not only about stories well told, but more about stories that need to be told. Ian Birch may be a little pessimistic about the future of magazines quoting Kurt Andersen, the co-founder of Spy magazine and former editor of Colors magazine, “Eventually, they’ll become like sailboats,” he said. “They don’t need to exist anymore. But people will still love them, and make them and buy them.” A quick visit to any marina will amaze you by the number of sailboats out there, every size, every shape, and every price range.

Yes, people don’t need sailboats, and yes people don’t need magazines. People want sailboats and people want magazines. As long as we have people we will have magazines. And as long as people are made from flesh, bones and blood, magazines will continue to be made from words and pictures; ink, and paper; because if it is not ink on paper, it is not a magazine.

The book is “Iconic Magazine Covers,” a Firefly Book, authored by Ian Birch, who “asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this book.” ISBN: 13:978-0-2281-0117-8 You WANT to have a copy of this book on your coffee table, on your nightstand, or in your office. If you LOVE magazines you will LOVE Iconic Magazine Covers. Tell them Mr. Magazine™ told you so.

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Welcome Back: A Magazine Relaunch Musing…

August 22, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

It never ceases to amaze me that when a magazine announces it’s folding its print edition, some people in the media world are quick to jump on the bandwagon, sending the lifeless body of the title to the cemetery barely before it has taken its last breath of ink.

For example, when Meredith announced it was stopping the publication of Country Home in 2009, the stories abounded about the demise of print and the poor, sickly titles that were on their last legs and probably on the way out too.

The oddity about this entire process is how quiet the response is when that same magazine comes back to life. While the death celebration was raucous, the resurrection is subdued.

From the editor of the newly-reborn Country Home:

We’re thrilled to report that Country Home magazine is now available four times a year. As always, it’s on newsstands everywhere. Plus we’ve added a subscription option so you don’t miss a single issue. Visit themeredithstore.com to sign up today.


And from our friends in the North, Canada’s Skunk Magazine, a year since they’ve printed the magazine “an awkward silence during a time when cannabis became teh number one topic around the world.” After a year of not being on newsstands, it’s back, but with a modicum of herbal fanfare as its editor in chief thanks the people who stood behind the title. The editor-in-chief writes:

Rather than being a footnote in history, our magazine is now needed more than ever because we will tell you what you don’t want to hear while telling you what you need to know.

And then there’s Vogue’s L’UOMO, the Italian men’s version of the magazine, which launched in 1967 and closed a year or so ago. Condé Nast Italia is relaunching the title just in time for its 50th anniversary. The new incarnation of L’Uomo Vogue will publish twice in 2018, and will be available on newsstands and initially bundled with Vogue Italia subscriptions. It will also be available in English throughout with Italian translations.

Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Emanuele Farneti writes in his editor’s letter:

Every magazine that emerges, or re-emerges, is a small piece of good news: a voice that is added to the conversation, or freshly returned to it. This issue is for all those people – men and women – who have let us know L’Uomo was something they’ve been missing.

It really makes no sense that some in the media world shout loudly when they hear the death knell of a magazine and barely mention the wonder of its rebirth. It makes Mr. Magazine™ muse…

What’s wrong with that picture?

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands….

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Garment: Where Fashion Shows Off In Print…

August 1, 2018

“Garment embraces the battle of the opposites, and this is what [mis]suiting is all about.” Thus states Editor in Chief Emma-Chase Laflamme in her Editor’s Letter of the new Amsterdam Fashion Institute’s magazine Garment.

She goes on to say, “We believe there is no better analogy to reflect the evolution and current state of the fashion industry than the suit…They say if the suit fits, wear it. Garment says, does it have to? Welcome to the [mis]suit issue.”

The annual publication from Amsterdam University of Applied Science’s Fashion Institute has been a fixture in the Dutch magazine world for more than a decade. Each issue is unique, as unique as the students and faculty who creates it.

After a short hiatus of no print issue, this summer the magazine is back in print. Frank Jurgen Wijlens, one of two editorial coaches of the magazine and the program coordinator, tells me in a note that accompanied the magazine, “Dear Samir, happy to show we were back to print. Happy readings. All the best, Frank.”

Happy readings indeed. Well designed, well edited, great photography and greater [mis]suits.

Another good example of what print can deliver that digital can’t. The sense of holding this issue of Garment in your hands, flipping the nicely sewn pages (no pun intended), is worth every penny of the 13 Euros that the magazine costs.

Want your own copy? Go to http://www.hva.nl/amfi or http://www.amfi.nl

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Magazine Media: Change Is Constant, But Consistency Can Be Crucial.

July 24, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

We all know that change is the only constant in the world that we live in, but while change brings about progress and evolution, there are times when evolvement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For instance, just ask Amazon about its not-so illustrious Fire Phone that convinced the mega company its future was not in phone technology.

And so it goes in magazine publishing too. There are reasons to remain consistent and staunch when it comes to certain things. And let’s be honest, Mr. Magazine™ is here to talk about the magazine business, certainly not cell phone technology.

Take Rolling Stone, for example. Now that the 50-year-old musical and cultural staple is under new ownership, there have been significant changes made to the title. It’s now a larger format that will publish monthly rather than biweekly. However, the man behind the magazine’s successful legacy, Jann Wenner, is still ensconced as editor and has vowed in his first letter since becoming a non-owner persona that certain characteristics of Rolling Stone shall remain eternal:

“What isn’t changing is our commitment to the integrity, honesty and quality of our journalism and to our tradition of bold, clean design and original photography. It is our intention to continue that tradition for as long as we exist.”

And Wenner went on to say:

“In my view, magazine journalism – deep reporting, with original photography and a point of view – will always have a firm place in the cultural conversation.”

And that is why Rolling Stone’s impact is globally felt. From the shores of the U.S. to the European landscape, the magazine is as relevant and effective on one side of the ocean as it is on the other.

Recently, I made a trip to the land where I was born, Lebanon. Stopping in Italy during the flight, a dramatically impressive Italian version of Rolling Stone caught my eye and my heart. Needless, to say, it came home with me. The cover was spellbinding. Jann Wenner’s belief that magazine journalism should have a point of view was driven home as I looked at the poignant and impactful Italian issue that most definitely took a verbal and visual stand.

Magazines have always been reflectors of our society at that particular time, so they’re always evolving and morphing. But there are some facets of the profession of journalism and the magazine industry that should never morph into anything other than what it has always been: the pursuit of truth and the presentation of information and entertainment. After all, that’s what magazines do best!

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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Humanized Content & Your Very Human Audience – It’s Not Bots Out There Reading Your Stuff. A Mr. Magazine Musing & Revisit…

July 7, 2018

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

In the summer of 2008, I wrote an article for the magazine of the Custom Publishing Council called “Content.” And while I realize that was 10 years ago, some things never age, such as the content of the “Content” article. That’s a lot of “content” you might say, and I agree with you. But content, good content combined with experience making, is what magazines are all about and custom publishing is still just as relevant and prevalent as it was in ’08, even more so.

I recently published an interview that I did with Drew Wintemberg, president of Time Inc. Retail. The focus of that conversation was on Special Interest Publications, or SIP’s as they are called in the world of publishing. There is nothing more customized than a singular topic magazine that targets a singular-topic-interested audience champing at the bit to learn more about that singular topic. That’s a lot of “singular topics” you might say, and I agree with you. But singular topics are what custom publishing is all about, even if you’re not a singular topic brand, knowing the singular topics that your audience is interested in is vital to the success of your custom publication.

Which leads me to the real crux of having success with any type of publishing, custom or otherwise, you have to know your customer’s customer, i.e. – the audience and the advertiser. That is the true mark of a professionally marketed and targeted publication. If you cannot humanize that magazine and give it a pointed and rigorous personality, one that can carry on a particular conversation with both the audience and the advertiser, then you’re simply tilting at windmills, because a one-dimensional idea that has not been “fleshed” out isn’t going to work. Not for you, not for your advertisers, and certainly not for your readers.

Hence, the revisit of my article for “Content,” the magazine. In it I suggest 7 easy steps to know your customer’s customer. Well, actually, it’s six easy ways plus one, which is seven anyway you add it. And these are not only good for yesterday and today’s market, they’re even more crucial for tomorrow’s marketplace. They present the idea that protecting and promoting your brand properly is the future of your publication and your entire company. And there is no better way to do that than by knowing your customer’s customer. You have to understand each and every facet of your brand, from who’s buying it to who’s advertising in it.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we take a trip down memory lane and run into today and tomorrow there as well…

Mr. Custom
Samir Husni

Protecting the Brand
Six (plus one) easy ways to know your customer’s customer

The most essential objective on the mind of any marketing director or head of a company is protecting the brand. This is paramount because companies must ensure their brand is not tarnished. That challenge becomes a huge responsibility on the shoulders for any individuals launching custom publications. If you fail to understand and help promote your customer’s brand in the proper way, the only thing the future holds for you, your marketing director or your media company is disaster.

There is no better way to protect and promote a brand than by understanding the customer’s customer. Knowing the people your custom publication targets is important to your success as a custom publisher, but success can only be guaranteed if you know the advertisers that are targeting your audience as well.

One of the simple questions I always ask people is, “Who is your audience?” Without really knowing who it is you are trying to reach, it is impossible to be successful at custom publishing. When I hear clients telling me that “everybody” is their audience, I know they haven’t even begun to do their homework. Before you attempt to create a custom publication, here are six plus one easy steps to consider:

1. Know the brand. This may sound elementary, but if the brand becomes unclear or gets diluted, it will lead to failure of the brand across the board and media outlets. You must know the brand inside out, upside down, forward and backward. It’s not enough to just know the brand you are working with from a marketer’s standpoint. You have to know it from the customer’s standpoint as well. Become a user of the brand, and if you aren’t the target demographic, find someone in your company who is.

2. Humanize the brand. You know the brand front and back; the next step is to make it warmer and more approachable than a concept. Imagine that soft drink, that pair of shoes, whatever product it may be, as a human being. Is it young or old? Rich or poor? Male or female? If you have taken my advice and have worked to know your audience better, then you should be able to identify the exact demographic and psychographic information about the human being that your brand has transformed into. Who does this human being want to have a conversation with? Once you have humanized your brand, it is much easier to create a voice for it.

3. Identify the voice. By combining the vision and the value of the brand, it becomes easier to create its voice. Is the voice preaching? Teaching? Conversational? Confrontational? Storytelling? You name it. Humanizing the brand isn’t enough. You have to take it further and come to a realization of how to protect the voice of the brand.

4. Identify the prototype person (if there is such a thing). Now that you have identified the voice of the brand, you need to identify who will be carrying on a conversation with it. A good way to think about it is if the humanized pair of shoes or the humanized soft drink came knocking on the door, would you welcome it in? You have to identify who will respond to the product. It will be easier to pair advertisers with your customers if you know who is involved in this conversation and exactly what they are like.

5. Think of the conversation that will take place. Once you have the humanized brand and the prototype person that will be holding a conversation, you need to think about the conversation that will take place. What will they talk about? Custom publishing has multifaceted goals, from the creation and retention of customers to the engagement of customers. Which of these facets applies? Also, how long will the conversation take?

6. Find the addictive elements of the conversation. What makes the prototype customer ask the humanized brand more questions? What aspects of their conversation make the customer more engaged? Find out what will make that prototype customer come back for more. In this day of brand dilution, not providing your customers with an addictive, exclusive and timely yet timeless conversation will do nothing but make the engagement between the brand and the customer brief. And when that happens, customers have no other choice but to look other places for the conversation they need, want and desire.

7. And above all, a dash of good luck. Why seven steps and not six? Because I believe seven is a much better number than six. Hope your next project will excel with these easy seven steps.

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