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


Happy Birthday Mr. Magazine™…

March 7, 2019

Once a year March 8 arrives, and once a year Mr. Magazine™ celebrate his birthday. This year, Mr. Magazine™ decided to celebrate in a different way. Click the video below to join Mr. Magazine™ in celebrating his birthday.


Print Can Do This; Digital Can Do That. The Eternal Relationship Between Print And Digital: A Manifesto From A 1964 TV Guide Magazine… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

March 5, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

As I was doing some research for my upcoming presentation at The Sixth Floor (JFK) Museum in Dallas, Texas on the power of the magazine cover, I stumbled upon an article in a January 25-31, 1964 edition of TV Guide where they devoted a major section of the magazine, including an introduction by President Lyndon B. Johnson, to the four days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Leading into that special section, the magazine editors created a wonderful one-page comparison between television and print back then and the power of each medium, noting the speed in which television could present something as tragic and moving as JFK’s funeral.

It’s amazing to me that what was true in 1964 is still true today, only using a different medium rather than television. Television in the 1960s was a powerful unification tool for the United States and the world, when 180 million people watched the funeral of President Kennedy on the then three TV networks, before the fragmentation of cable television wreaked havoc on the communal spirit of television and the United States of America. And after Cable came Satellite Television and then ultimately, the Internet, eliminating the community of television altogether.

The country moved from a melting pot, with those three television networks and the host of magazines that were out there, to what’s now more like a cafeteria style information buffet, where you can find any number of networks that will provide you information that’s not related to the country as a whole, but rather to one’s tiny areas of interest and in most cases areas that support one’s own beliefs and theories. That unifying aspect of television is no longer there.

Some may say the same thing is happening with magazines, with the degree of specializations in many current titles, but yet we continue to see the growth of magazine audiences through all of the many platforms that the brands utilize. Whether it’s the printed magazine or the continuous outreach from the brands through other social media and digital extensions, audience growth for magazines is flourishing. And as I wrote in an article a few years ago and recently republished on my blog: magazines were the original social media and they continue to be the original social media, one that creates community and permanency such as the 1964 TV Guide article referred to when talking about television.

Here are a few points from that editorial that would still hold up today, only with the Internet replacing Television’s role. You be the judge:

• Television’s greatest advantage as a news medium is responsible for its greatest disadvantage. (Substitute Television with the Internet)

• The medium’s (imagine Internet as the medium) speed cannot be beaten, for it can often tell and show its audience what is happening as it happens. There is no need to delay so that reporters can write their stories and photographers can develop their pictures. There is no need to wait so that the many editorial and mechanical tasks can be completed before presses can turn and trucks and trains and men can complete distribution – as they must for newspapers and magazines.

• Thus television (Internet) can report a story just about instantaneously. But the reporting is gone just as fast. It can be repeated by the broadcasters, but the consumer, the viewer, has nothing he can hold in his hand to reread or examine closely at his leisure. This is television’s disadvantage.

• All of us who stayed close to our sets during the tragic weekend last November became part of the drama that unfolded before our eyes. But once the weekend was over, the experience was gone. Newspapers and magazines that related the events in Dallas and Washington in special editions were, quite understandably, interested in reporting the chronology of events, and their meanings. ( Emphasis mine. Proving once again that permanence of print and its collectability aspect).

As I’ve said before, there is nothing new under the sun. What goes around comes around, just usually in a different guise. So, where the television of the “50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s unified us as a society, the television of the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond, divided us, along with that ever-reaching, never-ending, all-consuming thing we all call the Internet. Today we are such a fragmented information society that we do not know where or what to turn to, where to actually get, as the late, great Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of the Story.”

But it’s out there…somewhere…among the fragments.

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…


Body And Soul: Bernarr Macfadden’s Magazines Covered It All And Some More… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault

March 4, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

In March 1939, 80 years ago, the first issue of Macfadden-published “Your Faith” magazine came out. The idea was “Why Not Try God?” In the first editorial by Bernarr Macfadden himself, he wrote: A Religious Uplift Brings Spiritual Happiness. He talks about solving the mysteries of the universe and the impossibility of that without God. The magazine is an important part of Macfadden’s view on society and another example of magazines reflecting culture.

Mr. Magazine™ discovered this little nugget from his vault and took note of the amazing difference this magazine had from Macfadden’s other physical fitness and “true-fiction” type publications. And on the 80th anniversary of Your Faith magazine, as Bernarr Macfadden said himself in the first issue: This is a magazine for all who have an ear to hear.

And hear, Macfadden did. Some are just not sure what exactly he was listening to. But as any good entrepreneur would, Mr. Magazine™ believes he was listening to his passions and his own gut feeling. You be the judge.

Bernarr Macfadden is known as the “Father of Physical Culture.” What is “Physical Culture” you might ask. In its simplest definition, Physical culture is a health and strength training movement that originated during the 19th century in Germany, England, and the United States. But how did this topic find its way into a Mr. Magazine™ Musing, you might also ask. And of course, the answer in its simplest form would be: magazines.

Macfadden himself was an American proponent of physical culture. He was the predecessor of Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne, and has been credited with beginning the culture of health and fitness in the United States.

But life was not always so kind to Mr. Macfadden. He changed his name from Bernard McFadden to “Bernarr Macfadden” in order to give himself an aura of strength and vitality. It seems that he was a very sickly and weak child who was an orphan by the time he was 11-years-old. But as fate would have it, Macfadden was placed with a farmer, leaving the life of an orphan behind, and soon began a regiment of hard work and wholesome food. His health improved and soon he became strong and hale again.

There is an entire website dedicated to the memory of this millionaire publisher, who many called a “kook” and a charlatan, and who Time Magazine referred to as “Body Love” for his lifelong advocacy of physical fitness, natural foods, outdoor exercise and the natural treatment of diseases.

In 1899, Macfadden, after a successful, national lecture tour and after founding Physical Culture “clubs” in several cities across the country, decided to publish a monthly magazine called “Physical Culture.” He tried unsuccessfully to find a publisher for his title and so decided to publish it himself, along with his own books about health and wellness (during his lifetime he wrote over 100 books). Physical Culture magazine remained in publication for over 50 years, and was the forerunner of today’s health and bodybuilding publications. Oh, and the magazine carried his name on the cover as well – the height of narcissism or just good business acumen? Either is possible.

Eventually Macfadden Publications was born and his company turned into an empire, with titles such as Liberty, True Detective, True Story, True Romances, Dream World, Ghost Stories, the once-familiar movie magazine, Photoplay, and the tabloid newspaper, The New York Graphic.

Macfadden even sought the Republican nomination for president in 1936, albeit losing the nomination to Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who went on to lose to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the November election. But he was the first to propose that the President should have a National Secretary of Health on his cabinet ( he had originally wanted to be that person, but instead decided to run for office himself), all the while never giving up his love of physical health and his tendency to admire younger females, whether he was married or not.

Much of the basis of Physical Culture was religious in nature. And during his lifetime Macfadden also attempted to launch his own religion: Cosmotarianism, which combined physcultopathy with the Bible.

In an Esquire article written by Bruce Watson in 2013, Cosmotarianism was described as something that blended Macfadden’s bizarre theories on physical fitness with the Bible. Watson writes:

And some of his theories were, indeed, bizarre: convinced that baldness could be cured by tugging on one’s hair, he wore a towering pompadour; believing that physical contact with the “magnetic currents” of the earth could inspire feats of sexual prowess, he often went barefoot; furious at the fashion industry, he would wear his suits until they fell off his body.

Macfadden certainly seemed to fit the bill of an eccentric millionaire. Indeed, it’s a given. Bernarr Macfadden was an eccentric, a reputed womanizer, a multimillionaire publisher, a father of eight and a husband of four, a fitness guru who was before his time, who died in 1955 from a urinary tract infection that he refused to be medically treated for. And a part of American magazine history that should not be forgotten.

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

Background information from:


Magazines: The First Social Networks… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

March 1, 2019

(In 2009, in the summer issue of Content, the magazine of branded content, I wrote a column under the heading of Mr. Custom, that I feel is as valid today as it was ten years ago… I hope you will enjoy).

As we rush to take advantage of the latest digital tools to engage with consumers, let’s not forget that magazines are still a powerful medium for building communities.

Began at a very early age. From the first time I picked up a copy of a Superman comic book and could feel the paper and smell the ink, I was grabbed by a passion that shows no signs of letting go. I can also remember how badly I wanted to belong, to have a sense of membership, in the field of magazines. I would beg my neighbor (in Lebanon, my home country) to nominate me for membership in the National Geographic Society, just so I could receive the magazine.

These days, the National Geographic Society (and a lot of other magazine publishers are) the ones doing the begging. And just about every other magazine out there is doing the same. We receive subscription offer cards and mailings that tell us we can get 50%, 75% or even 95% off the cover price. Americans no longer have to dream about becoming part of a club like the National Geographic Society. Now it’s as simple as having a few bucks and an address. We have forgotten that magazines were media’s first social networks, and it’s time for us to remember and reclaim four key ways in which magazines help bring people together.

The first area is community. Magazines have always been great vehicles for not just building community, but being catalysts to community. Social networking today is a series of sites with short, terse status updates and wall posts. These quick bursts are not substantial enough to hold a community together. The 140 characters of a Twitter post might be great for sending someone to your blog or splashing a news headline, but they are far too few to do what magazines have always done well.

Twitter provides snippets or sound bites; you can’t build a brand on sound bites. The passionate relationship that grows the kind of true community we find in the pages of magazines cannot be achieved via social networking sites. Magazines do a much better job of building a community of shared interests.

A second key area wherein magazines thrive is in membership, offering consumers an opportunity to be part of an exclusive growth. Magazines have lost some of their membership cachet over the past decade through their increasing willingness to give away their content for free. It seems the days of waiting for your favorite magazine to arrive in the mail box are over. Now all we do is check the magazine’s site or follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and we instantly have most of their content.

As a result of this process, the information provided by magazines is becoming less unique – more a commodity than a privilege. We have come to feel we deserve unfettered access to free content, so our sense of membership is largely gone.

Third, magazines provide great interactivity. Sure, many naysayers will point out that the Internet provides an easy-to-use forum for immediate reader response and the chance for magazines and the marketers to engage with broader range of consumers, but interactivity isn’t just about speed and reach.

Magazines are an ongoing conversation with readers that begins with a cover and never ends. There have been some terrific magazine covers over the last 12 months that were very powerful in starting conversations, serving as building blocks for interactivity. If you have followed the covers of Esquire, you know what I mean. From their “e-cover” to their window and paneled covers, Esquire has been starting conversations with readers in some of the most effective ways ever.


A magazine cover’s opening dialogue with readers is very important because it lays the foundation for the rest of the conversation. This conversation begins in print, and can be flashed out with the Internet. I’ve always told my clients the websites and magazines should not stand alone. You need both to survive, and they can not thrive independently. Magazines should send readers to the Web to submit feedback, letters, recipes or whatever applies to that title; in turn, sites should drive readers to the next issue to learn about the winners of an online competition, or which online suggestions the editors used.

The fourth way that magazines bridge social gaps and bring people together is the relationship readers have with the products. Recently I spoke with John Gower, director of custom publisher Future Plus US, and he says it best. “Social networks are good at helping to retain relationships,” Gower says, “but it takes a magazine to acquire those relationships in the first place.”

It may be difficult for some of us to see a light at the end of tunnel right now for magazines. Gower warns that if we look at magazines simply as “nice to have,” then the light is a train coming to hit us. We have to remember that magazines are the original social networks, and continue to nurture consumers’ needs and desires for them. That is the only way the light at the end of tunnel will turn out to be the daylight we’re all hoping is just ahead.

Magazines are matchmakers in our society. They bring families of brands and consumers together. While digital social media tools may help brands reach more people and stay more involved in their daily lives, they can never match the power of a printed magazine that was built on the concept of social networking. Content magazine, Number 6, Summer 2009


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…


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!


“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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