Archive for the ‘From the Vault’ Category

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Russian Interference In Presidential Elections Circa 1952… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 17, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Focus magazine, October 1952 about “The Russians Look At U.S. Elections.”

The similarities between now and then were more striking to me than any other article I have read from the 1950s so far.  Yes, the media platforms are different today, but the message is still the same.  And for those who believe there is anything new under the sun, read this article and let me know what you think….

Enjoy this blast from the past (Focus magazine, October 1952, Vol. 2, No. 10)…

The Russians Look At U.S. Elections

Moscow takes a crack at our every 4-year voting habits, comes up with a sizzling 2 Roubles’ worth on the candidates

On November 4, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower (“the ruthless, heartless militarizer of Columbia University”) and Adlai Stevenson (“a big business candidate in spite of pious declarations”) will come to grips for the office of President of the United States. But practically nobody will bother to be at the polls “since the majority of voters, long disappointed in American democracy, refuses to go to the ballot… the really intelligent masses of people prefer to stay away.”

Thus speaks Pravda and Izvestia on our electoral habits.  And though Americans may laugh heartily, the average Russian citizen, clutching his newspaper as he rides the Moscow Metro home from work, knows that this is the “truth” about decadent, capitalistic U.S.A.

If you’re at all confused as to how General Eisenhower managed to snare the Republican nomination, Russia’s Tass News Agency has the exclusive story: “The convention was a battle between Eastern financial interests headed by the duPonts, Morgans, and Rockefellers supporting General Eisenhower, and Midwestern fiscal and industrial giants backing Senator Taft.” (The Russian account goes on to mention Andrew Mellon, dead since 1937, as a leading Taft backer.) “One of the strongest Eisenhower backers was Henry Ford II who directed the campaign in behalf of his candidate from abroad a yacht anchored off Michigan Boulevard.” (Ford was undoubtedly the first truly floating delegate in U.S. history.)

The Democrats, however, got the full treatment, with non-candidate Truman bearing brunt. Pleased to hear Truman was not up for re-election, the Russian Literary Gazette commented: “As is well known, Truman has never been distinguished by any originality of ideas. He was always a copy-cat.  It was from Hitler he borrowed his delirious ideas of establishing a Fascist empire… from the Japanese Emperor he bought the patent to use the black plague fleas in Korea.”

As for the actual candidate Stevenson, however, Communists can’t help whip up much enthusiasm because they have known since May that “Eisenhower is not a Republican at all.  He is a Trojan horse, skillfully smuggled by the Democrats into the opposing camp.” (Liberation, pro-Communist Paris paper.)

Russian Press attention included pre-convention closeups: Taft: “Die-hard companion of Dulles and company.” Kefauver: “He always tried to palm himself off as the personification of honesty, but he did not show any real zeal to uproot crime in America.” Pre-election propaganda focused on Ike, as “spiritual father of the 6-legged European monster, the NATO Army” and “an ignoramus who has not read a book in the last 9 years.”

On May 4 this year, Pravda told whom we’d vote for if not terrorized by capitalist bullies: Red-dominated Progressive Party and its candidate Vincent Hallinan.

But terrorized and bullied, caught between the Devil (“militarizer” Ike) and the deep blue see (“lackey” Adlai) close to 50 million unhappy Americans will turn out to vote.  And whatever happens, the Russians barrage of written and cartooned propaganda will continue, for, Republicans and Democrats, we’re a decadent lot. Consolation is: We are free, and our elections have more than one man from whom to choose.

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What’s Wrong With The Post Office? A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 14, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Quick magazine, Feb. 16, 1953 about “What Wrong with the Mail?”

The similarities between now and then were striking to me, so I decided to publish the entire article here.  Would love to hear your comments…

Enjoy this blast from the past…

 

What’s Wrong With the Mails?

The deficit-ridden U. S Post Office Dept. was in for an overhaul-perhaps its most sweeping since the 1930’s. Behind the effort was a mounting tide of complaints about:

  • Slow mail delivery.
  • Once-a-day home delivery.
  • Damaged and lost mail.

One of the Government’s biggest and most criticized-business operations, the postal service, has 500,000 employes, spends $3 billion a year. The world’s largest postal service, it claims it is the world’s best. That final point is where debate centers. Congress has criticized the agency for its millions of deficits each year; patrons rail every time service is cut and at every increase in rates.

Will the Postman Ring Twice?

The Republican platform last year recognized these complaints, included promises of “more frequent deliveries.” Congressional committees are studying proposals from both Democrats and Republicans to restore twice-a-day home delivery, curtailed in 1950 to save money. But restoring it, Post Office officials say, will cost $150 million a year. This would set the deficit climbing again-and it has dropped only in the last year.

Postmaster Gen. Arthur Summerfield has ordered a complete study of the department to see how it can improve its finances, facilities and employe relations. The powerful National Assn. of Letter Carriers is clamoring for revision of personnel policies.

Career postal officials blame the deficit on congress, say that if the department budget needs to be balanced, Congress can raise postal rates. They attribute $160 million of the deficit to handling of “franked” mail for Government agencies and Congress, free mail for the blind, and other mail not covered by postage. Second-class mail (Newspapers and magazines) and air mail are handled at a loss.

Slow-Down Factors

Congress’ economy drives also are blamed for curtailed deliveries and night collections. These factors slow deliveries to the extent that an air mail letter may require three days for delivery from the time it’s posted between Portland, Maine, and San Francisco-though it travels between the cities in13 hours. Employee negligence also may slow deliveries-as in the case of the Alabama postman who dumped bundles of mail into a culvert during the Christmas rush. The Post Office retorts it’s understaffed.

Mechanical devices to speed mail have been researched, but with mixed success. Mechanical sorting machines have not proved satisfactory-it’s hard for a machine to read addresses. Costs of helicopter mail delivery between officials within New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have been found high-helicopters don’t carry the load that big mail trucks do.

Grounds for Argument

The Post Office claims a generally good record on deliveries, but there are slipups. Examples: 1) A Providence, R.I., theater owner put out a two-week advance notice on a new show left town; 2) the N.Y World-Telegram and Sun claimed that some test letters mailed in the city took longer to reach its office than others sent from London and Paris.

Pneumatic tubes have been used to link postal offices in part of the New York area, but this also is a high-cost operation.

The research has, however, developed special baskets for handling parcel post-to curb loss from breakage caused when packages are thrown around sorting rooms; and motor scooters are helping postmen manage heavy mail packs.

Many of the post office built in the 1930’s have been outgrown as population boomed. Crowded buildings hamper mail handling. Since 1940, there’s been no regular Post Office building program, due to defense demands on materials and money.

One great factor slowing the mails has been the huge increase in mailing-now an average of 315 pieces a year for each person in the U.S., compared with 219 pieces in 1941. These mountains of mail clog railroad and truck postal centers and slow up the handling of shipments.

Adding to the problem is the public’s attitude. A year ago, the Post Office got Congress to cut the maximum size for parcels. But instead of a major part of the parcel post business going to the Railway Express, as expected, postal authorities claim “Proof” that many mails just divided big packages into two smaller ones-adding to the postal glut.

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A Blast From The Past: Gossip Magazines Reign Supreme… From The Vault of Mr. Magazine™

June 11, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Show magazine, July 1955 about Gossip magazines (what we now call Celebrity magazines…)

The similarities between now and then was striking to me, so I decided to publish the entire article here.  Would love to hear your comments…

Enjoy this blast from the past…

GOSSIP…

America’s Newest Parlor Game

“ WHO WOULD have believed two years ago that gossip magazines would be sweeping the country,” remarked a Pulitzer prize winning author at a recent interview. He’s not the only one who has been shaking his head at the new trend in American reading habits.

Unlike anything in the history of the publishing business, gossip magazines have captured the fancy of readers of all ages. What’s behind this reading revolution? Why does the average American delight in seeing other people’s dirty linen washed in public?  Is it a new vogue?

In the first place, it’s the reader, not the magazines, who creates the demand for the gossip publications. The publishers just supply the demand. To date this demand has resulted in over two dozen such publications- all of them following the lead of confidential magazine. Confidential, the first publication to realize the unlimited potential of this market, today outsells on the newsstand any other single magazine- including such giants as Life, Ladies’ Home Journal or TV Guide. Its actual printing is an excess of 4 million copies.

Like any other controversial medium, scandal mags have come under their share of fire- and praise. Al this being done in public arouses public curiosity- and, of course, more sales.

Scandal, which includes anything from the love affairs of top movie stars to the café society set, was certainly not discovered by magazines. Gossip columnist have attracted to their newspapers millions of readers with scandal tidbits. Such items as “ Who is Renovating”- and why, has earned a fortune for Walter Winchell. Other columnists who try to jump into the gossip gravy train, are just imitating the master, Winchell.

DON’T BE SHOCKED

This may be a surprise to you, but in many instances the person whose life or romances is being exposed often gets early proofs of the story for corrections.

The reason? Some playboys and stars feel that publicity either flattering or damaging is good publicity. The publisher of one of the top scandal mags was thanked recently by an entertainer for revealing his “affair” with a movie star. Why? Well, as the entertainer put it, “You sure put me in the big leagues- now a dozen girls in Hollywood want me.”

Another Hollywood star who was a juvenile delinquent with a long record was fully aware he was getting the “treatment” in a gossip mag. It was his one way of getting attention- and did he get it! Readers revealed in the juicy gossip. There’ll be a lot of blushing faces when they read here that this movie star had read and okayed the story for publication. Result? Besides prestige, he now is in greater demand than ever and he’s boosted his movie price per picture by $50,000.

Scandal mags are based on the principle that people forget what they read in the newspapers.

The second gimmick is to research the past of famous people because mistakes and misdeeds of a dozen years ago makes juicy reading to new audiences today. Thus, someone in his or her twenties would be titillated by the Mary Astor Diaries and George Kaufman, the Fatty Arbuckle case, and the Simone Simon Affair- all of which appeared in the papers in sordid detail a number of years ago.

Such people as ex-Madame Polly Adler and Jelke and his V-girls are also fair game for the scandal magazines. The mags seldom, however, present anything that is new to the gullible public.

For any reader who isn’t aware of the pasts of famous stars, members of café society and the what’s what of the who’s who in the social register, the gossip mags provide rather entertaining reading.

SHOW magazine, curious as to why people revel in other people’s inglorious pats, checked with several psychiatrists. For the most part of the doctors agreed that: “Scandal magazines serve a need and are quite comparable to the Charlie Chaplin movies of old. People all over the world enjoyed watching the down-and-out tramp, for no matter how badly off the viewer was, there was someone (Chaplin) who was worse off than he. With the scandal magazines, the same principle holds true. Many people have skeletons in their closets- Kinsey’s report proved that. Yet people are eager to read the exposes of famous men and women whose skeletons are rattled in public- so they can gnaw at the bones. It boils down to the fact that gossip magazines appeal to the snobbishness in all of us.” P.S Several of the psychiatrists admitted that they read the scandal magazines themselves.

It is not mysterious, therefore, to figure out why people stand in line to buy Confidential or Uncensored, the second-best seller in that field. The magazines all follow the same, newsy format of three or four pictures on the cover with splashes of gaudy color all geared to invite the gossip reader to shell out that quarter.

All in all, total sales for the twenty-odd magazines in this scandal category reach close to 10 million per month. This fabulous impact has reacted on other top, general magazines who now seek to compete by placing at least one “scandal-type” expose story between the covers of every issue. The magazines reached the height of something or other recently when Jackie Gleason’s program plugged Confidential, and Time magazine interviewed the publisher of said magazine.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

As long as the gossip holds out that’s how long the magazines will continue their run of popularity. Naturally, this could go on indefinitely- or as long as the public taste for gossip holds out. This could be tomorrow – or 50 years from now.

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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:
http://money.com/money/4074103/wackiest-millionaire-ever-run-president/
http://www.bernarrmacfadden.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernarr_Macfadden
https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a23610/strange-tale-historic-fitness-guru-bernarr-macfadden/

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From The Vault: Getting To Know Will Welch, The New Editor-in-Chief Of GQ Magazine… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview from 2016

September 13, 2018

Bob Sauerberg, CEO and president of Condé Nast, announced today that he is “pleased to share the news that we have named Will Welch as the next editor-in-chief of GQ, overseeing all content development, production and consumer experiences for GQ’s digital, social, video and print platforms, as well as the brand’s iconic Men of the Year Awards.

Will has been part of the GQ family since 2007, rising to become the editor-in-chief of GQ Style in 2015 and earlier this year was named GQ’s creative director, and a big part of why a new generation of consumers are drawn to the brand…”

Two years ago (November 10, 2016) I published my interview with Will when he became the editor-in-chief of GQ Style. What follows is the Mr. Magazine™ Interview from the Vault with Will Welch, now editor-in-chief of GQ magazine.

GQ Style & Will Welch: Bringing The Human Soul & Style Together In The Most Wonderful of Ways – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Will Welch, Editor In Chief, GQ Style…

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“There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’” Will Welch…

Heart and soul for the brand, two of the most important passions a magazine maker can have. Add in an honesty that goes much deeper than just the pages of the magazine; a candor that comes from the actual depths of the human being creating it, and you have Condé Nast’s latest title and its editor in chief, Will Welch; a man who is redefining just exactly what a luxury men’s magazine is.

Will joined Condé Nast in 2007 on GQ’s editorial team, most recently serving as the magazine’s style editor. Today, Will is editor in chief of GQ Style and is bringing his own fresh approach to the art of being a man. There are no taboos when it comes to what goes with fashion, as far as Will sees it. His vision is clear and focused; men mix fashion with art, music and interior design every day, and that authentic direction, while unique, is also spot on with his readers.

I spoke with Will recently and we talked about his passionate and soulful belief and views about the magazine. His mission statement for the magazine is simple: how to succeed with style and soul. And for him that isn’t always about an expensive price tag hanging from the shirt. It’s about beauty, integrity and much more than the design of the jacket. In Will’s own words, “It is feeling like the stuff we are covering is coming from a really honest place and that’s the most important thing to me.” And you absolutely can’t argue with that.

In fact, Mr. Magazine™ was so impressed with GQ Style; I selected it as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches for 2016. It was a refreshing change of pace to have an editor in chief of a men’s magazine see that we males have quite a bit more on our minds than just clothes. GQ Style has put a new definition on the five-letter word. Being stylish involves a lifestyle more than just trendy attire.

So, I hope that you enjoy this refreshing glimpse into the world of a man who is not afraid to shake up the space of men’s magazines, especially when he does so with heart, soul, and a new type of “style” – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Welch, Editor in Chief of GQ Style.

But first the sound-bites:

Will Welch Photo by Jake Rosenburg

Will Welch
Photo by Jake Rosenburg

On why he thinks GQ Style wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago: There’s a real culture around fashion, art and interior design. The conversations I have with friends, and have had since I was in college, related to art had nothing to do with our means to actually buy a piece of art from a gallery. But, there was enthusiasm, excitement, awareness, and vocabulary built around that. What that means, for me, GQ Style was able to be really organic, authentic, and this word might be a stretch but I think I can explain it, and I put it on the cover of the first issue for a reason – soulful. That created the dialogue, discussion, and presentation of all of these elements that can be defined as luxury or lifestyle and culture in magazine form.On how much of his own soul he puts into the magazine: (Laughs) There are a few things that I invest myself in. I think of things that my wife and I are interested in and conversations we have that aren’t in the magazine. But pretty much a huge portion of what I’m invested in, finds itself in the magazine in one form or another.

On the Holiday issue that features a 20-page Jazz portfolio: Again, just really investing in things that we believe are a little bit outside of what everybody might be talking about in the culture of the moment or they seem a little bit offbeat. I feel like the key to GQ Style connecting with readers and an audience, and the key to being relevant for us is to continue to throw ourselves at the stuff we really believe in, whether it’s huge and mainstream or tiny and niche.

On whether that portfolio could only be achieved in print: You can’t achieve the same portfolio in digital. You can do a piece about the same guys, in the same attitude and same spirit and make it every bit as impactful and as much of a document of the moment in time. But, it would have to be rethought. Video and audio would have to play an important part of it. You would really want to conceive of it outside the standard idea of still-photography, written words, and the design that brings the two together.

On what role he thinks GQ Style plays in today’s digital world: There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’

On if there have been any stumbling blocks: Well, to be really honest, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Of course, there have been challenges along the way. There are quirky aspects of the way that GQ Style is designed and the way it operates that require some problem solving and some patience and smart thinking.

On writing an introduction for the Rick Ruben interview with Kendrick Lamar: I felt like there needed to be a moment where, especially because GQ Style is such a new magazine and such a new title across the platforms, there needed to be a moment where our readers understood why we had chosen Kendrick Lamar and why now.

On coming up with cover stories: It can be a moment in the middle of the night. It can be that for me or any member of my team, or someone from the GQ staff, like ‘You know who I’ve been thinking would be really cool for you guys?’ Because we all work on the same floor here together and there’s a constant ebb and flow of communication and ideas and just hallway communication like any cool collegial office. So it’s sort of like a nonstop topic of conversations.

On his expectations for GQ Style one year from now: I feel very strongly that the first three issues have been successful in that they’ve defined and sort of laid out the case for GQ Style, and why what we’re doing is relevant, and what a reader can gain by coming to us in all of our forms, social, GQStyle.com, GQ Style in print.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: Evenings at home are usually spent on the couch with my wife, and I’m not too proud of this, but we’ll be having dinner next to each other on the couch with two cats around, and there’s always a series of things going on, it could be a football game or a TV show on, or my wife might be reading a book and I might be on my phone at the same time or vice versa.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is family-related, I’m 35 years old and it just seems to be an interesting time in my life, there are all of these opportunities for me to grow and mature, so I’m sort of trying to evolve as a man and a husband and a son and all of these things, and elements of that keep me up at night. But what pertains to GQ Style is usually there is a story I want to tell and there are some elements blocking it, it could be a budget thing or a talent booking issue, or a photography or a photographer-booking question.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Welch,
Editor in Chief, GQ Style.

Samir Husni: You redefined luxury in the magazine with the first issue and you created a magazine that technically you have admitted would not have existed just a few years ago. Why do think that GQ Style would not have existed 10 years ago?

Will Welch: There are a couple of reasons, but the place I’d like to start is with the awareness of men’s style and men’s lifestyle pursuits, including fashion, interior design, design, architecture, art and travel. Men have this awareness and ease with the vocabulary, and excitement about these topics has grown. The amount that these topics are a part of their lives and conversations, let’s just ballpark within the last 16 years, has really accelerated, but especially within the last 10 years. That allowed GQ Style to tackle those topics with real passion, they’re not floating off in the abstract and they’re not these exclusive pursuits of the rich and well-heeled, or people with money to burn.

There’s a real culture around fashion, art and interior design. The conversations I have with friends, and have had since I was in college, related to art had nothing to do with our means to actually buy a piece of art from a gallery. But, there was enthusiasm, excitement, awareness, and vocabulary built around that. What that means, for me, GQ Style was able to be really organic, authentic, and this word might be a stretch but I think I can explain it, and I put it on the cover of the first issue for a reason – soulful. That created the dialogue, discussion, and presentation of all of these elements that can be defined as luxury or lifestyle and culture in magazine form.

I feel like in a way, GQ style was made possible because of the culture among American men. Over the last 16 years it has been evolving at a clip that made a magazine where the discussion of this stuff was really natural and not in anyway forced. That cover line from our debut issue, which came out in May with Robert Downey Jr. on the cover, was sort of presented as the cover-line selling the Robert Downey Jr. story. But to me, it was secretly the mission statement of the magazine, which is how to succeed with style and a soul. That was my way of sending a coded signal that the content of this magazine isn’t going to be fancy, expensive or luxury just for expensive sake, and I think there’s a history of luxury magazines participating in that and I wanted a clean break. I felt that the culture had created a moment that was ready for GQ Style. So, that’s what we’ve been striving to make and we have three issues that have come out so far and it’s feeling good. It’s feeling like the stuff we are covering is coming from a really honest place and that’s the most important thing to me.
gq-style-1

Samir Husni: Will, you are now 35, so how much of your own soul do you put into this magazine to make it even more soulful.

Will Welch: (Laughs) There are a few things that I invest myself in. I think of things that my wife and I are interested in and conversations we have that aren’t in the magazine. But pretty much a huge portion of what I’m invested in, finds itself in the magazine in one form or another.

For example, in the debut issue, there was an 8-page spread on Sid Mashburn store. Which I think is one of the very best stores in the country. It was started in Atlanta and now posted in D.C., Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Sid Mashburn is an incredibly interesting guy who has started this store. He comes from a family that had small town stores in the American south, where it was really about community and value and he doesn’t use this word but I would, soul, as much as it was about clothes or profit margin. It’s just a store in Atlanta, but to me there’s something going on there and there’s a story to tell. He’s doing something really unique that brings new ideas to bear on fashion and retail and getting dressed and all these topics that are relevant to GQ Style that I felt like eight pages made perfect sense.

In the Holiday Issue there’s a four-page story on the shop in Los Angeles called RTH, which was founded about 7 years ago by this designer, but even designer feels like too small of a word. He’s really a creative and a maker of interesting worlds named Rene Holguin. It’s just a shop in L.A., they have no e-commerce presence and it’s two stores that are just three doors down from each other. You walk in and find that he has created this whole world that is truly immersive. It’s like falling down a rabbit hole to walk into this store. I thought to myself, yes this is just a store in L.A. but this deserves a feature. I knew that Erykah Badu is also a huge fan of RTH, and by chance she discovered it the year it opened so we interviewed her about her love for RTH and what she knows about Rene Holguin, who founded it.

I guess what I’m saying is that these are small passions of mine. These are two little stores that I love, but to me there is something happening in both of them that is much bigger than just the footprint of their shops, so we wanted to give them a big space in GQ Style.

Also, in the Holiday Issue there is a 20 page Jazz portfolio. Again, just really investing in things that we believe are a little bit outside of what everybody might be talking about in the culture of the moment or they seem a little bit offbeat. I feel like the key to GQ Style connecting with readers and an audience, and the key to being relevant for us is to continue to throw ourselves at the stuff we really believe in, whether it be huge and mainstream or tiny and niche.

Samir Husni: That was my next question to you because when I saw the piece on jazz, I noticed some of the people featured reached the age of 91. That’s where I felt the soul of the magazine was. When I saw that feature, I felt like nobody thinks about jazz artists and what they wear, but rather they just enjoy their music. But you were able to turn it around and it was a combination of everything.

Will Welch: I think it was interesting because basically what happened is GQ’s great, longtime design director, Fred Woodward, who’s also the design director at GQ Style, although I think he brings out a very different style of himself when he’s working of GQ Style versus GQ. We were in an ideas meeting and he says to me: ‘Think of all the great lions of jazz that are still alive today. Not only are they alive but they’re still playing, they’re still making music, still playing at Village Vanguard, still releasing new albums. We talk about soul and passion and he was fired-up when he brought up this idea. He felt like it was something that was not only a nice piece for the 3 months that this issue is on newsstands, but it could be something that would really be a permanent document, a marking of this moment.

Any good magazine strives to be a document of the cultural moments of its time. So, we started going through the list and it was unbelievable, some of the histories of these guys who are still doing it. There were a couple key things for us. One, I think that jazz is synonymous with men’s style. The way that the jazz musicians, even going back to the 1920s but especially the 40s, 50s, 60s and even early 70s. I was talking with a friend and we were joking about the dashiki period of jazz, where the style of dress changed along with the sound of the music that was constantly happening. The jazzmen were some of the most stylish men of their times and so let’s work with these guys and do a portfolio, let’s collaborate with them. Our fashion editor, Mobolaji Dawodu did just a beautiful job styling the piece. But our vision for the photography and the fashion went hand-in-hand. Let’s not try to freeze these guys in time. Let’s not do classic black and white portraiture of guys who in their 60s, 70s, and as you mentioned, even 90s. These guys were, and are, visionaries.

The piece is called ‘The Explorers Club’ and these guys really used their instruments to explore the human condition, both internally and externally. We think about space travel when we think about a lot of these musicians like Pharoah Sanders. I also think about the exploration of the human interior of the human consciousness, and so we wanted to make them look futuristic now, not freeze them in stone. That was the director for both Christian Weeber, who is an incredible photographer and did a beautiful job with this portfolio, but also the director for Mobolaji Dawodu’s work with the fashion. You know, these guys are incredibly opinionated, his (Dawodu’s) stories coming back from set were hilarious like: ‘Hell no, I’ll never wear that. Get that out of my face.’ He would slowly find a rhythm with each of them. But taking that idea and believing it. Finding a way to not do it the expected way, but to make it fresh. Then to really invest in it, as far as the pages we are giving over to it. I guess if you really include the appendix where we talk about some of their greatest albums of all time, it’s like 26 pages of content.

Samir Husni: You look at those pages and flip those 26 pages and see the life and soul of the music. Is there a way you can do that in digital or can you only achieve that same portfolio in print?

Will Welch: You can’t achieve the same portfolio in digital. You can do a piece about the same guys, in the same attitude and same spirit and make it every bit as impactful and as much of a document of the moment in time. But, it would have to be rethought. Video and audio would have to play an important part of it. You would really want to conceive of it outside the standard idea of still-photography, written words, and the design that brings the two together.

I absolutely think you could do something that ambitious, and of course we are trying to do both. When we are commissioning the piece we are thinking about the digital version of it and trying to prepare for that. We have some interesting things in the works right now so that it really is compelling in something more than just a print piece translated online in an unsatisfying way when we launch it on GQStyle.com. The two have to be conceived independently from one another. For digital to be impactful it has to be thought of as digital.

Samir Husni: Nobody can accuse you of not being a digital native at your age. (Laughs)

Will Welch: (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, as a digital native, what do you feel the role of print, as exemplified in GQ Style, is going to be for your generation?

Will Welch: I think when we are designing new print products or if someone young takes over a preexisting magazine, you have to toss out some of the institutional memory of the way a magazine is constructed. I tried to do that with GQ Style. This is oversimplifying a little bit but the traditional way a magazine is structured is there is newsy and small bits orientated beginning of the magazine called the front of the book. There is some different modular mid-length storytelling that is usually deemed the middle of the book. Which are all single pages that have ads next to them. Then you fit the feature-well, at which point the vast majority of the spreads are all editorial. There are no longer ads breaking up the editorial and that’s when you save your big visual moments and your long-form pieces. So, that is the way a magazine, again oversimplifying a little bit, but traditionally been structured.

With the launch of GQ Style, and I think anybody else my age who has the opportunity, rare though that may be these days, to launch something or alter something in print, has to look at that with a very critical eye and wonder how much of it is still relevant. I mean, a front of book news section, for a quarterly magazine especially, but I think even in a monthly as well, you’re just never going to keep up with the Internet so why even try?

So, really what happened with the launch of GQ Style, I spent a lot of the early days trying to think about, in the age of the internet, this is not the age of both the internet and print, this is the age purely of the internet, what can print do? What service can print provide the reader that they can’t already get online? I tried to build; of course with collaboration from my colleagues here, particularly Fred Woodword, the Design Director and Chris Opresic, the Photo Director, we tried to build a new structure that is specific to the digital age, specific to the concerns and topics of the imagined audience of GQ Style. This also included the out publisher Howard Mittman.

Howard deserves a lot of credit for understanding why that was going to make a difference, why that would be modern, why his advertisers would be okay with that, why that would help the fact that we cost $14.99 on the newsstand. I mean that was very collaborative and a huge leap of faith on his part and I thought pretty visionary to see the value in that and to know that that made sense from a business perspective. One very unique, and favorite aspects, there are a lot of readers who probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you that it’s happening but they feel it is that once the editorial section of the magazine begins, and earnest is all editorial spread, all the ads are backed upfront, maybe a couple in the back and add the back cover. But what would traditionally be a front of book, middle of book, and feature well is all editorial spreads. We have really tried to take advantage of that. Again, whether the reader knows it or not, they feel the difference.

There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’

Samir Husni: In fact, that’s what caught my attention. When I told Howard after I saw the first issue, “I have to interview Will.” I felt like you put your thumb on the heart of the problem. I am so glad you explained it the way you did. I always tell my clients or if I’m ever doing consulting, if you’re still doing the magazine as if it’s 2007 we have a problem.

Will Welch: Yes.

Samir Husni: Yours is a great example. I show my students your magazine. In fact, my teaching assistant, this is his favorite magazine. He’ll sit down and stop working to read GQ Style.

Will Welch: (Laughs) That gives me great, great joy. I’m so happy to hear that, thank you for passing that along.

Samir Husni: I mean the combination is really a new way of putting a magazine together, whether it’s a fashion magazine or any magazine that’s going to be in print.

Will Welch: I think that has to be the way to do it right now.

Samir Husni: So tell me, has it all been great, no stumbling blocks? Everything was as though you should have done this 3 years ago?

Will Welch: Well, to be really honest, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Of course, there have been challenges along the way. There are quirky aspects of the way that GQ Style is designed and the way it operates that require some problem solving and some patience and smart thinking. But those are little pebbles compared to the stuff about it that’s felt really great.

I think crucially it has broadened the power and the reach of GQ. I feel like the existence of GQ Style has not only been a success in its own terms but has also been a list for GQ and just the umbrella brand. One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot last week in particular, and I’m going to digress a little bit with the holiday issue; we launched it two weeks ago and we had this interesting cover package built around Kendrick Lamar. I had asked Rick Rubin, the legendary music producer, to interview Kendrick for the print piece. He and Kendrick also agreed to have that conversation videotaped and we did it at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studios outside in Malibu, which is how Rick Rubin likes to do things, and I said let’s do a cut. And we had 3 cameras on them, and we did a cut that was all 55 minutes of this interview and put it online. I can’t remember the exact timeline, but in a week and a half or so, it hit about a million views on YouTube alone. You know that doesn’t count all of the plays on GQ and GQ Style’s websites. It was a very proud moment for us that it got to a million views that quickly just on YouTube.

I realized that the only way to think about this title, GQ Style, in this moment, is what GQ Style is to each reader. In each moment whatever piece of content is in front of them. So, I’ve been really working, starting with myself and also with my team, as well as with Howard and his team, that how do we get rid of the idea entirely that GQ Style is a print magazine that is supported by social channels, video content, GQStyle.com, that its print with these other supportive elements or buffers.

How do we realize that if somebody is reading? If a tweet or Facebook post or something else comes across a reader’s trance at any given moment that is from us that is GQ Style, that’s what GQ Style is in the moment. In fact, with this Kendrick Lamar and Rick Rubin video the fact that it had found that big of an audience that fast meant that GQ Style is this YouTube video to more people than it is anything else so far in our very young life. So, we have to think about the brand holistically but we also have to think about each tweet, each Instagram, each Facebook post, each story in each issue, all of those things, each picture that we publish, the way that we represent ourselves as we move around the world, or do interviews, or go out on meetings. GQ Style is whatever that thing is to that person in that moment. I think it is of upmost importance that my team and myself digest that in order to have success, managing all of the many elements of this new entity.

Samir Husni: I noticed in that specific interview that Rick Rubin did with Kendrick Lamar, that you wrote an introduction to that interview, which is unusual. In the traditional way of doing magazines, you ask the person who does the interview to do the introduction or also the lead.

Will Welch: Yes, absolutely, and I just felt like it needed a moment because we had asked Rick to do this interview and he had so graciously agreed, and I had sort of said you should ask Kendrick whatever you want. I felt like there needed to be a moment where, especially because GQ Style is such a new magazine and such a new title across the platforms, there needed to be a moment where our readers understood why we had chosen Kendrick Lamar and why now. I was present for the interview and sort of done a lot of the arranging, so I felt like there should… you know it’s only a could of paragraphs long you know, it’s very short, but just a quick taste for like its only our third issue, it’s our first ever holiday issue here’s why we’ve chosen Kendrick Lamar for the cover and here’s why Rick Rubin is interviewing him and here’s just a little bit of insight into what happened that cool day in Malibu, and then I kind of get out of the way and let the two of them talk.

Samir Husni: So how do those cover ideas come to you? Do you lie in bed and think ‘Oh, we need to have Kendrick Lamar on the cover?’ Or, if I am to go inside your brain, how do you reach those moments in selecting your cover story?
gq-style-3

Will Welch: It can be a moment in the middle of the night. It can be that for me or any member of my team, or someone from the GQ staff, like ‘You know who I’ve been thinking would be really cool for you guys?’ Because we all work on the same floor here together and there’s a constant ebb and flow of communication and ideas and just hallway communication like any cool collegial office. So it’s sort of like a nonstop topic of conversations. I mean we’re talking about, of course, the spring 2017 cover which is our next issue that we’re currently putting together, but we’re really taking about the next year of covers, and I find myself thinking about it while I’m riding the train in the morning or driving, or on planes.

Names come up out of conversations that are completely unrelated to like editorial coverage, just some conversation with a friend or acquaintance that mentioned somebody. You kind of go ‘Wait a minute, that person could be really interesting’. From there, it’s really just about, well, another thing that I think is crucial to these early days of GQ Style is that I was kind of obsessing about this and the first couple of weeks that we had announced this launch, I was like how do you break through like we’re going to be doing this new thing and how do we break through?

Everybody knows how noisy of a time it is for media, but not just for media, there are kids with twitter accounts who have a louder voice than some of the most storied media entities in the world. I mean it’s a really intense and tricky time for any new launch; it could be a new fashion brand, I don’t know a new brand of kale chips, whatever the case may be, or in my case this new magazine title like how we break through? I think the key to it is you have to know who you are and you have to digest that and feel it in your bones. Then, you have to move forward always looking for new and interesting ways to do your thing whatever that might be, but it always has to be anchored in a real knowledge of who you are, and by who I am I mean what GQ Style is and what it’s all about.

So, I spend a lot of time in my own head and the notes folder in my iPhone and then once I kind of put a staff together with developing this together with my staff and it’s changed as different personalities have come on board and added their ideas to the mix, but we’ve really just been honing this idea of just what GQ Style is, what it’s all about, and then it gets really interesting when you’re thinking of new ideas and who should be on the cover to take this. You know for our covers so far they’ve all been celebrities, to take these celebrities and say what do they have to do with this idea of GQ Style that we’ve been talking so much about. Do they twist it in an interesting way or are they not related to it or are they perfect on message, do they seem like they’re related to what we’re doing but maybe it’s a year down the road? So, its like there’s this litmus test and you’re kind of bringing different people, different ideas, different stories, different kinds of storytelling into the mix and trying to figure out what that means for this central idea that you’re defining.

Samir Husni: If I speak with you a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about GQ Style; what are your expectations?

Will Welch: I feel very strongly that the first three issues have been successful in that they’ve defined and sort of laid out the case for GQ Style, and why what we’re doing is relevant, and what a reader can gain by coming to us in all of our forms, social, GQStyle.com, GQ Style in print. I’m very proud of the content that we’ve made.

I think we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, but evolve that in 2017 as well. We have the opportunity to really think outside the box and be creative in the way we use all of these tools that are currently at our disposal, which could be Facebook or an event that we throw, it could be any number of things. I think we’ve created a pretty cool product, I really believe that, but we need to raise awareness and there’s the opportunity to do that in new ways, print magazines certainly, but media entities in general haven’t breached yet. We’re a really small team but I think we have the creativity and the brainpower and the resources to be innovative. I hope that’s the story of 2017, I hope that’s the story we get to tell when the time comes.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; having a glass of wine; watching television; or something else?

Will Welch: Evenings at home are usually spent on the couch with my wife, and I’m not too proud of this, but we’ll be having dinner next to each other on the couch with two cats around, and there’s always a series of things going on, it could be a football game or a TV show on, or my wife might be reading a book and I might be on my phone at the same time or vice versa. So, it’s interesting to think how that relates to GQ Style; we’re relaxing but there’s also this mix of print, digital, fiber optic cable, all of this stuff swirling in the mix you know? Sometimes, like now, it’s starting to get cold so there might be a fire going and just books, but usually the TV’s off and on, books and magazines and newspapers are in the mix, but so are our iPhones, and dinner and our two pet cats.

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

Will Welch: What keeps me up at night is family-related, I’m 35 years old and it just seems to be an interesting time in my life, there are all of these opportunities for me to grow and mature, so I’m sort of trying to evolve as a man and a husband and a son and all of these things, and elements of that keep me up at night. But what pertains to GQ Style is usually there is a story I want to tell and there are some elements blocking it, it could be a budget thing or a talent booking issue, or a photography or a photographer-booking question. You know to tell a successful story there are always a lot of people and a lot of talents and expertise moving in the same direction. That usually takes some finesse, so sometimes I’m up at night figuring out the right way to finesse.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Out Magazine At 25: A Mr. Magazine™ Interview From The Vault With Founding Editor Sarah Pettit…

October 4, 2017

Aaron Hicklin, Editor in Chief, of Out magazine asks in his intro to the 25th Anniversary issue of the magazine, “How do you write an editor’s letter marking an anniversary?

Well rather than telling you how Aaron answered his question in this blog, (thus giving you the opportunity to go buy a copy of the magazine and find Aaron’s answer on your own), I opted to go into the Mr. Magazine™ vault and publish an interview I did with the founding editor of Out magazine, the late Sarah Pettit. Sarah, who died at the young age of 36 in 2003, was the founding editor and former editor in chief of Out magazine. The interview was published in my book Launch Your Own Magazine in 1998 and is reprinted below as it appeared in the book.

Sarah Pettit is the editor-in-chief of Out, a general interest magazine for gays and lesbians published by Out Publishing Inc. The first issue of Out appeared in 1992.
At what stage and in what capacity did you join Out?

I wasn’t the founder. The founder was Michael Goff, and the magazine was already established when I came into it. But I worked on the first issue. I helped to launch it. But I started work with the editorial. Everything else was already there.

What type of advice would you give someone who is launching a magazine?

I would probably tell them to walk to their nearest newsstand and take a look to see if what they want to do has already been done. And if it has been done, in what way has it been done, and how are their ideas different?

I think, especially in any major urban area, you can look at any newsstand of any size and find an enormous array of titles on pretty much everything from fly fishing to car mechanics to gay and lesbian lifestyles. For instance, the one I work on had pretty much been covered. But when we launched our magazine, what we noticed by looking at the newsstand was that there were no monthly feature magazines targeted to the gay and lesbian audience, nothing that addressed their issues in a full quality, industry standard way. So we said, “Well, there’s something that need to be done which hasn’t been done and that, obviously, people are going to be interested in.”

If you see that there are already five or six people doing it, and you are not going to bring anything particular new to the story, then you probably won’t have too much success. Unless, of course, you are a major magazine company and you can figure out how to squeeze out all of the little guys. But to the entrepreneur, it probably should be something with some necessity behind it.

How can an entrepreneur give the concept that special spin?

I think what we said was, you know there are probably a fair number of gays and lesbians in America. No one knows exactly how to count them, but even a rough estimate certainly puts them at the size of a magazine that is acceptable to launch. Most of the major companies want a magazine to hit about five hundred thousand at the get go, but it depends on how quickly you are going to increase your circulation. You have got to have a reasonable amount of circulation pretty soon after the launch to be able to warrant your expenses.

I think the way you put the twist on your idea is by finding something unique and special. I think what we found as this group of people who have a lot of common interests, whether that’s the more political aspects of what a gay issue is, or whether it’s the more cultural aspects of things, or if it’s simply the basic questions of how to organize your finances with your partner. Any of those things that are straightforward service questions, as they say in the magazine trade.

We knew that there was no real, centralized place they could go for that information in a consistent way. Doing a magazine such as ours would provide people with a unique publishing product that they probably couldn’t get anywhere else. As with any audience, what you want to do is look at your group and say, “What is it about these people that pulls them together?” What are their shared interests? And what is it about this product that you are giving them that no one else can?”

You know, obviously for gay men and lesbians, it’s even harder because in the past it’s been this community of people who are so dispersed. It was harder for them to identify themselves and speak of their common experiences. So, for a magazine, this is a very good thing because you want people who are hungry for information and for what you want to bring them.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I honestly don’t know if I would have done too much differently. I know one thing that is very important is not to grow your magazine more quickly than it can handle. One of the classic ways you can go bust is to grow too fast and too furiously. Don’t start laying on a bunch of staff that you can’t afford to keep.

When we made our first magazine, we were in the offices of another company. Esquire actually offered us the space at Hearst Publications because the man who designed our first issue, Roger Black, had his design studio at Esquire. He worked on Esquire as their art guru, so we had the space and we had access to computers and it was all for very little money.

We had five or six people who worked on it, but now, five years later, we have a staff of thirty-two, including people from all over the magazine industry. Our publishers just spent eighteen years at the New York Times in the business department. Our president was at the Times for years, too, and at the Hartford Courant before that. We now have people from all over.

You can get competitive and start paying the good salaries later on, but don’t get too crazy. I think that is one of the problems that people have. They think that they can launch fancy offices with pretty desks and nice carpeting, but they don’t think about the fact that the magazine business is really expensive. Last year, for example, our paper costs went up 60%. That’s something that you can’t foresee, and if you have too much up front, costs can really kill you.

What advice would you give for recruiting staff?

I think one of the key things is to get people who really feel like they want to come to their jobs in the morning. I think you have to inspire them in whatever way. To our benefit, we were making a magazine that a lot of our staff felt was really important. They personally felt very compassionate about the idea of bringing information to a group of people who had not had that before.

So you have the professional motivation of mixing a good product with a lot of pride. If you can hit people at home and make them feel like they are really doing something important, you can come out with any magazine. You can make a magazine about golf and make people who work with you feel that it’s important. Often, I feel that people equate that with young, hungry talent. I don’t know if that has to do with age or point of view, but it’s best to not have people who feel like they’re doing you a favor just by coming to work.

And there is something to be said for people with magazine backgrounds. I think one of the things that created the biggest problem for the gay press is the thought that, “OH, anyone can make a magazine.” Well, no, not anyone can make a magazine. Part of what makes a good magazine is having people with magazine talent. It’s a unique skill, just like any skill.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from the Out launch?

Oh, I wish I had more money! Actually, it’s been very interesting. I think that I have learned that money isn’t everything, even though I just said it was.

You look at something like the report that when House and Garden relaunched this fall from Conde Nast, they spent forty-four million dollars over the course of a year or two. That was just to get to the point of relaunching the magazine, just to get to that one issue. Forty-four million dollars-all for prototypes and staff and shooting stories that they wouldn’t use.

There was this enormous kind of loading of that project, and then I look at what I have. Forty-four million dollars, based on how much money we spent in the first five years, we could be around for the next two thousand years. We’re talking about just enormous amounts of money. And then I look at how little I do with, and I say, “Gee.” It really kind of makes you appreciate the value of every dollar. Some of this stuff is just crazy. It doesn’t need to be this expensive, but money, unfortunately, is useful and you need a lot of it for magazines, for good writers anyway.

Do you do most of your work in-house?

Most of our writing is freelanced.

Is that something you’ve done from beginning?

Yes. We try to work with a pretty broad array of people and keep that mix up. The premise of the magazine has always been that we go to talent from all over the industry – whether people are working on TV Guide or Essence or Vanity Fair – and bring them to Out where they can do special stories that are especially relevant. Whether it is the arts writer who can write about books for us or the entertainment journalists who can’t do exactly that story where they are based. It’s kind of taking people’s real world specialties and bringing them to Out where they make sense for us.

You know, in some next world, it would be nice to have a broad base of people whom you could pay to keep on retainer. But I think people can be really wasteful with that, too. There are major magazines that can lock up millions of people. They want people to be dedicated just to them, and they pay them huge amounts of money so they don’t work for anyone else. That kind of stuff can be ego-driven. And ridiculous, too. Is it really worth it to spend a hundred thousand dollars just to keep someone from writing for anyone else?

What about the actual birth of Out? Who developed the concept and how did it grow?

The idea was essentially Roger Black’s, who was behind the first issues of the magazine. Michael Goff, the actual founder, worked for Roger and they were always working on this idea of what would it be like to start a gay magazine. They had started doing prototypes that were targeting only the male readers, and then they actually decided to expand it and make it for men and women.
After the initial investor was brought on board, that’s when I came on and started to open offices about six months later.

During those six months, what types of struggles did you face? Did any of them change your thinking?

I do think that their initial of audience focus was big because emphasis on demographics is really important. I don’t know I guess the cliché is that launches always lead to big fights, and people change and sort of drop off. We really didn’t have a whole lot of that.

I think that once we were committed, that first year we were in business, there really wasn’t time for anything else. I think that the good thing about Michael’s initial idea, once he had the germ of it, was that the message of the magazine and the focus of the magazine and the content have always been consistent. It’s not like it started one way and then it morphed and changed a million times. I think that is the way you lose readers. Michael was pretty clear that we were launching a general interest, national magazine for gay men and lesbians.

I think he knew it was going to be topical; it was going to have features and art coverage and fashion. It was going to be a monthly features magazine that a gay Vanity Fair would be. In fact, that was one of our buzz lines. He pretty much kept that vision and we have kept it to this day. I think that is really helpful because people aren’t trying to figure out what we are.

I also think it was really helpful that we were considered iconoclastic and weird because it was a gay magazine and the whole structure of how you make a magazine and the whole structure of how you make a magazine was in pretty classic terms. We were going to make a magazine and we were going to make it for audiences that hadn’t had that. So the buzz line that came out of that was a traditional magazine for a nontraditional audience. Now, we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. We were just trying to drive the wheel to a different place, as it were.

What about advertisers?

I think the main thing is that, in the last five years, we have brought on every major advertising category, from fashion to automotive to electronics. In the past, the gay press had never been supported by any mainstream advertisers, and it was considered to be something that was pretty much impossible.

The buzz word was kind of like, “You will get Absolut and you will get Benetton – and the rest of it, well you will have to make do with love.” And that did not prove to be the case at all. What we showed was that we made a quality magazine, and we had a lot of quality contributors, great articles, great photography. People like Roger Black were behind it, and the people in the industry recognized that, and it kind of trickled down.

I think media buyers and people in the industry had to look at that and recognize, “Here’s a great way to reach there people and to target these people in a place we haven’t been able to get to until now.” Ellen DeGeneres’ character coming out on TV aside, there really haven’t been that many gay media outlets.

So I think it coincided with a moment in the media when people were looking for a way to find new niche markets, and one of the hot, new niches in the early nineties was the gay and lesbian market. It still continues to be. Out majestically came at just about the right time for people. It did it in the same way that ten or twenty years previous, people tried to target the African American industry or the Latino industry.

In that respect, the advertising story became a much richer one than people thought it might because we had everyone from fashion retail to automotive to electronic to expensive liquor and tobacco and a lot of other industry that supports magazines. So, in that way, we were looked at as a test case, and a very successful test case.

How important is flexibility?

You have to have a good message, and you have to be convinced about it. If it’s like a square peg going into a round hole, and you are bringing people a message and a magazine that no one wants, and you stick to it, you are just going to go down in flames anyway.

But I do think that if you have a good idea, you’ve got to stick to it for a while because you won’t see much happening overnight. You know, it takes a while for small magazines launching on their own to grow like ours has. We are having our fifth anniversary this year, and I am only just now beginning to feel like our magazine is really taking off. It just takes so long.

When you take carrots and potatoes and chicken and you put it in a pot, it takes a while for the flavor to happen, and it does not happen overnight. If you get panicky, and you bail out before you give it a chance to get going, you are not going to have a very good stew. You just have to keep it going for a while. Obviously. Simmering that stew is expensive, and in the magazine world, not a lot of people can sit around and wait for that to happen.

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WIN Magazine: The Day Magazines Paid For “User-Generated Content”… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past.

April 7, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Magazines have been valuing their readers and their ideas for years, even before This Old House magazine became “Your Old House” for an issue a few years ago, allowing its readers to have free rein with the content. Also before many cooking magazines, such as titles from Southern Progress Corp., were asking its readers to share favorite recipes; and even before Roy Reiman built an empire based on a business model that worked successfully for him, where his readers wrote around 80 percent of the content of his magazines.

Today, it’s called “User-Generated Content” or UGC and there are all kinds of articles and inspirations out there to help one learn how to best utilize and collect this important – and you would think – newly discovered strategy. However, it’s far from new, as you read from the previous examples, and it’s certainly not unique to those prestigious entities either.

I opened up my Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault recently and dug around inside, coming up with a beautiful title from 1939 called “WIN.” And it would appear this over 75-year-old magazine’s contents were entirely reader-written, wait – that’s the same as user-generated, correct?

The tagline for the first issue of WIN dated March 1939 reads: ‘The Magazine Written By The People – Photos – Stories – Gags – Poems – etc. And not only did this magazine accept content written by its readers, it paid them for it by utilizing the received material in a contest format. Somebody had on his or her thinking cap in 1939, that’s for sure. In fact, inside the magazine, next to its Table of Contents, there is this reminder: Don’t forget, $5,000 every issue.

It’s a very good execution of what many in the media business are trying to do today. And it’s a forerunner of that brand new catchphrase: user-generated. But just remember, there is nothing new under the sun; if we’ve done it today, guaranteed it’s a long shadow and being cast from someone many decades before.

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

See you at the newsstand…

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