Archive for the ‘From the Vault’ Category

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Looking Backward Takes History, Looking Forward Makes History…

October 5, 2022

Magazines: United We Stand; Television, Internet, And Social Media: Divided We Sit. Part Two

Lessons from the past for today’s magazine editors and publishers… “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:9

October 1942, 80 years ago, Harper’s Bazaar was celebrating its 75th anniversary.  On page 32 of that issue there was an ad for Hearst Magazines, publisher of Harper’s Bazaar and seven other magazines back then.  The ad read: 

“Looking backward takes history

For three-quarters of a century, Harper’s Bazaar has brilliantly chronicled, year-by-year, step-by-step, the expanding life of a great nation, the more or less intimate details of burgeoning frontiers in many fields of thought and expression. In similar capacities these seven other magazines of the Hearst Group have reflected in their turning pages, the living history of a people – what they saw and wanted and liked, what they ate and wore and did for a living, what they reasoned and argued about and cared for deeply – as no single historian will ever be able to write it down.  These magazines are an integral portion of the past in the country. No complete picture of that past can really be obtained without consulting them. For they are history.”

“Looking forward makes history

These gratifying records of years of continuous publication and esteemed public service are rooted primarily in the determination and the capacity of these magazines to set the pace. They have made and continue to make history because they accept the challenge of the future – accept it and forecast it and help to shape it. Longevity in magazines is no happen-so, but the carefully considered and earnestly dedicated efforts of their publishers to give them a useful and valiant purpose to contribute workable material to the lives of their readers, to make them an instrument for good in the hands of the people they seek to serve.” Harper’s Bazaar, October 1942, Page 32.

And all what I can add to the above ad is a quote from the Good Book, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

In the first part of this blog I wrote (if you read part one of this blog, you can skip down to Cosmopolitanmagazine, October 1942):

“In 1788, George Washington wrote a letter to Philadelphia publisher Matthew Carey in which he expressed the hope that American magazines would succeed because he considered them “easy vehicles of knowledge” that are “more happily calculated than any other, to preserve the liberty, stimulate the industry and meliorate the morale of an enlightened and free people.” 

John Tebbel, in his book The Magazine In America, commenting on Washington’s letter, noted that magazines were incomparably better purveyors of knowledge than the newspapers of Washington’s time. I agree and would add that magazines are incomparably much better purveyors of knowledge than the internet and social media which, together with television, are becoming the major source of news and information for the people, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

80 years ago, in 1942, American  consumer and trade magazines led a campaign titled “United We Stand.” Almost every magazine in the country carried the American flag on its July cover and continued with the slogan “United We Stand” until the end of WWII.  This was a coordinated effort by the collective body of magazine publishers of that time.  Unlike  today’s internet and social media, magazines back then were attempting to unite the country, while social media, the internet and television now are allowing the country to live a “virtual civil war” with no end in sight. 

Some of those magazines from 1942 are still alive and kicking. They are still promoting the good things in life, nurturing the many changes that took and are taking place in the country.  For better or worse, magazines and their brands have contributed to the betterment of the country and its people regardless of the prevailing trends.  They were and are innovators, influencers, and educators at the same time.  This is a far cry from what social media is today or what it will be tomorrow.  Indeed, social media, with all its platforms, could be said to be united under one term, “Divided We Sit.”  The majority of magazines adhered to their roles, both social and financial, with great responsibility, unlike today’s social media that only carries the name “social” without any responsibility. In fact, social media is as unsocial as unsocial can be. 

I truly believe that the war of the 1940s was much less dangerous to our country than the “virtual civil war”we are witnessing today.  The magazines of the 1940s united together to help the country stay united and to help the American public survive and thrive in every aspect of  its lives.  What follows are a few randomly selected examples, from the Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni magazine collection, from 1942 of how magazines and their advertisers supported the war effort and helped keep our country united.  The contents and magazine experiences, both in editorial and advertising, were much more than a slogan (“United We Stand”),but rather a way of life and a call to action. 

May the editors and publishers of today’s magazines look at the history of American magazines and  discover  how magazines served their customers first–both advertisers and readers–and never veered from their mission of  editing and publishing for that intended subscriber or newsstand buyer…”

In addition to the aforementioned ad from Harper’s Bazaar above, here is the second set of examples starting in alphabetical order and based on the magazines that I own:

Cosmopolitan, October 1942

In an article by Ralph Barton Perry on page six of the October 1942 issue, he writes, “AN ARMY sergeant remarked after hearing a friend of mine explain where Hitler got his ideas, “That Machiavelli certainly was no cream puff.” He was beginning to see that something was fundamentally wrong with the present state of the world.  As long as two years ago a New Hampshire farmer of my acquaintance, who had been reading the newspapers, said, “Well, I suppose that sooner or later we’ve got to lick that man Hitler; and the sooner we get at it the better.  I’ll be seeing you on the other side.”

“Mr. Average American doesn’t regard war as a picnic or a great adventure: he can think of lots of things he’d rather be doing. But once he is convinced that there’s a job to be done, he’ll do it and he’ll see it through…”

“So when I am asked what sort of world we want, and I try to speak for other Americans as well as for myself, I say that we want a safe world, and a free world, and a just world. We want safety, freedom and justice; we want them for others, as well as for ourselves and we have come to see that we cannot have them for ourselves unless we share them with others in a common world,  All who would live in such a world must fight for it together along the hard road that ascends through the valley of war to the heights of victory.”

As for the ads, the “United We Stand” could easily be seen in the majority of the ads including this one for Pullman (The Greyhound of the 1940s)… The ad reads:

“There’s room for both…IF !

AS THINGS NOW STAND, there are enough Pullman cars to meet all requirements for troop transportation without seriously affecting civilian passenger service IF… civilian travelers cooperate in making capacity use of cars!

Therefore, you help your own cause by following these simple suggestions whenever you make an overnight trip:

  1. Make reservations as early as possible.
  2. Cancel reservations promptly if your plans change.
  3. Ask your ticket salesman on which days Pullmans are least crowded and try to travel on those days.
  4. Take as little luggage as you can.

And you get the “sleep going” that is so important when you have to “keep going” at all-out wartime pace.”

On final note, every ad page in the magazine had a sentence in the folio of the ad-page, “Keep informed – read Magazine Advertising!”

Esquire, July and October 1942

The July 1942 issue of Esquire had not one, not two, but three American flags on the cover. The main flag appeared on the traditional metallic ink section that was a trademark of Esquire’s right hand side of the cover with a list of the contents of that issue on it.  In an editorial on page 6 of this issue, the editors wrote, “WITH this issue we bid goodbye, for the duration to the metallic ink on the front cover.  Appropriately enough it goes out in a blaze of Old Glory, as it frames the flag that is a front cover feature of virtually all the magazines that are on sale the week of July Fourth this year.  Next month, to mark the transition the flag will stay on our cover, but the metallic ink will be gone…”

“At Pearl Harbor… the light of the world flickered dangerously low for a few dark hours.  But ss this is written, to the accompaniment of a broadcast of Gen. MacArthur’s communiqués concerning the results of the first Battle of the Coral Sea, the flame is rising steadily.” 

And in October 1942, Esquire, “The Magazine for Men”, and “the largest selling fifty cents magazine in the world,” continued its United We Stand campaign and Old Glory draped the content on the cover sans the metallic ink.  Old Glory continued to appear on the cover one more issue and it was retired with the December 1942 cover.

As for the advertisers, and there were plenty, they played their role in the United We Stand campaign.  Here is one example from the October issue from the United States Rubber Company. 

“Thanks for the Rubber that Saved his Life!”

“Already in America any one of a million mothers might have written that line.  Planned is an army of six million, many of them destined for overseas.

On every transport there is life-saving equipment for every man… on every plane that flies far over the water there is a rubber boat.  Such essential protection must not be skimped. It is unthinkable…

Precious life will be sacrificed unless each one of us helps. Will you do your part to the utmost limit? Will you take watchful care of your tires and every other rubber product you own so that they will last for the duration of the war?

Field & Stream, July 1942

Field & Stream, like the majority of the magazines, had a painting of the American flag on the cover together with “United We Stand” and “Buy United States War Savings bonds And Stamps.”  What was unlike the rest of the  magazines  was a spread headlined WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR :

“AS long as deep love of country burns I the hearts of our young men, we need not fear the future. The letter which we here publish speaks for itself. We are proud of this letter and proud to print it. It was written by a young student at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, to his aunt in Columbia, South Carolina.”

The magazine published the letter  and followed it with,

“We believe that no loyal American citizen can read this boy’s letter without getting a lump in his throat.  Our country may mean spruce and juniper and high mesas, or it may mean palmettos and cypress swamps.  The important thing is that it means something deep and stirring to all of us.  These are the things for which we will fight.”

On the ad front, an ad on page 84 asking readers to Give to the USO.  Under the heading The War isn’t fought in Fox Holes alone

“It’s fought in the mind. It’s fought with a will to win.  It’s fought with a belief in a cause worth dying for.

That will, that belief, is known as morale.

Our enemies have had years of indoctrination. They have been conditioned to believe themselves part of a “new order”… to which the contribution of their lives is small but important. They believe themselves cogs in a vast machine.

Our soldiers do not fight that way – because they do not live that way. They believe in the sanctity of the individual. They must be treated as persons…

Now above all times, to make your dollars count, give to the USO!

Harper’s Bazaar, October 1942

It’s the 75th anniversary issue of the magazine that was launched in 1867.  An ad on pages 16 f and 16 g for the New York Dress Institute sums the state of the magazine during the United We Stand efforts.  The ad reads: 

“A Woman’s Right of Choice”

“IN TEN SHORT MONTHS we have been hurled into a strange new world – a world battling to determine whether freedom of choice shall survive. As a people, we have cheerfully chosen to restrict our freedoms nowthat freedom itself might live.

ENTHUSIASTICALLY, we are investing our savings in the greatest cause I history.  Eagerly, we have entered into various war works.  Willingly, we have chosen to share our riches with those who share our hopes. For ours is a land of plenty in a very empty world.

IN MAKING SUCH A CHOICE, we have deliberately limited the quantity of many times essential to the war effort. This is as it should be. But, there are other goods and many workers which cannot be absorbed into war industries. These industries must be kept earning that they, too, can contribute their share to the war economy in taxes and bonds…”

And the ad concludes, 

“SO BUY YOUR FULL QUOTA OF WAR BONDS – more if you can. Then, erase every doubt that you are being unpatriotic when you choose fashions to keep you lovely.”

To be continued…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™”Husni

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Magazines: United We Stand; Television, Internet, And Social Media: Divided We Sit. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing… Part 1.

September 28, 2022

Lessons from the past for today’s magazine editors and publishers…

In 1788, George Washington wrote a letter to Philadelphia publisher Matthew Carey in which he expressed the hope that American magazines would succeed because he considered them “easy vehicles of knowledge” that are “more happily calculated than any other, to preserve the liberty, stimulate the industry and meliorate the morale of an enlightened and free people.” 

John Tebbel, in his book The Magazine In America, commenting on Washington’s letter, noted that magazines were incomparably better purveyors of knowledge than the newspapers of Washington’s time. I agree and would add that magazines are incomparably much better purveyors of knowledge than the internet and social media which, together with television, are becoming the major source of news and information for the people, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Mechanix Illustrated July 1942

80 years ago, in 1942, American  consumer and trade magazines led a campaign titled “United We Stand.” Almost every magazine in the country carried the American flag on its July cover and continued with the slogan “United We Stand” until the end of WWII.  This was a coordinated effort by the collective body of magazine publishers of that time.  Unlike  today’s internet and social media, magazines back then were attempting to unite the country, while social media, the internet and television now are allowing the country to live a “virtual civil war” with no end in sight. 

Some of those magazines from 1942 are still alive and kicking. They are still promoting the good things in life, nurturing the many changes that took and are taking place in the country.  For better or worse, magazines and their brands have contributed to the betterment of the country and its people regardless of the prevailing trends.  They were and are innovators, influencers, and educators at the same time.  This is a far cry from what social media is today or what it will be tomorrow.  Indeed, social media, with all its platforms, could be said to be united under one term, “Divided We Sit.”  The majority of magazines adhered to their roles, both social and financial, with great responsibility, unlike today’s social media that only carries the name “social” without any responsibility. In fact, social media is as unsocial as unsocial can be. 

I truly believe that the war of the 1940s was much less dangerous to our country than the “virtual civil war” we are witnessing today.  The magazines of the 1940s united together to help the country stay united and to help the American public survive and thrive in every aspect of  its lives.  What follows are a few randomly selected examples, from the Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni magazine collection, from 1942 of how magazines and their advertisers supported the war effort and helped keep our country united.  The contents and magazine experiences, both in editorial and advertising, were much more than a slogan (“United We Stand”), but rather a way of life and a call to action. 

May the editors and publishers of today’s magazines look at the history of American magazines and  discover  how magazines served their customers first–both advertisers and readers–and never veered from their mission of  editing and publishing for that intended subscriber or newsstand buyer…

Here is the first set of examples starting in alphabetical order and based on the magazines that I own:

Baseball Magazine, October 1942

Baseball magazine October 1942

An editorial comment in the magazine stated that, “Between the close of the season and the opening of the series there is ample time for a player to write his name two hundred times…”

“Would these souvenir score-cards bring one hundred dollars each? We believe there is no reasonable doubt about it.  World Series patrons are generally of a moneyed class as is evidenced by the present system of selling seats in blocks of three at advanced prices. The cards would be permanent mementos of a gala occasion, not signed by one outstanding player, mind you, but by the entire cast of a championship team.”

“These four hundred cards (two hundred from each league) sold at one hundred dollars each would bring in $40,000.00. What disposition should be made of this goodly sum?…”

“We propose, however, that war bonds by purchased with it. The sum would buy more than $50,000.00 worth of bonds. In whose names should these bonds be listed, the championship clubs, or the players? Of course not. In the name of the Cooperstown Baseball Museum, certainly.”

Although the magazine is ad-free it managed to devote a quarter page for victory and to ‘BUY UNITED STATES SAVINGS BONDS AND STAMPS.’”

Better Homes & Gardens, October 1942

Better Homes & Gardens October 1942

Under the heading “What ‘Home Front’ Means to Us” the editors wrote in the opening editorial: “THE STATUS OF HOME is thus the supreme issue in this titanic upheaval.  The guns and the tanks and the planes are deciding that issue. And thus it is that amid the blackout of barbarism we light again the candle of Liberty, seeing in in the window of the American home where it can be seen from afar. Countless millions are turning strained eyes across land and see to catch that gleam of hope shining into their despair from this Land of the Free. With every tortured breath they pray that we may be wiser and strong as we strive for the victory, and for their sakes as much as our own, we shall not fail.”

And from the ads in the magazine, here is  one example from Simmons, the makers of BEAUTYREST mattresses for their The White Knight mattress that is “made without an ounce of critical war material.” The ad encourages American that, “UNLESS U REALLY NEED a new mattress – or any other merchandise – don’t buy it! Put the money into War Savings Bonds and Stamps, instead. That way, you’ll have the money when the need does arise. In the meantime, your “idle money” will be helping to help the war.”

Children’s Activities, October 1942

Children’s Activities October 1942

Garry C. Myers, Ph.D., the editor-in-chief of Children’s Activities magazine (and four years later the co-founder with his wife Highlights for Children magazine) wrote in The Editor Chats, “We all love our country. We are proud to be Americans. We want to be GOOD Americans! Here in America we enjoy freedom. WE are free to have good schools and good communities to live in. We are free to worship God as we please.”

“Some of us have fathers or brothers or uncles who are soldiers or air pilots or who are serving otherwise in the army, navy, or air force. They are risking their lives to defend this wonderful country of ours and to save for us all that we hold dear.”

“It seems a shame that any child would harm or destroy anything of value when so many men must sacrifice their lives to save these very things from being destroyed by our enemies.”

“We can all do much to help win this war and bring it to a speedy end.  Boy and girls can do their part by trying harder always to do as they know they should do, by being thoughtful of the rights and possessions of others – in short, by being good American citizens.”

And from the ads in the magazine, (unlike Highlights for Children, there were ads in Children’s Activities magazine), an ad for DOLE Hawaiian Pineapple Products contained the following sidebar: “Get your scrap in the scrap NOW! These fighting words call for the cooperation of families to search their homes for metals and junk —  critical materials needed at one for the production of munitions, tanks, airplanes and ships.”

Consumer Reports, August 1942

Consumer Reports October 1942

The magazine that is published by the Consumer Union (CU) and does not carry any adverting ran an editorial on its inside front cover that read: “AN INEFFICIENT BUYER OR A WASTEFUL USER IS A LUXURY THE NATION CANNOT AFFORD… NEW buying problems… new problems in using… and a whole new set of forces affecting eh marketplace have enormously complicated the consumer’s job. As products go off the market, substitute products – or substitute ways for doing what the old products did – call for evaluation. Price and quality changes are altering the character of hundreds of products and simultaneously altering the consumer’s basis of choice. Scarcities must be met with entirely new standards of efficiency on the buyer’s part . CU’S WARTIME JOB is to chart these developments, advise what to do to keep apace of them, help the consumer to get the most out of his earnings while contributing the most to the war effort.  More than any other source available to consumers, the CU publications – weekly monthly and yearly – are doing this job. More than ever before you can’t afford to be without them – and your friends can’t either.

Of note is the August issue cover story was on coffee and offered readers “how to get 20 more cups per pound.”

Comments, reactions, etc. feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com or leave your comments below.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© 2022 By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D. 

Founder and Director, Magazine Media Center, U.S.A.

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Magazines In 2049: A Mr. Magazine™ Preview. The Past, The Present, And The Future: Everything Will Change Except The Experience And Ink On Paper…

September 19, 2022

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

Magazines 2049

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media

samir.husni@gmail.com

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A Tale Of Two Magazines: One & Tomorrow’s Man. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault

August 8, 2022

A Tale of America’s First Two Gay Magazines

This is a story about what many consider the first two gay magazines in America.  It is a bicoastal story for one (no pun intended) was born on the west coast and the other in the Midwest only to move at the ripe age of two to the east coast. Both died before they reached the age of 20 but the impact they left on the publishing industry and on their audience is unforgettable. One was out, and Tomorrow’s Man was in the closet. Onelaunched in January 1953 in Los Angeles and TM launched in December 1952 in Chicago.  One sold out of the 500 copies that it printed and TM skyrocketed to the largest selling bodybuilding magazine on the nation’s newsstands selling 100,000 a month.  One  labeled itself  first as “The Homosexual Magazine,” and later as “The Homosexual Viewpoint,” and TM was labeled as “America’s first homosexual directed photo magazine.”  One was published from 1953 to 1967 and TM was published from 1952 to 1971.  

The genesis behind the idea for this blog (think of it as a preface to a possible book)  is an article written by the editor of  Drum magazine in 1965. What follows are excerpts of the aforementioned article: 

The Story Behind Physique Photography

From Drum, October 1965, Volume V, Number 8

By Clark P. Polak

“The first issue had a scant 32 pages and measured a tiny 3-3/4 inches by 5-3/4 inches, selling at the then high price of 20¢. Today it has 48 pages and sells at the now low price of 35¢. Then was almost 14 years ago, the magazine was Tomorrow’s Man.

Conceived by Irvin Johnson in his Chicago Health Studio gym as an additional medium for promotion of his already successful high protein tablets, vitamin supplements and other so-called body building products, the first book was mailed to a few hundred enthusiasts.

But Johnson had bigger ideas for his little book. He managed to convince the monolithic American News Co. (now disbanded) that TM was really a body builder’s handbook and within two years his dream came to fruition with TM selling an amazing 100,000 copies per month.

The current best sellers, Strength and Health, plus many more of the ilk, were no competition to America’s first homosexual directed photo magazine, though TM has now dropped from its hey-day top.  Others have now joined the bandwagon, but TM sales, always respectable, are again rising.”

So here are the facts about Tomorrow’s Man magazine (the older of the two by one month) and One magazine…

Tomorrow’s Man magazine:

Tomorrow’s Man magazine from the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Tomorrow’s Man

Dec. 1952

Vol. 1, No. 1

20 Cents

32 pages 

3-3/4 inches by 5-3/4 inches

A New Approach To Bodybuilding

Published in Chicago, IL

Tomorrow is yours… pages 2 and 3

“You are standing on the threshold of a new life… a happier healthier existence.  The men who cross this threshold will be stronger, more efficient men, ready to assume roles in the world of tomorrow. In a world torn by strife, the demand for greater strength of mind and body is not only pressing, it is vital.

Whether you take the challenge… whether you open the door or pass it by… depends on you.  Tomorrow can be yours, but the choice is up to you. 

This magazine is dedicated to that better tomorrow. It is dedicated to the young in spirit who will be tomorrow’s men. It is dedicated to men willing to accept something new and revolutionary…

Thus we dedicate this magazine to Tomorrow’s Man. In these pages you will find new ideas on building mental and physical strength.  They are “new” only because they are just now coming into use.  Actually, they are as old as common sense. But “old men” have refused to accept them since they do not conform to old teachings.

We think you will enjoy TOMORROW’S MAN. We hope it will help you find increased physical and mental strength. We know it can… if you’re young enough to accept a “young idea.”

AN OPEN LETTER

PAGE 5

THE Before and After pictures on pages 12 and 13 speak for themselves.  They prove that the Johnson System really works.

The training program you undertake now will determine what you will be two or three months from now.

If you are really sincere, you can start your training now. Just send me a note saying “Send me full information about Johnson’s Scientific Body Building and Nutrition Course.”

IRVIN JOHNSON

22 E. Van Buren

Chicago, 5, Ill.

Table of contents is on page 7 with Irvin Johnson listed as editor and publisher. The magazine is published monthly with a subscription price of $2.00. Cover price 20¢.

One magazine:

One magazine from the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni collection

One magazine

“… a mystic bond of  brotherhood makes all men one.” — Carlyle

Vol. 1, No. 1

January 1953

Published monthly.

20 Cents  per issue, two dollars a year.

6 inches by 7 inches

28 pages

Published in Los Angeles, CA

Editorial Board: Martin Block, Dale Jennings, Don Slater. Contributing Editor: Donald Webster Corey. Business Manager: William Lambert. Circulation Manager: Guy Rousseau.

Letter to you:

ONE is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the service of humanity. Its hopes are high. Its plans ae big, but the moral support and practical backing of ONE’s readers must be had, if it is to go forward and achieve great things. There must be many and substantial financial contributions for supplies, for printing, for legal counsel, for equipment needed. The subscription rate cannot cover the cost of production, and advertisers brave enough to support such a publication may be few for some time to come.

If you cannot personally with us working side by side, your check or money order will put you into the front line. Let us show the world what we can do. It is now up to you, ONE’s readers, for this magazine will continue to go forward as fast you permit. 

THE EDITORS  

Page 3

In the June 1953 issue of One the price became 25¢ by now and the total pages still at 28 and the subscription is $2 a year. 

 On the inside front cover this was written: 

“Everyday come orders for those two historic issues, One’s first and second, January and February 1953.

Everyday we regret we had only enough cash to print five hundred copies each.

Everyday we say, “The minute we get a little ahead, let’s reprint those two.” Then the printer, paper-supplier, binder and plate-maker all gleam with high-priced delight….”

On the last page of the June 1953 issue One identifies itself as such:

“ONE is a non-profit California corporation formed, “to publish and disseminate a magazine dealing primarily with homosexuality from the scientific, historical and critical point of view, and to aid in the social integration and rehabilitation of the sexual variant.” It is also “concerned with medical, social, pathological, psychological and therapeutic research of every kind and description pertaining to socio-sexual behavior,” and aims “to promote among the general public an interest, knowledge and understanding of the problems of such persons.”

One: The Homosexual Magazine tag line appeared for the first time on the cover of the  January 1954 issue and was later changed in 1957 to The Homosexual Viewpoint.

Tomorrow’s Man was heavily driven by photography, largely semi-nude man posing in different forms of bodybuilding. One, on the other hand, was text heavy with very little photography used.

To be continued…

Comments, ideas, responses, feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com or comment in the space below.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the past, present, and future of magazine media.

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So What Is A Magazine? A True And Tested Definition… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

June 1, 2022

Defining a magazine, to some, is a very mercuric issue. To others, it is a clear cut definition. During some recent readings, I came across this definition from the book Magazines In The United States published in 1956. However, the definition is from 1908.

An issue of The Independent from 1910 for illustration purposes only…

What is a magazine?  A definition from The Independent  October 1, 1908

Early in the twentieth century The Independent, at the time a powerful weekly, could say editorially: “Modern American magazines have to a large extent fallen heir to the power formerly exerted by pulpit, by crowds, parliamentary debates and daily newspapers in the molding of public opinion, the development of new issues, and dissemination of information bearing on current questions.”

The Independent editorial writer expanded his argument by specific illustrations: “The magazine represents intellectual activity in its terminal buds. Its function is to work over old plots into new stories; to rewrite biography and history in accordance with the taste of the time, to resurrect forgotten truths, to make sound information palatable, to convert abstract science into applied science, to throw a searchlight into dark corners of the earth and some spots of our civilization, to start new movements and to guide old ones, to wake up people who are asleep by sounding the burglar alarm, to twist around the heads of those who are looking backward over their shoulders; in short, to inspire, to instruct, to interest.”

Quoted from Magazines In The United States, Second Edition, by James Playsted Wood. Published by The Ronald Press Company, New York.  Page 197.

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Protecting Your Brand. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing… From The Vault.

May 10, 2022

The following is a column I wrote for Content magazine back in 2008. Although it has been 14 years since I wrote it, I still stand by every word in it. Enjoy this journey through the Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

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

Content Magazine Issue 03 Spring 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time… all my best

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media

samir.husni@gmail.com

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In Magazine Publishing, There’s Nothing More Exciting Than The “Launch.” An Excerpt From Our Wisconsin Magazine. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

May 3, 2022

photo

Our Wisconsin magazine is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2023. In its second issue there was an editorial talking about the “joys of magazine publishing.” I found myself emailing my friend Roy Reiman, Publisher of the new magazine Our Wisconsin, and Mike Beno, the magazine editor, to ask their permission to reprint parts of the introduction to the second issue of the magazine. So without any further ado, here is an excerpt from the February/March issue of Our Wisconsin magazine:

In magazine publishing, there’s nothing more exciting than the “launch.” Not many other things in business come close to this kind of adrenalin rush.
You begin by coming up with an idea or concept for a magazine you feel is “entirely different”. You’re sure potential subscribers have never seen anything like this before.
So you spend months (in our case, we began last spring) planning the format, the design and mostly the content. And then you start gathering that content…which isn’t easy when you don’t have a publication to showanyone. You just have to wave your hands a lot and write lengthy descriptions of what you plan to do.
Then you pull all this together…sort through hundreds of pictures and ideas for articles (some terrific, some not even close)…write and design 68 pages…and finallyput the first issue on the press, printing enough to “test the market”….
And then you wait.
And it drives you crazy. You wait for more than a week for the first response…any response, to see what total strangers think of your “baby”.
“Inventing” a magazine is much more personal than inventing a lawn mower or a toothbrush. It’s more revealing of who you are; it’s an extension of your personality. There’s a lot of you between those pages. So the fear of rejection is greater.
After you put that sample issue in the mail, you’re like a field goal kicker with the game on the line, with its heel or hero element. So you wait as the ball sails…for a long week or more.
If, when the early responses begin trickling in, you learn readers don’t like the first issue, it hurts. To a degree, it’s as though you learned they don’t like you.
But when you learn they like it–and some people even say they love it–wow! That ball is sailing through the middle of the uprights, and every subscription is a pat on the back.

I love magazines, and I love magazine launches even more. That is no secret. So, when I acquire a new magazine or read a story about a magazine launch, the urge to share my love with the whole wide world is overwhelming.

A revised copy of the aforementioned blog was first published on March 30, 2013.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Newborns And The Life Cycle Of Magazines. A Grandpa Perspective… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

May 1, 2022

Today, I am the proud grandpa of seven bundles of joy. The youngest, Sophia, just turned one and the oldest Elliott is now 14. When Michael, my second grandchild, was born I wrote a blog on April 26, 2011 that is as true today as it was 11 years ago… here is a repost of that blog. Enjoy.

I am sure you’ve heard this simile before: “Launching a new magazine is like giving a birth to a new baby.” 

Well, I had the opportunity to put this simile to the test this month, and I promise this will be one of the very few times I bring personal and family issues to the blog. But as long as it is relevant, I figured why not?

My second grandson was born April 8. Baby Michael had difficulty breathing on his own (which meant we all had difficulty breathing). So, for ten days or so, the joys of birth turned into the agony of survival; and that my friends, is what led to this particular topic — the life cycle of new magazines.

When I have heard people use the aforementioned simile, I used to take it for granted. 

However, I gave it a lot of thought during the past three weeks, and decided to compare human life with the life of a new magazine. After all, I have been preaching and teaching the importance to humanize media, particularly print, for years now. Without any further delay, here are the life cycles of a new magazine:

The Joys and Pleasures of Conception
Consider the A-HA! moment when you get the idea for a new magazine and the pleasure you feel, the joy that makes you rush and share the news about your idea with others. It is the same as the pleasures of making love hoping to conceive and have a baby. 

It is the act of conceiving that brings all the joy and pleasure to the couple, the same as the act of coming up with an idea you think is going to be worth a million bucks! Many folks call me or email me daily with ideas they just conceived and want to share the news, seek advice or start the planning process of the “birth” of this new baby. It is rare during this stage that any negative thoughts come to mind. It is all about new beginnings and the joy of the moment at hand.

The Pains of Labor
Giving birth is not as much fun as conceiving. It does not take a genius or even a man to understand that. Women know it and feel it. Giving birth is hard labor, but the pains of labor are an important part of the life cycle of that newborn, whether a human or a magazine. After months of nurturing and tender loving, the time comes to give birth. 

The pains of labor are well-documented and need no explanation. Getting that first issue out, meeting the deadlines and hoping all is A-OK are all part of the life cycle. It is the same with the mother and baby. You have to go through the pains of labor before you are able to enjoy and celebrate the birth, which leads us to the next stage of the life cycle of new magazines.

The Celebration of Birth
While the pleasures of conception may last a few moments, the celebration of birth is supposed to last a lifetime. With a new birth, you are only thinking positive thoughts, happy thoughts. Excitement is in the air and all around you. You are so proud of your new baby, new magazine. 

You check every part of the baby; you check every page of the magazine. In most cases, you are there at the printer waiting for that first signature to come out from the presses. You hold it in your hands exactly like a mother holds the baby for the first time. Birth means celebration. Your future freezes at the present moment and the world gets reduced to your surroundings and the new creature (baby or magazine) at hand. You do not want any interruptions of that moment of celebration. 

Then, as if lightning strikes, reality hits — and all of a sudden, you are not alone. You discover that the joy of celebration is just the beginning to the next step of the life cycle of the newborn — the fight for survival. 

The Fight for Survival
It is a jungle out there. There are so many magazines and there are so many babies in the world. You have to carve your own niche. If the baby can’t breathe on his or her own, your entire world stops. You change course and plans. Your new magazine is out, but now you have to put it in the hands of the distributors. The tender, loving care you’ve given your new creation is no longer in your hands. Someone else is in charge. 

You feel like you are losing control, and the doctors — the distributors — are in charge of that newborn. The baby must fight for survival. The new magazine must fight for survival. 

The big difference here is new babies, thank God, have a much higher survival rate that new magazines. Here is where the similarities end: Survival rate for new magazines is less than two in 10 after four years of publishing. 

Thank goodness for human life. We age much better than magazines, but in both cases we have to start the journey of life.

The Journey of Life

As in any creation, life does not stop at birth. Life continues, day after day, issue after issue. The journey of new magazine launches starts slow, very slow, and progresses as those new magazines try to develop customers who count, thus giving the magazine a long journey in life. 

Folks in our publishing industry now plan their new launches around the 11-to-13-year life span: Three years to establish the magazine and lose money in the process of building the magazine base; four years of solid growth and money making; three to five years of reaching a plateau and one final year to prepare the demise of the publication.

Thank God the journey of life for new babies is not the same as the journey of life for magazines. The simile ends with the beginning of life. The journey, my friends, is a completely different story. Let the never-ending story begins. 

For the record, this blog has been approved by Mr. Magazine Jr.™ and big brother to baby Michael, Mr. Elliott himself.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

samir.husni@gmail.com
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March 8: It’s My Birthday… Reliving The Past

March 6, 2022

March 8 is my birthday. At age 10 I fell in love with magazines. The rest is history. A history that you will read about it soon in the book I am working on The Magazines And I. What follows is part of the book’s introduction. Hope you will enjoy…

The Beginning

Addictions can manifest in many shapes and forms. They take over your life. They can start at any age. Imagine being a 10-year-old junkie. Addicted to something with no control. If you can’t imagine it, allow me to step into your mind and help you envision it. 

In order to help you fully understand, I have to start at the very beginning. I was born and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. I can vividly recall the two things that really impacted my young life: my dad’s storytelling from the Bible and my grandpa’s reading from it. It’s the only book I ever remember my father telling me stories from, and it made a definite impression on me and how I viewed my life. It was my first interaction with ink on paper and the power it possessed.

The Box of Wonders

In those times, it was safe to go out in the neighborhood and play with friends for hours. We would interact with all sorts of people in the city. One of those people was a peddler who used to ply his wares on the streets of Tripoli. He had a container that was referred to as the “viewer’s box.” It was this big, giant viewfinder, the kind you can still buy today in the toy department at Wal-Mart, only a much, much larger version. The peddler would go around the streets of the city with a monkey sitting on top of his shoulder, and when he came into our neighborhood he would call to my friends and me to “look” into the box. He would have around ten strips inside that would tell a story. The viewer was 3D and had three openings where you could place your eyes to watch, and as we watched the slides click by, the man would verbally unfold the riveting tale while we watched.

After the short show, we would laugh and clap with delight as the monkey would come out and collect the money the man charged for the afternoon diversion. 

These small glimpses, teases, into a world of visual and verbal stimulation, would be a slight spark in a very young boy’s life that would grow to an inferno when that boy became a man.

Remembering that long-ago afternoon with the peddler’s homemade viewfinder now, I realize that that was the moment in time when I learned that the visuals can make the story. The entire tale he shared with us was based upon the pictures. 

And I suppose that was the very beginning, the first pebble that would put me on the road to my destiny. 

The Man of Steel

In 1962, we had just gotten our first television set. It was a large brown box with an oval-shaped screen that only showed pictures in black and white. In the 1960s, television in Lebanon was not available 24 hours a day. The first programming started at 6:30 p.m.  The first hour was reserved for children’s programming and then the rest of the programming was for adults, and went until 10:30 or 11:00 pm. By no means did television rule or dictate your day.

What mainly attracted us (my friends and I) to the children’s programming, were these characters: Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and Casper. Then, when I was 10 years old, we started seeing advertising touting the phrase: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Superman.”

It was a new magazine. Back then, in Lebanon, we called all the comic books magazines. The combination of the ad and the storyline was so fascinating. It made all the kids where I lived – in a 10-apartment complex – say, “Wow, I need to see this!”

When the magazine hit the newsstands, I knew I had to have it. Back then, my allowance was 40 cents a week. The magazine cost 40 cents. It was fate.

When I held the magazine in my hands for the first time, ran the pads of my fingers across the shiny cover, I felt an indescribable sensation that felt similar to an adrenaline rush. At that moment, I truly believe I was ordained, my life’s path had been chosen before I was born and at the age of 10, I was at last privy to a glimpse of my future; that day, my heart stopped pumping blood and began to pump ink.

The most important facet of the “Superman” transformation to me was the fact that it was my magazine. Mine. It wasn’t borrowed. No one was going to read it to me and not finish it. I would be able to absorb it, cover to cover, at my leisure. That was what was mesmerizingly unbelievable to me.

Without even knowing where all this would lead, or even what it really meant at the age of 10, I began the journey. I think the transformation unwittingly molded me into the person I am now as an adult: one of those people who believe it’s not as important to see the end destination as it is to be on the right track. You have to be on the right track, even if the bright path before you narrows into a dark, small tunnel. If you are, then God will make sure your end destination is beyond your wildest dreams.

And I think that’s what put me on the right track – the fascination that suddenly I was in control of the show and tell, of the story, of the imagination, of everything. 

The Art of Show & Tell

Before too long, I was designing and creating content for my own little creations. Crayon and marker magazines that became my escape into a world foreign, yet so vivid and familiar, it was as though I had known it from the womb.

Little did I know that addiction starts out this way, it was such an extreme that I would get so immersed in reading that I could not even eat without a magazine at the table next to me. I could not drink without a magazine next to me. That is, until I got married and the magazine was banned from the breakfast table or the lunch table.

I was always reading. If I was on a bus, I was reading a magazine. If I was walking down the sidewalk, I was reading a magazine. It was as though I couldn’t function normally if a magazine wasn’t with me. Addiction at its best (or worst, however you might look at it).

A funny story – I don’t know if it was funny at the time – but my dad used to be a foreman in a refinery in Tripoli, Lebanon,  and there was a private beach on the Mediterranean for the employees’ children. Every summer, a bus would run hourly and collect the employees’ children and their friends, and then bring them back home in the evening. It was approximately a 15-minute ride to the beach. One time, on the way home from the beach, I was so engrossed in reading a magazine that I was paying no attention to my surroundings and assumed that the bus had reached our apartment. Unlike the U.S., buses operated with their doors open and without seatbelts of any kind, this was the 1960s after all. As I continued reading my magazine, I stepped off the bus at what I believed to be my apartment stop. The problem was it was not my apartment stop and the bus was still in motion when I stepped off. 

Addiction or Fascination

I remember the incident vividly, as if it were yesterday, it was like something was restraining me, pressing back against my body and then fast and hard, it pushed me all the way down against the asphalt. Boom, gone. I woke up in the hospital. I saw my mom and the first thing I asked for was my magazine. I don’t know if the accident messed up my brain that day, but it seemed a good sign that the obsession, the addiction, the gift, or whatever you want to call it, clearly was in full force by that age. 

I wish I could say that after I grew up I changed my habits, but I remember as an adult, driving from my office when I was working at a newspaper, reading and flipping through a magazine that was lying on the seat next to me, not paying any attention until the sounds of car horns alerted me to look up and I realized that I had almost driven into a utility pole. At that point, I promised myself I’d never again read a magazine when I was driving. I started putting the magazines on the back seat instead of the front, but like any promises an addict makes to himself, it only lasted a week or two.

After the first issue of Superman came out, everyone was fascinated with the “Man of Steel” and the flying cape. Still to this day, I remember hearing rumors of people trying to jump out of windows when Superman first appeared on the scene. There saving grace was that they lived on the first floors of their buildings. 

As Superman became more popular, it also increased in price. And something major happened 19 weeks later when issue 19 came out on June 11, 1964. It came with a gift – a Superman emblem that you could stitch to your shirt. But as with most magazines, when something like that happens, the price is increased. The price for that issue was 70 piasters, and of course, my allowance was 40 piasters. I could not buy the magazine immediately. I asked my dad for another 30 piasters. I told him it was to buy my Superman magazine and he said he wasn’t going to give me money to waste on paper, and that I didn’t need that “stuff”; little did he know that I needed that stuff very badly. Nothing can stand between an addict and his addiction, much less a little thing like money.

In Lebanon, there were grocery stores on the corner every few blocks, one of which was located directly across the street from my apartment. You could buy sugar, milk, coffee, magazines, newspapers, and other items on a daily basis – it wasn’t a time when you could do all your shopping for the week at once. The owner of the store kept a little notebook where he would compile a tab of your family’s groceries that you would settle with him at the end of every month. One afternoon as I entered the store, my pockets 30 cents shy of the amount I needed for the issue, I wondered how in the world I was going to get that special copy without the rest of the money. I walked up to the owner.

“I would like my Superman magazine, please,” I told him, my mind churning with ideas on how I was going to pull this one off.

“The price for this issue is almost double, 70 ,” the owner said.

“Just put it on my dad’s tab,” I told him.

The minute the words flew out of my mouth, I knew there was no taking them back. And I didn’t even want to. I had to have that issue.

Needless to say, my dad saw the cost of the copy on his bill at the end of the month and I got punished with a good spanking. But…I still got my magazine.

It is Physical

I soon realized that it was the actual, physical presence of the magazine itself that grabbed me more than the content of what I was reading. Even at that young age, I knew there was more to it than just Superman. I felt that no matter how much I loved the Man of Steel, I loved the idea of the magazine more, holding it, reading the story, flipping the pages incessantly. Because I was really not as fascinated by the superhero himself as all my friends were, it was very easy for me to move on from getting every issue of Superman to getting other new magazines. I began to buy first issues of others. At that stage, it was still all comics.

Once I had a little more allowance, if I saw a magazine that I liked, I would buy it. In junior high, I used to watch my friends buying a Pepsi and a piece of cake during recess, but I would hold my 50 cents because I wasn’t going to waste it on Pepsi. I could at least buy something lasting, a magazine. That fascination was always there. I became obsessed with buying first editions. It was like some higher power put me on this track, one issue at a time. And it’s funny, when I remember sitting down to compare and evaluate those magazines, I would compare all those first editions and daydream about cover stories and what they were going to be. At that time, I was completely convinced that what I had found was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Along with my magazine addiction, I also revered education. I remember my early childhood, crying at the door, wanting to go to school with my sister and brother. I still remember on my own first day, I ran out of my new class trying to find my sister’s class. I was fascinated by the idea of school, but even more fascinated with creating my own imaginary class. I would create exams and tests for imaginary students that I would grade. I would create grade books for those imaginary students. I would lecture about different topics, and I would hold discussions with students on how they could enhance their grade. 

Today, those childhood practices seem eerily familiar.

So it begins

When I finally came to the realization that I could not buy every magazine because I didn’t have the funds, I started trying to find little jobs. In high school, I even befriended the wholesaler in town, so I could see the magazines before they were distributed that morning.

One day the wholesaler said, “Kid, why don’t you go on to school and start coming here in the evenings? I will let you see what magazines we are going to distribute in the morning and I’ll let you buy them from here.”

I was like a kid in a candy store. To be able to get the magazines before anybody else in town, the night before, regardless of the magazine, was utopia to me. 

To be continued…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center: To preserve the past, present, and future of magazine media.

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Magazines Done Well… Lessons From Harold Ross, Founder and Editor Of The New Yorker. From the Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

February 12, 2022

Digital has become an easy scapegoat to killing print.  No one will think twice to look at the real reasons for killing a print product because there is a suspect in the wings waiting to be accused: Digital.  

There is nothing new in the world of magazines and their lifecycle.  There has been always a time to be born, a time to die, and a time to be reborn.  It is the cycle of life.  Almost with every invention of a new medium, the new is blamed for the death of the old.  Remember television, the scapegoat of the 1960s?

Well, digging into my magazine collection, I came upon a two parts article about Harold Ross, the founder of The New Yorker, in 48 The Magazine of the Year from (you guessed it) March and April of 1948.  This magazine was published from March 1947 until June 1948 and was owned by a group of writers, artists, and photographers.

The Harold Ross article “Ross of The New Yorker” was written by Henry F. Pringle, a Pulitzer Prize winner.  “Ross, editor of what many consider the most civilized magazine in this country,” writes Pringle.

He goes on to write, “The New Yorker’s circulation is roughly 300,000 (remember this is 1948), but its influence is just about the editors of the really big magazines like to think their influence is. Not merely does it set fashions; it creates and changes ideas.  It has produced a whole school of writers and cartoonists…”

Ross has shaped The New Yorker “into a legend of taste, wit, and comely prose, a hornbook of the intelligentsia, begetter of literary fashions, and source of profits.”

Here are some of the facts that I have learned about Harold Ross, founder and editor of The New Yorker :

Ross “not only read every line of copy that goes into the magazine but wrangles over practically every one of the 50,000 words that make up the average issue.”

“Three editors, including Ross, read separate galley proofs and make detailed suggestions and queries… Before the article goes to press a fourth editor, a fresh mind, attacks the story and turns in final suggestions.  Altogether there are eighteen working copies of each set of proofs of every article…

This may sound overmeticulous, but out of it comes the extraordinarily high standards of style and reporting in the nonfiction pieces. But it also accounts for a certain singleness of tone, which has caused a former employee to remark, testily, that The New Yorker is written by one first-rate writer with a hundred names.”

48 The Magazine of the Year. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

“Ross actually admires creative people – this is also is rare among “important” editors – and that is why he has gathered so many of them about him… Perhaps it is inexact to say that Ross admires creative people. Really it is their output, not themselves, he cares about. The make up of the magazine is the clue to his approach to writers:  the lack of anything more than a skeleton table of contents, the unpretentious heading, the overly modest byline at the end of each article.”

Ross and his business department speak to one another about as often as Macy’s does to Gimbel’s. Although in the same building, the editorial and advertising offices are separated by two stories… The editor will brook no editorial interference from the business management; and The New Yorker’s advertisers have sometimes come in for pretty severe handling in its columns.”

48 The Magazine of the Year. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

“Personally a conservative, Ross has never allowed his social and political convictions to influence the editorial policy of the magazine.  He complained that all the good writers these days are liberals or radicals; but, if they’re good, he prints their stuff.”

And last but not least, “Ross has never allowed his name to appear on the masthead, declines to read anything written about himself, and protested vigorously, though not unamiably, when told that the present article was in prospect.”

Magazines done right.  That’s my only comment.  What say you?

Feel free to comment or email me at samir.husni@gmail.com

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