Archive for the ‘From the Vault’ Category

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A Magazine Is Worth 1,000 Websites: A Mr. Magazine™ Celebration Of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial Day. From The Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Magazine Collection.

January 16, 2022
Jet magazine. Issues from 1953 to 1969. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 will be observed on Monday, Jan. 17. As a magazine person, the only way I know how to celebrate any event, holiday, birthday, is through going into my boxes of magazines and finding reasons to celebrate. MLK’s birthday is no exception. I am working on my collection of pocket magazines of the 40s, 50s, and 60s of the last century. Pocket magazines are the little tiny magazines (4×6) that were inspired by the mini devotional magazines like Daily Word and The Upper Room and were made popular by Fleur Cowles who helped launch Quick magazine in 1949. More than 70 other titles followed Quick, including but not limited to Jet, Tempo, Focus, Picture Week, and many others.

For this blog I searched my collection of pocket magazines and decided to showcase my collection of African American pocket magazines and the magazines that carried African Americans on their covers back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s of the last century. It should be noted that Quick magazine (1949 – 1953) carried 10 covers from its 200+ covers with African American on their front page.

Quick magazine (1949 -1953). The African American Covers. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

Join me on a pictorial journey in time as we look at those covers and keep in mind if it is not ink on paper, it is not a magazine.

The Negro Review, then the New Review 1954. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni
The variety of African American magazines that were published in the 50s. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.
A Pocket Celebrity Scrapbook magazine celebrating Nat King Cole and Lena Horne. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.
Tempo magazine’s solo African American cover in my collection. Tempo was launched June 8, 1953 that was launched right after Quick stopped publishing on June 1, 1953. From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

Until the next blog, be sure to head to a newsstand near you and pick up a magazine or two. You will be living and holding history in your hands, one magazine at a time. All the best…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

samir.husni@gmail.com

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A Century Of Treasures And A Call For Action: The American Legion Weekly Jan. 6, 1922. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault…

January 5, 2022

On this day, Jan. 6, 1922, The American Legion Weekly magazine, then starting its fourth year in publishing, carried an amazing call for action on its cover with the word YOU centered and bold. In it was an urgent call to the ex-service men and women. It stated: “You are the strength of The American Legion. It will be just as strong as you build it… To keep America the way you fought for it to be — America.”

From the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni collection. The American Legion Weekly, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 6, 1922.

The call for action continues, “No man can doubt our right to speak; for if any man has earned his citizenship, if any man has a first lien upon his country, it is the man who has offered it his life; no man can be more interested in its welfare or more jealous for its future integrity and prosperity.”

Treasures only found in ink on paper magazines… enjoy, reflect, and ponder.

Until my next blog, all the best…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Quick: The Innovative Magazine That Fleur Cowles, Of Flair’s Fame, Left Behind. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault… Part 1.

December 9, 2021
Quick magazine Vol. 1, No. 6, June 27, 1949. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

If you mention Fleur Cowles’ name, Flair magazine will immediately come to mind.  The artsy, short lived (Feb. 1950 to Jan. 1951), and probably ahead of its time magazine, that Ms. Cowles edited and became famous for, is still the talk of the town when people refer to her journalistic history. In an interview in Vanity Fair magazine, she refers to a hardbound set of the original Flair magazine as her obit. She is quoted saying, “people ask me, if you could read your obit, what would it say? My answer is that I would like it to be about Flair.”

However, there was no mention in the entire in-depth interview with Ms. Cowles about another magazine she launched before Flair.  The magazine that she left behind (although some believed she was the brainchild behind it) was a newsweekly that was modeled in size after the mini devotional magazines published in that era like Daily Word (since 1924), The Upper Room (since 1934) and Our Daily Bread (since 1938), and set the stage for what so to be called “pocket” mass distributed magazines.  

Flair magazine Vol. 1, No. 1, Feb. 1950. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

She and her third husband Gardner (Mike) Cowles launched Quick magazine in 1949. It was a weekly that dealt with people, pictures, and predictions. The magazine was 4 X 6 in size, small enough to fit in a man’s shirt pocket or a woman’s purse.  Ms. Cowles was the associate editor of the magazine and her husband was the editor, the same roles they had at the more famous Cowles publication LookQuick’s concept was to give its readers “all the news and inside information you need to be well informed; its predictions will tell you of events to come. Carry it in your pocket or your purse – and read it wherever you are.”

The first few issues of the magazine, starting with the May 23, 1949 issue, were tested locally in New York City. The gradual national launch started with Vol. 1, Number 6 in June of 1949. It continued to grow until it reached national circulation with its July 18, 1949 issue. This is why the magazine celebrated its first anniversary with the the July 17, 1950 issue.

Quick magazine Vol. 1, No.9 , July 18, 1949. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

The editors of Quick wrote in the first anniversary issue, “Just one year ago this week we launched Quick across the nation. At the time, we didn’t know how you would accept it.  But the growth has been strong, rapid and continuous – greater than anybody had dared to hope for.  We started that week, a year ago, with about 290,000 copies.  Now, Quick is selling nearly 900,000 every week.”

Quick magazine Vol. 3, No. 3, July 17, 1950. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

They go on to describe the content of Quick, “Each issue of Quick contains 11,000 words, giving the most significant aspects of the biggest and latest news in 27 fields of current interest.  There are about 100 photographs in each issue – the best news and feature photographs available in the world.”

As for the idea behind the launch of Quick, the editors go on to say, “Quick gives you a short, clear, easy-to-read summary of the week’s news – just what you need to keep you informed.  We want to make Quick your most useful magazine by so editing it that you will absorb the news you need in the shortest possible time.  We know your time is valuable.”  Sounds like the Mr. Magazine’s™ tagline, “more information in less time and less space.”

But alas, like the famous song says, “only the good die young,” Quick died shortly before it celebrated its fourth anniversary.  The last issue of Quick under Cowles was published on June 1, 1953.  Editor Gardner Cowles wrote addressing the readers of Quick, “This is the last issue of Quick.  Despite the fact that 1,300,000 people have been buying and enjoying this unique news magazine, publishing costs continued to exceed revenues.”

Quick magazine Vol. 8, No. 22, June 1, 1953. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

He added, “A good many advertisers found that Quick, used ingeniously, produced good results.  Too many other advertisers felt that the small page-size was too much of a handicap.  Without a substantial volume of advertising Quick could not continue as a quality news magazine. So we decided to merge Quick with Look, and thus preserve many of the news weekly ‘s most popular features.  These will be in Look, beginning with June 30 issue – on sale June 16.”

Look magazine Vol. 17, No. 13, June 30, 1953. (To give you an idea of the difference in size between Quick and Look magazines, I shot a picture of Quick on top of Look for illustration purposes). From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

However, in its four years span, Quick magazine was innovative on many fronts in content, advertising, marketing and sponsorships. In future blogs I will address those innovations one at a time, and later will write about the return of Quick under another famous publishing figure from that era.

So stay tuned, there is much more to be written about Quick magazine… 

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A Very Happy Thanksgiving From The Mighty Magazine World…

November 23, 2021

In the November 1921 issue of Good Housekeeping, Thanksgiving was celebrated with style:  a poem by Martha Haskell Clark and decoration by Franklin Booth.  What Good Housekeeping published a century ago, is as valid today as it was then…

Below are a few verses from the poem and feel free to click on the picture below to read the entire poem.

God be thanked for acred yield, and mile-wide harvest bending

Heavy for the reaping-blades, waist and shoulder-high,

Reach on reach of golden seas, shoreless, and unending,

Where the furrow-clods lay dark ‘neath an April sky.

Lord, amid our lifted prayers, let us not forget

Little, tended garden-plots in humble dooryards set.

Simple hearts and humble hands, toiling day by day,

Dreamer-souls that keep the faith on sordid paths unknown,

Those who sow, but seldom reap, bless them, Lord, we pray,

Send full store of golden grain for every threshing-stone.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

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When GQ Was, According to Esquire, As “Beluga Is To Caviar…” A Blast From The Past. A Mr. Magazine™ Nugget.

November 15, 2021

Here’s a blast from the past, the 1958 past.  An ad for GQ magazine in its sister publication Esquire.  GQ was published by Esquire Inc. in the late 1950s and the ad (as you can see in the pictures) touts GQ as the best magazine since sliced bread… Here is a snippet of the ad:

GQ is to magazines as…Rolls-Royce is to cars… Churchill is to shotguns… Payne is to rods… Hardy is to reels… Dunhill is to pipes… Sobranie is to tobaccos… Steinway is to pianos… Steuben is to glass… Dior is to dresses… Chinchilla is to furs… Beluga is to caviar… Dom  Perignon is to champagnes… Joy is to perfumes… Picasso is to pictures… Bardot is… but you get the idea. In every field there’s something that’s so fine and rare that people who’ve had their fill of the ordinary, and know enough to want and appreciate the best, are drawn to it like cats to catnip…

Do you know of a magazine today that the aforementioned similes can describe?  Would love to hear your views…

Until another Mr. Magazine™ Nugget, all the best…

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Music And Entertainment 1953 Style… The Magazines And I, Chapter 12, Part 2.

November 3, 2021

Music and Entertainment Magazines … is the 12th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter 12 part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

In March 1953 magazines that covered music and entertainment offered a great service to fans by providing current gossip of their favorite actors, singers, heartthrobs, many song lyrics and melodies, plus other pertinent information for people clamoring to be in-the-know. 

We have to remember that at this time, television was still in its infancy, basically still a “talking piece of furniture” that many were trying to adjust to and get to know. And while TV Guide was published in April 1953, and was a very big title, it did have regional predecessors that covered the infant television scene before the launch of the national edition on April 3, 1953. 

Music and entertainment magazines were the eyes and ears for fans, doing what the Internet and television does today for many people. In March 1953 there was a “channel” for every aspect of a fan’s interest, from honing their own musicality by learning lyrics to their favorite songs to enhancing their knowledge of popular movies and their stars. Magazines were the Internet of the times once again…and March 1953 had some of the best.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

MODERN SCREEN

For over 50 years, Modern Screen was an American fan magazine that featured articles, images and personal interviews with movie stars, and later on many television personalities. The magazine debuted in the fall of 1930 and was founded by Dell Publications. Soon it became the direct competition for Photoplay and was one of the most popular “screen” magazines around, boasting the tagline America’s Greatest Movie Magazine. 

The March 1953 issue was certainly eye-catching with the lovely Rita Hayworth on the cover. The Talk of Hollywood was older wives with younger husbands, so there was an article on that and a romantic love story about actress Ann Blyth and her one true love. It was a time of Hollywood magic and this issue glittered that starlit path splendidly. 

MOTION PICTURE AND TELEVISION MAGAZINE

This title was a Fawcett Publication, which had a bevy of magazines, comic books and “Gold Medal” books, a line of paperback originals, which became a defining turning point in paperback publishing. Motion Picture And Television Magazine was an original movie fanzine full of gossip and romance for Hollywood fans of the ’50s. The magazine promised to incorporate screen life, Hollywood and movie story magazines, which was actually its tagline.

The March 1953 issue had Janet Leigh on the cover (a very young Janet Leigh) and declared that there were things us fans didn’t know about her personal life. Hmm… well of course, we just had to know. There were surprising true confessions of the stars – a very popular feature, I’m convinced. All in all, the magazine was another addition to satiate the cravings people had about Hollywood and all she entailed. It was a terrific read.

MOVIES

Movies magazine came from Ideal Publishing Corporation and Publisher William Cotton, who was known for his pulp magazines. Cotton was about building circulation and serving his demographic. He courted advertisers from a general perspective. He didn’t expect Chanel or Cadillac to advertise with him, but the more down-market products were right there with him. And in turn, publishing pulp made Cotton a very wealthy man. From Hollywood to personal romances, William Cotton ran the gamut of titles.

The February/March issue of Movies featured the usual talk-of-the-town. Marilyn Monroe’s Doctrine, an article by actor Robert Wagner and Debbie Reynolds, along with other scrapbook items for fans. The cover showcased the lovely Marilyn Monroe and offered her Secret Code for Life. You couldn’t get more Hollywood than Marilyn. 

MOVIELAND

Hillman Publications created this Hollywood monthly, competing directly with Bernarr Macfadden and Fawcett Publications. The magazine was another leg on the stool of celebrity entertainment, offering exclusive interviews, images and features.

The March 1953 edition had a magical picture of Doris Day on the cover in a pink chiffon dress that billowed out from her body as though in flight. One cover line beckoned for you to meet the new and sexy June Allyson and absorb five pages of Marilyn Monroe pin-ups. 

MOVIE LIFE

Movie Life was published by Ideal and William Cotton, another Hollywood title so popular in those days. Celebrity magazines have always been big sellers and eye-catchers, so no wonder Cotton kept adding to his stable of titles. Movie Life was a magazine filled with great images of movie stars, such as Esther Williams and Tony Curtis. The life the stars lived was something we all wanted and what better way to get it than from the pages of a vivid magazine.

March 1953 saw Lana Turner on the cover with picture scoops of Esther Williams, Howard Keel, Debra Paget and Dale Robertson. Actress and singer Gail Davis showed us the make-up styles of the day and how to apply them properly and we could read all about life with Lana in the cover story. It was a nice addition to the genre.

MOVIE PIN-UPS

Here comes another Ideal Publishing title from Mr. Cotton. This one was filled with sexy Hollywood sirens, both male and female, in various modes of poses. All in perfect form to clip the pictures from the magazine and hang on your wall. This title was just another in a long list of pulp-type magazines that made a small fortune for William Cotton.

The March/April 1953 issue had a beautiful image of Arlen Dahl that fans were sure to love, along with pictures of Debra Paget, Virginia Mayo and many others. The images and the poses were very tastefully done and just beckoned to be clipped out and hung up. Great photography. 

To be continued…

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

October 7, 2021

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

Point: So What Is A Magazine, Really?

By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

President & CEO, Magazine Consulting & Research, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counterpoint: So What Is A Magazine, Really?

By Bo Sacks

Founder & President, Precision Media Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 5, 2021

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

Magazines 2049

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life After The White House: A Revealing Article From A Century Ago

January 16, 2021

Magazines then and magazine now: they still play an important role in informing, entertaining, and educating their audiences. From my vault, The Mentor magazine, March 1921, an article revealing what the presidents of the United States did after leaving office. The article covers presidents Washington to Taft. I wonder who will take the task to cover life after The White House since 1921 until today… Enjoy the article:

The Mentor magazine, March 1921

AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE — WHAT?

What shall we do with our ex-presidents? This question comes up regularly in the United States following presidential elections. History shows that some of the ablest national leaders have left the White House impoverished by their devotion to public affairs. From time to time efforts have been made to provide the retiring executive with a pension or some other form of income. These plans, however, have never passed the stage of discussion.

Five of our 27 presidents have died in office. The average life of the rest, after quitting the presidential chair, was 13 years. Two only held office after leaving the White House – John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson; the former became a senator from Massachusetts, the latter a senator from Tennessee nine years after ending his term as president. John Tyler became a member of the Confederate Congress, but died before it convened. 

Grover Cleveland was the only president to return to the White House after retirement. Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Roosevelt sought to and failed.

Martin Van Buren lived the longest of any ex-president – 31 years. John Adams and James Madison lived 25 and 27 years respectively. 

John Adams lived long enough to see his son, John Quincy Adams, elected to the highest office; the son had been in office 15 months when his father died, July 4, 1826 at 90 years of age. Thomas Jefferson died the same day; he had been president 17 years before. 

Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather, “Tippecanoe” Harrison, died in 1841, one month after he was inaugurated. 

Misfortune seemed to follow General Grant from the moment he stepped out of office – financial losses, illness and death. 

Following is a record of ex-presidents:

Washington served as commander-in-chief of the army in 1797. 

Adams practiced law at Quincy, Mass.

Jefferson refused a third term and devoted the remainder of his life to educational work.

Madison became a gentleman farmer and was a delegate to a constitutional conference.

Monroe became a regent of the University of Virginia, but suffered great financial distress and was enabled to die in peace only after Congress had voted him a gift.

John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives after being President.

Andrew Jackson lived in retirement. 

Martin Van Buren failed in his effort for re-nomination in 1848 four years after ending his term.

Polk retired to his home at Nashville, Tenn. Taylor died in office. Fillmore failed to win re-nomination in 1856 and retired. Pierce retired after failing to win re-nomination. Buchanan retired. Lincoln was assassinated in office. Johnson completed his term in 1869 and was elected senator in 1875. Hayes occupied himself with educational work until his death. Garfield was assassinated in office. Arthur failed to win re-nomination and retired. Cleveland practiced law in New York City; was reelected in 1892, and lectured at Princeton University after completing his second term. Harrison practiced law, wrote and served as a commissioner in the Venezuela boundary dispute settlement. McKinley was assassinated in office. Roosevelt hunted in Africa, wrote, traveled, explored and participated in public affairs until his death. Taft became a member of the faculty at Yale University

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The Saturday Evening Post At 200: Yes, It Is Still Being Published And Still Celebrating America’s Past, Present, and Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Slon, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher & Jeff Nilsson, Director Of Archives…

December 2, 2020

“There has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America.” Steven Slon… 

“There are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.” Jeff Nilsson…

The Saturday Evening Post Then August 8, 1862
The Saturday Evening Post Now November/December 2020

In 2021 The Saturday Evening Post will celebrate 200 years of chronicling American history in the making. From Napoleon to Lincoln to The Civil Rights Movement, the magazine has been a staple and a part of our American culture for generations. 

With the upcoming celebratory milestone, I spoke recently to Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of The Post’s archives and we talked about what some have called the most significant of the early magazines. Its rich history and still-strong future gave us quite a lot to discuss and the conversation was as fascinating as the magazine itself.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve and Jeff as we take a look back, a present glimpse, and a glance into the future of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Jan. 1, 1921 cover

But first the sound-bites: 

On The Saturday Evening Post’s claim that it was founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin when it was really launched in 1821 (Steven Slon): The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on. 

On what role The Saturday Evening Post plays in today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

On whether he feels The Saturday Evening Post is swimming against the current in today’s magazine publishing world (Steven Slon): We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue.

Steven Slon

On why Beurt SerVaas thought the magazine was worth saving in the 1960s (Steven Slon): To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

On what the 200-year-old legacy of The Saturday Evening Post means in today’s world (Steven Slon): I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country.

Jeff Nilsson

On how The Saturday Evening Post has coped over the years with each facet of new media, from radio to the Internet (Jeff Nilsson): Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

On the future of The Saturday Evening Post as it enters its third century (Steven Slon): The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Steven Slon): We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Jeff Nilsson): I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country.  

On whether The Saturday Evening Post would be considered a history of American taste or just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history.

On what’s in store for the celebration year of 2021 (Steven Slon): The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

On why magazines of today are so different from the magazines of yesteryear (Steven Slon): There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Steven Slon): I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Jeff Nilsson): I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.

The Saturday Evening Post September 29, 1821

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of archives, The Saturday Evening Post.

Samir Husni: In 1821 The Saturday Evening Post was launched and it became the most important magazine in American history, according to many historians. Yet, some were confused when The Saturday Evening Post added the tagline “Founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin” before even Benjamin Franklin started his own magazine in 1741. Can you tell me about that story?

Steven Slon: The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on.

Now there’s a bit of a real connection in the sense that the founders of The Saturday Evening Post in 1821 were modeling on some of the work of Benjamin Franklin. And they also published it, printed it in the same printing shop in Philadelphia that Benjamin Franklin had used so that they could claim a little, let’s say paternity. (Laughs)

The Saturday Evening Post May 3, 1862

Samir Husni: But in 1821 Benjamin Franklin was dead. 

Steven Slon: And his publications, The Pennsylvania Gazette, whatever, had been gone for 15 to 20 years. The real start of the magazine, granted it owes a debt to the kind of thinking and the style and tone of Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette, the magazine was founded in 1821, the real publication. And it really had no direct link. We’re now counting it the real way and we feel that 200 years is a pretty long history. And it makes us the oldest magazine in America.

Samir Husni: And of course, the folks at the Old Farmer’s Almanac will say that they’re 225 years old, but the difference is they are an annual and you’re a periodical publication. 

Steven Slon: Yes. 

Samir Husni: What role is The Saturday Evening Post playing today? You have a 200-year-old history, but how is that past relevant in today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

We’re also in the tradition of, from the earliest platforms that were released in the early part of, certainly the 20th century, the idea that we want to be known for unbiased reporting, we don’t take sides. For example, in the recent, current election we’re not taking sides, we’re sending issues that relate to some of the big trends in the country, such as America’s divide and what can be done about it. We’re not saying that we support one candidate over the other. In addition, we’re a nonprofit, so we’re a 501(c)(3), we’re not really committed to advocate politically.

The Saturday Evening Post August 27, 1898

Samir Husni: As you look at the status of magazine publishing, and as you look at the extreme niche that we’re moving into, it seems many are calling print a luxury item now and believe you have to sell it with a cover price of $10 or $15 or even more, how does it feel to be swimming against the current? You have a magazine like The Saturday Evening Post, still with a cover price of $5.99 and still printing a quarter million copies or more every other month, do you feel you’re swimming against the current? And what do you hear from your audience?

Steven Slon: We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue. 

Our readers like it. Granted, we’re swimming against the tide, but we hear from our readers that they’re very satisfied. Our renewal rates are historically high for magazines.  And we’re happy. As an editor, certainly I’m happy to be producing a magazine where you get to talk about lots of different things. I have a short attention span, I want to hear about this and a little bit of that, and I think our readers do too.

Samir Husni: The Saturday Evening Post has died and come back several times over these 200 years of existence. And really, the major salvation for the magazine came in the 1960s when all three biggies, Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post were facing their demise, but someone came to the rescue and bought The Post along with its archives. Can you talk a little bit about why Beurt SerVaas thought it was worth saving?

Steven Slon: To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

The Saturday Evening Post December 30, 1899

The story of why it went into bankruptcy is rather involved, but I’ll just briefly say that in the early 1960s The Post actually hit its highest circulation numbers, it was over six million. And in some regards, it became top-heavy, and it was very expensive to produce that many copies. And when small details go wrong, the whole thing began to collapse. They started buying timberland to control the paper and the value of the land went down and then they tried cutting circulation, limiting it to the higher income zip codes. And that turned off a lot of readers because it’s a magazine for average folks, it was never a New Yorker, a high-brow magazine, it was a magazine for middle-grounders, regular people. There was an author in The Post who found out after receiving his check for his article that they were taking him off their subscription list. Sorry. (Laughs) 

In any case, Beurt SerVaas was brought in to help break up The Saturday Evening Post. And in doing so, he saw value, not so much in The Post, but in the children’s magazines, Jack and Jill and Child Life. And at the time these were circulated through schools and were very profitable. And he thought that would be of some value to him, so he wanted to preserve that. So in the process he shipped all of the equipment and materials, what was left of The Post, out to Indianapolis. 

But in doing so there were several Rockwell canvasses lying around the office. In those days, they were considered to have no value, even Rockwell didn’t value them. He had gotten paid for them and in some cases he gave them away like to the local Boy Scouts for an auction. One of his canvasses went at auction for 50 cents in the ‘50s or ‘60s. And he called SerVaas and said that he’d like to come down and pick up his paintings. 

So, he came down in his old station wagon, drove down by himself and threw his paintings in the back, just tossed them in. Rockwell told SerVaas that he was glad he was taking over the company and hoped he could revive the publication. SerVaas told him sure, he could maybe do that, but he said it sort of noncommittally. 

Then later, Norman Rockwell was on The Today Show and he was asked about what was going to happen to The Saturday Evening Post, because as you and I know this was such a big publication, it was as if a network TV station had gone out of business. Rockwell then said that he’d met the new owner of the company and that he was going to relaunch The Saturday Evening Post. He mentioned that they were in Indianapolis and they received bushels of mail from people across the country wanting to know when they could get the magazine. 

So Beurt SerVaas said to his wife Cory, I guess we’re launching this magazine. (Laughs) And you’re going to be the editor. So, his wife Cory, who was an M.D. and not someone in the publishing business became the facto editor of the magazine and it went on from there. And it was very heavily focused on health reporting in those years, but otherwise they kept a lot of the traditions alive. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 30, 1916 (First Norman Rockwell cover)

Samir Husni: You have a rich archive with 200 years of magazines, and the last time I visited The Post they were digitizing everything. What do you think the legacy of The Saturday Evening Post is today?

Steven Slon: I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country. 

At the turn of the century, America was not in any sense a “United” States. There were pockets of immigration all over, people speaking different languages, there were different cultures. And remember travel was difficult at the time, for the average person they may not have gone 20 miles from home, you traveled by horse and buggy, cars were just a new concept that very few people had. So, The Post gave this picture of America, partly through its covers, its portraits, its illustrations, a picture of America that people could relate to and say yes, that’s who we are, especially when you look at Rockwell and the sense of unity, the sense of children playing, the sense of adults working the commuter life in later years, were brought to life by The Post and it was a shared experience that helped create a part of that feeling of being united. 

We have this incredible archive in which we have completed our digitization and relaunched our website about a year ago with full access to all but a few issues of the magazine, all the way back to 1821. You need to be a subscriber to get full access, but if you go online a lot of the time we surface selections from our past, flipbooks, and tell a story about a particular story that ran and allow people to read it. But subscribers can go to any edition of the magazine and read through it at any time. So, all of this great history is there for the reader to have and it’s an American treasure. 

The Saturday Evening Post July 5, 1919

Samir Husni: With its history, you have a magazine that has witnessed the birth of radio, television, the Internet and digital. Do you have a sense of how the magazine coped with all of this new media, how it adjusted?

Steven Slon: I can talk about digital because that’s something that we’re involved in right now. It’s a good point, certainly, TV did not hurt The Post in the mid-century because – actually I can’t speak to that, I don’t know why. The publication is a different experience, reading a magazine and watching TV, those are two discrete things. 

I think that digital is hurting the basic news business because we learn things in minutes, in seconds. For example, Biden being declared the winner recently. Everybody was talking about that within seconds of its occurrence. In the early part of our existence, we reported on the death of Napoleon within two or three weeks, and that was fast then. (Laughs) So, it’s hurting that kind of reporting, but our well is featured stories that are timely, sensitive and relevant, but they’re not based on breaking news. As a bimonthly, one can’t be anyway. 

Jeff Nilsson: Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

And in the 1950s as television started up, they ran several articles to talk about how television was having trouble. It had trouble because the networks weren’t putting any money into television, they thought it would fail. But in the early reporting by The Post, they sort of stood back and considered it to be an unusual, two-headed dog of entertainment. They didn’t really take it seriously until the 1960s. 

The Saturday Evening Post responded to that by sort of giving television a bad edge and they talked about the cultural wasteland, which is what one of the famous critics of the 1960s called television. But by the mid-sixties, they realized that television was here to stay and that we would look stupid if we didn’t start covering television as part of our mix of editorial content. 

So, from that point on they did start taking it seriously, but I think that radio had started the drift away from print and even from what I’ve read the numbers of The Post had started to decline a little before the Second World War. With the Second World War though there was a paper shortage and the magazines were limited as to who could publish and who couldn’t. The Post had all the paper that it needed, though flimsy of stock, but they were able to enjoy a closed market and people were hungry for information during the war. So it boosted us up, but the plateau was not exactly level and it was declining somewhat. Even in the ‘50s when our numbers were still good, we got up to six and a half million in subscriptions in the early ‘60s, but even so they could realize that magazines weren’t growing at the same rate they used to. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 29, 1943

Samir Husni: As the magazine enters its third century, what’s the future for The Saturday Evening Post? 

Steven Slon: The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate. 

People read it, but that’s still a small percentage of the population. So, it’s somewhat hermetically sealed. Our readers love us and they enjoy it. It’s hard to get the word out to people beyond that. And we’re hoping in a way with our 200thanniversary we can get the word out. Hey, we’re still here and we’re incredibly vibrant and alive, interesting and diverse. 

Samir Husni: Do you have a story to tell that will shed this idea that the magazine is dead? 

Steven Slon: We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines. 

Why is that? As an editor I want to say that it’s about the quality. It’s about good reporting, tight editing, respect for the reader, and again to clarify, we’re not a nostalgia magazine, we’re a magazine that shares its past,  but we’re a magazine about what’s going on today and the trends. I just think it’s a great magazine and I think quality is what makes a magazine sell and grow. And people have to hear about it, of course to do that. 

I can share a story. I was giving a talk about the history of the magazine, showing slides of the new covers and so on that we’re doing, keeping up the tradition of the great art covers of the past. And somebody raised their hand in the audience and asked, you’re completely online, so how do I get the magazine? And I said I’ve just been telling you for an hour that we’re still in print. But people have it in their heads that we’re not, so it’s hard to break through that.

Jeff Nilsson: I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country. 

If you think about where the magazine is right now, we have at least 100 years, more than a hundred years, that we have really been reaching to American standard tastes. Now in an age of continual change, where there is so much that isn’t recognizable, The Post stands out as something that is more of a standard. This is how Americans have entertained and educated themselves for hundreds of years, and will keep going in that way. But now, in my mind, the phrase keeps coming back now more than ever when people are wondering what is it that defines being American, what is the American experience. We are probably as good a reflection as any magazine if not better. 

Steven Slon: And I’d like to add that there has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America. 

The Saturday Evening Post February 13, 1960

Samir Husni: With this rich history, how are you making use of it and how are you promoting it for a new generation? Is there a chance that The Saturday Evening Post will be considered a history of American taste or is it just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history. 

In 2008 to 2010, there was the economic crisis that we were facing and we could talk about the bank crisis of 1907 because we covered it. We did a story that showed the ups and downs of the banking system over the years and showed that these down moments were part of a cyclical trend rather than just a one-off event, which when in real life it appears we’re in the midst of a banking crisis and it seems to be a unique event, but in fact it has a history. 

In our current issue we have a small selection of some of the ads that ran in the 1950s that would be shocking if you saw them today. We actually say on our cover “Censored” 1950s ads. These are ads that portrayed women as domestic tools of the family whose only care and interest for Christmas gifts was to get a new vacuum or a new refrigerator, some tool of the trade. And men were juvenile, and not to mention we have pictures of cowboys and Indians, costumes for kids that were completely cultural appropriation and all that. 

And then of course, cigarette ads. There is this incredibly funny ad, a picture of Santa with a cigarette in his mouth, promoting the T-zone or whatever it was, what a good cigarette.

Samir Husni; And you can do that because you’re no longer on the newsstands. I remember when you did the Kennedy reprint, you could not put it on the newsstands because of the cigarette ads.

Steven Slon: I didn’t check into that, but you’re probably right. But I think because we’re showing it in a historical context, we’re not actually running an ad for cigarettes.  

Jeff Nilsson: You asked about the relevance of historical material. I have to keep reminding myself as a historian, I think this is all interesting. I always say that if you don’t know how you got here, you don’t know where you are. But when I think about the readers of The Post, I think about having visited some friends and they bring out their family album. Nothing is more boring than somebody’s family album. You don’t know any of these people. 

And American history is very much the same way. If you don’t know what’s going on it’s just a number of incoherent stories. Our job is to provide history that people can see a connection to, see how it affected their lives, see how it parallels with what is going on. And if we can’t do that then yes, we are a nostalgia magazine, but we’re making sure that this is relevant, that all the material in the vaults somehow touches on experiences and thoughts that people have today. And that’s our goal and that’s how we’re going to stay relevant.

The Saturday Evening Post August 8, 1964

Samir Husni: Can you see yourself as the bridge that connects yesterday with tomorrow?

Jeff Nilsson: Sure. I’ll take that exactly as it is. I’m going to copy that one. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Tell me about 2021, the celebrations. What’s in store? Will you be celebrating the entire year?

Steven Slon: The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

Jeff Nilsson: Yes, we got that to the newsstand within a week, which was very unusual.

Steven Slon: And then in future issues we’ll celebrate fiction. And I’ll read off a few names. This is the thing that people don’t realize, in the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Washington Irving and Mark Twain were all published in the magazine. 

In the 20th century Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Call of the Wild was first published in The Saturday Evening Post before it was put out as a book, Ring Lardner, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story unto himself, 68 stories published in The Saturday Evening Post over the years. The first story he was paid $400 which in the ‘20s was huge money. By the end of his tenure with The Post, he was being paid $4,000 per story. That was what some people made in a year then. So, a well-paid job. He was able to travel the world, squire Zelda around to their European extravagance, was criticized by other writers like Hemingway for frittering away his talents on short stories when he could have been writing novels, but he was being paid so well he didn’t need to. 

And then of course later, Kurt Vonnegut. And we had great reporting. In the sixties with the “new” journalism. We had the writers associated with the new journalism who wrote for The Post. 

Jeff Nilsson: Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion.

Steven Slon: Yes. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that was published in its entirety, it was assigned and published by The Post. Eisenhower’s memoirs was published in The Post, his war memoirs before he became president.

Samir Husni: Why are today’s magazines nothing like what magazines used to be? Unless you disagree with me and then if you could tell me how they are the same.

Steven Slon: There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme. 

We can do it because we’re a nonprofit, we’re not just chasing the easiest dollar. Certainly with magazines today, many of them are purely a business operation, it’s let’s find interest groups and target them and it’s an easier sell. We’re targeting Americans in the broad sense. We could be a much bigger circulation .

The Saturday Evening Post Sept./October 2020

Samir Husni: We are seeing a huge increase in Black subjects on the covers and inside the pages of American magazines. We’ve seen more in the last 120 days than we have in probably the last 120 years. Any idea how The Saturday Evening Post dealt with diversity? Were minorities and people of color a part of the magazine?

Steven Slon: I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe. 

I would add that today we are making it a renewed commitment to diversity. We have a big article coming in the next issue about a school that has made an extraordinary drive to increase diversity and support low-income students whoever they are without any concern for their ability to pay. And how they have created extraordinary change in their culture. 

We covered Black Lives Matter in our kids magazines this year. Actually, one of our kids magazines had an article, first-person story about teenaged kids who attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration over the summer and how they were moved by it. So, I think that has to be part of the conversation going forward. 

Jeff Nilsson: I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery. 

In the 1900s they were reporting on how the Black vote was being suppressed in the South. In 1917 they were talking about Black troops and how they had acquitted themselves with such honor that they were showing up the white troops that they were serving alongside of. In the 1940s they were saying that this was their country too and Blacks should be able to serve in combat roles. Starting in the Civil Rights movement we had a number of pieces talking about the Freedom Riders in the South and the young people who were getting involved. We had a piece by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Steven Slon: There was a cover story on Malcolm X and we also did an in depth story about Jackie Robinson and the behind-the-scenes planning that led to his being placed in the Major Leagues. There was some subterfuge involved and they pretended he was being prepared for a Minor League team when in fact the plan was to put him in a Major League team. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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