Archive for the ‘From the Vault’ Category


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

October 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can an entrepreneur give the concept that special spin?

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

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

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

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

Is there anything you would have done differently?

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give for recruiting staff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you do most of your work in-house?

Most of our writing is freelanced.

Is that something you’ve done from beginning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about advertisers?

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

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

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

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

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

How important is flexibility?

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

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

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


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

April 7, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

See you at the newsstand…


The Third Sex: Now And Then. There Is Nothing New Under The “Magazine” Sun…

March 17, 2017

This week’s issue of TIME explores how fluid expressions of gender and sexuality are increasingly moving from the margins to the mainstream. TIME’s Katy Steinmetz reports, “A growing number of young people are moving beyond the idea that we live in a world where sexuality and gender come in only two forms.”

The above quote is taken word for word from the TIME magazine press release this week. As you can see by the cover to the right the issue deals with what some are calling “The Third Sex.”

But, wait a minute. Is it really true that this is a new subject and the young people are talking about this now! I beg to differ and so does He, The Magazine for Men, from July 1953. Yes you read that right: 1953.

The main cover line for that issue was The Third Sex: Transvestites. The Truth About Christine.

The inside headline read: TRANSVESTITES CHRISTINE JORGENSEN: MEMBER OF THE THIRD SEX? The editors wrote in the intro to the story,

“The following article is based on an exclusive interview with Miss Jorgensen’s personal medical advisor. It has been supplemented with research in transvestism and allied fields. The Editors believe it to be the first authoritative report on an area of behavior which has too long been kept from the public.”

So take a look at the article above and judge for yourself. There is a rich history in magazines both old and new for those who are willing to do their homework… There is nothing new under the magazine sun!


Introducing A New Auto Magazine Circ’ 1962: “There Has Been No Periodical To Truly Reflect The Grandeur, The Majesty, The Adventure That Is The Automobile…”

March 10, 2017

From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault:

Automobile Quarterly: First Issue, Spring 1962 —
“The Connoisseur’s Magazine of Motoring Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow.”
As fate will have it, the magazine folded in 2012, the same year its founder L. Scott Bailey died. A beautiful publication with a hard-back cover sold for $5.95 an issue… If you are thinking of starting a new magazine, read the introduction to the first issue of the magazine and use it as a great example of setting the DNA for your new magazine and its position in the marketplace.

Here’s the intro:

The automobile is an extreme passion with us. As writers, editors and artists we have been drivers, racers and collectors, carrying on a continual love affair with the motorcar. In touring, we have discovered the beauties of the American countryside… in racing, the supreme challenge of speed…in collecting; we relive the great moments of a glorious past. And all the while we have searched for a publication to meet the demands of our enthusiasm and have found a void in the field of automotive literature.

There has been no periodical to truly reflect the grandeur, the majesty, the adventure that is the automobile… none to depict in spirit nor in dimension the lineal beauty of our fond obsession. Nor does any periodical begin to capture the tangible satisfaction comparable with the ownership of our elegant motorcar.

To these ends, we have drawn upon the talents of the world’s leading writers, illustrators, designers and industrialists and created an articulate quarterly, outstandingly designed in hard-cover format, dedicated to pay tribute to the past, the present and the unlimited future of the automobile.

Far too long, the automobile, a long, sleek thing of beauty, has been cramped and channeled into the standard, vertical magazine page.

In our new, iconoclastic, horizontal format we will bring into full perspective the triumphant architecture of the automobile, pioneering many new and varied art techniques. With a glimpse of the past, yet an eye to the future, we will cover significant aspects and obligations of the motoring world. Only in this spirit of dedication and devotion can we hope to make each issue surpass the preceding one, giving delight to the eye, keen satisfaction to the mind and a treasured heirloom for generations to come.

The Editors


From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault: Magazines From 1919 and 1932 — Similar Topics As Magazines From 2017, But Perhaps Better Coverage And Content?

February 21, 2017

Second of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

the-independent747the-independent-inside749the-indie-4752When it comes to the creative innovations of today, we have a tendency to think that 21st century humans are the “be all and end all” of everything. But Mr. Magazine™ is here to tell you that is simply not the case. Inside my classic vault of vintage magazines, you’ll find stories and articles that are 50 years, or much older, which cover many “cutting edge” topics.

For example, I have a copy of The Independent magazine that was published weekly by the Independent Corporation in New York. This magazine incorporated Harper’s Weekly within its pages. The lead story in this particular August 2, 1919 issue is “Can Congress Compromise?” The story talks about the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans (way before Presidents Trump, Obama, or Bush were even born, imagine that), and there is another article about “The British Ratification,” which is very similar to today’s British Brexit. There is a story titled, “Another Mexican Crisis,” one about “The Public Utility Crisis,” and one called “The Washington Riots.” An editorial about “The Black Man’s Rights,” and one titled, “The New Melting Pot.” Is any of this sounding familiar? If it isn’t, where have you been for the last several months and years?

And from the September/October 1932 issue of Asia magazine, an article entitled, “The Stars and Stripes Overseas,” in which the president of the American University of Beirut,(Lebanon), gives an observation on the appropriate conduct of Americans overseas, leading with principles by which our contacts with foreign nationals should be governed:

asia748I. We should not attempt to work abroad at all unless we can improve upon the methods of local agencies and take the time to carry on our activities in a thorough and creditable way.
II. Our contacts abroad should be based upon a sincere exchange of ideas. We should wish to learn as well as to teach.
III. We must base our success on personality rather than on organization, creed or propaganda.

The idea that the world we live in today is any different than the world people lived in decades ago is simply narcissistic. And the one thing that you can count on to show you that fact is a magazine. I have said it repeatedly; magazines are reflectors, mirror images of ourselves and what is going on around us. But rest assured, there is nothing new under the “creative innovation” sun when it comes to ideas, political landscapes, or the interaction between people of all cultures.

So, when you see the cover of your favorite magazine depicting our President as a strong leader or a shyster, because both sides are out there, remember that 75 years from now, President Trump may be proving another point besides the fact that he can indeed win an election; he might be proving that someone else isn’t the first of their ilk to do it!

Until next time…

act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.


I Miss This Type Of Journalism: A Monthly Magazine Without Political Slant or Personal Bias…

September 30, 2016

From the Mr. Magazine™ Vault…

The above magazine Know The FACTS, with a tag line that reads,”A Monthly Magazine Without Political Slant or Personal Bias”. In addition to the tagline, the magazine published a creed on the back of its first anniversary issue dated February 1956. The Creed reads:

In the Power of Truth. That the American people want the Facts and all the Facts.
That the people are willing and able to face all the Facts squarely, at all times.
That they want the Facts without Political slant or personal bias.
That the American people do to want to be told HOW to think, or WHAT to think; that they can make up their own minds.
That OUR task is a new one: to give you concise, FACTUAL reports on the issues America is talking about and worrying about; to give you the FACTS without trying to tell you what to think.
That An Informed Public Makes a Strong Republic.

That was 60 years ago and I do miss that type of journalism. No additional comments are necessary or needed. Enough said.


Refugee Crisis? Here’s One Magazine’s View From 1938… From My Vault of Classic Magazines

September 26, 2016


In a two-page large illustration, Ken magazine, in its July 14th, 1938 issue, ran the above image regrading the refugee crisis knocking on the doorsteps of the United States and the world. Magazines were, are, and will continue to be the best reflectors of both our culture and society… Indeed the more things change, the more they stay the same. 2016 feels so 1938!

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