Archive for July, 2009


Good news for the weekend: 57 New magazines launched in July

July 31, 2009

More than 57 new titles arrived at the nation’s newsstands for the first time this past month. Compared with July of 2008 the number is dead even with this year. Of course, this year the death of Michael Jackson helped the magazine industry in general and the new launches that are devoted to covering the single topic specials of the King of Pop. From the 57 titles launched in July there were 15 devoted to Jackson, with some publishing more than one cover of the same magazine to enhance and increase the sales of such titles.
On the regular publishing front, plenty of sports magazines came in handy in time for the beginning of the football season, so did the kid’s magazines in time for the beginning of the school year. The folks at Redan brought out a new quarterly as a spin off of their Playroom magazine. The first issue is devoted to Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! at a cost of $4.99. For the parents of the kids Wizard Entertainment published the first issue of Fun Fare magazine with a cover price of $4.99.
Also the Hispanic market continues to heat up and the new bimonthly Latin Star magazine arrived at the stands promising to be “the hippest, hottest, most sizzllin’ sensation to hit the newsstands since…there were newsstands! No matter your Latin flavor…” The magazine plans to celebrate the Latin culture and costs $3.99 an issue.
On the regional front Atlanta magazine reaches out to the science and medical community with the launch of the new Georgia Life Sciences. The new quarterly costs $3.95 and its inaugural issue demonstrates “the broad scope of life sciences organizations in our state (Georgia) and the enormous impact of their advanced technologies on our lives.”
In the midst of the all the doom and gloom numbers of ad pages in the September magazines, I figured a dash of good news before the weekend begins may not be a bad idea. So, before you leave on your weekend trip, head to your newsstands and grab a new magazine or two. It is time to rediscover the power and joy of reading a printed magazine. It is an experience second to none. You do not have to take my word on that. Just try it on your own.


Teens don’t read and other myths shattered in Mr. Magazine’s interview with Jayne Jamison, Publisher of Seventeen Magazine

July 23, 2009

Jayne Jamison“Teens don’t read,” is the statement that you hear more often from media pundits and prophets of doom and gloom. But do they really don’t read and are the magazines aimed to teens facing a slow death? Is there a future for teen magazines? What are some of the innovative methods used by teen magazines to stay relevant and current? Well, I took those questions and a little bit more to Jayne Jamison, the publisher of the country’s largest teen magazine Seventeen looking for answers. And answers are what I received.

First for the skimmers, here are Ms. Jamison’s soundbites,and following the soundbites is the entire Q and A with Jayne Jamison.

The soundbites

People who say teens don’t read are simply misinformed

Without the magazine, the brand doesn’t exist because that’s where it all starts and ends.

Teens are looking for information from sources they know, they trust and they believe in

Advertisers want to be surrounded by synergistic content and they can’t get that on a social networking site.

There is always going to be a place for magazines in the media mix. I think engagement factors you have with the magazine reader and the synergy with content and advertising is unavailable anywhere else.

The industry has to wrap its head around selling print as a medium instead selling themselves versus their competitors.

The Interview:

SH: You have the toughest job in the world. You are publishing a magazine that people say the demographic doesn’t exist anymore, they don’t’ read, they don’t care about print… How do you feel when somebody comes to you and say’s, “Oh, teens don’t read. Oh, you’re the publisher of a teen magazine?” How do you respond?

JJ: I start out by telling them, in a nice way, that they are misinformed. Clearly, teenagers multi-task and they are veracious with their media usage. But magazines have always been and continue to be a really important source for beauty and fashion trend information for young women. What has been so interesting to me is when you see the success of Twilight for example, which sold 16% of all books in the United States in the first quarter of this year (all four books). I don’t think that those are a lot of adult women reading those titles. So, I think that what people need to understand is that teens, especially female teens have always enjoyed magazines. But advertisers have walked away from this market, and it’s not really a readership problem, it’s an advertising problem. And if you look at the magazines in this category that are no longer in business, all of them were delivering very large rate bases. It wasn’t like any of them had lowered their rate base. If you look at Seventeen, we’re going to be 65 years young this year. We sold 350,000 copies on average on the newsstands in the first half of this year, which makes us the 9th largest women’s magazine on the newsstands in America. So, I don’t know how people can say teens don’t read. However, is it a category where there’s room for 5 or 6 magazines? No. But, is it still a category that girls flock to? Every girl wants to know what’s in style for the coming season, and on the internet, you don’t know if the picture you’re looking at is from this month or last year. What has been interesting for us because we have a very large website, is to see how girls go back and forth. So, we know that they are engaged and almost every page in the magazine has a web prompt. There’s been a great ability for us to prove to our advertisers that it all starts at the magazine, then goes to the web, then goes to their cell phone. So, I think it all goes back to the strength of your brand, and we are an incredibly strong brand. Wherever we do business, whether it’s a licensing agreement with JC Penny, or it’s a text-to-get, or a coupon in the magazine, we know that girls are going to respond because they love the brand in all of its forms. Without the magazine, the brand doesn’t exist because that’s where it all starts and ends.

SH: I have noticed in your August issue at Wal-Mart that there was a special Wal-Mart insert in the magazine. My subscriber’s edition promised me to win 10,000 dollars. What other innovations are you doing with the print edition?

JJ: We have a couple programs. We call them our “Cover Currency” where you can get free stuff by bring free stuff by bringing the issue into a retailer. The issue you were looking at was “Bring this issue into a Nordstrom’s and you can get a free deluxe size sample of a Harajuku fragrance.” We got an email from the client about how they flew out of stores. The fact that editorially we have a response mechanism, helps on the advertising side too because ultimately these clients see how we drive in store traffic. For example we have advertisers like Macy’s running coupons within their inserts in the magazine playing off on what we’ve done with an editorial coupon, because our editor feels it is very important to give our readers stuff. There was one headline; I think it was a cover line in April, something like “27,000 freebies inside.” We definitely have a lot of equity in terms of what we’re giving girls. That’s the utility of the brand, that we give them great information, but they can also get great stuff, which is what every teenager wants. We give them all this great stuff and there is nothing a teenager wants more than to get something in the mail. It’s just so funny because people think that teens are so consumed with being online, but what they don’t realize is that when you’re a teenage girl you’re looking for information. There are certain things you’re just not just going to discuss with friends on Facebook. If it’s “How do I get rid of this pimple on my face? I’m going to prom, oh my God…” or “I have a period issue.” The beauty of our brand is that there is so much information and service we provide. We’ve asked girls, they don’t trust the web sites for that kind of information. They want to go to a source they know, believe in and trust, and that’s Seventeen. We have over 100,000 friends on Facebook, and we’re that popular girl in school, there is no doubt about it. We are the must-buy, that’s what’s clear right now. If push comes to shove, if girls are not buying more than one magazine, it’s Seventeen. I think that this whole recession has changed the perception about how people think about the magazine, because we have really preformed better than most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not breaking any records this year in terms of ad-linage. We’re down 12.5% this year and I think the average magazine is down 25%, and luxury magazines are down over 40%. We’ve always been a magazine that talks about accessibility as well as aspiration, with realistic price points, so we’re not scrambling to change our editorial formula based on the economy.

SH: The teen magazines that folded had huge circulation numbers, but they still folded because they said they had no advertisers. Do you think that this economic crisis is making us change our publishing model and start depending less on advertisers and more on circulation revenue?

JJ: I think the consumer is going to have to pay more ultimately, and certainly with no competition or less competition, we should be able to do that. I think that we do have to reinforce the importance of bringing the next generation, of brand loyal consumers, into your franchise. If there is an advertiser interested in this market, we can get them into Seventeen magazine. There is no problem with that. I think the model has changed for us in that everything we do, pretty much, is cross-platform and we’ve sold some advertisers some very large schedules that include big web components, mobile components, we’re on “America’s Next Top Model”. The future is complete integration for the advertiser, which is what they want, and again cross-platform is so easy to do. The advertiser has the benefit of reaching girls on the web as well as in the magazine, on their cell phones and I think that’s going to be the future for everybody. We’re a little ahead of the curve because our target market is already ahead of the curve.

SH: Hearst has been leading the industry and doing things out of the norm like up-sizing Good Housekeeping, up-sizing Redbook, up-sizing Country Living. Are there any plans for re-inventing Seventeen as we know it?

JJ: I think that Hearst re-invented Seventeen when they bought it. By re-inventing it they went back to the roots of the magazine. They’ve owned it for 6 years now and since they bought it it’s been up 25%. I think our rejuvenation is complete. We’re not going to change our formula drastically because girls love it and it works. We’re not going to go up right now in trim size, but if the ad marketplace improves, I would love to. Other than really pushing the needle on integration, I don’t see any other real change in our initiative next year. For my sales staff, everything we put on the table is cross-platform, and that is how we are selling some very, very significant schedules. If you look at magazine websites, we have in an average month, almost 50 million page views and 1.5 million uniques, which puts us in the top 10 of all teen websites. It’s a very significant number. I think that advertisers want to be surrounded by synergistic content and they can’t get that on a social networking site.

SH: There are so many prophets of doom and gloom predicting the demise of the mass print market… Do you ever envision a media market with no mass print in the United States?

JJ: I think there is always going to be a place for magazines in the media mix. I think engagement factors you have with the magazine reader and the synergy with content and advertising is unavailable anywhere else. We’ve become marketing partner with our clients, and I think that has created a heightened level of importance for the medium. The number of experiential events that we do, contests, sweepstakes, all these engagement opportunities that we can actually start to prove the return on investment in a much better way for our clients is only going to make us more important in the future. There will never be a time when there are no magazines. There is no way I can even envision that. In the tactile way of going through pages that are printed until somebody can come up with a Kindle-type… That experience of reading a magazine or book is never going to be completely replaced. There maybe a certain segment of the population that prefers that format ultimately, down the road when it is perfected, but my lifetime.

However, I think unfortunately in our industry, in all of the good advertising years, just like any other category of retail or automotive business, there were too many products. At a given point there were too many magazines. I think the recession is a correction of that, but that should not put down in any one’s mind that the industry is in turmoil. How many millions of magazines are published annually? We’re selling 22 million copies a year of Seventeen, multiply that out… This is the correction year.

SH: We sell 25 million copies every week of magazines on the nation’s newsstands. The thing is we used to sell 25 or 26 million years ago, but then 30 years ago we only had 2,000 magazines, and now we have 7,500. So when you are selling the 350,000 copies on the stands, you are a big chunk of the newsstand industry.

JJ: The industry has to wrap its head around selling print as a medium instead selling themselves versus their competitors.

SH: One final question, what makes Jayne tick?

JJ: I think it’s just so fascinating about publishing and my job is that no two days are ever the same. Every day represents a new day and a new opportunity and that’s what keeps me jazzed. I’ve been doing this for a very long time and it’s never boring, never dull, it’s always interesting and I love the diversity in my job and the kind of different issues that we face and opportunities. I can’t imagine being in another industry. I’m very optimistic about the next generation who get to sit in my seat.

SH: Thank You


Innovation in Print: The Answer to Print Suicide… Create a Necessary and Sufficient Print Product

July 21, 2009

Here is a simple, doable solution for print people to utilize so that they will stop killing their printed products: create a necessary and sufficient print product.

It is that simple. I kid you not. If you want to ensure the survival of your printed product, you need to create a product that is both necessary and sufficient. Publishing 360 or publishing plus has been greatly misinterpreted and misused. Print people understood Publishing 360 as the need to be in print, on the web, on television, etc. shuffling from one medium to the other. You read excerpts of an interview in the magazine, then you go to the web to read the entire interview and watch the video. You pick up the newspaper and almost after every story there is a link to go to the web for more. Print folks keep on pushing people to put down the newspaper or the magazine down and head to the web for more. What type of reading experience you are going to have if you have to stop reading and head to the web after few paragraphs, and how often are you going to come back. On the other hand, very few publishers use the web to send people to print and to encourage them to pick up a printed copy of their products.

Print folks have lost confidence in their printed product and they are trying to create a hybrid product that sooner or later will eliminate the need for the same product they are attempting to save. If I do not need something, then for sure it is not going to be sufficient for me. You can’t be satisfied with something you do not need or want. Our dying newspapers have eliminated the need or even the want to be picked up and have ignored, albeit with few exceptions, the simple answer to the question What Is In It For Me (The WIIFM factor).

It is not the first time that I say print is not dying, just the folks who owns it are committing suicide. I firmly believe that our salvation is going to be in ensuring that each and every product, we media people produce, must be necessary and sufficient. Whether it is the newspaper, the web site or the video, each and every one of these products must provide readers/viewers with a self-satisfying experience that folks will lose themselves while interacting with that product. Publishing 360 should not mean that our readers/viewers are going to hop from one medium to the other in order to get the complete picture or experience. We are not in the business of hopping, but rather of reading or viewing. Leave the hopping to the rabbits, and give the humans reading or viewing relevant materials in the relevant medium that they desire.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that our printed products should not have websites and that we should not use the brand we have to the max. What I am saying is that the printed product should be sufficient for a whole experience for the reader; the web should provide a different whole experience; the same is true for any other medium invented or to be invented. None of the media should be short-changed to provide a link to the other medium. A newspaper should advertise their website, just like the rest of the ads it carries; it should be something the readers can go to later if they choose to do so. They should not feel cheated if they choose not to go to the web, the same as if they decide not to buy one of the advertised products in the newspapers. They do not feel cheated if they do not act upon the ads. The way newspapers now advertise and link the printed product to the web leaves you feeling as if you are missing something, thus the paper is not sufficient any more.

So before you blame the internet, or advertisers or anyone else but yourself for the demise of your newspaper or any other print product, examine yourself first and see if that printed product you are creating is necessary and sufficient, or it is just a vehicle that is used to transport to the world wide web. It is time for us to wake up and take a good critical look at our printed products and stop the mass suicide. Take a look at your printed product and tell why are you relevant, why are you needed, and are you sufficient? The problem is not with the printed messenger, the problem, the whole problem, is with the message. You do not have to take my word for it, just check any of the so dying printed products and try to answer the aforementioned questions. I bet you that you will find the majority of what we have now is not relevant, not needed and not sufficient. The sad thing is that the reason for those negative answers is not in the print media. It is with the people who are placing those messages on the ink on paper. Messages that are not relevant, messages that are not needed in that specific medium, and messages that do not engage the reader in a total fulfilling experience.

Print is not dead, and will not die, if and only if we produce a printed product that is BOTH necessary and sufficient. Let us innovate with our printed products rather than apply the old adage of providing a permanent solution to a temporary problem: Suicide.


Notes from the beach: It is a print, print, print world over here…

July 16, 2009

No lap tops and no Kindles in sight… miles and miles of sandy beaches filled with folks on vacation armed with sun tan lotion, hats, and books (ink on paper books), magazines (ink on paper magazines) and newspapers (ink on paper newspapers). I was once again like a kid in a candy store seeing all these people reading and flipping pages of their printed papers. ( I almost took a picture, but was afraid of invading their privacy). They were not worried about putting them on the sand, the kids splashing water on them did not bother the parents, and when and if the pages get wet, the hot sun took care of that problem in few minutes.

I have said it time after time. The problem is not with print, the problem is what some folks who own printed products are doing to print, in the state of panic they are passing through. Case in point, USA Today newspaper. I picked up the paper yesterday and went to the beach to read it. On the front page they told me about my hero Superman, however they wanted me to go to their website to see the comic strip serial. To rub it in, on the front page of the Life section they showed me Superman again announcing his new adventure, but yet again it was only a teaser asking me to go to the website. That is the problem with most of the print products now-a-days. The folks behind some of our papers and magazines are in the process of committing suicide. Print is not dying, it is being killed.

Those folks do not believe that their printed product is enough or can deliver a separate experience on its own. When reading a newspaper or a magazine is no longer a complete experience (no matter what type of experience it is going to be) and you have to go other places to finish the experience, there lies the heart of the problem. I do not mind the papers and the magazines advertising their websites and telling me what they have to offer me on the website, but do not take it away from the printed experience. The web is a complete different experience, and each medium on its own should fulfill that experience.

People are moving away from print because print is moving away from them. In our search for the new publishing model we have lost our focus on the total reader experience with the total product at hand. The 360 experience should start and end at the medium at hand. Each and every medium should provide readers/viewers with the total experience. It you want more than one experience feel free to read the paper, go to the web, listen to the radio, watch television and check you mobile feed. However, keep in mind that each and everyone of the aforementioned experiences should be sufficient on its own.

For print to survive print folks have to focus on fulfilling my experience in print before sending me other places. It is the printed product that I have with me on the beach. I do not have to go any other place to read about my Superman. I hope on my next vacation when I pick up my copy of USA Today the entire Superman comic strip will be in the paper and not just announced on the front pages. Thank you in advance, and feel free to use some inside space to advertise your web site and its content. Treat it like an ad rather than an editorial content I can’t find in the paper itself.

Enough of that, the family and the beach are calling. Back to the vacation time… cheers.


Funfare, the magazine and Funfare the vacation

July 14, 2009

funfareMy friend Gareb Shamus, of Wizard magazine fame, just launched a new magazine for parents and their kids called Funfare. In typical Shamus style the magazine is poly bagged with one of president Obama’s collector’s cards. I asked Gareb why would he publish a new magazine at a time others are folding them. His answer, “With FunFare, we’ve created a new media brand targeted at parents and children (under 14) whose primary focus is toys, games and anything fun. This is the perfect time to launch as families are looking for ways to spend more time together, make the right purchasing decisions and just have fun.
Perfect time indeed. funfaregarebGareb is no stranger to fun himself. Check out his letter from the editor written and designed in cartoon form. A job well done and a much needed magazine for parents of children under 14. (I am talking here first hand, a grandparent of a child under 2)!
Talking about Funfare, this week my family and I are having our funfare in the Sunshine State of Florida. I promised them to limit the number of my blogs and e mails. So please bare with me if my blogs and e mails to you are not as frequent as they usually are.


“Killing me softly” with their numbers… A plea to question all magazine numbers, including my own

July 8, 2009

Check the numbers, the names and the facts
One of the first things we teach in journalism schools is the importance of checking the facts and checking them twice. When someone tells you something, you better find a second source. When someone send you a press release you better question the sender. When someone tells you more magazines died than were born ask to see the list and fact check the names.


My number and the others
Every quarter I have to answer one or two media reporters about the reason why my magazine launch numbers and those of Mediafinder and others do not match. And every quarter I tell the reporters to double check my numbers and to look at the cover of every magazine I counted and posted on my website. I have being doing that since I came to this country and I started posting the numbers in my Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines since 1985 and on my website since 1999. We may disagree on the definition of a magazine, but all my magazines are consumer magazines available for the general public and bought from the nation’s newsstands. No business to business, no trade, no church or organizational periodicals, and no Canadian publications (with all due respect to my friends in Canada).

Their numbers and their magazines
On the other hand, the folks at Mediafinder started few years ago to publish quarterly numbers of birth of magazines and last year added the death numbers of magazines without even defining what type of magazines they track in their press releases. I know the folks at Mediafinder. I have worked with them in the late 1990s. They published my Guide to New Magazines for three years. They cover all types of magazines (consumer, business, etc.) and I doubt that they have copies of every single magazine they cover (that will be almost according to their published data base numbers around 18,000 titles…) {Side note to my friends at Mediafinder: Please correct me if I mistaken and let me know that you do actually have all the physical copies of the magazines, like I do}. I am not interested in a numbers fight with the folks at Mediafinder, but if we continue to issue numbers and press releases without backing the numbers with facts, we will all be hurting the industry we claim to serve and cherish. I know bad numbers and bad news find their way to the media pundits and reporters, but are they true numbers?

Magazines are not dead or even dying

I was not born yesterday and I know that the last two years have been tough on the magazine industry, but we are not dead or even dying. Death and birth have been part of the American magazine scene since the first two magazines were born in 1741. One lasted three issues and the other lasted six issues. I urge media reporters to question the numbers, mine and everyone else. Ask for the definitions, ask for the categories, and ask for the entire list by name and publisher. When someone tells you 236 magazines died in 2009, ask to see the list and publish the names… give the dead magazine to report that their death have been greatly exaggerated. I saw a list of the magazines announced dead in 2008 (via a media reporter who questioned the numbers) and was surprised to see some of the magazines listed among the dead are still alive, well and kicking.


345 new titles in the first six months of 2009
I have counted so far 345 new titles of consumer magazines making it for the first time to the nation’s newsstands in the first six month of this year. The counting is not done yet neither the scanning of the magazines. That is why you do not see the 58 or so magazines from June yet on my website. Those numbers alone are almost one and half times the number of Mediafinder’s number of 187 which include all kind of magazines. If that is not a matter for questioning, I don’t know what is. {By the way, the four images with this blog are all for new magazines launched in June of 2009).

Question Numbers
If we are going to continue to be our own prophets of doom and gloom, we will wake up one day and start believing our own prophecies, our own self demise. In journalism schools they used to teach us to Question Authority, now I am urging you and my students to Question Numbers, Question Motives, or just Question!


Warning: This magazine is not fit for your coffee table

July 7, 2009

What happens on the newsstands remains at the newsstands. That should be the motto for the magazine industry as the trend toward producing split covers for the same magazine (one for the newsstands and one for the subscribers) continues to sky-rocket. It is becoming rare to see a magazine with the same cover on both the single copy and the subscription edition of the same issue. I know there is an art for designing magazine covers, and in some cases there are formulas (Just take a look at the last few years of Cosmopolitan). However, dishing a different cover for the single copy buyer than that of the subscriber, is becoming a questionable art of what some call new marketing ways to reach the first time buyer and others refer to as the art of hip hip hypocrisy to trick the first time buyer.

David Zinczenko, editorial director of Men’s Health magazine told John Harrington, editor of The New Single Copy that the newsstand cover tells the shopper what’s inside, but the subscriber knows what to expect, the cover tells him what is new.

Well, here are five samples, starting with Mr. Zinczenko’s Men’s Health, of this increasing and disturbing trend:

Men’s Health: July – August issue
The newsstand’s buyer is told that there is a lot of sex inside, from the skyline screaming “The Sex of Your Dreams (& Hers)!” to the “30 Red-Hot Sex Secrets Tonight’s Special Is…” In addition to that “tonight” promise there is a 7-Day plan to get back in shape and a total of 2,143 tips. The subscription cover tells the subscriber how to get back in shape without a 7-Day time limit, avoids any mention of sex or sex tips, and tells you about the “science” about the “best places to meet women.” As for the picture, Josh Duhamel adores both covers with the subscription edition being cropped a little bit tighter.

OK! Weekly: July 6 issue
You’d expect the monthlies to have different covers, but a weekly and a celebrity gossip weekly, that was a complete surprise to me. OK!’s July 6 newsstand cover offered the usual run of the mill “fill the cover with pictures and headlines” from a Twilight Exclusive to a Jen’s New Brad and Inside the Fallout of Jon & Kate. The subscribers edition looks like a glossy magazine cover of three famous stars Megan Fox, Halle Berry and Jen Aniston with the screaming headline Revealed! The Top Ten Best Celeb Bodies of 2009. When you read the cover lines on the subscribers edition you think you are reading a fitness magazine and not a gossip magazine. “Diet and workout secrets” and “get bikini ready in two weeks” are among the cover promises in addition to OK! readers “weighing in…” on the those topics. In addition, the subscribers cover has a French-gate that opens to advertise an OK!-Oxygen network promo for “Dance your Ass off.” Sorry, newsstand buyers, no oxygen or dancing your ass off…

Family Circle: August issue
Family Circle was once sold on the newsstands 100%. There were no subscriptions and no split covers. Now, with the magazine depending more on subscriptions rather than single copy, the subscriber copy is becoming more and more like a coffee table magazine cover rather than a service journalism magazine cover. The single copy cover promises “Quick & Easy Dinners 40+ Pages of…” There is a lot of numbers 10 Best Towns, 8 Reasons Why Your Diet Isn’t Working, 5-Minute Parfait (the cover story) and 12 Ways to Be Happy Every Day. The subscribers cover reduces the cover lines to the bottom left hand corner, making the picture of the Parfait much bigger and avoids any mention of numbers with the exception of changing the 10 Best Towns to Ten Best Towns. I guess the Parfait is tempting enough for the subscribers to open the magazine while reading the whispering cover lines. On the newsstands the sell lines are screaming at you and all the $$$ are asking you to pick me up!

Food & Wine: July issue
In a departure of the majority of the magazines, Food & Wine uses the same cover lines but changes the image used on the cover. Single copy buyers as well as subscribers receive the same promise of Best New Chefs & Their Easiest Recipes. Every cover line is used on both editions of the magazine. However, single copy buyers are spared the image of the 11 chefs (and the tattoos) on the cover and rather are treated to a more traditional cover image of “Grilled steak with asparagus & tomatoes…”. A wise decision to avoid the chefs on the single copy cover, however, since we remember color first, images second, type third, will the reader be confused that the magazine on the stands is different that that on his or her coffee table?

Harper’s Bazaar: July issue
Harper's BazaarnewsHaper's Bazaarsub
Harper’s Bazaar has been offering different shots of their cover stars and a very limited amount of copy on their subscribers editions for some time now. However, the July issue brought a complete departure of that policy by providing the single copy buyers an image of Angelina Jolie (there were reports in the press that the picture was bought from an image bank and not posed for the magazine) which was not fit to adore the subscribers cover. She was replaced by Super-model Doutzen on the subscribers cover. As usual, the single copy cover promises 525 new ideas and promises about What to Wear Now and Best Bags & Shoes among other things. Talk about potential confusion between your coffee table and your neighborhood newsstand.

I firmly believe in the art of the four me me’s when it comes to covers: See Me (the impact of the visual to stop you), Pick Me (the cover lines that I refer to as sell lines), Flip Me (the act of flipping through the pages of the magazines based on a single sell line to validate the rest of the magazine), and the Buy Me or Drop Me (making that final decision to buy or not to buy the magazine). In short, I do not believe that the single copy cover should be any different than that of the subscriber, if we are in the business of customers who count and not just counting customers. Subscribers do visit the newsstands and what they see their should match what is on their coffee table. In my book, a cover should always be designed for the first time user… all others need to see what’s new inside this specific issue: both on the newsstands and in your mailbox.


Ranking and rating all the Michael Jackson tribute magazines: 5 to buy, 4 maybes, and 6 to forget

July 4, 2009

This is a first for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have ranked and rated magazines before. However this is the first time I am ranking magazines dealing with a single topic: Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. So far, I was able to find 15 magazines which devoted the entire magazine, most of the magazine or a section of the magazine to the late music star. I have spend more than 24 hours reading and looking at those magazines and here is my final result to which ones you should buy, which ones you should collect and which one you should just glance at while shopping at the supermarket. Those magazines also brought out the professor in me, so I graded them with A+ being the highest grade and F, obviously, the lowest grade. So, without further due, here are three groups of magazines ranked in order:

The Fab Five:
timemjcover1. TIME magazine: By far the best publication regarding the untimely death of Michael Jackson. The writing, the photography, the design, the paper, you name it, is by far of a much higher quality than any of the remaining 17 titles. The cover is outstanding in its look and lack of judgment, the info charts inside the magazine are unique and well executed, the writing and photography gives a new meaning to the phrase “visual impact of print,” and even the only ad in the magazine is devoted to the King of Pop. All in all a job much better than well done. An excellent issue that you must buy and collect if you are a Michael Jackson fan. Price: $5.99. Grade: A+

tvguidemj1tvguidemj22. TV Guide: The only other regularly published magazine to devote an entire issue (with few pages devoted to the late Farrah Fawcett) for the late star. Building on the rich archives of TV Guide, the magazine divides MJ’s life into different segments, from TV to DVD and everything in between. A nice recap of the star and his music with special excerpts from previous interviews with him that have appeared in older issues of TV Guide.
This ad-less issue of the magazine comes in two different covers and could have used some better quality paper to reflect the “Special Collector’s Edition” cover label. Price: $3.99. Grade: B+

peoplemjpeoplemjbackcovers3. People: Maybe because I was expecting more from People magazine that when I went through the issue I was unhappy with what I saw. People, I always felt, is the magazine that gives pop culture and celebrities that human touch and keep them well, alive and down to earth. While the cover of the magazine, and the two different back covers, grab your attention, the inside (MJ fans have to dig deep into the magazine before they reach the MJ section, unless they flip the magazine and start from the back) of the magazine was lacking any stoppers. Well, maybe the covers of all the previous People issues that had MJ on the cover stopped for a little bit more than the rest of the pages. A good effort, but not what I expected from a top student. Still, I say buy it, just because it carries the name People. Price: $4.49. Grade: B

ewmjew4mj4. Entertainment Weekly: The man, the magic, the mystery is how the tribute section of this week’s issue of EW begins. Almost half of the magazine is devoted to MJ with a tribute written by Stephen King and a final picture page carrying a quote from Madonna, “The world has lost one of the greats.” The magazine provides a historical look back at MJ from the beginning to the end illustrating the power of the man whose music “captured the DNA” or our pop culture. EW captures that DNA through this issue that is a must read for every “pop culture” fan. A nice easy read that it will be OK to pass along later to a friend. EW published four different covers for this issue. Price: $3.95. Grade: B

amimj5. The Nameless Magazine: With a tag line that states “exclusive collector’s edition” this nameless magazine offers a tribute to MJ from “child star to the greatest showman on earth.” Published by American Media Inc. (publishers of Star and National Enquirer) the magazine offers over 200 pictures that captures every stage of the star’s life up to “the day the music died.” A very emotional issue with pages tagged “we’ll never forget you” the magazine truly captures the fan-spirit of the many followers who adored the music and entertainment of Michael Jackson. It is a magazine created with fans in mind and the headings and captions for all these pictures reflect that. A must buy to the fan and an emotional souvenir for those who are mourning MJ’s death. (By the way, it seems that this nameless magazine was the reason that Star magazine was the only celebrity/gossip magazine to play down the death of MJ on its cover. See my review of Star #18). Price: $5.99 Grade: C+

The So-So Fab Four:

newsweekmj6. Newsweek: As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this issue of Newsweek with MJ on the cover in only on the single copy issues of the magazine. The subscribers received their Best Books to Read cover. So, that alone should be worth something in the world of collecting. There is no question that the execution of the special section in this issue of Newsweek is very well done, but it you are only buying the magazine for the MJ cover story, you will be disappointed. A high cover price combined with very few pages ( 9 to be exact) makes buying this issue questionable. However, I need to add that there is a tribute by Quincy Jones that is of interest to the King of Pop fans. To buy or not to buy is the question. Price: $6.95 Grade: C

collector'seditionmj7. Collector’s Edition Historical: This monthly magazine that devoted its entire issues to a single topic (President Obama had the lion share of the issues, a total of five devoted to him. Sarah Palin had one and so did the First Lady). Now it is the King of Pop’s issue. The publisher of this pictorial issue pays tribute to MJ who and “proudly present this magazine as a testament to his musical genius and creativity that earned him the undisputed title of ‘King of Pop’.” This magazine is more of a photo album filled with pin-ups and may be suitable for the young fans of MJ (Are there young MJ fans?) Not much to read, but a nice collection of pictures on nice paper that gives the magazine a sense of being a collector’s item. A hefty cover price for this Collector’s Edition Historical magazine that I leave the decision to part with your hard earned dollars to you to decide. Price: $7.99 Grade: C-

mmmj8. The King of Pop: Another one of those Collector’s Photo Gallery magazines aimed the “pin-up” fans of MJ. This is a not to be read magazine, I repeat not to be read magazine, just go through the pictures and enjoy the trip through memory lane. As I tell people time and time again, any magazine that identifies itself as a collector’s magazine or a collector’s issue, it is a sign that there are millions of those collector’s issues, and few years from now, that magazine and five dollars may buy you a cup of coffee. So if you are not a MJ fan and you are going to buy this magazine as a future investment, do not. You have been warned. As for the rest of you, go ahead and make my day. Every magazine sold is another testament to the unique relationship between print and humans, since none of you is doing to download the “collector’s web page” that carried the MJ news. Price: $7.99 Grade: C-

okmj9. OK! Weekly: Yes, I know, nothing sells more magazines than a celebrity dying all of a sudden in his or her prime. Princess Di is the best example I can give. However, does anyone really wants to see and remember the dead body of the celebrity or they want to remember the glory days. The decision to put the picture of MJ during his transport to the hospital on the cover of OK! Weekly and touting it as a “Michael Jackson World Exclusive The Last Photos” may get the media attention, but will it get the fans and followers of MJ to pick up the magazine on the newsstands? The next few weeks will tell us whether this issue of OK! Weekly was a hit or a miss. Personally, I felt that this cover was one of the worst on the newsstands and all the attempts to have “a complete tribute inside” pale in comparison to the cover shot. I would have expected a newspaper or a television station to use this image, but not on a cover of a celebrity magazine. However, this issue maybe the one that the so-called magazine collectors would buy and not the fans of MJ, the King of Pop. Price: $3.49 Grade: D

The NOT So-Fab Six

I know my parents taught me that if I have nothing good to say, then I should say nothing, but those remaining six magazines that devoted space and covers to Michael Jackson forces me to say at least a little something. However, do keep in mind that all the ranking, comments and grades are in direct relation to the Michael Jackson coverage and not to the magazines as a whole.

intouchmj10. In Touch Weekly. From a journalistic point of view, maybe we need to treat both dead celebrities the same, but when it comes to the fans, you can’t have it both ways. Would have been much better off of a split cover one for MJ and one for FF if you’ve felt they have equal fan base. Price $2.99 Grade: D

life&stylemj11. Life & Style Weekly. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Typical Life & Style Weekly cover story. However, this was anything but a typical week. A different treatment was definitely needed here. Price $2.99 Grade: D

usmj12. US Weekly. I am sure that Rolling Stone will be publishing a special issue on MJ, but the little sibling of RS has opted to cover the final days of MJ, rather than the artist, musician and pop culture icon that I am sure RS will cover. Price $3.99 Grade: D

nationalenquirermj13. National Enquirer. Really surprised by how little space the “world exclusive news” occupied from the cover and the inside. I would have expected to see the picture of the body in the white sheet taking over the entire cover. Is the National Enquirer tame now? Price $3.59 Grade: D

globemj14. Globe. Well, in the day and age where all the CSI programs give you results of DNA testing, autopsy results in less than few minutes, why not the Globe? Price $3.59 Grade: F

starmj15. Star. The only celebrity/gossip magazine not to devote the main cover story to MJ. (See rank number 5 above). I wonder whether American Media on purpose decided to forgo the coverage in Star to promote and sell the special nameless magazine, or they just opted to gamble in the hope that the annual “beach bodies” will outsell the rest of the magazines. Time will tell. Price $3.99 Grade: F

So here you have it, 15 magazines so far are out there devoted to the King of Pop. I will keep you posted with updates on any new titles arriving at the nation’s newsstands in the next few days. And, by the way, for those who still doubt the power of print and ink on paper, please help explain to me this phenomena that drives folks to the newsstands and makes them dig into their pockets and buy all these magazines every time a major event takes place. Amazing!


Setting straight the “paper of record”: Reader’s Digest Northrop tells Husni RD has not changed its editorial direction

July 2, 2009

In my blog yesterday I wrote about the “more conservative” Reader’s Digest. I and many others in the media world based our comments on an article that appeared in The New York Times. Well, I guess we assumed that “the paper of record” had their facts checked and checked again. In a phone conversation with the folks at Reader’s Digest, followed by a written response from the magazine’s editor in chief Peggy Northrop, we learn a different set of facts. For the record here is Ms. Northrop e mail letter to me regarding The New York Times’ story and the future direction of Reader’s Digest.

Peggy Northrop, RD eicAs editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest since November, 2007, I am happy to clear up the confusion generated by the New York Times article, which has been picked up, quoted, and spun out into the far reaches of the blogosphere. To be perfectly clear, Reader’s Digest has not changed its editorial direction to a more conservative approach. What we have done over the last year is modernize our look, sharpen our voice, and add new sections that hark back to our roots as a ‘digester’ of valuable content—all while maintaining our focus on the “hometown” values that our millions of readers share.

The Times’s characterization that “the publishers are pushing [Reader’s Digest] in a decidedly conservative direction” is both misleading and puzzling, considering the pains we took to describe what’s we’re up to. Our real push is strategic: We are now creating a host of new products that will be available on multiple media platforms under the “Reader’s Digest Version” banner, taking advantage of our historic reputation for delivering concise, authoritative information to a mass readership.

The misleading impression was only compounded by the podcast interview with reporter Stephanie Clifford that accompanied the Times story online. In it she described us as “choosing sides in the culture war, and that side is to the right.” Certainly, our readers value community service, family and, often, some form of faith. But the “culture wars” and the divisive political posturing evoked by that phrase do not interest our readers in the least. I know this from extensive reader research, and I shared a summary of it with Ms. Clifford. There is an interesting story in how regular folks define their values and their needs; unfortunately the Times chose not to tell it.

A glance at a recent Reader’s Digest table of contents would reveal that while yes, we do cover aspects of military life (from stay-at-home dads dealing with the long deployments of their wives, to mothers caring for their severely injured sons), we also continue to cover healthcare, jobs, the environment, finance, and other topics that don’t fall onto any particular spot on the conservative-liberal values continuum. I would wholeheartedly agree with the author on one point she made about our magazine’s transformation in the past year: “Out are generic how-to magazine features.” Indeed, the American Society of Magazine Editors recognized Reader’s Digest with a National Magazine Award for General Excellence this year—a first for us, and a fact that was omitted from the story.

I can’t really blame the Times for the blogospheres’ reaction to the report, which has ranged from The National Review online welcoming us back into the fold while questioning our conservative bonafides, to the headline “Reader’s Digest Takes Aim at Obama, Shoots Self in Foot.” I would urge readers who are curious about our magazine’s strategy—and who wonder about what truly appeals to a mass audience—to look past the chattering classes’ fixations and pick up a copy of the new Reader’s Digest for themselves.


Honoring the King of Pop: All what you need is TIME

July 2, 2009

timemjDo you want a commemorative edition that honors, explains and documents the late King of Pop Michael Jackson? Well look no further than the special issue of TIME magazine that started arriving on the newsstands last Sunday afternoon beating all the celebrities titles including TIME’s parent company’s own People magazine. The 68-page magazine (all devoted to MJ) was done in less than 24 hours and was printed on heavier stock cover and inside paper. In addition the magazine was able to sell one ad page to Pepsi that created an ad in honor of the late King of Pop. (See cover and ad above). Newsweek, on the other hand. had to do some quick adjusting to their issue hitting the newsstands last Monday. The main cover story was about books and what to read now. newsweekmj However, the newsstands cover was replaced by a picture of MJ and the tag line The Meaning of Michael and a 9-page special section was produced devoted to MJ. The subscribers cover remained unchanged. What bothered me with the Newsweek cover is that it was made to appear as a special issue on MJ rather than a few pages insert, especially that the cover price for this issue has been hiked to $6.95, one dollar more than the regular price of $5.95. (For the record, TIME also increased its cover price on the special issue by one dollar to $5.99 from $4.99).
So why do you think TIME and Newsweek are interested in the MJ story? Simple, both magazines are catering to an audience who remember MJ the artist, the musician and the King of Pop. They are leaving MJ, the troubled celebrity, to the so called celebrity magazines, or as I have always called them by the real European name of gossip magazines.
So if MJ was a Thriller to you, you can bet that TIME can easily tell the competition Beat It!

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