Archive for May, 2012


Counting Customers or Customers Who Count? The Self-Inflicting Ills of the Magazine Industry

May 17, 2012

The magazine business model drama continues… It is amazing that after all this talk about the new magazine business model and how it is going to be more “consumer centric,” to receive offers to  subscribe to some great-name-brand magazines for a mere $5.00 for five or six issues (That is at least 80% discount of the cover price).  There is no need to blame customers and consumers for the decline in single copy sales, and there is no need to blame the tablets for that decline either.  There is no one to blame but the magazine publishing industry itself.  Publishers willing to sell a magazine like Wired, Vanity Fair or GQ for a mere $5.00 for the entire year, need to blame no one but themselves if their newsstands sales are declining.  For the magazine industry to survive and thrive we have to start charging the fair value for the content and experience magazines deliver, whether on the newsstand, digital or by subscription.  Otherwise, if we continue to be in the business of counting customers and not the business of customers who count, the magazine business can easily see the writing on the wall… and that writing is NOT good news!  Take a look at the latest offer that arrived in my inbox this morning…


Magazine Covers Gone Viral…

May 16, 2012

The following article is from


Gay President, Rainbow White House and Breastfeeding Mom Buoy Media Coverage of Magazines
By Mr. Magazine™ and Critical Mention for the Critical Now Channel
All it took was a front cover headline about a gay president of the United States, the White House painted in rainbow colors and a bare-breasted mom with her suckling 3-year-old son to pump up the volume in the magazine industry. It worked. Coverage on TV and radio of Time, The New Yorker and Newsweek during the first two weeks of May was five times higher than the whole month of April, reflecting intense interest by broadcasters to comment on the sensationalist magazine covers. Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, says the buzz has built to a crescendo, and for different reasons.Read the entire article and watch my views here.


TIME Magazine and The Power of Print: Creating and Continuing the Conversation

May 11, 2012

This week’s cover of TIME magazine created more buzz than any many cover in recent memory… and it did not have to do with a celebrity or scandal.  It dealt with a very real subject with a very real human being.  Here is the cover to judge for yourself and here are two of the many links in which I have offered my views on the subject matter:

The first is in the LA Times and the second is in

In short, in this digital age where everything travels faster than a speeding bullet, this cover, in print, has been able to stop people in their tracks, create a conversation and carry on with the conversation like no other medium has done before.  There is still plenty of life in good print.  There is a print life after digital.  Today and tomorrow.  So, never underestimate the power of print in a digital age. Never!

And here is the video for the interview…


Testing, Testing, Testing… Magazine Covers for Every Taste, Gender, Color…

May 11, 2012

No two magazines are alike and no two covers are the same.  The magazine industry seems to have discovered the art of split covers en-mass.  It is rare to see a magazine with one cover anymore.  Through my travels across the country, and overseas, I was able to collect a variety of magazines that shared the same date, same issue, but different covers.  The covers differed in the treatment of the nameplate, images, cover lines, colors, etc…  Below is a gallery of images with a brief explanation of what some magazines are testing or just trying to grab readers’ attention in one way or the other (no pun intended here…)

Here are some of the magazines in random order:

People Style Watch:  A different nameplate…

April 2012

There are two different covers for this magazine. The differences easily detected are the name, stretched across the top on one, and broken apart and stacked on the other cover. A $1 off coupon is attached on one and also has the tantalizing offer of “Exclusive Discounts for You!” where the other magazine has neither. The feature story is presented in a different placement as well, on one it is centered, midway the page, and the other cover has it aligned left, yet far enough from the edge to allow for the same sidebar story on Spring’s Hottest Shoes, while it still holds the midway spot.

Weight Watchers:  Different images, different colors…

March/April 2012

This issue of Weight Watchers has two covers. One has Charles Barkley, with the color orange (possibly due to the basketball in Barkley’s hands) used to highlight certain words on the page, and the other cover is a slim, attractive young woman wearing a green sweater, with a coordinating sequined top beneath. Green is the chosen color on this cover, with the highlighted words inviting us to do as the main story suggests: Go green, get lean. Inside the cover, on the table of contents, Weight Watchers calls the reader’s attention to the fact that there are two covers and invites consumers to respond with an e-mail as to which one they prefer.

Men’s Fitness: The female touch…

May 2012

Two covers this issue, one for the subscriber, the other for the newsstands. Both have the very enigmatic Beto Perez, the founder of Zumba, on the cover, but the newsstand issue also has a very provocative, left-corner shot of Scarlett Johansson from The Avengers, while the subscriber’s get only their address label located there. The cover lines are also arranged differently on each magazine, and on the newsstand issue, there is a promo shot of Jason Kidd, and the command to “Get Lean” with him. The story “Bigger Arms in Less Time” is more predominantly featured on the newsstand issue, and there is an identifying arrow pointing toward Perez that is missing from the subscriber’s, as well.

Men’s Fitness:  The cover lines: Sex vs. Ripped…

June 2012

Two covers for June, subscriber and newsstand. Newsstand gets the promise of “Your Hotter Sex Issue,” while the subscriber gets “Ripped in Six Weeks.” The cover story about Stacy Keibler is the same, except for color and font size (her name is bigger and in red on the newsstand issue and the title is done in white, versus black on the subscriber’s copy).

Entertainment Weekly:  A sexier image for the subscribers?

April 6,  2012

Two covers for this issue. The newsstand offering has a big, splashy photo of Jennifer Lawrence, in her Hunger Games regalia, living on the cover. And the subscriber’s edition has a much calmer, albeit, provocative, image of a nude, female back, arms crossed in front, and one hand clutching the New York Times Bestseller, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The newsstand issue devotes the entire front cover to The Hunger Games, with a small mention of James Cameron’s Titanic 3-D (complete with a small photo of a partially-sinking ship), and the Fifty Shades of Grey “Exclusive,” as it is written here, while on the subscriber’s cover it is designated as Fifty Shades of Grey “Exposed,” and Cameron’s Titanic 3-D has no image. So, the cover lines are very different on the two magazines.

Women’s Health:  No sex for subscribers…

May 2012

Two Covers for the May issue, newsstand and subscriber. If you buy it from the newsstand, you can have the “Hottest Sex Ever,” and also have your attention drawn to a story on how to “Look Great Naked,” by having checkmarks beside each of the criteria, but with the subscriber’s issue, no such bonuses. There are minute differences in the other cover lines, such as line placement of words, but no major changes anywhere else.

Seventeen:  A collector’s edition…

May 2012

Two newsstand covers, one has Justin Bieber, the other Chloe Grace Moretz. The Bieber cover is designated as a “Special Collector’s Cover.” Moretz’s issue has her story, and a chance to win tickets to see her in Dark Shadows, and Bieber’s issue has his story on the making of his new album, but both offer a free poster of JB inside the magazines. The Moretz issue also has a small photo of Bieber next to the poster offer. The other cover lines are arranged a bit differently on each magazine, as well.

Real Simple:  Different cover lines…

May 2012

Two newsstand covers. One, you can have a cleaner house every day, the other you can be smarter, happier, and healthier. The smarter, happier, and healthier issue also has the cover line, “A Cleaner House Every Day,” but favor wasn’t returned on the other cover. Other than that, everything is the same.

Southern Living:  Cover line placements: Right or left…

April 2012

Two newsstand covers, both with the same luscious-looking strawberry meringue cake. The main differences are one is left-sided cover lines, the other is right-sided. Other than that, they are alike.

The Economist: Europe vs. USA

March 24 – 30, 2012

Two newsstand covers. One is the US edition, which has a cover story about Cuba; the other is the UK version and has a story about Britain’s budget for global business. The British edition includes the Cuba story in one of its cover lines, as does the American version with the British budget story. Other than a piece on Mario Monti in the UK edition, all the other cover lines are the same.

Elle US:  Cover lines, images and design treatment…

May 2012

There are three different covers for the May 2012 issue. While all three feature the singer and actress, Rihanna, and the two newsstand issues are very similar, except for the placement and angles of the cover lines; the subscriber’s copy is a totally different entity. The photograph of the singer is far-removed from the mega-entertainer look that she has on the newsstand copies, and the text on the cover is much less spread out and more compact. There are two cover titles missing from the subscriber’s issue also.

Elle US:  More cloth for sensitive eyes and regions of the country…

April 2012

There are three covers for this issue, two newsstand editions and a subscriber’s. The newsstand issue offers a very pregnant Jessica Simpson, one nude, but strategically covered. The background colors are different, but the cover lines are the same. The subscriber’s issue features Heidi Klum, and while the Jessica Simpson story is listed, Klum owns the cover. It’s also missing one cover line story the newsstand issues have.

Elle UK: Sister sister…

April 2012

There are two newsstand covers for the UK editions, one with Mary-Kate Olsen, the other with Ashley. The cover lines are the same, but the background colors are different, and the Olsen’s first names are listed according to the cover: Ashley’s first on hers, and Mary-Kate’s first on her page.

Winq. Netherlands:  Same magazine, different language, different name

March/April 2012


Spring 2012

The global man’s magazine has two different names, two different versions, but both have MaDonna as their cover girl. The cover lines are designed the same, but the content is different, but other than that, the entire look of both magazines is exact.

GQ:  Three images, same magazine…

April 2012

Three different covers for this issue, all of them designated as “Special Issues.” Cover lines, color scheme, and design are all exactly alike; the only difference is the models: one is rapper, Drake, and the other two are actors Dave Franco and John Slattery.

Lucky:  Only at Target…

May 2012

Two different newsstand covers. Salma Hayek graces both covers, but one issue offers a tag the consumer can scan at Target to win a $5000 shopping spree. The other offers one different cover line. Everything else is the same.

Glamour:  Cover line treatment…

May 2012

Two different newsstand covers, same model (Lauren Conrad) and same overall look, but very different cover lines. While some of the stories are the same, the words used to describe those articles are very different on each magazine. The only difference for Glamour: the cover lines.

Juxtapoz: Creating a collector’s item…

May 2012

Four different newsstand covers, with the cover line (line-as in only one) the same, just four different photos and artistic images on each cover.

Harper’s Bazaar: Subscribers deserve less…

May 2012

Two different covers, both with Penélope Cruz on the cover. One, the subscribers’, has just a faded image of her face, that showcases her eyes, no cover lines, except for “Eye On The Season,” the other, the newsstand’s cover, is filled with all the stories inside both magazines. It’s an amazing contrast.

Entrepreneur: Red sells more on the stands?

April 2012

There are two different covers for this issue: one is red for the newsstand and the other white for the subscribers. The cover lines are somewhat rearranged, but nothing too drastic. Overall, other than the actual magazine color, the other differences are minimal.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey…


“A Great Magazine is a Joy to Behold.” Introducing Quilty magazine For the Love of Quilts and Magazines

May 10, 2012

In the sea of new magazines, almost 60 new titles arrive at the newsstands every month, it is always a delight when one magazine stops you in your tracks and demands attention, much more attention than the rest of its siblings.  Quilty is the new magazine for “fresh patchwork + modern quilts.”  However, it was not the cover that demanded that attention nor the cover price.  It was the editorial written by Mary Fons, Quilty’s editor.

Ms. Fons’ love of magazines and the media is in her blood.  Her grandmother ran her town’s newspaper, her mother co-created Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine and both of her sisters are busy bees in the world of media.  Ms. Fons starts her letter from the editor by the profound confession, ” I adore magazines.”  She goes on to write,

If they are made of paper, I bend them, fold them, dogear them.  I tack torn-out pages on the walls of my office; I rip out images to stick on my fridge.  My magazines get wet, get crinkled, get read.

If I’m reading a magazine on a screen — which happens more and more, I notice — I click with wild abandon. I gleefully bookmark.  I zoom in, I zoom out.  I forcibly close the nine shopping carts I open. (Usually.)

As I mentioned earlier, Mary Fons comes from a family of “image and word people. Idea people.  And a magazine is the perfect vehicle for timely, consumable ideas.”

A great maiden-voyage editorial and a great maiden-voyage issue of a great new magazine: Quilty.  Add to that a very smart-named web site

Indeed, magazines are all about ideas, consumable ideas that go beyond good content to great experiences.  Pick up one today and enjoy!


You Don’t Know America if You Don’t Know Baseball and You Don’t Know Baseball if You Don’t Know Baseball Digest magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Norman Jacobs, Publisher of Baseball Digest magazine

May 4, 2012

Since my arrival  to America I was told I must learn about baseball if I am to learn about America.  “If you know baseball, you know America– and its favorite past time.”  Well, needless to say that magazines were and still are my best educators, and when it came to the subject of baseball, Baseball Digest was the magazine to go to.  The magazine has  been covering the game for almost 70 years now.  Norman Jacobs has been the owner/publisher of Baseball Digest since 1969. Over the years he has started and sold many titles: Football Digest, Hockey Digest, Basketball Digest and Inside Sports. With Baseball Digest’s 70th anniversary rolling around in September, Mr. Jacobs takes us to the ballpark- the new and improved ballpark he has planned for the re-launch of Baseball Digest.  I talked with him recently as he explained the improvements and increased circulation he has planned for the title.

And as is with every Mr. Magazine ™ Interviews, first the video, followed by the sound-bites and the very lightly edited transcript of the entire interview.

So, sit back, relax, and watch the video interview with Norm Jacobs.

The Sound bites:

On the history of Baseball Digest: Well, back in 1969 I had sold my publishing company, at that time we were publishing business and trade magazines. I looked around to find some kind of publishing property to buy and develop. Lo and behold, I found in my hometown of Highland Park, not more than a mile from me, Baseball Digest Magazine published in someone’s home.

On the plan for the magazine’s future: And furthermore, we’re talking about developing within the magazine; the pro-scouting information, this is data never available before and developed by an outside company, to drop in possibly as an insert and re-launch this magazine, hopefully with our 70th anniversary, which is in September of this year, 2012.

On whether or not he believes there is hope for baseball, since the entire country seems addicted to football: Well, I certainly do, because as we all know, baseball attendance is zooming. And the baseball fan has always been thirsty for information and knowledge, particularly for statistics and the kind of information that may not be in other publications.

On where he will be a year from now: Well, I would hope that we’d be…well, we’re thinking of launching with a 100,000 on the newsstand, hopefully we’d be at 200, or somewhere around that point, 250 even.

On what keeps him up at night: Mostly cash flow. We all know that publishing today is so different than it was in the old days.

And now for the full, lightly edited, transcript of the interview with Norman Jacobs, owner and publisher of Baseball Digest magazine:

Samir Husni: Baseball Digest is a legend. It’s going to be 70-years-old this coming September. Tell us a little bit about the history of the magazine, and what the plan for the future is. What do you tell folks who say, “Baseball Digest, is it still being published?”

Norm Jacobs: Well, back in 1969 I had sold my publishing company, at that time we were publishing business and trade magazines. I looked around to find some kind of publishing property to buy and develop. Lo and behold, I found in my hometown of Highland Park, not more than a mile from me, Baseball Digest Magazine published in someone’s home. I, personally, had not been to a baseball game in twenty years. But it did excite me that this magazine was for sale because the publisher had passed away. It excited me because it only had about 10,000 in circulation and even I figured with all the millions of baseball fans in the country, this title should be much more than that. So I went ahead and purchased it, and working for the first time with the agents and direct mail, we quickly got the circulation up to over 200,000. At which time, I decided to go forward with Football Digest and then later on, hockey, basketball, and all the sports titles. But Baseball Digest was always known to the baseball fan, they always liked the magazine and we traded on that. Originally, I tried to get involved with the little leagues, selling Baseball Digest as a fund raiser, but on the staff there was myself and my secretary and that was it. We didn’t go too far with that. So the years went on and the circulation grew, but I got very involved in our other titles, particularly with Inside Sports when I bought that and re-launched it. So really there wasn’t all that much attention paid to it. And over the years as I grew to a point where I was publishing 20 magazines, I started selling some of them off and a few had to be closed down and so forth. And so that brings us up-to-date; right now I am left with or only have 2 titles in my publishing group, Baseball Digest and another magazine called Cruise Travel. However, we are now talking to people about really, quote “re-launching” the title and making it a lot more than it is today. And by that I mean, to give some detail, we’re only distributing 10 or 12,000 copies on the newsstand, so we’re talking about going to a 100,000 or more. And we’re talking about going from a news print publication to a very slick, beautifully-designed baseball magazine. And furthermore, we’re talking about developing within the magazine; the pro-scouting information, this is data never available before and developed by an outside company, to drop in possibly as an insert and re-launch this magazine, hopefully with our 70th anniversary, which is in September of this year, 2012. So there is a lot of work to do, it’s very, very exciting; the Baseball Digest brand is well-known, it’s just that we need to get it out there again so all of the people who have known Baseball Digest over the years will realize that we’re back in business, but with a much bigger and better package.

Samir Husni: Someone once said that you can’t know America without knowing baseball. Do you think you can re-create a magazine that will help people fall in love again with baseball? Do you think that people have lost their first love, and football is now everywhere and everybody talks about football; do you think there is hope for baseball?

Norm Jacobs: Well, I certainly do, because as we all know, baseball attendance is zooming. And the baseball fan has always been thirsty for information and knowledge, particularly for statistics and the kind of information that may not be in other publications. Now, with Baseball Digest as practically the only frequency-type of publication available, mostly the other titles are annuals. But I do think, yes, that because it has been around for so many years and so many people that I’ve talked to say, “Oh, I remember. I read Baseball Digest when I was five, seven, or ten-years-old.” I think that if we develop the product, bring it up-to-date and have a magazine that has some nostalgia to it, as it always has, but new and current ideas, and articles and features, plus getting involved in the digital era with all kinds of websites and iPads, iPhones and databases and everything like that. So, I’m very hopeful for the future of the title.

Samir Husni: If we’re here having this discussion a year from now, what’s your hope? Where will you be a year from now?

Norm Jacobs: Well, I would hope that we’d be…well, we’re thinking of launching with a 100,000 on the newsstand, hopefully we’d be at 200, or somewhere around that point, 250 even. Our subscriber base would go from 70,000 to hopefully several 100,000, I don’t know if that’s ambitious or not, but with the proper promotion and the effort behind it, a year from now would be a much different picture than it is today, for sure.

Samir Husni: You’ve been a publisher for years and years, and I ask this question to almost everyone I interview: What keeps Norm Jacobs up at night?

Norm Jacobs: Mostly cash flow. We all know that publishing today is so different than it was in the old days. I remember when I wanted to start a new magazine, I’d pick up the phone and call Curtis and say that I’m starting Hockey Digest and I want to distribute 70,000 copies and that was it. I’d have a sell sheet and it was done. Today it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it and it’s a lot more expensive. And a re-launch of this title, this brand that we’re talking about, we’re talking about quite a bit of an investment. And I think that would keep me up a few nights along the way.

Samir Husni: If someone came up to you and said, “Mr. Jacobs, I want to start a new magazine today.” What advice would you give them?

Norm Jacobs: Well first of all, I think that I would say, call Samir. You need to talk to the consultants, the people who really know the industry; particularly those who are up-to-date with what’s going on. Because it’s more than just a magazine today, there’s got to be everything that’s surrounding it in the digital era. And secondly I’d say, you better have a lot of money. And thirdly I’d say, you need a lot of luck. And fourthly, you know, there’s really a lot of work that has to be put into any new title. I guess that’s what I’d say.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

(Full Disclosure:  I guess Mr. Jacobs followed his own advice. Few weeks after my interview with him, I was asked to join the team as a publishing consultant.  I have accepted that invite and joined the team as a publishing consultant for the relaunch of the magazine).


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