Thursday, May 01, 2008

Best Magazines of 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is a fine article with the exception of the oft repeated statistics of the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB). These professionally manufactured and distributed rumors of "rate-card reported rates" suggest that the dollars in the statement are listed is if people, agencies and clients were paying list price. Almost no one buys ad pages at rate card prices. Do you?

Now I know that there are some publishers in my database who have told me that they don't break from their rate card. That is fine. But I also know that none of you guys are members of the PIB listings. Are you?

So let's get real. The industry may be up or it may be down, but you will never be able to tell from the PIB revenue statement. What is harder to flummox is the actual page count. That is a much more important statistic for the health of the publishing body politic.

"Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates"
- Unknown

Best Magazines of 2007
By Steve Black -- Library Journal

Rumors of the death of the magazine are greatly exaggerated. Efforts by some innovative publishers suggest that rather than killing magazines, the Internet may just reinvigorate the medium. The best magazines of 2007 all exhibit responsiveness to readers, often cultivated via their web sites as spaces for reader feedback and contribution, and most have a clear sense of purpose aimed at their specific audience.

Specialty publications elude slump
Matt Kinsman, coauthor of Folio's March 2008 "Magazine Job Report," notes in a blog that a poll of Folio's readers shows that a solid majority of employees in magazine publishing foresee a "nichified" future for magazines. Circulation and newsstand sales of most general interest magazines are falling, in some cases dramatically. According to Folio, Time's circulation dropped 17 percent; Playboy, ten percent; and Reader's Digest, seven percent. The most notable increase in circulation among the top 25 was for AARP's magazines, which enjoy a growing demographic that happens to be very attractive to advertisers (see "Magazines Take a Huge Hit at the Newsstand" by Dylan Stableford, 2/11/08).

Among this year's crop of best magazines, Russia!, Jewish Living, and The Ski Journal exemplify magazines targeted to well-defined niches attractive to specific advertisers. Despite volatility and uncertainty, the advertising market for magazines remains very large. The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) reports total magazine advertising revenue at $25.5 billion for 2007, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2006, even though ad pages declined 0.6 percent to 244,736.54.

Magazines that ceased publication in 2007 include Cracked, Child, Jane, and Business 2.0, many of which will live on as web sites. Se7en and Muslim Girl, two magazines launched in 2007 and reviewed in LJ, are already suspended. The two most notable magazines to fold were Forbes Inc.'s American Heritage-which was then purchased by Edwin Grosvenor and will continue under his editorial leadership-and Condé Nast's House & Garden (1885-2007), which, the New York Times reported, had a paid circulation of nearly one million at the time it closed.

Expansion online
Publishers' continuing efforts to develop web sites to enhance and strengthen magazines reflect a seismic shift in the magazine publishing industry. While few expect print magazines to disappear, most see an effective web presence as essential to future success. MPA reports 67.5 million visitors to magazines' web sites in 2007. This is up eight percent over the year before, a growth rate three times that for the overall U.S. Internet audience.

As each magazine seeks the ideal relationship of print to online to develop its brand, nearly every magazine has a web site with at least subscribing information, and most offer some content to attract readers. It is rapidly becoming commonplace for publishers to include blogs or other tools to invite readers to communicate with editors and fellow readers. In the future, magazines' survival may depend on their ability to foster reader responses, incorporate reader ideas and suggestions, and even publish their submissions.

The problem with versions
Efforts to blend content and community are blurring the distinction between magazines and web sites, a trend that will intensify as publications cultivate affinity groups through their online presences. A complication for librarians is the fluid state of content available online and how that content relates to the printed magazine. Online content may or may not be referenced in the print magazine, and it can quickly disappear. In Serials Review, Xiaotian Chen documents how accessibility is impacted by inconsistent references from print to online and failed links ("Web-Exclusive Articles in Traditionally Print Periodicals," 12/07). If discrepancies between print and online versions become a significant problem for libraries and patrons, advocacy with publishers and database vendors may be needed. In the meantime, the Wayback Machine can help one find fugitive web-only content.

Reader experiences with web content raise expectations for uncluttered pages and highlighted main points to help cope with information overload. This is reflected in the current fashion of magazines' graphic designs. Glossy and busy are out, despite the exception of Condé Nast's Portfolio. The look in vogue is a shorter, wider format, almost square, with a satin or matte finish throughout and pages with plenty of white space and main ideas denoted in large fonts. The effect is pleasing and easy to navigate, enhancing the format's inherent ability to provide an enjoyable visual and tactile experience. Indeed, the new launches of 2007 are evidence that any rumors of the death of magazines at the hands of the web are overstated.

Antenna. q. $28. Ed: Tony Gervino.
Antenna is a playfully irreverent visual catalog of current fashion for young urbanites. Images of clothing and an unpredictable variety of items are depicted without human models. Antenna's alluring design aesthetic might be characterized as a periodical DK dictionary of urban street fashion, with advertisements. Valuable as a record of pop culture and an entertaining read, Antenna is a worthwhile addition to both academic and public libraries. (LJ online 3/1/08)

Heal: Living Well After Cancer. q. $50. Ed: Debu Tripathy, M.D.
This new magazine from the publishers of CURE: Cancer Updates, Research & Education focuses on the emotional experiences of the over ten million Americans experiencing life after a diagnosis of cancer. Heal is upbeat and inspiring while frankly acknowledging suffering. The subtitled theme is addressed from perspectives categorized as people, body, spirit, knowledge, connections, and transitions. The content, editing, and design all make Heal well suited to its audience of cancer survivors and their loved ones.
Jewish Living. bi-m. $19.95. Ed: Liza Schoenfein.
One may question the need for yet another magazine with living in its title, but Jewish Living's target affinity group is sufficiently large and well defined to justify the magazine's place in the market. Both the range of topics and the graphic design will be familiar to readers of lifestyle magazines. Those with a casual interest in Jewish traditions and culture will enjoy its light yet substantive perspectives on being a modern Jew in America.

Kitu Kizuri. q. $40. Ed: Angela Ogbolu.
With a title meaning "something beautiful or good" in Kiswahili, this magazine underscores the tremendous value of listening to diverse voices. By and for African women living in North America, reflecting challenges in and of Africa, its personal narratives speak to every open-minded, compassionate person. Kitu Kizuri, with its original, perceptive, and upbeat coverage, will enhance any library's collection. (LJ online 4/1/08)

Meatpaper. q. $50. Eds: Sasha Wizansky & Amy Standen.
If found in a library, Meatpaper would send patrons a clear message that the librarians truly support a collection representing diverse points of view. Personal narratives, journalism, prose, poetry, images, and art criticism examine the role of meat in our culture from a predominantly feminist perspective. This thoughtful, unique, brash, and provocative magazine is not for the squeamish or those who don't wish to have their assumptions challenged.

Monocle. 10/yr. £75. Ed: Tyler Brûlé.
Well-researched investigative journalism forms the core of this "global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture and design." Targeting an educated audience with an interest in world affairs, this pleasantly formatted magazine is a desirable complement to the newsweeklies. It provides alternative viewpoints on a broad range of topics with depth and insight, all in a politically neutral style. An outstanding addition to any collection of current affairs periodicals. (LJ 1/08)

Organize. bi-m. $15. Ed: Joyce Dorny.
Much more than a vehicle for advertising closets and containers, Organize presents ideas and interviews about the big questions and small details of keeping the stuff of our lives in perspective and in the right places. While the content may be too repetitive for individuals to subscribe personally, Organize is well suited for patrons to browse in a public library and should be a welcome complement to books on the topic. (LJ 9/1/07)
Outside's Go. bi-m. $17.99. Ed: Kent Black.

Although perhaps of narrower appeal than its successful parent, Outside's Go is an attractively designed and well-organized fantasy excursion into luxury travel. Buy your own island, fish in Oman, ogle a Lamborghini or a platinum watch costing as much, or simply enjoy entertaining stories and images depicting the extravagant lifestyle. (LJ 7/07)

Russia! q. $25. Ed: Michael Idov.
Contemporary essays and photography reflecting Russian culture are published from New York, beyond restrictive influences by the Russian government. The design aesthetic and content reflect hip American expatriates' views of Russian society, written with affection and respect for the Russian people if not for Russian institutions. Russia! provides engaging views of the Russian experience that may be otherwise hard to find in English. (LJ online 4/1/08)

The Ski Journal. q. $39.99. Ed: Jeff Galbraith.
A self-described coffee-table magazine, The Ski Journal is most notable for the extraordinary photography that accompanies stories about skiers and skiing locations. And it is all about skiing; snowboards need not apply. This beautifully produced magazine deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in ski culture. (LJ 9/1/07)

Author Information
Steve Black ( is a Librarian at the College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY, and teaches a course in serials at the University at Albany. He is also the author of Serials in Libraries: Issues and Practices (Libraries Unlimited) and interviews editors on Periodical Radio

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