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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beer, Blogs And Bias
from the i'll-drink-to-that dept
The Wall Street Journal has an article focusing on a blog set up by Miller Brewing Company called Brew Blog. There are a few different, interesting points worth discussing here. First, the blog isn't used as a blog about what's going on at Miller Brewing. Instead, Miller hired an experienced reporter, and told him to just cover the beer industry as if he were a beat reporter. In other words, it's reporting news -- and even breaking stories on the competition. In fact, it revealed that main rival Anheuser-Busch was planning a new beer before A-B was able to make the announcement itself. This is certainly a recognition of how content is advertising. The blog clearly isn't "advertorial." It's full-on reporting about the industry, in a way that's interesting and relevant to those in the industry.

What may be even more interesting, though, is what the article says about journalism. In an age in which journalists are whining that their jobs are disappearing, here's yet another example of where suddenly there are new types of jobs for journalists appearing every day. But, even more interesting, is a quote at the end of the article highlighted by David Card. It's from Harry Schuhmacher, the editor and publisher of a fee-based trade publication on the beer industry:

"I tell Miller you're subsidizing a free publication, and it hurts the trade press," he says. "But they don't care."...Mr. Schuhmacher adds that he writes fewer positive pieces about Miller than he once did because he knows Brew Blog will always publish the same stories.

Think about this for a bit. People complain that when you have a company-sponsored publication it will inevitably be biased -- but the sponsorship of that site is totally open and in the clear. The site's content stands for itself. Yet, at the same time, a supposedly "objective" traditional journalist is admitting that he writes fewer stories about Miller because he's upset that it's competing with his own publication. From that, it would certainly seem like the Brew Blog is a lot more credible (it's biases are out in the open), while this fee-based trade pub admits that story choices are sometimes based on personal vendettas.

Copyright Scholar Kicked Out Of Canadian Copyright Panel
from the fair-and-balanced dept
US entertainment industry interests have been pushing for quite some time to get stronger copyright laws in Canada, despite plenty of questions about why they're needed. Thanks to folks like Michael Geist, who has repeatedly shined light on attempts to rush these efforts through, some of these efforts have been set aside until there can be more public debate. But, of course, the industry never rests, and as it's looking to get stricter copyright laws in place in Canada, it doesn't much want to hear from critics who have facts on their side. Geist points us to the rather ridiculous news that a supposedly non-partisan, independent organization called the Public Policy Forum has uninvited a well known expert, Howard Knopf, on Canadian copyright from a symposium being held today. Knopf was going to do a presentation explaining why Canadian copyright law is already stronger and better than US copyright law, and why the US ought to be copying Canada's law, rather than the other way around. However, Knopf believes that PPF was pressured to remove him from the schedule, including removing him from a panel where he planned to debate these issues with a registered lobbyist of the entertainment industry. It's a lot easier to get questionable laws passed when you silence the critics.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

5 Key Future Magazine Trends and 8 Ways to Prepare for Them

BoSacks: The Profit Prophet
5 Key Future Magazine Trends,
and 8 Ways to Prepare for Them

Publishing Executive Magazine
Last month, I had the pleasure of delivering a lecture at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo with David Renard, my partner at Media-Ideas. Addressing a packed room, we examined the five key issues that will affect our industry over the next decade and provided actionable advice to prepare publishers for that future.

The trigger to these key issues is, simply put, "change." We are faced with changes unprecedented in history. The "screenagers" have been a digital demographic from birth, growing up after the dawn of cellular (1983) and with the Internet (1993). They are a generation comfortable with immediate interaction and virtual access. This is fostering a new generation of readers, naturally adept with technology and comfortable with virtual access to friends, family and the world at large. It also is fostering a change in reading habits. Pixels are being increasingly accepted as a way of life.

Another element of change is the access to connectivity. Wi-Fi and mobile phones allow people to stay connected to friends, family, work and information immediately, almost anywhere.

We have the ability to deliver information to multiple platforms in an instant, on a global basis and, most importantly, in any format the reader requires.

Key Trend #1: Magazines are not changing, how you read their content is.
What is a magazine? We at Media-Ideas believe that for a magazine to be a magazine, it must be metered, edited and have designed content, as well as be delivered periodically to the reader in a format that is date-stamped and permanent. We accept that a digital magazine with those six attributes is a magazine. We further believe that over the next 15 years, digital magazines will grow to become 30 percent of the magazine market. Within 25 years, they will represent more than 75 percent of the market for periodicals.

Call to Action: Publishers must create a specific road map today toward multiplatform magazine publishing and content distribution.

Keeping the structural integrity of a magazine online, with the six components necessary to be a magazine, will help to protect publishers from the leveling force of content aggregation that exists on the Internet today. This will greatly limit a magazine's exposure to the content-dilution factor that is increasingly being played out in the realm of information distribution on the Web.

Key Trend #2: Costs are increasing faster than the traditional magazine business model allows.
Raw-material acquirement is causing paper, ink, printing and shipping costs to increase over the long term. These will be further impacted as ecological concerns grow. The lack of attention to ecology is going to be a major cost. Imagine having to pay carbon offsets for each copy returned.

Call to Action: Sky-rocketing costs will force publishers to become more efficient with distribution. The goal has to be 100-percent efficiency or zero returns (and zero returns means a massive reduction in a publisher's carbon footprint).

Call to Action: Crippling costs will force publishers to offer better-quality, more-targeted print products at even higher price points.

Call to Action: Ballooning costs will force publishers to further espouse digital delivery.

There is little choice. Digital infrastructure is not free, but it is also not burdened with rising paper and other associated analog costs.

Key Trend #3: The control and branding of digital content is a critical battle.
XML, content aggregators and search engines are growing in importance and acceptance. This type of online distribution should principally be considered as a marketing tool to attract new readers. Only the very largest magazine publishers and publishers of addictive niche titles will manage to retain their brand awareness through this information-
distribution model. Digital magazines must become a critical piece of a publisher's digital content-distribution plans over the next two years. Because they preserve the core characteristics of a printed magazine, they are best equipped to retain reader loyalty in a digital world.

Call to Action: The formula construction of a magazine's distribution will become a central battle for relevance. If publishers do not take an aggressive stance, outside forces will steer a solution away from the interests of the magazine industry.

Key Trend #4: E-paper is rapidly developing flexible, color displays.
Although the Amazon Kindle is not ready for prime time, it is a prime example of where we are headed. Our Media-Ideas researchers predict that by 2020, e-paper's worldwide market will be worth more than $20 billion. We further predict that by 2020, the annual global production of e-paper displays will be 500 million units with a unit price of $50. Imagine a piece of paper that is a screen, plasticized at first, but becoming more and more like the pulp we have all grown to love.

Call to Action: If digital magazines have not made sense to you, your readers and advertisers, they will with full-color e-paper. Publishers must be acting on their digital magazine implementation plans today or risk irrelevance.

Key Trend #5: The corporate structure of traditional publishers cannot keep pace with technological changes, causing a misalignment between internal organization and business needs.
In every corner of the publishing organization, employees need a larger skill set-one infused with technology-such as writing a blog, shooting and editing video, and repurposing content. Today's IT departments are ill-equipped to act upon consumer-imposed requirements. It must fall on the business unit to provide the necessary guidance and forward planning.

Call to Action: Type A publishers need to assign business-technology "visioneers" within each unit of the organization who report directly to a C-level executive.

Call to Action: Visioneers are responsible for planning necessary technology and functionality over five years. Both the business units and the visioneers must be partially compensated on each other's success.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (, and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cover Story: The King of Visceral Design

BoSacks Speaks Out: This article made me nostalgic for the era of great covers. That comment may anger a few of my friends, but I think there is an overall lack of great covers. There some good ones out there today and even from time to time some great ones, but they seem so far and few between. Do you agree or am I just in an oddly reflective mood.

Norman Rockwell, George Lois produced some really great work. If you ever get the chance to pass my way up here in the Berkshires, there is the Norman Rockwell Museum outside of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It is a magazine person's dream experience. The art is fantastic and they were all covers of magazines. I'm like a kid in candy shop every time I go in there. Everybody who is in this business must get there at least once a career.

"I learned to draw everything except glamorous women. No matter how much I tried to make them look sexy, they always ended up looking silly... or like somebody's mother."
Norman Rockwell

Cover Story: The King of Visceral Design
GEORGE LOIS, one of the most influential admen of his generation, is the sort of person who has a dozen brainstorms an hour, at least half of them good and only a few really harebrained. Among the better ones were the early Xerox commercials showing a chimpanzee deftly operating a photocopier, the "Think small" ads for Volkswagen and the "I want my MTV" campaign. He also dreamed up Lean Cuisine and the "I want my Maypo" slogan.
But among certain groups of people - magazine collectors, veterans of the 1960s, admirers of brilliant design - Mr. Lois is best known for the covers he created for Esquire from 1962 to 1972. There were 92 in all, including one that never ran: an antiwar cover intended for the December 1962 issue, which was dropped because the State Department was insisting that American troops would be out of Vietnam by Christmas. Thirty-one of them are part of an exhibition that opened at the Museum of Modern Art on Friday.
The show looks a little like a tidied-up version of a great many college dorm rooms back in the '60s. There on the wall, neatly mounted instead of just torn out and stuck up with tape, are Tricky Dick having lipstick applied, L.B.J. holding a Hubert Humphrey dummy, Andy Warhol drowning in a Campbell's soup can, Muhammad Ali posing as St. Sebastian and a grinning Lt. William Calley, the leader of the massacre at My Lai, with four Vietnamese children. There's also the image Mr. Lois created for the December 1963 issue, in response to a plea from Harold Hayes, Esquire's editor, for something "Christmassy." It shows Sonny Liston wearing a Santa hat - probably the last person white Americans hoped to see coming down the chimney in those days.
Many of Mr. Lois's covers were controversial, not so say irreverent or deliberately provocative. The Liston cover cost the magazine $750,000 in dropped advertising. But they were immensely successful at drawing attention, on the newsstand especially.
"The covers weren't the only thing going on in those days," Byron Dobell, Esquire's managing editor during many of the Lois years, recalled recently. "We thought there was some pretty great stuff inside as well. But the covers proved to be a very effective way of advertising our kind of journalism. They were way out there."

What was remarkable then - and seems even more so now, when virtually every magazine cover is a thicket of text lines running behind or on top of one celebrity or another - is that the Lois covers were virtually textless. They achieved their effect by communicating a single idea through an image. Some were untouched photographs, but, in an era before Photoshop, some were created by the primitive technique of cutting and pasting, using photographs, clip art and sometimes hand-drawn elements.
"I remember when we were doing the Warhol cover," Mr. Lois recalled. "I explained to Andy what I had in mind, and he said, 'Oh, will you have to build a very big can?' "
There is a whole generation of current or recent magazine editors who are Lois admirers, including David Remnick, Graydon Carter and Tina Brown. "George was there during a great age," said Mr. Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair. "You didn't have to put low-grade movie stars on the cover then to move magazines. You could put ideas there."
He added: "George used people like Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali, so you could say he was using the celebrities of the day. And it was probably a little easier then, because everybody had the same frame of reference. They all read and watched the same things. But George was as good as it got."

Few editors, though, have the nerve to try to imitate what Mr. Lois did. Esquire's May cover this year, of a woman shaving her face, is a sort of homage to the 1965 Lois cover of Virna Lisi doing the same thing, except that in the background there's a lot of busy type needlessly explaining, "We Shot This Image to Catch Your Eye."
Mr. Lois is 76 now, and not quite the hunk he used to be in the days when he was known in the ad business as the Golden Greek. "People see pictures of me back then and ask, 'What happened?' " he said recently. "I'll tell you what happened. Fifty years is what happened." But he still plays full-court basketball - against much younger guys, he's quick to point out - and gets by on four hours of sleep a night.

Mr. Lois grew up in a Greek-speaking household in the Bronx, where his father ran a flower shop, and he is still a bit of a neighborhood guy. He is funny, profane and opinionated, and not shy about poking you in the shoulder or the knee to make sure you're following his point. He talks very fast, in a rumbling New York voice, but his brain works even faster, so that sometimes there's a little lag while the words catch up.

Over a long morning interview - monologue really - that stretched into lunch, prepared by Rosemary, his wife of 56 years, Mr. Lois recalled that Martin Scorsese, a huge admirer of the Esquire covers, seemed crushed when he learned that his idol had spent most of his life in advertising. But Mr. Lois said he didn't see much difference between ads and covers.
"I've always been about the big idea, the big idea," he explained. "I never had any trouble going into a new area. It's all a matter of creativity. I even made a music video once for Bob Dylan, using 5,000 years of the history of art."

The Esquire connection came about, he recalled, in June 1962, when Harold Hayes - a courtly, soft-spoken Southerner who favored white suits even before Tom Wolfe - called looking for advice about covers. When Mr. Lois learned that Esquire covers were conceived and assigned by an editorial committee, he likened the process to gang rape and said to Mr. Hayes: "Is that what you do when you assign a story to Talese or to Mailer - you have a group grope? You need to get one guy who understands the culture, who likes comic strips, goes to the ballet, visits the Metropolitan Museum."

According to Mr. Lois, Mr. Hayes replied, "Hey, pal, could you do me a favor? Could you do just do me one cover - to show me what the hell you're talking about?"
The cover Mr. Lois did - for the October issue, which came out a few days before the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight that year - showed a Patterson look-alike sprawled, possibly dead, in an empty boxing ring. This was a huge gamble, because most experts had picked Patterson to win. "But I knew," Mr. Lois said. "I just knew that Liston was going to wade through him." Mr. Lois also got lucky when, after a coin flip, he predicted that Patterson would be wearing white trunks.

The cover was a hit, and Mr. Lois had a job, which he kept until Mr. Hayes stepped down in 1972. There were no committees, no group gropes. Mr. Lois dealt solely with the editor , and he likes to say now that Mr. Hayes was one of the few at Esquire who really liked the covers, though people who were there at the time disagree.
Lee Eisenberg, an editorial assistant in the early '70s who eventually became editor of Esquire, said: "The Lois covers were one of the key reasons I and a lot of people there were drawn to Esquire in the first place. We loved them. They set a visual tone that complemented the distinctiveness of the rest of the magazine.

"The only real controversy that I recall was about the Calley cover. There was a lot of argument and bitterness over that, and it was the one time that the privacy of the relationship between Harold and George became an issue. There was an alternative version - the exact same cover but with Calley not smiling - and Harold didn't show that to anyone."
Mr. Lois recalled: "Harold used to say that we were doing was 'pictorial Zolas' - you know, 'J'accuse.' " He added: "People ask me, 'Did you know when you were doing this that you were making an important statement?' Yeah, I knew. I'm a designer. I know what I'm doing. I have designs on things."