A Picture Is Worth All the Words on the Covers (and Between Them)
There's a great piece on the blog of Rob Haggart
, a photography director, about how magazines now go about choosing what goes on the cover, from the headlines and come-ons to the almost inevitable celebrity. Here's a taste that shows you how insane the editorial process has become:
I look forward to the day when magazines can return to serving their audience and not the newsstand. Until then you’re stuck with 109, free, biggest, hot, ultimate, travel, toys, secrets, great, perfect, best, sex, abs, weight-loss, getaway, new, insider, easy, delicious, shortcuts, paired with a celebrity you keep seeing over and over on the covers of magazines.
Perhaps it's time for people to write (alright, email) editors and demand an end to the tripe, because I really wonder how well they sell, and whether the magazines even try to see if they can understand their readers, or if they just assume that they already know, so there's little reason to experiment or - gasp! - talk to the great mass of us unwashed.
Labels: editors, magazine
Scientific Journal Gets Hoodwinked
The journal Materials Today in its July/August issue is running an opinion piece about "evidence" that Thomas Edison was involved in the murder of a rival. But a closer read
shows that the victim was more likely Materials Today. This is a post I did a couple of days ago on my photography blog (as the topic was movie technology), but I thought that people here might find it interesting.
Labels: hoax, journalism, magazine
LA Times to Turn Sunday Magazine into Ad Shill
I read a story in the New York Times
that made me sad
The Los Angeles Times has made plans to transfer control of its monthly magazine from its newsroom to its business operations and to replace the magazine’s entire editorial staff, according to two executives at the newspaper.
I've never written for the LA Times at all, let alone the magazine, but I do remember a conversation with a past editor, Martin Smith - a real gentleman who was praised by every writer I knew who worked for him and who, it was clear, had an understanding of how to focus articles for his audience.
But the LA Times has been a mess for a while, from what I've heard - and from what has appeared in the news. I'm sure this is all part of the roiling at the Tribune organization, which owns the paper. Sam Zell bought the company and is certain, I'm sure, that he knows what is best for the company. Unfortunately, many people who are primarily investors think they know how to make companies run well, and they often don't, particuarly when it comes to publishing. Some time back, I had a conversation with an editor I knew and wrote for. We were discussing the business magazine market and how badly so mny titles seemed to be doing. This highly experienced man was then editor in chief for a business magazine which had been started by someone with more money than sense, because Mr. Pockets kept second-guessing everything that the experienced editors were doing. The result was complete and total disaster.
A magazine or newspaper is an odd tye of business, because there are three communities to which it is responsible. One, absolutely, is the set of advertisers. They need to know that their financial support will translate into a return on their investment.
But that doesn't happen in a vacuum. To be useful, the publication needs a reading public. The money comes as a consequence of being well-read and well-regarded, and if owners keep under-cutting the editorial mission, they eliminate the ability to satisfy the public, and so the ability to attract advertisers.
A publication also has a responsibility to the community and to public discourse. It is by far the most hazy to accountants, but it is why many people care about a publication and why they are willing to buy it. Ignore the mission, and you might as well close shop and start the fire sale tomorrow.
The plan for the magazine was set in motion months ago. A new editor and others were hired, future issues were planned, and mock-up covers were made — all without the knowledge of anyone in the newsroom, including the top editor, Russ Stanton, the executives said. Mr. Stanton and other high-ranking editors learned of the plan last week, they said.
But the executives who described the plan cautioned that it might have changed since last week, after editors raised objections.
They said that Mr. Stanton, after hearing about the move, asked the publisher of The Times, David D. Hiller, and the president of the newspaper, Jack D. Klunder, to change the name of the publication, which is now called Los Angeles Times Magazine. He argued that to keep the name would lend the newsroom’s credibility to a product it did not control.
Can you imagine taking over a manufacturer and telling the factory workers and management that the marketing department would now run things? Just because someone can make money in real estate doesn't mean that he can necessarily do anything else. It's just that he has enough money to prove by example how bad his decisions can be. Then comes all the money trying to prove that it was the fault of everyone else. But when you're the CEO, you are responsbile. You cannot take the praise if you aren't willing to accept the blame.
Labels: Los Angeles Times, magazine, newspapers
Maxim Reviews Album Sound Unheard
Folio, the trade publication of the magazine business, has an interesting story about Maxim reviewing a Black Crowes album without having the CD available to them
. The group's blog has a fairly scathing posting
, including the following:
Case in point: the “review” of Warpaint--the new album by THE BLACK CROWES--in the March issue of Maxim magazine. The writer--who has not heard the album since advance CDs were not made available--wrote what appears to be a disparaging assessment anyway, citing “it hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.”
Incredulously, the magazine gave the album a two and a half star rating--although neither the writer nor the editor could have heard more than one song (the single “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution”).
When approached for an explanation, the magazine described the review as “an educated guess preview.” Huh?
If this is accurate, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, then "Huh?" is fairly mild. Dylan Stableford eventually got a comment from Maxim:
An apology from Maxim editorial director Jim Kaminsky: "It is Maxim's editorial policy to assign star ratings only to those albums that have been heard in their entirety. Unfortunately, that policy was not followed in the March 2008 issue of our magazine and we apologize to our readers."
Heard in their entirety? So, now I'm wondering if they heard anything at all. Granted, rating a CD without hearing the whole thing seems ridiculous, but are the magazine's comments completely unwarranted if they had a few sample songs from the group, particularly as you'd think performers would put their best crow's foot forward, so to speak, in a case like this.
Labels: magazine, music, reviews
Time Turning to Cafeteria Style Subscriptions
In a break from the traditional way of subscribing to particular magazines, Time Inc. is trying something new
. Customers will be able to get things from different magazines on a pay-as-you-go basis. This could have some interesting repercussions in the publishing world. For a long time, comapnies ahve assumed that people would take everything in all issues of magazines through subscriptions. There was no way of telling what people actually found of value.
But now, editors and publishers could actually learn what interests readers, rather than assuming, via focus groups, that what they do in general is the driving factor of sales. Maybe it's not. What if, over a large group of people, you see what they really want is one or two columns only? Not only does this have the possibility of letting publishers get a lot smarter, but it could take a lot of hot air out of editorial egos. Think of some of the questions you could ask. Do certain writers drive sales, or is it topics? Do the personalities and "brands" of editors matter at all? Do some topics drive print sales but not individual article sales? What happens when readers no longer have to buy an entire magazine to get the promised answer to some come-on line on the cover?
If this is successful at all, you can expect that things could start changing radically on the publishing front in the next few years - assuming, of course, that publishers and editors really want the answers that might now be possible.
Labels: magazine, online, subscriptions, Time Inc.
Faking Interest Online
The New York Times had an interesting letter to its ethicist
. Apparently the writer had interned at a magazine where the editor wanted him or her to post a comment on the publication's blog, but while pretending to have no affiliation. This would be considered a significant ethical lapse in any journalistic circle, as the BBC learned when it had to respond to staff calling in to programs, pretending to be audience members.
I have sympathy for the problem. I remember many years ago hosting a radio call-in show and having absolutely no one telephone. Eventually a friend of mine, the technical director, went to another room and called in to try and spark a conversation. So I understand the difficulty and discomfort of waiting for comments that don't come. However, we were young and foolish. Some might perceive faking an audience as a form of marketing, but it's dishonest.
There are situations and times at which you say, "No, I won't do that." The magazine could have disabled commenting for a while on its blog. Or it could have borne the terrible stigma of not having people care for its opinions - if anyone even noticed or cared. Instead, it choose to manipulate its audience, search engines, and anyone else who might pay attention. To me, that is on the same side of the line as peddling snake oil. I've found in my own blogs that I must insist on moderating comments because I've seen examples of interested people with clear agendas attempting to appear as though they were readers happening onto a topic. Too bad there isn't an equivalent function when you are in the audience and not running the forum.
Labels: comments, magazine, marketing, online
New Magazine Title Muscles In
When I first heard about Mob Candy
, it sounded like a joke - the title calls itself "The Underworld Magazine of Mafia Politics, Pleasures and Power," according to a story
in the Staten Island Advance:
The first issue features articles on Don Carlo Gambino's legacy; 50 years of mob "rats;" the FBI vs. Italian Americans, and a profile of Christian (Chris Paciello) Ludwigsen of Eltingville, a mobbed-up former Miami nightclub owner who once dated pop star Madonna and was the getaway driver in a 1993 Richmond Valley home-invasion murder.
And the magazine's home? Staten Island. What, New Jersey and Las Vegas don't hold the fascination they once did? Local models, scantily clad, provide the "candy." How will the public react? Here's the opinion of its vice president of advertising and sales:
"Most of the responses we've had have been very positive. People tell me 'I can't wait until it comes out,'" Ms. DiPietro said during a phone interview at the periodical's first public event -- a children's fund-raiser in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Yes, we really suggest that you give to this fund raiser - we'd hate to see something happen to your reading habits. It's supposedly a collaboration between a manufacturer/distributor of steel framing (who happens to be a former publisher of porn mags) and a clothing designer. Wonder if he does anything in cement overcoats...
Labels: mafia, magazine, Mob Candy, publishing