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Handicapping the 2009 Ellies

A preview of the National Magazine Awards.


Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford
04/30/2009 -10:58 AM






UPDATE: Winners Announced 

The 2009 National Magazine Awards will be doled out tonight at a ceremony in New York. This year, the normally lavish, black tie affair has been downgraded to "cocktail attire" ("We're responding to the economy," Sid Holt, the American Society of Magazine Editors CEO said yesterday during ASME's annual lunch) and, given the endless waves of layoffs and magazine closings, the vibe is expected to be subdued ("Don't be surprised if it's solemn" said one editor).

But perhaps the solemn backdrop will make the awards themselves—which usually take a back seat to the schmooze-a-thon that precedes them—mean a bit more this year.

Here's a quick preview of five of the night's most intriguing races:

GENERAL EXCELLENCE: 100,000 to 250,000 circulation

Foreign Policy
Los Angeles Magazine
Mother Jones
Paste
Time Out New York

FAVORITE: Mother Jones
LONG-SHOT: Foreign Policy
FOLIO: PICK: Paste
THE SKINNY: Mother Jones, the lefty on the Left Coast, and its non-profit model are quietly weathering the economic storm, making it a sentimental favorite. But Paste, the Decatur, Georgia-based magazine that in recent years has experimented with different editorial and business approaches, sorta like the bands it covers, deserves to win its first Ellie.

GENERAL EXCELLENCE: Over 2,000,000 circulation

Martha Stewart Living
National Geographic
Reader's Digest
Real Simple
Time

FAVORITE: National Geographic
LONG-SHOT: Reader's Digest
FOLIO: PICK: Time
THE SKINNY: National Geographic shocked the awards ceremony last year, capturing three, including this one. Reader's Digest hasn't been nominated in 20 years. My money's on Time, if only to validate its extensive coverage of Barack Obama, which some have criticized as breathless. Wrongly.

MAGAZINE SECTION

Best Life
Golf Digest
Newsweek
O, The Oprah Magazine
Wired

FAVORITE: Wired
LONG-SHOT: O, The Oprah Magazine
FOLIO: PICK: Best Life
THE SKINNY: Newsweek's Jon Meacham just won a Pulitzer for his book on Andrew Jackson, so his trophy case is plenty full. Chris Anderson's Wired should win, but I'm pulling for Best Life, which Rodale folded last month.

DESIGN

Bon Appétit
Good
GQ
New York
Wired

FAVORITE: New York
LONG-SHOT: Good
FOLIO: PICK: Good
THE SKINNY: GQ's Fred Woodward is a legend, Wired's Scott Dadich and New York's Chris Dixon are hella-deserving (New York should and probably will win the design Ellie). But I'm rooting hard for Good creative director Casey Caplowe, a member of the 2009 FOLIO: and all-around good (sorry) guy. It takes big cajones to cut your trim size down for one issue, as Good did for its "recession special."

GENERAL EXCELLENCE ONLINE: 1,000,000 and above average monthly unique visitors

BusinessWeek.com
Chow.com
NationalGeographic.com
Nymag.com
Time.com

FAVORITE: Nymag.com
LONG-SHOT: Chow.com
FOLIO: PICK: Nymag.com
THE SKINNY: Probably the most important award of the night, given the fault lines that dash across of the industry's future. New York magazine, a pioneer for both regional and general interest magazines on the Web, should win.

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Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford --

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