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Joanna Pettas

Jewelry Industry Magazine Cover Inspired by New York

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 08/12/2008-10:55 AM

We’ve heard the bad news from the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ first half Fas-Fax report. We’ve also heard New York magazine’s good news clamoring above it—a 3.4 percent increase in single copy newsstand sales, even with a 20 percent cover price increase.

Jewelry industry magazine JCK, published by Reed Business Information, clearly chose the right magazine to imitate for its May, pre-show issue—one of its most important of the year. According to creative director Todd Gast, JCK’s cover was inspired by New York magazine’s reprisal with Lindsay Lohan of the famous Marilyn Monroe “Last Sitting” photo shoot—an issue which sold 43,791 single copies, more than any other New York magazine cover during the first half and nearly double its period average of 22,572.

One thing JCK didn’t copy was New York magazine’s choice to go with one photo instead of the contact sheet look. FOLIO: Face Up panelist Crystal Madrilejos, an art director at Wise Group, didn’t approve: “I don’t think all the small photos are making the impact that one great photo, or amazing typography, could.”

What do you think?

Take the Face Up survey and get a chance to win an iPod Shuffle.

Joanna Pettas

Is MSLO Doomed? Not So Fast…

Joanna Pettas Consumer - 08/05/2008-09:21 AM

When former Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Susan Lyne stepped down this June, said it was a sign that the “company is doomed.”

“The hard truth is that demand for Martha Stewart in all forms—magazines, books, TV shows, Web sites and merchandise—has passed its peak,” James Ledbetter wrote.

For FOLIO:'s August issue, I spoke to Wenda Harris Millard who, along with Robin Marino, took over as co-CEO after Lyne resigned. She, of course, disagreed: “Our consumer, her engagement level across all media channels holds.”

But as Millard points out, MSLO isn’t all about Martha anymore. She says one of the company’s main goals this year into next is to grow its Emeril Lagasse brand, which it acquired for $50 million earlier this year. “Emeril is a great fit with our company because he’s a lifestyle brand that fits beautifully into our media and merchandising position and strategy,” she said. Will Martha make way for more brands in the future? For her sake, let’s hope so. As Ledbetter wrote, “How much longer does she want to grace the covers of magazines, whip up meringues on TV and hawk soup in Costco?”

For now, Millard’s “big idea” is to bring the media and merchandising arms of the business closer together, a strategy mirrored by the appointment of former media president Millard and former merchandising CEO Marino as co-chief executives.

Judging from the company’s second quarter earnings, these two sectors are hardly “doomed.” Merchandising revenues rose to $16.2 million in the second quarter this year over $10.4 million in the same period last year. On the media side, Internet and broadcasting revenues each grew by about $1 million (Internet revenues rose from $2.5 to $3.2. million, broadcasting was up from $10.4 million to $11.4 million) while publishing fell slightly—from $47.5 million to $46.3 million—even with Blueprint gone.

Joanna Pettas

Another Magazine to Furnish a House

Joanna Pettas Sales and Marketing - 07/28/2008-16:41 PM

Metropolitan Home is one of the latest magazines to dip its brand toes into the housing market.

The magazine has teamed up with Showtime to create “the ultimate multimedia showhouse” in New York’s Gramercy Park neighborhood. They’ll transform a $20 million, 8,800 square foot Greek revival townhouse into a “chic, upscale residence,” where they’ll hold parties, tours and other events.

Met Home is far from the first magazine to do this. Esquire this fall created its “ultimate bachelor pad” in Harlem, overlooking Central Park, and sold sponsorships to brands like Louis Vuitton, Jaguar and Versace. It was Esquire’s fifth year creating these so-called “Signature Spaces.” Esquire had raised $2.9 million for charity in the four years prior.

RELATED VIDEO: Click here for FOLIO:'s exclusive video tour of Esquire North

And of course, they’ll showcase sponsors’ products. Some of the brands already signed on include Benjamin Moore, Thermador, Jacuzzi, Bo Concept and others in the housing and home improvement categories—a tough-sell for many publishers right now. (The magazine will also donate proceeds from tour ticket sales to a non-profit organization.)

Some magazines are making other moves in the market. Better Homes and Gardens recently launched a real estate franchise. Dwell has a line of pre-manufactured “Dwell Homes.”

A lesson for publishers? Don’t let up on tough markets, just get creative.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out the August issue of FOLIO: to learn tips for selling in a down market from the publishers of Architectural Digest and Real Estate Media.]

Joanna Pettas

A Cover That ‘Quickly Communicates its Horrifying Point’

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 07/25/2008-10:25 AM

Picture this: “A photographer in scuba gear photographing a woman in a sari who is repeatedly immersing herself in water while trying to strike the right post and emote with the appropriate facial expressions.” That is how Douglas Barasch, OnEarth editor-in-chief, describes the process of creating the cover image for the magazine’s summer issue.

On top of that, the OnEarth team was trying to make the cover “provocative, but not exploitative.” They wanted a “hauntingly beautiful image that enticed the reader to pick up the magazine and look at it,” says art director Gail Ghezzi, conveying a “sense of power and consequence” while also communicating urgency and disaster. They wanted to “invite readers in to difficult terrain without softening the message,” says Barasch.

Sounds like a lot to ask from a cover! But for Jamie Stark of Stark Designs, they get it done: “I think it’s a solid cover,” he writes. “The color contrast in the photo is great. It’s a striking image that quickly communicates its horrifying point.”

Anthony Ficke of AB Communications disagrees: “… the cover as a whole lacks interest,” he writes. “Overall, it gets the message across, but doesn’t jump out at the reader.”

Now it’s time to hear from you. Take the Face Up survey and get the chance to win an iPod Shuffle!

Joanna Pettas

Aggregate Startup Off to Fast Start

Joanna Pettas emedia and Technology - 07/17/2008-08:17 AM

When FOLIO: reported the launch of aggregated enthusiast network LOUD3R last month, the company’s CEO Lowell Goss left a comment for our readers asking for feedback, which he got:

“This aint gonna work guys,” one commenter wrote under the heading, “Poor execution. Poor idea.” “Pulling in feeds from across the web and having just a single line of content is not what I'd call a ‘community site.’ ‘With minimal cost and manpower,’ to me means, we launched cheap and don’t have editorial resources....Why would I go to STRIK3R rather than something like”

Now, one month since its launch, LOUD3R is announcing that it has doubled its initial goal of getting 100,000 unique visitors across its sites and is launching seven more of its domains in a couple of weeks, including SUMM3R in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Are these guys “inheriting the magazine advertising model online,” as a LOUD3R spokesperson suggested? That’s a bold statement, especially as magazines push—in some cases, successfully—their own online models. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on this network. It did launch cheap, comparatively, and has seen 200,000 unique visitors in its first month.

Joanna Pettas

Latin Finance Magazine Rides Controversy to Coup

Joanna Pettas Audience Development - 06/30/2008-13:59 PM

Last week, FOLIO: pointed out that Blood-Horse, a niche horseracing magazine, forfeited a major traffic-generating opportunity by waiting too long to post its exclusive photo of Big Brown’s loose shoe.

Earlier in the week, at the Circulation Management Conference and Expo, LatinFinance magazine’s marketing manager Kathy Andrew told a story that’s worth holding up as a counter example.

During the magazine’s Fifth Finance Summit in Argentina this month, a keynote speaker—president of the country’s Central Bank—delivered controversial remarks on the state of political affairs in the country. Within an hour, the LatinFinance marketing team had excerpted his comments in a press release and sent the release out to all the major newswires and local reporters.

As a result, saw a 265 percent increase in Web traffic on the day of the event and has since seen an average of 30,000 more page views than normal per week. (The move also helped bring in $7,000 in walk-in attendance revenue as well as 90 more free, qualified attendees.)

Being opportunistic online, particularly when you are smaller publisher, can pay. Big.

Joanna Pettas

What Would You Put on the Cover of Dairy Herd Management?

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 06/20/2008-15:12 PM

Taken literally, the cover of Dairy Herd Management’s April issue is a bit off the logical mark. “Bovine pirates digging for treasure,” as Face Up panelist Jamie Leary called them, do not immediately convey the cover story topic—the rising cost of cattle feed and its impact on dairy producers (who make up the magazine’s audience).

And despite the dark sky—used to create a “foreboding atmosphere,” says art director Rhana Castle—the turquoise sea and white sand conjure images of a Caribbean vacation spot, not a struggling dairy farm or production plant. (One panelist said the image might be better for a title like Dairy Herd + Leisure.)

Still, if I were a dairy producer, I think I’d welcome a cover like this on my desk. Reading a magazine at work—even one that’s directly related to what you do—is a treat. So why not use a fun, appealing image—one that, like cows on a beach, turns the logic of an industry on its head—to catch a reader’s attention? Isn’t that the point of a cover?

As Paul Lee, design director for Sail magazine, noted, “design without compromises is what I consider design for design's sake.” In the publishing world, design has a function—to drive readership and therefore revenue.

Now it's your turn to chime in. Take this month’s Face Up survey and get a chance to win an iPod Shuffle.

Joanna Pettas

Where are the Best Places to Work in Publishing?

Joanna Pettas B2B - 06/13/2008-10:44 AM

Trolling the newswires and sifting through my inbox this week, I came across a few press releases from media companies—IDG, TechTarget, Time Out Chicago—touting their status as one of the “best places to work” in their given cities or states.

Ordinarily this type of “news” wouldn’t be on our radar but, given comments about low morale, I thought it might be time to draw attention to people who at least seem to be happy working in media.

IDG made Boston Business Journal’s list of Best Places to Work in Massachusetts for the fourth straight year; TechTarget made it—among companies in the greater Boston area—for the third. Four-year-old Time Out Chicago made the National Association for Business Resources list of “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in Chicago” for the first time this year.

So the rest of you happy media worker-bees, speak up. Why are you still in this industry? What is making it worth it for you? Post your responses here, and those of you at the helm take note—as one commenter warns: “Morale at [many] companies is in the basement, which does make for a less productive employee because all they do is worry about their next paycheck. As a result the downward spiral continues.”

Joanna Pettas

What Your Magazine’s Tagline Says About You

Joanna Pettas Sales and Marketing - 05/28/2008-09:51 AM

A magazine without a tagline is a magazine confused. Or, potentially, one with a reader confused. What is this magazine about? Who is it for? What is it like? Tell me, tagline!

But a bad tagline can be just as confounding. It can be misleading—like if Palms Springs Life, “California’s Prestige Magazine,” contained ads for Wal-Mart. It can also make you wonder what on earth the people in charge were thinking.

Take, for example, Vegetarian Times. Great magazine, but an off-putting nuance in the tagline: “great food, good health, smart living.” Good health? Why not “great food, good health, decent living”? A tagline is a marketing message, which means people will subconsciously cut the positivity in half. (“Great” means “good,” “good” means “okay,” “smart” means “not a complete moron.”)

How about Relix? It’s “the magazine for music.” Great, but for who? Compare to Paste’s “Signs of Life in Music, Film and Culture.” Instead of not telling us who it’s for, it says what it’s aspiring to be.

And then there’s Reader’s Digest: “Life Well Shared.” This replaced the magazine’s old tagline, “America in Your Pocket,” in January. So much more Oprah.

Here's a handy chart for some other magazines:

Success“What Achievers Read” "A magazine for fans of the Big Lebowski"
Eldr “Celebrate Aging!”"I'm old! Sweet!"
Get Born“The Uncensored Voice of Motherhood”“My kid could beat up your honor’s student”
Live Design“Envision. Build. Go. Live for Broadcast.” "Need. To. Calm. Down."
Coastal Living"The Magazine for People Who Love the Coast""Don't Forget the Sunscreen"
Wondertime"Celebrate Your Child's Love of Learning""Provided They Finish Their Homework First"
Colorlines"The National Newsmagazine on Race and Politics""I read a newsmagazine you've never heard of"
Everywhere"Travel is All Around You""Everybody Knows This is Nowhere"
Fretboard Journal"Not just another guitar magazine.""Just another guitar magazine."
The Word"Intelligent Life on Planet Rock.""Dumb!"
The Source"The Bible of Hip Hop""The Torah of Taglines"
Budget Travel"Vacations for Real People""Fake people don't take vacations"
Soundings"Real Boats, Real Boaters""Did we mention they're real?"

What does it all mean? Pay attention to your tagline. Revisit it every once in a while, and make sure it still holds true. And if you don’t have one, make sure you have a good reason why not.

Joanna Pettas

'You Can Create a Better Editorial Environment Online Than in Print'

Joanna Pettas Consumer - 05/16/2008-11:19 AM

EVANSTON, Illinois—I've been covering the Independent Magazine Group's conference here this week. Despite the gloom and doom that sometimes (justifiably) seeps into industry events, the mood at this show was generally positive if serious, with publishers speaking frankly about the challenges facing indie magazines. In other words, "no bull***"!

Here are some assorted, random quotes from the sessions:

“[I’m glad to see that] everyone here is more concerned with communities than demographics.”
—David Lusterman, publisher, String Letter Publishing and IMAG conference chair

“Every one in this room should be putting together a video team, even if it’s only one person ... Video killed the radio star? Video is going to kill the magazine star if we aren’t careful.”
—Bradford Fayfield, founder and owner, Storm Mountain Publishing

“Thank you for your help in the quest to end bad Web sites forever.”
—Cia Romano, CEO and founder, Interface Guru

“We had a user that was offended by an ad next to an ingredient that was unrelated ... online it’s about bringing information in a relevant way, and that includes ads.”
—Janet Ludwig, president, Allured Publishing

“Only at IMAG is the legislative report as riveting [in] provoking response from the audience.”

“I argue that you can create a better editorial environment online than in print.”

Joanna Pettas

Sex Sells

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 05/07/2008-10:21 AM

Christianity Today’s March cover clearly shows a magazine trying to push boundaries, with white space surrounding the bold, red words “Christianity,” “Addicted” and “Sex.”

“Trying” is apparently the key word for Winslow Taft, senior art director at Mental Floss magazine, who says the cover is “very close to being great,” but not quite. His advice: “Hit the reader with the message hard and do not give them an abundance of white space to get comfortable around the image.”

But it’s not about a message, according to Christianity Today’s senior managing editor Mark Galli. “The article [it refers to] spends a lot of time showing how addictive sexual behavior is not just a moral or spiritual problem but has medical, biological and psychological dimensions.” Theologically, the apple doesn’t represent sin or sexual temptation as it does in pop culture, Galli says, but rather “temptation for man to live on his own apart from God.”

Devout subscribers may already know that, so mission accomplished. The average newsstand shopper probably won’t, so mission also accomplished. (It’s painful to type this but here goes: “sex sells.”)

Anyway, as always, here’s your chance to chime in:

Take the Face Up survey for a chance to win an iPod Shuffle!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Put your cover to the test. Send unique magazine covers to jpettas AT red7media DOT com]

Joanna Pettas

Glamour to Publish First ‘List’ Issue

Joanna Pettas Consumer - 05/02/2008-16:10 PM

For its June issue, Glamour is doing something it’s never done before: a “list.” Well, an official, branded list, anyway. Glamour’s “50 Most Glamorous” will … well, you get it already.

And why not? Fellow large circulation magazines like People and Time seem to publish a list issue every other month. List issues do historically well at the newsstand. And Glamour, like a lot of titles, has been seeing a decline in single copy sales in the past few years—a 7.8 percent drop between 2005 and 2006 and a 10.3 percent drop from 2006 to 2007.

Last year, People’s 100 Most Beautiful issue was ITS second best-selling of the year at 1.79 million, about 25 percent (or 350,000 copies) above the average for the six month period, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The year before, the list issue was the fifth best selling at 1.91 million, 410,000 copies above the six month period average. In 2005, it came in third.

Forbes’ 400 Richest People from October 8 was its second best-selling issue as well last year. The list issue reported 90,623 single copy sales—almost 140 percent above the six month period average of 37,837. The year before, the issue came in third for single copy sales, still about 102 percent above the six month period average but beat by two Investment Guide issues done that year.

Oddly enough, the much-hyped Time 100 issue came in 10th last year in single copy sales, about 37 percent below the highest-selling, December 31 issue at 200,315. Still, for a weekly, 10th best isn’t that bad, and the list actually seems to be gaining ground—in 2005, it was the 22nd best-selling issue; in 2006, it came in 15th.

But then again, in 2005, the best-selling issue sold 330,733 single copies; in 2006, it was 216,807; last year, it was 124,400. Poor, poor newsweeklies...