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Dylan Stableford

Have Magazines Moved Quickly Enough?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/10/2008-15:40 PM

Are magazines facing Total Recall, or Judgment Day? Photo: Doug Goodman

Interesting poll question via Ad Age:

Even before the economic downturn, the magazine sector seemed to be struggling not only with ad pages and subscription bases, but with figuring out its approach to the new digital world as well. Obviously, titles have made progress in that regard — 10% of revenue for those on our Magazine 300 comes from digital. But have magazines moved far enough fast enough?

THIS WEEK'S POLL QUESTION: Have magazines moved quickly enough into the digital era?

That’s the first time I’ve seen an industry-wide figure put on the e-media/print revenue mix. Shockingly low, considering how fervent talk about e-media has become (see Tony Silber’s notes from day one of the American Magazine Conference, for one recent example).

Then again, I’m not surprised. There are times, I think, when the magazine industry does too much talking about future initiatives without actually doing anything about them. And this often happens, for better or worse, at events like AMC.

Vote in Ad Age’s poll here.

Discuss below ...

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Dylan Stableford

‘Any Respectable Magazine Should Be Doing a Little Retouching’

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 10/10/2008-09:09 AM

The magazine industry is no stranger to Photoshop controversies, but this is a first.

During a discussion about Newsweek’s Sarah Palin cover on—what else?—Fox News, Andrea Tantaros, a Republican media consultant, said she is outraged over the cover because—get this—Newsweek opted not to retouch Palin’s photo:

“This cover is a clear slap in the face at Sarah Palin. Why? Because it’s unretouched. It highlights every imperfection that every human being has, but we’re talking unwanted facial hair, pores, wrinkles. This is a gross slap in the face to Sarah Palin.”

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly: “Any respectable magazine should be doing a little retouching.”

Click here to watch the video

I felt compelled to consider Bill O’Reilly’s argument that Newsweek under editor Jon Meacham has swung far to the left. But to condemn Newsweek for not retouching a photo, viciously exposing—wait for it—pores is, frankly, insane. It’s a bleeping news magazine!

This debate, by the way, wasn’t merely relegated to off-hours on the Fox News Channel—Tantaros appeared last night on CNN’s Larry King Live to make the exact same argument.

"What do you think about Palin's pores, gang?"

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Dylan Stableford

If You Don’t Go Green, We’ll Shoot This Baby Seal!

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 10/08/2008-22:02 PM

We went and did it.

After years of watching publishers from all corners of the magazine industry roll out “green” issues, FOLIO: finally caved.

I'll admit that I pushed hard for the 1973 National Lampoon-baiting cover, but in the end our editor went with the “newsstand friendly” version. (FOLIO:, of course, is on, like, two newsstands or something, but it’s also hard to win any argument with “baby seal murder!”)

I personally hate “green” issues for a number of reasons, the main one being they’re like Spike Lee films: too preachy. And beyond preachy, not practical.

So for our “green” issue ("What Does it Mean to be Green?"), we tried to develop some “green” standards—stuff publishers can do, right now, in every plink and facet of the business, to reduce their impact on the environment. But, let’s be clear: these standards are by no means intended to be definitive. Thirty percent post-consumer waste paper today could be 50 percent tomorrow. Like the green movement, standards are constantly evolving.

We also tried to be transparent—the percentage of post-consumer waste paper we use is printed right there on the cover (take that, Vanity Fair!).

And other green publishing issues I wanted to cover, ironically, just didn’t fit in the print version. (Polybags, for one—what’s the deal with magazines that are polybagged with nothing?)

So check out FOLIO:’s first-ever “green” issue, and let me know what you think [dylan@foliomag.com].

I’d love to hear from you.

* Don’t worry, no baby seals were harmed in the making of this cover; Dan Trombetto, FOLIO:’s art director, insisted on a photo illustration. And the tear, reminiscent of a more recent cover controversy, was his idea.

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Dylan Stableford

Has Newsweek Gone (Too) Liberal?

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 10/08/2008-14:58 PM

A couple weeks ago, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham appeared on Fox News’ Factor and took a tongue-lashing from host Bill O’Reilly, one that turned oddly personal.

O’Reilly’s beef? That Newsweek, under Meacham’s watch, has gone from a liberal-leaning magazine to something of a mouthpiece for liberal blog Daily Kos (which O’Reilly referred to as a "hate site") and its founder, Markos Moulitsas, whom Meacham hired as a contributing columnist. Which, I thought, is a bit absurd. After all, Meacham is the one who simultaneously hired Karl Rove to write a column in the magazine.

“We wanted our readers to get some insights into the mindsets of folks who are ferociously partisan,” Meacham, who took the reins in 2006, told O’Reilly. “You can disagree with that, but to dismiss an entire magazine because of that is a disproportionate reaction.”

O’Reilly’s response: “If you can explain having eight liberal columnists to three conservatives in a way that I can understand it, then I'll admit that I'm wrong.”

But after reading Meacham’s cover story and accompanying editor’s note in this week’s issue—an attack, albeit an obvious one, on Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s lack of experience (“It is good politics to run as a hockey mom who is going to reclaim the office for the masses [a curious cause, to be sure, since I do not think the masses have been clamoring for it, but there we are]. It will, however, almost surely make for poor governance”)—I think it’s appropriate to put O’Reilly’s question up for debate: Has Newsweek become too liberal? And, more importantly, does it even matter?

Is the notion that news magazines have an obligation to be bipartisan—a balance Meacham has at least partially tried to keep by hiring conservatives like Rove—antiquated in the blogodome era?

Your thoughts?

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Dylan Stableford

People Looks to Capitalize on Newman Death

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/07/2008-11:24 AM

Perhaps it’s because his death hit closer to home than other celebrities (I live in Westport, Connecticut, just a few short apple tosses from his farmhouse, and worked at the local playhouse the summer he starred in “Our Town”). Perhaps it’s because his philanthropic food company has raised more than $250 million for charities. Perhaps it's because he was simply a good guy.

But People’s announcement that they are putting together a 96-page book about Paul Newman, slapping it with a $12 cover price and rushing 450,000 copies to newsstands leaves a sour taste in my mouth (not unlike, you might say, Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade, which is lip-puckeringly sweet—just how Newman liked it).

A spokesperson for People confirmed that the book is for-profit and pointed out that the magazine has a long history of publishing tribute books—Johnny Carson and Princess Diana, to name two.

I realize that publishing is a business, and deaths—however tragic—represent an opportunity for magazine publishers to capitalize on newsstand sales (see: Heath Ledger, and People’s related cover coup). Both People and Entertainment Weekly are devoting their covers to Newman (EW, in a relatively classy move, going with no cover lines), hoping to equal the success they had with Ledger. (People sold 1,816,546 single copies, 20 percent more than its 1.51 million average, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations; EW sold 54,641, 36 percent more than its average.) And I'm sure, in terms of tributes, this one will be top-shelf.

But to publish a special book about an actor who devoted most of his own second act to the community, to sick kids, to others, and not make it even partially charitable smacks of desperation—a money grab at best, and a manipulative tabloid move at worst (People confirmed that the book had been in the works before Newman passed on).

Note to People: maybe pay a little less for those Clay Aiken pictures next time and you won’t have to do stuff like this.

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Dylan Stableford

How Magazines See Paulson

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 10/02/2008-13:27 PM

With the U.S. financial crisis dominating the headlines, the media struggled early on to put a face on the collapse. Having clearly settled on U.S. Treasury Chief Henry Paulson as the hero/villain, the Economist and the Week went the Uncle Sam route. (It’s not the first time these two have published similar cover concepts.)

Fortune, though, went with the frighteningly close headshot for its cover profile—almost, quite frankly, as scary as Wired’s 2005 Al Gore cover.

Steely!

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Dylan Stableford

EW Gets Stewart, Colbert to Recreate New Yorker's 'Fist Bump' Cover

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 09/25/2008-15:35 PM

In this election cycle, a month can feel like a year. Which is why it was either a brilliant or bone-headed move by Entertainment Weekly to recreate the New Yorker’s now-infamous “Fist-Bump” cover—featuring depicting Michelle and Barack Obama as gun-toting, bin Laden-loving, fist-bumping radicals published back in July—with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert playing the respective roles of the Democratic hopeful and his wife—fake afro and all.

The issue hits newsstands tomorrow.

The New Yorker, you’ll recall, faced harsh criticism from both the Obama and John McCain campaigns, with editor David Remnick forced to defend the cover—and the definition of satire—to national media outlets. I doubt EW editor Rick Tetzeli is going to face that kind of scrutiny—Stewart, as I argued in a post about the New Yorker flap, isn't forced to answer questions in the middle of the night about the Daily Show’s on-screen graphics.

But EW can only hope the cover generates same type of sales bump. The July 21st New Yorker sold approximately 75,000 single copies, according to ABC's Rapid Report—nearly double its 39,202 copy average.

The article itself features some blistering quotes from Stewart on the media’s fascination with McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin: "Everyone likes new and shiny," says Jon Stewart. "We’re bored. What’s great about that is [Democratic VP candidate Joe] Biden is an absolutely eccentric character. That’s how powerful Palin’s story is—it has cast the first African-American presidential nominee, the oldest [non-incumbent] presidential nominee, and a really wild cork vice presidential candidate completely out of the picture. The press is 6-year-olds playing soccer; nobody has a position, it’s just "Where’s the ball? Where’s the ball? Sarah Palin has the ball!" [Mimes a mob running after her.] Because they can only cover one thing."

"I keep hearing that she’s 'like us.' There’s this idea that people who hunt and have 'good' values are somehow this mythological American; I don’t know who 'this' person is, I’ve never met them," Stewart continues. "She is no more typical 'us' than I am, than Obama is, than McCain is, than Mr. T is. If there is something quintessentially or authentically American about her, I sort of feel like, you know what? You 'good values people' have had the country for eight years, and done an unbelievably sh*tty job.”

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Dylan Stableford

PC World Design Director: ‘Text is More Important on the Web—As a Designer, That Hurts’

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 09/24/2008-08:26 AM

CHICAGO—“They literally had meetings for days and days about how much red they could use on the Web site.”

That’s how Jason Brightman, design director at PC World, described the magazine’s color fixation during a design session here at the FOLIO: Show. “Red’s great, but you’ll go blind trying to read text that way.”

He said he made a small but important change on the site: Shifted the text to blue. “It had the added bonus of the color people recognize as link,” Brightman said, adding that it’s more important to be readable than follow any brand’s style guide. Designers, he said, should favor “user experience over matching the brand palette.”

“You could be the best designer in the world, but text is more important on the Web,” Brightman said. “As a designer, that hurts. It does.”

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Dylan Stableford

Time Publisher Wants to Capture Readers from Cradle to the Grave

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/23/2008-13:28 PM

CHICAGO—During his keynote address during the 2008 FOLIO: Show here, Time magazine president and worldwide publisher Ed McCarrick said he’s been fending off the “death of the news magazine” thing since the early seventies.

“Pundits heralding the death of news magazines since I was on my way in the door [in 1973],” he said. “They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.”

But he also appears to be keenly aware of the importance of the Web.

Despite the magazine’s Web site (relaunched again a couple weeks ago) accounting for just 11 percent of Time’s revenue, it’s growing—75 percent this year and projected growth of 35 percent in 2009—and McCarrick is quite bullish about it. “We’re at 82 million page views,” he said, responding—tellingly, perhaps, to a question about how large he expects the magazine’s print circulation to grow. “We feel 200 million page views is easily within reach.”

It does appear that all the death talk has seeped into McCarrick’s sales pitch. He said that one of the reasons they launched Time for Kids was to capture readers at an early age. “We say ‘from the cradle ‘til when you’re put in the ground.’”

More on McCarrick’s keynote here ...

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Dylan Stableford

Ex-PC Mag Editor: 'Guess How Many Fact Checkers We Had When I Left?'

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 09/23/2008-09:50 AM

CHICAGO—In a somewhat  evangelical  speech that was not entirely unlike Tom Cruise's in Magnolia here, Jim Louderback—the former editor-in-chief of PC Magazine and current CEO of Revision3, an online video company backed by the dudes from Digg—lamented the slashing of editorial budgets in the magazine industry. Specifically, the disappearance of a position that is sounding more and more antiquated: the “fact checker.”

“In the 90s, it seemed like we had hundreds,” he said. “Now, guess how many fact checkers we had when I left? That’s right, zero.”

Louderback did allow that “magazines are not going away, but they've been changed forever.”

Check out more coverage of the 2008 FOLIO: Show on FOLIOmag.com

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Dylan Stableford

Hayman on Esquire's Self-Referential Covers: 'They're Harming Themselves, Really'

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 09/22/2008-20:18 PM

CHICAGO—At this point, it’s probably easier to list the magazines Luke Hayman hasn’t had a hand in designing. Hayman, the longtime New York magazine designer and dude responsible for Time magazine’s redesign among countless others (Radar, Consumer Reports, etc.), outlined a laundry list of design trends to avoid, at a session at the 2008 FOLIO: magazine here.

And while praising Esquire’s ridiculously overhyped electronic cover, ("It's truly amazing, you can stare at it on your desk for hours") and coverline treatment ("David Curcurito has been doing extraordinary work"), he was critical of the magazine recreating its own iconic covers too often: “They’re harming themselves, really.”

Read more of Hayman’s design don’ts here, including an anti-“font slut” ode, here …

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Dylan Stableford

Atlantic’s Photog Flap Draws Ire of McCain and Magazine, Mixed Reaction from Design Community

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 09/16/2008-10:02 AM

The Atlantic photographer who posted spooky manipulated photos of her shoot with Republican presidential nominee John McCain on her own Web site has drawn the ire of the Atlantic and McCain camps, but—perhaps not surprisingly—a mixed reaction from the design and photo community.

Here’s a quick summary for those who haven’t been following this made-for-election-year media saga. Jill Greenberg—the photographer and noted monkey retoucher who has done cover work for Time, Fast Company, New York, Wired and Portfolio and a slew of other titles—was hired by the Atlantic to shoot their October cover. During the end of the shoot, she apparently made McCain stand above a strobe light, snapping some ghostly shots before he left. “He had no idea he was being lit from below,” Greenberg, a self-proclaimed “hard core Democrat,” told Photo District News a few days ago.

She posted the extra shots on her Web site (with the fitting manipulator.com URL) this week—apparently after the Atlantic’s two week embargo was lifted—adding blood, shark’s teeth and other elements (one caption read: “I am a bloodthirsty warmongerer”; see more shots here). UPDATE: A rep for the Atlantic says Greenberg posted the photos before the embargo had passed.

And, understandably, the Atlantic and McCain camps were outraged. Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote the cover story for the Atlantic, called Greenberg an indecent person who should not be working in magazine journalism. James Bennet, the Atlantic’s editor, told the New York Post the magazine was “totally blindsided.” (The Atlantic is refusing to pay Greenberg, Bennet says, and is looking into legal action.)

But judging from some of the comments on the PDN site, the reaction was decidedly more mixed. A number of commenters slammed Greenberg for her lack of professionalism (“unprofessional, derogatory and a slur on decent photographers everywhere,” one wrote). But others defended Greenberg:

[G]reenberg delivered what her client (the magazine) asked her to do—a hero shot of [M]c[C]ain. [F]or proof, one need look no further than the actual cover of the magazine. [N]ow, [I] know that most people commenting here probably have never actually been paid to take a photo, but here's a secret: for this kind of job one owns one's own negative. [S]o that [G]reenberg decided to mess around with her own copyrighted material having done exactly what was asked of her by her client is utterly appropriate, and she has acted as a consummate professional. … [I] find it hard to believe that on PDN other photographers are begrudging someone their artistic (and legal) license.

What do you think? Did Greenberg cross a line? And should magazines vet their photographers’ political peccadilloes before hiring them to shoot politicians? Post your reaction in the comments section below.

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