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Vanessa Voltolina

George Lois Slams Esquire’s E-Ink Cover

Vanessa Voltolina Design and Production - 10/24/2008-09:16 AM

George Lois, Esquire’s art director from 1962 to 1972, took a no holds barred approach to design, producing some of the most iconic covers in the history of magazines. Lois takes the same approach to interviews, telling AdAge media reporter Nat Ives how he was "embarrassed" by Esquire’s battery-powered e-ink cover, a "silly gimmick" that “cost a quarter of a million dollars, I’m told.” (Esquire’s issue touted the cover line, “The 21st Century Begins Now” with, as Lois described, “Mickey Mouse lights clicking on and off.”)

Since April, the MOMA has been hosting a collection of Lois’ Esquire cover designs. During this interview, Lois said: “great covers need to have a great idea behind them.” Of Esquire’s cover, he said: “That wasn’t great; it was ridiculous.”

“When will they learn?” Lois said of Esquire. “Oh lord, how long will it take for them to learn.”

Vanessa Voltolina

The Best (And Worst) Recession '08 Covers

Vanessa Voltolina Design and Production - 10/16/2008-11:01 AM

There have been a lot of fire engine red magazine covers littering newsstands lately. Why? “There are a slew of recession clichés to choose from,” Andrew Horton, Business Week’s art director (and former FOLIO: art director) told me. “A red line pointing downward is a popular one,” in addition to bold colors (usually red), and visual metaphors of tightening, lessening and falling, he said.

While many magazines have embraced these clichés, the best recession covers, Horton confirmed, were simple and direct. “We only used red on our ["The New Frugality," below] cover because we needed it to pop.” But even as far back as April 2008, when, he claimed, Business Week forecasted the recession, Horton has tried to keep cover images fresh and unique.

Other magazines haven’t been so creative or effective. Horton cited the Economist’s whirlpool cover ("What’s Next?," below) as confusing and a bit too muddy, although he considered the majority of the magazine’s covers to be spot on, recession-based or otherwise.

“The Time cover with the photograph of the great depression ["The New Hard Times," below, left] was awesome,” said Horton. “I actually got sad looking at it—that’s how you know it’s good.”

“Eventually, magazines run out of visual metaphors [for recession],” he said,
“But I always say that I will never put a bear or a bull on a cover.”

Other publications that have visually tried to tackle the hemorrhaging economy include Forbes, Fortune, Time and Newsweek.

So, should readers plan to see more recession covers in the coming months? Horton predicted that as overt recession covers begin to dwindle, more consumer covers with a focus on low holiday spending will emerge.

Here, some of the best (and worst) of 2008’s economic recession covers.

Vanessa Voltolina

Will Time Warner’s Stock Tumble Lead to Time Inc. Sale?

Vanessa Voltolina M and A and Finance - 10/14/2008-09:00 AM

Time Warner’s stock price hit a 52-week low ($9.03 per share) this past week. Time Inc., like many publishing companies, saw ad pages for its titles tumble during the first half. And, as FOLIO:’s recent story on Time Inc.’s two-year plan to grow revenues mentioned, the largest declines came from its flagship newsweekly, Time (down 21.1 percent) and Entertainment Weekly (-16.8 percent).

Despite president Ann Moore’s plan to weather the soft advertising market, the question remains whether or not the media giant will opt to spin-off its publishing division.

Analysts have frequently suggested that TW’s magazine unit be sold—along with AOL—due to the lack of overall growth. Moore, however, points to Time Inc.'s $907 million in profits last year, which accounts for 13 percent of the parent company's content business. She told the Times Online that "investors were too focused on trying to find double-digit growth."

Back in November 2007, FOLIO: described what a Time Inc. spin off might look like—specifically how it could benefit both entities. Time Warner would get to move Time Inc. off the books as an operating unit and Time Inc. would become a free-standing, public company.

As far as the rumored sale of the U.K.-based IPC division of Time Warner, which houses its Southern lifestyle titles, Moore responded: "Where did you hear that from? I know, wishful thinking from bankers hoping for a mandate."

Vanessa Voltolina

How Those Editors-Turned-New Media Entrepreneurs Are Doing

Vanessa Voltolina emedia and Technology - 10/10/2008-08:34 AM

So far, 2008 has been the year of going it alone. We've seen a myriad of editors and assorted big media executives venturing out to pursue dreams of grandeur in their very own new media startups.

To review: Harry McCracken stepped down as PC World editor in May to launch; Rieva Lesonsky, former Entrepreneur editor, left to begin SMB Connects; former New York Times Hollywood reporter Sharon Waxman left the company to launch something called the Wrap News, an entertainment Web site; ex-AOL exec Lewis Dvorkin has been quietly working a news aggregation site; and Prescott Shibles [pictured], new media vice president at Penton Media, left to begin his own startup, Vital Business Media.

But since their departure from the "traditional publishing" world, where are they now and what can we expect from their new ventures?

Shibles, for one, told FOLIO: this week he has raised "less than $5 million" in angel financing to get VBM going and continues to look for additional financial partners. Once the site goes live, he hopes to launch two more verticals by mid-2009.

While online metrics are only so telling (and accuracy hard to come by), McCracken reported monthly traffic "in the hundreds of thousands of page views" in the first six weeks after launching.

Waxman's site, set to go live in January 2009, will use the closing $500,000 that she acquired in the first round of funding for the online presence in early August to get the ball rolling. Dvorkin also reported receiving undisclosed early-stage funding for his news aggregate site in early August.

And what can Rieva Lesonsky expect from her startup venture? While still up in the air, the answer may soon be: legal fees. After launching SMB Connects, a network that puts small business together with government agencies and organizations, Entrepreneur magazine filed a lawsuit against Rieva, alleging that the former editorial director stole confidential information - namely, its franchise ranking concept, known as the Franchise 500. So much for imitation being the highest form of flattery.