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Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: Vogue’s Lebron and Gisele

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 04/09/2008-13:10 PM

Vogue’s latest cover—featuring basketball star Lebron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen—was notable for a number of reasons. For starters, it was just the third time a man had appeared on a Vogue cover (George Clooney and Richard Gere being the other two) and the first African-American male to do so. But the magazine quickly came under fire for what bloggers and other media critics saw as perpetuating the ugly stereotype of a black man as the “wild, savage, white-woman-obsessed beast,” as Gawker Media blog Jezebel put it. (One even suggested that those supporting the cover do a Google image search for “King Kong” for a comparison.)

Below, FOLIO:’s roving panel of designers weigh in on the controversial cover.

NAME: Stephanie Faucher
TITLE: Design director, Computerworld
CRITIQUE: My first reaction to this cover when I saw it at the grocery store was that the two images were so oddly paired. Giselle's exuberant face and posture is just so unnatural next to Lebron's manly roar. She almost looks like a cutout. I honestly didn't think "King Kong," I just thought "strange." But since having read the various reviews and looked at the comparison photos, the resemblance to King Kong is uncanny. I can't help but wonder if Vogue didn't intend to spark a controversy over the stereotypical nature of this image. After all, what better way to sell magazines than to run a controversial cover?

NAME: Kelly McMurray
TITLE: Creative director, 2communique
CRITIQUE: I heard there was controversy over this cover and went to the newsstand to check it out. I was looking for a controversial headline or a photo inspired by an iconic film still. What I see is an athlete in an aggressive stance. In my opinion this is a case of the people/media blowing something out of proportion and giving more attention to something than it merits.

NAME: C. Winslow Taft, Jr.
TITLE: Senior art director, mental_floss magazine
CRITIQUE: I don't feel qualified to comment on what many contend to be the controversial aspects of this cover. However, taking all of that out of the picture and simply looking at it as a cover, I don't think this is one of Vogue's most creative or enticing covers. I'm eagerly awaiting some amount of Brodovitch or Henry Wolf to show itself again on the cover of these magazines that show so much experimentation in their ideas for upcoming clothing trends.

NAME: Jennifer Perez
TITLE: Art director, Perez Dezign
CRITIQUE: Doesn't every cover perpetuate stereotypes? The weirdest thing about this cover is how bad Gisele looks.

NAME: Tim O'Brien
TITLE: Freelance illustrator, Rolling Stone
CRITIQUE: I'm critiquing this cover AFTER the media began speculation about whether or not it's a racially insensitive cover. I have to think that this is a case of a cover where all who had a hand in it getting published; photographer to designer to editor all thought only of this as a fun, dynamic image. Should designers carry around a special filter to question whether a cover or image is going to be interpreted as being viewed as inappropriate? I think so. Once the issue is raised, whether or not it is based on the designer's real intent, it's all that is remembered. Often cited as Time darkening a photo of O.J. Simpson, Matt Mahurin years ago did with an illustration what he does to ANYTHING he illustrates—he created a sense of depth and murkiness that make his illustrations so unique. The contrast from that image next to Newsweek running the same source image made it look like Time decided to darken O.J.—this is ludicrous of course and since that cover, I feel these kinds of blind spots are not so common. Vogue is always a type nightmare. I wonder if people actually choose to buy it based on any promised headline on the cover? I think people who buy this magazine would do so even if they had fewer headlines and allowed their cover image to have more impact. As for the image itself, I agree that the most remarkable thing here his how this isn't a good shot of Giselle and her neck is quite wide. I keep imagining that shoot and how they had to look 'fun' and make all kinds of runs at being active.

NAME: Dan Trombetto
TITLE: Art director, FOLIO:
CRITIQUE: The racial/stereotype issues aside, I simply do not like the shot here. It feels awkward to me—like Gisele is toppling over, almost as if she is tripping over Lebron's size 15 left sneaker. It also feels like the cover lines aren't playing so well with the image. Feels a little congested.

What do you think? Leave your own critiques in the comments section below ...

Bill Mickey

Welcome to the ABM Spin Zone

Bill Mickey B2B - 04/09/2008-10:34 AM

Much like Bobby McFerrin's chirpy ode to blissful ignorance, ABM recently attempted to put a happy spin on its analysis of its own BIN report.

Essentially, both print ad revenue and pages ended 2007 down—not by a lot, 2 percent for revenue and 3.35 percent for pages, but down. And this after a flat 2006 in revenue and a slight decline in pages.

Now these kinds of things can be looked at from any number of angles. And no one, especially an association representing an entire industry, wants to be the bearer of bad news, much less voluntarily even touch a doomy outlook. For example, ABM notes that 13 of the 21 categories tracked showed increases in respective revenues. Fair enough. But then their analysis of the report takes it one step too far.

The computing, software, telecom category has been a freefall for the last three years, declining almost 30 percent in revenues since 2005—17.59 percent alone in 2007, according to the BIN reports.

Yet here's what ABM had to say in its analysis of the 2007 report entitled "Business-to-Business Media Experiences a Robust 2007":

"In fact, ignoring the ‘Computing, Software, Telecomm' category would result in an overall 0% change over 2006."

I love that! So why not just keep going with the other two top declining categories, business, advertising & marketing (-10.7 percent) and travel, business conventions & meetings (-6.95 percent)? I bet ignoring those as well would rocket 2007 to "robust" indeed.

Joanna Pettas

For Appealing Magazine Cover Subjects, Try People, Not Objects

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 04/08/2008-16:16 PM

It can be harder than one might think to find an out-of-the-box cover for Face Up each month. This is especially true in b-to-b, since it’s not as simple as scanning the newsstand for a stand-out.

That’s why I was so excited to come across Functional Ingredients’ March issue, which looked to me like a young boy running on glass—but in jean shorts, like he was on recess at school. A person in every day life rather than an athlete running in an event, something we see all the time on the newsstand.

Turns out this annual issue usually features ingredients on its covers. Humans hardly ever make the cut. So the magazine went even further out on a limb and agreed to put their work to the test, offering the cover up for critique by FOLIO:’s Face Up panel of designers.

Overall, response was positive with some constructive criticism sprinkled in.

Now your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Offer your input on this cover by taking the Face Up survey (and a chance to win an iPod shuffle).

2. Offer up your magazine’s amazing, under-the-radar cover by emailing me at

Paul Conley

Some Holes Cannot Be Climbed Out Of

Paul Conley B2B - 04/08/2008-13:09 PM

Just days ago I urged journalism teachers to force students to learn about business and finance. In particular, I want students to understand debt financing, which has put a stranglehold on many publications.

My hope is that by understanding the murderously difficult environment in which many publishers operate, students will made better decisions about their career path.

To that end, I offer a reading assignment.

Reuters has published a lengthy and well-reasoned article showing that it will be damn near impossible for Sam Zell to avoid a default at the Tribune Co., which is groaning beneath $4 billion of debt and some tough-to-meet debt covenants. You can check out the article here. Students who take the CliffNotes approach to study can get everything they need from PaidContent's take.

Those of us in b-to-b should avoid the urge to feel smug about the nightmare that is newspaper finance. In our end of the industry, things are likely just as bad. But since so many of our major players are privately held, we just don't know how ugly the balance sheets may be.

And as I've said before, I'm worried.

Read more here ...

Dylan Stableford

Players Club Doubles as Free Real Estate Listing for Lenny Dykstra

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 04/08/2008-12:08 PM

The Players Club, the magazine for professional athletes founded by Lenny Dykstra and published by Doubledown Media, had its launch last week. I had an interview scheduled with Dykstra—apparently notorious for missing interviews with journalists but one helluva stock picker!—but he never called. (Naturally, I waited by the phone, sucking on a hunk of chaw for six hours, but no “Nails” for me.) I had plenty of questions, the first of which is why Dykstra—and, moreover, Doubledown—thinks a magazine like this will work when others, specifically Overtime, have failed.

Hopefully he’ll reschedule.

In the meantime, I thought it might be useful to take a peek inside the 170-page debut issue. The magazine itself is big and heavy—kind of like a W for the athlete set. And then, the ads. There are a lot of ‘em, mostly for private jet services. (Whether or not these ads are paid or barter or gratis is another story.)

The content is pretty standard fare—in other words, unmemorable listicles (“All-Money All-Stars”), grids (“What’s hot in your world?”), charts (“Fitness Drinks: the box score”) as-told-to columns by John McEnroe and Tim Brown, an awkward fashion spread featuring Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell and vapid profiles—including the laughable cover story on Yankees shortstop and noted nightclub connoisseur Derek Jeter, by otherwise respected sportswriter Bob Klapisch. (Sample Jeter quotes: “I’ve really toned it down away from the field” and “I watch movies.”)

One feature, though, did catch my eye: a six-page photo spread of a 12,000-square-foot mansion outside of Los Angeles, built by Wayne Gretzky—a member of the Players Club “board of directors”—that sold in 2007 but is “on the market again.”

The unmentioned current owner of that estate: Lenny Dykstra.

Nothing like a free, high-end glossy house ad in a down real estate market, right? Now that’s a true player.

Jandos Rothstein

La Fashionista Enfant

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 04/08/2008-11:17 AM

I've written before about the propensity for satire at my old alt-weekly. But one ill-fated attempt at mirth at someone else's expense was a year-in-the-[not]-making spoof of the Washingtonian, a city magazine that, in my 11 years in D.C., has cycled through the same yearly schedule of lowest-common-denominator content over and over (and over) again. My old editor (whose name I won't mention) summed up the problem: "How do you satirize a magazine that satirizes itself every month?"

His words came back to haunt me as I tried to think of something to say about Baby Couture (the magazine that "puts the ‘coo' in Couture") funnier than anything that appears in the first issue. At least I assume it's the first issue, there is no volume or issue number to be found. That, in itself, is proof of inexperience. They have not yet suffered the wrath of a thousand librarians, who summon up the hostility accumulated during a life enduring the twin frustrations of customer service and government bureaucracy for just such oversights. No one does poison-pen like a librarian, and little raises their dander like the omission of essential cataloging information. They don't ask for much, they ARE JUST TRYING TO DO THEIR JOB!

So, I'll try to review BabyCouture with a minimum of snarkiness.

The cover hits two of the William Randolph Hearst trifecta, pairing babe Christine Costner with baby Cayden. Cayden? Now there's a name not chosen with those painful grade school years in mind.

Apart for the photogenic models, the image is not particularly suited for cover use. It has too much background detail forcing the designer to drop teasers into little nooks and crannies here and there in defiance of a logical hierarchy. Despite the typographical gerrymandering, much of the text is hard to read, thanks to both the picture and the achromatic pallet. The goofy type choices don't help-who thought kiddie handwriting would work with that ghastly wedding script? The awkward competition between cute and sophisticated remains unresolved on the inside as well.

Sensitivity to typographical conventions—from SIC-able smart-quote-driven errors in headlines such as “Flip ‘n Flop” which appears on page 14, right after “Wash ‘n Wear” on 13—does not burden the staff of of BC. They do have the whole product placement thing down though—Christina gets a 32 pt pull quote to wax poetic about her favorite brands. “Knuckleheads” is the winner for her little darlings, but she also likes “Diesel Kids and Baby Gap.”

The fashion plates are the usual pictures of children–though most are not babies. The oldest models, who are probably seven or eight, follow kiddie pic convention of imitating the jaunty poses of adult models, which sells, I suppose, the fantasy that if you dress your kids like little adults, they will quit acting so goddamn childish. In truth, it can go down like that—but only after the sort of parental behavior that can cast a pall over an entire 200,000 sq. foot suburban shopping mall, and possibly spark intervention from child protective services—potentially embarrassing for parents who shops at PradaKids.

I recognize that there are parents willing to invest $300 in ensemble outfits that will look great until the kid grows out of it in 6 months, or throws up on himself, whichever comes first. (Though in the case of my daughter Emily at that age, the smart money was on reflux.) But are there enough of them who aren’t already reading the Times’ SundayStyle section to support a magazine? And aren’t most of those Times readers there for yuks, not shopping advice? I guess time will, tell. Lets hope this title lasts until its Carters wear out ...

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]

Dylan Stableford

TechCrunch Founder Hints at Eventual Roll-Up

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 04/08/2008-10:01 AM

A couple quick notes on Michael Arrington—the sleep-deprived founder of Silicon Valley blog TechCrunch and member of the 2008 FOLIO: 40—which didn’t make it into his 350-word profile.

  • When I called him a couple weeks ago (12:00 p.m. EST, 9:00 a.m. his time) he said he was working on a post (something about a brothel—seriously) and had yet to go to sleep. He echoed then what he told the New York Times over the weekend—that tech blogging is a fiercely competitive, ultimately unhealthy thing.
  • Arrington said that this sort of competitive hustling means no downtime. He says he hasn’t taken any time off in three years. “Not even a day.”
  • He’s also not entirely comfortable with his bloggy celebrity. “When it gets personal,” Arrington said. He didn’t mention the site by name, Arrington was clearly talking about Gawker Media’s ValleyWag, which has taken to covering him with a Julia Allison-like frequency and fervor.

As far as TechCrunch sale rumors, he says that while they can be expected—given his 2007 hire of Heather Harde, the ex-Fox Interactive executive responsible for $1.3 billion in acquisitions including that little $500 million MySpace deal—a roll-up scenario, leveraging a small network of blogs, is much more likely. “I don’t know if we’re a quarterback of something like that or a defensive back.”

Or, you know, owner. Just don’t expect ValleyWag to be part of that team.

Read Arrington's full FOLIO: 40 profile here ...

Josh Gordon

Magazines Trigger More Web Searches Than TV

Josh Gordon emedia and Technology - 04/08/2008-09:21 AM

Yet another study supports the strength of magazines as an online traffic driver. BIGresearch's August 07 released "Simultaneous Media Survey" of 15,439 consumers shows magazines as the top offline media driving Web traffic. Here is the chart that tells the tale:

Top 10 Media that Trigger an Online Search (Adults 18+)
51.6% Magazine
47.7% Read an Article
44.2% TV / Broadcast
41.3% Newspaper
35.6% Cable TV
35.3% Face-to-Face Communication
33.8% Coupons
30.3% Email Advertising
29.3% Direct Mail
28.2% Radio

Use it on a call:

This study does NOT say that magazines generate more Web traffic than online media, such as web banners etc. This study compares offline media (with the odd exception of "e-mail advertising"). The argument you have to first make, on a call, is that people still spend most of their lives OFF line. Then present the case for magazines as the top offline Web traffic builder for when those offline people get back online.

Dylan Stableford

The 2008 FOLIO: 40 Unveiled!

Dylan Stableford Association and Non-Profit - 04/07/2008-17:31 PM

The FOLIO: 40—our annual list of industry innovators and influencers—was officially unveiled today. We call it the oldest, most comprehensive and most distinguished compilation of its kind. Because it is. Obviously, it’s not an all-inclusive affair; rather, it’s roughly the result of two months of meetings, scouring notes, archives, old issues of FOLIO:, Wiki-researching, more meetings, spirited reply-all emails, paring down, another meeting, some brushing up on profile writing, then the actual profile writing, editing, copyediting. And, then, at some point, we get to this.

And, unlike other industry lists—perhaps unfairly—ours is Adam Moss free! (Though I’d admit that not including someone from New York magazine or its juggernaut was one of our biggest oversights this year).

But, as every magazine editor knows, that’s the beauty of lists. They’re a jumping off point for a nuanced and overarching reflection on a particular slice of an industry. Or something.

So, let the commenting—and requisite arguing—begin!

Jason Fell


Jason Fell Consumer - 04/07/2008-16:52 PM

This year, the editors here at FOLIO: selected ESPN senior vice president of content development and enterprises Keith Clinkscales to our annual FOLIO: 40 list—and for good reason. The brand, and the magazine, have undoubtedly stepped out of the shadow of competitor Sports Illustrated.

Clinkscales has steered ESPN's business strategy and is responsible for operations associated with the magazine and the company's publishing-related business initiatives. The magazine has hired top talent, and saw a nearly 20-percent spike in ad revenues last year. In February, the magazine finally launched its own Web site,, separate from

But, already, it seems like SI might have a leg up for 2009. Late last month, launched the SI Vault, a digital archive of more than 150,000 stories, 2,600 covers and a half-million photos spanning 54 years.

In a little more than two weeks since its launch, the Vault has already racked up 17.36 million page views and 1.17 million unique visitors.

I'd say that's a home run.

Dylan Stableford

OK! Calls Out Us Weekly, People on Cover

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 04/07/2008-13:12 PM

Price wars between celebrity magazines are nothing new—we all remember the move by American Media Inc.'s Celebrity Living to drop its newsstand cover price to 25 cents a couple of years ago. (Celebrity Living, of course, is dead.) But rarely if ever do you see a magazine call out the competition by name as OK! has done this week, touting that its $2.99 cover price is “$1 cheaper than Us Weekly & People!” (OK!—it's worth noting—is going for the trifecta with this one: Britney, Jamie Lynn and Suri).

The cover, however, has another problem, this time related to its Britney Spears’ “scoop” (see how the Spears Family made our just-announced FOLIO: 40 list): the cover shot it is using to illustrate Ms. Spears’ 15 lb., four-week weight loss is actually from a Glamour photo shoot three years ago.

We already know magazines will do anything to justify a Britney cover. This one, though, seems to be an attempt to appease the Spears family publicist(s) for its next scoop feeding.

The Celebrity Newsstand | Second-Half 2007 Circulation

In Touch 1,228,056 0.10% 1,271,354 0.20%
Life & Style 672,463 -9.70% 681,723 -9.50%
OK 550,100 7.10% 935,375 23.50%
People 1,428,760 -8.50% 3,618,718 -3.50%
Us Weekly 1,005,086 2.70% 1,928,852 10.10


Joanna Pettas

Editors vs. Art Directors: Part IV

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 04/04/2008-14:14 PM

The editor vs. art director battle on started with this Mark Newman blog post, continued with a follow-up and has been seeping into unrelated blog posts ever since.

Here's one of the more diplomatic comments, posted by a "Mr. McGuinness":

A magazine that has a staff that sees ‘editorial' and ‘art' as separate, opposing forces is a poor, poor magazine indeed. To be a great magazine the art director and editor must have equal power-but only of course, if they are completely on the same page. If not, the solution is a ‘Creative Director,' who is equally qualified in the visual and narrative, who has the best interests of the editorial whole in mind and who can reign the disjointed impulses of the art director/designer and the editor.

With that said, let's take a little break from all the tension and focus on an art/edit team that works together—or at least one that appears to:

Since September 2006, Esquire has been defying the principles of Coverlines 101 with its type-heavy and largely illegible copy barraging almost every cover. Design director David Curcurito says the concept, the "Vietnam Memorial" approach, was editor David Granger's, but Curcurito is the one who has been executing the design and refining the style month after month-a clear signal that it's working. According to Esquire, the magazine is consistently seeing stronger newsstand sales since implementing the new cover design.