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Dylan Stableford

Rolling Stone's Obama Illustrator Responds

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/28/2008-09:13 AM

After reading your critiques of the Rolling Stone Obama cover, Tim O'Brien writes:

I'm the illustrator who painted Barack for the cover of Rolling Stone. It seems you've selected a group of designers with a lack of understanding of what Rolling Stone was doing here.

[Rolling Stone makes] no bones about viewing Barack in the most hopeful light. At the time of publication, the newsstands were brimming with photographs of the man, so in this instance, they chose illustration to push the cover out there to get some buzz. I seem to get used when the art director or editor is trying to make a serious point about a person. Sometimes it's a mocking image, such as a golden glow around a portrait of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro, and sometimes it's reeled in a bit to showcase a person in a respectful tone. I happen to like the cover and know that the ADs at Rolling Stone were thrilled.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To check out more of Tim's work, including a detailed account of what went into executing the Obama cover, click here ...]

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Aaron Gell

Radar’s Spencer for Hire

Aaron Gell Editorial - 03/27/2008-15:14 PM

For awhile, two stories in Radar’s April issue were contending for the coveted title of Most Buzzed About. One was John Cook’s no-holds-barred examination of Scientology’s recent struggles with anonymous hackers, outspoken ex-members and leaked internal videos featuring Tom Cruise’s steely-eyed reveries. The other was the 350-word debut of a new advice column, “Yo Spencer!,” in which Hills heel Spencer Pratt helps readers grapple with their personal quandaries.

On the surface, the pieces—a hard-hitting investigative feature and a cheap blog-baiting stunt—couldn’t be more different. But they spring from the same basic impulse. In both cases, the aim was to go where other publications generally fear to tread (I don’t know what’s worse, being on the Sea Org’s bad side, or on Lauren Conrad’s). As a new magazine in a crowded marketplace, Radar has no real choice but to take risks whenever possible. Otherwise we duplicate what’s already on the newsstand, in which case, why bother? We’ve published nine issues under our new owners, but there are still plenty of potential readers out there (millions, by my count) who have never heard of us. The cheapest, most effective—and frankly the most fun—way to reach them is by assigning and running stories that foment these little media frenzies we all love so much.

At the moment, it looks like Spencer Pratt is pulling into the lead in that regard. Even the Associated Press covered his foray into magazine journalism, which turns out to be, to my mind, one of the more enjoyably frank advice columns available. Nevertheless, the idea has been a bit controversial around the Radar offices. Some colleagues wondered if Spencer could really write. (He can.) Others decried the idea of soliciting advice from a guy most of America is convinced is nothing but a Machiavellian hustler. (Who better?) And then there were the hardcore haters, who crinkle their noses at the merest mention of the new addition to our writing stable.

Of course, most of this last bunch are card-carrying members of Team Lauren, still fuming over Heidi’s “betrayal” of their doormat diva. To them I can only point out that we put their Hollywood heroine on our March cover and declared her the most influential fashionista of the moment. After all, we always strive for balance.

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Joanna Pettas

Time Out Chicago Punks Crain's with 'Huge' Trump Tale

Joanna Pettas B2B - 03/27/2008-14:40 PM

Time Out Chicago issued this press release Tuesday:

DONALD TRUMP TAKES OVER TIME OUT CHICAGO

CHICAGO, March 25, 2008—Time Out Chicago announces that real-estate titan Donald J. Trump has purchased a controlling interest in the where-to-go, what-to-do weekly.

Starting next week, readers of Time Out Chicago will notice several significant changes.

Most prominently, the magazine’s logo will be modified—in Chicago only—to include the signature glitzy T that adorns Trump’s properties, including the new Trump International Hotel & Tower here.

Time Out founder Tony Elliott, who long has resisted selling off the publishing empire he launched in London 40 years ago, says Trump’s premium bid will enable the company to more quickly expand into multiple new markets in North America and the U.K.

In a meeting held with Time Out Chicago staff Tuesday outside his new downtown hotel, Trumped stated, “I am hugely excited about what is a truly huge opportunity for Trump Entertainment and an even huger opportunity for the people of Chicago.”

Launched in 2005, Time Out Chicago is recognized as a leading source of information for arts, entertainment and culture. The signature of Time Out Chicago is its comprehensive listings sections and irreverent features, offering both insight and information on music, clubs, film, theater, dining, drinking, books, shopping and more – all written and edited by a passionate staff of locals who are experts in their respective fields.

###

Crain's Chicago business took the bait.

Time Out called Crain's, then issued another press release admitting the hoax.

Despite the ridiculous quote from Trump (three "huge"s?—c'mon, Crain's!) don't be too hard on 'em—this was, after all, released on March 25th!

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Henry Donahue

Google’s March to World Domination, Part II

Henry Donahue emedia and Technology - 03/27/2008-10:34 AM

As noted in the Times earlier this week, Google users can now search deep into content sites without leaving Google, bypassing publishers' own search functions entirely. Publishers, contemplating the resulting page view migration from their sites to Google, have reacted negatively and some have asked Google to stop providing the extra search box underneath the results for their site.

Here how it works: I'm looking for an article I saw recently in Scientific American on particle physics so I google "SciAm." The first search result contains a search box incorporated with the SciAm.com links, so I type in "particle physics" there and get a page of relevant results from just SciAm. I see my article on click on it. Voila! Google creates one additional page view for Google (the second search results page) and at least two fewer for SciAm (their home page and their own search results page).

To most publishers, this probably seems like piling on. Google is already probably your number one source of external traffic. They may also be your fallback ad network, selling inventory on your site to blue chip advertisers and keeping most of the revenue. You don't want to antagonize them, for fear of losing your hard-won SEO gains (I'm getting a little skittish even writing this post).

This latest move highlights the strategic necessity of growing organic traffic and internal sales ability, reducing your Google dependency. A good role model is ESPN who announced this week that they are ditching ad networks entirely. Google may be "doing no evil" to your business, but they're not interested in giving you any help.

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Josh Gordon

Why Hillary Clinton's 'Red Phone' Ad is Perfect for Magazine Ad Sales

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 03/25/2008-15:27 PM

Many credit Hillary Clinton's presidential primary wins in Ohio and Texas to her controversial "Red Phone" ad designed to raise doubts about Barack Obama's experience on national security.

Despicable sleaze? Clever politics? Love the ad or or hate it, what I saw was a common sales tactic that every media sales rep uses at some time in their career.

When you sell a product where the outcome cannot be predicted, like a presidential candidate or a media buy, raising doubts about your competition, a.k.a "playing the fear card," is an effective way to win business.

On your next sales call:

If you are in a competitive sell where you have the more established, better known, or widely accepted product you can ask "what if" questions to raise doubts about your competition in the mind of your media buyer. Clinton's ad raised asked "what if" an inexperienced president got a 3:00 AM Red Phone crisis dropped in his lap.

Media questions you can use to raise doubts about competition:

"What if your ad campaign fails because you did not cover a key demographic (that my media covers better)?"

"What if your ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media whose circulation is poor?"

"What if you ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media upstart instead of the media with the proven track recored?"

And if the media buy is very high profile:

"This is an important media buy. If it fails a lot of people could get hurt. Hey, remember the old saying from the 80's computer industry , "No one gets fired for buying IBM."

Don't push too hard. If your "sales technique" shows you will be branded as a manipulative huckster. To play the fear card you stoke the latent anxieties of your buyer but never overtly say the anxiety is totally justified. After you leave their office you just want them to worry about their media buy if it isn't with you.

Click here to read Larry David's take on the red phone.

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Jandos Rothstein

Photoshop Disasters: Blender's Britney Cover

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/25/2008-11:53 AM

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

Photoshop Disasters writes with humor about digital flim-flam, including the current cover of Blender, which brings us the head of Britney Spears.

Still, you have to admire the tasteless audacity of the coverline: “Britney Spears Has Lost Her Kids, Her Fans, Her Underwear…and Her Mind HOW WILL IT END?”

In a puddle of Red Bull, clearly ...

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Jason Fell

J.Lo’s Twins = Traffic

Jason Fell emedia and Technology - 03/25/2008-11:40 AM

Move over Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

This week's source of server-testing traffic goes instead to singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, who appeared in People magazine with her newborn twins, Max and Emme. People.com reportedly clocked an all-time daily high of four million unique visitors hungry for the photos from People's exclusive shoot, doubling its previous total.

The tots won't touch New York magazine's "artful" nude photos of Lohan as Marilyn Monroe, which crashed nymag.com's servers in February to the tune of 20 million page views on each of the first two days the pics were posted.

Now, if anyone could only snap a new photo of baby Suri ...

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Jandos Rothstein

Editors vs. Art Directors: Part III

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/24/2008-14:58 PM

A word on the recent Mark Newman blog post about the art director/edi... er, excuse me, I mean the editor/art director relationship. It seems the editor is always right.

As you might expect, there's a bit of foot stomping about the piece in art directorial circles—at least I think that's what it is. As we are just art directors, we can't express ourselves very clearly with words—so I'm hearing complaints but I'm not really sure what they're about. People think we art directors speak a secret language, sorta like porpoises, but no, we make no more sense to each other than we do to anyone else. Sad.

So, as I am incapable of mounting an effective counter-argument, I think I better concede his point, yes the editor is always "right" but only because he or she is defined as being so-at most magazines the art director reports to the editor. I'm actually not sure why this is a point worth making, there are very few of us who do not report to someone—editors report to publishers, publishers report to presidents, and presidents report to boards of directors. There's a lot more Dagwoods around than Mr. Bumsteads.

So why is he making it? Probably because it has never been less true. In the 1940s, when art directors were assigning a fraction of the art that appears in a modern magazine and pasting up rude mechanicals for hot-type forms, Mark Newman would have felt no need to defend his autonomy against the visual clerks who brought largely generic form to his words. It's now that the culture has grown increasingly visual, and the cognitive walls between words, images, and form have been shattered at the most successful magazines that his point seems urgent. The editorial inches, budgets, and staff devoted to art and design has never been higher. Most editors know that if they aren't visually conversant, their career will be limited and their magazine will suffer.

Now, good art directors have always been word people. The translation of verbal ideas into visual and graphic ones requires it. But, a lot of old-school editors are playing catchup right now, and they know it. But clearly, there are also and a few who haven't noticed that the nature of the magazine has changed.

There are, of course hacks in every field-art directors who can't read or understand past a headline, and complacent and blunt-witted editors, but we have entered a period in which, whether you are an art director or an editor, you must be bicameral to be fully competent. The increasing number of visually astute editors (and editors who know they should be, but aren't) has been good for us, and it's the future. No matter who's boss, we'll be getting up in each other's business for the foreseeable future.

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

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Mark Newman

Breaking Up (With TV Guide) is Hard to Do

Mark Newman Consumer - 03/24/2008-08:41 AM

I didn’t use the old chestnut “it’s not you, it’s me” when I broke things off. After all, I was still the same guy I always was, right? She changed, not me. I got used to everything being the way it always was. I was happy. I knew what to expect week after week, month after month.

But then change came and I wasn’t interested in continuing the relationship. And this was a relationship that had lasted as long as I can honestly remember, but things just weren’t right between us. It was time to bring this decades-long relationship to an unceremonious end.

Yep, I let my subscription to TV Guide run out.

For the first time in my ENTIRE life, I do not receive this weekly staple that was once the largest circulation magazine in the world. TV Guide was one of those things I looked forward to as a kid (yes, I know it’s sad). From the stylish covers—cheesy posed photos or Al Hirschfield caricatures—to the shamefully easy crossword puzzle in the back (“_____ of Hazard”? Please!), TV Guide would send me into world that was all about one of my favorite things in the world: television.

Things were going fine until that fateful day back in 2005. No longer would it publish in its familiar digest-sized format; it was as big as People, Us Weekly, Men’s Fitness, etc. But it wasn’t the size that bothered me. It was the fact that it was trying to be all things to all people. The new grid for all the show listings was lacking and there were hours of the day that simply weren’t covered anymore. Somehow it lost its charm.

Typically familiarity breeds contempt but in this case it bred content and I was no longer content so when my subscription expired, I unceremoniously buried my relationship with a magazine I’d read all my life. I should also add that my cable company has a function that allows me to get more info about a given show than TV Guide now offered, so the decision was that much easier.

Now, I hardly even think about TV Guide. Sometimes I’ll see it in the grocery store but the feelings are no longer there. I’ve moved on. Does TV Guide miss me? Judging from the number of offers I still receive in the mail, apparently so, but not enough to go back to the way it was before: when I was happy.

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Dylan Stableford

Have the National Magazine Awards Become Too New York-Centric?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 03/20/2008-13:53 PM


The finalists for the National Magazines Awards were announced yesterday. And—like every year—the list included some surprises (Good), snubs (Esquire) and the requisite head-scratchers (Bloomberg Markets?) that make any awards process fun.

And, also like every year, the list, like a lot of things in the consumer magazine industry, was dominated by a disproportionate number of magazines about or originating in New York.

Of the 128 finalists for this year’s Ellies, at least 78 are based (or have significant staff) in New York City. That’s over 60 percent, for those of you scoring at home. (The New Yorker and New York magazine combined for 21 nominations alone.)

It’s always been a criticism of the media at-large. It locks its viewfinder on New York—to a lesser extent, L.A.—and nothing else. And the media that covers media—particularly the journalists that cover the magazine and advertising industries—are especially prone to overstating the importance of New York, or, perhaps more accurately, not expanding the scope beyond Manhattan enough.

I think it’s a valid gripe to have, but an unfair one, too. For starters, what is a journalist covering the magazine industry supposed to do when the American Society of Magazine Editors is not exactly hunting down new nominees (sorry, the Virginia Quarterly Review doesn’t count anymore)? And when virtually every major magazine publisher works or has a sales office in New York, it’s tough not to have your view distorted.

While we, at FOLIO:, always talk about representing the entire swath of magazine publishers in such far-flung places as “Washington D.C.” and “Chicago,” we’re admittedly part of the machinery that gives New York its big head. (We’ll shoot video and liveblog the Ellies in May, for example, like every other magazine media outlet—and we should.)

But who cares what I think. What do you think? Has ASME become too New York-centric? Have the National Magazine Awards become the New York Magazine Awards? Will the MPA ever tire of Adam Moss?

Drop your comments below …

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Brad Fayfield

Are Ski Magazines Recession-Proof?

Brad Fayfield Sales and Marketing - 03/19/2008-08:24 AM

In the midst of an economic slowdown, businesses in all industries are battening the hatches and bracing for what looks like an ugly ride. The storm looks even more brutal for publishers given rising postal and paper prices.

So what are we and our customers doing in the midst of this besieged economy? Going skiing, of course!

In every cloud there’s a silver lining, and for my company, Storm Mountain Publishing (we publish Freeskier and Snowboard magazines) that silver lining is snow. Lots and lots of snow. The big fluffy kind that makes grown adults forget their financial woes, throw caution to the wind and spend their money on ski gear and ski travel. Ah yes, the power of powder.

One huge benefit of our vertical market is that we’re somewhat “recession-proof” as it relates to the broader economy. Our business is snow. When the white stuff falls, our industry booms, recession or no recession.

Perhaps it’s the needed sense of escapism. Perhaps it’s just the allure of the mountains. Whatever the reason, snow inspires our customers to spend money on skiing and snowboarding. And it’s happening right now: above-average—even record—snowfall across North America has helped fuel explosive growth in the winter sports category, amidst some of the worst economic conditions our country has seen in decades.

So far this season, all snow sports sales channels are reporting growth in unit and dollar sales, underscored by an overall growth of approximately 13 percent over the same period last season. Even better news for Freeskier’s market, the twin tip ski category (skis used in terrain parks, half pipes, etc.) is the hottest selling type of ski on the market. Sales of twin tip skis are up 60% in units and 62% in dollars compared to last season.

So, while other businesses are worrying about the subprime mortgage crisis, GDP and the credit crunch—we’re dancing around our office doing everything we can to please the snow god, in hopes that the sky keeps falling.

Because snow, above all else, equates to a good season of ad sales and business for us.

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Jason Fell

Credit Market Making Publishers Nervous

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 03/18/2008-12:47 PM

Less than a week after its 21st annual media conference wrapped up in Florida, investment firm giant Bear Stearns Co. was sold Monday to rival JP Morgan Chase & Co. for $240 million—or just $2 per share, a 90 percent loss to what the company was worth a week ago.

Although the dramatic news doesn't have a direct impact on the magazine industry (unless Bear Stearns owes your business money, of course), it does have Wall Street traders up in arms again in a credit market that has former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan—who some blame for the housing market fallout—calling the current U.S. economic crisis the "most wrenching since the end of the second world war."

Capital markets across all industries, including media investors, are nervous about yesterday's news—and for good reason. "Every time that we think that we've seen the bottom of the credit market, something like this happens and we see that it can get much, much worse," Veronis Suhler Stevenson managing partner Tom Kemp told me during a phone conversation this morning. "Every time these things happen, the credit approval process becomes more difficult, leverage will be tougher and pricing will be higher."

The Bear Stearns acquisition "certainly casts a gloomy outlook over where the markets and economy are headed," DeSilva + Phillips managing partner Reed Phillips says.

Kemp and Phillips are right. What's going to come of situations like that with Reed Elsevier announcing plans to divest business sector magazine publisher Reed Business Information? A number of potential suitors have emerged, but is there really a strategic buyer out there willing to pony up $2-2.5 billion now?

We'll have to wait and see.

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