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Jason Fell

How SI’s Swimsuit Issue Sells

Jason Fell Audience Development - 02/12/2008-17:48 PM

It’s that time of year again—for sports fans, the dark and gloomy vortex between the Super Bowl and March Madness. For Sports Illustrated, it’s Christmas: the swimsuit issue, the magazine’s annual predictably overhyped—and just as predictably, controversial—run through the media machinery.

In terms of advertising, marketing and newsstand sales, the swimsuit issue is the Super Bowl for Sports Illustrated. This year’s issue, with Marisa Miller on the cover, hit store shelves today, and—eschewing some level of corporate synergy—will get its official debut tonight on the David Letterman show. Why not, say, CNN’s American Morning? “It was logistical,” an SI spokesperson says, noting that SI’s ad party is taking place tonight in New York City, and that the guest list is over 1,000 strong.

Here’s a quick look at how SI’s Swimsuit Issue has fared on newsstands over the last five years:

2007 Feb. 16 1,060,000 87,043* 109.95 Beyoncé
2006 Feb. 17 1,152,275 86,173 111.00 "All-Star" Cover
2005 Feb. 18 1,083,827 85,548 106.87 Carolyn Murphy
2004 Feb. 13 1,563,694 100,941 112.50 Veronica Varekova
2003 Feb. 25 1,216,495 100,626 113.00 Petra Nemcova

* First half average.


Steve Bernstein

‘The Music Business Sucks—So Does the Magazine Business’

Steve Bernstein Consumer - 02/11/2008-17:25 PM

The music business sucks. At least that’s what everyone tells me. You hear the same thing about the magazine business. “That’s a tough business,” people say.

Is there such a thing as an “easy” business? Being a pro athlete might seem easy, but try throwing a 20-yard pass with a 300-pound lineman ready to separate you from your shoes. No thanks, I was never good with pain. If I get a paper cut I call in sick.

So if I detest pain, why am in the music magazine business? (My company, Zenbu Media, publishes Relix, Metal Edge, Metal Maniacs and Global Rhythm.) It would seem to be a double whammy. Fortunately, it’s not. Music is not going away and neither is the printed page. Picture yourself on the beach trying cuddling up to a great article or novel on your PC. It doesn’t feel the same. It’s kind of like a Stepford wife. Sure the PC is a fantastic way to connect, socialize, learn and listen but it lacks one thing. Tangibility. People flock to concerts and music festivals in record numbers to see the artists, feel the vibe and experience something real. Tangible. It is easier (and cheaper) to sit at home and watch the Rolling Stones on YouTube, but you miss the energy, the camaraderie and the feeling of true artistry.

Music has never been more accessible (legally or not). Myspace and other social networks have made it easier for garage bands to be heard. Hundreds of thousands of them. From all over the world. How do you choose what to listen to? How do you cut through the crap and find the gem? Ask the people who live for music. Those who are out every night and are never without pods in their ears.

Fortunately they write about it, too.

Jandos Rothstein

Was Wig Wag as Influential as Spy?

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 02/11/2008-14:22 PM

Wig Wag's 1988 launch came within a month of Spy's, but the latter is better remembered. Spy is memorialized in books and on Web sites, it's editors have gone on to successful publishing careers, and you still hear its name mentioned in magazine and design circles. Wig Wag has (arguably been) nearly as influential, but it lives on (as far as I can tell) only as a brief Wikipedia entry and a few other scattered web references.

There are lots of reasons for this. Spy was the louder and brasher magazine—it cheerfully went about making enemies among New York's rich and powerful. Spy's editorial and design influences were more varied and harder to pin down than Wig Wag's (which was clearly directly influenced by the New Yorker where the editor and many of the staff had worked). And, Wig Wag's post-modern pages have not aged nearly so well as Spy's. The specific visual language Spy pioneered live on in dozens of magazines including New York, Vanity Fair and Radar. Wig Wag's impact is not seen in a few easily identified tropes such as Spy's disembodied floating heads.

But, Wig Wag was equally ahead of its time. It took the New Yorker's sophisticated news and and literary approach and used it to create a visual magazine in the contemporary sense-it used infographic conventions for literary storytelling, achieving an integration of imagery and text that was rare for its day, but has since become expected. Wig Wag's methods are now visible in most large newsstand magazines—Wired, New York (again) Maxim and lots more.

Editor Lex Kaplen and Art Director Paul Davis saw graphic possibilities for a literary magazine that are still unequaled by the graphically fumbling New Yorker—which has successfully updated its art direction and writing but now seems awkwardly stuck between its storied typographical tradition and current fashion—publishing a design that is neither classic nor engaging to a contemporary reader.

Check out images of the interior sections—including the T.O.C. and fiction layouts—here.

[Editor's note: For more intelligent design talk, buy Jandos' new book.]

Josh Gordon

Online Media Buyers are Different

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 02/11/2008-13:31 PM

As we struggle to understand the differences between selling online and print media it is important to know that ad agencies are struggling to understand the differences between buying online and print.

The career advice column from Media Life, "Ask Rachel," recently laid out the differences while offering advice to a media buyer considering a move from buying traditional media to online media:

Given that digital planners generally earn more at the same title and experience levels that their general market counterparts, there is room to give a traditional person a raise but still bring them in and save money.

Online is very demanding, for one. You'd likely be working with multiple clients, many of them with misconceptions about the medium. So you would be teaching them as you learned, always a challenging endeavor.

Also, online undergoes constant change, day by day. You'd spend huge amounts of time simply staying up with the changes and weeding through the endless hype that comes with them.

You'd likely be doing it all, too. It's the nature of online that job functions tend to blur. You'd be strategist, planner, buyer, manager, and analyst of how the campaign served or did not serve the client's objectives.

You'd have to excel when it comes to attention to details. You’d have to have an open mind that's not afraid to undertake digesting a lot of new information very quickly. You'd have to be real good at numbers. And you'd have to be a solid communicator, explaining it all to clients and your supervisors—without a lot of wasted verbiage. You'd have to be a great negotiator.

The next time you call on an online media buyer, consider the different pressures he or she is under compared with the print people you call on right down the hall.

Dylan Stableford

Maer Roshan’s Anna Wintour Fetish

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/11/2008-13:01 PM

Radar editor Maer Roshan has a thing for Anna Wintour. The Vogue editrix—and FOLIO: 40 veteran—appears in a photo illustration on Radar’s current March issue cover.

It’s not the first time she has appeared on magazine cover (weird to say, but I asked a number of magazine veterans who couldn’t recall Wintour on another national magazine cover ever—if you can recall one, let us know in the comments section). In September 1999, she was profiled in a New York magazine cover story.

New York’s editor at the time? Maer Roshan.

Perhaps Luke Hayman, the hot shot designer responsible for New York’s award-winning look and Time magazine’s historic redesign, will be able to reign in Roshan’s Wintour fetishism. This week, Hayman was hired by Radar as a design consultant.

Timothy M. Gray | Michael Speier

How the Writers Guild Strike Changed Variety

Timothy M. Gray | Michael Speier Editorial - 02/07/2008-16:27 PM

Soon after the Nov. 5 start of the Writers Guild strike, one thing became quickly apparent at Variety: This event was going to require a lot of enterprise. It’s arguably Hollywood’s biggest story in 20 years and needs extensive coverage, but frankly, how many times can you say, “They’re still not talking and the whole town is anxious”?

Strike coverage became a mini-industry at the paper/Web site. Every day we have a news meeting to discuss the stories for the following day’s paper: What goes on page 1, what can hold, etc.

But the strike meant regular sub-meetings: What’s happening on the talk show circuit, what’s going on in primetime, how are film studios changing their schedules—and, of course, what’s the progress in negotiations.

For the first time, Variety commissioned surveys of readers. The overwhelming majority of readers were supportive but pessimistic, declaring that the strike was necessary—but doubtful that the writers would achieve their goals.

Our reporter Dave McNary covers the guilds, which usually involves elections, procedural stuff and awards. Now his beat became a 24/7 task and we reminded the other reporters that the strike wasn’t just Dave’s beat—it was everybody’s.

This was basically a TV strike, so the TV reporters and editors immediately rose to the challenge. Everybody talked to picketers, tapped into old sources while currying new ones, and then pooled information.

This was the first Hollywood strike fueled by—and negotiated on—the Web. Information was disseminated quickly by both sides. In turn, Variety was forced to address our Web initiatives more wholly than we ever had before. Stories would break online, we would update them constantly, we would be on high alert all the time and we would staff up for possible news. It became a Web story first. A print story second.

For the first few weeks, it was exhilarating. There was electricity in the air because we knew this was a Big Story, affecting the way the business works, changing lives and livelihoods.

Editorially, it meant long, hard days during the holiday season—when, like most other newspapers, we would have had smaller papers, end-of-year news and routine stories. But now we had difficult weeks with up to four strike stories each day. Our front pages took on new looks. We packaged things like never before. Stories about agencies firing staff, restaurants losing business, potential award show cancellations. What usually was a time for Oscar buzz quickly became a time to make our issues more centralized on developed strike coverage. It was a textbook study in how one story can produce many angles.

After a few weeks of those long workdays (and often no rest on weekends), the electricity in the air started to short-circuit, and the great fountain of ideas gave way to tedium. Stories were well-reported, but sometimes a little disorganized (editors took care of that). At one point, we forced McNary to take a 48-hour hiatus.

Occasionally we’d have to tell ourselves not to concentrate solely on repercussions, but to go back to the basics and remind people of the issues—and numbers—involved.

The strike dovetailed with awards season, creating a de facto timetable: Will the strike be settled before the Oscars? And details on awards-show negotiations provided a metaphor for the bigger picture, since they revealed both sides’ tactics, as well as the roles of other guilds—notably the Screen Actors Guild—and the ripple effect on other big-bucks aspects of the industry.

When the Golden Globes were in effect cancelled, we were able to see tangible effects of the strike. All of a sudden, everyone was affected, because parties, red carpets and fashion moments—each of which generates big bucks—were officially nixed.

In the 10 days leading up to the Globes, we were getting a new rumor every 15 minutes as Dick Clark Productions, the HFPA (which gives out the Globes), NBC and the WGA issued new info or negated rumors we’d heard.

As it looks like the strike is winding down, it’s good to think that everyone will be back to work again. Now all we have to do is deal with the fact that our adrenaline is totally out of whack.

Joanna Pettas

Dwell’s ‘Dwell’ Keeps on Growing ...

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 02/07/2008-14:53 PM

Dwell's incredible expanding logo

When Dwell launched in October 2000, the magazine carried a modest lower-cased logo clinging sheepishly to the upper left-hand corner of its covers. Look at it now: Dwell's nameplate was upped again for its February issue redesign, sprawled out unabashedly across the top third of its cover.

Is this a case of overcompensating bravado in a time of turmoil for the shelter category-marked by the demise of Conde Nast's House and Garden and the print version of Martha Stewart's Blueprint? Or is Dwell merely acting on its rightful bragging rights?

According to ABC FAS-FAX numbers released this time last year, Dwell was one of the top 10 gainers in copies sold in 2006, with increase of 13.3 percent increase over the year before. Maybe the 2007 numbers, slated to be released next week, will shed some light.

Dylan Stableford

The Wal-Mart List

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/06/2008-16:00 PM

Magazines love lists, don’t they?

Well, we've got the motherlode: the mysterious list of magazines Wal-Mart decided to remove from its shelves.

Wal-Mart has thus far refused to release anything official; however, the list surfaced last week on the New York Post’s Web site—buried in a link at the bottom of one of Keith Kelly’s columns—but was quickly taken down.

We’ve reprinted it, in full, here.

NOTE: Click here for the full list.


Mark Newman

What Type of Editor Are You?

Mark Newman Editorial - 02/06/2008-13:03 PM

You can divide any given population into two distinct groups: cat people or dog people; Republicans or Democrats; Neil Diamond fans or Neil Diamond haters.

For editors, it's no different—there are Writers Who Edit, and Editors Who Write.

Whichever one you are is irrelevant for the most part, except when it comes to dealing with writers. For fun, I sent out a mass email to colleagues past and present asking them which type of editor they prefer and why. They had some pretty interesting opinions … as writers often do.

Most writers want an editor who will improve—rather than overhaul—what they’ve submitted. Inversely, most editors want writers who are also mind readers. It ain’t gonna happen!

“I prefer an editor who just tightens up and polishes what I've given,” says June Dollar, who wrote a story for Southern Breeze about boiled peanuts, a Southern delicacy. “Don't take away from the flavor. The editor's job is not to rewrite the story the way he or she would have written it.”

According to Mississippi-based writer and author Marlo Kirkpatrick, if the writer has done a good job to begin with, suggestions should relate to how a good article could be improved—“adding a sidebar, getting an extra quotation from a source with a differing opinion, etc.”—rather than suggestions or rewrites needed to correct sloppy work.”

“A good editor knows how to present his ideas, not rewrite the piece or even present his/her solution,” wrote Deb Burst, an award-winning, Louisiana-based writer. “Plain and simple, an editor’s job is to edit--guide the writer to crank out the best possible copy in the writer's own voice.”

Deb also made an interesting parallel between writing and parenting that I thought was especially relevant. Like both parenting and editing, the challenge is knowing how much is enough. “Too much [parenting] and you have a child with no self-confidence or sense of accomplishment, constantly told that their work is never good enough. Too little parenting offers no real direction and a child that craves knowledge and guidelines.”

Kathie Farnell, a former lawyer who left those legal briefs behind to pursue freelance writing, says that vague instructions (“Add more flavor”) don’t do anyone any favors while yet another editor’s oddly specific instructions (“Take out that comma”) didn’t really provide much guidance.

As for me, I consider myself one of those “editors who writes.” I’ve worked with the other type of editor and—like my colleagues have alluded to above—the result was a good article that had my byline but I didn’t really recognize it upon publication. It’s not a good feeling; it’s like you’ve been scolded in print.

If the writer understands the assignment from get-go then there should be very little work on the editor’s part. I’ve queried writers about the usual things like “What does that mean?” or “Who said this?” or “needs a conclusion” or “take out that comma.” But in the end, while it is your publication, it IS the writer’s voice that should be heard. Otherwise, why would you hire them in the first place? Editing every story the way one person would write it will eventually result in a magazine more akin to a colorful textbook.

Deb concluded her e-mail with the following: “Editing, writing, and parenting is a lifetime of learning; we never really finish the gig, we just keep getting better. With a little luck we'll run into a handful of good editors/writers in this wordy kingdom and leave a legacy of brilliant copy.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself—and I only edited it for punctuation!

Dylan Stableford

Vice Asks Readers to Pay for Subscription to Free Magazine

Dylan Stableford Audience Development - 02/05/2008-14:23 PM

Vice, the brutally irreverent New York-based magazine (which now boasts a slew of international editions, a critically-acclaimed online television site and a record label), has long employed free distribution at downtown boutiques to deliver its influential brand of hipster content to readers. And whatever your feelings are on Vice's acidic tone, there’s no arguing that it’s one of the prettiest, heaviest free magazines around—a fact the magazine itself touts on its covers.

Which is why it was bit of a shock to see the subscription card in a recent issue asking people to pay for subscriptions.

Why now? Vice says the magazine is so pretty, readers take stacks of free copies from these boutiques, subverting the key part of their distribution model.

Could this be first sign of trouble at Vice, a multiplatform, success story that has had as much to do with image as business acumen? Or is this a sly way to tack on revenue at a company whose founders have successfully positioned themselves as professional tastemakers, inking a development deal with MTV?

One of those founders, Gavin McInnes, left the company last month, citing “creative differences.”

His exit memo was, of course, brutally irreverent.

Josh Gordon

Using Post-Super Bowl Chatter to Sell Ad Space

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 02/05/2008-14:19 PM

The New York Giants won the Super Bowl, but who won the ad game? After the show there will be many reviews of the ads and which ones got the viewers attention. It turns out there is a big dividend paid to those Super Bowl ads that score high, literally. University of Buffalo doctoral student Jing Jiang and Cornell professor Charles Chang studied the relationship between company stock price and Super Bowl advertising for the last 17 Super Bowls and discovered that the top 10 Super Bowl ads significantly moved the stock price right after the game for advertisers.

According to the study, "The stocks of companies running ads that ranked in the top 10 outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by 26 basis points the day after the game and by 1.6 percentage points over the following week.

After four weeks, the shares did almost 3 percentage points better than the S&P 500, although Kim says the link between the Super Bowl ads and the performance of the stock weakens over time because other news and events could influence the price of the shares."

Curiously, there was also consistent minor positive movement on stock price of companies whose ads scored lowest. It seems the most dangerous place to be as far as stock price goes is in the middle.

As you chat with advertisers today, the day after Super Bowl Sunday, mentioning this curious study is a great way to reinforce the effectiveness of advertising and of the importance of having great creative that connects with an audience.

More here ...

Paul Conley

Changing Just One Mind

Paul Conley Editorial - 02/05/2008-14:11 PM

If you could change the mindset of only one person at your publication, who would it be? If you could get only one person to become part of the Web culture, who would it be?

Perhaps you'd say the managing editor. Or maybe the head of ad sales. Maybe you'd vote for the CEO or the editor-in-chief or the publisher.

But here's my suggestion: Change the mindset of your recruiter.

A few months ago I sat on a panel with two recruiters from mid-sized newspaper chains. They were both lovely people. But I think it's safe to say that they didn't share my beliefs about how to recruit or what to look for in a new hire.

One of them was asked "what would make you throw out a resume?" And she replied that she wouldn't hire anyone with a resume that said "multimedia reporter." She went on to say that she was looking for "newspaper people." But then, a few minutes later, she mentioned that the reporters at her chain were now being trained to carry video cameras.

The other woman, when asked about how she looks through applications, said she doesn't look at electronic resumes and won't follow links to Web stories, multimedia packages or other online examples of work. The reason? She said she didn't have the time, and preferred to look at things on paper.

In the world of B2B, I suspect that the folks that screen resumes for us have many of these same mindset problems. And it's not their fault. It's our fault.

At big companies, much of recruiting is done by people in human resources. And those folks are often experts in the world of HR. But how many of them are aware of the changes underway in media? How many of them understand the challenges of moving to online?

At smaller companies, editorial recruiting is often done by the existing staff. But how can we expect legacy editors to understand what to look for in the next generation of journalists. In some cases, the initial screening of resumes is done by administrative personnel. But if we haven't yet been able to get many of our senior editors to understand the Web, why would we expect our admins to grasp the nature of online journalism?

Pat Thornton recently posted a piece in which he complained about "ads looking for people who know PHP, MySQL, Ruby, Python, Django, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ajax, Flash, multimedia reporting, photo editing, video editing, Incredible Hulk strength, etc." Pat suggests, correctly, that the "the people hiring new media talent at many newspapers don’t have a clue about what they are looking for." So, according to Pat, recruiters are filling ads with a slew of Web terms and acronyms hoping that someone, somewhere will come in to fix everything.

But the problem that I see most often is worse -- people who don't have a clue about new media looking to hire new talent. They don't even know what Web terms and acronyms to look for in a resume.

But either way, the solution is the same. If you want to hire the right people with the right skills and the right mindset, then you must ensure that the person who does your recruiting knows online journalism.

Here are five steps to take:

1. Find out how applications are processed at your publication. Who writes the ads, screens the resumes, etc.

2. Meet with that person on an informal basis. Try to gauge what they do and don't understand about new media.

3. Invite them to meet with anyone on staff who has the skills you're trying to duplicate.

4. Invite them to attend the places where you talk about the future -- senior leadership meetings, editorial meetings, newsroom training sessions, etc.

5. Offer to help. If you know what your publication needs, ask if you can help screen resumes and interview applicants.