Clearly our recent article ("The Emptied Prairie") touched a nerve. The genesis for it came from my own personal experiences driving through North Dakota, seeing those deserted houses on a lovely landscape and wondering what tales they have to tell. I suspected those tales might be incredibly revealing about people's relationship with the land. That's why we did the story. It was never intended to be a profile piece of the state as a wholeâwe were looking at something very specific to the rural landscape.What I hear and see are comments from people who live in a state that they love. While I understand their frustration with our article, it is not sensational. It is factual and it is sensitive to the plight of those who have had to leave and those who've been left behind. I'm proud of the story and stand behind it. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.[EDITORâS NOTE: Below, Johnsâ letter to North Dakota Governor John Hoeven.]
Dear Governor Hoeven:Thank you for your interest in âThe Emptied Prairieâ in this monthâs issue of National Geographic magazine. There seems to be some misunderstanding about our intent in writing the article. Our article was never intended to be an in-depth look at the economy of North Dakota, nor were we attempting to offer a portrayal of the state in its entirety. We were looking at the rural North Dakota landscape and probing the stories behind some of the abandoned homes that still stand. We are well aware that there is more to the state than these abandoned towns. In fact, we have written or mentioned North Dakota in 17 articles in the past 10 years, including a short feature on Fargo in November 2003. In the case of our January â08 article, we wanted to tell personal and touching stories of North Dakotansâ relationship with the land and how that landscape has shaped their destiny. The stories we told in the article speak to me of fortitude, and, yes, sometimes regret. Iâm confident our readers will understand what these stories tell us about North Dakotansâ strength of character and resolve â both of which will shape the future described in your letter. Again, thank you for taking the time to write. We always welcome our readersâ thoughts. Sincerely, Chris JohnsEditorNational Geographic magazine
The relaunch of Victoria is a dream of mine! I was one of the disappointed subscribers who felt as though a friend was gone when the magazine was closed. Victoria has a passionate readership of women who love every tiny detail of life. The magazine was a visual vacation for us and was a retreat from the hectic daily pace.
First, my challenge was prove to the prior subscribers that the magazine would be like the original magazine they loved dearly. Matching the voice, tone, physical presentation and spirit of Victoria was a concern that was voiced on blogs. Great skepticism existed regarding our ability to do that. Second, we have to prove that we were serious about the magazine and that it was not âgoing awayâ from them as the original magazine did. Hoffman Media was not known to the majority of the readers and they wondered who we were and where had we been all this time.
We were able to locate former staff members (hired one as the managing editor, Brittany Williams) and former freelance writers and photographers. We had hundreds of letters from readers requesting that we return many of the writers and columnist that they wanted. Finding them is not easy as many are working for other publishing companies or have retired altogether.
Relaunching on the newsstand was simply starting over ... we didnât have an existing bi-pad to utilize. Curtis did a great job for us. Many of the buyers did not remember Victoria so we put great efforts into the âlaunch/relaunch.â
With the relaunch, the magazine has been received with the same loyalty and enthusiasm as before. I have received cards, office calls (tears and great emotion), along with flowers and calls to my home from women who are beyond words of gratitude of Victoriaâs return. It has been overwhelming for me.
Golfweek fired its editor earlier today, less than a week after publishing a noose on its cover. The noose was an attempt to illustrate a story on the racially-insensitive remarks made by a Golf Channel announcer about Tiger Woods. The anchor, Kelly Tilghman, suggested on-air that Woodsâ rivals "lynch him in a back alley." She was later suspended."We apologize for creating this graphic cover that received extreme negative reaction from consumers, subscribers and advertisers across the country," William P. Kupper Jr., president of Turnstile Publishing Co., the parent company of Golfweek, said in a statement. "We were trying to convey the controversial issue with a strong and provocative graphic image. It is now obvious that the overall reaction to our cover deeply offended many people. For that, we are deeply apologetic."Representatives for Woods called it a "non-issue." The PGA Tour, which had threatened to pull their ads from the magazine, told me that "Golfweekâs decisions around its editorial leadership to be purely an internal Golfweek matter and we have no further comment."
Did he deserve to be fired for "trying to be provacative"? Leave your answers/rationale in the comments below.
Smart Money picked up a Dow Jones story reporting that Michael Copps, a Democrat and member of the Federal Communications Commission, is voicing a growing concern over the big private equity dealsâparticularly in media. Seems he's a bit skittish over the volume and size of these deals over the last year, especially in light of the subprime fallout and a grim economic outlook for the coming year.
"There's been a whole raft (of acquisitions) involving private equity in recent years and I think we need to ask questions about them," said Copps, who also believes that ownership structures are becoming unclear, which apparently makes it tougher for the FCC to crack down on companies when something goes wrong.
FCC chairman and Republican Kevin Martin so far is downplaying Copps' concerns.
Nevertheless, Copps is exposing what might be a tricky year for over-leveraged deals, and a situation that might work its way into all sorts of corners in the private equity deal landscape.
As New York magazineâs blog the Daily Intelligencer not-so-subtly points out, there appears to be a striking similarity between the cover of Portfolioâs latest issue and New York magazineâs July 30 cover. (Daily Intel also makes the valid point that Womenâs Wear Daily has become something a mouthpiece for its parent company, CondĂ© Nast.)
Did Portfolio steal from New York?
When I asked for comment, a spokesperson for Portfolio sent along the following note: "Thanks for getting in touch. We are actually going to take a pass on commenting on this. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do."
Guess youâll have to decide for yourself.The undeniable similarity recalls Pablo Picassoâs famous words: âBad artists copy. Great artists steal.âIt also recalls Picassoâs other famous words: âWhatâs with all the hamburgers?â Scientific American put out its own burger cover this past September.Feel free to leave any other examples of hamburger-cribbing in the comments below.
Hachette Filipacchi Media's announcement this morning of its appointment of Todd Anderman as SVP, digital media seems to have elicited a number of queries into where the company's previous head of digital, Marta Wohrle, ended up. Wohrle joined the company a couple years ago to build out the digital media group, first as a consultant, then fulltime. She made our FOLIO: 40 last year for essentially creating Hachette's e-media business from scratch.Turns out Wohrle has been busy developing her own sites, and plans to do some investing herself. Here, via Hachette spokeswoman Anne Janas, is what Worhle passed along:"I am starting my own web content business: www.truthinaging.com. It is in Beta and next week I am launching truthinhaircare.com. I am also looking at investing in early stage digital content businesses with private equity backing."Interestingly (strangely?) Wohrle describes herself as a "digital media amateur" in the About section of Truthinaging.com.
Left, Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman; right, influential tech blogger and new FastCompany.TV contributor Robert Scoble.
UPDATE: He apparently gets the Philip Seymour Hoffman thing all the time.
Who knew FOLIO:âs Web site would become a forum for debating abortion rights issues?
Since posting this story Monday ("Pro-Life Groups Outraged Over Vogue Photo Spread") about how a photoshoot for a Vogue column on partial-birth abortions has angered religious and pro-life groupsâwho say it makes the controversial procedure appear fashionableâthousands of people have stopped by to read it, and many have posted passionate comments rationalizing all sides of the issue.
Our story was even picked up by Page Six today, which may or may not be a first for FOLIO:.
Note, we weren't looking for page views, necessarily, but we got them.
As FOLIO: first reported yesterday, Blenderâs sponsored âRock Nâ Roll Userâs Guideââwith a sponsorâs logo straddling an editorial section, making it look an awful lot like an advertorialâhas drawn the ire of the American Society of Magazine Editors, who call it a âclear violationâ of ASME guidelines. Blender declined to elaborate on the deal, only to say it is committed to following ASME guidelines at both Blender and Maxim, both titles owned by the Alpha Media Group.
Leaving the relative merits of the violation aside for a minute, the jab by ASME raises a legitimate question about the powerâor lack thereofâASME has in an industry that has been besieged by stuff like advertising dollars going to the Internet, rising paper and postage costs, and the volatile economy in general.
As one industry observer told me: âI mean, so Blender violated ASME rules. Who cares? Theyâre not winning any National Magazine Awards anytime soon, right?â
And remember, too, Kent Brownridge, Alphaâs top dog, has famously shunned membership in the Magazine Publishers of America. Heâs not looking to impress anyone.
So, now the question is this:
Does anyone care about ASME rules?
NOTE: Drop your opinions in the comments section below ...
I admit that itâs a pretty bleak headline, but itâs the cold, hard truth. Quite the prophet of doom, arenât I? âYou will be fired.âThatâs the first thing I said to a class of eager magazine writing students at the University of Alabama. I happened to be in Tuscaloosa recruiting a new associate editor for the magazine I was editor-in-chief of at the time, but I added the qualifier: âIf you have a typical career in magazine publishing.âGranted, I was speaking from my own experience (and I had only been fired once at that point) but everyone Iâve known in the industry has been fired, let go, laid off, phased out ... however you want to put it. Itâs not pretty but itâs a reality. And trust me, itâs a hard scenario to prepare for, especially when it happens a week and a half before Christmas! Yes Virginia, there is a cold-hearted corporate entity.The best defense is a good offense. This is where having a varied experience comes in handy, as mentioned in my previous post about the benefits of being a generalist. Also, it helps if your clip file is as varied as possible. This will not only come in handy for an interview within a specific niche market but it will showcase your ability to write and understand a plethora of topics. If the editor interviewing you is savvy, he understands that you can adapt to anything and thatâs a good position to be in, but be prepared to prove yourself time and time again.There is job security to be had in publishing for us editorial types. I found that association/non-profit was the most stable. More than likely, the association has been around for generations, so itâs not going anywhere. The least stable? Pretty much everything else, as the daily news blasts and headlines relentlessly inform us. However, in my experience the b-to-b/trade realm was especially harsh. At one of the âbig housesâ I worked for, after seeing magazine after magazine sold off or closed altogether, my publication was folded and out we went. And winning a prestigious journalism award didnât make a whit of difference either! Another case found me downsized out of a position with two monthly trade pubs where I was the managing editor when they became a single trade magazine. Although I queried as soon as the merger was announced as to whether I should update my resume, I was assured that there would still be plenty to do, what with a trade show and a larger online presence. Remember, the job I lost a week and a half before Christmas? Nice!But in all that time I was only out of work for a total of two months since 2001, not a bad record if I do say so myself. My best advice to any up-and-comers (and down-and-outers) is to âdiversify your portfolio.â Garner clips on as many topics as you can. Also, it never hurts to network. Donât be afraid to call on former colleagues. Iâm proud to say I still have friends from everywhere Iâve ever worked in my career (except for the eight days I spent in academic book publishing! Sheesh, I wouldâve rather temped than dealt with that drama!). I would feel comfortable calling on them or asking their advice if I ever needed to, and I have done so on more than one occasion. Being a member of professional associations, alumni associations, and other trade associations is a good idea too.Also, donât get too comfortable where youâre at right this minute as you read the words coming off of my fingers. You may have a great corner office with awesome views, but you better have a versatile and freshly updated awesome resume to match! NOTE: If anybody else has some âfiredâ stories, please share in the comments section below!
Ms. Magazineâs refusal to run what appearedâat first glanceâto be a benign advertisement touting female Israeli leaders, as FOLIO: first reported last week, has caused a bit of a stir in the American Jewish community, who are claiming the magazine is being anti-Israel. The magazine claims it is merely being anti-political:
"Ms. magazineâs policy ... is to only accept mission-driven advertisements from primarily non-profit, non-partisan organizations that promote womenâs equality, social justice, sustainable environment, and non-violence. The ad submitted by AJCongress for consideration appeared to be a political ad, and as such, was inconsistent with this policy. With two of the women featured in the ad from one political party in Israel, Ms. concluded that in accepting the ad it could be viewed as though it was supporting one political party over another in the internal domestic politics of a country.â
It also begs an interesting question for all you freewheeling magazine publishers out there: What sorts of advertisers have you turned down? And why?Publishers, we want your horror stories! And blacklists! Please leave them in the comments section below. Anonymity is guaranteed.
The buzz in marketing circles is about "customer engagement," ways of interacting with customers to advance marketing goals. cScape, a London based digital agency, has released a survey of 1000 "Customer experience professionals, showing the level of interest in programs that move customer engagement along. There is lots of it.
Here's the catch: the creators of the study are not big on "traditional advertising" and have not included even interactive advertising as part of the the study.
This is instructive for media sales people to see just how far this "engagement" concept can go without ever mentioning advertising.
From the study:
"Traditional marketing communications is almost an 'us and them' situation. The logic is that if we say it loud and often enough, some of our message will stick! Modern web-based businesses need to deploy a much more subtle of our message will stick! Modern web-based businesses need to deploy a much more subtle line of interactive communications. One thatâs all about mutual interests. People coming to a site want it to work and to work well. A site that achieves this is one that gets the business and generates the kind of 'feel-good' factor that brand marketers strive for."
On your next call:
Don't bring this study. But do think about the part of the "non advertising" dialog our advertisers are having about engegement that this study represents, and think about the marketing dollars that will drain away if you cannot make the point stick that interactive and magazine advertising can be extremely engaging. We sell many media that engage customers in many ways. On your next call think about how you can bring that point foreword.
Download the entire study here (registration required).