Vogueâs latest coverâfeaturing basketball star Lebron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchenâwas 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 âwild, savage, white-woman-obsessed beast,â as Gawker Media blog Jezebel put it. (One even suggested that those supporting the cover do a Google image search for âKing Kongâ for a comparison.)
Below, FOLIO:âs roving panel of designers weigh in on the controversial cover.
NAME: Stephanie FaucherTITLE: Design director, ComputerworldCRITIQUE: 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 McMurrayTITLE: Creative director, 2communiqueCRITIQUE: 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 magazineCRITIQUE: 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 PerezTITLE: Art director, Perez DezignCRITIQUE: Doesn't every cover perpetuate stereotypes? The weirdest thing about this cover is how bad Gisele looks.
NAME: Tim O'BrienTITLE: Freelance illustrator, Rolling StoneCRITIQUE: 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 illustratesâhe 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.âthis 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 TrombettoTITLE: Art director, FOLIO:CRITIQUE: The racial/stereotype issues aside, I simply do not like the shot here. It feels awkward to meâlike 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 ...
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 downânot 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 2005â17.59 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 âComputing, 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.
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 itâs not as simple as scanning the newsstand for a stand-out.
Thatâs why I was so excited to come across Functional Ingredientsâ March issue, which looked to me like a young boy running on glassâbut 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:âs 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 magazineâs amazing, under-the-radar cover by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 ...
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 Dykstraâapparently notorious for missing interviews with journalists but one helluva stock picker!âbut he never called. (Naturally, I waited by the phone, sucking on a hunk of chaw for six hours, but no âNailsâ for me.) I had plenty of questions, the first of which is why Dykstraâand, moreover, Doubledownâthinks a magazine like this will work when others, specifically Overtime, have failed.
Hopefully heâll 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 heavyâkind of like a W for the athlete set. And then, the ads. There are a lot of âem, mostly for private jet services. (Whether or not these ads are paid or barter or gratis is another story.)
The content is pretty standard fareâin other words, unmemorable listicles (âAll-Money All-Starsâ), grids (âWhatâs hot in your world?â), charts (âFitness Drinks: the box scoreâ) as-told-to columns by John McEnroe and Tim Brown, an awkward fashion spread featuring Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell and vapid profilesâincluding the laughable cover story on Yankees shortstop and noted nightclub connoisseur Derek Jeter, by otherwise respected sportswriter Bob Klapisch. (Sample Jeter quotes: âIâve really toned it down away from the fieldâ and âI watch movies.â)
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 Gretzkyâa member of the Players Club âboard of directorsââthat sold in 2007 but is âon the market again.â
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 thatâs a true player.
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 âcoo' 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 conventionsâfrom SIC-able smart-quote-driven errors in headlines such as âFlip ân Flopâ which appears on page 14, right after âWash ân Wearâ on 13âdoes not burden the staff of of BC. They do have the whole product placement thing down thoughâChristina gets a 32 pt pull quote to wax poetic about her favorite brands. âKnuckleheadsâ is the winner for her little darlings, but she also likes âDiesel Kids and Baby Gap.â
The fashion plates are the usual pictures of childrenâthough 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 thatâbut 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 servicesâpotentially 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 arenât already reading the Timesâ SundayStyle section to support a magazine? And arenât 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!]
A couple quick notes on Michael Arringtonâthe sleep-deprived founder of Silicon Valley blog TechCrunch and member of the 2008 FOLIO: 40âwhich didnât make it into his 350-word profile.
As far as TechCrunch sale rumors, he says that while they can be expectedâgiven his 2007 hire of Heather Harde, the ex-Fox Interactive executive responsible for $1.3 billion in acquisitions including that little $500 million MySpace dealâa roll-up scenario, leveraging a small network of blogs, is much more likely. âI donât know if weâre a quarterback of something like that or a defensive back.â
Or, you know, owner. Just donât expect ValleyWag to be part of that team.
Read Arrington's full FOLIO: 40 profile here ...
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% Magazine47.7% Read an Article44.2% TV / Broadcast41.3% Newspaper35.6% Cable TV35.3% Face-to-Face Communication33.8% Coupons30.3% Email Advertising29.3% Direct Mail28.2% 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.
The FOLIO: 40âour annual list of industry innovators and influencersâwas officially unveiled today. We call it the oldest, most comprehensive and most distinguished compilation of its kind. Because it is. Obviously, itâs not an all-inclusive affair; rather, itâs 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 listsâperhaps unfairlyâours is Adam Moss free! (Though Iâd admit that not including someone from New York magazine or its nymag.com juggernaut was one of our biggest oversights this year).
But, as every magazine editor knows, thatâs the beauty of lists. Theyâre a jumping off point for a nuanced and overarching reflection on a particular slice of an industry. Or something.
So, let the commentingâand requisite arguingâbegin!
This year, the editors here at FOLIO: selected ESPN senior vice president of content development and enterprises Keith Clinkscales to our annual FOLIO: 40 listâand 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, ESPNthemag.com, separate from ESPN.com.But, already, it seems like SI might have a leg up for 2009. Late last month, SI.com 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.
Price wars between celebrity magazines are nothing newâwe 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 â$1 cheaper than Us Weekly & People!â (OK!âit's worth notingâis going for the trifecta with this one: Britney, Jamie Lynn and Suri).
The cover, however, has another problem, this time related to its Britney Spearsâ âscoopâ (see how the Spears Family made our just-announced FOLIO: 40 list): the cover shot it is using to illustrate Ms. Spearsâ 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
SOURCE: ABC Fas-Fax
The editor vs. art director battle on FOLIOMag.com 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 âeditorial' and âart' 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 âCreative 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
With that said, let's take a little break from all the
tension and focus on an art/edit team that works togetherâor at least one that appears
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.