Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paper Cut

I am all for saving the environment. I recycle. I don't drive a car. I even worked at an eco-friendly store. But that doesn't mean I want all magazines to stop being printed on paper.

Digital magazine vendor Zinio has launched a new campaign GoReadGreen.com aiming to make people aware of the environmental reasons for subscribing to online magazines. The site distributes over 1,000 digital magazines from more than 200 publishers, including Hachette, Wenner Media and Reader's Digest, that have agreed to offer 50 million free digital magazine subscriptions (one per person) to build awareness for this new publishing frontier. Of course, it doesn't hurt that this move will also cut costs for the fledgling industry, which reports that 70 percent of printed magazines die at the newsstand.

Zinio says a portion of the proceeds from the campaign will go to purchasing “eco unit credits” and “more trees.” A $400 color reader, thinner than many print magazines, is also anticipated to come in the coming months.

I am all for receiving news and articles in a digital format, but when it comes to photo editorials, that will always be best on a tangible page held in one's hands. Of course, I'm not one to pass up a free deal either, especially one that benefits the environment.

An interesting note: David H. Gilmour, who purchased Zinio last year, is also the founder of Fiji water. And we all know how environmentally-friendly bottled water is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reinventing the News

As our upcoming presidential election becomes more of a reality show than a major political matter, it only makes sense that the entertainment machine would follow. Spoofing the controversial July 2008 "Fist Bump" New Yorker cover, Entertainment Weekly has Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert making fun of an already outrageous presidential season. I think the original New Yorker cover is brilliant even though it came under intense heat for being insensitive about possibly misleading uneducated voters who were on the fence about Obama (though would they be reading the New Yorker in the first place?)

This spilling of politics onto an entertainment magazine is an indicator, however, of the shrinking number of news magazines. According to Folio, the number of news magazines in America and Canada has dropped 39 percent from 75 to 45 publications in the last five years. Do people not care about politics, or are they simply finding other means to get the news?

In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in database journalism, or the gathering of facts from databases in a cohesive or interesting way and distributing it to the public. One of these such sites is Factcheck.org, which is full of articles debunking each candidate's jabs at each other. The site seems impartial, using straight number to check both candidates equally. It is very to the point, but mainly seems to focus on ads or speeches instead of the overall positions of the candidates.

Politifact.com, another example of database journalism, at first seems more convoluted to go through, but is actually more entertaining. With animated graphics, the candidates are judged on their truthfulness and how often they flip on issues. You can also click on tags of certain issues and see the validity of each candidate's claims and how often they've flipped on issues. This site is more interactive but still information is being told to you rather than you manipulating it.

FactCheck and Politifact are great tools for people looking to educate themselves on the candidates in an engaging manner, but check out Project Vote Smart and the Washington Post's Vote Database for the ultimate resource in candidate information. These are databases in the truest sense of the word: they are dry and all-encompassing. While not engaging, Project Vote Smart is the best, focusing on presidential candidates and local leaders from every state.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Judging a Book by its Cover

As much as I claim to like the content of magazines, it's really all about the cover--that initial reaction you have to a beautiful or shocking or thought-provoking image that (supposedly) sums up the issue. That's why it's always interesting to see who the MPA, the Magazine Publishers of America, announce as their finalist for the Cover of the Year. Below is the Cover of the Year finalists for 2008, with the winners to be presented at the AMC on October 6. View all the finalists here.

Cover of the Year

Interview
June/July 2008

“Andy is 80!”


New York
March 24, 2008

Eliot Spitzer’s Brain


The New Yorker
October 8, 2007

“Short Stance”


It's pretty special that Interview's "Andy is 80!" summer issue is one of the top 3 finalists, acting as recognition for the revamped magazine. I worked at Interview during that issue, and it was a real turning point for the magazine. Editor Ingrid Sischy had stepped down after 20 years and a whole new crew from the top echelons of the industry were brought in. The magazine could have gone a number of different directions, but for that issue, they decided to honor the man himself, Andy Warhol, who created the magazine nearly 40 years before by having Marc Jacobs play him on the cover. MJ was the perfect choice because it not only marked Interview's renewed footing in the fashion world, but Marc's whole career and life is based on Andy-isms.

The New Yorker and New York Magazine raked up the most nominations. The MPA didn't recognize many fashion magazines even though those covers are usually the most striking (perhaps because my favorites covers were from international mags). Notably, the controversial New Yorker cover depicting cartoon Barack and Michelle Obama acting out America's fears wasn't mentioned. Other deserving finalists:

Best Concept Cover

TIME
April 28, 2008

“How to Win the War on Global Warming”

Best Fashion Cover

New York Look
Spring 2008

Catwalk

Vanity Fair
September 2007

Gisele B√ľndchen

My So-Called Life

A new life for Life.

More than 70 years after influential publisher Henry Luce started the first American all-photo magazine, Time Inc. and Getty Images are reinventing Life Magazine as a Web site offering free photos from top photographers from around the world for non-commercial purposes. How's that for changing times?

This isn't the first time the magazine has tried to be resurrected--in fact, it's been shut down three times before, as recent as when Time stopped publishing it as a newspaper supplement in April 2007. But the history of Life is so monumental to magazines and American history that the name still carries significance.

This is also the first time that the resources of the professional photo market will be available to consumers, including over 3,000 news downloadable photos and the extensive archives of Getty and Life Magazine.

While this seems like a clear indication of magazines moving solely online (the Magraker's biggest fear!), the new Life.com will be more a resource of photographs than a photojournalistic magazine.

The site is expected to go live early 2009.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why the Esquire Backlash?

I can't help it--I'm a sucker for gimmicks. And I believe most magazine readers are too. By definition, aren't all magazine covers gimmicky, from Vogue declaring its "Biggest Issue Ever" to i-D's customary wink photo (dating back to the 80s) and monthly theme (The Couples Issue, The Ice Cream Issue, The Tissue Issue)? So then why all the backlash to Esquire's 75th Anniversary E-Ink cover?

For the big milestone, Esquire worked with Cambridge, Mass.-based E Ink Corp to develop a 10-square-inch display on the cover that flashes "The 21st Century Begins Now" along with flashing images, much like a mini-Times Square. A two-page ad also features a 10-square-inch display with a car shifting colors on the inside cover. The E Ink cover is estimated to flash for more than six months. Amazon's Kindle reader also uses E Ink, but unlike Kindle, the magazine's display is not linked to a wireless network. The magazine cover is actually quite cool, as seen in the video below, taken from Esquire.com:




According to an AP Report, Esquire was interested in E Ink more than 7 years ago, but the company said it was not ready for magazines. The biggest challenge, according to the magazine's Editor-in-chief David Granger, was fitting in the six batteries and two computer chips.

Magazine aficionados, though, are quick to point out that Esquire's cover is more publicity stunt than wave of the future, but who cares? The magazine industry needs publicity now more than ever to keep itself relevant. According to Granger, this issue had more ad pages than any other issue in the last 11 years that he's been editor, so I'd say its a great way to celebrate the history of one America's longest lasting magazines. In the AP article, Granger said he had high hopes for the use of E Ink.
Granger predicted that Esquire will someday include e-paper displays linked to a cellular network or radio frequency, which will allow the magazine to add updates to stories during the month an issue is on sale.

"It could be a year away, it could be three years away, but it will happen soon," Granger said.

E Ink has an exclusive agreement with Hearst through June. Granger said he hopes to use an electronic paper display again in the magazine during the first half of 2009.

I don't think this will change magazines forever the way Granger predicted, and I don't believe many magazines will pick up on this technology, but it is definitely cool to look at. I went the day after it hit newsstands to buy an issue of the sure-to-be collector's item to find it already sold out. The gimmick must be working. Yesterday during another casual magazine perusing, I found a normal, non-E Ink cover for the issue, but didn't buy it. I think I will purchase it next time, though, because I believe meaningful content must lie behind this magazine's clever gimmick.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prescription: Subscription

V Magazine will always be a favorite. It's spreads are thought-provoking, its content extends beyond trends and its sheer large size makes the magazine and its images feel important and valuable. It's the monthly mainstream offshoot of Visionaire, the avant-garde publication centered around a fundamental theme.

So to my surprise, I discovered that V lowered its annual subscription from $40 to $10! It's brother publication (actually doing better than V) VMan also lowered its subscription rate to $10 as it changes from biannual to monthly this October. You know my checkbook came out for that deal, and so should your's.

But the lowered price makes me wonder if V will be going in a cheaper direction, not only in price but in content too. Its former editor Christopher Bollen jumped ship to the new Interview Magazine (another ultimate favorite of mine), marking a turning point for Visionaire-cofounder and current V Magazine editor Stephan Gan. The last issue with glamazon Gisele on the cover was pretty lackluster. Was it an attempt to make their magazine more mainstream, or just a summer issue slump? Though this month's issue with 14 different black-and-white covers of top models (my favorite of course is dutch model Lara Stone) is their biggest issue yet. We'll see how it plays out over the next year now that we're subscribed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gossip Folks: Plenty Magazine

First was Oprah. Now Al Gore?

Adding to his Current TV network, it's rumored that Big Green Al is planning to buy the environmental-centric magazine Plenty, according to Portfolio Magazine's Jeff Bercovici. Haven't heard of Plenty? Me neither. But after the success of his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, is Gore hoping to turn his failed 2000 presidential run into media mogul-dom?
Gore's on the cover of this month's issue, counting the top twenty green do-gooders. While I appreciate his dedication for environmental causes, dating way before the Going Green trend, I can only hope that we won't be seeing Gore's hammy face on each month's issue, Oprah-style. If it pans out, it will be interesting to see if magazines are still a lucrative extension of one's media empire in the year 2008.

Fools Rush In

Editor's notes are included (boxed in pink) on a Time news story.

Anyone who's ever worked in a magazine newsroom knows that rushing is an understatement. After a few weeks of leisurely pondering over article ideas, the mad last-minute rush soon sets in as the magazine hurries to get the issue to print on time. It's the same every month--you avoid certain easily-stressed people. But when that monthly printing rush turns to a daily online rush, well, it can become very foolish.

Valleywag posted about Time Magazine's online slip-up concerning a Q&A with death expert Dr. Sam Parnia. In the online article, posted on Yahoo!News, an editor's comments are included at the top of the story. While I'm always intrigued by editor's notes as long as they aren't ruining my perfectly crafted words, it raises the question of how quickly are stories rushed online. In a magazine newsroom, the story would go through copy editors before being printed and checked once again. Is this error a sign of less professional reporting, or a step into making readers more involved in the reporting process?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let's Not Forget the Blogs

At the beginning of every month (or in the case of Vanity Fair, two months in advance), I get so excited to check my mailbox for magazine subscriptions. It's like a surprise gift I know I'm receiving. But that's not to say that blogs don't have their place in a magazine lover's life. Blogs occupy the meantime in between months--they offer the quick and constant updates without the luxury and frill of a periodical. And often, they inform of new worthwhile magazines.


The premiere blog in my mind will always be Gawker. Gawker is the blog that could--starting from Manhattan media gossip to the paradigm of blog networks. It's the outsider blog looking in, only to find everyone else is looking with it. The site never takes itself too seriously and never stops posting. It's content is always spot-on, from political criticism to self-indulgent celebrity babble. And of course, Gawker (and it's sister site Jezebel) covers the ins-and-outs of magazines.


Where as Gawker provides content in an unserious manner, The Sartorialist picks up with pictures given the utmost thought. Scott Schuman, AKA The Sartoralist, has become a household name and inspired dozens of imitators due to the success of his fashion-photo blog. He posts a picture every day of one man and woman who he believes to be fashionable, successfully employing runway trends to real-life outfits while retaining personal style. Scott provides his readers with something aspirational to dress up for every morning.



Given the infinite number of blogs in cyberspace, I'll round out my blogroll with Men.Style.Com. Conde Nast's online counterpart for Details Magazine and GQ, Men's Style.Com serves as the authority for men's fashion and culture. Its Material Interest blog keeps readers up-to-date on menswear and design news, but the site is most valuable because of its multimedia content. Given Conde Nast's deep pockets, Men's Style has video interviews and tours of cities and stores. We read about these people all the time--it's interesting to see them on camera.


Whereas a daily newspaper acts much like a blog in its quest for constant, daily, up-to-the-minute updates, magazines at their best are a beautiful round-up of all things worthwhile. Blogs may lead to the demise of papers, but it seems blogs and magazines have a strong mutual future together.

All Hail the Supplement!

Image from Men.Style.Com

Magazine lovers are told constantly that the publishing world, facing many reported financial challenges, will soon cease to exist giving way solely to online reading. To those that keep magazines on their bookshelf as prized possessions, this prediction never fails to break our heart. It comes as a surprise then that the nation's two major newspapers, doing much worse than magazines in terms of retaining print readers, release new magazine supplements to their papers.

The Wall Street Journal unveiled its much anticipated magazine WSJ. this month to compete with the New York Time's existing T Magazine. Aside from the fact that the initial-only names are uninspired and trying-too-hard (and yes, that period is purposefully in WSJ.), this marks a positive sign in the allure of glossy magazines to both readers and advertisers. Men.Style.Com rates the two, declaring T the winner, but the WSJ. debut feels much more foreboding.

Its cover story shows model Diana Dondoe in an amateur-looking newspaper dress against a colorless backdrop. The Wall Street Journal is not known for its critical fashion coverage, and it shows. The story, however, asks how the luxury industry must evolve in order to survive. WSJ. must be in denial because really that is the very question they should be asking themselves.

Other newspapers around the country are also trying their hand in fashionable glossy supplements, like the Boston Globe's Fashion Boston, but their efforts come up inept. Even for a magazine connoisseur like myself, using them for wiping seems their only practical use.

These struggling and stodgy institutions believe that the invaluable 20 to 30-something audience, which opts for GoogleNews instead of newspapers, still have an interest in reading magazines and looking at printed photographs instead of digital ones. Plus, luxury and fashion companies still rely on magazines as a primary source of advertising, just as magazines rely heavily on them for income. So in the face of adversity, we now have two new magazines to ogle at each month.