Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Key magazines of postwar 20th Century

I have been thinking about "key" magazines produced after 1945, to compare and contrast with the accepted canon of influential titles launched in the first half of the century; a canon that consists, by popular acclaim, of Reader's Digest, Time, Life and, er, that's it.

Clearly, popular acclaim has a large dose of Four Estate-ism in it, although RD is the token populist.

But if we accept that the postwar period, and particularly the 1960s onwards, saw massive growth in specialist magazines (pace Abrahamson, Johnson, et al) there must be some titles that were/are more influential than others. This influence does not have to be just one thing. For example, Just Seventeen represented both the apogee of publishing for teenage girls and, as it turned out, the final flowering of that genre – it reached new heights and then crashed as social changes undermined it (or "took it off at the knees" as advertising manager/publisher Zed Zawada once promised J17 would do to its rivals).

I want to try and sketch out key mags in the three main industry classes – consumer, b2b and customer/contract. So far my list, with brief rationale, looks like this:

Car: introduced great design and photography into the motoring sector, along with a literary bent to the writing
Just 17/Smash Hits: see above; massively successful teen/pop titles that were left high and dry by changing social trends
Q: successfully surfed the transition from vinyl to CD and perfected the mega-review section; moved the music sector to an older demographic
Loaded: began what become the lad mag sector

Campaign: made trade publishing glamorous and sexy
Management Today: similar to Campaign but also brought together an industry body (Institute of Management) and dynamic publisher

High Life: the in-flight magazine that some regard as the first contract mag
M&S Magazine: the first retailer magazine

More suggestions and brief rationales welcome in the comments.


Monday, May 17, 2010

More great magazine writing

Wow – just look at the intro of this piece by Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone and then tell me you didn't want to read more. Finance and politics boring? Not written like this it's not ...


Thanks to Mark Peters of Wordtastic for sending me there, and thanks to @bergus for sending me there (you see how this stuff works?).

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Great magazine writing

This Sports Illustrated feature about rugby player Gareth "Alfie" Thomas coming out as gay seemed to be trying too hard at first – an example of stereotypically American sports "Writing" with a capital W.
Gareth Thomas, Welsh rugby playerImage via Wikipedia
But there was enough to it that I persevered and before I reached the end it had not only gripped me but also forced an SST*.

There is a brilliant level of research and controlled, but overwhelming, use of detail.

Gary Smith, butt, I salutes you.

(* It's the opposite of LOL – Silently Shed Tear. Embarrassing on a train ...)

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Magazines: You say Paywall, I say Subscription

Another extract from James Fallows in The Atlantic, this time on paywalls (scary, new) considered in the context of subscriptions (reassuring, familiar):

“If you go back through history, content has always been monetized across a broad spectrum,” Nikesh Arora said. “You could buy a journal for a $1,000 subscription price and an audience of 1,000. Or you could pick up a newspaper that is given out free on the Metro. People have adjusted their cost curves to their own form of monetization. The Harvard Business Review is not fretting about a loss of advertising [most of its revenue comes from subscribers]. The free Metro paper is not fretting about low subscription income. They have different business models, and the same principle will apply on the Internet.” Before, “publishing” meant printing information on sheets of paper; eventually, it will mean distributing information on a Web site or mobile device. That shift, according to Arora and others, will not force news companies into a limited range of business choices. If anything, it should allow for even more variety. 


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Magazines: Read + Engage With + Use = Income

There's a very good piece by James Fallows in the current issue of The Atlantic about Google and the ways in which it is exploring how to save news organisations.

Although the article focuses is on the USA, the principles in play are just as relevant to the UK, where the co-ordinated cry of magazine publishers is "show us the money". But thinking about how to make online or digital publishing pay – in and of itself – is very unlikely to reach a worthwhile conclusion, and here's a quote from Fallows that shows why:
One Google employee who asked not to be named mentioned another report on journalism’s future and pointed out a section called “Focus on the User.” “They just mean, ‘Get money out of the user,’” he said. “Nowhere do they talk about how to create something people actually want to read and engage with and use.”
Read, engage with and use – these are the keystones of successful magazine publishing. If you published that as a formula for success in print it would be ridiculed as a statement of the bleedin' obvious.

So why panic about doing it outside of print?

Full text (over several pages): http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/04/how-to-save-the-news/8095/1/

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Magazine Flash – Apple iPad vs Android tablets

I can't vouch for any of this but if it's true then the apps war for magazines will really hot up. Could be back to a Betamax vs VHS situation.


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