The Zombiefication of Ladies Home Journal is Sad, But…

I had planned on banging out a few hundred words at some point in the next few days regarding the recent announcement that a venerable member of the “Seven Sisters” Ladies Home Journal was ending it’s run as a monthly. However, my more immediate concern was what that could do to front end configurations nationwide and how many new “Pay To Stay” check out plan-o-grams I might be called on to consider and pony up for. These are the things that keep me up at night.

Yesterday, after seeing some breathless articles about the LHJ’s relegation to the role of “Book-A-Zine” pop up in my feeds, I posted a rather snarky comment on my Twitter stream and earned a response from Beth Brewster, a lecturer and Director of Studies in the school of Journalism at Kingston University in London.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 8.41.19 AM

Reflect on that for a moment, please. I just had a “conversation” with a professor in London, England. This is one of the numerous reasons I love Twitter.

Samir Husni, Mr. Magazine, and professor of Journalism at Ole Miss rightly pointed out on his feed:

There is more discussion on Samir’s account and I would encourage you to check it out if you’re not already following him (And if you’re not, you should). If you’re not following his blog, you should do that too. No doubt he’ll have something to say about this in longer form.

But I couldn’t have said it any better than the ever enigmatic D. Eadward Tree, proprietor of the Dead Tree Edition blog who’s posting this morning was titled: “Old Ladies Journal Sent to the Home”.  He kicked off his explanation of the events by saying:

“The 131-year-old “Seven Sister” title Ladies’ Home Journal was consigned today to the magazine industry’s version of the old folks’ home – “special interest publication.”

I’d invite you to follow the link and read the entire post. He points out that while the transition is a smart thing for Meredith, we do have to consider that people will lose their jobs.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that while I was planning on checking out what Mr. Tree had to say, Bo Sacks got there first and included it in his daily e-blast. Along with that link was this thought from Bo himself:

“…the closing of LHJ has nothing to do with gypsy prophesies. It has to do with the nuts and bolts of a vibrant industry which, at worst, is in a transformational stage. Magazines have been born, lived a full life and died multiple thousands of times. It is normal, and what we have always done as an industry. We create, we make revenue and put mercifully to sleep those titles that no longer display the necessary sustainability for a healthy life.”

How can you not like someone who works the phrase “gypsy prophecies” into a column. Check out his entire stream of thought by following this link.

It’s encouraging that after years of living with the endless drumbeat from the fanboys and so-called “futurists” that we’re finally seeing the pragmatists and actual practitioners of this industry: Samir Husni, Mr. Tree and Bo, getting noticed for their push back against the conventional wisdom mongers. I for one, appreciate their ability to explain the life cycle of this industry.

Now if they could only solve the newsstand conundrum.




You’re Not Cosmopolitan

Music to quietly hum to yourself every time a vendor calls with this “problem.”

Update: The artist who took the self portrait for the cover in question, Ana Alvarez-Errecalde contacted me this afternoon requesting the following clarification. After Facebook censored the cover image, it was the artist, Ana Alvarez who changed the image by placing the red dot on her chest. In her words, this solved the problem by both drawing attention to the magazine and pointing out the double standards in society. It also made two versions of the cover, the censored going out to the newsstand, and the uncensored out to subscribers. In the end, this was a consensus decision reached by both the artist and Hip Mama.

A number of years ago, my client list included an “alternative art” magazine that had the tendency to include NSFW pictures inside it’s book. I had no problem with this, and as near as I could tell, neither did anyone else who actually read the magazine. On the other hand, one of our major retailers had a significant problem with the content and would periodically relegate the magazine to the back of the rack or require the publisher to polybag.

Eventually, the retailer wound up requiring the publisher to polybag every single issue. The upside of this was that sales went up (Forbidden fruit anyone?).

During a conversation with the publisher about this issue, the subject of Cosmopolitan and some of their objectionable cover lines and images was brought up. “So why do they pick on us?” the client wanted to know.

“It’s simple,” I replied, “You’re not Cosmopolitan.”

It would be nice if the world and it’s participants would play fair. But tsunamis wash over the righteous and the unrighteous. Houses burn down, terminal illnesses blossom. And large vertical corporate entities get to decide who they want to mess with and who they will reward by whatever rules they decide to abide by at that particular time. If you don’t like it, feel free to complain to your consultant. It’s what we’re paid for.

Hip Mama magazine is a small, buzz worthy magazine with a small newsstand footprint.

Recently their editor did the smart thing, placed an image of their upcoming cover on their Facebook page. The readers responded. Apparently mostly positively.

Editor’s note: Dear Publishers, there is no reason all of you can not start immediately doing this simple task. Thank you.

The cover image in question was of a Spanish based artist  who wore a Spider Man mask and was breastfeeding her son.

It kind of makes sense for a magazine called Hip Mama.

The artist is topless, her son is wearing is wearing the rest of the Spider Man costume. He’s four years old.

The latest issue of Hip Mama
The latest issue of Hip Mama

Frankly, I see nothing wrong with the image. But unfortunately I can  understand that a distributor or retailer, even one that would happily carry Hip Mama may hesitate for a moment. It turned out that Facebook had a problem with this image and had them take it down. Then Hip Mama‘s newsstand vendor contacted them and told them they had some problems with the cover.

Of course, regular readers of this blog may remember this:

So 2012...
So 2012…

Yes, we have passed this way, again.  And again and again.

Periodically, larger magazines like Time, or Marie Claire, or Cosmopolitan, have something on their cover that incites someone, somewhere and the issue gets pulled. It gets placed behind other titles, covered up, what have you. Usually this will only happen in one or two retailers of any note.


A number of years back, Marie Claire got "censored" rather publicly... Source: FishbowlNY
A number of years back, Marie Claire got “censored” rather publicly… Source: FishbowlNY

It is a little rare these days for the majority of a shipment to get censored.

You have to hand it to the editor at Hip Mama and the artist. They came up with a very clever and sensible solution. The tag line for the publication is “No Supermom’s Here” and they put it in a large red dot over the artists chest. Everything got covered up.

Ready to ship!
Ready to ship!

The publisher also invited readers to buy the “uncensored” cover directly from them therefore bypassing those squeamish vendors and retailers.

My simple unpaid, unsolicited and uninvited advice to the publisher is this: I love it. Keep it up. Keep pushing the boundaries. But be prepared. You’re not Cosmopolitan.





Some More Kick Ass Music Covers

One of the services many consultants provide for magazine publishers is a cover analysis. Over the years, I’ve developed a template that can dive deeply into the single copy sales of a title. Consequently I feel pretty qualified to weigh in on how a cover looks and how it may sell. However, if you really want some input on cover and magazine design turn to Robert Newman. Mr. Newman is the former design director of Real Simple and served as the creative director of such iconic magazines as Entertainment Weekly, Details and Vibe.

Do you want to keep up on the happenings in the magazine design world? Follow his very active and entertaining  Twitter feed, or visit his Tumblr page.

Earlier this week he published an article on Adweek titled “101 Kick Ass Music Covers. The most awesome, iconic and controversial magazine images of the last 80 years.”

Newman explained it this way:

“…they also have chronicled the changes in the culture and the sounds of the times—consider Bob Dylan’s various transformations across 24(!) Rolling Stone covers. Not only have covers become part of music history and culture at large, but they also remain a potent tool for marketing artists.”

He’s right and he pointed out that fans will obsess over the images and artists on the covers. I certainly did both as a youth and today as an adult. The 101 selections are deep and cover the broad spectrum of magazines from such classic music titles as Down Beat to the cultural icon Rolling Stone to the very controversial Kayne West/Kim Kardashian cover on Vogue last month. They are all valid choices presented in a way that will make you say out loud “Yes! I loved that!” Or perhaps “What? Why that?”

But I confess, there were a few issues and covers that I remember seeing or collecting over the years that I thought should be included.

For example, one of my favorite premiere issues is the first release of Spin Magazine featuring Madonna. It was a great kick off to an interesting title that had a good run. I was a little surprised that it wasn’t included in Newman’s collection. You may recall that I used to work for the former Capital Distributing Company, the sister national distributor to copy cat publisher Charlton Publications.  I  would have included Hit Parader covers from the titles  ’80’s and ‘90’s rennaissance weren’t included.

Time Magazine‘s Bruce Springsteen cover was included. What about Newsweek’s? What about Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar World cover. I can think of a bunch of people wondering where that was.

I submit this for your consideration and not as a counterpoint to Robert Newman’s list. Here are some additional music covers to think about and maybe smile over. Because this is a blog about the newsstand, celebrate the sales history of.

Spin Magazine's Launch Issue Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine’s Launch Issue Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine's Second Anniversary Issue - Also Featuring Madonna
Spin Magazine’s Second Anniversary Issue – Also Featuring Madonna
Creem Magazine Featuring Grace Slick. December 1977
Creem Magazine Featuring Grace Slick. December 1977. This made the rounds of our high school newspaper office for a few months.
Guitar Player April 2001 Featuring Eddie Van Halen
Guitar Player April 2001 Featuring Eddie Van Halen
Rock & Soul Magazine Featuring Michael Jackson. September 1981
Rock & Soul Magazine Featuring Michael Jackson. September 1981
Another "version" of Michael Jackson. Rock & Soul Magazine. July 1979
Another “version” of Michael Jackson. Rock & Soul Magazine. July 1979

I love how the “cool” logo of Rock and Soul now seems so “retro”.

Down Beat Magazine November 1955
Down Beat Magazine November 1955. I picked this up at a garage sale years ago, and may have re-sold it because it is nowhere to be found.
Circus Magazine. October 1969
Circus Magazine Featuring The Beatles October 1969
New Music Express Featuring Florence and the Machine. April 2010
New Music Express Featuring Florence and the Machine. April 2010

There’s a reason these are all strictly music titles. Consider this: Music titles that report to the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media, formerly the ABC) have declined significantly. For the last reporting period (Second half 2013), the AAM “Snapshot” showed only 6 titles reporting as compared to the second half of 2008 when 10 titles reported.

Even more ominously, unit sales were down 79% and on the retail dollars side of the ledger, sales were down -$16,180,626. That got your attention, huh?

Do music magazines still have viability on the newsstand and in print. Well, far more titles don’t report to AAM than do. And, as Newman’s list showed, there are a lot of great music oriented covers and articles out there in magazines that are not totally devoted to the music industry.

If you have any covers you want included in this list, please send them along.