Net Neutrality, Innovation, And The Newsstand

If I were the CEO of a major internet provider such as AT&T, Verizon or Comcast, I’d totally be in favor of ending “Net Neutrality”. The prospect of being able to sell two tiers of service: One premium for the companies that can afford premium service, and one for everyone else. It makes sense.

Just like it makes sense for airlines to take what used to be a mildly uncomfortable experience, and make it miserable. Want to get on the plane quicker? $35.00 please. Want to put that bag in the overhead? $35.00 please. Want that aisle seat over the wing? $47.00 please. Oh, and we’ll periodically interrupt your work or entertainment to talk endlessly about all of the snacks, headsets and drinks we want to sell to you while you’re stuck in the air with us for two hours.

Net neutrality is just like that. The only people who seem to be in favor of it, aside from the CEOs of major internet providers are their flunkies who jabber and sputter away on cable TV news channels and try to insure the rest of us that this will be all fine and dandy and in no way would stop “innovation”.

Would Google have prospered if it had to try to build its user base in the slow lane? Highly unlikely. How about You Tube? It was coming up at the same time as a Google created video service. Users preferred You Tube. Google bought You Tube.


Where is the next Snapchat or Instagram going to come from in a multi tiered internet? Along with being easy and fun to use, those two apps did well because they could be accessed just as quickly as any other app out there.


Let’s drop in on that shallow, shrinking sea called the newsstand. What are the new launches that have grabbed the public’s attention and have grown into significant titles?

There are some stunning successes such as HGTV Magazine. The Food Network Magazine, the conversion of All You into a national title. Bauer brought Closer Magazine to these shores.

What can we say about these successful titles? They all came from major publishing houses that have deep pockets. The titles are either attached to a major brand that has mass appeal, or a title that already exists as a brand somewhere else. This is called brand extension. It is not innovation.

Where will the next Lowrider come from? Before it was bought by Primedia, it was a LA home town success story. It grew because there was nothing out there quite like it. The magazine reached out and spoke to a growing culture. It blossomed because the system was open enough at the time to allow it to grow (without the purchase of expensive promotions).


Where will the next Computer Shopper come from? This title grew from a little yellow newsprint tabloid into a thick four copy per bundle behemoth at its peak. Yes, it peaked and then fell. That’s the life cycle of magazines sometimes and sadly that’s what happened to this magazine.

So along with all of the other issues we see on the newsstand, you have to wonder: Is all we’ll see moving forward either small launches from the indies, endless “zombie” book-a-zines from the larger publishing houses, and an occasional behemoth launch tied into a behemoth brand like Dr. Oz or HGTV?

Dr. Oz checking in.
Dr. Oz checking in.

I don’t know. I was around and worked on the launches of Computer Shopper and Sassy. I worked on building Lowrider up and had a great experience attending Lowrider shows. Perhaps print “innovation” is moving to the margins of either major home runs, or short hops to first base for the small indies.

As the cable guys would say, “Time will tell.”

Editor’s Note: Net Neutrality is a very serious issue and the creation of a two tier internet benefits no one, really. It’s a short-sighted attempt to generate larger profits, nothing more.

Agree or disagree with that statement, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard by posting a comment to the FCC by clicking here:

I urge you to do so, and while you’re at it, let your local congressional representative and senator know how you feel about it.


And The Runners Up Are: The Completely Biased, Highly Subjective and Unscientific List of the Top 2012 Magazine Covers

So now we’ve released the list  of the top ten covers, managed the comments,  spoken with the  people who liked the list, or really hated the list. I spoke with one person who was pretty sure I was crazy.

Last year we added a “Runner’s Up” list. Not because everyone deserves a participation trophy or because we’re all winners. But simply because there were a great number of choices and so many magazines grabbed my attention this year.

1) Bloomburg Business Week – Week of February 8: As Mr. Magazine, Samir Husni pointed out earlier this year, just because Newsweek is gone from the print world, doesn’t mean that newsweeklies are dead. Bloomburg Business Week has had so many great covers this year. While newsweeklies don’t have the large newsstand presence that they used to, they are still key category leaders in airports and bookstores. This cover resonated strongly and made me laugh out loud when I picked it up earlier this year.

Let's laugh and sell some copies.
Let’s laugh and sell some copies.

2) HGTV Magazine October/November 2012: This magazine completed a successful test last year and was converted into a regular frequency title this year. To say that sales have been great, is an understatement. The colors in this cover as well as the kitchen call out really jumped out and attracted my attention.

A great looking kitchen and a clean house. I'm in!
A great looking kitchen and a clean house. I’m in!

3) Juxtapoz Magazine January 2012: Honestly, when the January issue of Juxtapoz showed up in the office (Editor’s Note: Juxtapoz Magazine is a client.) I was originally not in love. But the longer it sat in my rack, the Audrey Kawaski cover in all of it’s simplicity just grew on me. As a rule, stay away from browns in cover images. Here’s where you can break that rule. I love it’s color palette and simple lines.


4)  Texas Monthly March 2012: This award winning Emmis owned title and arbiter of all things Texas dropped this wonderful cover in March. Two great airline covers in 30 days? Why not award them both?

Who needs land sharks when there are sharks in the air?
Who needs land sharks when there are sharks in the air?

5) Traverse Magazine July 2012: This small city magazine from Northern Michigan makes it’s second appearance in two years. What are one of Michigan’s greatest appeals? The lakes. Who loves dogs? Almost everyone. What’s one of the newest and most promising technologies for magazines? QR codes. What’s on the cover of this magazine? All of the above.

Traverse Mag July

Oh, and I have one more. Let’s call this an “Honorable Mention”. More than twenty years ago, I spent a year working with the original editor and publishing company of Silent Sports Magazine, a title now published by Journal Communications. Our goal was to expand the the newsstand presence of the magazine and for awhile we were able to do just that. But we couldn’t maintain the distribution efficiently and we shut the project down. The design of the title was, at best, early Page Maker and the covers were whatever was available at the last minute. But the editorial was what you want in a magazine. Focused, passionate, dedicated, involved. For many years, the editorial of this title made it one of my favorites and a subscription that was happily renewed (and no one ever offered me a clock, t-shirt or watch).

I don’t remember how or why, but I noticed that Silent Sports  revamped its look this summer and while it’s clear that this is still a small regional title, it’s also clear that they put a lot of thought and effort into what they were doing. And it looks like they succeeded. And it looks like I need to get reacquainted with some great editorial.

A big leap forward in design!
A big leap forward in design.

What covers do you think were overlooked this year?