Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Magazines, Coming and Going

The media industry and at least some of its audience have been obsessing lately over the increasingly difficult plight of the newspaper industry, which just suffered its worst year at least since the Great Depression. But what about magazines? The advertising industry bible Ad Age recently published this quick overview of magazines which have recently gone out of business. Did you have any favorites in this group? (of those mentioned, I only read, and liked, the New York Times sports pub, Play, but it was only a quarterly). Those that remain in business, though, aren't exactly setting the world on fire with advertising support. Folio Magazine, the bible for those who produce magazines for a living, reports that the magazine industry suffered a double-digit decline in ads in 2008, compared to the previous year. Somehow, 42 magazines had increases, though.

No matter how bad the economy gets, however, there will always be new entrants to the magazine field, just as there will always be people who want to open their own restaurant. Why? Because apart from the obvious ego gratification inherent in each, just about everyone's read plenty of magazines and eaten at lots of restaurants, and thus both businesses appear to be easier than they really are (they're also both easy ways to lose an astounding amount of money in a short period if you don't know what you're doing, and sometimes even if you do).

Anyway, CWRU's Weatherhead School of Business has just launched a new magazine, and while we'd love to find something positive to say about it, to find some small silver lining, I'm afraid it's so bad that we're at a loss. We think this is what happens when you give a high-concept designer free reign, with no corresponding imagination on the editorial side. What you end up with is...a mess. It may well win a design award or two, but few will read it much, I predict. Here's hoping they eventually do get the hang of it. What say you, gentle reader--agree, disagree, or no comment?
(Full disclosure: for many years, I wrote for the now-defunct Cleveland Enterprise Magazine, jointly produced by the Weatherhead School and Enterprise Development, Inc., under the watchful & skillful eye of a great editor, Sandy Siebenschuh. It was a lot less high concept, but, we think, a far more substantive piece of work. But then, we're biased, of course).


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

I agree with your CWRU Weatherhead critique. They come up with a visual metaphor and then they ruin it by explaining it, beating the reader over the head with that frame -- I wanted to yell, "stop." Besides, if they want to go with a museum motif, they should stick with nudes.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Mike. You added some meat to my bones. Wherever did they come up with the crazy notion of treating the whole thing as a museum metaphor? Yikes.

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous jk said...

Loved the editorializing today. You've got some chops.

Glad you put in last part because I was scratching my head, thinking didn't you write a really good article (or did I see two?) for Weatherhead?

HOWEVER, I liked the magazine for what it is, a commercial for CWRU Management school. I thought the magazine hung together and was philisophically satisfying. I LIKE the directions it is going in. I liked the "artsy" feel and DO think it fits with the University Circle culture. I think the Weatherhead has hit the nail on the head on what is needed for the times as far as what tomorrow's managers will need to grasp to not just be successful for themselves, but to benefit their companies and to keep in mind the larger PICTURE (ooh, one of my favorite new themes) what is best for our world too.

I read the whole mag, but then, I'm a nerd and obviously a substandard writer.

Be careful driving, make sure you have lots of gas in your car if you have to go out, and hope y'all stay warm.

I also hope not to see any California pictures from your talented smartass friends. I keep telling myself our Cleveland winters have their own special beauty and don't appreciate those who so effectively burst my delicate delusions. :)

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

jk, more people may agree with your reasoned critique of the Weatherhead mag than with my hasty rant. I'm just cranky because CWRU's radio spots keep interrupting my NPR programs.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

We gladly welcome reasoned critiques, hasty rants and everything in between. I did happen to talk to a guy at Weatherhead yesterday who happened to agree that it's awful. But everyone gets to decide for themselves. That's what makes life so interesting. It is kind of funny though, Mike, that our old John Carroll office colleagues have been overtaken by a raft of former CWRU folks, from the editor to the webmaster. JCU has always had a bit of Case envy, and it's showing here.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous jk said...

Thank you for the kind words, Mike. In keeping with my positive focus on winter, I wrote this last night. I dedicate it to TJ Sullivan - haha. Like I said, am not much of a writer, but submit it for your entertainment:

SNOW JOB (Title and poem subject to change!)

Crystalline storm turns streetlights
to stars.
Dusted, as with sugar,
I emerge
into a world
as new as the moment,
by the wind, the light,
and my footsteps as I watch
and walk.

Even the sounds are hushed,

I enter my home,
scented with the snow,
fresh from a moment like I'd
been hung on the clothesline
for a day.

Pure as the driven snow
covered the flaws of my world.
Though I am old,
I still wonder
at its beauty,
rejoice in its freshness,
find comfort as the world
sleeps under the blanket of white.


Everything will be all right.

Spring will come
after this long night.


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