American Pie 05.08.05

Imagine a
magazine that combines all the elements of People, Us Weekly, Real
Simple and Lucky, which are the hottest women’s magazines in the US
today. In other words, a magazine crammed with features about
celebrities, lifestyle, fashion, real-life experiences and even crime:
a sort of one-stop read for busy women. It’s the next project of Jann
Wenner (below), whose publishing empire includes the perennial Rolling
Stone and Us, which after five lacklustre years is enjoying success and
is selling close to two million copies a week. The target is to have
the new magazine – as yet unnamed – on the newsstands by next spring.
Another entrepreneur taking a look at the US publishing industry is
Richard Branson. He is toying with the idea, according to colleagues,
of launching a freebie paper in New York.

Unlike the others
already being given away at bus and railway stations, such as Metro and
New York AM, which report general news, Branson’s paper, as he
envisages it, would focus on showbusiness and entertainment. Oddly
enough, Branson’s first business venture, as a teenager, was a
publication called Student Magazine.

 

At
first it looks as if someone has spilled beer or a cup or tea on your
morning paper. But the paper is not wet. Look closer and what appears
to be a business logo or symbol is faintly there on the paper. It’s
a new advertising gimmick called “shadow ads”. Mostly the ads appear on
pages of close type, such as stock market tables or classified ads. The
Orlando Sentinel in Florida is one of the first to try the idea. So far
there has been no negative reaction, although some editorial staff are
dubious, fearing the idea might spread to news pages or sports
listings. Overprinting a commercial message on news pages, it is
feared, might be going too far and upset readers. Proponents of
shadow ads, however, say they are little different from the pop-up ads
that appear on many websites these days, though many find such
advertising irritating.

 

Why
is so little being reported about US prisoner 45570083, aka Judith
Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing to testify
before a grand jury? The Times.  which has access to the
no-bars prison where she is being held in Virginia, has so far run only
one story about how she is coping with imprisonment. One possible
reason is that it doesn’t want to antagonise the judge who sent her to
prison and who could still, if he wanted to, commute or reduce the
sentence. So how is the 57-yearold newswoman taking prison life? Where
she is being held is more like a barracks than a prison, but it is
overcrowded. The first few nights she had to sleep on a mattress on the
floor until a bed became available. According to Times editor Bill
Keller, who visited and talked to her for 45 minutes through a plastic
screen, she is resolute. Most of her fellow inmates are women doing
time for non-violent offences. Unlike Martha Stewart, she has no
intention of teaching them a craft, such as journalism. She spends a
lot of time reading books from the cart that circulates the cell blocks
daily. Most of them are potboilers, but to Miller’s surprise, according
to Keller, she found a copy of The Gulag Archipelago, the one-time
best-seller by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about life in a Russian prison
camp.

Richard Desmond, whose US version of OK! was due on the
newsstands yesterday (4 August), has already upset some of his would-be
US competitors, notably People. First, in trade adverts, Desmond has
been claiming OK! “is the No 1 celebrity magazine in the world”. In the
same ads it urged “Avoid dull People”, a suggestion that particularly
angered the management at People. They protested to the trade magazines
running the ads – Adweek and MediaWeek – which responded by pulling the
ads. A spokesman for the trade mags said they were concerned about
possible “trademark infringement” and also the claim to be No 1, which
is unsubstantiated. A spokesman for OK! in New York said the claim is
based on having editions in more countries worldwide and not on
circulation or revenue.

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