American Pie 14.01.05

 

Despite the lacklustre advertising climate, more magazines were
launched here last year than for decades. Well over 900, and maybe as
many as 1,000, according to Samir Husni, a professor of journalism at
the University of Mississippi, who keeps track. In October alone there
were 132 new titles. Prof Husni, who is known as “Mr Magazine”, reports
that it wasn’t the big publishers who led the trend, although they did
bring out a lot of new titles, but entrepreneurs convinced they have a
good idea for a new magazine – and then hope to cash in by selling it
to a big company. Prof Husni doesn’t go along with that idea. He
believes it takes at least four years for a magazine to catch on and
have any value. “And you need to spend over a million dollars the first
year without a penny coming in,” he warns. The entrepreneurial
magazines that do succeed are often, he says, very upscale or cater to
special audiences. For example: Horses in Art, which is not just for
people interested in art or in horses, but for horse lovers genuinely
interested in equine art.

There is even a magazine called Wreck
Diving – for people whose hobby is searching for underwater treasure.
The largest number of new magazines focused on crafts. And the category
that had far less launches than in the past? “Sex,” says Prof Husni.
“Maybe because of the internet, for the first time, it wasn’t even in
the top 10”.

 

In the corridors and offices of Conde
Nast’s glossy headquarters overlooking New York’s Times Square the
question being asked is “Why did James Truman quit?” The 46 year-old
Nottingham-born journalist (pictured) unexpectedly gave up his million
dollars a year job as editorial director of one of America’s bestknown
magazine publishing companies and, to most people’s surprise, is
returning to Europe. Even Si Newhouse, the head of Conde Nast, was
taken aback. It is just 11 years since Truman took over the editorial
reins of the company, succeeding the legendary Alexander Liberman, who
held the post for more than 30 years. Although his appointment was not
at first warmly received (he had previously worked only as features
editor at Vogue and then as editor at the ailing men’s magazine
Details) he was responsible, early on, for one of Conde Nast’s most
successful new magazines called Lucky , a shopping magazine for women,
a precursor to a whole new breed of shopping magazines that other
publishers have since launched. However, it was his only really big
success. He had hoped to repeat its success with a new fine arts
magazine, which he planned to personally edit. It was originally
scheduled to be launched this year, but has recently been shelved. He
was, it’s said, bitterly disappointed. Was that the reason he quit? He
has in the past confessed to colleagues and friends that he prefers
being an originator and not an administrator. All he will say is that
he believes ten years in one job is enough. His successor is Thomas
Wallace, 55, a protege of Sir Harry Evans who has been editing Conde
Nast Traveller for the past l4 years since Evans left.

 

American
cartoonists are mourning the death, at 82, of artist and science-
fiction illustrator Frank Kelly Freas. His most notable creation was
the freckle-faced, jug-eared Alfred E Neuman who was featured on the
cover of Mad magazine for many years. The most famous was probably the
1960 illustration of a green-tinged Neuman with a caption “This
magazine is revolting”. Freas also designed the shoulder- patch for the
Skylab 1 astronauts.

 

Be careful what you throw away in the garbage or drop in the street.

For
some time a couple of Chicago journalists have done well with a
magazine they call Found, which runs nothing but items its readers have
found in the street and other places. Among them love letters,
photographs, drawings and old e-mails. The two journalists, Davy
Rothbart and Jason Bitner, claim they receive hundred of items every
week from all over the world. Some never make it into the magazine
because they are too raunchy. But that’s being remedied. The two
journalists have launched a sister publication called Dirty Found,
which will include all the x-rated items. The first issue of 50,000
copies – which included a nine-page excerpt from a woman’s discarded
journal entitled “The Secret Me” – was a sell-out.

 

How
is this for a by-line: Jennifer 8 Lee? No, it’s not a misprint. The
figure 8 is the middle initial of a new New York Times reporter whose
parents hail from Taiwan and believe that the figure 8 is a symbol of
prosperity. And that’s how they named her.

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