You want to be a millionaire? Don’t rely on freelancing in the US. There was a time when magazines here paid some of the highest rates in the world. But a new survey shows that rates have declined more than 50 per cent since the Sixties. How much can a freelance earn in the US these days? According to the National Writers’ Union, most full-time freelance magazine writers are lucky if they sell two features a month – that’s perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 words. For example, Writers’ Market, which lists the rates most magazines pay, says that writers’ rates at the top magazines have declined two-thirds to four-fifths since 1966. This means the dollar-a-word that Good Housekeeping pays now is the equivalent of $5 a word in 1966. Is a staff job any better? Average salaries on monthly magazines range from $35,270 (£24,380) for reporters to $45,500 (£31,455) for feature writers.
Adding to journalists’ woes, the number of publications in the US that are folding or being sold is growing. As a result, smaller publishers are being swallowed up while the big companies are growing into titans. Time Inc’s buy-up of IPC Media is an example. As a result, the number of Time Inc magazines has jumped from 60 to about 160. It’s now top of the heap with ad income for the first six months this year estimated to be close to $2bn (£1.38bn). Primedia, which bought Emap USA earlier this year, now publishes 280 magazines, up from 120.
There is one magazine field that is growing however, and that is magazines for teenage girls. On the news-stands here are teenage versions of People Magazine, Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Most have substantial sales. Teen People and Cosmo Girl claim around a million readers and Teen Vogue around 500,000. The new trend has also resulted in complaints about the bust-enhancing ads that some mags have been running. Some editors have agreed to ban them.
Playboy is getting back into the movie business. No, not the triple-x-rated movies that for years have been the mainstay of late-night motel cable TV, but real Hollywood movies with real stars and big budgets. Most of them will be based on the massive archive of fiction that has run in Playboy over the past 50 years. Some are by big names – ranging from Norman Mailer and John Updike to Arthur C Clarke. "It’s an enormous treasure trove," said a spokesman for Playboy. "Hugh Hefner never throws anything away. He’s got every manuscript ever submitted, whether it was published or not." Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, had his first US short story about 007 published in Playboy in 1960. Of course, Playboy did produce some notable movies in the Seventies. It’s hard to break old habits however. The first movie will be A Night at the Playboy Mansion – aimed at the male teenage audience.
The Deseret News, published in Utah, has been criticised for digitally removing a cigarette from the mouth of the late James Dean in a picture illustrating a feature about the young Hollywood actor. The problem for the picture editor was that Dean was a chain smoker and there was no picture on file of him without a cigarette. Still, the editor admitted that it was a mistake. Did the fact the Deseret News is owned by the Mormon Church, which frowns on smoking, have anything to do with the altered picture? "I can’t say no, not positively," admitted the editor.