Dumenco praises another customer magazine: Simon Dumenco, editor of the Benetton customer magazine, Colors, eloquently mourns the demise of another customer magazine in his column in the current issue of Folio:. Oh, yes, and he uses a “disclosure” at the end of the column to attempt once more to convince himself (no one else buys it) that he is not the editor of a customer magazine created, owned, funded and published as a marketing-vehicle by a clothing company. (More on that below.)
Here are some highlights:
SO WHY MOURN THE DEATH of (A&F Quarterly and Martha Stewart Living)?
Because they were deeply original. They took creative risks. They pissed people off. They were more than a little bit nutty. They were, let’s admit it, really cool fetish magazines (MSL enthralling readers with consumer porn, and A&FQ titillating with…soft-core porn).
The inevitable lesson of MSL’s decline and A&FQ’s demise may be that it has simply become too risky for any conglomerate to promulgate a strongly individual point of view.
How poignant it must be for the creators of these publications to see faint echoes of their vision throughout magazineland — visions that have been put through the corporate blanderizer to make them truly palatable to the masses. The particular talent of being able to bowdlerize quirky genius for mass consumption may soon become the most essential skill among editors-in-chief in big media. Think of any current editing icon (Graydon Carter, Anna Wintour); it’s not hard, is it, to imagine them being replaced by anonymous, industrious up-managers who know a great table-top product shot when they see one?
From here on out, we can expect even more corporate anonymity and less editorial personality — but plenty of perky blandness!
As I said, below the column, Dumenco writes, in third-person, this “disclosure”:
Full disclosure: Dumenco is editor of Colors, the international culture magazine that is funded, in part, by Benetton. (It has never featured Benetton clothing, contains no shopping or product guides, and has never competed with A&FQ.)
Sorry. I’m finding it hard to type while laughing so hard at that public-broadcasting-nomenclature-inspired “funded, in part, by Benetton” doublespeak. As noted before by this weblog, Colors is funded “in whole” by Benetton, who also owns it and promotes it on its corporate website (screen grab). As pointed out before, Simon apparently has dreamed up an imaginary world in which a magazine that receives advertising and newsstand revenues can claim (because of those third-party revenue streams) that it is not “funded, in whole” by the company that owns and publishes it. Such rationale would mean every advertising-supported, retail-distributed magazine is “funded, in part” by its publisher. Simon may be a great magazine writer and editor, but his expertise as a magazine economist is a bit suspect.
As for Colors never containing shopping or product guides, I will point out also that Benetton’s advertising (at least that for which it is famous and all that I have seen) has never featured Benetton products or prices (they don’t even have prices on their website). So, I once more speculate that in Simon’s imaginary world, those ads are merely “art” commissioned and funded by Benetton.
(Special bonus: From Simon’s column, I discovered this interview with the erstwhile A&F Quarterly editor Savas Abadsidis. In the interview, Abadsidis provides Dumenco with an honest alternative to his delusional denial.
BT: Well, what was the goal of A&F Quarterly? Was it to sell clothes? Or were you really trying to make the magazine a culture of its own?
SA: A little bit of both….(former Details Magazine editor) David Keeps once complimented the Quarterly as being corporate sponsored subversiveness. Of course the goal was to sell clothes, but it was more than that… I think we really tried to tap the rebellious spirit of being young and on fire… excited by life and pedantically selling clothes to such a fickle market like college students would never work in a traditional way.)