An editor, perhaps from Nantucket, said, “take this job and …”: Remember a year ago when Poetry Magazine was given $100 million by an heir to the Ely Lilly fortune. And then, later, the amount shrunk when the bank “forgot” to sell the Lilly stock. Well, all those financial and legal hassles and all those meetings tend to get on the nerves of those who edit poetry magazines. The Chicago Tribune catches us up (registration required) with the folks at Poetry, one year later.
On Aug. 8, two months after turning the editorship he had held for 20 years over to his hand-picked successor, (Joseph) Parisi, 58, quit as executive director of publications and programs, severing ties with an organization he had joined in 1976. He wouldn’t discuss reasons for departing except to say he plans to pursue writing, lecturing and teaching projects. But he makes it clear he had little patience with all the detail and paperwork associated with the outsize bequest. “It’s a terrible burden,” he said, adding, “You have no idea how many meetings you need.”
(Note to Poetry Magazine: Use a little of that windfall to spruce up your website. Maybe expose some of the content to the world in a way that could help your contributors reach and even wider audience. Maybe you could acquire some of those other classy poetry websites like this one or one of these.)
(Note number 2 (for those not bored silly by this meandering post): By coincidence, over the weekend I read the non-fiction thriller, The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, a riviting read about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. (I know that sounds like a yawner of a topic, but it’s filled with murder and mayhem.) Anyway, the book includes a cameo appearance by Harriet Monroe, the founder of Poetry Magazine. She was the admiring biographer (and sister-in-law) of John Root, one of the fair’s architects. I could meander more, but I’ll spare you. (via romenesko)
Controversy Quarterly: For as long as there has been a rexblog, there have been posts (and here and few more here) about boycotts threatened against Abercrombie & Fitch each time it publishes another issue of its customer magazine (magalog?), A&F Quarterly. While I do not necessarily condone the magazine’s content (they keep selling out before I can purchase one to “review”), I contend it is the benchmark for how to use a custom magazine to define and build a brand. They are even able to generate priceless publicity from the “anti-hip” establishment that must go a long way to let their suburban mall-rat audience know that something must be cool about shopping there.
Well, it appears their opponents have finally won a round with them as the NY Post reports the current issue has been pulled from circulation. However, to understand the real value of such a boycott, merely compare the $4 cover price to the eBay market price on a “banned” copy.
I marvel at two things about this: Abercrombie’s duplcitious and taunting (yet brilliantly executed) approach to marketing and their opponent’s unwitting and recurring participation in the scheme.
Scanned: Everyone complains about magazine newsstand sell-through, but who’s doing anything about it? Norman Schreiber, in the current issue of Folio:, suggests one way to improve sales is to actually use the sales data that is collected when the barcodes on the covers of magazines are scanned at purchase. (Thanks to Norman for suggesting the link.)
Magazine math: In what I guess could be called weblog serendipity, there seems to be a theme emerging with the posts today. David Carr’s article about the Time Out franchise, along with the two previous posts, provide an excellent basis for a discussion of magazine economics, both micro and macro. I’m too busy to play teacher today, but there is enough case-study material in these three articles to keep some graduate student busy for weeks.
Magazine brand lifespan: You might guess that I would disagree with what Simon Dumenco says in his current Folio: Magazine column about the half-life of a magazine brand, however, I couldn’t agree more.
The lesson to be learned is that magazines may increasingly need to become temporary brands — franchises that stick around for a large or small chunk of time, just like “Friends” or “Joe Millionaire,” but are by definition not monolithic, multi-decade propositions.
History bears out Dumenco’s impression that few magazine brands are long-lasting. However, that history bears out that during a specific timeframe, the brand can be highly profitable and powerful. And never forget: In history, “temporary” can be a long, long time.
I plan on writing more about the role of a magazine brand here on the rexblog and other places in the coming months. Stay tuned.