National Geographic’s Most Significant Redesign in Two Decades

The new look aims to broaden the content mix and provide even more real estate for visual storytelling.

Quote | via Folio:

National Geographic’s May issue (on newsstands April 24) will mark the unveiling of its most significant redesign in nearly two decades, increasing the quality of its paper stock, introducing a brand new front-of-book section, and creating even more room for the photography and visual storytelling that have long made up the brand’s DNA. Far from being born out of a desperate desire to survive in print—newsstand sales are actually up 16 percent this year, bucking industry trends—creative director Emmet Smith prefers to view the changes as a “proper evolution,” rather than a full-scale redesign.

More |, National Geographic Unveils Redesigned Print Edition

A Good Day for Nashville

(Note: I posted this originally for friends on my Facebook account, but decided I should add it here so that one day, when I forget where I posted it, it will be here.)

For those of you who do not live in Nashville, the following item is about a mayoral election we had yesterday — the culmination of a year-long (or longer) campaign between seven candidates in which incredibly large amounts of money were spent by most of the candidates. We now have a run-off between two candidates who, in my opinion, would both would be great mayors.

I am relieved this morning, knowing that Nashville’s next mayor will be one of two people who I am convinced are thoughtful, committed and smart people. While they will both use labels to define the other candidate, they both fit in the mold of the recent mayors who have served the city well.

Fortunately, we had a field of candidates who could have also fit that bill.
I feel certain that if I polled those who are my friends who live in Nashville (both the Facebook kind and the kind who I have dinner with on the weekends), I would discover that most supported one of the two run-off candidates.

Some of my closest, long-time friends are even playing key roles in the campaigns of both of the two candidates. (I also have close friends who worked on several of the other campaigns, as well.)

And one of the candidates is a long-time friend.

I am going to attempt to keep my Facebook account a runoff-free zone, but today, I think it’s a good day for Nashville’s future.

Apple & iPad magazine subscriptions

[Update: Despite what I write below, one facet of the announcement didn’t sink in when I read it earlier — and it’s outrageous: “publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.” Apple is saying, “You can sell stuff on your site, as long as you don’t link to it.” I can think of some easy work-arounds, but it’s nuts to even consider it. More in the following post.]

From an Apple press release:

“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”

First off, my corner of the magazine and media world is not one that depends primarily on the subscription / advertising business model. So, to be honest, I have no dog in this hunt — except as a reader of and subscriber to magazines with a professional obsession with several developments that intersect with the issues that led to this press release.

I’ll hold off to hear what the major publishers have to say about the announcement (and whether or not it’s based on something they’ve agreed to) until I declare a winner — or, more precisely, to declare if the publishers choose to be losers. However, on first glance, it seems to be as close as Apple ever gets to being “fair” — although that’s a relative term, when it comes to a monopolist. And it seems in line with what was announced last week around the launch of The Daily.

Whether or not I declare a winner, I do think this: Publishers should declare victory and go home: They now have a subscription model so they won’t be forced to sell magazines in a newsstand fashion — one-issue at a time (frankly, they don’t have to now, but the each-issue-as-a-separate-app model is a strategy some of the big publishers are pursuing). The subscription model would seem to do away with the 30% per issue concern — the acquisition costs for a magazine to acquire a subscription is far more than 30% of the first-year revenues of that subscription, so most publishers will only be crying crocodile tears if they continue to complain on this point. (Predicted next battlefront: How to get subscribers to renew subscriptions outside the app.)

The other contentious issue, access to subscriber data, seems to be a fair compromise, as well.

From the release:

“Customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe. The use of such information will be governed by the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s. Publishers may seek additional information from App Store customers provided those customers are given a clear choice, and are informed that any additional information will be handled under the publisher’s privacy policy rather than Apple’s.”

If publishers want to balk at that — and ignore 15 million iPad owners to prove their point — they should do research on the whole “Apple, closed, control-obsessed, it’s our ball so we’ll determine how to play” thing. Also, if you’re so afraid readers won’t give you information about themselves, download the game AngryBirds and see how they provide incentives to get users to sign up for newsletters and puff-toys — outside the app.

When it comes to iPads, magazine apps — especially the bloated type of magazine apps we’ve seen so far — are a tiny tail trying to wag a mighty dog.

If you refuse Apple’s offer, they will still sell the same number of iPads.

Besides, you have a much bigger challenge anyway: Convincing people to actually pay for your app.

Observation: Key “tea leaves” point in the press release: All of the quotes come from Steve Jobs. In other words, this press release is the last word Apple will be having on this topic.

Later: Links to lots of interesting points of view on this announcement at Techmeme like this one from MG Siegler that includes this common sense:

Apple’s aim here is not only to make money, but to enable everyone to make money with a system that actually works. How are they going to do that? By doing something that all companies say they do, but few actually really do: focus on the consumer.

I think when it comes to making money, Apple knows a little more than the outraged media companies (that I’m not sure are so outraged). has a new-do is adding blog and RSS feeds today, says Mark Walsh of Of course, since Anna Marie Cox and Andrew Sullivan are as close to blog pioneers as people come, I’m a little confused on the suggestion that blogs are something new. As for that matter, I’ve been getting RSS feeds from Time for a long time. I think it’s great the’re doing some new things (Anna Marie Cox’s new blog, for example) — and placing more emphasis on the timliness of, but “adding blogs” and “RSS” is not the something new. How they use them will be something big, if they follow through. From a magazine historical perspective, moving the publishing date from Monday to Friday is the headline story.

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In the race to extend magazine brands

In the race to extend magazine brands: Car and Driver magazine is introducing the “Car and Driver Race Series — powered by Precision Racing.” This means you, too, can be a race car driver: According to the press release, “No racing experience will be required and anyone can participate with their own car in a nationwide program, with no cops, no tickets and no clubs to join.” Participants will be charged with three driving skill challenges. Winners of these competitions in each market will ultimately compete in a national two-day championship. Entry fee is $99. Complete series information will be available (someday, but not now) at

I’m afraid if I participated in this, I’d have to change the name of this weblog to