Thursday, May 24, 2007

Best Magazines of 2006

Best Magazines of 2006

Deeming 2006 disappointing for the magazine industry may be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, publishers have undoubtedly seen better years. Advertising revenue declined for a number of popular print titles, with publications such as Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Skiing, and Jane shedding significant numbers of ad pages over the course of the year, according to Advertising Age (“Magazines Finish Flat, but Hope for Better Q1” by Nat Ives, 12/4/06). A noticeable drop in automotive and pharmaceutical advertising was partly responsible for these declines, although with Internet marketing techniques clearly improving throughout 2006, print publications were competing for a smaller piece of the pie than in previous years. Still, according to the Magazine Publishers of America web site, there was a two percent increase in the number of magazine launches during 2006.

Uncertain potential

While the Hispanic publishing category has long been viewed by industry insiders as a potential gold mine, the overall rate of consumer spending on Hispanic magazines fell by four percent in 2006. The closures of once-promising titles Shape en Español and Christina La Revista were indicative of the difficulties that publishers face in attempting to reach this constantly changing demographic. There's no magic formula that will suddenly turn things around; however, the idea put forward in MEDIAWEEK that “the key to success in the Hispanic magazine market is reaching the 30-something female decision-maker” (“Hispanic Mags' Growth Slow, Despite Cultural Boom” by Lauren Charlip, 2/19/07) has gained traction, and 2007 will almost certainly bring new efforts to appeal to this subset of readers.

Teen magazines also experienced turbulence in 2006, with Elle Girl and Teen People shutting down, and overall circulation numbers showing little upward momentum. As the Internet draws more teen readers away from print, publishing companies are attempting to create brand associations among magazines, sophisticated web sites, and other media platforms. At this stage, it's difficult to say whether such tie-ins will attract new readers, but at least publishers are beginning to see the Internet as something other than a monolithic impediment to their goals. During the 2006 American Magazine Conference, reports Advertising Age, the tone concerning new media, digital and otherwise, seemed to be one of increased openness (“Mags No Longer Equate Digital with Doom” by Nat Ives, 10/30/06). With Google and Yahoo! actively seeking to create partnerships with print media organizations, this new cooperative, positive attitude may yield some interesting results in the near future.

Wealth in the pages

Luxury and men's magazines performed exceptionally well in 2006. Luxury magazines catering to the ultra-affluent, such as Robb Report and Town & Country, were seemingly immune to the malaise affecting other segments of the industry. Time, Inc.'s 2006 launch of Golf Magazine Living, which offers advice on owning a home in a high-end golf community, indicates the promise of niche and luxury publications. The substantial increase in the number of millionaires over the past decade appears to be the driving force behind this taste for extravagant products and services. According to MEDIAWEEK, men's magazines succeeded in large part by catering to the “demand by men for fashion and style guidance” (“Men's Mags Bulk Up on Service” by Lucia Moses, 2/12/07) and by streamlining content presentation.

Mixed economic indicators make the latter half of 2007 somewhat difficult to predict from a publishing perspective, as the subprime mortgage lending crisis along with unstable world markets could trigger a recession by early fall. Luxury and niche publications should continue to be successful this year, but a potential economic downturn offers no guarantees.

Culture & Travel. bi-m. Free. Ed: Peter Terzian.

Although it suffered from editorial staff turnover and other setbacks in its first few months of existence, Culture & Travel has a formula that could succeed over the long run, especially in an era when luxury-related publications are performing exceptionally well. Its emphasis on art, architecture, food, and wine appeals to cultured travelers. Patrons interested in topics such as contemporary English art, the spectacular late-winter sunrises in Longyearbyen, Norway, or Kyoto-based Japanese cuisine will undoubtedly thumb through Culture & Travel regularly. Currently, the magazine's web site offers complimentary subscriptions.

JAZZed: The Jazz Educator's Magazine. bi-m. $30. Ed: Christian Wissmuller.

At a time when funding for secondary school arts and music programs is being slashed nationwide, it is somewhat surprising to see this first-rate jazz education magazine appear. Perhaps its launch is an indicator that the worst of the cuts is behind us and that parents, teachers, and administrators are again recognizing that music education is essential for human development. Superbly instructive articles on solo growth in improvisation, classical guitar techniques, and music-related computer programs make this essential for any library serving music educators.

Maximum Fitness. bi-m. $14.97. Ed: Matt Nicholls.

Maximum Fitness was one of the more solid start-ups in 2006, mainly because it became exactly what it promised: an actual fitness magazine. Where other men's health and fitness publications present celebrity-obsessed, sex-driven content, Maximum Fitness keeps things simple by providing readers with helpful, well-researched information on weight training, weight management, nutrition, and related topics. (LJ 5/1/06)

The Nest. q. $14.99. Ed: Carley Roney.

Catering to newly married young women, The Nest scores with its home décor tips, fashion recommendations, and delectable recipes. There's also plenty of advice on managing household budgets, preparing for children, and buying a house. Developed by the well-known wedding web site The Knot, the magazine treats its readers to a chic yet affordable upper-middle-class sensibility; it belongs in most public libraries.

A Public Space. q. $36. Ed: Brigid Hughes.

Former Paris Review executive editor Brigid Hughes founded A Public Space in 2006 with the idea that good literature had lost its place in contemporary culture and that a new publication was needed to help the restoration process. While literature's marginalization isn't news, A Public Space is worth noting for its attention to quality and its open-minded approach. An excellent buy for libraries with strong poetry and short fiction collections. (LJ 7/06)

Shattered. bi-m. $29.95. Ed: Julie Ros.

Shattered is the “first global business magazine for and about women,” and based upon its debut issue, it's an absolutely necessary publication. Featuring articles on diverse subjects such as the hedge fund industry's institutionalization, the microfinance revolution, and the development of intellectual property strategies for China, Shattered certainly lives up to its word to provide “substantive, hard-hitting” content. It also offers a bit of lighter lifestyle-related material to supply some relief from the heavier reality of business life. For most libraries.

ShopSmart. q. $5.99/issue (newsstand only). Ed: Lisa Lee Freeman.

Published by Consumers Union as a companion to Consumer Reports, ad-free ShopSmart was created to appeal to younger women who want to be educated shoppers but who do not necessarily enjoy reading through the complicated graphs and ratings systems in Consumer Reports. Rather than emphasizing the hi-tech and big-ticket items covered in its sister publication, ShopSmart attends to items such as food, clothing, household cleaners, and kitchen utensils. Libraries subscribing to Consumer Reports are advised to add this one to their collections.

Success. bi-m. $9.95. Ed: Gay Bryant.

Reborn in 2006 as a snazzier, breezier magazine than its predecessor, Success is geared toward “inspiring business people to achieve in business and in life”; it markets itself as a motivational tool for corporate management and, to a lesser degree, independent entrepreneurs. Like most self-help publications, the power of positive thinking is at the center of what Success hopes to forward. Where it truly succeeds is in leadership profiles of individuals such as CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, hedge-fund manager Tom Brown, and restaurateur Steven Schussler. For business libraries and larger public libraries. (LJ 11/1/06)

Verdant. bi-m. $18. Ed. Sharon King Hoge.

Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, brought the global warming issue to the forefront of American popular culture, and now, with several large corporations beginning to espouse tenets of the Green movement, a move toward ecofriendly, sustainable economic models seems inevitable. Verdant, aimed at individuals and individual households, presents the looming environmental crisis as something that's personal—something that can be affected by small, domestic-derived changes in thinking and behavior. (LJ 1/07)

Wondertime. q. $10. Ed: Lisa Stiepock.

Wondertime, a magazine devoted to the worldviews and activities of young children, enjoyed a successful initial year, owing in large part to its ability to capture the attention of parents with its easy-to-read presentation and pragmatic approach to child rearing. The task of raising young children isn't always cut-and-dried, but Wondertime's sensible advice columns and helpful features certainly make parents' lives easier. Recommended for public libraries. (LJ 7/06)

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