Professional Development Tour of New York Magazines

Magazine Division

Magazines In This Report

  • Sports Illustrated on Campus
  • Time
  • People
  • Print
  • Budget Living
  • Discover
  • The Nation
  • Esquire
  • Martha Stewart Living, Weddings, Kids: Fun Stuff to do Together, Everyday Food, and Body & Soul
  • The report below comes from participants in this year's faculty tour:

    • Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, Columbia College
    • Beth Haller, Towson University
    • Janet Kaye, Buffalo State College
    • Barbara S. Reed, Rutgers
    • Sheila Webb, Marquette

    The number of publications and the role of those we met with are both impressive. This year we concentrated on visiting a number of 2005 National Magazine Award winners, noted by an asterisk*.

    Our discussions included such topics as:

    • content,
    • the role of covers,
    • the importance of design and redesigns,
    • circulation models,
    • targeting a particular demographic,
    • convergence,
    • the impact of the Web.

    Two areas struck some of us about all of them:

    First, the importance editors urged teachers to place on good writing, as opposed to teaching students new media;

    Secondly, and perhaps paradoxically, the way these magazines all are entering new media fields, whether it's:

      • POWER & MOTORYACHT's exclusive channel on Comcast cable,
      • Esquire's online surveys or publishing blogs,
      • Time's dependence on its online version to bring in new print subscribers, or
      • The Nation's astonishing use lately of online material to garner new subscribers.

    Sports Illustrated
    on Campus

    We met with Christian Stone, Editor.

    Discussion centered on relationship of this magazine to its parent, Sports Illustrated. It is a relatively new, controlled-circulation weekly, appearing during the academic year. It is moving to a different distribution approach because of costs.

    Originally, it was distributed in 74 student newspapers, paying each paper approximately $70,000, in colleges and universities with "rich athletic tradition," but now it is going to be given out at recreation and sports centers at 125 colleges and universities.

    • The relationship with schools makes sense to them, they argue sports is part of athletic tradition
    • They have "consultants" on each campus, often sports writers on student papers, students who sponsor events, and students who conduct market research.
    • SIOC staff consists of 5 writers, 2 of whom are women; they use the SI advertising staff; have 2 photographers, 6 reporters.
    • SI on Campus has a higher female readership than SI.
    • Their goal is to keep the SI brand alive during readers' college years.


    We met with Howard Chua-Eoan, News Director (the no. 2).

    We discussed the situation of Matt Cooper and how the public does not trust journalists as they did during the Watergate era. Chua said he was determined to protect Cooper. (Note: Since our meeting, Time officials have turned over papers to the prosecutor, as has Cooper himself.)

    • He said people continue to read Time, which he distinguished from Newsweek, as being more in-depth and more fair, with greater quality and enterprise reporting more stories.
    • has actually increased subscribers to the magazine.
    • The median age of readers is 45, younger than that for network news.
    • The role of the cover is to be eye-catching, newsy, individual.
      • They do well on covers that focus on family issues, women's issues, and health.
    • Convergence is in evidence at Time.
      • Should students be trained in new technologies?
      • No: "Time journalists still should be journalists," and professors should still focus on writing skills because "everything else can be taught or coached."
    • As for new hires, some come from newspapers, some come right out of school.
    • Now Time has 40 correspondents around the world and continues to rely on freelancers.
      • The relationship with bureaus is fraught; there are fewer bureaus now than in 1970s when Time had 100; now only 30 are around world, with Baghdad being the most costly to maintain.


    We met with Cutler Durkee, Executive Editor.

    • The magazine is a mix of celebrity, non-celebrity, and straight journalism.
    • He said standards are same as for Time: We have high standards. We get it right."
    • People also distinguishes itself by not being "gratuitously nasty" or harassing its subjects, and by being one of the last magazines with full-time fact-checkers.
    • People stories follow a fairly consistent formula for the 800-word, two-page features that are the bread-and-butter of the magazine. "The heart and soul of it is good writing," he said. "If you can write, that's the fastest path to success here."
      • The magazine's staff won't pay for access to celebrities, so getting full cooperation from sources is also a coveted skill. "But short of that, writing can rescue the dull celebrity.
      • A celebrity write-around on deadline is the Holy Grail."
    • People story: A realized need, a moment of change: a transition in a subject's life with non-celebrities also.
      • They do a boilerplate approach to stories, with people telling their story in a colloquial style, to hook the reader with photo, typography, and lede.
      • He discussed the People "template": "something happened to somebody famous"; even better if that person is good looking.
    • The hardest part is to find good writers; it is easier to find good reporters.

    (Note: He sent us examples of standard story for People as edited by him, which is interesting and useful in writing classes.)

    • Durkee has been at People for 27 years. He noted that the magazine "lives and dies on the newsstand, unlike every other significant national magazine."
      • The universe has changed, but the magazine still depends on newsstand, which was different from every other business plan at Time-Life publications; 35-40% are newsstand sales.
      • Every week, 1.45 million copies are sold on newsstands and 2.25 million by subscriptions. "The up and down on a given week can be half a million copies," he said. This makes the cover crucial.
    • They were lucky, they had no competition for 20 years.
    • Even though People now has other publications in its niche, its sell-through rate has increased. Durkee explained this by pointing to the differences between the magazines.
      • He spoke about the launches of celebrity-driven weeklies US Weekly and In-Touch. "US plans to be tabloidier on glossy pages, less reliable, racier and younger.
      • In-Touch's plan is People-on-the-cheap at $2 with little reporting and iffy sourcing."
      • People's cover price is $3.95. "So People can't suck up all the people all the time as it did for 27 years," he said. "I hate the term 'competition,'" he said. "We're different. Nobody else does the celebrity and non-celebrity mix and keeps it straight journalism.
      • There's a distinction between reporting and sloppy stuff. "But in the face of this, circulation is up, both on newsstands and subscriptions. They've hurt the tabloids and teen magazines and found an audience that wasn't buying [magazines] before.
      • So the category has grown, and People's circulation has grown, too."
    • Now, with full access gone, magazines have started making deals with celebrities, but he said People doesn't do that. People does not pay celebrities. (A new import, OK!, from England pays celebrities, who control the pictures of themselves in OK!)

    (Note: People just paid $1 million for photos of Angelina Joli and Brad Pitt.)

    • It is still the most successful magazine in its genre.
    • People's place in marketplace: with a new editor, they focus on newsstand and a redesign; subscriptions to People are going up, while circulations of The Star and National Enquirer are down.


    We met with Joyce Rutter Kaye, Editor-in-Chief.

    Print is for graphic designers but is also sold on newsstands; it began in 1940 for the trade, with a selection of type.

    Today, the staff is interested in everything visual; the magazine takes a critical view of visual culture, looks at anything that would inspire a designer, brings designers together; high to low signage, graffiti, interactive, "way-finding" graphics, anything with type or lettering.

    • It reports on the influence of design on the world, and vice versa.
    • For example, they did story on sexual imagery in advertising, and asked, "Who is making these images?" So they explored the role of design in disseminating exploitative images.
    • 80% of the stories are done by freelancers; the staff consists of 2 art directors and 5 writers; their core group consists of content editors, cultural critics, people who write on design.
    • They have 45,000 circulation, 20% from newsstand sales, 80% from subscribers; it is a bimonthly publication.

    Budget Living

    We met with Eric Rayman, President and CEO, and Amanda Casgar, Director of Marketing.

    The magazine grew out of Budget Travel and their owner is " the last entrepreneur," meaning they do not have resources of a Time, Inc.

    • Their target audience is younger than Martha Stewart Living, 43, or O (Oprah), 38.
    • Competition comes from others in their demographic: Glamour, Self, Budget Travel, Organic Style, Lucky.
    • The people we met with spent most of the time discussing marketing plans, partnerships with companies and doing shows at, for example, Mall of America.

    (Note: The week after we were there, it was announced that a new editor has been hired and with new design, this magazine is going upscale. The former editor, devoted to low-cost alternatives, was called "the Devil Wears Payless.")

    Before the redesign. After the redesign.


    Capt. Ken Kreisler, editor of PMY for 11 years, now star on their cable program.

    We met with David Branch, Vice President, Publishing Director, of Primedia Marine Group; Elizabeth Britten, Associate Editor; Jeffrey Moser, Assistant Editor; Ken Kreisler, Senior Editor/PMY TV; Doriot Kim, Associate Art Director, and John Turner, Creative Services Manager.

    This was a completely different model, closely tied to the industry they cover.

    • They have a very small, very wealthy clientele, one that can buy large, expensive yachts. All boats must be at least 50 feet long!

    They claim to cover new boats fairly, along the lines of Consumer Reports, and our group remarked on the challenge of being a controlled circulation publication that depends on advertising from those they cover.

    We discussed

    • their audience,
    • their distribution model, and
    • the new ways they are expanding their content, onto an exclusive boating Comcast cable channel that shows Captain Ken Kreisler testing out boats.
      • He had been editor in chief for 11 years.
      • They also offer videos of boat tests on their website.

    They are aggressively moving into new media.


    Stephen L. Petranek, Editor-in-chief, Discover

    We met with Stephen L. Petranek, Editor-in-chief.

    The magazine is owned by Disney, but they want to sell it, and the editor agrees Disney is not the most appropriate owner, as they do not invest in it they way he'd like, and they have the corporate model which sets target numbers and expects them to be met each year.

    Petranek is participating in the selling process and was willing to discuss the potential sale. The magazine has had 30 potential buyers, and he does the lead presentation in which he lists 20 items for growth.

    • He had been editor-in-chief of This Old House magazine before he took the helm at Discover, 6 years ago.
      • He told the story of how he was hired. He was brought in to increase circulation, undertook an immediate redesign, basically in one month. (He also changed the editorial side within 6 months.) When he was hired, they were replacing 70% of revolving-door subscribers each year, due to sweepstakes, which hypes circulation so they can generate ad revenue.
      • When he got to Discover, the first thing he wanted to do was to "fix readership," to focus on subscribers not newsstand, so he said he reinvented the magazine from scratch. The editorial changes Petranek introduced were geared toward the goal of doing "what The New Yorker would do if it was an illustrated science magazine." Toward that end, he required that stories in Discover not have been reported elsewhere, with the exception of truly obscure journals.
      • In his redesign, zero illustrations are allowed, as he felt they resemble a textbook or are not believable, as in science fiction.
      • When he came, circulation was 1.3 million. They had bought Omni's subscriber list. He believes "Cinderella" circulation is 500-1million, and it is tough to operate above that as then production costs become too high. He proposed charging more and letting circulation fall; now it is 850,000 to 925,000 and seeks to deliver a broad range of readers, 100,000 of whom are science teachers or college students.
    • The situation is opposite that now: Their renewal rate is 90%, and they have not done any direct mail in 4 years.
    • He called the market tough for newsstand magazines, a typical one is down 22%, but Discover is up 27%. He said they were in the top 25% of sales on newsstands, measured in dollars.
    • His 2 key criteria for stories: accessibility and relevance.
      • Scientific American has an audience that is 80% male; Discover is 53% male, 47% female.
      • He said Discover readers don't like health articles but "love" medical coverage.
      • He noted that the stories that do best for the magazine are the ones that are counterintuitive or come from a skeptical perspective.
    • There are four main subsets of reader interest: astronomy/cosmology, dinosaurs, space travel, and medical research and wants to create special issues devoted to each of them.
    • Proud of his science and medical coverage, he said that in one month of NY Times' science pages, 50% of stories were generated by Discover, so they have become a source; he wants to see the magazine publish more primary research.
    • Now partnering with the Field Museum in Chicago, he said he wants that institutional, scientific affiliation; 500 scientists work at the Field; Discover will go to members as a benefit of membership, creating more circulation, and binding the museum to the magazine.

    The Nation*

    Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor, The Nation

    Victor Navasky, Publisher, The Nation

    We met with Victor Navasky, Publisher; Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor; Richard Lingeman, Sr. Editor, Arthur Stupar, Vice President for Circulation; John Nichols, Washington, D.C. Correspondent and Peter Rothberg, Special Projects and Website Director

    The circulation has increased a striking 71% since the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Navasky became editor in 1978, bought the magazine in 1994-1995. Took a course at Harvard to assist him in being a publisher.

    The editor came out of the magazine's internship program; they have 21 interns each year. She did an anthology of The Nation's articles from 1865-1990.

    • They do a lot of web-exclusive reporting.
    • They also do blogs.
      They link to student activist groups.
    • The Nation got 28,000 subscribers of 185,000 from the Internet.
    • The Nation sponsors discussion groups, and hopes the Web will help the printed magazine.
    • The Nation Associates, people who donate, support cruises, headed for example by David Rockefeller.
    • They define much of their coverage as news under the radar, not covered in mainstream press.
    • Navasky was asked about effect of The Nation's coverage on mainstream media. He replied that that is not their goal: Rather, their goal is to show where alternative is; to monitor the mainstream.
    • How are they different from other progressive magazines? He said that The Progressive believes voting doesn't matter and is pacifist, The Nation believes that voting does matter and is not pacifist; In These Times started out as a Socialist weekly, like The Nation weekly. The Nation "organization is of no party"; The New Republic used to be a competitor.
    • The magazine has more readers in California than in New York, Navasky said.
    • What do undergraduates need? "Give them basic skills, but get them excited about journalism if you can; teach students to love to do research in-depth; best journalists are passionately engaged but approach topics with fairness, not objectivity."

    Navasky discussed Columbia's new format, as he is the Delacorte Professor of Magazines there and so is involved; he likes the changes made at the J-school.

    The 140-year-old magazine doubled its circulation since George W. Bush became President. It has had a consistent vision all through the years, and Navasky articulated its success for not being part of a movement, but because of its set of values in negotiating its independence. It is not merely preaching to the choir, as critics charge, but perhaps "to the least harmonious choir in America," Navasky said.

    The magazine got 28,000 new paid subscribers from its Internet site this year; last year it got 15,000, and the year before 7500. The Internet has created a new dimension to the magazine, Navasky said. Indeed, when he took over in 1978 as editor, it had 20,000 total circulation.

    When The Nation was founded, July 6, 1865, it had no hype and still does not, Navasky said. It got the subscription list from William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator, with all that publication's passion and commitment. The Nation sets the standard for much debate; it monitors mainsteam media; it discusses good new issues, and it is a seedbed for new ideas. It gets alternative views out there and is suspicious of mainstream media. It has a critical spirit.

    Arthur Stupar, Vice President for Circulation, The Nation


    David Granger,
    Editor in Chief, Esquire

    We met with David Granger, Editor in Chief; Mark Warren, Executive Editor; John Kenney, Managing Editor; and Brendan Vaughan, Senior Editor.

    This was a true exchange, where we discussed issues in journalism, in teaching, where the future is. No one spoke "at" us.

    • When David Granger became editor, an identity crisis ensued, and he was forced to define the identity of the magazine.
    • We all agreed that magazines are thriving, whereas newspapers are not; magazines have a niche, a loyal readership, and aesthetic design
    • Information on the Web was separate content, working on enhancing print reader's experience, and offering archives.
    • They do online surveys too, which can generate stories, and they want to make it more interactive; for example, their best-dressed contest, or 10 cities, 10 events; so whatever is on the Web, is still germane to what's in the magazine.
      • The challenge is to make sure everything relates to editorial of magazine.
    • The editors discussed new forms of journalism, such as their finding 28-year-old Colby Buzzell, who wrote a blog on the Iraq war. The editors have worked with him, and he now has a book coming out; they advocate applying the same ethical standards of print to blogs they publish.
    • Esquire is committed to good writing and good journalism; Editors want to maintain a writer's original voice, passions and curiosities.
    • We discussed whether grammar tests are a good idea, or if they discount potential voices.
    • Ideas most often are generated by editors.
    • We discussed how teachers can encourage "voice"; Esquire is not written with a template, the way People is.

    Mark Warren, Executive Editor; John Kenney, Managing Editor; and Brendan Vaughan, Senior Editor, Esquire

    Martha Stewart Living

    Kids: Fun Stuff to do Together,*
    Everyday Food,
    Body & Soul

    Debra Puchalla, Deputy Editor, Martha Stewart Living


    Martha Stewart Living

    Craft Area,
    Martha Stewart Living

    We met with Debra Puchalla, Deputy Editor, Martha Stewart Living, and Richard Fontaine, Senior Vice President, Consumer Marketing Director of Martha Stewart Living.

    • What separates their magazines from others?
      • Production values and a higher consumer standard than the industry standard.
      • The publications at OmniMedia try to carry the precision and perfection that Martha Stewart values throughout them. They try to have the consistent voice in the magazine of a trusted friend in the know, a trusted friend who's going to tell you how to do something without you feeling bad that you can't do it yourself.
      • The goal of OmniMedia magazines is to "teach you things that will enhance your life," said Puchalla, who used to be at Newsweek.
    • The company sees itself as a "women's life stage" publisher, meaning that the magazines fit different points in women's lives. They see magazines in their group in realm of women, service, home and lifestyle, epicurean, beauty and fashion publications.
    • For example, OmniMedia titles such as
      • Kids: Fun Stuff to do Together, are for women with young children, and
      • Martha Stewart Weddings is obviously focused on getting married.
      • Everyday Food, launched in 2003, gives readers lots of recipes for daily cooking, rather than big-crowd entertaining.
      • And MSL focuses more on entertaining and home and garden.
    • The staffs of the magazines strive for perfection in symbiotically combining text, images, and design.
      • For example, stylists design all the photo layouts, and Puchalla says they work about a year ahead of publication and do as many shoots as it takes to get the pictures perfect.
      • The writers don't start their accompanying story until the layout is complete.
      • On the major titles, the production process is collaborative; they tend to shoot 1 year in advance and have at least 2 meetings before a shoot; the writing is done after the layout.
      • They want picture and text to be creative and inspirational.
    • There is no cutting corners in the photos, meaning that when they photograph ice cream, it is really ice cream, not stylized mashed potatoes that would allow for a subject that doesn't melt quickly. "
      • We have stylists maintaining standards to keep the brand strong," she said, referring to the negative publicity the company's brand had to deal with when Martha Stewart was imprisoned.
    • MSL was launched in 1990, went public in 1999; its high of 2.3million rate base as of 2003 took a hit when Martha Stewart went on trial and then to prison. Fontaine said circulation of Martha Stewart Living did fall during the negative publicity, and the company had to cut its rate base for advertisers to 1.8 million, but the magazine is back on track.
      • (Note: the rate base just moved up to 1.9 million, according to MediaWeek, July 20th.)
    • The company wanted to do health and wellness for aging readers.
      • The successful acquisition of the Boston-based New Age Journal by OmniMedia for $6 million in August 2004 boosted OmniMedia's assets. It was easier to buy a magazine already available than to start one from scratch.
      • The magazine was re-titled Body & Soul and focuses on self-improvement, wellness and a healthy lifestyle. By spring 2005,
      • The Boston Globe reported, "When the magazine unveiled its new look, ad pages had increased from 40 pages to 60, and circulation was up 25 percent."
      • OmniMedia kept the staff and the Boston headquarters for the magazine. The Body & Soul staff worked with its new owner to shift the magazine's "focus from a niche to a mainstream audience," The Boston Globe reported. "No longer, for example, would a cover blurb refer to 'echinacea;' rather it would tout 'herbs that combat colds.'"
    • They see their competitors as magazines from a number of categories: women's service, women's lifestyle, epicurean, and home.
    • MS Weddings is 90% newsstand, whereas others are 85% subscribers. It is an upscale magazine, not devoted to bridal gowns but to planning weddings-or other events where readers entertain.
    • Advertisers say it offers "added value." The magazine stages events for advertisers.
    Index of Professional Development Tours of Magazines


    Photos -- Beth Haller

    Layout -- Gerald Grow

    * Asterisk indicates 2005 National Magazine Award winner