of New York Magazines
in Journalism and
Mass Communication --
The report below comes from participants in this year's faculty tour:
Business Week magazine is a busy place. Our meeting
was quickly paced, engaging, in part because Bob Dowling, Assistant
ME, did most of the talking. Many of us are loyal readers of
the magazine, so we knew well why Business Week is so
successful and a necessary read for any professional.
Business Week sees themselves as:
With a circulation of 4.7 million, this weekly follows business trends and keeps its readers informed with timely, global insights. Additionally, an average of 4 million users attended to their Web site per month in 2005, a 44% growth over 2004.
Recent awards for BusinessWeek.com
Our contact, Bob Dowling, a Business Week 27-year veteran, took over most of the conversation, but Kimberly Styler talk about sales. Although their product is good, undoubtedly, there is always a certain doubt on how else they can continue holding their readers' attention. Their market diversification with national editions in seven different countries is a tremendous enterprise.
Their Web site is doing well and they differentiate between a loyal print reader reading the magazine on-line and a primarily on-line reader reading BusinessWeek.com. Their Web site is truly functional and useful.
We were encouraged to urge majors to minor to get some business background to achieve stronger business content in their portfolios, before they graduate.
Editor wants stories with protagonists
The Forbes approach to writing is to view stories as Aesop's fables - parables with morals - according to Tom Post, assistant managing editor. "Forbes writes about exemplary behavior, both good and bad, from which lessons can be taken," he said.
For its stories, Forbes wants to bring a "distinguishing trait of contrariness, a unique angle or get exclusivity an angle on a company," Post said. He wants writers to try to have a protagonist in a story to make it more interesting.
The challenge in editing the magazine is to stay competitive and topical. "Our forte is to deliver something different from Fortune, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNBC, Web sites, MSNBC, Fox and "every decent daily [newspaper] business section," Post said. To do that, writers have to be paranoid, he said. "They have to feel with every sentence, that someone is looking at the exit sign."
For new hires, Forbes is like a teaching hospital, Post said. "You get a lot of experience, and we take you raw." He said he likes to see journalists apply who have at least "a pilot light in their belly."
Forbes has an editorial staff of about 100. Although Forbes.com has a separate editorial staff of about 50, writers for the print magazine also are required to produce two stories a month for the Web. On a rare occasion, a Web staff member writes for the magazine.
Post describes the magazine and its Web site as having two distinct functions: "It's the difference between sitting down at a restaurant and driving through to pick up food."
Online stories need a broader focus
The Web site is attracting 15 million viewers, said David Andelman, an executive editor at Forbes.com. "Huge traffic for the Web site comes from portals so the content can't be narrowly focused," he said. The free site is supported by advertising.
Andelman said Forbes.com looks for journalists who can write compelling news and feature stories with an interesting point of view. Each reporter is expected to write one story a day for the site. It helps to have some business reporting background, he said.
How stories are fact checked
On the magazine, "reporters" are fact checkers who verify the work of writers.
Every fact, number, spelling and quote is fact checked, according to Mary Ellen Egan, chief of reporters and associate editor for Forbes. The quotes are paraphrased to the source for verification, she said.
Writers can't use newspaper clips for backgrounding stories, Egan said. Everything has to be checked independently. She said she has spent as long as two weeks checking a cover story on a complex medical topic. Usually, it takes four to five days to check a cover story.
Editors Post and Andelman stressed the value of rigorous verification. "Fact checking is important because credibility is our only asset and this is an increasingly litigious society," Post said. "The magazine has a strong point of view. We don't want to be objective. We want to be fair. It has to come from the facts. If you call someone a crook, you better have evidence and give the person a chance to defend himself. The corporate counsel reads every story in the magazine and is the devil's advocate for the person attacked."
On Forbes.com, Andelman said, reporter/writers fact check their own stories. "On the Web, the reporter is the first line of defense and the editor is the second line of defense," he said. "The editors of the site receive immediate feedback and if there is an error, the story can be changed in five minutes."
Latina was different in format from the rest, since each presenter addressed us individually, so we never had a discussion with all of them at the same time. The pace seemed faster than at other publications, as each staffer had the same time allocated to them.
Ms. Almonte gave us a full idea of who is the Latina reader and how the magazine is trying to capture more readers and exposure around the US. We discussed their market niches in the nation. Ms. Press was honest in describing how disappointing some Latina new-hires lack a sense of professional and business manners.
Overall, we learned how a small magazine gets to become profitable, with a formula of a lot of hard work combined with some unconcern for their target audience. Some presenters were talking "down" to the Hispanic market and in many ways only using the massive Latino population for profit. (They were frank and open.)
Some of the new initiatives Latina shared with us:
Latina magazine has a circulation of 450,000, of which only 4% comes from news-stand sales. Latina, celebrating 10 years of publication, is the only magazine dealing with young Latino women in the US. Their Web site suggests their mission as bringing to the U.S. Hispanic community the best, most empowering, engaging and culturally relevant content across a range of media platforms that include publishing, digital, live events and consumer products and services. Readers are all American Latina, who have pride and passion about their lives.
With the explosive growth in the Hispanic population, Latina is now profitable and probably will be sold next year, according to three. The magazine seems understaffed and overburdened; almost all presenters talked about the long hours and the sacrifices the job presented in their lives. Many came from other publications and were hired at Latina in the last couple of months or years, so Latina seems to have a quick turnover of employees.
Advice from the staff of Latina magazine on entering the publishing market
Latina hired Matt Ingber as General Manager for Digital Media. It is not a surprising move since the market is moving to provide new and different content on the Web, he said. Hispanic Trends magazine's February 2006 coverage of the third annual AOL/Roper U.S. Hispanic Cyberstudy, showed that Hispanics with Internet access at home are rapidly adopting broadband, with half of online Hispanics going online over high-speed connections at home.
That's on a par with the share of the general online population with broadband at home, he said, and comes despite the fact that Hispanics are relatively newer to the Internet, according to the survey.
List, in order of priorities, of whom they need to hire for Latina.Com:
What viewers like on the Web
Web sites are a way to extend each Meredith magazine's brand, said Stephanie Wagle, site director of FitnessMagazine.com. At Meredith, the magazines have interactive tools and archives, but they do not put up all their stories. Often, magazine stories are presented on the Web as eight or 10 tips, she said.
When viewers go to Web sites, they are looking for specific information rather than browsing, the editors said. Better Homes & Gardens' visitors want to find hints on decorating, gardening and grilling. On the site of Ladies' Home Journal, the most popular tips are those on hairstyles and thigh exercises. And at FitnessMagazine.com, Wagle said with a laugh, the most popular topic is abs.
Blogs also are popular on Fitness' site and run about 500 words. On More magazine's site, readers are particularly interested in communicating with each other.
More: It's not just for New Yorkers
Women who read the lifestyle magazine More are 40 to 60 years old, well-educated and curious, managing editor Ila Stanger said. "They see this as a time to reinvent themselves."
Some readers are women in their 30s "who think the magazine is intelligent." But Stanger said, "We never show a woman who isn't 40."
She compares More with Lear's, a magazine for mature women that is no longer published. Lear's was for women on the Upper East Side and in Beverly Hills, she said, and More is for urban women across the country. "We try not to be New York-centric."
How can students find their own story ideas?
The editors suggest that students:
Darcy Jacobs, article editor of Family Circle, said when she is reviewing query letters, she is looking for a cover letter with national magazine clips. She wants the writer to include in the query the names of the experts who will be interviewed and a story outline.
The editors stressed that they did not want a free-lance writer to direct them to go online to look at clips. They wanted to be sent the relevant clips.
What covers have been best sellers?
The editors cited these as having sold especially well. For Family Circle, chocolate cake is a best seller. A Dr. Phil cover did well for Ladies' Home Journal. An issue of More with actress Mary Steenburgen on the cover "sold fabulously," Stanger said.
Jacobs of Family Circle added that for her readers, that cover photo of chocolate cake and a cover line on dieting "are not a disconnect."
Seeking an upscale audience
Child magazine was redesigned seven years ago when the editors decided it wasn't very different from the other parenting magazines, according to Lee. All the parenting magazines at that time were service-oriented.
The editors decided to make Child a lifestyle magazine, Lee said. They hired a photographer who normally did high-end fashion, and they consciously sought a more upscale readership.
"Just because you have kids doesn't mean life is over," Lee said.
Reaching younger readers
Through their Web sites, magazines will be able to reach readers 10 to 15 years younger than they normally would, predicts Quentin Walz, Integrated Sales and New Media Director for Meredith Interactive. To do that, they will "atomize and liquefy the content" and offer it in smaller bits, he said.
On the issue of guidelines for advertising on magazine sites, Walz said guidelines are looser on the Internet, especially on sponsored copy. "The rules have not been written yet," he said.
Our second visit was to Scholastic, the 85-year-old publishing company that started with a children's magazine and has grown into a corporation with more than $2 billion in annual revenues from its educational magazines, children's books, TV programs, videos, websites, films and toys. The New York headquarters in Soho is an attractive post-modern building with an auditorium, a library, an alarming number of conference rooms and carpets that display the company's credo, which reads in part:
The Scholastic Classroom Magazines division publishes more than 30 classroom magazines for children in pre-K through 12th grade. The publications are meant to encourage reading and teach children about social studies, science, math, art, current events and language arts, all in accordance with state and federal education goals for specific grade levels. This has been Scholastic's niche for a very long time. Its only real competition is the Weekly Reader and TIME for Kids, but those publications are more narrowly focused on current events.
That's not to say that Scholastic steers clear of the news of the day. "We feel a huge responsibility to give accurate, truthful and age-appropriate news to children ages 6 to 18," says Rebecca Bondor, vice president and editor-in-chief of Scholastic Classroom Magazines. She recalls the difficult decisions she and the other editors had to make about whether and how to write about the attacks of September 11, 2001. Ultimately, they decided to cover that event only in the magazines for grades three and above, not to run the photos of the planes hitting the World Trade Center (the opposite decision of the one made by TIME for Kids), and to make the main message, "We are going to rebuild. The adults are in control."
The Scholastic Classroom Magazines are purchased by schools or teachers and distributed to the children. A one-year subscription (32 issues) costs $3.95 per pupil for early grades and up to $8.95 per year for high school students. Publishing frequency varies by magazine, from weekly to monthly. The magazines reach more than 8.2 million students in pre-K through 12th grade and more than 350,000 teachers in 70 percent of the schools in the United States (approximately 108,000 schools). "It is some of the only unvetted material that goes into classrooms, so teachers must trust them to be fair, honest and inspiring so students grow into responsible and involved citizens," Bondor explains.
The oldest title is Junior Scholastic, which launched the company when it was published in the 1920s.This magazine has just undergone a redesign, which will debut in September. The main changes are more color, bigger pictures, and more points of entry in every story. Redesigns at Scholastic are typically spurred by dips in circulation or changes in editorial approach.
The designers have about five weeks to work on each issue of a magazine. They use many freelance photographers and illustrators, and often send them sketches of the page layouts into which their work will fit. Photographers also receive "shot lists" that specify exactly what the designers would like the photos to include.
Scholastic also has its only in-house photo service, overseen by Steven Diamond, executive director of photography. His department has three main groups: reference, library publishing, and scholastic products. They manage, locate and license images and regulate copyright compliance for 140 people in various Scholastic publications. "We're a boutique service," Diamond says.
Scholastic has been online since 1998. Suzanne Freeman, executive editor of Scholastic News Online and the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, says the goal of the websites is "to provide news in a context kids understand and update daily what kids get weekly" in the magazines. The sites also provide expanded content and background for stories that receive a shorter treatment in print. "It doesn't cannibalize the magazines," she says because the material is different and more interactive.
Freeman oversees 80 kid reporters around the country who submit local news stories from their hometowns. The main audience for the websites is kids in grades four through eight, but there is a "listen and read" portion for first and second graders that allows young children to listen and read along to one story. There's also a site for middle and high school students called "Write It" that allows them to publish their creative work, chat, and build a portfolio.
Kelly Schmitt, the director of magazine development, conducts research on existing products to track reader satisfaction, helps determine whether new concepts are likely to succeed, and investigates changes in curricula and learning standards that might call for alterations in magazine content. She also works with Scholastic's board of teacher advisors and also conducts focus groups and online surveys.
Scholastic has numerous other divisions, including magazines for parents and educators and the largest school-based book club in the world, along with a trade book division. Scholastic is the also the leading publisher and distributor of Spanish-language books in the United States.
Rebecca Bondor, VP & Editor-in-Chief Scholastic Classroom Magazines
Scholastic Classroom Magazines has 23 domestic and 10 foreign magazines. The earliest publication began in 1926; the most recent, Clifford the Dog began publication three years ago. The magazines are geared to help teachers meet state standards, and each issue comes with a teachers' guide.
New hires come in knowing how to write. They learn on-the-job how to write to grade. Articles tackle difficult subjects, but do so in age-appropriate ways. For example:
Re Sept. 11, 2001: A short (120 words) article was published for third graders. It emphasized that adults were in control and would handle it. In keeping with that tone, the cover showed a little girl on a man's shoulders.
And an article on the events at Columbine was supplemented in the teachers' edition with advice from an on-staff psychologist on how to discuss the article with the children.
Rebecca Bonder said the goal of each publication is to accurately and fairly present unbiased, truthful information to inspire students to grow up to be responsible citizens.
Felix Batcup, Sr. group art director
It is "a major challenge" to design a publication for students that will appeal to teachers. For example, the young readers of Scholastic Classroom's science magazines "love gross out stuff," he said, adding that his staff needs "to be able to think like little boys and little girls." Meanwhile, teachers appreciate the fact that the magazines use different colors to signal different sections, so that students can more readily find the pages for class discussion.
Danielle Mirsky, director of marketing for Scholastic Classroom Magazines
Teachers want to know "what the magazine will do for me and my students. Is it going to raise the students' test scores?"
Suzanne Freeman Scholastic's on-line news editor
Scholastic.com is designed primarily for fourth through eighth graders. Its content differs from that in the magazines. Teachers' resources for Scholastic.com content are also on line.
In addition to staff, interns and freelancers, about 80 kids throughout the country serve as the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
Kelly Schmitt, Ph.D., Director of Magazine Development
New magazines as well as new Scholastic's books series result from research and evaluation of market place trends and teachers' needs. The magazine Clifford the Big Red Dog, for example, responds to both the expanding pre-school market and the needs teachers expressed in focus groups.
Schmitt said that teachers who are interviewed in phone surveys say that the most important reason they use Scholastic Classroom publications is to motivate their students.
To this end, Schmidt also researches and evaluates possible changes and supplements to existing publications. This process can involve what she called "ethnographics:" Classroom observation of how the teachers use the product. Such observation allows the company to strengthen the applicability of the product to teachers' needs.
The faculty members
First row, L to R: Barbara Reed, Janet Kaye. 2nd row, L to R: Jennifer Rauch, Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, Ann Schierhorn, Maria Santana, Nancy Roberts. Missing: Donald Bird
Index of Professional Development Tours of Magazines