Bob Guccione, Jr. on the Future of Magazines
Bob Guccione, Jr. began his career at the age of 18 in the UK where he became Britain's youngest-ever publisher. A year later he returned to America and launched the monthly music magazine, Rock Superstars, making him America's then youngest-ever publisher. In 1985, he launched SPIN, the enormously successful music magazine that usurped Rolling Stone as the dominant pop culture magazine for 18-24 year olds. In 1997, Guccione sold SPIN to Vibe Ventures and in 1998 launched Gear, a young men's lifestyle magazine, which closed in 2003. In October 2005, Guccione completed the acquisition of science magazine, Discover, from Disney and formed Discover Media, LLC. In the two years Guccione ran the title before stepping down as Chairman in December 2007, the magazine returned to profitability. He is now helping launch a new luxury lifestyle magazine in New York called Prestige New York.
Guccione: I think that the future media has to be more disciplined, particularly print media because of the fantastic costs associated with producing the product. So the more selling cost, the more focused you have to be, bottom line. And I remain evermore optimistic because part of what’s happening right now is Darwinian and a lot of magazines that really shouldn’t be on the shelves are going away. Now that said, I feel bad when any fellow publisher goes under. I’ve had to close the magazines, a horrible, horrible time in life on many levels. But there are a lot of wannabe and carbon copy publications and they don’t actually, you know, making a difference and, in fact, justifying their price. Secondly, the publishing business is notoriously under priced itself. It sells its advertising and its copies for less than it cost to produce the magazine or run the company. That obviously has to change, and it’s changing whether people like it or not every hour of the day. So, I think, what’ll be left are magazines that actually speak to people in a way that the Internet doesn’t, television doesn’t, radio doesn’t, which is not the same with all those other media don’t do a fantastic job, and in many ways, a better job in their own medium. But print does an excellent job of being a place where you lose yourself in your imagination. And the magazine that understands its audience, as I said earlier, will, I think, continue to prosper once it becomes very focused, very disciplined in how it runs its business.
Question: Do venues for long-form journalism have the best shot?
Guccione: Everybody looks at it from one perspective and only sees down the end of that line. An [IB] fact, if you stand back and look at all of the lines intersecting, it’s a very, very different picture. I think that the New Yorker mini writing will last forever for the kind of people who really want to read that. And as long as the New Yorker is disciplined that runs its business, and can, in fact, afford to put out the product, it will continue to keep an audience. It will grow. Advertisers will come back to it and they’ll stick to it ‘cause they realize the audience is engaged. That kind of running doesn’t work necessarily in a women’s self-help magazine or a recipe book. Those things are different. And different animals have to have different tracks and different environments. You know, you’ve got to know what your audience wants. If you’re a music magazine, you’re not also a medical magazine. And if you’re a science magazine, you are partly a medical magazine. If you’re news weekly, you better be interesting because otherwise you’re anachronistic because the news is now, news minutes, you know. And, I think, some whole mediums and Newsweek’s, Newsweek is probably one of them, really are, perhaps at this point, too anachronistic to recover. That is also Darwinian. Things change. You know, Life Magazine went away because we saw those pictures on television. That was no longer unique. But I don’t think it’s a one flat line in any respect. You know, I don’t think fashion magazine is the only ones that exist. No, I think good fashion magazines will continue to exist for an audience that’s eager for that. Good celebrity magazines will continue to serve their audience. And bad celebrity magazines like Ok, for instance, sorry to label one, will go away. Did that makes sense?
Bob Guccione, Jr. on the joys of print.
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