Jan 272012

Lately, I’ve been getting these random ghost subscriptions in the mail; subscriptions to magazines I’ve never signed up for. At first, I was alarmed. Had I purchased these subscriptions in my sleep? If not, how did they get my name and address? Am I on some sort of potential subscriber list somewhere? I must be.

In one of my new magazines there was a postcard stuffed into the binding. It said, “congrats on your new subscription.” New subscription?! I didn’t order any new subscription, but there it was. I needed to solve this mystery and quick. So did I call the magazine like a normal person and ask them where the subscription came from?! Of course not! I decided to send a text message to all my friends and family asking if they sent me a magazine gift subscription. They didn’t.

I think these ghost subscriptions were a spin-off of a subscription I already had. So, let’s say I subscribed to a Condé Nast pub and they were interested in attaining new subscribers for one of their other glossies. All they’d have to do is send out a sample mag and put the subscription info inside. Sort of like, check this out and if you like it, buy it for a full year. And the thing is, I didn’t get one magazine, but two! I know, lucky me!

I started to think this was pretty cool, like a gift from the gods or something, but then I started to inspect the magazines. One of the subscriptions was to US Weekly and the other to Lucky magazine. Now, what about those magazines says that a gal like me would like them? I mean, sure I’m a woman, but does that mean that I like to read gossip and fashion mags? Heck yeah, it does! But do I like to read other things too? Why yes, yes I do. So if you’re reading magazine publishers, I’d also like a ghost subscription to The New Yorker or Bust, Make, or Dwell. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge. Come on magazine gods, don’t let me down now.

Sep 102010

Another door will open. Believe that.

There is nothing better than getting the go ahead on a piece you’ve queried out to several publications. It feels like you’re doing something right, that somebody, the universe even, is giving you the go ahead to pursue your writing career. In other words, it feels great.

Most recently, I submitted a query about Chicago Avenue between Damen and Ashland Avenue in Chicago and it got picked up by a well-read Chicago online Chicago magazine called Gapers Block. I was excited to write about a place that I both love and admire.

When I submitted the piece, I was afraid they weren’t going to like it. There were butterflies in my stomach and my hands were sweaty. But this is how I get whenever I submit something to an editor so I just sent it out. A few hours later, my editor contacted me and told me that she liked it. Joy! Two weeks later, it was in the Arts and Culture section. Score!

It was also posted on Windy Citizen, a Chicago-centric site that I am falling in love with. It is dedicated to all things Chicago – news, blogs and entertainment. I received positive feedback about the piece and it was even posted on the Huffington Post Chicago. It’s crazy how the small pieces you write end up on other web sites. This leads me to believe that people still read.

I needed that boost. I felt like GB gave me the opportunity I was looking for – a platform. I was grateful and I still am. You can read my piece here: A Hood in Limbo.

A few days later, I checked my e-mail and there was a request from a DJ asking if I would be interested in being interviewed for his radio show all about Chicago. I said yes and if you ever get the opportunity to be on a radio show you should say yes too. Why? Why not? Opportunities will always present themselves, but will you be aware enough to notice? Luckily, this time I was. You can check out the radio show here: Outside the Loop Radio.

Keep on truckin’ my writing pals.

Aug 162010

There is a new ad campaign going on called The Power of Print. It’s supported by five major magazine companies including Hearst, Time, Wenner, Meredith and Condé Nast. It’s supposed to help revive magazine readership or more importantly remind people why magazines are important. It started back in March, 2010.

One of the ads says, “In these wired times of ours, you might think that people don’t read magazines. That the overwhelming allure of the online world has swept them right out of vogue. But it’s not true at all. From seventeen through their sunset years, folks are reading magazines more than they were just a few years ago. Sure, there’s a fortune being spent online. But there’s also a lot of money being spent on magazines, with nearly 300 million paid subscriptions.”

After reading that, I thought, hmm … if there are 300 million paid subscriptions, then why strive for a larger readership? I mean, that seems like plenty of readers to me. But it’s not. It’s not even close. Magazines need to make serious buku to stay afloat. So how do they do it?

Tons of magazines are alive today because they sell ad space. They are able to sell ad space because people buy subscriptions. Subscriptions are important because advertisers put their ads in magazines that are getting seen by thousands or millions of consumers. Why is this important to advertisers? Because they make money by getting you–the consumer, to buy things. And why do you buy the things you do? Believe it or not, it’s because of advertising. Just look at the iPhone.

Everything is linked. Advertising is big business. Unfortunately, many magazines nowadays need those advertisers in order to publish a monthly magazine. The magazine industry isn’t just about reporting real human interest stories anymore, it’s a money making endeavor.

Here is another ad from the Power of Print Campaign:

Magazines, The Power of Print ad campaign

It says, “Young people do everything online. Like order millions of magazines. Somehow, amidst their infatuation with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like, young adults are still making time for another one of their favorite pursuits: reading magazines.

Contrary to popular misperception, the phenomenal popularity of the Internet has not come at the expense of magazines. Readership is actually increasing, and adults between 18 and 34 are among the most dedicated readers. They equal or surpass their over-34 counterparts in issues read per month and time spent per issue.

What’s changed isn’t people’s affinity for magazines but the means by which they acquire them. Last year, nearly 22 percent of all new paid subscriptions were ordered online.

And just as the Internet drives magazine subscriptions, magazines drive Web searches–with nearly double the effectiveness of the Internet itself. Some might call it ironic.

The medium that some predicted would vanquish magazines is actually helping fuel their growth. And vice versa.”

Okay, so why put all this time and energy into an ad campaign telling people what they already know? Well, because you have to read between the lines here folks. Magazines are losing serious dollars. They don’t have the money to sustain the cost of hiring a staff, printing and distributing anymore. The more I think about this campaign, the more I think it’s a warning. Magazines are going to die unless you and I start supporting them by buying them.

Now, I don’t believe magazines will become extinct or that paper will become a thing of the past, but it’s apparent that we are witnessing big changes within the publishing industry. People aren’t just getting their news and entertainment from magazines, newspapers and television. They are getting it online.

According to the Facebook Blog, five-hundred million people have signed up for Facebook as of July 21, 2010. This time last year, there were 150 million users says independent.co.uk. What does this mean? It means that social networking sites are big time, too large to ignore that they are changing not only what we view as entertainment, but also the way we receive our news. Our friends post interesting stories on Facebook and we snatch them up and re-post them on our wall to share with our friends. The best part about that is that it’s free. And free is important here because America is on a budget. Now how do you combat free? You can’t.

I think the major contributors to the Power of Print ad campaign need to take a step back and think. This isn’t your typical us versus them situation. The only way people are going to read the way they used to, back in the olden days, is if publishers provide readers with old school news and big time value in new mediums. That means online, through their cell phones, their Ipads, Kindles and Nooks and on whatever latest electronic device is coming soon to a store near you.

Look, people want to read the good stuff. They want to read stories that are interesting, ones that have depth, ones that are well thought-out and those that dig below the surface. They want real news that is reported in a new and fresh way. The publishing industry can have all of that and more if they just surrender to the change. They only have one real option–to embrace the electronic evolution. Truth is, it’s going to happen whether the publishing industry agrees or not.

Magazines ought to do what the newspapers do. Just put some information online and charge online subscription fees at a fraction of the cost of a traditional subscription. Why? For one, it is cheaper for both the subscriber and publisher and it would be available to a larger audience. Where is the downfall?

I don’t suggest the total removal the traditional printed magazines just yet, but maybe publishers should focus on online forums and reduce the amount of printed mags they produce. This would create less environmental waste for everybody and who doesn’t want that?

Maybe McLuhan was right. The medium is the message.

What do you think about the Power of Print ad campaign? Check it out for yourself here.

Jul 292010

I am a lover of magazines; always have been, since the age of thirteen. I remember it like it was yesterday. Teen Magazine caught my eye at a grocery store. I picked it up, flipped through it and begged my mom to buy it for me. When I got home, I read the entire thing–cover to cover. I was enthralled. I requested that my mom buy me a subscription immediately. She obliged. Hey, what can I say–my mom is great. This marked a real turning point for me, one of no return. No newspapers, no books. Magazines became my thing.

I was a faithful reader of Teen Magazine for five years. That’s like a millennium to a teenager, but I loved it. Over the years, I’ve thought about why I chose that mag and I think I know the answer. First, it was geared towards girls like me, young girls, girls going through things. Real things. I could spend one hour a month reading about other teen’s lives, about ways to change the world for the better and about music. Teen Magazine was like a guide for my teenage life and it was written in an intelligent and respectful way. Unfortunately, after a few years, as with all things, it began to deteriorate. The articles became less informative, the advertisements got larger and I just wasn’t into it anymore. Perhaps it had something to do with my subtle aging, but I digress. It was time to move on. I needed something a little more on my level.

I moved on to the sophisticated YM, Lucky and Cosmo. Hey, don’t mock. I had to try out every magazine on the stands to find the right one. But the truth is, those magazines weren’t me.

Nothing changed me quite so much as my early twenties. I was becoming more aware of who I was without my parents, teachers or friend chiming in. This was when I started to get into zines and literary mags. I even created two of my own.

A few years after that, I went back to consumer pubs. I was reading Martha Stewart, Domino and Real Simple. Domestication reared its ugly head, but I knew deep down it wouldn’t be enough. Those magazines didn’t fill my soul. I needed a magazine with style, pizazz, something with projects, one that was home to a good short story, one that had health and make-up tips, reviewed new books and music and most importantly one that featured great articles about real issues affecting women my age. I was searching for a Teen Magazine for twenty-year-old’s. Now where was I supposed to find a magazine like that?

It took me a while to realize, I was never going to find it because it just didn’t exist. I had to subscribe to many magazines just to get my fill. And now that I’m in my thirties, I find myself still searching for that thirty-something Teen Magazine. Seriously, does the search ever end?

I currently subscribe to six consumer magazines a year. It may seem like a lot, but those magazines are secondary to the amount of books, albums and literary magazines I purchase annually. In addition, I realize many people don’t read magazines and I never understood that. Not because there isn’t plenty to read elsewhere, but because magazines are cultural mirrors. They are about us–right here, right now.

If you’re into magazines as much as I am, come and support the Chicago literary community tonight at the Printers’ Ball.

According to the Poetry Foundations Web Site, “It’s a celebration of literary culture. In addition to featuring thousands of magazines, books, broadsides and other takeaways, the Printers’ Ball will showcase live readings, music and performances. They will also host letterpress, offset, silk-screening, rubber-stamping and paper-making demonstrations.”

To learn more about the 2010 Printers’ Ball, please visit their site.