Preserving the Past, Present and Future of Magazines: Mr. Magazine | What’s New in Publishing

A crazy trip down memory lane

“How many people will be comparing websites fifty years from now? asks Samir. “Are they going to say, look at what Politico in February 2022, compared to Slate? It will not happen.

It’s a privilege to meet every two weeks with my magazine-loving friends, the Pandemic Publishing Roundtable – Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham and, of course, Mr. Magazine himself, Samir Husni. Samir recently retired from teaching after 37 years, but his alter-ego, Mr. Magazine, is thriving and has none of the “print is dead” pundits.

“A lot of pop culture history has been captured in these decades of magazines,” he tells us. “As I go through this story, I’m a kid in a candy store. Each time I find something new. Today Samir is going to show us some of the highlights of his collection, starting with Reader’s Digestwho celebrates his 100and birthday.

Sami: Reader’s Digest officially launched in February 1922. Few know what came before. Dewitt Wallace served and was wounded in World War I. While he was recuperating, his friends brought him magazines to pass the time. At that time, New York City alone had 22 newspapers. Wallace thought people just didn’t have time to keep up with the sheer volume of media. Why not put the important points together, to save people time while getting the most valuable and long lasting information.

He created his preview number of Reader’s Digest in January 1920. And then he took it to all the publishers in New York and every one of them told him it would never work. So he went home and put the magazine away in a drawer.

A few months later, a friend introduced him to Lila Bell Acheson. They were married in 1921. It was Lila Bell who said, forget the editors. You and me will do it. And they did. Lila Bell borrowed $500 to launch their post. The first issue was 62 pages. Each article was one page, front and back; each page could be torn out and saved as an entire article. And so, Reader’s Digest became the largest magazine in US history, with 80 million copies in circulation.

Sherin: It was in how many countries?

Sami: At one time it had 35 editions in 29 languages. Its history is woven into the history of other publications, the history of magazine publishing. Remember Made magazine? In the mid-1960s, Ralph Ginzberg published Made magazine, and I spent 20 pages tearing Reader’s Digest a part. He called him an anti-black, an anti-Semite, a spokesman for the John Birch Society.

Joe: In the ’60s, calling someone John Bircher was a big insult.

Sami: Made do the same with Time magazine, which will also soon celebrate its 100and Birthday. And – you can’t make this up – when Time was launched, to save time for people too busy with the media, it was called Facts.

So at the time there was another magazine, published by Gardner Cowle, called To see. His wife, Fleur—Gardner was her third husband—worked on To see, and in 1949, while she was doing that, she started another magazine for people in a hurry, and she called it Quick. It was the first pocket news magazine. She had the idea of Daily word. The format was 4″ by 6″.

Joe: It would therefore be in competition with Time and Newsweek.

Sami: But it was very different. It only costs 10 cents and can fit in your pocket. Within a year, it had sold 850,000 copies.

Joe: How did the weekly newspapers work then? Were they printed in different parts of the country?

Sami: It was printed in Chicago. They partnered with a news program on ABC, they had posters in many stores with a dollar token on your subscription. Then they teamed up with NBC and started doing Sunday morning spots with Quick editors. And, in 1950, they were doing something that for many people was, and is, unheard of: cover advertising. There was a cover tag advertising Curtis Candy. Or special edition Arrow (shirt). Or a cover might say, “Don’t miss the first page.” And when you go to the front page, it would be an ad for a local pharmacy, broken down by regional editions.

Jo (laughing): And then all the copies went to Pittsburgh.

Sami: In 1952, Fleur decides to add 32 extra pages just for New York with all the television programs. They promoted it on the cover and then split the TV guide into different regional versions.

Sherin: Did they have different covers?

Sami: They all had the same cover announcing the regional listings, just like Walter Annenberg would when he launched tv guide in April 1953.

Sherin: He scammed her?

Sami: He bought all the regional TV listings from Cowles Media. Quick closed shortly after; June 1, 1953 was the last issue. 1.3 million people bought and read it. But despite its huge readership, the revenue was not enough to cover the expenses. They merged it into To see.

Sherin: What did Fleur do then?

Sami: On June 8, a new magazine was released titled Tempo. It was staff from Quick. Quick the last issue was the week before – they didn’t miss a beat! But then, three months later, on September 30, 1953, a new issue of Quick was published – with Walter Annenberg as editor and publisher.

Sherin: Corn Quick merged with To see

Sami: And then they sold the rights to Annenberg. He was able to publish it for 6 months as a picture/news magazine in a larger format. How did Fleur and Annenberg know each other? It’s a mystery I haven’t solved. We know that Fleur was at 73rd birthday party for Walter’s wife, Leonore.

In 1955, we have 72 paperback magazines in the country. Five of them were for African Americans. Someone else bought and published Quick from 1955, focusing on content such as miracle cures for arthritis and cancer. They folded. And Quick returned AGAIN in 1959.

sherine: More like a sophisticated.

Sami: It folded again, came back again in 1960, like a mixture of sophistication and politics.

Joe: A precursor to scammer.

Sami: They introduced it as the newspaper’s original magazine. It was NEVER a press magazine. All these incarnations, it’s a fun story.Sherin: When Quick finally die?

Sami: 1965

Sherin: So from 1949 to 1965 in different formats, different publishers, different editorial orientations. What did Fleur do next? Quick?

Sami: She launched what is one of the most creative and beautiful magazines ever published –Flair magazine. Each issue used the resources of print and paper with die-cuts, paper of various sizes, colors and art.

Sherin: How long did this last?

Sami: One year. February 1950. There is a preview issue of 1949, 5000 copies were printed and each copy was numbered. It was a work of art.

Joe: Why did it only last a year?

Sami: It was so expensive to produce. Each issue has die cuts, half pages, small labels with their own page numbers. She used print in all the most creative ways. In the last issue, she wrote that she simply could not afford to continue, due to the situation overseas, rising costs and paper shortages. It cost 50 cents on the newsstand. This magazine meant so much to Fleur that she wanted her obituary to be Flair and nothing else. She was Flair.

Joe: Amazing story.

Sami: There are so many people who ignore the role that magazines play in the history of our country. We need someone to treasure these historic artifacts, someone to preserve them.

And that’s why I’m launching Magazine Media Center: Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media.

And I invite the members of the Round Table to be part of the board of directors.

by Linda Ruth

This originally appeared on Bo Sacks’ Daily Bulletin and is republished with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here.