Innovation or Desperation?: Esquire To Release 3-D Issue

4055709574_49450d21ffEsquire is teasing its upcoming December issue as a new “living, breathing, moving, talking magazine,” using 3-D technology and augmented reality to integrate real images and graphics with both its articles and advertisements. With Robert Downey Jr. as its cover star, the issue (to be released November 9th) features six interactive “boxes” and at least one Lexus ad in which readers can use their computers to see bonus three-dimensional features.

The Huffington Post has the report:

Hold Esquire’s December issue in front of a webcam, and an on-screen image of the magazine pops to life, letters flying off the cover. Shift and tilt the magazine, and the animation on the screen moves accordingly.

Robert Downey Jr. emerges out of the on-screen page in 3-D, offering half-improvised shtick on Esquire’s latest high-tech experiment for keeping print magazines relevant amid the digital onslaught.

According to paidContent, the issue cost upwards of six figures. Esquire’s art director David Curcurito compares it to a caveman seeing fire for the first time, but it rightfully conjures memory of Entertainment Weekly’s much-hyped, but ultimately disappointing video ad from earlier this year.

The Heart Corporation title — like all of publishing — is struggling, and though it’s high budget and forward-thinking, nothing indicates desperation like digital gimmicks and special issues. HuffPo breaks down Esquire’s recent ad slump by noting, “The number of ad pages Esquire sold in the first half of the year fell to roughly 319, down 26 percent from 431 the year before, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.”

Clearly, the magazine hopes garnering some buzz for stepping into the future is the beginning of answer. It’s ironic to realize that while the internet contributes to the downfall of the traditional magazine market, they’re incorporating surprises like a 3-D issue in hopes to get the blogs buzzing, which will in turn send people to the newsstands. Or so they hope:

But that still leaves Esquire and the rest of the business in a waiting game to see if advertisers return as the recession eases.

With all the dazzle in the December issue shown off, Granger rests back in his chair, the view of midtown Manhattan behind him out of the 21st-story window of Hearst’s glass and steel tower on 8th Avenue.

“I just hope it starts coming back soon,” he says. “It’s got to, right?”

View From the Digital Iceberg

Gaines_Jim_color_croppedTo hear Arthur Sulzberger Jr., tell it in New York Magazine following the Oct. 26 benefit for The News Literacy Project, the “critical flaw” of the RMS Titanic was not iceberg detection, not an inattentive crew, not a shortage of lifeboats, not overestimating the ship’s construction, nor underestimating the staying power of ice. It was this:

“Twelve years earlier, two brothers invented the airplane.”

This is the so-called Titanic Fallacy, which is aptly named. Tell it to the 1,517 people who died in the water that night, several hundred miles short of New York.

I really wish he had kept that analogy to himself. With all the digital cheers going up around the deathbed of print, the media world does not need a pinch of snuff-porn, any more than it needs a Sulzberger Happy Meal.

The truth lies where it so often does, somewhere between hope and despair. But the outlook for media today is a lot better than the future for luxury cruises was in 1912. It’s bracing, to be sure, but in the way a good long run or a complex, stimulating book can be.

Consider, for example, Elizabeth Eisenstein’s magisterial two-volume work, “The Printing Press As Agent of Change” (Cambridge University Press, 1980). I’m in the middle of reading it now, and it is a long, bracing run indeed—a minute and skillful examination of just how massive the disruption was, a story previously taken for granted by historians but never so exhaustively studied and eloquently told.

All that is commonly remembered now of that fundamental shift is that reading became more common and knowledge more widespread. We do not mourn the monks whose craft and art of illuminating manuscripts was torn from their hands by that revolution.

Neither should we mourn the printers or print publishers of today. Instead, we should applaud the digital shift, which is actually fulfilling the manifest destiny set out for information by Gutenberg’s bright idea in the 15th Century.

Thanks to the digital revolution, there are millions more people consuming news and information than ever before. As Moore’s law works 24/7 to double the capacity of new devices, the much-rumored Apple Tablet, said to be coming out in a few months, will be just the ancestor of a new generation of digital hardware that will bring text, movies, music, motion graphics—all the tools of multimedia—off your desk and into your hands.

As that happens, the world of media will be transformed. In addition to inviting users to “lean forward” to find the information they want and need through search engines and databases, information on the Web—and more generally in the world of digital broadband—will encourage users to “lean back” and experience the new ways data can combine into coherent, narrative forms. Otherwise known as stories.

Maybe Sulzberger was misunderstood. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope he realizes how lucky he is that some of the media inventors with the Wright stuff are in the Times’s own multimedia department, doing the hard work of inventing the crafts and arts of digital story-telling and so our information future.

Any day now, he should get them out of the factory and let them fly.

Jim Gaines is the editor-in-chief of FLYPmedia, the first true digital multimedia publication. Gaines was the former managing editor at People, Time and Life magazines, and also served as the corporate editor of Time Inc. An advocate of storytelling and the widespread adoption of technology and multimedia within publishing, Gaines blogs about the evolution of the media industry at True/Slant.

New Book Reveals: Obama Campaign Thought Sarah Palin ‘Thin On Substance,’ Great ‘Performer’

MCCain Veepstakes PalinSarah Palin’s public will have to wait a few more weeks to discover what the former Governor of Alaska has to say about all things Palin, but in the meantime perhaps they can feast upon a few interesting details from David Plouffe’s new book The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory.

Plouffe was Obama’s campaign manager during the 2008 election and judging from the excerpts that have been thus far released, it promises to be an interesting read. One of the tidbits getting a lot of coverage today is the fact that Obama very seriously considered choosing Hillary Clinton for VP before opting for Joe Biden (who apparently launched into a 20 minute monologue during their first meeting).

However, it is this passage about Sarah Palin (in which, Anita Dunn makes a guest appearance!), that caught the eye. Primarily because the Obama team was so silent on the Palin phenomenon while it was happening that it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of what they were thinking at the time, but also because it suggests how they might deal with her going forward as she reinserts herself back in the national conversation. Interestingly, the consensus at the time was that Palin was “clearly not up to this moment…but bound to be a compelling player and a real headliner in the weeks ahead.”

“With the Palin pick, [Senator McCain] had completely undermined his core argument against us. Worse yet for McCain, he would look inherently political in doing so. His strength—and the threat he posed to us—was rooted in the fact that many independent voters believed in his maverick reputation and believed he did not make his decisions by prioritizing politics over what was right. I guessed people would view this choice more as a political stunt than a sound, reasoned call. On our 6:00 a.m. conference call, [campaign adviser] Anita Dunn, who had worked against Palin in Alaska in the 2006 governor’s race, warned us that she was a formidable political talent—clearly not up to this moment, she assured us, but bound to be a compelling player and a real headliner in the weeks ahead. ‘All of you on this call should watch video of her debates and speeches,’ Dunn counseled. ‘The substance is thin, but she’s a very able performer. And her story is out of Hollywood. She’ll be a phenomenon for a while.’ …

“Obama and I had a long talk late that afternoon to evaluate Palin. ‘I just don’t understand how this ends up working out for McCain,’ he said. ‘In the long term, I mean. The short term will be good for them. But when voters step back and analyze how he made this decision, I think he’s going to be in big trouble. You just can’t wing something like this—it’s too important. … I think we just need to sit back and play our game,’ said Obama. ‘It actually won’t be bad to be off-Broadway for a few days. We should just leave her out of the equation. This is a race between John McCain and me. To the extent we talk about Palin, I think it should be about the differences in our selection processes—it illuminates differences in how we’d make decisions in the White House.’”

(h/t Playbook)

Gourmet Appetit: Who’s Benefiting From Gourmet’s Demise?

gourmet-magazineOne supposes that at the end of the day someone should be benefiting from the shuttering-heard-round-the-food-world that was the folding of Gourmet earlier this month. Turns out that someone is the other (arguably less passionately loved) Condé foodie magazine Bon Appetit. This from today’s WWD:

When Gourmet closed, its readers received sister publication Bon Appétit to fulfill what was left of their Gourmet subscriptions. In January, Bon Appétit will use that sub file to help boost its rate base 15 percent, to 1.5 million from 1.3 million. The increase still puts it behind its more mass competitors Cooking Light, which has a rate base of 1.75 million, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, which carries a 1.7 million circulation guarantee.

Revenge Of The Snarked-Upon: Wired’s Chris Anderson Blasts Gawker


Wired editor Chris Anderson will not sit idly by while Gawker equates him with Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. With budget cuts and layoffs hitting most titles in the Condé Nast universe, Gawker has reported that both Carter and Anderson — two of the publishing giant’s marquee names — were too busy helping themselves to be present in the office on the days the guillotine fell. Carter was purportedly on a private jet to Bermuda, while the Wired editor-in-chief was “[d]elivering a no doubt gainful lecture for Hewlett Packard in Silicon Valley.”

Not so fast and not true, says the bald-headed tech general Anderson, who angrily took the snark-covered bait delivered by current Valleywag editor Ryan Tate. “But at least all that time away from home and office will help bolster your independent revenue stream,” Tate sniped. “Bet your ex editors wish they had created one of those! When they weren’t picking up the slack for absent co-workers, that is.” Anderson took to his personal Twitter to respond:

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Anderson has shown restraint in media drama before, passing on Malcolm Gladwell’s takedown of his latest book Free (also covered by Tate), but couldn’t resist when the shots he claims are inaccurate came from Gawker, and specifically Tate, who worked for nearly a year at Business 2.0, a now-defunct magazine founded by Anderson. Could this be employee/employer bad blood playing itself out publicly?

Gawker issued an update to their item, writing: “Anderson tweets he wasn’t in the office on firing day with his shell-shocked staff because he was on a ’sales call’ for Wired at HP. More sales calls are a good thing — on different days.” But that wasn’t enough:

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Then, it was Gawker’s managing editor Gabriel Snyder eager to egg on Anderson:

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And Anderson shot back:

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One more folks!

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Certainly, a Twitter battle for the ages, not to mention Gawker’s bread and butter. Let’s hope Anderson realizes soon that no matter how inaccurate the reporting, he’s the one who looks like a punk as he continues to validate Gawker’s underdog, men-of-the-people status — something they outgrew long ago.

But as long as The Man keeps fighting back, all the while banking on speeches and avoiding layoffs, Gawker appears to be the scrappy one worth rooting for.

The Cheney Family Sends Mika Cupcakes On Morning Joe

Screen shot 2009-10-28 at 3.12.58 PMBy now you’ve probably figured out that I’m a fan of the new book Start-Up Nation, which I toted around Israel filled with post-it notes for the past two weeks. It was co-written by my old friend Dan Senor, with whom I generally agree about the joys of summer camp and with whom I generally disagree about matters involving Dick Cheney. Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski disagrees with him about Dick Cheney, too, and yesterday on Morning Joe when Senor was supposed to come on and talk about his new book instead he wound up being the sole defender of Dick Cheney with regards to Afghanistan. (It seems to me that Dan has the same policy regarding Cheney that he does regarding me: A steadfast and loyal friend, no matter how crazy they are.)

Anyway! Since Dan didn’t get to talk about his book yesterday, so he came back on the show today — but this time he upstaged himself on the book, because after he finally focused Mika back on his book and had a very nice segment about it, he went and produced the takeaway moment…about something else completely. Turns out the Cheney family were watching Morning Joe yesterday, just, you know, gathered ’round the TV like in Leave It To Beaver, and adjudged Mika to have been “a little cranky” based on what she said about Cheney Père. So, they sent her cupcakes! Twelve of them, to symbolize Cheney in 2012. At that point Mika seemed to lose her appetite.

In any case, despite the distractions, everyone pushing a book on TV should be so lucky to get such a techno-fused flashing-light intro like Senor did. And more to the point, the discussion about how much of Israel’s success is attributable to how well they re-integrate their citizens throughout and after military service is illuminating. There is a lot the U.S. can learn from a model like that. Video below, followed by the Senor-Brzezinski skirmish from yesterday. Warning: Will make you hungry for cupcakes. And war.

Strange Bedfellows: Glenn Beck’s Publicist A Former Democratic Hired Gun

Glenn Beck is on the record as saying that he doesn’t belong to any political party, but it’s fair to say that he really, really does not belong to the Democratic Party. Since Obama has taken office, Beck has called him a racist socialist, compared him to Hitler, and successfully called for the heads of some of his “czars.”

So how is it that he wound up with a PR rep whose résumé includes successful representation for a number of Democratic politicians, including “a key role in electing Hillary Rodham Clinton to the U.S. Senate”?

A fascinating Washington Post profile of Matt Hiltzik, Beck’s PR guru, provides a few answers. Among the revelations:

  • As a young Cornell grad, Hiltzik’s record successfully pushing for Democrats like Carolyn McCarthy and Chuck Schumer caught the attention of Miramax heavyweight Harvey Weinstein, who created a hybrid job for him so he could “widen his footprint in Democratic politics.”
  • This, in turn, led to even bigger gigs for Hiltzik, repping for Hilary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, among others
  • But! In 2001, his father, George Hiltzik, put him in touch with an obscure wannabe conservative radio host named — you guessed it — Glenn Beck. The rest is history.
  • Hiltzik’s Democratic friends, naturally, are not really feeling this alliance. Said one: “I value our friendship, but I wouldn’t be caught dead representing Glenn Beck.”

Gawker, a site usually noted for its cloying, sunshiney attitudes towards PR people and Republican politicians, calls Hiltzik a sellout: “it’s almost as though Hiltzik is more interested in making money, or accumulating power, than in devoting his life to advancing the political ideals he has claimed in the past to endorse,” sez John Cook.

Though Hiltzik’s fence-crossing is a little surprising, that’s an uncharitable take, to say the least: From the start, the profile paints Hiltzik as a man of action rather than a dewy-eyed idealist, and political operatives are called ‘operatives’ for a reason. In DC, campaign professionals regularly jump from candidate to candidate to stay in the hunt.

Say what one will about Hiltzik, but the amount of ink and links spent on his client over the past year show that he’s definitely doing his job.

(image via CityFile)