Editorial: Phone-y Magazines

Our options for reading entertainment and enjoyment grow fewer and farther between.


There’s always been competition: Look v. Life, Time v. Newsweek, People v. Us, The Saturday Evening Post v. Reader’s Digest, Ladies Home Journal v. Good Housekeeping, National Geographic v. Smithsonian, Playboy v. Penthouse, et al.


Yet only the strongest survived.


And even then, only after a fashion.


Gone, by and large, are in-depth stories and original narratives, replaced by “posts,” catchy photos with captions, and different spins on the same subject matter cluttering our lives.


Time – or our lack thereof – is one of the major thieves of being engaged in a magazine. Reader’s Digest realized that in its condensed versions of bigger magazine pieces. Heck, even Cliff Notes and Classics Illustrated understood that we had other things to do with our time than read long-time classics.


Magazines filled a niche, appealing to our special interests, creating communities of like-minded people who read what most interested them specifically—including the ads. Indeed, magazines were one of the first media to sell advertising targeting consumers by psychographics as well as by their demographics.


Few take the time today to appreciate the balancing act that comprise magazines.


Like newspapers and newsletters, they’re periodicals published at given intervals … most often weekly, monthly, or that frequency reserved for the realm of magazines: fortnightly.


But unlike their brethren, they weren’t designed to be all things to all people or to cover some subjects to many. Nor were they constrained by geographic boundaries or time-sensitive data. You could leave a good magazine on your bedside night stand or beside the bathroom throne, eager to thumb through its pages and pick up where you left off.


Newspapers came to us in sections – national and international, local, sports, entertainment, classified advertising – while magazines, like sandwiches, were divided among columns and departments, with features filling the well in between. For their part, newsletters were a mishmash of topical content condensed into four to 16 pages.


“All the news thats fit to print,” the slogan of the New York Times, is perhaps the most famous phrase in American journalism. Words dominated images, cramming as much information as possible onto the front page. And if an article didn’t fit in the space allotted, it “jumped” to a page farther on back. It took People magazine to rethink the anatomy — down to the fonts (sans serif “Helvetica” rather than more formal “Times”) and type faces — and using more expensive color photography only on the cover and paid advertising, with black and white the editorial mainstay.


Along came the Internet and challenged all that …


If newspapers, magazines, and newsletters wouldn’t give up the ghost to be swallowed and spit out in bits and bytes – numbers! — they could try, at least, to exist side-by-side boosting their namesakes. Especially if they (or parts of them) were free.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by search engines, taught Madison Avenue money managers that, “the key to getting more traffic lies in integrating content with search engine optimization and social media marketing.”


There it is, folks: Publishers want traffic and numbers rather than readers and loyal subscribers. No longer does it matter who reads an article, editorial, even comic strip, but how many people search for it and (best of all!) “click through,” scanning the first words.
Search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing web pages to increase a website’s visibility “organically” in the search engine result pages (SERPs).


SEO is completely different from search engine (paid) advertising. With paid advertising, you’re paying search engines like Google to show your website on the search result page. Instead, with SEO, you’re optimizing your website so it organically shows up on the first page of the search result. The number of visitors who come to your website through these search results is defined as organic traffic (because they found your website themselves).


Imagine that!


Portugal Living Magazine used Facebook advertising to increase its own numbers: reach (how many people saw the ad) and engagement (how many people clicked and responded to it). An ad reaching 3,402 people in our defined audience, for instance, reached 2,131 through a mobile app feed and 593 from an Instagram feed. The other 679 came from a slew of sources.


To promote our website, a more aggressive ad on Facebook reached 19,200 people: 211 engaged, 198 clicked on the link, and 13 reacted. Cost per click: €0.08. And where did they see the ad itself? Three-quarters (73%) or 12,888 viewed it via a mobile app, while slightly more than a quarter (27%) or 4,776 saw our ad on the right hand side of their desktop.


When three-fourths of the population see information on a mobile application compared to one-fourth who see it elsewhere, there’s no question that we are a mobile society. We depend on our mobiles not only to make calls and send messages or to get directions and seek answers to questions, but to read and watch on those miniscule screens. Witness the success of Amazon’s Kindle and other computerized “pads” especially designed for reading.


I’ll briefly share how that impacts a 100+ page magazine like Portugal Living Magazine next.

For now, let’s just say that magazines are migrating to websites, where they’re configured quite differently for readers, writers, publishers, and advertisers.


Bottom line?


The whole no longer is greater than the sum of its parts.


Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

A Truly “Christian” Man

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter waves to the congregation after teaching Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia on April 28, 2019. Carter has taught Sunday school at the church on a regular basis since leaving the White House in 1981, drawing hundreds of visitors who arrive hours before the 10:00 am lesson to get a seat and have a photograph taken with the former President and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

I was teaching journalism — specifically, a course entitled News Editing — at George Mason University in January 1981, when I could find no established precedents or protocols, no style guides or textbooks, to cite to my students about the layout dilemma.

On January 20, 1981, two distinctly remarkable, historic, front page news-making moments occurred simultaneously: After 444 days, Americans held hostage by Iran were released; and Ronald Reagan, a former actor and California governor, was inaugurated president of the USA. The hostages were formally released into United States custody just minutes after Reagan was sworn into office as the country’s 40th president on January 20, 1981.

How would or should newspaper editors handle the coverage, my students and I debated: Was one more important, more timely, more consequential than the other? Which story should be featured more prominently? There was no question that both stories demanded front page placement. But where on the page? Traditionally, newspapers place the most important stories at the top of the page; being on the right-hand side implied that a story was more important than others on the page. The Washington Post devoted its front page to these two stories, although one was placed “above the fold,” the other on the bottom half.

Guess which story took priority and preeminence?

Jimmy Carter was bedeviled by two behemoths during his single, four-year presidency.

On November 4, 1979, a group of militarized Iranian college students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Soon, 52 United States diplomats and citizens were held hostage. A diplomatic stand off ensued. Lasting 444 days, this terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency, as well as a personal ordeal for the president himself.

President Carter pursued a policy of restraint that put a higher value on the lives of the hostages than on American retaliatory power or protecting is own political future.

Allegations of conspiracy between Reagan’s presidential team with Iran until after the election to thwart Carter from pulling off an “October surprise” abounded. And thus began the changing of the guard–from partisan distinctions to ugly words and vicious divisions.

The other dragon that President Carter couldn’t slay was economics. Between high inflation and fixed mortgage rates hitting over 14%, it was also about the money … as it always is.

Jimmy Carter has always been a good man. Moreover, he’s been a good Christian man–not just in terms of religious etymology but in practical ways, too. He practiced the words preached by the itinerant Jewish rabbi from Nazareth.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained what it looks like to live as his follower and to be part of God’s Kingdom. These passages from Matthew perhaps represent the major ideals of the Christian life.

They also reflect peanut farmer Jimmy Carter’s life and legacy.

• Blessed are the weak, for they shall inherit the earth.

• Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the “salt” of the earth.

• Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

• Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

• Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(About that thirst blessing above, let’s not forget that Jimmy was overshadowed by his younger brother, Billy, and the infamous Billy’s Beer. Indeed, the Georgia farmer brought a colorful cast of characters with him to Washington.)

At 98, Jimmy Carter is one of America’s most active former presidents. His efforts at peace-making, international negotiation, home construction for the impoverished (Habitat for Humanity), and the eradication of diseases in Africa earned him the world’s respect. Forty years after leaving office, he continued to remain an actor on the world stage and at home.

As president, his tireless efforts to bring Israel and Egypt together in a peace agreement during the 1978 negotiations at Camp David may be seen today as the most consequential contribution any U.S. president has made towards Israel’s security since its founding. The treaty earned the Israelis everything they so long had sought: a separate peace treaty that ended not only the state of war with their most threatening neighbor, but also the freedom to carry out other strategic and military objectives without concern for igniting a regional war.

Despite serving a single term, Jimmy Carter ranks as one of the most consequential U.S. presidents when it comes to environmentalism. He installed solar panels on the White House, urged Americans to turn down their thermostats while sporting a sweater, and pressured Congress into putting tens of millions of Alaskan acres off limits to developers.

In 1982, with his wife Rosalynn, he founded the Carter Center dedicated to the protection of human rights, promotion of democracy, and prevention of disease. His determination to promote the rights of women led him, in 1920, to sever ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades, over its rejection of women in leadership positions. He explained his decision to quit the church in a 2009 article entitled “Losing my religion for equality,” which later went viral. “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God,” he wrote in the article.

The Nobel Peace laureate and longtime human rights advocate campaigned to end violence and discrimination against women since leaving the White House in 1981, calling it the “human and civil rights struggle of the time.”

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carter said that Southern Baptist leaders reading the Bible out of context led to the adoption of increasingly “rigid” views. Defying the largest Protestant denomination in the United States whose leaders also voted to condemn homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and adultery, he stated, “In my opinion, this is a distortion of the meaning of Scripture … I personally feel the Bible says all people are equal in the eyes of God.” Carter continued as a deacon at the Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, where he was a faithful Sunday school teacher drawing congregants and visitors alike to rub shoulders with this humble, heart-warming man.

Carter, 98, decided to spend his last days with his family, supported by palliative care rather than medical intervention.

We should nod our heads, hold hands together, and allow our hearts to embrace these words from the scriptures according to Jimmy Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”