Out mag’s redesign highlights new editor, reader relationship

Over at Towleroad.com they’re discussing Out magazine’s redesign. (Disclosures**)

After two warm up issues, the new editor, Aaron Hicklin, is breathing life into the old guy. Though it’s stayed the most read gay magazine for 13 years, it’s had a tough time staying “must read.”***

Hicklin started nicely and from a tough position. I’ll reserve real judgment until i see the whole issue. The Planet out gay industrial complex PR team pumped out something more than standard launch hyperbole promising the redesign will bring a new day for all gays. Also,

“Out is repositioning itself in the hierarchy of sophisticated fashion magazines.”

…which is as unparseable as the non-sequitorial, sartorial equating of “more fashion”

with maturity in the quotable release quote, “gay grows up.”First media notices were generous and open. Not so the blog commenters, real readers outside the media game. Punches were not pulled and they trashed the magazine from concept to logo kerning.Towleroad’s were super snarky, lashing out with a frustration that clearly went beyond not liking the cover design and to the intense desire to see themselves as they are (or perhaps as they would like to be).

I never had to deal with that kind of immediacy in print…before the issue hit subscribers…but i have dealt with flames since. Hinklin did good. He posted a note through Andy, “We invite readers of Towleroad to put their brains where their mouths are, and spend time with the magazine over the next six months.” and offered a bunch of free 6 month subscriptions.

Nice. Not a page from the more traditional, unwritten, old-school editor’s book, WWAD (“What Would Anna Do“) Much more Cluetrain Manifesto. They got 50 addresses in less than 15 minutes. And comments–at least about the editor–got a lot nicer.

In addition, accept my congrats on the launch with my best wishes for success in forging the right magazine for this moment and having a good time doing it.

(But, since you’re asking for insights…and i don’t have a magazine…First, those commenters are not agitating for more fashion, and can make your mag work if they like it. Second, retool your press released vision of making the mag “more reflective of modern gay culture: more celebratory and less political.” Never before have so many people had such a good time talking about gay marriage, being out at work, living where they want, openly celebrating their relationships, and not taking shit for living their lives as they see fit. They may call it other things, but every bit of it is political in its impact. It’s all good material.

An anything goes, political, fashionable, and self-ridiculing mag is a whole lot more fun to make and read.
**Disclosures: I’m helping Andy with Towleroad.com, and I was the founder and editor-in-chief of Out magazine way back when I could register out.com. Funny to check in and see the “Hunk of the day” and the early-morning-rewrite of the gay items from gossip columns we launched with, using Mosaic (later Netscape). The technology has come a long way, and there are ads on the net now, but some base editorial things just work for the audience. Wish I’d registered more domains, and wish i didn’t sound like some really old guy talking about the 60s or something. ….just let me tell you about ACTUP…
**ASIDE: Others without certain post-engagement contractual clauses might put it differently.

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