Monthly Archives: November 2012

Five must-read, must-see links

Brilliant advocacy of a new mobile ad format by Eric Picard.

The American election, predicted by typography. Two sets of superb analysis here and here.

Rolling Stone to publish in both English and Spanish in the same issue.

Umbrella Seven: 33,500 readers in its first month since it went to iPad. Proof that intelligent, curious men need decent media.

Tremendous piece from the brilliant Naomi Klein on climate change post Hurricane Sandy.


Rihanna. Showing us that the newsstand is the ideal place to turn on, tune in, and drop out

rihanna unapologeticHere’s Rihanna, in the latest promotional picture for her new album, Unapologetic. I haven’t heard the record yet, but I’m mightily impressed by this image.

Magazines are Young! Sexy! Fashionable! And judging by the dangling doobie, dangerous to boot. She’s even kindly shut her eyes, to make sure we’re not distracted from any of the cover logos. We’ll get back to the music in a moment, but for now, let’s look at Rihanna and the three Vogue covers she has appeared on in the last 18 months.

Rihanna Vogue Apr 2011This is her first American Vogue cover from April 2011. Shot by Annie Leibovitz, to me it looks just completely brilliant. Eye contact, hair, styling, composition, everything.

Rihanna vogue nov 2011Here is her first British Vogue cover, from November of the same year, photographed by Alasdair McLellan. It’s just as good, but it also eloquently illustrates the differences between the two versions of the brand.

The British look is much cooler. There are fewer lines, and significantly, the head does not cover the logo. Instead, the middle letter is dropped out, which allows the head to be visible, whilst retaining the brand mark to the fore.

British Vogue never cover their logo. Of the two options this is much the stronger brand position. Conversely, American Vogue almost always put the star over the logo. Despite the strength of their brand, I can only assume they do this because their audience insists on the celebrity being at the very front regardless.

Rihanna Vogue nov 2012Which brings us to this, Rihanna’s latest American Vogue cover, from November 2012. Taken again by Annie Leibovitz, it’s a very different picture compared to the previous year. have been running a poll as to what their readers think is the best. I can’t tell you which cover won, as I was obliged me to sign up to to get the results, which frankly, I just couldn’t be arsed with.

But I don’t need a poll to tell me I don’t like this new cover. Aside from the weird wheat field and the unreadable type, I find myself looking for clues as to what’s really going on here. What does the pixie cut saying about her feelings for Chris Brown? Does she look in control? What does the pose mean?

In the Guardian Alex Petredis’s excellent review of her new record suggests that whilst the music might be good, Rihanna’s obsession with her violent ex is still deeply disturbing. It’s a fine piece of writing, and generated lively comments, as you might expect.

For me, I still subscribe to the idea that at heart, pop music is all about haircuts. I think a New Do is in order.


It’s Charming, Chiseled and…Green. But will it sell?

people magazine channing tatumHere’s the latest issue of People, sporting their opinion as to the Sexiest Man Alive. This picture is genuinely different to what anyone might have have expected. The image is coy, slightly sideways on. There’s an awul lot of green involved, which is not a conventional ‘sexy’ colour. And there’s very little flesh, which is surprising given that Channing Tatum is the totally ripped and often topless star of Magic Mike.

So does it work?

The Daily Mail certainly think so, as it has featured prominently in their ‘Right Rail Of Shame’. Opinion in the office has been divided, some are impressed by the ‘off-ish’ stance, and that idea he’s ‘definitely saying something with his eyes’. Others have been less kind, ‘Doofus’ has been mentioned.

But what is a matter of fact, is that this thing will totally rock on the newsstand, the four bright colours alone will see to that. But mixing them down just a touch, and combining with blends and a transparency, keep it feeling premium, at least by mass market measurement. This is a hard act to pull off, as discussed here a few months ago.

The story above the logo is spot on (Vanity Fair have just named the Petraeus scandal ‘Boneland’), and the Justin & Selena split feels like newsstand catnip to me. The lines are good too: ‘Affleck, Beckham, Gosling, shirtless, mustached – and with their dogs‘.

Most importantly, the attention this cover is generating reminds us that succesfull print magazine covers remain highly social, and highly sharable.


‘I, I, I, I made enquiries as to find out why what had happened on Twitter had happened because it seemed to me to be that the, the…’ (cont. p. 94)

john entwistleSo said George Entwistle in his now legendary interview with Today’s John Humphries about the Newsnight scandal. Clearly he had to go. There’s been plenty said about this by all and sundry, so I figured I’d point to the four writers that I think have added the greatest insight to the whole sorry saga so far.

See more

‘The dark satanic mills of creative mass production’

office workerToday, Ben Kay’s blog linked to this long, but moving account of creativity in the advertising agency workplace. Here’s an extract:

“We need six concepts to show the client first thing in the morning, he’s going on holiday. Don’t waste too much time on them though, it’s only meeting-fodder. He’s only paying for one so they don’t all have to be good, just knock something up. You know the drill. Oh, and one more thing. His favourite color is green. Rightho! See you in the morning then… I’m off to the Groucho Club.”

It’s a very personal account, and doesn’t reflect my own experience here in the publishing industry. But that said, there moments where I do recognise myself… Good comments on Ben’s blog too, notably from Mark Denton.

(Picture courtesy of Lifehacker, who themselves have some pretty solid tips on how to get out of the office on time)

When Instagram really works. And when it doesn’t.

new york magazineHere is the latest, much admired New York Magazine cover, showing what the city’s power outage looked like after Hurricane Sandy. For the full story, have a look at this excellent post at Time, that explains exactly how New York Magazine conceived and executed this amazing photograph.

In order to illustrate the story, Jody Quon, Director of Photography,  decided to shoot from the air. She flew in Iwan Baan, a specialist urban architecture photographer, and then sent him up in a helicopter to take the shot. The result is a masterclass in producing a single, iconic image that captures an entire story. It’s American editorial muscle in full effect, about as far away from Instagram as you can get.

But is this the best way to visualise a disaster?

No-one wants to read about extreme weather, they want to look at it. When the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, nothing could match the awful, but utterly compelling videos that seemed to go up every hour on the Daily Mail website,

For many, Hurricane Sandy is no less a disaster, but the slower speed of the event meant that it was Instagram that people turned to. Everyone has a phone. Everyone can capture a moment. Unlike the drama of 9/11, this disaster didn’t produce endless defining images, but rather, a hugely textured mosaic of tiny moments, that conveyed the intimacy, tragedy and humanity of the event as well as any Iwo-Jima style ‘Flag raising above the rubble’.

New York floodingRecognising the power of Instagram as a documentary tool, Time magazine turned over their coverage of the hurricane to five hand picked photographers, who, without brand oversight, posted their images directly into’s news stream. You can read the full details of how they did this here and look at their gallery of deeply moving pictures here.

The results were amazing, with the gallery driving 13% of all site traffic in a week when had its fourth-biggest day ever. Time‘s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers, but elsewhere, before the storm had even made landfall, nearly half a million pictures had been posted online under #hurricanesandy. Overall, the storm is likely to be Instagram’s biggest ever event. explained the phenomena like this: ‘It’s the mix of mobile entertainment and utility that makes Instagram such a social force for major events–both celebrations and emergencies. It’s a  visual twitter’

Time magazine coverBut can Instagram produce a cover?

Well, maybe. Here is Time’s cover of the event, utilising one picture from their pool of Instagram images. It’s Ok-ish, but in no way does it represent the entire event. I don’t lay this at the door of the platform. Ben Lowy, who took this picture on his iPhone, has plenty of other images on his blog, many of which are much better.  I think it’s more a case of the editors’ not having a story, or a point of view they wanted to leverage.

Bllomberg sandy coverMuch better is this cover from Bloomberg. Designed by Richard Turley, The World’s Number One Magazine Designer, The picture could be one of a million different images, it really doesn’t matter. What counts is the  American election (It’s the economy, stupid) the coverline, and the power of the design.