Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tomorrow's fish and chips paper

Blender was shuttered this week. The news wasn’t a huge surprise, given that Folio had reported in January that ad pages there were down 30.6 percent. Not a promising indicator, that. The issue currently on newsstands weighs in 72 pages, which is pretty close to a “mayday!” signal. So it was hardly surprising to hear that Blender’s new owners, Alpha Media Group, were pulling the plug.

What may come as a surprise to some is that Blender was a failure despite having a paid circulation of roughly 780,000. It wasn’t that the magazine couldn’t find readers; the problem was that it couldn’t find advertisers who wanted to reach those readers. One of the ironies of magazine publishing is that the larger your circulation, the more dependent you are on advertising, as printing and distribution costs become too high to be covered by the cover price. That’s why niche magazines with small circulation often survive while larger, mass-market titles fail.

I worked at Blender for about seven months, until I quit to move to Canada. I edited the reviews section, which was one of the magazine’s strongest features. Unlike most American pop magazines, which seem to treat the reviews section as an afterthought, Blender recognized reviews as a major selling point. Not everyone agreed with their approach, of course, and even writers who contributed to the section complained about the enforced brevity of the reviews (110 words while I was there, although they later ballooned up to 135). But there’s something about the discipline of short reviews that really focuses criticism, requiring the writer to make a point clearly and succinctly.

Thinking about the demise of Blender left me wondering just how many now-defunct publications I’ve written for over the years, so I decided to assemble a list. It’s roughly chronological and as complete as I could manage, although I’m sure I’m forgetting something:

New York Rocker
The Baltimore News-American
Standing Ovation
Guitar for the Practicing Musician
Guitar World Acoustic
Bass Guitar

A pity your Arsenic Touch hasn't had any effect on Rolling Stone to date...

So, where are you adding to the 3,000,000 words these days?
Hey J.D., just discovered that you have a blog (although it looks somewhat sporadic) and it occurred to me that I had a question about your David Mott article yesterday. I didn't think he was old enough to have witnessed a performance of Love Supreme (perhaps he is) but more importantly the only known live performance of ALS was July 26, 1965 at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, France. If he heard it there, he was fortunate indeed, if he heard it somewhere else, that would be a major discovery. Did he mention where he heard it, do you know? ... Nou Dadoun
Tom -

My main outlets these days are the Globe and Mail, Canada's National Newspaper, and Revolver, the World's Loudest Rock Magazine.

Nou -

Mott made two mentions of seeing Coltrane, and the second was of seeing him at a club in Boston. I don't honestly know if those two refer to the same concert or not, and because I was focused on talking about his own composition, I didn't think to follow up.
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