Friday, October 16, 2009

Samir Husni Interviews Bob Guccione Jr. -- Why Magazines Are Great, How They Can Be Done Well

Samir Husni, aka "Mr. Magazine," posted a very interesting article on his blog, an interview with serial magazine entrepreneur Bob Guccione Jr. It's well worth reading.

Somewhere in my stacks of magazines I've collected over the years, I have the inaugural issue of Spin magazine from the mid-1980s (not the issue pictured here). Spin was a magazine that really had a large impact on the music and magazine industries. But that wasn't the last we heard of Guccione. He also founded Gear magazine and, for a while, was involved with the science magazine Discover. (I had heard rumors a few years ago that he wanted to revive his father's legendary science/science-fiction/futurist magazine Omni, publishing it as a quarterly and bringing his father on board as consultant or in some such role. I haven't found anything more on that, so my assumption is that it is a dead project, at least for now. But as longtime readers of this blog know, I like revivals of dead SF/science/futurist magazines.)

Guccione is a true magazine person, which is clear from Husni's interview. But I'm even more impressed because he seems to think along the same lines I do when it comes to what's hurting many magazines today and how quality, in-depth material is what will keep the survivors alive or birth new ones.

My father, it was his mission in life to create Penthouse Magazine and it was his mission to adhere to principles and freedom of speech, which he manifested far more in attacking the Nixon administration and going after Jimmy Carter, Reagan, the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, much more so than breaking any nudity barrier. That was a pretty simple barrier to break. It was broken, end of game, move on. For years he did fantastic investigative reporting, which is really why he had so many enemies. Those enemies chose to chase him and [Playboy founder Hugh] Hefner on the obscenity issue, but what they were really trying to do was silence the voice that was irritating to them. To take this a little further, how much money is spent on investigative journalism? People think, what the hell, why spend it? They think readers want sex, gossip, cooking, and tips to flatten their stomachs. That’s when publishing is sort of descended into this blandness of just being ink and paper. The thing that was never boring was that it told you stories you didn’t know. It surprised you. I’m sorry, I love food magazines, but I want to startle. A recipe for risotto isn’t going to surprise anybody, yet an article exposing what this or that administration is doing to deprive us of our rights and our lifestyles, that’s something that’s worth reading.

Check out the entire interview. It's worth your time.

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