Friday, November 13, 2009

Media Roundup: Augmented Reality, Playboy's Threads, Magazine Industry Promotions

The latest from the weird world of media:
  • Samir Husni experiments with the latest fad to hit magazines that are bored with being magazines: augmented reality. He checks out Colors and Esquire, both of which employ AR in their newest issues. My Esquire hasn't arrived yet in the mail, but until it does, I'm informed by Husni's experience that my previous assumptions that Esquire is being smart PR-wise but dumb content wise were correct. Husni notes, "The result was fun, captivating and useless, all three in one… like eating cotton candy…eating all that hot air that will satisfy your taste buds but will leave you hungry rather than satisfied." Now isn't that what you want people saying about your magazine?
  • One Twitterer (nittwit?) commented today, "Playboy may be sold to Iconix Brand Group (London Fog). That will be a sad day. The mag. enterprise could easily be salvaged instead." I tend to agree that the magazine is the important thing -- from the early 1960s through the early 1980s, it was one of the most powerful magazines in the country, socially and politically (and economically). Nonetheless, if Iconix does turn out to be a successful buyer for the company, I don't think that necessarily means the magazine's in trouble, or not more trouble than it's in today. After all, Iconix owns Joe Boxer, London Fog, and a ton of other brands. It must be smart enough to see the magazine as a marketing tool for those brands; an ad page in a magazine purchased by 1.5 million people a month is a great place to get traction. But I think another thing is not being noticed, at least in the United States: Playboy is a clothing brand, as well. It has a string of successful Playboy stores in China, for example. Go to eBay's Chinese or Hong Kong sites and do a search for "playboy." You'll see just how many non-magazine items there are. I continue to think that Iconix could be a good choice; and if it's not that company in the end that is the buyer, it at least shows that Playboy's being pretty smart in choosing its dance partners.
  • But wait: There's more! The Los Angeles Times reports that Playboy's also talking with another potential suiter, a group led by the company's former entertainment chief Jim Griffiths. Both deals are estimated to be worth more than $300 million, and both would take the company private. (I never thought Playboy should be a public company, anyway, and it has only gotten more expensive and self-defeating to be a public company in the past decade. Sarbanes Oxley itself is reason enough to go private if you can.) The Times reports, "[Playboy CEO Scott] Flanders said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that he wanted to grow Playboy by focusing on brand licensing and location-based entertainment, such as nightclubs. That probably would be the plan as well for Iconix, which owns and licenses several well-known brands such as London Fog, Starter and Joe Boxer." More good news, then.
  • Enough Playboy news. For those of you train-wreck fans, CBS has put out some excerpts of Sarah Palin's interview with Oprah. Headline news: She doesn't like Levi Johnston, and she admits her interviews with Katie Couric weren't successful.
  • And, finally, the cavalry is here. Several magazine bigwigs, including Rolling Stone and Us Weekly's Jann Wenner, Hearst Magazines' Cathie Black, and Time Inc's Ann Moore,  are planning to join together to promote magazines as an industry. Maybe they'll use Augmented Reality. I'm sure Jann Wenner does.

(My previous media roundup.)

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