Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Holiday Hoo-Ha

Yesterday's Pensacola News Journal arrived in the flower bed with a copy of Gannett Corp.'s Bella Magazine stuffed inside. This is "The Holiday Glamour Issue," the cover tells us. "Free" it says in the upper right hand corner.

We've been overcharged.

Bella bills itself on the masthead with these words: "Beautiful women, sassy attitude, smart magazine." We think that's awfully close to false advertising. More accurate would be, "obnoxious writing, repulsive attitudes, stupid advertising vehicle."

The entire magazine is a monument to the mega-media publisher's desperate search for something -- anything -- to generate more advertising revenue. Charging for an issue of Bella Magazine would be just short of a mugging. So they have to give it away for free.

Out of 60 pages in the current issue (counting the paginated front and back covers) 15 are entirely filled with ads, 35 pages are cluttered with a half-page or more of advertisements, and 6 and a half others consist of "holiday trend reports" and other shameless product promotions deceptively disguised as substantive articles.

That leaves 4 and a half pages of actual substance in the 60-page magazine, along with scattered textual breaks between the half-page ads.

As always, however, this hideously high ratio of ads-to-content doesn't stop Gannett from going on the cheap, too. The slick, full-color cover of Bella coordinates with the low-grade newsprint paper inside about as well as cowboy boots with a halter top on a pregnant Britney Spears.

To all appearances, moreover, the greater bulk of the few pages of content were written by just two people, Sloane Stephens Cox and Kimberly Blair. Both are young journalists that show talent when they write for the newspaper. Seeing that talent wasted on Bella's low level of corporate thievery isn't bella to watch. Invece, li rende ammalati.

Magazine "fasionistas" -- to use the repellent yet much-repeated neologism the conscripts at the PNJ employed while shamelessly hyping the magazine -- are scandalized. Or, they would be if they actually get around to reading the print version of Bella.

No one has as yet, it seems. At least, not in print form. We checked with several friends who subscribe to the News Journal to see what they thought. None of them even noticed that Bella had been included in the paper! Every one of them told us they threw it out without really looking at it.

Other than the blatant promotion the News Journal itself gave this wretched spawn, the only other media organ to notice was New York's Gawker, a web site that claims to be providing "daily Manhattan gossip and news" from "the center of the universe."

Gawker apparently made the mistake of assuming the on-line version of Bella was a duplicate of the print version. So it published a deliciously nasty little item claiming that Bella's "fawning profile" of Pensacola native Brooke Parkhurst, featured on the cover, was written by her sister, Sloane Stephens Cox. That would be the same Sloane Stephens Cox listed in the masthead as a "writer" for Bella Magazine.

It turns out, however, that a different byline was attached to the story in the print edition. There, in live black-and-white on cheesy newsprint paper, the Parkhurst cover story is attributed to Ms. Cox's cell mate at Gannett's own version of Abu Ghraib, Kimberly Blair.

Two days ago, Gawker published a correction. Sort of:
Seems that Brooke "Belle in the Big City" Parkhurst was none too pleased that we'd called her sister out for writing a puff piece about Brooke in Bella Pensacola magazine. Turns out, her sister didn't actually write the story, which we apparently would've known if we'd had a print copy of the mag on hand--anyone?--because the mistake only appeared online. Brooke herself emailed us, sniffing,
"i would like a correction on y'all's part but i'm sure that's too much to ask."

Nope, Brooke, not too much at all! See, what happened was that Brooke's sister, Sloane Stephens Cox, usually writes the cover stories for the magazine, and her name automatically comes up when a feature goes online. Whew. We sure are glad that's been resolved.

That anyone connected with Gannett thinks readers would swallow the story that Ms. Cox's name "automatically" is attached to any Bella cover story when it's published on-line is newsworthy in itself. It conveys a rather different corporate attitude about the magazine's target audience than "sassy" and "smart."

Try "stupid" and "gullible."

In the end, that's the root problem with Bella. It isn't that some Pensacola women (and men) aren't interested in "beautiful women" or don't appreciate "sassy" fashion and life style writing -- at least in moderate doses. It's that Pensacola area readers aren't as stupid as Gannett Corp. or its advertisers seems to think.

We know when we're being had by a commercial flier gussied up to look like a real magazine. And that's all Bella amounts to.

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Kate said...

Well done! I agree these magazines are a waste of paper!

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