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SELF WORTH: Incoming MPA chairman Jack Griffin gave the audience at this year’s American Magazine Conference a shot in the arm on Monday morning — even if it at times seemed like he was whistling in the wind. “This is a great time to be in the magazine industry and an even better time to tell people just that,” the Time Inc. chief executive officer told the crowd at Chicago’s Fairmont hotel. Griffin’s opening remarks were designed to both remind industry insiders of their businesses’ value, and to get them to proselytize about it a little. (He made the point about spreading the news at least one other time.) It was more evidence that the MPA — which as of Monday officially became The Association of Magazine Media, and, like KFC and NPR before it, cast off the actual words behind its abbreviation — is looking to both reinvent itself and find a little of its old swagger in the face of adversity and uncertainty. It’s also looking to make sure potential partners in the e-reader and tablet business know the worth of magazines.
“We’re going to promote assiduously the value of our content,” Griffin added.
It wasn’t all digital strategy on Monday. Later in the morning, Harper’s Bazaar took home the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Cover of the Year award for its December 2009 “Twilight”-themed subscribers’ package shot by Mark Seliger. It was the first time the overall winner came out of the Best Vampire category (It was also the first year for that category.) That was no huge surprise given that readers voted for the winner through Amazon.com. “I knew it had a good chance of winning because, for the last year or so, it’s been on the bulletin board of my 17-year-old daughter, who is a huge fan of Robert Pattinson,” said Hearst Magazines president David Carey after accepting the award.
Desirée Rogers, fresh off a New York Times Sunday Styles profile, spoke on the future of Johnson Publishing Co., where she landed as ceo over the summer. Though a few jokes about her stint as White House social secretary didn’t quite land (“You can laugh — I had a couple zingers in there,” she admonished the crowd), she made a pitch for the broader relevance of the house’s titles. “These books — Ebony and Jet — are not just for African-Americans…[they are] for anyone who wants to understand this country better,” she said.
And where the day started with the case for optimism, it ended with an at-times sardonic keynote from Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at digital advertising firm Vivaki. The futurist won the biggest laughs of the proceedings when he explained that he hated change even though it is his job.
“When people tell you change is good for you, it’s only good for you if your life sucks, and, if change is good [for your business], it’s only good if you business sucks,” he deadpanned. — Matthew Lynch