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The Primitivist Movement
Next year may belong to magazines aimed at a new and very particular reader — one who’s disgusted with the perfectionism, materialism and racy coverlines of the current crop. They might find Wal-Mart’s current darling more satisfying, however — American Magazine, a contemporary update on the Saturday Evening Post that somehow has even less bite. Launched in Memphis by Mignonne Wright, a 29-year-old with no big-league publishing experience, American landed on Wal-Mart’s shelves last year after Wright cold-called the megachain’s magazine buyer. Now the bimonthly has a national distribution of 100,000 copies.
There is nothing edgy, polished or cynical about it. Its unassuming optimism and love of the warm and fuzzy feels alien compared to the current publishing landscape. Now it’s been joined by Rescue, another bimonthly whose founder, a former chef named Dan Ho, refers to it as an “anti-lifestyle” magazine. On newsstands now, it’s aiming for 50,000 copies an issue. “We all know what you need to do to make the slipcover,” Ho said. “We all know what you need to do to create the perfect Christmas table. All the other magazines are very prescriptive, and we’re challenging the notion that you need a prescription to have style.” Rescue is guided by the idea that a life lived in pursuit of Martha Stewart is an empty one.
Wright and Ho aren’t the first to realize this. Reader’s Digest chief executive officer Tom Ryder staked his company on the idea when he purchased Reiman Publications last year for $760 million. Folksy, ad-free Reiman titles like Country Woman and Taste of Home are driven entirely by subscriptions and usually filled with reader-provided stories and recipes. They’re about as unslick as magazines can get. And that’s why they were worth so much.