12 Posts of Christmas: Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

This one was written after Paper Giants aired on ABC in April, comparing the heyday of magazines with the impact of the digital world. You can read the original post here.

A few weeks ago, in response to ABC’s Paper Giants: The Birth of CleoMia Freedman wrote on MamaMia about her thoughts on the state of the (mag) nation and if magazines are still relevant and the amount of influence they wield in 2011:

“… Not that much excitement goes on in magazines anymore… [It’s a struggle to] get them [those who work on a magazine] to try and think about something that hasn’t been done before, something that will start a conversation and boost sales.”

Freedman compares pay TV’s Park Street, a The Devil Wears Prada-esque reality show about ACP’s head offices, featuring the editors of DollyCleoCosmoMadison and Shop Til You Drop, which received dismal ratings and poor audience response, to the critical success and brilliant take on Cleo in her influential heyday of Paper Giants. She says, “Gemma Crisp [editor of Cleo] explained the editorial process that a story undergoes from conception to publication. It takes a minimum of three months… When was the last time you waited three months for something? Life doesn’t happen in increments of months anymore. It happens in moments, in text messages, in Tweets. It’s fast and it’s relentless and if it takes you three months (or even three weeks) to get from thought to print then that’s just too long to retain the attention of your audience.”

When she puts it like that, Freedman makes me long for a simpler time, when I hung on the every word magazines published, as opposed to reading hundreds of articles a week, mostly on blogs, but also in magazines, in an attempt to stay on top of my blogging game.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and a former mag girl herself, says Freedman’s “blog-cum-website” “deals in what everyone’s talking about TODAY. It feeds off the 24-hour news cycle. And Mia’s own profile. And her opinion… It’s like a current affairs program for women online.” And now with MamaMia launching on SkyNews, Freedman’s brand is literally a current affairs program.

Not all blogs can operate this way. MamaMia has a team of bloggers, editors and techs who keep the site running smoothly which thus, as Bartle said, allows it to operate on a 24-hour news cycle.

Personally, I have a part-time paid job I go to four times a week, this means I only get to blog two or three days a week, and with so much info to process and a maximum of 15 posts per week to churn out in a small amount of time, this means I can’t always post as early and as often as I’d like.

But even for those who blog fulltime, like Bartle, it’s not always about what’s happening right NOW as it is about maintaining the blog’s integrity.“I personally operate on a different plane, because my beliefs very much inform my work. For that, I’m willing to sacrifice certain economic constraints,” she says.

Still in the blogging world, you have someone like Gala Darling, who is very much a self-made businesswoman as a result of her über-successful blog of the same name. She’s gone from strength to strength over the past few years; something she could never have done had she been a magazine editor (bar the select few, like Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo and yes, Freedman).

But, essentially, MamaMia has the advantage of possessing “a figurehead with credibility whose background is in traditional media. She has the gut instinct of an editor. Online you need news nous as well as technological nous and business nous.”

Another editor who has these qualities in spades is former Cleo and Girlfriend editor, Sarah Oakes, whom Bartle worked under at Girlfriend. Bartle says she invoked an atmosphere of ghosts of magazines past, creating “camaraderie, creativity and positivity, which I think she achieved. She gave you more work if she thought you could be stretched; gave you a talking to if you had crossed a line; gave you a pat on the back for a job well done.” Very Ita-like, wouldn’t you say?

Oakes is now editor of The Age Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday Life supplement, a title which has improved markedly since she took over. (I have also blogged here about how I think both Girlfriend and Cleo became better titles under her leadership.)

In fact, newspaper inserts are giving the glossies on the newsstand a run for their money, as they “are getting exclusives and have strong writing and design teams, as well as columnists and styling/shoots. These free weekly titles, because of the mastheads they reside within, have enviable readerships and access to celebrities. They are also respectable, well executed and FREE,” Bartle notes.

But at the end of the day, are magazines relevant?

Freedman writes:

“The internet has not only sucked up their readers, it has also gobbled up their purpose: to be a way women form tribes and communicate. Now there’s YouPorn and any other number of sites for titillation, Google for questions about sex, and any number of websites or free newspaper magazines if you’re looking for other types of content or a magazine-style experience. Women don’t want to be spoken TO anymore. They want to be part of the conversation, something which the internet allows, in fact depends on… the internet has taken the sting out of the raunch-factor for mags like Cosmo and Cleo.”

Yes, as Freedman says, there are much raunchier locales to get what would have been included in a sealed section only a few years ago. There’s also Perez Hilton, TMZ and even shows like Entertainment Tonight and E! News that monopolise celebrity content, while the fashion blogs are more of a go-to for what kids are wearing these days.

Sure, Vogue’s always going to be a premiere source for high fashion shoots from photographers the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and David LaChapelle, but magazines “seem to exist on a strangely distant planet where all the people look like plastic and the sole pursuit is ‘perfection’. Except that perfection doesn’t really exist,” says Freedman.

When sites like JezebelCover Girl Culture and, yes, MamaMia and Girl with a Satchel are debunking photoshop myths and striving for more realistic representations of women in the media, magazines are doing this movement any favours. (Except maybe Brigitte.)

And when you can get most of a magazine’s content online anyway (I passed on a near-$20 copy of US Harper’s Bazaar in favour of accessing interviews with Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton on their website), are they really worth it?

Bartle doesn’t think so. “No, but they need to be distinctive from what we can get online or elsewhere if we are going to part with $5-$10 to purchase one. Premium magazines, which I have no qualms spending extra on, include The Gentlewoman and O The Oprah Magazine, because they cater to my tastes, sensibility and need for a good read on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea.”

I agree with Bartle’s sentiments.

While online is great for content from individuals not curated and/or watered down by magazines editors to fit the mold of their magazine, holding a truly great glossy in your hands, like the appeal of a physical book, while at the hairdressers, a café or tucked up in bed, means magazines will always hold a place in our hearts.

Right next to the Kindle and Google Reader.

Related: Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants.

Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

Everything They Touch Turns To Gold.

Evolution of the Bookshop at The Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Paper Giants VS. Park Street: Why Magazines Are Not What They Used to Be.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[Girl with a Satchel] Homepage.

[Girl with a Satchel] Mid-Week Media Musings.

[Gala Darling] Homepage.

Magazines: Paper Dwarves, Digital Giants?

 

A few weeks ago, in response to ABC’s Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Mia Freedman wrote on MamaMia about her thoughts on the state of the (mag) nation and if magazines are still relevant and the amount of influence they wield in 2011:

“… Not that much excitement goes on in magazines anymore… [It’s a struggle to] get them [those who work on a magazine] to try and think about something that hasn’t been done before, something that will start a conversation and boost sales.”

Freedman compares pay TV’s Park Street, a The Devil Wears Prada-esque reality show about ACP’s head offices, featuring the editors of Dolly, Cleo, Cosmo, Madison and Shop Til You Drop, which received dismal ratings and poor audience response, to the critical success and brilliant take on Cleo in her influential heyday of Paper Giants. She says, “Gemma Crisp [editor of Cleo] explained the editorial process that a story undergoes from conception to publication. It takes a minimum of three months… When was the last time you waited three months for something? Life doesn’t happen in increments of months anymore. It happens in moments, in text messages, in Tweets. It’s fast and it’s relentless and if it takes you three months (or even three weeks) to get from thought to print then that’s just too long to retain the attention of your audience.”

When she puts it like that, Freedman makes me long for a simpler time, when I hung on the every word magazines published, as opposed to reading hundreds of articles a week, mostly on blogs, but also in magazines, in an attempt to stay on top of my blogging game.

Erica Bartle, creator of Girl with a Satchel and a former mag girl herself, says Freedman’s “blog-cum-website” “deals in what everyone’s talking about TODAY. It feeds off the 24-hour news cycle. And Mia’s own profile. And her opinion… It’s like a current affairs program for women online.” And now with MamaMia launching on SkyNews, Freedman’s brand is literally a current affairs program.

Not all blogs can operate this way. MamaMia has a team of bloggers, editors and techs who keep the site running smoothly which thus, as Bartle said, allows it to operate on a 24-hour news cycle.

Personally, I have a part-time paid job I go to four times a week, this means I only get to blog two or three days a week, and with so much info to process and a maximum of 15 posts per week to churn out in a small amount of time, this means I can’t always post as early and as often as I’d like.

But even for those who blog fulltime, like Bartle, it’s not always about what’s happening right NOW as it is about maintaining the blog’s integrity.“I personally operate on a different plane, because my beliefs very much inform my work. For that, I’m willing to sacrifice certain economic constraints,” she says.

Still in the blogging world, you have someone like Gala Darling, who is very much a self-made businesswoman as a result of her über-successful blog of the same name. She’s gone from strength to strength over the past few years; something she could never have done had she been a magazine editor (bar the select few, like Anna Wintour, Anna Dello Russo and yes, Freedman).

But, essentially, MamaMia has the advantage of possessing “a figurehead with credibility whose background is in traditional media. She has the gut instinct of an editor. Online you need news nous as well as technological nous and business nous.”

Another editor who has these qualities in spades is former Cleo and Girlfriend editor, Sarah Oakes, whom Bartle worked under at Girlfriend. Bartle says she invoked an atmosphere of ghosts of magazines past, creating “camaraderie, creativity and positivity, which I think she achieved. She gave you more work if she thought you could be stretched; gave you a talking to if you had crossed a line; gave you a pat on the back for a job well done.” Very Ita-like, wouldn’t you say?

Oakes is now editor of The Age & Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday Life supplement, a title which has improved markedly since she took over. (I have also blogged here about how I think both Girlfriend and Cleo became better titles under her leadership.)

In fact, newspaper inserts are giving the glossies on the newsstand a run for their money, as they “are getting exclusives and have strong writing and design teams, as well as columnists and styling/shoots. These free weekly titles, because of the mastheads they reside within, have enviable readerships and access to celebrities. They are also respectable, well executed and FREE,” Bartle notes.

But at the end of the day, are magazines relevant?

Freedman writes:

“The internet has not only sucked up their readers, it has also gobbled up their purpose: to be a way women form tribes and communicate. Now there’s YouPorn and any other number of sites for titillation, Google for questions about sex, and any number of websites or free newspaper magazines if you’re looking for other types of content or a magazine-style experience. Women don’t want to be spoken TO anymore. They want to be part of the conversation, something which the internet allows, in fact depends on… the internet has taken the sting out of the raunch-factor for mags like Cosmo and Cleo.”

Yes, as Freedman says, there are much raunchier locales to get what would have been included in a sealed section only a few years ago. There’s also Perez Hilton, TMZ and even shows like Entertainment Tonight and E! News that monopolise celebrity content, while the fashion blogs are more of a go-to for what kids are wearing these days.

Sure, Vogue’s always going to be a premiere source for high fashion shoots from photographers the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and David LaChapelle, but magazines “seem to exist on a strangely distant planet where all the people look like plastic and the sole pursuit is ‘perfection’. Except that perfection doesn’t really exist,” says Freedman.

When sites like Jezebel, Cover Girl Culture and, yes, MamaMia and Girl with a Satchel are debunking photoshop myths and striving for more realistic representations of women in the media, magazines are doing this movement any favours. (Except maybe Brigitte.)

And when you can get most of a magazine’s content online anyway (I passed on a near-$20 copy of US Harper’s Bazaar in favour of accessing interviews with Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton on their website), are they really worth it?

Bartle doesn’t think so. “No, but they need to be distinctive from what we can get online or elsewhere if we are going to part with $5-$10 to purchase one. Premium magazines, which I have no qualms spending extra on, include The Gentlewoman and O The Oprah Magazine, because they cater to my tastes, sensibility and need for a good read on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea.”

I agree with Bartle’s sentiments.

While online is great for content from individuals not curated and/or watered down by magazines editors to fit the mold of their magazine, holding a truly great glossy in your hands, like the appeal of a physical book, while at the hairdressers, a café or tucked up in bed, means magazines will always hold a place in our hearts.

Right next to the Kindle and Google Reader.

Related: Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo Review.

Everything They Touch Turns To Gold.

The Evolution of the Bookshop at The Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Paper Giants VS. Park Street: Why Magazines Are Not What They Used to Be.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[Girl with a Satchel] Homepage.

[Girl with a Satchel] Mid-Week Media Musings.

[Gala Darling] Homepage.

Images via ABC, MamaMia, Teacup.

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Rihanna said it herself: “They watched ‘Umbrella’… I was full nude.”

So why so much fuss about her latest offering, “S&M”?

Sure, the title, lyrics and film clip are controversial at best, but once they are unwrapped and their true meaning is revealed, the song is more a dig at the press and Rihanna’s sadomasochistic relationship with them, hence Perez Hilton’s appearance.

The video does deal with sexual violence also, which Rihanna is no stranger to, but this time around it’s consensual violence. Jezebel explains:

“It’s notable, though, following her assault by Chris Brown, that in the video for ‘S&M,’ she’s interested in exploring consensual acts of violence and aggression, and finding pleasure in pain. Although she does appear bound in the video (as well as literally restrained by the media), mostly she plays the role of a dominant, perhaps to prove (or remind us) that she’s the one in control. Is this the desire of one who’s been called a victim? To recast oneself as authoritative and commanding?”

The film clip—the aspect of the song that has drawn the most controversy—is actually not that bad, in my opinion. It’s got a bright, pop-arty feel (a direction which the singer seems to be heading in these days), and “shows us a bright, vivid, eye-popping adult playground of her own imaginative making, exciting chains and whips [just happen to be] included.”

Where “Madonna and Lady Gaga have cornered the market on the black pleather and whips on white backgrounds of the S&M-themed music-video world… Rihanna is refusing to cede them the entire territory: She’ll do S&M if she wants to, she’s just going to make it really, really goofy.”

Granted, both Madonna and Lady Gaga’s videos and music are a cut above Rihanna’s, who is somewhere between Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Gaga’s “Telephone”, but you’ve got to admit: “S&M” is something a bit different, and something that’s getting people talking. And that’s the aim of the game, right?

Think of Rihanna’s other videos for a moment: “Te Amo” featured Laetitia Casta as Rihanna’s lesbian love interest; “Rude Boy” shows the singer peeking down the pants of a male dancer; her collaboration with Eminem in “Love the Way You Lie” dealt with domestic violence; and the aforementioned “Umbrella” marked her transition from “good girl” to “gone bad”.

Lyric-wise, “S&M” (Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones/But whips and chains excite me) is probably equally as graphic as “Rude Boy” (Come here rude boy, boy, can you get it up?/Come here rude boy, boy, is you big enough?). But officials in the UK don’t think so, with the song being completely reworked and renamed (“Come On”) so it can get radio play.

I do see their point—that they’re trying to protect the children or something—but if that’s the case, just don’t play the video on Video Hits; save it for cable television or late-night music programs. But that’s also the combined beauty and curse of the internet age: tech-savvy kids are just going to access the video online.

Related: Whipped Cream Feminism: The Underlying Message in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video.

Elsewhere: [Digital Spy] Rihanna Video Labeled Inappropriate.

[Billboard] Sneak Peak of Rihanna’s “S&M” Video.

[Jezebel] Rihanna’s New Video Celebrates Ball-Gags, Whips & Latex.

[The New Gay] Yes, Master: Rihanna’s S&M World.

[New York Magazine] Rihanna Gets Tied Up in Technicolour for S&M Video.

Images via YouTube.

TV: The Hills Finale—All Good Things Must Come to an End.

 

A lot of viewers might have argued that The Hills had passed its prime awhile ago, probably around the time its star, Lauren Conrad, bid farewell midway through season five.

While that may be somewhat true (personally, my favourite seasons were the second half of season three, and season four), The Hills has always been what it was intended to be; a guilty pleasure.

It was also one of the first shows to really catapult the “scripted reality” notion into the mainstream, in the footsteps of which so many others followed: The Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Girls of the Playboy Mansion and pretty much every other MTV show since The Hills’ debut (bar Jersey Shore, which Perez Hilton, in last week’s column for Famous, called “raw [and] real”the antithesis of The Hills).

But the buzz has been around the show’s final episode, which aired two weeks ago in the US, and which Australia is still waiting for.

After so much criticism of the action on the show being fake vs. real, with scenes being shot several times for the best angles (both camera- and storyline-wise) and “cut up to death”, the producers and writers (?) decided to capitalise on that allure.

SPOILER ALERT: The final scene sees Kristin Cavallari and Stacie Hall packing the rest of Kristin’s things into a waiting car, as she’s moving to Europe (E! television personality Joel McHale of The Soup hilariously noted that Europe is a continent, not a country, and Kristin never once mentioned where in Europe she was going!), to “find myself” and “figure out what I want”. Brody Jenner is waiting by the car to say a final goodbye to Kristin, who told Brody she loved him but was knocked back. He says he would have got together with her if he knew she would move away when he rejected her. Kristin says “that’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear”, but she’s still going. They hug, kiss, cry, and the car drives away with Kristin inside, leaving Brody brooding beneath the Hollywood sign.

As the camera pans out, the Hollywood sign starts moving, and it is revealed that Brody is standing on a film lot. Kristin runs from the car as the director yells “cut!”, embracing Brody as the two are congratulated by the crew for wrapping the last scene. END SPOILER ALERT.

Confusing, much?!

While The Hills season final may not get as much publicity and/or examination as, say, The Sopranos or LOST, it is a clever poke at the media and Hollywood. Brody said:

“I think the show has always battled with what’s real and what’s fake, and this ending was perfect because you still don’t know what was real, what was fake and it’s kind of like LA in a sense.”

Oh, how poignant!

There are still a lot of loose ends that fans are left hanging with, though, and I guess that’s the dilemma of having a “reality” show that is based on the real lives of its stars, but it scripted to within an inch of its life, and some of its stars (ie. Speidi) can’t reconcile those difference.

I would like to know what happened with Heidi and Spencer, and if they ever reconciled with Holly, Heidi’s sister, and their mother, Darlene. And if Audrina finds what she’s looking for by moving out of Hollywood. Ditto Kristin in Europe.

But I guess we will find these things out in Heidi’s new reality show with The Hills alum Jen Bunney, and Audrina’s rumoured show, The Audrina Patridge Show.

Until then, there’s always the tabloids.

Related: The Hills Have (Dead) Eyes.

Elsewhere: [MTV] Brody Jenner Reveals Alternate Hills Ending with Lauren Conrad.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

In Perez Hilton’s words, “2010 has really been the year of the cheater”. First we had Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, which broke late last year but has continued to be a headline grabbing story, then Jesse James’ spiral of shame, and now David Boreanaz, who went public a few weeks ago with news that he cheated on his wife of almost nine years, Jaime Bergman.

And last year was the year of the sports scandal, you might say, with the Matthew Johns group sex story coming to light in May.

What do all these men, with, perhaps, the exception of James, have in common? Their shady pasts have virtually been forgotten in favour of their more positive talents. Boreanaz plays the lead in hit TV series Bones, Johns now hosts his own self-titled show, and Tiger is back on the Masters tour.

While the wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly no one bats an eyelid. To take it even further, O.J. Simpson, although acquitted of double murder, was held up as a hero amongst African Americans in Los Angeles following his trial, despite being thought of as guilty in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps this is just a sign of the times changing; that our society has become so desensitised to notions of war, violence, drugs and sexual depravity that they are not longer taboo. I would argue that this is true to some extent it is not reflected on the other end of the spectrum.

For example, a recently refurbished Heidi Montag admitted to undergoing 10 cosmetic surgical procedures in one day because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She obviously has deep-rooted body dysmorphic issues, however instead of helping and supporting her, the public has turned on her.

The same could be said of the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans’ of the world. A recent Jezebel article, “In Defence of Lindsay Lohan”, was in support of the former child star everyone loves to hate.

Sure, Lindsay has a father who “is a nightmare… and her mother is more of a friend than a parental figure. So perhaps she is lacking in guidance and role models. But who among us, in some way, is not? Her experience [of growing up in the spotlight]… is not one many people can relate to, anyway.”

The author surmises that the public’s fascination with Lindsay and their “build-you-up-to-take-you-down” mentality is much simpler: “She’s 23-years-old and being ripped to shreds in the press mostly because she goes out at night.”

Right. Someone like Colin Farrell has had a sex tape released, sexual misconduct allegations brought against him and has battled substance abuse problems, however he is still held up as a Golden Globe-winning actor. We all know Lindsay has the acting chops, it’s just a matter of her getting out of her own way. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

The beautifully tragic Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were, and still are, vilified for being just that. Even in death, the girls can’t catch a break.

So that brings us back to the question, why do men get away with so much more than women can? Or, more to the point, why are men almost celebrated for their wrongdoings while women are banished into social oblivion?

I think, in a nation that celebrates sport as the highest level of achievement, especially, we want to give our sportsmen the benefit of the doubt. While I do think we focus too much on sport as the be all and end all of success in Australia, and the very nature of being “Australian”, it can be seen as admirable to offer someone a second chance. Johns, for example, could be seen as brave for coming forward and being the only one of his Cronulla Sharks teammates to own up to his mistake. But I do think it’s a bit soon to be running a television show off his back.

However, we also like to kick people when they’re down. Britney Spears, for example, was heralded as the princess of pop in her golden days, but when she started donning pink wigs, speaking to herself in a British accent in the gutter, and being carted off to the looney bin, we wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, I’m sorry, only to denigrate her on the cover of tabloid magazines.

Then last year she launched her comeback tour, and everyone was back on her side. That is, until, she lip synched (come on, it’s Britney! When has she ever not lip synched?) her way through Australia and out of our collective consciousness.

But how many second chances are we going to give these men, in particular? Charlie Sheen was embroiled in his latest domestic dispute over Christmas last year. But what of his past child pornography, prostitute and drug allegations? Not to mention the shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston in a domestic dispute. Do we just sweep them under the rug too so that Sheen can keep the $1.2 million per episode of Two & a Half Men coming?

When these mistakes are hurting people other than themselves, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do we really care if Lindsay, Britney or Mischa are off to rehab again? And shouldn’t we be caring that Jesse James allegedly ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers headquarters and is apparently a white supremacist? Or that Sheen is essentially being rewarded by the cash cow that is Hollywood for his reprehensible behaviour? Or that Tiger sleptand somehow found time to golfhis way across the country in a narcissistic bubble of admiration from his countrymenand women?

Related: All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] In Defence of Lindsay Lohan.