Magalogs - Send the Sizzle or the Steak (1,821 words)
by Denny Hatch
A direct mail format that has always baffled me is the magalog—that curious 81⁄2˝ x 11˝ booklet that is a cross between a magazine and a catalog.
The very first magalog was a self-mailer written by freelancer Dick Sanders and designed by freelancer William Fridrich in the mid-1980s for Dick Fabian's Telephone Switch Newsletter. Sanders' sales letters kept getting longer and longer, and he kept wanting to make them longer still. At the same time, the creative team felt the need to break up the information. Clearly a new format was needed, and since Fabian had done a self-mailer, Sanders and Fridrich took the envelope package and turned it into a big self-mailer that contained all the basic elements: premium page, lift letter, charts, sidebars, bind-in business reply envelope, premium page and a letter that was integrated into the piece. Their reasoning: Wherever the reader goes, there will be something of interest.
A year later, freelancer Jim Rutz and designer Ed Elliott (now with Phillips Publishing) created a magalog for Personal Finance under the direction of Vicki Moffitt. She, in turn, showed the format to the great direct mail freelancer Gary Bencivenga whose powerful subscription efforts for newsletters contained long letters—eight-, 12- and 16 pages and sometimes longer. Bencivenga came up with the idea of saddle stitching the letter into a booklet and adding a cover panel to make it look more like a special report than a sales pitch. In subsequent iterations, Bencivenga added charts and photos. It was Bencivenga, too, who coined the term "magalog" in a phone conversation with Vicki Moffitt.
In these early years, magalogs were printed in two colors. The inside back spread contained a series of free bonuses and the order form; a business reply envelope was bound in—often stapled in the center.