When a Product Becomes Too Successful
Text is impossible to read. The edges of spectacular fashion ads—so exquisitely photographed by the greatest camera artists working today—are lost in the gutter, their magnificent composition wasted.
What’s more, since none of the ads are paginated, it is impossible to know where you are in the magazine. An index of advertisers is impossible—a disservice to both readers and advertisers. See a story you want to read on the contents page and you cannot find it, because so few pages are numbered.
For a while I tried ripping out all the ads—tearing apart the first third of the book, so I could comfortably hold and read the articles. The floor around my chair had all the charm of a scrap bowl on the dinner table that holds artichoke leaves.
When Alan Katz was fired as publisher of Vanity Fair because advertising was down 15 percent, my bet is that advertisers were pulling out because it is possible to reach the right consumer with the right message more cost-efficiently than via Vanity Fair at 20 cents a pop.
So yesterday, when Peggy asked if I wanted to renew Vanity Fair, I said the hell with it. Let the other 1,074,999 readers spend time trying to pry open this cyclopean celebrity circle jerk.
Hatch’s Rule: Nothing in Vanity Fair is worth the discomfort of trying to read it.
What to Do?
I took another look at Real Simple. Hey, it’s an inch wider (9” x 12”). The pages are thinner and the margins wider, which means it is readable. What’s more, with the possible exception of a Brahmin handbag insert and a Chanel back cover, all the advertising related directly to the readership, including a plastic, $25 discount card tipped onto a Coldwater Creek page ad.
In short, Real Simple works—for its readers and for its advertisers.