Profile - The Utne Reader (1,651 words)
There's Nina, my bemused wife. There's a Buddhist anti-nuclear activist. There's a socially responsible philanthropist. A Jungian dream analyst. An Amish quilt merchandiser. An Anarcho-punk theorist. A hog farmer. Plus a dozen or so other stalwart media junkies who are nice enough to lend a hand.
Jayme has created a scene in the mind's eye—a vision of a group of absolute loonies sitting around a table in a cavernous warehouse in Minneapolis putting together a wacky magazine.
As Jayme pointed out in the book "Million Dollar Mailings" by Denny Hatch:
The package was an attempt to establish a persona for an uncommonly cheerful and readable alternative magazine that would differentiate it from such impenetrable competitors as the Nation and from such relentlessly carping ones as Mother Jones.
At the time Heikki Ratalahti and I created the mailing, a mere handful of people improvised the magazine more or less as described in the copy. Today, with a circulation of over a quarter million—much of it secured with this package—the masthead lists a staff of thirty-something.
Does anybody out there care? Apparently not. They simply suspend belief, then buy from a struggling young editor named Eric Utne. They want to help him out.
The new control lift letter has a few minor changes, namely an editorial staff of five instead of four, and a few different descriptions of the eclectic group of helpers Utne employs.
Another recent, even further revised version of the lift letter demystifies the "salon" and more realistically explains that altogether, the staff numbers 25. It describes more in detail the process of creating an issue of the Utne Reader by reading and cutting out articles and then discussing them.
No matter how strong the control might seem, innovative packages should be tested as well. For example, the Utne Reader has also tested 6˝x9˝ packages. Two designs we've seen: an early '90s version asking, "Are you socially hip?" that goes on to explain that according to the San Francisco Chronicle, a six-second test can determine whether you are hip or not. (For example, do you eat glazed donuts or oat bran muffins for breakfast?) The hip, of course, read the Utne Reader; the unhip read People.