Feb 152006
Authors: Michelle Zilis, Jenny Ivy

The magazine business is tough. This year has already seen the failure or suspension of half a dozen U.S. niche publications. Of those, at least four weren't even able stay alive longer than three years, according to Magazine Publishers of America.

Hoping to play host to the next hottest magazine layout, Citizen Culture Magazine is sponsoring a competition that will give amateur magazine moguls the chance to see their original publication concept come to life.

"It doesn't have to take 20 years to make it in this business if you take advantage of a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and your name out there," Jonathon Feit, chief editor and publisher of Citizen Culture Magazine, said of his competition.

Treading its way toward a multimedia takeover, Citizen Culture prides itself on being the first all-digitally delivered magazine in the world, according to its Web site, www.citizenculture.com.

Competition terms require that applicants submit a sample layout and a table of contents, along with a one to two page summary of the magazine's intended market. Entries may be about any topic, but must be submitted by March 15.

Launched last December, Feit as editor is no stranger to the struggles of a newly unveiled publication. A lecturer in the department of journalism at Boston University, he teaches a workshop focusing on the launch of new publications. Students are taught how to bring a magazine concept as far as one can go without actually producing it.

But the feat of gaining attention for a well-reasoned concept is a formidable task, according to the rules of the ongoing competition, which will be judged by some of the top names in the magazine world, including design editor Florian Bachleda of "Vibe" and managing editor of "Dwell," Ann Wilson .

"The contest is a win-win situation; If you win the competition, your concept gets up to 20 pages in our tenth issue to showcase your ideas to all our readers, and if you don't, you still get a great piece of work for your portfolio and your work will be viewed by some of the top people in this field," Feit said.

CSU alumna and one of the founding members CSU's magazine, "College Avenue," Katie Kelley said she would definitely take advantage of such an opportunity.

"To participate in a creative opportunity like that would be amazing," Kelley said. "At least you can try, I mean what's the worst thing that could happen? You don't win. But you still had the great experience."

Citizen Culture Magazine is expecting to receive concepts about everything from skiing to fashion to cooking and everything in between. The magazine will judge the way in which the idea is presented and how the contestants want to market their ideas.

"It's always important to really find a market," Kelley said. "People like specialty magazines. So if I were entering I would do a lot of research about my particular audience, as well as the judges and Citizen Culture Magazine audiences."

While there is no projected number of entries, which the competition is expecting to receive, Feit thinks it will be a fairly sizable number. After which, he and his staff will narrow the entries down to the top 10 that will be sent out to the 10 judges. Whichever concept receives the best feedback will win. The finalists' concepts will run in the magazine's ninth issue, and the winner will run in the 10th issue.

To make an idea really stand out, Feit said you have to make the judges really believe you are presenting a viable business that could work.

"I suppose if I were entering I would try to blow the judges away by pitching things that aren't even on their radar," Kelley said. "I would look at what they are producing now and take those ideas and try to incorporate them but also give them something completely new."

Michelle Zilis and Jenny Ivy can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.

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