Title

Becoming notorious: Case study of a magazine launch

Date of Award

5-2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communications

Advisor(s)

Beth E. Barnes

Keywords

Publishing, Notorious, Magazine

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Graphic Communications | Mass Communication

Abstract

This dissertation examines the starting of a magazine, beginning with the initial idea, continuing through its becoming an entrepreneurial venture, and concluding with the newsstand launch and initial reactions of readers and critics, with a coda on an editorial refocus after rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs invested in the magazine. Notorious, a magazine about relationships, romance, and sexuality intended for a dual audience of women and men, is the focus of this study; Notorious premiered October 28, 1997. Using techniques from journalism and sociology, this descriptive case study analyzes data gathered from a six-month on-site participant observation prior to the magazine's launch, as well as from interviews and other information sources, to document Notorious's gestation and examine its role in an art world. Written from the perspective of a participant-observer who was both senior editor and scholar, this dissertation addresses the research question of how one magazine comes into being. Statistics on the state of new and existing American magazines situate Notorious within the magazine spectrum. Interviews with founders David Anthony and Nancy Hunt tell the story of Notorious's seven-year journey from idea to marketplace. Relevant magazine literature and selected organizational sources provide context. Data compiled from fieldnotes, company and press documents, and interviews show the steps and stumbles of making a new magazine, and data from magazine reader responses indicate Notorious's market impact. This dissertation explores three areas in detail, areas given scant or no attention in how-to-publish-a-magazine books: direction (editorial concept, audience, leadership, and communication), location (virtual and physical office and staff hierarchy), and innovation (differences from what some sources call the norm, including business deals, actions to reduce start-up costs, and promotional and online presences). Among its findings, this study shows the paradox of compromising about ideas: compromising in content to increase marketability can lead to the reading audience not being the intended audience; however, compromising to incorporate staff talents and interests leads to synergies that can strengthen the magazine. Appendixes include a chronology of events and a genre review of case studies of media other than magazines.

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