Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

The Magazine Medic

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

The Magazine Medic

Article excerpt

THE PATIENT: Harper's Magazine

AGE: 161 years


PROGNOSIS: Downward spiral


We hate to see a patient hobble into our examination looking exhausted even before routine pleasantries have been exchanged. Sadder still when that patient, though aged, was once so vibrant and exalted. But that is the predicament of Harper's Magazine, which now appears to be in failing health.

There was a time when Harper's was a VIP (Very Important Periodical), a historically significant magazine that showcased some of the most important thinkers of the day. It still publishes some fine work, to be sure, but the competition among high-culture titles is fierce, and Harper's has not kept up.

Harper's and longtime rival The Atlantic once ran neck-and-neck. Now, the former (203,000 total circ) seems to be gasping while the latter (482,000 total circ)--with a recent infusion of cash and magazine-making talent--has surged, winning readers, advertisers and trophies.

Harper's simply does not deliver enough--not enough top-notch journalism, photography, illustrations, not enough "ahhhs." (And what does it say about a magazine when its full-page ads are the most splendid-looking pages in the issue?)

Normally, we prescribe delicate measures, but with Harper's we have no alternative but to suggest scalpels, instruments for implantation and a stomach for the kind of radical surgery from which, honestly, the book might not recover. …

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