By  on August 8, 2007

Why would anyone, specifically men, need another shopping magazine?

Perhaps the answer lies in the pages of a new, stripped-down title called Antenna, hitting newsstands this week, crammed full of product shots (and the occasional feature), and absent celebrities, lifestyle settings and service pieces.

Clearly, the products are king. Hundreds of them, from Air Jordans, aperitifs, blazers, breath mints and denim, to graphic Ts, micro compact cars, necklaces, spray paint and sunglasses, all splashed across four-color, full-page layouts and spreads on the magazine's matte white paper.

For the most part, the goods are left to speak for themselves, with no more than a handful of words and a price to identify each one. An alphabetized index helps the reader negotiate a path through an almost dizzying array of accessories, apparel, edibles, electronics, household items and sporting goods, among other things, which range in price from a Calvin Klein Collection hoodie ($1,800) to Modo Renzo shades ($285) to a bag of Mini Oreos (at 99 cents, one of 18 varieties on display). There are Targets, items like a Gaggia Achille espresso machine for a cool $1,299 or an ESP Eclipse-II electric guitar that can be had for $1,869.

"I wanted to do a magazine for men with a lot of product — and not with things that are superfluous to a lot of men, like a concept shoot of summer watches on a beach with starfish," said Tony Gervino, editorial director of the Harris Publications quarterly with the tag line "What Drops Next."

Or, as he likes to put it, show-and-tell without the tell. The exceptions are the Targets, whose large, four-color images are set off by several sentences describing what's considered to be more than the average garden variety product, and Evidence, descriptions of an individual's favorite things, which are spread out on a table in an ostensibly crime-free scene.

Though Cargo and Vitals, now-defunct men's shopping titles from Condé Nast (which also publishes WWD), flamed out quickly, Samir Husni, chairman of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, thinks Antenna has a fighting chance. "It's a nice change of pace; the first time we've had a Reader's Digest of shopping," Husni said. "It's nothing similar to Cargo or Vitals. [Antenna's] DNA is very much in tune with the urban male — the type that wants you to show them what's out there and keep your mouth shut."The idea for the magazine springs from Gervino's ideal of a world with more options. "Anything goes, as long as it is well-made," he responded when asked how product samples borrowed from retailers make the cut. That said, fashion forms Antenna's "main course," and the editorial director anticipates its presence in the title will grow. A few items will be shown in every issue — graphic Ts, jeans and hoodies. In his first editor's note, Gervino breaks down the product mix as "70-plus pages of apparel and accessories" and "another 70-plus pages of stuff like cell phones, backpacks and snowboards."

There are few limits on prices of the products featured, but there are no plans to showcase luxuries like a $145,000 Mercedes-Benz S600 sedan. "As you grow up, you want nicer things," Gervino observed. After sighing when asked if there is an age group envisioned as Antenna's typical reader, he replied, "They think it's 18 to 34, but I have older friends who appreciate the aesthetic. And I'm 41."

The magazine's visual sensibility plays out in a striking absence of people of any kind — not just celebrities — amid the products arrayed across its pages, but people do appear, ironically, in Antenna's ads.

Pictures of humans are present in the articles, as well. These features, a handful of one-pagers sandwiched between the merch, and longer ones at the back of the book, appear almost as an afterthought. Their purpose, Gervino explains in the magazine, is to focus on "the people who make or sell the things that fill our lives." And they're intended to provide visual relief from the parade of things between Antenna's covers.

Noting the magazine is not one "to sit down and read with a glass of wine in your hand," Husni rated its chances as better than those of most new men's entries and sees little direct competition. The relative few, he said, include Complex, a shopping title also aimed at urban men ("half magazine/half catalogue"), and Stuff, which highlights gear such as electronics, motor vehicles and watercraft, as well as sex, sports and "hotties," among other topics. (About 62 percent of new magazines don't survive to the end of their first year.)While Antenna could easily be viewed as more catalogue than magazine, its editorial chief chooses to describe it with the "m" word. "I consider it a magazine. I don't consider it a catalogue," Gervino said. Yet, he pointed to the Whole Earth Catalog as "the genesis of this whole thing." First published in 1968, the Whole Earth Catalog was subtitled access to tools, included articles and at 14 inches by 11 inches was oversize, as is Antenna, which measures 10 3/4 inches by 9 inches.

Unlike the Whole Earth Catalog, which was going for $4 in 1969, Antenna will bow at $7.95 per issue and be found in 200 leading men's street shops as well as in bookstores and on newsstands.

A full-page ad in Antenna carries a card rate of $10,250 but will probably average around $6,000 in the first year, projected publisher Dennis Page. There's no strict editorial/advertising ratio, but Page said editorial pages won't dip below 60 percent. The premiere 190-page issue comprises 40 pages of advertising, 30 pages of articles, 120 pages of product and a Where To Buy Everything index. Advertisers range from Stüssy, Mavi, Nike and Boxcarapparel.com, to Zoo York, Royal Elastics, K-Swiss and In4mation.

Mavi, whose fall campaign was photographed by Oliviero Toscani, advertised in Antenna, said Paul Witt, Mavi's vice president of global marketing, in a bid "to have the brand in the face of trendsetting men." Witt, who made the decision, was drawn to the alphabetized display of the goods and the sensibility of a "high-style street magazine with sophisticated content." Mavi will also try to reach men this fall with ads in Nylon Guys and Spin.

Antenna officials declined to reveal Harris' investment in the title; Husni estimated it at between $1.2 million and $2 million, considering the size, quality and national distribution of the quarterly, which is launching with a fall 2007 edition.

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