Spanked By the Magazine Priests (And Kinda Liking It)

Us Weekly became the third magazine in a week reprimanded by the American Society of Magazine Editors for impure ads. It's as if Us, Entertainment Weekly and ESPN the Magazine don't care about purity!

ASME can't really do much to renegade publications, as explained earlier this month in the New York Times. The disciplinary steps are:

  • A warning letter.
  • Withholding a National Magazine Award.
  • Forbidding a title's participation in the National Magazine Awards.
  • Suspending an editor's membership.
  • A really nasty look.
  • Saying "stop!" a second time.
  • Brazen taunting.
  • Jann Wenner critiques the state of your desk each week.
  • An internship with Bonnie Fuller.

Obviously, in an advertising depression, certain publications are willing to give up hope of a National Magazine Award in exchange for some much-needed cash. Especially if they never had much hope of getting such an award in the first place.

Us Weekly had every reason to know it was over the line. The celebrity magazine ran a mock cover pimping HBO's Grey Gardens, albeit with a different title font and the word "advertising" across the top. ASME told MediaWeek "advertising cannot obscure the cover in any manner whatsoever," which seems pretty clear.

Entertainment Weekly, part of the esteemed, ethically-concerned Time Inc. empire, got a spanking for turning its cover into "a pocket that contained a pull-out ad for the ABC show The Unusuals," in the words of the Times.

ESPN had a fold-out cover flap touting a pitch on the other side for Powerade.

All three got an ASME reprimand, which is just a warning.

The question now is how long it takes before highbrow titles follow in the footsteps of the celebrity titles. They tend to look to the National Magazine Awards to burnish their upscale positioning. And will ASME will hold to its standards when they do, or just capitulate in the name "economic reality?"

[MediaWeek]

(Pic via MediaWeek)