Jeff Jarvis


[INTRO] Four and a half years ago, in January 1984, I saw a need for an entertainment magazine. I took the idea to my ME at the time, Pat Ryan, and with her enthusiastic support, I sent a proposal upstairs. We didn't start the magazine then. And it's just as well. For since then, both the need and the opportunity for an entertainment magazine have grown. Now, I believe, is the perfect time for Entertainment Weekly.

[THE NEED) The need for the magazine is clear: Entertainment is confusing. Show business has grown and spread and today we have too many choices and too little time.

- Half of us 'have cable.

- 65 percent of us have VCRs according to a new Gallup poll.

- The number of independent TV stations has doubled this decade.

Also this decade, the number of Americans receiving nine or more TV channels haslllore-than doubled to 80 percent of the country. - The music business is back alive.

- Adults are going to the movies again.

- And there is more grQwth ahead thanks to recent rulings on

syndicated TV that will force cable networks to come up with more fresh and exclusive programming and thanks to the possibility that the FCC may allow telephone companies to compete for cable distribution, increas-ing cable penetration past 50 percent and allowing for growth in cable networks.

With all this wonderful diversity, we need something that helps us dig through the mQuntain to find the gems, something that warns us not to miss hidden treats or not to waste our time on oVer-hyped trash. The decision of what to watch, what to buy,

what to read is ours as consumers and always will be.

Entertainment Weekly doesn't tell us what to decide. It helps us decide.

Entertainment Weekly also keeps us hip. Even if I don't buy a lot of records in a year -- and I don't -- I still want to know what's new, what's hip, what's hot, what's not. Entertainment Weekly will tell me and millions of baby boomers like me. It will help keep me young. It will keep up painlessly hip. We need that.

[THE OPPORTUNITY] The opportunity for this magazine is also becoming clear: There is no one publication that covers all of entertainment. If,you get TV Guide, Premiere, your Sunday newspaper, Rolling Stone, one of the new video magazines, a hi-fi ~agazine and People, you will have a lot -- way too much, in fact

-- but you still won't have everything that our magazine has, all in one place. You will still be confused. That is the problem with entertainment coverage these days. And there is our opportunity.

[THE PEOPLE MAGAZINE DISCLAIMER] Parenthetically, we also find opportunity inside the company in the territory that People magazine is leaving behind. Used to be, when three networks made up the TV world as we knew it, Dallas would be a hit; People would put Victoria Principal on the cover; and the issue would sell over rate base. Life was simple. No more. Now the growth of entertainment has spread the audience thin -- so thin, in fact, that I argue we are witnessing the death of the mass audience. No one show or movie or record grabs so much attention as Dallas used to; thus no newstand cover can simply take advantage of that attention as People used to. As Jim Gaines proves every week, People is becoming more and more a news magazine and less a show business magazine. This shift opens up room for a subscriptionbased show business weekly. Gaines does not see Entertainment Weekly as a competitor because ours is a service magazine concentrating on the products, not the personalities.

[WEEKLY DISCLAIMER] Before telling you how we will do that, first let's deal with how often we'll do it: weekly. We want to allay any doubts about whether this is Ii weekly magazine. This magazine must be fresh each week -~ in fact, each weekend-- when consumers debate whether to go to the movies and what to see; when. they head to the mall to buy records, CDs, videotapes and books; when they scratch their heads over their three choices of movies on network TV on Sunday night alone. That is why we would like to see Entertainment Weekly distributed so that it arrives in homes and on newsstands before Friday, in time for weekend entertainment planning. Perhaps the industry does think in months -- November sweeps or December movies -- but the consumers think in weeks. The need for this magazine is weekly. The demand is weekly. And so is the oontent. I can't prove that to you with raw numbers. To tell you that American publishers release 55,000 titles a year is to tell you nothing. What counts is that there are more than enough books -- too many books -- to review each week. Just look at the Sunday New York Times for proof -- and they don't even bother covering most of the books that Americans really read. At People, where reviews are a small but -- I hope -- important part of the magazine, we have gained some experience in this area. We find that there are at least 10 or 20 books each week well worth major attention. At Entertainment Weekly, we plan to highlight about a half-dozen. And books, as important as they may be, are not the major part of this magazine. In all areas we will have way too much entertainment competing for coverage every week -- and that's just what we want. Take TV: Americans watch seven hours, ten minutes a day on the average. They can watch -and we can review -- up to seven new made-far-TV movies from the networks alone each week. The networks also premiere at least 50

brand new series each year. But of course, networks are not the only game now. As the number of independent stations doubled this decade, so did syndication. There are now 300 syndication companies offering 4,000 series and specials -- more and more of them are and will be brand new, like Star Trek or Friday the 13th or, of course, Wheel of Fortune. And there is cable with 15 to 20 legitimate networks offering ever more fresh programming. There is, no one would argue, plenty to review and cover in TV. Ditto for movies, which Americans paid to see one billion times last year. Hore than 500 films were released last year, a doubling this decade. Some of them are worthless, of course. But in our experience, there are at least three or four movies a week that deserve major attention. In one week in August, I count about eight. In one week in duller October, I count 11. Again, from experience, there'll be more than enough. Record companies may release more than a hundred titles a week, but we find about 10 a week worthy of attention. Same with videotapes. Finally, Americans spend $40 billion dollars a year on electronic gadgets so we certainly will never run out of service stories that help our readers decide how to spend that money wisely.

[CONTENT] No~ a brief look at content. Entertainment Weekly will

cover seven major areas:

1. Television~ including cable and syndication.

2. Movies.

3. Video.

4. Husic.

5. Books and publishing, including magazines. We'll call this section "print."

6. Gadgets -- that is, hints on how to buy or hook up the latest in VCRs, TVs, CD players, and so on.

and 7. Other entertainment, a section we call "time out," which is our umbrella for occasional stories (and yes, ads) on travel, sports, hobbies and so on.

I'll walk you through the magazine and show you the covers and spreads that four of us put together in three weeks last April to be used in our direct-response packages ...

First, of course, the oover. Hike will give you the numbers on sub versus newsstand, but as we've already made clear, this is to be primarily a subscription magazine. But that does not mean that the covers can be drab and predictable. far from it. I want the cover to look fresh, daring, different and provocative. This is a new generatioti of Time Inc. magazines -- a new generation of magazines, period. And it will look new.

This magazine has an attitude and that starts on the cover. [SHOW HOONLIGHTING COVER] When we have something to say about entertainment we say it loud and clear. But as you can see here, we start with affection. We are fans, albeit intelligent fans. When we attack Moonlighting, it-s because we don't see enough of

it. We like it that much. We'll even start reviews on the cover, trumpeting a show we love, giving it the attention it deserves. [SHOW WONDER YEARS COVER] We will provide round-ups and guides to the Oscars [SHOW OSCAR COVER] and to the new season on TV [SHOW FALL TV COVER]. In general, Entertainment Weekly covers what you can see or hear tonight in your home or in your hometown. But to stay on top of all entertainment, to stay hip, we will offer occasional roundups of high-culture like theater inside the magazine and of mass culture -- like rock tours -- on the cover. [SHOW SPRINGSTEEN COVER) And, of course, we'll have covers pegged to major events -- whether with a review, an interview or a locationer. (SHOW CROCODILE DUNDEE COVER]

Now inside:

We'll have a two-part table of contents. The first part, of course, tells you what's in the magazine_ The second part is a calendar for the week, telling you the highlights of what's on and what's coming out in every area of entertainment -- with cross-references to stories or reviews where we have them.

Next, we'll handle letters a little differently -- perhaps putting them later in the book. Stealing an idea from Spy magazine, I ~ant to summarize our mailbag, spot trends, comment on letters, and add as much fire and spice as we can. When possible, we will let our readers gang up on one of our critics. For our philosophy, our number one rule of life, is that everybody·s. critic -- our readers as much as our columnists. Talking about -- arguing about -- entertainment is entertaining in itself, as Ebert and Siskel and all their clones prove on TV and as we will try to prove in print with a feature called "critics at war," in which one critic can argue with another one or a producer or star can yell at a critic. No opinion is sacred.

Instead of an editor's note, I would like to see something called "critic on the loose." In that brief column I want to expand the definition of criticism to take on any subject as a house iconoclast.

We start the real criticism with TV, since it is by far the biggest (but most ignored) segment of show biz. We will have, as in all the sections, a resident lead columnist who will review the week's four or five most notable shows in brief and punchy but thoughtful and intelligent reviews. In boxes scattered here and there, we also will report ratings and news items -- series cancelled, stars added and so on. We will have capsule reviews running through the section to handle notable episodes of series, reruns, movies on TV and so on.

[SHOW HOVIE REVIEW SPREAD] Next come the movies with their resident lead columnist reviewing three, four, five or six movies in a week. Here we also will have speciality columnists who

rotate -- someone to handle horror movies and drive-in flicks, for instance. We will have news items in boxes. We will have capsule reviews of movies that are still in theaters and box office numbers for them as well -- all of this is aimed at helping you decide what to see tonight. We will have a critics' consensus ohart looking at what other reviewers aoross the country say -- from the New York Times to the Witchita BeaconEagle. And we will add the country's consensuS based on exit polls at theaters.

The oritical sections for video, music and print will be much the same with lead critios, specialty oritios (jazz and country western in musio, for instance), news items, capsule reviews, best-seller lists, and so on.

[SHOW BETTE & LILY SPREAD] In the middle of the book, inbetween these review sections, comes the feature section with locationers, trend stories, annual round-ups of concert tours and the like. These stories should -- like OUr reviews -- display an attitude. [SHOW TALK SHOW SPREAD] We should never be afraid to be talked about. Also included in the center of the book will be those none-of-the-above Htime outH stories on travel and such. Here we'll do our gadget stories. [SHOW GADGET SPREAD] These will be simple and to-the-point how-to stories: How to buy a camcorder; whether you should get your VCR repaired or whether you should just buy a new one; how to hook UP your VCR to your stereo, and so on.

While we were working on our first spreads, roy colleague Peter Travers oame up with a good idea: covering every area of the magazine -- TV, music, video, print, movies -- for kids in one or two spreads. We'll do that every week. [SHOW KIDS SPREAD]

We'l1 have a gossip column called" show buzz" and some more standing and rotating features, There is much more to the magazine. But that's the heart of it.

[RULES] So there is a very quick tour. In sum: Entertainment Weekly is roughly one third reviews, one third news, one third featUres. It is 100 percent aimed at helping you decide what to watch, listen to, read or talk about tonight. And that is our second rule of life. (You'll remember the first: Everybody's a critic.) Here are some of our other rules to publish by:

- This will be the world's most browsable magazine. With its short and punchy reviews, its boxes and charts and news items, it should be easy to read front to back, middle to front, any way you please.

- It will serve Terre Haute as well as it serves Manhattan.

- We must be opinioned -- even on the cover -- and we must be talked about.

- The magazine will not speak with one voice but with the many distinctive voices of its critics, its reporters, its 'readers and even its enemies.

- The magazine must be-as entertaining as entertainment itself.

- It must be as newsy as any newspaper's feature section.

- It will be selective, reviewing and writing about the big, the best, the bombs, only that which is notable. We are not the TV Guide of all entertainment.

- And it will be a voice for quality in an industry that desperately needs one.

That, briefly, is the editorial vision for the magazine. Now the business vision ....

PART II: What we've done -- already shown

PART III: What we're planning to do

The first task required to start this magazine; a talent search. We have to' lure a~ay -- and create -- the best critics we can find. For Entertainment Weekly will be as weak as its weakest


Which leads me to the bad news: Editorially, I do not see how we can manage a gradual, phased-in launch. It doesn't matter how many copies we print -- one or a million -- if a single issue of this magazine is embarrasing, then the damage is equally severe. This magazine is not a formula to fill in. It is a forum for voices. And first we must find those voices. And to do so, to hire the best, we must make a committment. You can't hire a Tom Shales or a Roger Ebert on a two-week tryout.

But now the good news. As I said in our original prospectus:

Critics are cacti. They require little care or watering. Thus we believe that by its nature, Entertainment Weekly should be inexpensive to produce. First because it is filled with writing by people who should need little editing. Second because it will have the most predictable and thus managable content of any magazine in the company. And third because we are bound and determined to make it inexpensive. Entertainment Weekly should be the beginnning of a new generation of Time Inc. magazines not only in what is produced but also in how that is produced.

- don't care where the magazine is started. I want to act as if ~e'r8 starting it 3,000 miles away. Which is not intended as an insult to the Time Inc. Way. I only mean that we should not become dependent upon, addicted to and in debt because we are using services we cannot afford or do not need. I wourd like to see this run as an independent company with its own meaningful P&L, its own meaningful bottom line. So I would not use the library because .it clips The New York Times when I need Variety and the Star, which I can get from independent services and now from plenty of electronic data bases. I can get better information -- for the purposes of this specialized magazine -cheaper elsewhere. That's just one example. In general, I don't want to see us waste the chance to do some true zero-based budgeting, to start from scratch and build only where we need to. That's one way we'll keep it cheap,

Another way is in production. Some of you know that I am an erstwhile amateur nerd; I love technology. But I will not buy machines for the sake of buying machines. I will start with the presumption that the old-fashioned way is way to go until I can see technology reliablY saving me time and money. For example: I suspect we will start producing our pages by stripping -- by hiring some of the surplus of freelance artists around and giving each an exacto knife, not a computer mouse. Writers will work on PCs, of cours~, but designers may not at the start. Where it is possible to use computers to design and produce pages, we will get them. But we won't wait for them. We can start the magazine first and add the technology later. I certainly hope to do that. r would love to build a network of PCs for writing, editing, design, production and data base use and will start looking at that from the first day. But first, we put out a magazine.

One more way in which we save money: Predictability. Months ahead of time, When movies and shows go into production. we can assign stories. Weeks ahead of time, we can draw up mockups, knowing exactly what reviews, stories and photos will appear on each page with space left for late-breaking news, What there is of it. So we should -- we must -- close pages of this magazine every day of the week. We must take advantage of the predictability to save time -- mostly overtime. And that's how we really intend to save money at Entertainment Weekly: with management.

I have other ideas for changing the order in which things are done on a magazine -- sometimes writing the text first and then giving it to the art department, for instance. And I want to steal a few ideas from my newspaper experience -- combining the functions of research, copy-editing and page-closing in a more powerful single post, for example. I haven·t had a chance to think through every detail.

The point is this: We are determined to find new, more efficient, and cheaper ways to put out the magazine. And this magazine is

ideal for such an effort. But more important right now is the talent search. If we find the right writers and editors and designers, we can put out a magazine around them and look good,

I believe that Entertainment Weekly meets the needs of consumers today, Thus it will meet the needs of advertisers. And I believe it meets our needs in Time Inc. But we are not alone. I'm surely not the first and I'm definitely not the only person to have this idea. I just hope we are the first to act on it.

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