Saturday, December 20, 2014

After 55 years, glossy Collier's in print again

Specialty magazine publisher John Elduff revives an old national magazine

After 55 years, glossy Collier's in print again

John T. Elduff, whose Berwyn-based JTE Multimedia publishes Postgraduate Medicine, Physician and Sportsmedicine, and Hospital Practice magazines, is expanding from doctors' offices into their patients' waiting rooms with his big (it opens to 14" x 18"), bright, glossy new Colliers' magazine, crowded with articles attempting a range of contemporary and historical themes. Starting with the new issue adn its flag-waving front cover, Elduff plans to publish bimonthly.

The original Colliers, which published Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Upton Sinclair, and dozens more A-list writers and artists, expired in 1957, a victim of television, like its larger Philadelphia-based general-interest middlebrow rival, the Saturday Evening Post.

Elduff bought the old brand for just $2,000 at auction in 2010, and told me at the time he wanted to revive it (as an Indiana company has the Post) for an older-adult audience and his health-themed advertising base, packing it with diverse content to match Colliers' old mix of topical essays, fiction and muckraking journalism.

The resulting 46-page Special Relaunch Issue's full-page ads for Horsham-based Nutrisystem weight-loss meals, for fish-oil supplements, and for house publications don't come close to paying for the initial press run of 25,000. But Elduff's staff is busy pushing for bulk subscriptions to approach his target of 200,000 by mid-2013. 

How's it read? It's not the New Yorker, or the National Review. My wife was charmed by Peter Lovenheim's pleasant thoughtful essay on neighborhoods. Newt Gingrich contributes a two-page primer on American values that includes a partisan dig at Obama's "big government health reform law" but mostly wouldn't be out of place in a mid-20th-Century civics textbook. Dr. Vonda Wright contributes a common-sense essay on aging and exercise; Dr. Robert Guthrie writes about statins, pro and con, providing a useful rundown to those who resist today's expensive prescription nostrums.

A three-page essay by lawyer-lobbyists Paul Lowell and Nathaniel Lacktman on Floida's recent Medicaid reform wonkishly lists a Greek-diner menu of government subsidy programs but leaves participants with no clear idea of whether they'll be paying more, or getting less, than before. 

An essay on "Okinawa 66 Years Later" by World War II buff George Feifer attempts clunky larger points about U.S. intervention ("Are our big sticks taking us where we want to go or are we, like Perry, sowing future trouble for ourselves with them?")  An adoring three-pager calls veteran trend investor Warren "Pete" Musser "The Architect of Philadelphia Business." 

The cultural back end of the magazine excerpts translated passages from a French novel on F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, illustrating what the Zelda character calls "that cesspool of chic that was our lives," plus an essay on the late Norman Mailer, and pages of John McNamara paintings and Ben Azevedo photos of Paris retouched to resemble old postcards.

Elduff's staff has created a casually diverting magazine, pitched broad and not too deep, in the spirit of a cable entertainment channel for retirement homes. I hope the editors will build on this, digging for thought-provoking material, contemporary investigative reporting in the spirit of that old Collier's "muckraking," and drawing the readers and advertisers he'll need to support this and his next intended title, a reborn Saturday Review.

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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