• Otter Views: You Are Growing Sleepy . . .

    by Tom Stevens

    When no topic springs to mind – which is, lamentably, more often than not – I’m forced to invent a specialty magazine.

    This is harder than it sounds. As the most cursory spin through any Target or Safeway will attest, specialty magazines already exist for every conceivable topic and market niche. Model Railroading? Celebrity Tanning? Summer Abs? Don’t worry, you’re covered.

    If you don’t see your magazine in the racks, you can always subscribe on-line. There, ten thousand magazines beckon shamelessly for readers, advertisers and “first page” search result status. It’s a rare symbiosis of print and digital media.

    I don’t go on-line magazine surfing very often, because that would crush my dreams of becoming an imaginary magazine titan. For instance, one magazine I used to imagine in pre-Google times was “Smoker.” It would have showcased smoking’s long history, its cultural and stylistic variations, the many substances smoked globally, and the interesting characters who smoke them.

    By my reckoning, “Smoker” would have ignited a whole pack of similar magazines serving subsets of the demographic: “Brier Pipe Smoker,” “Hookah,” “Cuban Cigarello,” “Candy Cigarettes with Pink Tips,” and so on. I figured 20 to 30 spinoff magazines, at least. In my mind, I was the Rupert Murdoch of smoke inhalation periodicals.

    The internet swiftly put a match to all that. Take cigar smoking alone. Typing “cigar magazines” into any search engine kicks out a list of 20 publications. These range from “Stogie Guys” and “Dominican Cigar Review” to “Cigar Snob” and “Cigar City,” the latter devoted to the cigar culture of Tampa, Florida. There are even magazines about cigar humidors. Yes, it has all been done already. Probably by Murdoch.

    And so, sadly, I no longer imagine “Smoker” magazine. I have also surrendered my long-time food magazine fantasies. I used to while away many non-productive hours whipping up imaginary magazines about favorite foods and eating experiences. At one time, I had “World of Wasabi,” “Midnight Snacker” and “Peanut Brittle Digest.”

    But in today’s uber-saturated video culture, entire food networks have arisen like sourdough starters. At any time of day or night, some variation of “Iron Chef,” “Supermarket Superstar” or “Cupcake Wars” airs on food channels worldwide. This has surely greased a pan full of copycat cupcake magazines, leaving no crumb for me.

    Beleaguered but unbowed, I retreat to my final redoubt. This is a magazine I have not yet seen on the shelf, and one I will not seek on-line, for reasons discussed above. And yet, for all its seeming scarcity, this magazine has a vital topic and an enormous potential readership: the entire population of planet earth.

    Yes, I’m talking “Sleep,” the magazine by, for and about sleepers. Having imagined many start-up periodicals, I know it all begins with advertising. And unlike say, “Candy Cigarettes with Pink Tips,” a magazine devoted to sleepers and sleeping would find a flock of potential advertisers. Beds alone could fill the ad space: mattress sets, water beds, air beds, futons, hammocks, bunks, recliners, daybeds, pull-outs and tilt-ups for small apartments, yada yada.

    Accessories? Don’t even get me started. Just close your eyes for a moment and think of all the retail footage devoted to sleepwear, bedding, comforters, shams, accent pillows and the like. Then mentally cruise the pharmaceutical aisles of any grocery store. Half the products you’ll find there are meant to induce or prevent sleep.

    I could go on, and probably will. As I imagine it, “Sleep” magazine will swiftly achieve the industry gold standard of 80 percent ad saturation. This in turn will pay for vivid graphics and compelling editorial content with global reach. That’s because throughout history, sleep has been practiced by people of every culture. It is part of our folklore, our biorhythms, our DNA, and our various floor plans.

    Content would range from pop-culture froth like “Kardashian Sleepover” to hard-hitting analyses of adolescent sleep loss in the digital age. Famous sleepers would share their accounts of “My Best Nap Ever,” “What I Eat Before Bed,” and “Sleep in Time of War.”

    The magazine’s staff photographers would picture obscure subjects, like the Himalayan baba who has slept standing up for 14 years, or fakirs asleep on beds of nails. “Sleep’s” graphic designers would showcase inviting bedrooms and boudoirs. Staff cartoonists wouldn’t have to draw open eyes.

    Magazine sections could be spun off as entire new publications. “Dream Time” would explore REM, alpha and beta state sleep experiences. “Insomniac” would target readers who can’t sleep (or, read them this column). “Slung” would showcase hammocks; “Slosh,” water beds; “Sssssssst,” air mattresses. “Never Wake a Headhunter” and “Beagles on the Bed” would serve the action-adventure and SPCA demographics, respectively.

    Next would come “Sleep,” the cable network. Who’s up for “Jammie Wars?”

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 1, 2013

    Topics: Otter Views

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