Drew Barrymore in April's issue of Domino. Photo by Stewart Shining. Design by Ruthie Sommers.
A few weeks ago I posted my "Open Letter to Domino," , and a 2nd, related post, which combined have resulted in about 130 comments. Clearly, many of us had the same thoughts about Domino's "green" issue and a lot of people voiced criticism and also suggestions.
Deborah Needleman then contacted me inviting some sort of dialogue. About a week letter, I sent her the email below with a number of questions which I thought represented reader comments as well as my own.
Deborah was kind enough to respond recently, and to let me know that I should feel free to post the response, so I offer to you both of them.
Now - if you're totally tired of the Domino saga, I apologize in advance. I think a few of you basically said, "Get on with it and start posting more home porn!" which I can certainly appreciate. But because I have this weird tick that requires closure on all issues - and because many of you have emailed or posted asking if she had responded, I do owe it to many of you to close the loop.
So, here I hope to close it. Sort of.
Not all questions were answered (at least not yet), as you will see below, so maybe we will simply have to wait and see if/how the direction of the magazine changes. DN seems to think we will like the April issue much more than the March green issue. It's going to feature this year's crop of hot young designers, plus style from Redd, Dunham, and Sommers - - people we tend to get worked up about.
I owed you a response DAYS ago and got swamped with work, so my apologies.
So - first I want to say that as a representative of Conde Nast, I would imagine that it's your job to be somewhat guarded in your responses to me. I understand that, and don't expect too much. But I would like to assure you that I won't post anything you write to me without your consent. That's just not my style.
Second, here are a few things I was wondering, as promised, and if you have time to respond to any, I would certainly love to hear your thoughts:
The day in the life features... lots of Decorno reader comments suggested that this feature is kind of smug, unreal, and frivolous. Did you read the criticism of this day-in-the-life feature in the blog comments? Did that register or do you think the criticism was overheated? I guess I am hoping someone at Domino thought it read as a little smug and over-the-top. But maybe Domino staffers just saw it as playful. Either way, I am interested in your point of view.
Does Domino plan to continue to feature more on beauty and fashion? Do you want to? Do you think the blogger comments about this stem from people truly not wanting to see fashion and beauty mixed with their design/decor features or do you think the resistance is about execution - - that if done in a certain way and with new information, it would be welcome? Is there pressure from Conde Nast to drive more ad revenue in Domino and more coverage of these topics is a way to let those advertisers know they have a home in Domino?
Have you read all the reader comments on those two Decorno posts about Domino, and if so, did you like any? While some, I am sure, were hard to read, were any of them inspiring? If so, I am curious which ones. I guess I am hoping for a silver lining in all of this since when I asked readers for constructive comments, they really went to town, which again confirms how much they love Domino. I loved suggestions like featuring "furniture I inherited" and more "how-to" features (but not in a ghetto HGTV kind of way).
Why doesn't Domino have a letters to the editor page? In some magazines,"letters" pages are poorly edited and self-congratulating, so when I am feeling generous, I try to assume that Domino just doesn't want to pat itself on the back. Other times, it's hard not to read the absence of the letters page as a magazine just not wanting to have a conversation with readers. I am wondering your point of view on this and why Domino chooses not to publish letters.
Lastly (for now), how do you want Domino to evolve? I ask this because a lot of readers posted comments that suggested they wanted more of what they got in the first year of the magazine. Those issues were so fabulous that I can hardly think this is a bad wish to have. But it occurred to me that you might see this as an audience that doesn't want to evolve with you and your editorial direction. And to that end, that's where I wonder, "How much editorial feedback does an editor want?" When you wrote me saying you were "sad," I was thinking "Crap. I do not like to make people feel sad." I also then thought, "sad" is a weird response if you think about the magazine as a product (which it is). If I blogged about my new Saturn with broken
cupholders and the manufacturer read about it, the response wouldn't be sadness. The response would have been more about broken engineering and how quickly it could be fixed.
So... with that in mind, I am wondering above all... how connected do you feel to readers? How do you know what they are thinking? Do you do focus groups and such? Or do you get a lot of letters (despite no letters page)? Do you want influence from your readership, or do you feel like you need to be more directional and take them to new places rather than edit for their tastes? (And do you edit for their tastes?) I imagine this is a tough spot to be in since you created quite a phenomenon, and now you have a small(ish) mutiny of people wanting you to be true to something they experienced a year ago.
Again - you have one hell of a magazine. I can't think of anything else to which I subscribe that I would bother giving this much thought. Thanks for being open to these questions.
This dialogue about domino-as painful as it is-is why the web is so damn great! That we can find out instantly what our readers are thinking about the magazine is brilliant. Of course, we are making this magazine for YOU! As one post said, this thread is like a focus group. It's really better actually, because the thing with a regular focus group is it all depends on the 'screen'. Are the participants just in it for the $75 or whatever it is they get as a fee, and have no real connection to the magazine? You are our readers-design-obsessed, smart, passionate-and demanding!! The reason I've never run a letters to the editor page in the magazine is because of my desire to make every page deliver something useful to our readers-something they can be inspired by or act upon. As we all know, with glossy magazines these pages mostly contain bland compliments and benign criticism. They are for the most part static pages, not able to convey a vibrant debate or a communal rant the way a web dialogue can. So thank you all for your comments-even you super snarky posters!
All my top editors have read these posts-and we have spent the past few weeks thinking about and discussing the issues raised. And we will continue to meet about them in the coming weeks. There is a vibrancy and energy to something when it is new and fresh, and while we still bust our asses every month to create the best magazine we can for you, I think stopping to assess where we've come from, where we've gone, and where we're going, is essential. Much of what you and others have said and written to us resonates. Part of what I love about our staff is that they are super committed to making a great magazine, and really nimble about being able to change and adapt. You have afforded us this information and an opportunity in real time. Again the genius of the web! We can respond while you still love the magazine, as opposed to a year from now when we mysteriously see some drop off in renewals, and shake our heads in wonderment.
The deep connection you all have with the magazine, and the connection we feel with you is truly and absolutely what fuels our workday. This is the beginning of our conversation....
You can print my email to you if you'd like.
Thank you for letting me know, and thanks for your response.
My only hesitation in posting it at the moment is that I asked several other
questions in my email and am wondering if I should wait for additional
response from you?
I don't feel comfortable being any more specific now. But maybe after I make some decisions/changes I will.
Also I think/hope your readers will like april much better. Great decorating stories from miles redd, sharon simonaire, peter dunham, ruthie sommer's design for drew barrymore's cozy office, and our domino 10 list which is our 10 favorite young decorator discoveries.
And I will report back later. Whatever I write to you I assume to be on the record. Thanks. D
Ok, thanks. I will post your response then. Many people have asked about it. Hopefully you can share more sooner, because, well, my blog readers might call you out on not responding to more of their suggestions, etc (they're feisty, no? I love it!)... but if they do, I suppose you can just jump into the comment section and let them know to stay tuned, that any changes will be reflected in the pages of the magazine.
Dunham, Redd, and Sommers are crowd pleasers, so I am sure people will love April. I keep looking for it on the newsstand, somehow magically hoping it will appear sooner than I know it should. Irrational behavior, for sure.
Keep me posted.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008