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alt mags - June 8, 2006

Published June 08, 2006 Posted by
Ogden Publications Acquires Utne Magazine. “Utne is one of the most respected publications in America and we feel deeply honored to make it part of Ogden,” said Bryan Welch, publisher of Ogden Publications, Inc. “This makes us the largest and most influential media company in the conscientious lifestyles and environmental awareness fields. Public interest in living more sustainably is growing faster than ever and we expect to grow with it, creating an important resource for today’s consumer.”

 

Uh-oh. Note the last sentence. "...an important resource for today's consumer."

I don't quite know what to say about that, but it settles in my stomach with a thud.

I'm sure that is why a corporate publisher would latch on to a publication like Utne -- because they can now sell a lot more advertising pages aimed at us "conscientious" and "environmentally aware," uh, consumers. (I almost wrote "readers.")

The Ogden website states that they publish magazines and books "for people interested in self-sufficiency, sustainability, rural lifestyles and farm memorabilia." I don't know. It just doesn't seem like how I would ever have defined Utne magazine.

Ogden is headquartered in Topeka, Kansas -- home base of the "Charles Darwin is the devil -- God did it all in six days" mindset.

They publish Grit magazine. One of their other magazines, Cappers, has been "striving to enlighten and entertain while concentrating on traditional American values."

Read the last of that sentence again: "traditional American values."

Thud.

Although it appears Utne will remain based in Minneapolis, I have a strong feeling that we won't be seeing anything too radical or controversial in their pages after this. Or maybe it will feel like the same magazine for a while, and then "evolve" more into the Ogden mold.

Utne grew quickly to become a wonderful and vital publication, giving important coverage to lesser known alternative magazines. Their coverage of smaller mags makes a difference in our culture, and I wonder how much longer we'll see that. They currently have on staff one of the smartest and most dedicated persons around to the cause of finding, reviewing and promoting the best -- and often amazingly obscure -- alt mags and zines.

But the focus off of the alternative *press* has been going on for a while. The January 2005 issue carried the subtitle: "A Different Read on Life."

The November 2005 issue has the new subtitle: "Understanding the next evolution."

Now I cringed when I first saw that. A bit too "new-agey" for my tastes. And too cute, by far, the way they were able to come up with something using the letters U T N E...

And is it not priceless that the magazine of the "next evolution" is now headquartered in the state where the "first evolution" is being
banished from school textbooks?

Mark my words. This is not a good thing for alternative media.

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