Utne Updates Look to Stay Modern

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Utne magazine has emerged from its recent acquisition by Ogden Publications with a redesign that contemporizes the alternative lifestyle title with more color and panache.

The six-times-a-year publication unveiled new graphics, colors and format to complement its alternative content. Utne has published since 1984 and considers itself as independent press.

"We had a sense that the design of the magazine wasn't keeping up with the material," said David Schmike, Utne's editor in chief. "We also face a challenge on newsstands since we are smaller, so graphically we have to grab people's attention."

Utne hired Wayne Wolf, an art director who has worked for Martha Stewart and Hearst Publications, on a one-year contract to redesign the magazine.

"The key element was creating an organizing principle graphically and then adding different colors and styles to give the front third and back of the book more life and make them easier to read," Mr. Schmike said. "Utne was very dense before, and with our new reprinting strategy we aimed to get more information to people in smaller bits."

The magazine targets individuals who have interests in alternative, organic or environmentally friendly lifestyles. It also features trend spotting and opinion pieces in these genres. Utne's circulation rate base is 250,000, with 35,000 to 50,000 of sales coming from newsstands. A single issue costs $4.99.

"The magazine started as an alternative to Reader's Digest, providing information on various subjects," Mr. Schmike said. "But now we are competing with the Internet and other alternative publications so we need to make ourselves more organized, yet not intimidating."

Utne also features illustrations in the middle of the book. The redesign created more space for what Mr. Schmike thinks is the magazine's trademark.

"One of my fears was that we were going to have to compromise our editorial content, but we managed to not have to do that, and I give that credit to the art department," he said.

The magazine's Web site at www.utne.com features complementary material as well as original content. It also gives weekly updates from other alternative media outlets that lack a Web site of their own. In fact, utne.com highlights the most interesting material from 2,500 other alternative publications.

"We would like to re-establish ourselves as an information authority, which we have struggled with in the past," Mr. Schmike said. "So we want to solidify our rate base and make sure that our readers believe and trust in what they are reading."

Mr. Schmike also wants Utne to focus even more on spotting trends for alternative lifestyles.

"We would like our magazine to get back on the press' radar and to get back into play with readers," he said. "We have a good reputation based on our history, and I want to change that to what we are doing now."

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