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By Thomas Crone
…Though the new magazine has some aspects of other [alternative] publications – chiefly the ability to offer writing slots to freelancers otherwise shut out of the market – it is in some ways miles ahead of the others, even with only one issue to compare. The graphics and layout are far superior; a staff, including an ad sales position, is in place; and circulation for the June issue, the editor says, was 10,000 and for the July issue 30,000 while the others had settled in at around 5,000.
George Richards, editor, doesn’t consider the new publication alternative. He says the term tends to limit the appeal of the product. He believes that keeping to an alternative format cost the other publications in a variety of ways.
“It was their philosophy, but it hampered their ability to appeal to a wide group of people,” Richards says. “surFACE and 15 Minutes were very exclusive to the groups they appealed to. Labeling yourself alternative from the start limits you to advertisers and readers.”
Graphically the magazine is not in the classic alternative format. The pages are crisp and clean, whether devoted to art work or text, although still lacking an overall professional magazine look. An even keel in layout, circulation and format is essential, Richards said…
Says Richards, “I’ve traveled to many major cities in America. In New York and L.A., there are pockets of culture – Chinatown, Little Italy – where there are bonds of common cultural interests. In St. Louis, people are polarized and united only by prejudice. We want to make people aware of the diversity of issues going on in St. Louis. There’s a very strong artistic scene with lots of things going on. We want to be a vehicle to inspire conversation and elicit response from people.”
The first issue of Aspect did contain some spunk, verbally spanking the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times, while serving it all up in a package that may attract readers who were not interested in picking up the other papers on the basis of looks alone.
Whether Richards’ goals can be translated into a viable publication remains to be seen.
(Originally published in the St. Louis Journalism Review 7/1991)