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Checkout controversy

The article "Sex and the modern magazine editor" ("Special Report: Magazine Forecast," AA, Oct. 23) focused in part on the recent controversy surrounding women's magazine covers featuring scantily-clad models and sexually salacious headlines in supermarket checkout aisles. Naturally, the editors downplayed the rise of protests by American families, especially mothers of young children. What they failed to mention is that supermarket chains are protesting as well.

Recently, Kroger Co., the nation's largest grocery store chain, began placing covers over Cosmopolitan, leaving only the title exposed. Company spokesman Gary Rhoades said Cosmopolitan covers are "not appropriate for the checkout areas where young children might see them."

Parents agree with Kroger, and overwhelming support for its decision should serve as a self-evident indicator for others to do likewise. On Oct. 10, Safeway wrote Hearst Magazines, "... we are formally asking you to redouble your initial effort to restrain the cover content of your magazine. ... we serve families, and are eager to ensure that they are comfortable shopping in our stores."

While many stores have a section solely devoted to the sale of magazines, books and greeting cards, shoppers can avoid these areas with relative ease. However, the checkout aisle presents a problem that even the "if you don't like it, don't look at it" crowd cannot effectively debate. Product placement is extremely important to magazine marketers.

Finally, the editors responding in the roundtable discussion know their message does not belong in checkout aisles. In a 1999 Wirthlin Worldwide Poll, a solid 64% of women agreed it is inappropriate for magazine covers with offensive headlines to be displayed in or around checkout counters. No one will dispute their right to do so; it's simply a matter of responsibility. So far, supermarkets are listening to their customers, not publisher's pocketbooks.

Randy Sharp

Director, Special Projects

American Family Association

Tupelo, Miss.

Internet's future

The recent Internet shakeout (meaning downturn) was long overdue. Like most panaceas, hype preceded reality and once the smoke cleared it became clear that the Net was not (yet) the "be all, end all" that was promised from sea to shining sea.

But that's good news. In this growth spurt, amazing tools and infrastructures have been built. As a result, we have the ability to re-define the relationship between business-to-business and business-to-the-consumer. What is needed now is an emphasis on the Internet "experience" and what differentiates it from traditional delivery platforms.

Internet users have a "choice" and thus power. If we don't honor and serve them, they will reciprocally ignore our efforts.

Computers are tools of conception and experiences. These concepts and experiences are more meaningful when they address your point of view. To be successful, an Internet experience must stimulate your perspective.

In a year, two or 10, the Net will be a commonplace utility, like turning on a light switch, water faucet or television. It will ultimately be judged like all products: by its merit. If your tap water sucks, enter Sparkletts. If your programming is lame, enter HBO. If your advertising doesn't cut it, enter your competitor.

Perhaps the time has come to unite against crap. Banish it from the boardroom and drive it back to the sea. Any contrarians out there?

Peter Rosten


Anti-Crap Inc.

Los Angeles

`Mad Ave' on target

I so enjoy Marisa Acocella's "Mad Ave" contributions to your magazine. I laughed out loud at her Nov. 6 cartoon ("...Halle Berry black"). It was a sad and funny acknowledgement of the still tentative nature of the relationship between marketers/advertisers and the black community. May the dialogue continue.

Eleanore Wells

The Golden Door

New York

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