Struggling to be GOOD

Jan/Feb issue, left; current "Recession" issue, right.
Jan/Feb issue, left; current "Recession" issue, right.

Things at GOOD magazine could be better. Like so many ventures conceived in rosier economic times, what seemed like a sure-fire idea has encountered financially choppy waters.

Launched in 2006, GOOD is a magazine that defined itself as “a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward,” an attempted end run of sorts around the prevailing narcissism, greed and cynicism of the last eight years. It was aimed at what have been defined as Gen Y-ers or millenials, considered idealistic, altruistic and wanting to make a difference in the world by helping others. (Disclosure: GOOD wrote about Metblogs’ owner Sean Bonner last fall.)

On its cover it says, “GOOD is for people who give a damn.” Instead of the usual blather about celebrities and lifestyle, the magazine covers topics about survival– like environmental, social, technological and health issues– and how they are impacting some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, as well as those who are more fortunate but still at the mercy of a hobbled political system.

A notable article in their Jan/Feb 2009 issue explored alternative urban housing developments being built in San Ysidro CA and Hudson NY, virtual border towns geared to the challenges new immigrants face in a country where the gap between rich and poor has increased dramatically in the last decade.

Last week GOOD hosted an event in affiliation with Art Center College of Design, based in Pasadena, called Good Design, Solutions to LA’s Toughest Problems, getting students involved in thinking creatively to benefit others. Krista Kline, Planning and Urban Design Coordinator for Mayor Villaraigosa’s office, an invited guest, encouraged the young designers to download the briefing from the new Recovery.gov site and explore solutions to LA’s problems.

Subscribing to home delivery of GOOD will cost you between $1 and $1000 (it’s up to you to decide) and 100% of the amount goes to one of their affiliated non-profit charities, all of them worthy causes, like Youth AIDS (aimed at staunching the spread of AIDS in 15-24 year olds worldwide) or Lava (assists veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars.)

But GOOD’s big thinking also applied to their company offices. They opened a sprawling, architecturally expensive-looking headquarters on Melrose near La Brea last fall and hosted an ambitious round of inaugural parties in December as commemoration.

I got an inkling of things turning sour in January when I noticed on their huge calendar wall visible from the street that “December” throughout most of January was reduced to “ember” and it stayed that way for weeks. But really, I didn’t think anything of it until a “for lease” sign appeared on the building. I thought maybe they had some extra space they weren’t using and were making it available to what hopefully would be a good fit with them. That wasn’t the case.

Now, if you are a subscriber, the current “Recession Issue” is already in your hands and instead of the magazine’s usual perfect bound 8″ x 11″ format on pricey paper stock loaded with designed-to-the-hilt graphics, (some people involved with GOOD are from the design world,) you are holding a thrifty-looking stapled two-sheet measuring 5″ x 7″ that declares it’s “not actually an issue, but something of a stopgap measure.” It’s filled with short pieces about financial prudence, some of them tongue-in-cheek. They plan to publish a “full strength” issue in late spring but are cutting back from six to just four issues per year.

The “for lease” sign is for the entire building, and their stopgap mailer beseeches, “But if you rent out our awesome party space, we might be able to stay. We do not want to leave. Please email [email protected]

Patrick James, associate editor at the LA GOOD office (there’s a second one in New York,) was circumspect. He told me, “What we do is cover people who are trying to find creative solutions to the world’s problems. So now it’s only fitting that we are coming up with creative solutions for our company.”

Ben Goldhirsh, GOOD’s founder and CEO, said in an email:

“We got way ahead of ourselves in ’08. Moving into an office beyond our means, increasing our spending, and losing some focus. The good news is that the collapse of the market forced us to get our act together. We trimmed our budget by 50% while creating more product and seeing our revenue and traffic increase. Frankly, we’re on the right track. It feels good. And the best news is that we’re having fun again.”

The travails of their print edition or their office’s fate are not evident on their website. With economic problems affecting practically all print media, GOOD’s sole home may ultimately be only on the web and the hard copy magazine (and office) may one day be relics of their ambitious ideas, something that is not in short supply for them. After all, it’s the ideas that really matter, and the solutions they spawn.

2 Replies to “Struggling to be GOOD”

  1. I think they should have a bakesale.

    In fact, I’d totally host a bakesale for them. We could do it at the Natural History Museum or the Echo or somewhere downtown, maybe near the monthly artwalk…

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