In 1995, retired Time Inc. Corporate Editor Gil Rogin sent a memorandum to Time Inc. Ventures President Bob Miller, the head of magazine development, regarding his “weird fascination with a zine called Bust.” A zine is a homemade publication, and in 1995 was usually printed using a photocopier, meaning Bust would have room to grow with investment from a company like Time Inc. And according to documents in the Time Inc. Magazine Development Group Records (MS 3009-RG 40), the company had been attempting to develop an interesting and viable women’s magazine since 1973.
Bust was founded in New York City in 1993, and relied completely on unpaid staff (co-creators Marcelle Karp and Debbie Stoller) with artists and writers donating work. Rogin describes the zine as the “first wholly different women’s magazine I’ve seen that’s also good.” Because he recognized that transitioning from a no-budget zine to a fully-funded magazine could take away its charm, he asked Karp and Stoller to describe their view of Bust as a mass-market publication. They submitted a magazine proposal for review, and Rogin marked up the proposal with his own notes in purple. These include an admission that he doesn’t “know half of these” in reference to a list of women pop culture icons of the time, and indicates his excitement over the Iggy Pop interview in issue number 6. He also cites the cartoon on the back cover of issue number 5 as “required reading.” This cartoon, by illustrator Barbara Neibart, discusses her experiences of being a new mother and contains satirical interpretations of the WonderBra.
Rogin sent Miller this proposal and all the issues published up to that point (six) along with an investment pitch. He wanted to see what “Marcelle and Debbie would make of Bust with a few bucks.” As a man in his mid-60s, Rogin was not exactly the zine’s core audience (although the Bust proposal states the fans “range in age from 11-year-old girls to grandparents in their 70’s”), but he argues hard for Time Inc. Ventures to inves
Some time in 1995, Time Inc. disbanded Time Inc. Ventures and decentralized magazine development responsibilities. Miller left Time Inc. around 1996. The investment pitch made its way to Development Editor Isolde Motley, who assisted the Time Inc. corporate editorial department with exploring and developing new editorial ideas and projects, but she ultimately filed the idea in her “Dead Magazine Proposals” files.
What then may have seen like a missed opportunity was likely a blessing in disguise. Looking at Time Inc.’s magazine development trajectory since 1995, many titles from the period have ceased to exist. So who knows if Bust would have endured under its ownership? Today, in 2020, Bust is a glossy women’s lifestyle magazine published quarterly and sold at newsstands across the United States with an accompanying website.
This post is by Holly Deakyne, Supervisory Archivist, Time Inc.