Two years ago, at a Hearst management retreat, Mr. Granger again raised the idea. This time it would be possible, he was told, if Hearst invested seed money to create a battery small enough to fit in a magazine.
“This is really the 1.0 version,” said Kevin O’Malley, Esquire’s publisher. “Imagine when the consumer walks by a newsstand and sees that it is alive.”
Digital technology holds the promise of making the dissemination of information much easier and cheaper — no paper, no trucks — but this experiment by Esquire was the opposite.
“The whole chain had to be reinvented,” said Peter Griffin, the deputy editor. “The interesting thing is it has almost nothing to do with the normal way of putting out a magazine.”
First Esquire had to make a six-figure investment to hire an engineer in China to develop a battery small enough to be inserted in the magazine cover. The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China. They are shipped to Texas and on to Mexico, where the device is inserted by hand into each magazine. The issues will then be shipped via trucks, which will be refrigerated to preserve the batteries, to the magazine’s distributor in Glazer, Ky.
“We are trying to combine a 21st-century technology with a 19th-century manufacturing process,” Mr. Granger said.
All of this, of course, is expensive. Which is why it was necessary for Esquire to find a sponsor. In stepped Ford Motor, which will have an advertisement on the inside of the cover that will use the same technology to promote its new minivan-sport utility vehicle, the Flex.
Now magazines can add an illuminated halo around Barack Obama’s head whenever they put him on the cover.