Anniversary: A Short History Lesson

A brief history of Orlando magazine.
A Short History Lesson
Disney Makes Headlines
Living and Giving
Mr. Downtown
Back to the Future
Church Street Heydays
Genuine Articles
Introducing the Silver Skillet Awards
Front & Center

In the beginning, there was Hugh Waters. 

Hugh Waters 

In 1946 the newspaper ad salesman decided to quit his job and start a magazine that would cater to the small band of winter visitors who came to Central Florida each year. He called the digest-sized publication The Orlando Attraction, and it was published weekly from November to April, listing 20-30 pages of information such as local points of interest, the best places to fish and church locations. Think of a simpler time, before digital photography, slick color pages, and social media. Waters and his wife, Denny, ran the operation from their garage apartment. Both sold advertising. The average price for an ad: $3.75. Some of those earlier advertisers that kept the magazine alive: Gary’s Duck Inn, Cypress Gardens, Mount Vernon Inn, First National Bank of Orlando, and the San Juan and Angebilt hotels. 

That small booklet was the start of Orlando magazine. It featured little editorial content—until, in 1962, an Associated Press journalist from New York named Edward L. Prizer bought the magazine for $17,000, deciding to focus it on the growth and development he saw on the horizon. He and wife Artice ran the publication from their house. One of Prizer’s biggest innovations: Realizing that real estate could be sold in a magazine just as effectively as in newspapers. Still, the Orlando-Winter Park Attraction, as it was now called, struggled.

But then in 1969 the Orlando Chamber of Commerce started selling the region to the world as a tourist destination. Soon after, Walt Disney announced plans to build Disney World and Epcot. Prizer gambled everything and upgraded the publication to a full-size city publication and called it Orlando-Land. The first issue was published in November 1969, while Disney World was under construction. Prizer said he had $129 in his bank account at the time. But advertising revenue soon soared, the magazine moved from the Prizer home into offices on Clay Street in Winter Park, and the publication took on a full-fledged staff. 

Over the years, the magazine provided extensive coverage of all things Disney—including a “Disney Report” in every issue. In 1981, the name of the magazine was changed to simply Orlando. In 1988 Prizer sold the magazine for $1.7 million to Micromedia, a New Jersey media company, and the publication further emphasized its coverage of local growth and development. It would change hands two more times before being bought by Morris Communications, based in Augusta, Ga., in 2004. And we remain a part of the Morris family today.

Way back in January 1970, Edward Prizer wrote: “Count up the changes over the past 10 years. Multiply them by 10 … and you’ll have an approximation of what will happen between now and 1980.” He probably could have used a multiplier 10 times that, particularly when you consider that currently, more than 60 million people visit our area each year. For us, the “Orlando attraction” today is simple: the people, places and experiences that have persuaded you to call this place home. Whether in print or on the web, we remain dedicated to reflecting that one-of-a-kind community.

Categories: Community