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  • Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    At this time of a new year I’m usually asked for my predictions of the incoming year. My usual glib answer is something like, “Next year will be like this year only more so.”
     
    As I look back on 2020 and then forward into 2021, I am starting to think my comedic answer was more prescient then humorous. I’m afraid that a good deal of 2021, which we all looked forward to with relish, will be exactly like the tail end of 2020. There is no permanent new normal until the covid plague is defeated, and that I’m sad to say isn’t on the near horizon.
     
    Bummer, yes. I know. And I’m sorry for pointing that out. The best current estimates are that everyone will be vaccinated by June. If past is prolog, I don’t believe that estimate. But let’s say it does work out that way, then the first half of 2021 will be pretty much like the end 2020. The same conditions of personal and business reinvention and adjustments.
     
    Let me start here in the middle of the plague. With all our new covid related problems we have and are still dealing with our old unresolved issues, such as fake news, fake ads, real ad blockers, fake impressions, fake humans (bots), fake ad placement and undeniable declines in magazine advertising.
     
    Are there exceptions to the declines in advertising? Of course, there are. As I’ve stated for the last decade, what really matters is the success or failure of your magazines or media enterprises. It doesn’t matter what the industry as a whole is doing, as many titles are doing quite well. It only matters how you are doing.
     
    I am bullish on the industry as it clearly grows and morphs into something new at an on-going and accelerated rate. More people read, collect and share distributed media information than ever before. There is more revenue being made in media beyond the wildest dreams of our publishing ancestors. The only problem with that observation is that most of the money isn’t in traditional businesses. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and the like are undeniably media companies, although they deny it. They have the lion’s share of the revenue pie and their growth is exponential, while print’s isn’t. Growth, yes. Exponential growth perhaps for some, but limited for most.
     
    With the above as a foundation here are my totally random and unresearched predictions for media in 2021 and beyond.
     
    Will subscription fatigue finally sink inIf we accept the concept that there is a limit to everyone’s disposable income, how will the still growing shift to a subscription model everywhere be sustained? Will there eventually be subscription fatigue? The answer to fighting the fatigue must be like Amazon Prime and the great bundling caper. Subscribe for this cool product, thing and widget and we will give you all these other things and widgets at no additional cost. Mr publisher what can you bundle with your subscriptions?
     
    The growth of podcasting will continue to grow. Ok, that is a no brainer but still must be listed. The growing podcasting technology and accessibility is reaching more and more consumers with a vast assortment of new content. Revenues in the podcast advertising market are projected to grow 14.7% year over year to nearly $1 billion in 2020, according to the IAB and PricewaterhouseCooper.
     
    The Apple and Facebook slugfest. Apple is now letting users decide whether to allow apps to track certain forms of personal data, like the websites they visit or the things they have been shopping for.  Apple wants the user to decide what information about them is shared with advertisers. Facebook is worried that this will change the value of advertising, which is the foundation of Facebook’s revenue stream. The adage has never been truer: "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold"
     
    Home voice platforms will continue to grow. Alexa and her competitors will soon be ubiquitous. Each morning I listen to “flash briefings” from publishers such as The Washington Post, ESPN, NPR, The New York Times, and the Harvard Business Review just to name a few. We have reached Star Trek levels of voice activated computer access. This will continue to grow and new “tricks” will be added that will no doubt astound us. I’m not clear about the monetization paths, but with ubiquity almost anything can produce revenue.
     
    Google and Facebook get bombarded by antitrust suits. The end of 2020 saw many actions by governments around the world to try to regulate the media giants. The DOJ is suing Google for allegedly violating anti-trust laws. Facebook has also been hit with lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of dozens of states. Sadly, Google and Facebook have more than enough money to fight in the courts for years. But perhaps in 2021 the legal distraction will help publishers and advertisers get reacquainted with each other.
     
    Social eCommerce Will Increase in 2021. This is nothing new but the speed of change and buying habits of consumers has predominantly and permanently shifted to a digital path. If you as a publisher want 2021 to be a year of growth, your business model will need to focus partly on social ecommerce and multiple paths of revenue.
     
    Working remotely has permanently reshaped the media industry. The adhesiveness of the new pandemic stay-at-home lifestyles will continue well past the end of the plague. When will we all get back to physical workplaces? Never, not all of us, but some of us will with limited business travel, limited time in the office, and executive leaders questioning all expenses as never before. Management has discovered new forms of what they will be calling efficiencies. The enforced quarantine and power of technology has rewritten the workforce rules of the requirements of a physical presence.
     
    As we move into 2021 with all the changes still ahead of us, remember our purpose. We have the power to make our customers laugh, cry or become more knowledgeable on any and every subject. At the end of our efforts, we hope our work is appreciated, valued and paid for.
    Our publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are still unexpected and unexplored.
     
    The plague has undoubtedly created an interesting time for media professionals. Some of us in media have made momentous leaps while others are still trying to figure out the new rules of engagement. But have no fear -- we as an industry are strong, vibrant and creative. Yes, there will be unexpected changes and unusual turns of events still to come. Rather than fear it, embrace the future, because there is no rational alternative where everyone – even you – is empowered to be a disruptor.

    BoSacks
    Posted January 03, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    January 3rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Welcome to 2020, a new decade and, in Star Wars terms, a new hope. About this time of year there are always a plethora of articles that forecast and focus on the near and far future of our media businesses. When that happens I find myself looking back, not for nostalgic purposes but for a foothold of perspective. I find it is often best to understand where you came from to have a good sense of direction as to where you need to be and how to get there. Good questions are how did I get here and where do I adjust my plans to move forward? What is working and what is not? In my last holiday message of 2019, I offered a "Be Here Now" approach appropriate for both business and personal objectives…
     
    January 13th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks OutFriedrich Nietzsche once said, "There are no facts, only interpretations." That comes mighty close to our understanding of the magazine industry today, at least when it comes to the various reports we constantly read on the subject.
     
    Too often some industry prognosticators confuse what is happening to "the big guys" to be representative of the entire publishing industry. It is not. There is a complete disconnect between mid and modest titles and the Hearst's, Conde's, and New York Times of this world. What Conde does is irrelevant to any other publishing house large or small. It is a fiefdom with its own set of rules, agendas, and methodologies. Whatever game plan Hearst or any other large publishing house has is nothing like yours or your competitors. It is a brave new world out there, and it is adapt or die time…
     
    January 16th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: LSC announced the closing of its manufacturing facilities in Strasburg, Va.; Glasgow, Ky.; and Mattoon, Ill. The closing of the three printing plants is expected to be completed by July 2020.
     
    These plants were legendary magazine plants, each with its own personality and style. I had the privilege through my career at various points to have hustled many a magazine through each facility. I have fond memories of the employees and various management teams. Spending time in those printing plants and learning from talented employees was the bedrock of my career as a director of manufacturing. I have always been thankful for the experiences…
     
    January 27TH 2020
     
    Special people and special companies deserve a shout out of thanks and gratitude from time to time. In this case, I want to bring to your attention the tireless work of John Mennell of MagazineLiteracy.org and Joel Quadracci of Quad Graphics. In my book they are unsung heroes performing necessary acts of kindness valiantly even though behind the scenes.
     
    MagazineLiteracy.org supplies recycled printed products, new magazines, and comics to literacy programs around the country. From their web site comes the following statement: “Why are magazines and comics so special for literacy, you might ask? Promoting literacy establishes a lifelong reading habit. Studies show that holding reading materials in your hands increases learning. Magazines and comic books become familiar and not intimidating. They educate and inspire. Magazines and comic books in hands and homes foster ownership and build self-esteem.”…
     
    John went on to say, “With these and other Quad supported efforts, we’ve moved over a million magazines." John pointed out that "Joel and his team have been so generous, and never flinching, allowing us to have an enormous impact and showing us what’s possible as we reach for meeting our full promise.”
     
    Well, doesn’t that story make you feel good? My thanks to Joel and John for doing this meaningful and impactful philanthropy and for promoting genuine kindness on such a profound human scale. Magazines can help those in need, and perhaps literacy can help to end poverty.
    Click here to contact Magazine Literacy
    Recycle your magazines and comic books for literacy. 

     

    March 18th 2020

    I’m not sure where to begin. As a man in his 60s with asthma, I sit here safely in self-imposed isolation in the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, frustrated and worried about my family and friends, and like everyone else hoping for effective leadership for all of us from our governments both large and small.
     
    I can only briefly try to express my sorrow for those lives already lost and for those yet to come in unknown numbers. The loss of life I expect will be so staggering, so overwhelming, so incomprehensible, as to be at first numbing and then painfully dwarfing anything in the experience of all our lives except for military wars. I hope I’m wrong, but I think not…
     
     
    March 23rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: What publishers can learn from The Independent’s growth story I'm having a personal déjà vu publishing moment. It's not that the situation is the same; It isn't, not even close. But the effect for me and this newsletter is strikingly similar. The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on Sept. 29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intraday trading, and the publishing industry took it on the chin. Although the industry has made tremendous positive progress, the print world is decidedly less than it was before 2008. The resulting publishing effect for me was the sending out of negative but necessary industry news for an extended period of time. It had to be done then, and I believe it has to be done now. With the new and more powerful globe-changing event, the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe we need to stay as informed as possible about all perspectives. That is what I always try to do – Keep you informed…
     
    April 20th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Reports from the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: My friend and circulation consultant Joe Berger had a great idea a few weeks ago of getting together a team of publishing professionals to have weekly zoom conversations about what is happening to our industry from a ground floor perspective. We have had publishers, professors, consultants, and this week a printer. We didn’t know how our meetings would evolve, but we deemed them a good idea with benefits for all. So far we have had two reports of our conversations captured by Linda Ruth, who is a circulation consultant, and distributed to you in this newsletter.
     
    At a time when most American businesses are struggling to survive during this challenging time, we need to stay alert and flexible with the still-evolving changing economic conditions. Hotels are empty, retail outlets are closed, and restaurants, bars, and eateries are struggling to exist with carryout or delivery orders…

     

    April 29th 2020
    In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas at the same time. In 1936 F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
     
    I'm not saying I have a first-rate intelligence, but I do have two thoughts that are rolling around in my head. They are that the publishing industry isn't in peril, but many of its employees may be…
     
    July 13th 2020
    Last Friday, David Leonhardt wrote an article in the New York Times titled “It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?” It was subtitled, “The pandemic could shape the world, much as World War II and the Great Depression did.” It ran somewhat parallel with my essay last week that the pandemic has placed us in a time machine. We either accelerate to match the speed of change, or we get run over by it and replaced by something else…
     
    July 15th 2020
     
    There was a time when I was a monthly columnist for Publishing Executive Magazine. Each year my editor asked me to do a tips and tricks article offering suggestions for a healthy and successful publishing career.
     
    One of the core elements I always suggested was that knowledge is power, and industry knowledge is employment power. If you can speak knowledgeably of the entire media process, you are a more desirable candidate for the job you have or, perhaps even more importantly, the job you want to have. Understanding what the other departments do is of vital importance. Inter-departmental communication and knowledge facilitate the teamwork of successful and efficient organizations.
     
    I bring this up today, realizing that networking may be hard or near to impossible for an extended period of time due to COVID 19 and the increasing use of zoom meetings. If forecasters are correct, those industries that can now work mostly from home will continue to work from home. That puts a strain on making new industry friends and makes it harder to share industrial knowledge.
                         
    Additionally, in-person meetings and in-person conferences may, in large part, be a thing of the past. If that is so, it strikes a dagger in the ability to network. The loss of networking is a loss to both the industry and our careers…

     

    July 22nd, 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: In many ways the readership and the topics of interest covered in this newsletter have tracked the profound changes in the magazine industry very closely. In the early days of this newsletter, subscribers had several specific areas of publishing interest they could subscribe to. One of the popular subscription options was all about paper. In the late 1990s, there were over 2,500 people who were solely interested in the paper industry and subscribed to that list.
     
    Do you know that in the old days of the 1980s and perhaps the 1990s FolioMagazine had a monthly column about the paper side of our business? Did you know that the MPA would hold a special session at every annual meeting to talk about paper in the large open session?
     
    Now we are in 2020, and we sell near 50% fewer magazines than we used to produce a decade or so ago. The obvious consequence is that we buy less paper.
     
    The article Verso shutdown would have devastating impact on forestry trucking, construction industries demonstrates clearly the ripple effect of our selling fewer magazines on the related supply chain vendors. 
     
    July 29th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Sometimes I have to put the bourbon aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry. I do this because I love the magazine media industry, and I don't want anyone to misinterpret the facts and actual conditions of our industry. 
     
    In turbulent times, turbulent things happen. What I have to report tonight is a reflection of the turmoil of the times we live in. I was asked by those in the know not to say what I am about to tell you, and I would have kept that promise, but we live in an instant messaging age.
     
    A person I do not know tweeted today that Folio: Magazine is no more. Because of that tweet, I feel I am relieved of the responsibility of keeping my silence…

     

    August 4th, 2020
     
    BoSacks Speaks Out: There is a brief comment in the article How to shift towards a paywall that I sent out last night. It is an oft repeated expression throughout the industry that “We have to face it: people hate ads.” I beg to differ on that point. What people hate are bad ads and bad advertising campaigns. People hate intrusive ads that follow you everywhere tracking advertising…
     
    Perhaps it is counting on an algorithm for success rather than creativity that is at the heart of advertising’s problems today. Could it be that corporate consumer surveillance has replaced innovation and imagination? I think so…
     
    August 12th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Most of us naturally track our industry and know the score of what the plague and the media tech platforms (FANG) are doing to us. It is a toxic combination not only for our health but also for our careers and our business wellbeing.
     
    I follow our industry very closely and read of layoffs and closures almost every day. We all read about them and absorb the data as shots from a sniper one information bullet at a time. The article Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs brings it into focus as a shotgun blast of intelligence right to the heart of our media industry. The entire global media workforce is shrinking. The plague and the media stress are a wide-spread phenomenon.
     
    We are all hoping for a relatively fast vaccine and an equally speedy economic recovery. When that happens, media will get back on track and rehire, reinvent and reestablish itself, but perhaps not as it was. We have all learned to do more with less. That is one of the new permanent conditions we will live with long after the new normal solidifies. Some of us might never work from an office again. Being self-employed I haven't worked from an office since 1996. This will be a change in lifestyles for many media professionals.

     

    August 28th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis
    I have been a digital futurist for the publishing industry since the early 1990s and probably before that, depending on when you start counting my industry predictions. I still believe in the future of digital as THE most efficient and effective communication tool yet known to man. But my prognostications have always been tempered with pragmatism, as I am what I call a pragmatic optimist.
     
    The web and all that it contains, the good and very bad, will be with us as far as one can see into the future. But while reading the article How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis I was thinking, "How did it come to this?" Which is what King Theoden asked in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. Now I ask the same question – How did it come to this? How can the advertising business lose $42 billion dollars in ad fraud while at the same time fraud-free, safe and proven magazines continue to lose ad dollars every quarter? How can there be so much excess revenue that an industry can lose $42 billion and do very little about it?
     
    September 9th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines
     
    Five years from now, we won't be worried about the effectiveness of Zoom calls because it will be an antique process. I'm not saying the next few years will be easy; They won't be. Hell, the next year alone promises to be a COVID backbreaker for many. What I am saying is that in five years, our jobs and methodologies will have morphed into something new. It has always been that way, only now it happens faster than ever… 

     

    September 28th 2020 
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic
     
    …To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
     
    With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
     
    As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
     
    To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you.
     
    November 6th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
     
    There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion: that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.
    The author states:
     
    “You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”
     
    We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways…
     
    December 21, 2020
    I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting…
     
    We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous…
     
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
     
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
     
    BoSacks
    -30-

     

    BoSacks
    Posted December 30, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Jerry Lynch, President of MBR (Magazines and Books at Retail)

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Jerry Lynch, President of MBR (Magazines and Books at Retail)

    “We have opportunities available to no one else”
    By Linda Ruth
     
    Winding up 2020, and our year of, our group—Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me—hosted Jerry Lynch, President of MBR (Magazines and Books at Retail) to talk about what we’ve come through, and what lies ahead. Jerry Lynch talked about his faith in our industry, the unique opportunities available to us through ecommerce—and a big announcement he is almost ready to make.
     
    Joe: We’ve spent the year reacting to the challenges that COVID threw at us; it seems, in general, we do a lot of reacting. Is there a chance for us to not be such a reactive industry?
     
    Jerry: The challenge is going to be figuring out where retail, as a result of dealing with Covid is going to go, where it will end up, and when.  Contrary to what you’d expect, we don’t fully know what’s going on. Consumer habits have changed, and some of those changes are going to stick, but perhaps not all of them. Some of the things that businesses put in place as the result of the pandemic might have to be unwound as consumers start to change again. And additional opportunities will arise.
     
    Meanwhile, we’ve had some positive changes; mass market and grocery are the classes of trade that have done best for us..
     
    Bo: People have to eat. Of all the necessary resources available to the public, grocery is paramount. We have to eat 3 times a day.
     
    Sherin: The club stores, Sam’s and BJs have done well too, although Costco has stopped carrying magazines. Why is that?
     
    Jerry: Costco has a unique way of judging performance. Magazines don’t fit nicely into their way of operating, and the resulting metrics don’t allow our performance, in my opinion, to be judged properly.
     
    The timing of their decision—we had hoped the removal of magazines was temporary--did bump up against COVID, as well. We have some ground to regain there. Some retailers removed checkout entirely, seeing it as a distraction at the front end when they needed to move customers through for safety reasons. We’ve seen some good consumer feedback around the category, and that’s giving us an entry point back in.
     
    Bo: People trust magazines more than any other medium.
     
    Joe: What is the role MBR has in presenting magazines at retail?
     
    Jerry: We see our role as overarching. Our involvement would be along the lines of providing good research, helping craft the story. COVID set us back.
     
    Sherin: If a retailer walks away from magazines, as, for example, Home Depot did, do you strategize with wholesalers how to get them back on distribution?
     
    Jerry: We do try to come up with a concerted effort, but remember that it’s driven by retailers in terms of who they want to talk to. That’s primarily the wholesalers and larger publishers. Our role would be to help coordinate, to make sure we’re delivering the same key messages having to do with the benefit of the entire magazine category in the store.
     
    Sherin: The Old Farmer’s Almanac had a direct relationship with Home Depot before anyone else, then the wholesalers got involved and turned it into a category issue. When, after years, the whole chain was lost it was a big hit.
     
    Jerry:  Many times a decision about the category comes from higher up,  executives other than the buyer of magazines.  Those decision-makers may not have enough information or the correct information which doesn’t allow for a good understanding of the category. Where we can We work with the merchant to ensure they have the right information to take to upper management to help make our case.
     
    Bo: My experience in our industry says there is great need for improvement, training and experience. How savvy are the buyers?

    Linda Ruth
    Posted December 20, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: I SALUTE YOU - We are committed to pursuing new possibilities

    BoSacks Speaks Out: I SALUTE YOU - We are committed to pursuing new possibilities

    “Darkness, the truest darkness isn't the absence of light; it is the conviction that the light will never return. But the light always returns to show us things familiar, home, family, and things entirely new or long overlooked. It shows us new possibilities and challenges us to pursue them."
     
    So ends Lois Lane’s reporting in the 2017 movie Justice League. How pertinent is her observation for the year 2020? And how challenged and committed we have become to pursuing new possibilities. There were indeed times when we hit the seemingly endless darkness with Covid plague death rates only understood by previous historical eras but never ours.
     
    The darkness of the plague affected everything in our daily lives – our families, our homes, our security, and our businesses. Nothing has been unaffected. Yet here we stand with the death rate still on the rise. Nevertheless I believe we are at the turning of the tide with the light of functioning vaccines finally on the horizon. Will 2021 be different? Yes, in so many ways – some known, some forecast, and some changes still unknowable.  
     
    Marie Curie said, "Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." That is a philosophy worth attempting to comprehend as we crawl from the depths of this global pandemic to a hopefully brighter vaccinated spring and a glorious covid-free summer/fall season next year.
     
    This time has been an historic and particularly trying year for us all. Many have handled it with resilience, innovation, creativity, and a kind of fervor to get things righted. When faced with a series of situations never seen before, some have correctly approached it with techniques never used before. Bravo creativity in chaos!
     
    On April 29th, 2020, I wrote about my presumptions of the new normal, where it seemed apparent that we were/are in a time machine, a machine that accelerates whatever was happening before. If your business was in decline, that decline was now accelerated. If your business was doing well, the methodologies and the technology you used for success should/could lead to further achievements, if not now, then in the near future.
     
    We are continuing to innovate as an industry and that process will payoff ten-fold when this crisis is over. But we shouldn’t forget our brothers and sisters who were “covided” out of gainful employment. Too many of the people of our industry have been left without a job and the steady income we all need to support our families. The publishing industry has always had a life and death cycle, but that cycle is in a time warp of acceleration.
     
    I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting.
     
    J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't talking about a plague, but he covered our times and sentiments well when he had Frodo say, "I wish it need not have happened in my time." "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
     
    What to do with the time that is given us? There is much angst and legitimate fear in the world today, some of it based on reality and some just imagined. It is hard some days to distinguish between the two, between the real plague at our doorstep and the imagined fear for family, friends, and co-workers. I have lost a few friends to Covid in the past few months. I expect you may have too. So the fear seems more real than imagined. But I will report that Carol and I feel mostly safe and pretty much cloistered in our home in Charlottesville for the past 9 months. We know we are privileged to be able to lay low and play it safe.
     
    In my professional life as a publisher, I have for over twenty-seven years expressed a year-end message of review, hope, and promise to my readers. This year is no exception. With almost everybody sitting on the edge of their seat attempting to fathom today's morass of intense plague and the ensuing problems that comes with it, it makes sense for us all to stop and take a moment or two of personal reflection and review. Many of us have been forced as never before to challenge our old calculations, personal observations and perhaps even our professional longevity. It seems that what we grew up relying upon as stable and true is just no longer as reliable as it once seemed.
     
    We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous.
     
    History has proven that plagues come and then they go, that business downturns appear when least expected and retreat just the same, that the winter is cold only to be followed by the beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is our love of family and friends. Like superheroes, I believe that love is our secret power, and with it we sustain ourselves with the love of family and friends.
     
    The following message was first sent in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional year-end expression of hope and reflection. I have been sharing this poem with my newsletter readership for decades.  Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding and hope. The plague has intensified my understanding of the poem.
     
    Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work so hard that sometimes we forget the real reasons for our energetic pursuits. In the end, it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real long-lasting meaning.
     
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
     
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
     
    Bob Sacks
    -30-
     
    I SALUTE YOU
    There is nothing I can give which you have not;
    but there is much that, while I
    Can not give, you can take.
     
    No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
    Find rest in it today.
    Take happiness.
     
    No peace lies in the future,
    which is not somewhere hidden in this present instant.
    Take Peace.
     
    The sometime gloom of the world is but a shadow;
    Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
    Take joy
     
    And so, at this holiday time, I greet you,
    With the prayer that for you, now and forever
    The days break with peace,
    and all shadows flee from your path.
     
    Fra Giovanni
    A salutation written to a friend in 1513
    .
     
     

    BoSacks
    Posted December 19, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Jim Bilton publisher of MediaFutures-

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Jim Bilton publisher of MediaFutures-

    “We Forget How Exciting Our World Is”
     
    On Wednesday, almost a full year after the onset of our pandemic, nine months from the first Pandemic Roundtable, hosted by Joe Berger and attended by Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me, we met again to review the state of our industry. Our special guest was Jim Bilton, the publisher of the annual mediafutures market analysis and the wessendenbriefing, the 7x newsletter covering print and digital trends and analysis.
     
    While the scope of his business is international, we were particularly interested in hearing about trends in the UK, where his business is based, and how they relate to trends in the US and the rest of the world. Our conversation took us to the continuing strength of print, the re-dedication to print on the part of key retailers, and the excitement that our audience still finds in the world of print.
     
    Jim: I was interested in reading in a past Roundtable about the direction Barnes and Noble is taking. That is such a huge part of your market; we have nothing like that in the UK. WH Smith was formerly number one in the UK, but they expanded into travel, which seemed a good move at the time, that has backfired; now magazines aren’t their main thing, stationery is. Tesco, a supermarket chain, leapfrogged over WH Smith. 
     
    Barnes and Noble is interesting because of its connection, through James Daunt, to Waterstones. But the size of the store format couldn’t work in the UK, where the rents are so high; we don’t have the big out of town malls to the same extent as in the USA. The interesting aspect, to me, is what Krifka said about focusing back on bricks and mortar, on print, and moving away from a strong digital focus.
     
    Joe: We’re interested in getting your perspective on the effects of the pandemic on UK publishing, and where you expect it to take us from here.
     
    Jim: During lockdown magazines did worse than newspapers. Sales dropped by 30% YoY, although they came back, and overall are now down about 17%. The travel sector fared much worse, of course, going into virtual hibernation initially and are still now about 80% down.
     
    Here many UK publishers overreacted and slashed draws more than they needed to. Supermarkets held up; and independents have a bigger share than ever before. And there’s a background issue about the health of print—in terms of physical health; copies have been taken out of waiting rooms and shops because of health concerns and people have been made to feel uncomfortable about browsing at the magazine racks. This obviously hits impulse sales and discovery at retail.
     
    Samir: In the US, we’ve seen a big increase in people of color on magazines; are you seeing the same trend in the UK, and is it helping or hurting sales?
     
    Jim: Yes, we are seeing the same trend, but the impact on sales is difficult to size given everything else going on in the marketplace. One launch I can point to is Cocoa Girl magazine, celebrating Black girls. We’re generally seeing lots of small launches, specialty launches, and a bit of a trend from digital to print.
     
    Bo: Last time I was in the UK most publications had cover mounts(Polybagged magazines with attached products of one sort or anohter) ; is that still a trend?
     
    Jim: Yes, though not quite as much as before. There’s a big sustainability issue, and issues having to do with returns. Publishers are learning to move premiums closer to content, so they relate more directly to the content of the magazine. The same has been true of events—although of course that’s less of an issue now. But we haven’t realized how exciting our world is to our readers. Everyone’s got a wine club; but audiences want the unique content a publisher has to offer.
    Another trend we’re seeing is publishers varying cover price depending on content and pagination.

     
    Linda Ruth
    Posted December 14, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    I want to go through an exercise of what we know, what we don’t know and throw a few possibilities in for good measure.
     
    Let’s start with a report from Kali Hays at WWD:
     
    “Nearly 40 percent of magazines that publish on at least a quarterly basis have seen their audiences decline so far this year, according to updated data from the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks the performance of such publications. That’s on top of a major pullback in advertising this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the related contraction of the global economy.
     
    “Of the major magazines from publishers such as Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith, 15 major titles saw their audiences decline or remain flat through the third quarter, so nearly all the months of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S so far, compared to the same period last year. But that leaves 20 titles that actually saw audiences grow.”
     
    This sounds pretty bad, but what about the 60% that didn’t show audience declines. Magazine readership has always had an ebb and a flow. Whole sectors rise and fall over time, which is historic in the publishing industry and not an aberration. I am not saying that these aren’t hard times; they are. But as old as the saying goes, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
     
    I believe that when the dust and the plague settle our industry will be more vibrant and successful, reaching more customers than ever before. The trick of course is surviving and adapting.
     
    Take Afar magazine which according to the Alliance for Audited Media grew its audience across platforms by 130.2% from September 2019 to September 2020. That is pretty outstanding. My guess is that if people can’t travel due to Covid restrictions, they satisfy their wander lust by reading about travel.
     
    As reported by Media Post there were other success stories. “Backpacker (47.8%), Veranda (43.8%) and The Atlantic (34.9%) also witnessed big gains in audiences year-over-year, according to the report.
     
    People (89.1 million), Allrecipes (61.7 million) and Good Housekeeping (60.7 million) had the largest brand audiences across platforms in September 2020.
     
    Total audience on all platforms across the magazine brands was up 5.9% year-over-year.”
     
    Today, I had a brief email conversation with David Carey where we discussed the Covid time warp. I wrote, “The plague has definitely accelerated publishing business models. We would have arrived here, wherever that is, sooner or later, but now in this time machine we are adjusting at a very rapid pace.” David replied, “I agree with you that this is an accelerant – the 2025 business models have arrived overnight.  For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    David is right. “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    What do we need to consider in our business plans to be fine?
     
    One thing we need to be aware of is the change in buying habits. Are they temporary or now ingrained into the new normal?  Rob Williams points out in What Does The 'Storeless' Economy Mean For Publishers? – “The "retail apocalypse" of the past few years grew much worse in 2020. The pandemic led many people to avoid stores and shop from the safety of their homes. The upheaval in the retail industry will continue to shape the role of publishers next year as content and commerce become even more seamless. The pandemic is hastening the shift toward a “storeless” economy as retailers go out of business or close down unprofitable stores…”
     
    And in another story Media Post reports that “A majority of U.S. consumers — 67% — plan to do their holiday shopping online this year, according to a new study by Dynata, sponsored by SAP SE. And 60% expect to do at least part of it in brick-and-mortar stores.”
     
    So, if people aren’t going to the stores, what are we as an industry doing to avoid a Darwinian moment in the business life cycle. Why can’t we have on-line drop-down menus for magazines at retail outlets and supermarkets that carry magazines? Are we so Neolithic that we refuse to let what can and should be digitized not be digitized? What other industry is not transforming...everything? Just because our products are analog that doesn’t mean our infrastructure and processes should be, too.
     
    I reached out to a member of the Publishing Pandemic roundtable, my friend Joe Berger who is a Circulation Consultant, and he offered the following thoughts:
     
    “There are issues and they include:
     
    “What magazines do you offer? The best sellers? How do you get retailers to show the most current issues and get that info updated in a timely fashion?
     
    “How many copies should be offered? What is in store? Often the retailers don't know what is in stock as they don't measure that.
     
    “What about "dark stores"? What is offered there? What about central warehouses? How would that be handled?”
     
    Joe continued, “In the end it's a combination of "will" within the newsstand portion of the industry and "will" on the part of the publishers. Especially for the major publishers who are now the drivers of the newsstand part of the publishing industry.”
     
    Joe’s a smart guy and these are all valid points. But it’s the fracking 21st century. There is no can’t with today’s available technologies; there is only a lack of will. I see this as an investment in the future of our industry. If magazines are not seen, they cannot be bought. We need to be developing and training the next generation of readers today, right now.
     
    Sure, it may be hard. Maybe you think it is near to impossible. But as Robert A. Heinlein said, “Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” Where is the “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!)” momentum at the newsstand? We are foolish not to tackle this distribution situation in earnest as the pandemic meteor crashes to earth. Magazine publishers with their 7,000 unique business plans have never played well in the same sand box, especially when it comes to the poor maligned newsstand. But there is a time and a place for mutual cooperation or mutual annihilation.
     
    Joe’s conclusion is humorous and spot on:
     
    “My guess would be it's a back-burner issue because the newsstand is a back-burner issue for all of these guys. Think about the publishing business as a plate full of food at Thanksgiving. The plate is full of delicious stuff: Turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, etc. Newsstand is that tiny helping of Aunt June's special cranberry treat you take to be polite. It's spicy. It's an acquired taste. You aren't entirely sure how it got made and you may not want to know how she did it."
    BoSacks
    Posted November 15, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
    There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion:  that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.

     

    The author states:

    “You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”


    We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways.

     

    Take the New York Times, for example. The New York Times added 669,000 net new digital subscribers, making the second quarter its biggest ever for subscription growth. The Times has 6.5 million total subscriptions, a figure that includes 5.7 million digital-only subscriptions, putting it on a course to achieve its stated goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.

     

    Yes, The New York Times has video insertions and audio podcasts, but it is primarily a reading platform. There are 7,000 magazines on newsstands in this country that are reading based businesses. The point is that those very same readers most likely also enjoy TicToc, and YouTube, Snapchat, and a host of others. The act of reading and seeing other mediums are not mutually exclusive. Instead, what is culturally going on is an additive process to the human condition.

     

    Speaking of the reading process, there is something that is often overlooked, and it is a fundamental change in the process of reading. Take your pick from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Facebook to Buzzfeed, from Twitter to ISSUU and to the web pages of People and Time magazine – these reading experiences are not formatted as traditional magazines or newspapers. Facebook has well over a billion people reading without pagination as we understand it. There are indeed pages and sections in those reading platforms, but not a single folio. It is still reading but new and different and ever-changing.

     

    So, although we are not entering a post-literate society, there are big things to be vigilant about and that need our attention.  Humanity and Content Distribution, formally known as publishing, have entered a new period of transformation. The hard part of this transformation is that we are still contending with our old legacy thinking, which is how we all tend to live in the present and look ahead to the future through the conceptual filters of the past. It is no small task to fight that thinking process.

    I think we can all agree we are at the beginning of a new chapter in the history of media, and not the end of the last chapter in our book. In fact, there is no end; there is only a continuous beginning. And what we have gone through in the previous two decades is still just the new endless beginning. But I am more hopeful for our literate-reading industry today than ever before. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted November 05, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- For Magazines, Barnes and Noble is Holding Up Nicely

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- For Magazines, Barnes and Noble is Holding Up Nicely

    Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandise, Newsstand at Barnes & Noble, Inc. returned for the second time to deliver an update to the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me.
     
    And the news she brought was this: despite the year we’ve been having, Barnes and Noble is holding up nicely. Currently sales are only down 26% year over year. Stores are open. People are shopping.
     
    This is not to say that the pandemic has been without impact. Some stores still have shortened hours; fire and flooding impact retail space. Some publications went on hiatus; others may not come back.
     
    Krifka: : Since January Barnes and Noble has lost 500 titles, representing $25 million in retail sales. Some of those titles were coming from the UK. We lost the entire TEN Portfolio, that was a huge number of titles and Retail Sales Dollars for us. Oprah magazine, despite rumors of closing, is still publishing, but they’ve changed their frequency from monthly to quarterly.
     
    Samir: it was the media who said they were going away, but from Day One the publisher said they were going quarterly. I visited a few stores, where I found a hefty magazine selection. You do see a decline in foreign titles, although some of the mainstays—British Vogue, Italian Vogue—are still out there.
     
    Krifka: Imports are an interesting situation. Future Publishing stopped printing for a number of months, their publishing schedule in terms of number of titles has gone way down. The cost of gearing up again may prevent some of the smaller ones from opening.
     
    Sherin: A more severe lockdown is coming in England.
     
    Joe: When a big service title goes from monthly to quarterly with a higher cover price, what do you see in terms of overall units?
     
    Krifka: Ultimately the retail dollars is what we’re focused on—and with those changes they perform better for us. The lower priced titles are by and large the ones that our customers subscribe to. Coastal Living, for example, went quarterly, and we saw increased unit sales.
     
    Sherin: In a sense the media did magazines a favor by threatening scarcity. People are showing more devotion to their favorite titles. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, for example, is way up year-over-year; in some chains as much as 80%.
     
    Joe: So lower frequency, higher prices is a good thing.
     
    Krifka: The monthly turn of titles is so quick, it doesn’t allow us to get the full sales benefit of each release. At one point we had NO new product and still were selling 50% compared to prior year. We were selling titles several months old. We were just moving too fast. Magazines are luxury, and they deserve the opportunity to be seen.
     
    Samir: They are a luxury and no longer an impulse buy. It’s a decision—you are going to spend $20 to buy this magazine. When I pick up a copy of GQ or Vogue, a subscription card—the dandruff of the industry—drops on the floor saying, you stupid Samir, you are paying $9 for one issue, and you can get the whole year for $10, and get a canvas bag along with it!
     
    Joe: But you’ll have to wait 12 weeks for it to show up.
     
    Samir: But they’ll send you back issues too. Even the one you bought and send your card in from. Until we get rid of guaranteed circ there is no solution.
     
    Sherin: No advertiser pays the full rate card, so rate base should be obsolete anyway.
     
    Bo: The upper tier of our business is still on rate base. The top 5 aren’t going to change; it’s working for them. The rest of the industry has no intention of having a rate base.
     
    Samir: I picked up Bicycling and Runner’s World. American magazines have finally discovered Black people, they are on the cover of all the magazines. Even the upper tier publishers are starting to change the way they are presenting their magazines to the public. Krifka, have you seen this? Will the trend continue?
     
    Krifka: It is unprecedented the number of covers featuring Black Americans—every category, even fall fashion. We’re not seeing any kind of drop in sale as a result. Sales if anything are gaining. Oprah, Vanity Fair, with Breonna Taylor—they are sell outs.
     
    Linda: What can you tell us about your new distribution strategy?
     
    Krifka: We’re in contract negotiations now regarding our distribution split between ANC and Media Solutions. Working with the two wholesalers will have the effect of forcing collaboration. Our industry badly needs some stability, and so far, everything’s looking promising.
     
    Linda: Publishers are receiving two sources of POS data, which are not in compatible formats, and it creates a challenge tracking sales in the chain.
     
    Krifka: This might be an opportunity for MagNet—they do receive our data. This would be a chance for them to merge the two together, creating a single source of reporting.
     
    Samir: How are the fall fashion magazines doing?
     
    Krifka: Doing well, trending lower than last year, but we’re seeing some typical buying behaviors. For a while there was an odd mix with anomalous titles spiking. Now it seems to be normalizing. We’re still seeing strong performances in football, fall fashion, the Economist in the midst of everything. I’ve heard coloring had a resurgence—but not at Barnes and Noble. Puzzles, though, are doing great. Cooking did OK, but closer to its usual level, we’re not showing a big spike in the category such as it showed in the grocery class of trade. Breathe, from the UK, has popped up into the top 5. Specials at $14.99 doing well too, and not pulling sales from the parent title. Transportation has fallen off a bit. But we’ve lost titles across the board and in strange places, so even the frequency changes have created change. But our top titles have come back to being the top titles.
     
    Samir: What about children’s magazines?
     
    Krifka: We’ve been focusing on pulling new kids and teen magazines in for years now—it’s important to start people reading in the category as early as possible. There isn’t a lot in there—Many of the new titles in in the kids section are imports. But in the UK they attach a toy to everything—the print part tends to be flimsy, so it isn’t exactly where we would like it be with the quality of the magazines. I believe the publishers struggle with who the buyer is and don’t look to see what is trending so they don’t take the chance. Centennial Media has done very well with Fortnite magazine and looking at trend publishing. 
     
    Joe: Many of those mags are not on the newsstand, and have small print runs.
     
    Sherin: The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids is also growing this year, double digits over the last issue; its biggest retailer is Lowes
    Joe: We need a buyer’s cooperative for them
     
    Sherin: We’re going to partner with the independent publisher we met with a few weeks back, who does cooking for kids.
     
    Samir: Who does the planograms for the mainlines?
     
    Krifka: As the title mix has been changed so drastically since January of this year, the mainline planograms and assortments for each store now need to be updated. For example, if there are fewer men’s magazines, they need less space on the mainline, and the map of it needs to change. Look out for more expansions in the new year as we rework to maximize the publishing we do have. Additionally my team, as we always have, is working with our publishers on new content ideas- be it stories in current books or brand new Bookazines as well as Exclusives that you will only find at B&N. This supports our leadership’s plan to return to being specialist booksellers. For example, each store will have a Bookseller who is a social media specialist so they’ll be able to go round the store and find what’s new and interesting and amplify its display. More local buying on the book side as well, so each store will become more unique as assortments are developed locally.

    Linda Ruth
    Posted October 05, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines

    BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines

    Re: Opinion - Subscription Fatigue Tim Bray would be more compelling if he could support his opinion with data.  I realize the publishing industry has screwed up a lot of things over the years, but why does a software guy think, without anything more than personal anecdotal evidence, that he is smarter than all the marketers in the publishing world.

    There are lots of factors at play here and there is not yet any notable success with micropayments for articles.  Like so many things, that could, and perhaps likely will, change at some point.  But it hasn’t yet.  Plenty of us in publishing have taken economics classes so the price elasticity of demand and maximizing the value curve are not new concepts.  He could be correct in theory but technology or other issues make it impractical or otherwise undesirable to act on his suggestion.  (Submitted by a President) 

    RE: Are you pushing your creative boundaries? I read this and think about how often what you can do creatively meets hard boundaries by editors/producers and by audiences. Maybe your great new idea really is great and new. That still may mean years of trying to get others, who decided whether you’re successful, to agree. If they ever do. (Submitted by a Writer)  

    Re: Men's Magazines Really loved the piece on men's magazine.  I remember when we were launching Men's Health, and there were a lot of critics (including reporters at major media outlets) who said "Why do we need another men's title? There are too many already with Esquire, Playboy, GQ, etc." A very wise publisher, Sandy Beldon who was responsible for Prevention magazine, and a great mentor, sat me down in his office one day and pulled out a list of men's titles (including many you mentioned in your piece -- remember Signature magazine?) and said, "look, when you come across this challenge just remind these folks how many men's titles there have been over the years, and that the marketplace certainly has room for a lifestyle brand like Men's Health." Wise words from an experienced pro, and of course, the history of Men's Health success both here and around the globe remains one of the great business stories of its time. (Submitted a media founder)  

    RE: A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?

    “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties."  

    Not able to avoid destroying humankind while trying to convince people that robots come in peace? The language use is impressive (though I’m interested in the details and how much of this is completely undirected—I don’t see how it could be), but perhaps developing a robot copy editor might be wise. (Submitted by a Print Sales person)

    RE: OPINION - WAH! Why the work at home bubble is about to burst I’m so glad to see this article. As a longtime manager and collaborator,  I’ve been concerned about the many micro-drawbacks of remote work for teams. We collect minute pieces of information from each other in every interaction (intentionally and not). That’s mostly lost in a remote work environment, and will inevitably flatten our collective learning curve. (Submitted by an Editor)

    Apple is starting a war over privacy with iOS 14: This seems like a good development to me. People who are collecting data on you should have to make the case why it's to your benefit to allow them to do that. If they can't make that case, you should be able to opt out. Submitted by an operations and fulfillment exec)

     



    BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines
     
    Re: Opinion - Subscription Fatigue
    Tim Bray would be more compelling if he could support his opinion with data. I realize the publishing industry has screwed up a lot of things over the years, but why does a software guy think, without anything more than personal anecdotal evidence, that he is smarter than all the marketers in the publishing world.
     
    There are lots of factors at play here and there is not yet any notable success with micropayments for articles. Like so many things, that could, and perhaps likely will, change at some point. But it hasn’t yet. Plenty of us in publishing have taken economics classes so the price elasticity of demand and maximizing the value curve are not new concepts. He could be correct in theory but technology or other issues make it impractical or otherwise undesirable to act on his suggestion. So spare us your braying sir.
    (Submitted by a President)
     
    RE: Are you pushing your creative boundaries?
    I read this and think about how often what you can do creatively meets hard boundaries by editors/producers and by audiences. Maybe your great new idea really is great and new. That still may mean years of trying to get others, who decided whether you’re successful, to agree. If they ever do.
    (Submitted by a Writer)
     
    Re: Men's Magazines
    Really loved the piece on men's magazine.  I remember when we were launching Men's Health, and there were a lot of critics (including reporters at major media outlets) who said "Why do we need another men's title? There are too many already with Esquire, Playboy, GQ, etc."
     
    A very wise publisher, Sandy Beldon who was responsible for Prevention magazine, and a great mentor, sat me down in his office one day and pulled out a list of men's titles (including many you mentioned in your piece -- remember Signature magazine?) and said, "look, when you come across this challenge just remind these folks how many men's titles there have been over the years, and that the marketplace certainly has room for a lifestyle brand like Men's Health."
     
    Wise words from an experienced pro, and of course, the history of Men's Health success both here and around the globe remains one of the great business stories of its time.
    (Submitted a media founder)
     
    RE: A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?
    “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties."
     
    Not able to avoid destroying humankind while trying to convince people that robots come in peace? The language use is impressive (though I’m interested in the details and how much of this is completely undirected—I don’t see how it could be), but perhaps developing a robot copy editor might be wise.
    (Submitted by a Print Sales person)
     
    RE: OPINION - WAH! Why the work at home bubble is about to burst
    I’m so glad to see this article. As a longtime manager and collaborator, I’ve been concerned about the many micro-drawbacks of remote work for teams. We collect minute pieces of information from each other in every interaction (intentionally and not). That’s mostly lost in a remote work environment, and will inevitably flatten our collective learning curve.
    (Submitted by an Editor)
     
    Apple is starting a war over privacy with iOS 14:
    This seems like a good development to me. People who are collecting data on you should have to make the case why it's to your benefit to allow them to do that. If they can't make that case, you should be able to opt out.
    Submitted by an operations and fulfillment exec)
     
     
    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted September 29, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    The world is facing a moment that seems to be of historic proportions. It is an oddity of biblical timing, something akin to a comet strike, an ice age, rising seas, and an invasion of aliens all happening simultaneously. Those are the hypotheticals. In reality, we have a global pandemic, an economic collapse, global warming, unrest in the streets, and the disruption of the entire global infrastructure. Disruption has become an old and overused expression, but it so clearly establishes and defines the moment. Nothing is as it was, nor are we likely to reestablish our old norms. Sure, life and business will go on. We may not have had an alien invasion, but we have had comet strikes, ice ages, rising seas, pandemics, and massive flooding before, and we are still here.
     
    Included in the massive global disruption is its effect on the publishing community. Supply chains are challenged, print ads are drying up, retail is stressed, large printers are in bankruptcies, magazines are closing, and work routines and methodologies are forever changed.  

     

    And yet as an industry, we plow on and adapt to the new business order. In times of crisis, the criteria to succeed is with above-average leadership. That includes your own personal leadership as well as your managements.

     
    As reported by Jeanette McMurtry in Publishing Executive – "Historically, the companies that succeed through tumultuous and uncertain times are those with leaders who have a common characteristic associated with a growth mindset: psychological resilience."
     
    She goes on to say that "Wikipedia describes psychological resilience as follows:
     
    "The ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly. ... Psychological resilience exists when people develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences."
     
    I thought I would gather a few examples of this psychological resilience leadership in today's media marketplace. Consider this the outline of a pep talk.
     
    Let's start with MediaPost's report by Sara Guaglione titled Hearst Magazines To Invest In Larger Formats, More Editorial Pages In Print. Sara reports: Hearst Magazines announced a multimillion-dollar investment to "enhance the quality" of its print products. The magazines will have larger formats, higher-quality paper and improved editorial ratios. 
     
    "Magazines are a tactile experience, and quality production is important to our readers, our creators and the marketplace," stated Hearst Magazines Chief Content Officer Kate Lewis.
     
    The initiative is called Premium Print…
     
    Sara concludes the report with the following: " ‘We (Hearst) are experimenting and making great strides by activating our digital channels to sell products, including print and digital subscriptions,’ stated Hearst Magazines acting president Debi Chirichella.”
     
    "Our strategy to invest in digital growth while maintaining the strength, differentiation and high quality of our print products, along with this new investment, paves the path to our future," she added.
     
    Thank you, Hearst, for this display of resilient leadership. For years, I have stated that as an industry, we need to collectively change the formula and move print in the public mind from a commodity to a luxury product. For too many years, we have decreased paperweight and diminished the size of our print publications and appearance. I applaud this move towards better quality products, in essence, products worth paying for.
     
    I think this is a good time to mention a very interesting saying my mother had: "Rich or poor, it’s good to have money." Hearst can afford this lunge to increased quality, but it is a move worth thinking about for any titles depending on your circumstances, finances, and long-term goals.
     
    Along with Hearst, here is what Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief, The Atlantic has to say on the subject of quality:
     
    "I've been arguing for a long time that we will be saved as an institution by bearing down on quality, quality, quality. Just do the most deeply reported, beautifully written, carefully edited, fact-checked, copyedited, and beautifully designed stories — and the reader will come. They want to be supportive, and they want access. And it turns out to be true. Thank God for it."
     
    It turns out that The Atlantic has amassed over 300,000 paying subscribers in a year, "by bearing down on quality, quality, quality".

     

    Another thought on leadership came from Wolfgang Blau, President, International and Chief Operating Officer, Condé Nast, who delivered the opening keynote address at the virtual 43rd FIPP World Media Congress. He said:
     
    "To build the media company of the future we have to ask what is the dream, what is the purpose and mission of a media company and journalists today – and where the trajectory of change that we have seen is heading," he said.
     
    "We may be calling this the new normal, but the only thing that is new and normal now is that change of all kinds, in all areas of our business, is accelerating. The good news is that humans are incredibly adaptable and inventive, and if you look at the history of some of the world's long-established media companies, many of them have made it through much, much greater challenges."
     
    To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
     
    With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
     
    As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
     
    To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted September 27, 2020
    (0) Comments

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