BoSacks Speaks Out: On PRIMEX, and the Important Nuts and Bolts of the Magazine Industry
There is an unsung part of the magazine media industry that many of us rarely think or hear about, and yet a case can be made that this hard working section of the industry is the mighty engine that actually keeps us running.
We constantly read about creativity in our industry, about the art or editorial without which we wouldn't have a business. We read about newsstand issues, both the good and the bad. But the "magazine auto mechanic" who keeps the engine running is rarely in the forefront of industry discussions. Yet without a good, well distributed substrate, where would you put your creative content?
The somewhat hidden yet vital sectors of our business are the production departments. Having been a member of that elite group myself, I know the perils of the position all too well. Our job is to keep costs down to minimum and quality up to a maximum. Sounds easy, right? Other than those cost and quality conditions we only surface when things go wrong. What kind of person would actually take on that kind of responsibility? The fact that we get it right and near perfect 99.9% of the time is irrelevant when the pulp hits the fan of manufactured discontent. FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE
We will need good leaders to provide direction in the changing publishing world.
In this column I have pontificated many times about the positive nature and direction of our industry, about the belief that we are headed toward a new golden age of publishing, and that new technologies should be considered the friends of information distributors. But there is one aspect in this new world that has me worried. It is the area of mentorship where, it seems to me, we have fallen behind and, as an industry, we have been greatly diminished.
What has happened? When and where did we lose the skill set and the will to teach the younglings? Have we so trimmed our business models that there is just no time to teach and mentor? Have we lost sight of the power of the properly groomed apprentice?
I do not know how to quantify the value of a properly mentored apprentice except through my own experience. But I know that as I moved up the corporate ladder, each of my teachers built upon the foundation of the other guild members that went before them. And I can tell you this: Having been a mentor myself there is a tremendous joy in the successful transfer of knowledge and power.
For me, Vito Colaprico (The New York Times), Lowell Logan (McCall's) and Irving Herschbein (Condé Nast) were giants in their day, and took the time to reach out to a young and inquisitive subordinate. I have attempted to return the favor to them and the industry by mentoring others, through my e-newsletter and my column in this magazine.
The Need for Leaders in a Time of Change
Without mentorship we are collectively less than we might have been. It is the aggregate of this loss that will be felt and perhaps is being felt now. Who are the leaders of your corporation? Who are the genuine leaders of this industry? I don't mean who is your immediate supervisor or who is the CEO-those are just job titles. Whom do you aspire to emulate as a role model? A generation ago, if you asked anyone in publishing who the real leaders were, the names I mentioned above would be high on the list. In the print world today, who is on the real leadership list now?
We have many problems ahead of us as an industry. We will need good leaders to provide direction. If you think about it, we are trying to prepare publishing personnel for jobs that don't yet exist. Students will be using technologies and concepts that haven't yet been invented, and they will be trying to find the solutions to problems we don't even know are problems yet.
Many of the people who read this blog are in one way or another devoted to the process of print. Some of them are printers, some of them are publishers and most of them have a strong and deep bias, which is clearly and understandably centered around making a profitable living. In fact, we all, regardless of what our profession is, have a biased point of view that is skewed by our need to make a living. In this discussion I am not in any way saying a bias is wrong, just that it exists and aids us in forming our opinions.
Actually this bias comes twofold. Not only is it based on our need to make a living and feed the family, but also to be in our comfort zone. This comfort zone is, for the most part, like Mom's cooking. By that I mean that the things we learned early when we were growing up are filled with a nostalgia that makes us feel most comfortable with what we knew and experienced then, something along the lines of Mom's cooking. If you didn't grow up in an internet era your comfort in it is less than the screenager who has never experienced lack of instant access to any and all information.
Why Print Ain't Dead!
Too many times in the last decade pundits, printers, publishers and workers in the ranks have heard or have talked about it themselves - the inescapable, oft repeated mantra that print is dead. I am so tired of it that it boggles the mind.
Here is my statement and you should repeat after me, "Print is not dead or dying. The facts plainly show otherwise." Let's agree right here and now to get on with the necessary process of information distribution for a profit and forget about fear mongering old wives tales.
In today's marketplace print is one of the largest industries in the world. Print eclipses auto-manufacturing in employment. Did you know that? Did you know that print is a $640 billion dollar business and has been reported to drive $3.8 trillion in related services? That ain't death, nor near death.
If we can finally accept that print is far from dead, we can move on to the truly confused ideological problem of our industry - incorrectly assuming that print and magazines are the same thing. They are not and never have been the same, and their trajectories are not tied together. Printed magazines, in fact, are a very small part of the entirety of the print business. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Truth in Advertising - Magazine Statistics, Magnet,MIN and MPA 360.
As the most recent MAGNET reports came in, I started to ponder other recent changes in reporting on the magazine media industry. You will remember that the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), which had until recently been chronicling the magazine industry's ad page performance for almost 70 years, was asked to stop tracking and distributing "sold" ad page data to media professionals with its legendary Boxscores. MIN editor-in-chief Steve Cohn reported that publishers were being discouraged from turning over their numbers as the MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, was getting ready to unveil a new way of calibrating the industry's performance called Magazine Media 360. Now that the Industry has done away with MIN's Boxscore reports, what do we know about the performance of our industry?
We also now have the ability to track the number of e-shares, e-posts and e-reply's on any given month. How are ad pages doing? That information is no longer distributed to the professional public at large. We can guess, but we do not know. Is guessing better than knowing? Perhaps in some cases it is.
At the same time as we all know, almost every magazine media company still counts on their print editions and not the web for the majority of their revenue. There has been some progress in gaining some web dollars in this exchange, but in most cases, they haven't come close yet to a print replacement. I believe eventually digital revenue will supplant print as a major revenue source, but clearly not quite yet and at least not yet for most titles.
Which brings me back to the MagNet report which noted that U.S. magazine newsstand sales fell 27% in third quarter of this year, a larger loss than usual, but for clearly obvious reasons - Source Interlink's bankruptcy. I thought I would try and discuss the industry's understandable wish to camouflage the continuous array of bad stats and sublimate them with always positive web-only engagement data. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
By Bob Sacks
My friend David Pilcher, of Freeport Press (please note he is a printer) wrote a passionate article last Friday titled Hyperbole and Hysteria in the Magazine Industry in which he claims that Without Print, There IS No Magazine Industry. In the article he argued that print is inextricably linked to the definition of what a magazine is and print magazines are here to stay.
I applaud all passions when it comes to this subject, and perhaps it is time once again to revisit and reconsider the question, what is a magazine? But at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. The death of magazines, which isn't really happening, is a red herring when considering how we keep score. The only viable score card, when one is in a business dialog, is revenue. Many printers are doing very well in these trying times, while at the same time the magazine business on the whole isn't. Ad revenue on an industry wide basis is down, newsstand sales are down, and subscriptions are down. Down is not equivalent to death, but it is a leading indicator of the change in direction for the reading public. It is because of all the documented data above that the MPA has chosen to change the statistical score card and track total magazine media engagements, rather than just pages printed and ad revenue reported.
The real culprit in this dialog is time. How much time does anyone have and where are they spending their time? Time spent with magazines is decreasing and has decreased more than 1% per year for the last 5 years. The last report from Mary Meaker showed that when compared to all other media, magazines received about 6% of time spent with any media. Is there any reason to think that it won't be at 5% percent this year? No! FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE
Brands and branding are funny things. They go back further than you might think, but have different meanings to us in media today than originally intended. In the earliest days, artisans would make their mark, or their brand, on their manufactured materials to identify themselves as the maker.
This process took an interesting turn later in history in the American Southwest as cattle ranchers put the mark or their brand on their cattle, identifying ownership instead of "makemanship." One of the Old West stories goes so far as to tell us about a gentleman named Maverick who didn't put his brand on the cattle, and since then unbranded cattle were known as mavericks.
Today brands and branding have somewhat different connotations. Now the brand identifies the company that made the product and in most cases the products themselves.
I have said for decades that humans, too, have brands and should always be working on their own branding. As we progress through our corporate careers we should remember that we are marked or branded by the way we regularly display our expertise. Remembering your personal or corporate brand is a strategy that will give you an edge in competitive situations, be they careers or marketplaces. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
The past Thursday evening High Times Magazine held its 40th Anniversary party. 450 invitation-only people attended the event at a club on Delancey Street in lower Manhattan. Among other things there was a lot of electricity in the air. In attendance were some old friends and fellow founding fathers. (Special note there were also founding mothers, but none in attendance at the party.)
It was great to see Ed Dwyer, the first editor of High Times, who went on to a fine career, as many High Times graduates did. Ed was a top editor for companies such as AARP the Magazine, Penthouse, Los Angeles Magazine, and Whittle Communications. Also enjoyed seeing Larry "Ratso" Sloman, another early editor at High Times, who made a career writing books on Dylan and Houdini and whose best-sellers were in collaboration with Howard Stern on the radio personality's Private Parts and Miss America. My best friend Andy Kowl, who notably was High Times' first publisher and helped it achieve much of its success, was also there making the rounds and meeting new friends and old. Andy has been a publisher many times over these past years and now is using his extraordinary skills helping other publishers generate increased reader engagement and profits online.
High Times was without a doubt a school of publishing. Many greats got their start there. Original graduating class Art Director Diana Laguardia won awards for best design while at Conde Nast and the New York Times, while the late, great Toni Brown became art director of People. Some have conquered ad agencies as Senior VP's. Glenn O'Brien ghost-wrote books for Madonna and is a mainstay at GQ. Shelley Levitt became a senior editor at People, west coast editor at Self, and has been featured in too many national magazines to mention. Susan Wyler became a best-selling cookbook author - even without including marijuana in her recipes. Production personal have developed, orchestrated, and retooled production techniques for many companies such as Time Inc, helping to implement "running to the numbers," a system that every printing plant uses today. One member of the class even publishes the world's oldest e-newsletter, not a small accomplishment in itself. And on and
There is an age-old phrase that claims that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, meaning in un-apple terms that one wrong person can negatively affect a whole group. I was wondering if the reverse can be true. Can one person or even a small number of persons show exemplary leadership and change the bunch in a positive direction?
Here is what I'm getting at. The latest reports from AAM on circulation seem dauntingly negative when viewed as whole. The last AAM report was filled with sad statistics such as: of the top selling 25 titles, only three improved their sales, and of the top 100, there were only 24 that showed positive momentum. It is those negative figures that everybody is focused on, and perhaps it is understandable to do so. As an industry trend, it isn't pretty. But what about the winners in that multitude of industry misery?
As reported by John Harrington of NScopy.com, the "Food Network Magazine was up 12.1% to an average of 448,734, and its dollars were $9.0 million, 15th among audited publications. Sports Illustrated grew 14.7%, an average of 68,132, and the dollars were $8.7 million, #16. Women's Health grew by one percent to 300,790, and its $7.5 million put it 21st." So, although the statistics seem to point to a whole bad batch, it is not really true for all. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
My Goodness, Rance Crain wrote a terrific, important and timely articledirected for the advertising world. And it is just as meaningful for magazine publishers as it is for ad agencies. It's time to stop the Bull. You can take all the surveys you want, but multiples of 25X pass-a-long for every magazine you produce is Bull with a capital "B". It doesn't really happen.
From the article:
"Bullshit is different from lying. Lying is willful. When you lie, you know what the truth is, but you intentionally misrepresent it. In a way, bullshit is more insidious, because people who bullshit often don't know what the truth is and don't care. We use it on consumers, we use it on our clients and we are now bullshitting ourselves."
As the industry moves forward with the MPA's 360 program I implore you all to avoid the bullshit. Our new effort at creating the complete magazine media picture is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, because we need to do something. But relying on fraudulent digital data, which is everywhere, is a very dangerous thing to build our evolving new media businesses upon. Claiming media reach is a dicey and sometimes meaningless expression when using digital statistics.
Here is just one example, Facebook itself says at least 67.65 million fake accounts were used last month. That number can go as high as 137.76 million, if the company's higher-end estimate is to be believed.
The criteria for ad visibility on the web is beyond a joke. Did you know that a web ad seen for one second "counts" as an ad seen? Did you know that in many and most cases a web ad run "below the fold", as in at the bottom of the page, counts as an ad seen? HUH?
Yes, I understand the strong impetus to get away from the factual counting of ad pages that are printed. But moving our industry into the digital sweepstakes swamps of web metrics is a dangerous arena to slog through cleanly. I suspect the we will eventually all get caught in our own morass of bull.
So here in the 21st century the major publishers no longer wish to publicly broadcast one of the two major stats that are actually verifiable - printed ad pages and actual copies sold.
Of course, we also used to broadcast the bull of ad revenue with the ad count, but no one believed that number anyway. Everyone knew that the revenue portion of that data was full of bull-oney. At least the ad page count was based on actual printed pages. In truth, how many of those ad pages were make-goods, free, some kind of in-trade deal, or some other cross-pollination subterfuge was never actually known. But at least they were printed and verifiable as ads. And at the end of the day, I didn't/don't care how the ad got there, just that it was an ad, clearly distinguishable from the editorial. Of course, native advertising is another bag of worms, but that is a rant for another day. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
What is the BoSacks FREE newsletter all about?
It is purely a very "personal" and slanted collection of news gathered daily over the Internet, which to me seems relevant and useful about the publishing industry. I do this as a labor of love and to keep myself as up to date as is possible with the ever changing and advancing "Information Distribution Industry" formerly known as "Publishing".
And how much does it cost?
The price for this service is nothing. It is Free. It is just as easy for me to copy three or four of my industry friends as it is to carbon copy the current list of 16,500 publishing professionals.