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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Print should be a shining beacon in a sea of criminality

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Print should be a shining beacon in a sea of criminality

    Last week I wrote a sober article about the state of digital fraud invading our lives, our families, our jobs and our psyche. I wasn't wrong, as each day new intrusive assaults are discovered.

    Last Friday we received news of yet another of what seems like weekly Facebook abominations. Now it has been revealed that Facebook collects intensely personal information secretly from thousands of popular smartphone apps and just seconds after users enter their personal information. Facebook gets it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook. More surveillance for a profit. George Orwell in the book 1984wrote "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself." Good luck with that, there are no secrets any more. Pretty depressing, right? Well it is, and it should be. 

    According to The New York Times... Parliament denounced Facebook and its leadership as "digital gangsters."  The British are always so damn polite. 

    But wait, there is a bright side here, and that is print and the magazine industry. It's not that we can prevent what's going on digitally. We can't. But we can be fertile ground for profitability and safety. Print is and should be a shinning beacon standing tall among the fraudsters. There are successes in many places for the magazine print industry and billions still being made.

    I go to many magazine conferences all around the world each year. And guess what? There are profitable publishers in every conference. Here is a true example where size doesn't matter. Large or small, many publishers are doing well and creating centers of profitability. I had lunch last week with Alison Dickie, the publisher of a local magazine here in Virginia called Albemarle Magazine. It's a smallish, local publication that has to fight for every dollar. It's not easy, but they do it. And the results are impressive.

    In a week or two I'll be having lunch with my friend Bernie Mann, the publisher ofOur State magazine.(196 pages last issue) They are doing gangbusters and, as far as I can tell, they are among the most successful regional magazines in the country.

    Last month I spoke at the Canada Magazines Business Summit. Here again is a group of successful B2B publishers.

    In a few weeks I'm off to DIS (the Digital Innovators Summit) in Berlin. It is a collection of publishers from around the globe sharing success stories in publishing. Not one of those tales will be about digital abuses of power, but rather about gaining revenue and market share, and from my perspective, honorably.

    This year I'll also be attending IRMA International Regional Magazine Association. This is a terrific group of regional print publishers growing and making revenue positive strides.

    And dare I not mention Samir's Husni's Annual Magazine conference ACT at the University of Mississippi. As conferences go it is probably the smallest by population, yet the biggest in comradery and geniality. The auditorium is filled with 40 professional speakers and about the same number of journalism/media students. All the publishing professionals represent successful publishing operations.

    Let's not forget the printers and paper companies of our industry. They, too, represent on-going strength and successful revenue streams.

    I could go on and on, but my point is that print is viable and profitable.

    The irony should escape no one that the nature of our product of off-line media is safe and totally non-intrusive to sharing anyone's personal secrets.

    Let's use print and thoughtful, thorough journalism to stop, hinder and otherwise mute the digital surveillance network of privacy pirates and not let them distract us from our successes.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 25, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Understanding Advertising Today

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Understanding Advertising Today

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On a day when we read that digital advertising is to surpass print and TV for the first time, it boggles the mind how much known fraud there is in anything digital. Why does the advertising community "trust" what is obviously a global confidence game?

    Fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, paying for ads never seen, fake web sites that look real but aren't grabbing an obvious overabundance of loot. Not to mention the theft of our very selves. Our whole lives and families' interests bundled for sale not to the highest bidder, but to any bidder.

    The online advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand much less control under the current conditions we find ourselves in. Despite what we hear from the lofty P&G, there is no competent leadership anywhere, and I'm compelled to add the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is nothing but a joke.

    Where is the industry leadership? I used to think the US government could be the answer to regulate this problem. Forget that pipe dream. Too many senators have demonstrated clear stupidity about the Internet. It's ridiculous, but the lawmakers who have the power to regulate technology have absolutely no idea how technology works.

    Do you remember when Sen. Orrin Hatch asked Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook is able to sustain a business model while running as a free service. I'm sure Zuck stifled an internal chuckle and was barely able to keep a straight face when he responded, "Senator, we run ads." "I see, that's great," Hatch replied. No, there will be no shining knight from the Capitol to save the day.

    Part and parcel with the fraud, how is it that we all ignore the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people? Not their rights, our rights. Facebook's lies, duplicity and personal intrusion by hidden surveillance systems all go unchecked. Do you know that Facebook tracks you through third parties whether or not you are logged into Facebook? As Bob Hoffman pointed out a few weeks ago "And the pièce de résistance -- Facebook's new data policy asserts that they track you even if you don't have a Facebook account."

    This is not a rant about Facebook. They are just a single example of the on-going digital depravity.

    It's an old stat, but did you know that for every $3 spent on digital ads, fraud takes $1 (, 2015)

    Did you know that US brands would lose $6.5 billion to ad fraud in 2017. (Marketing Week, 2017)

    Here is a 2018 stat - How much have you spent on fraudulent ads today? How much have your fellow advertisers? Try $51 million. Research estimated that digital advertisers wasted $51 million on ad fraud every single day in 2018. That's a massive $19 billion over the year.
    There is an abundance of data that shows that magazines are more trusted than any other delivery vehicle. It is rated and respected by readers for top quality and accuracy in reporting.

    Yet, in review, print which is trusted by all parties loses market share every year, while obviously fraudulent digital advertising is to surpass print and TV for the first time.

    Advertising is the Big Brother we were warned about. Its mission is nothing short of surveillance for a profit. The information on us is stored, sorted and turned against us as an algorithm. And if the algorithm is good, we will march to it.

    Now is the time where I should make some sort of demand or plea for us band together and transform the system. Nope, that isn't going to happen. There is too much greed and too much money for this to change any time soon. How does this rectify? Is there hope in this digital morass?

    I have hope, but no ideas.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Bezos, AMI and the American Newsstand

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Bezos, AMI and the American Newsstand

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Why is our industry always seeming to be at a crossroads of crisis when it comes to the newsstand part of our industry? 

    When I got into the magazine game in the 1970s the newsstand was in some parts corrupt and yet reliable and profitable. Once you figured out the "system" you could do very well and never worry about its brittleness because it was a strong delivery business with a functioning national infrastructure. These days many knowledgeable professionals constantly talk about its fragility.

    The newsstand is often misunderstood and is more complex than most realize. There are an unusually large set of varied businesses focused on the selling of magazines on the newsstand. There are thousands of people and hundreds of businesses dedicated to the shipping, driving, selling, stocking, coordinating, consulting and returning of magazines in the retail supply chain. Their salaries depend on the success of the newsstand. It is a complex process that thousands have devoted their careers to. In this mix not only are the newsstand organizations, the supply chain subgroups, but also actual magazines that live and die on the newsstand alone as their main source of revenue.

    Last year a friend/publisher e-mailed me the following, "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most magazine publishers. Big publishers now create covers more with the goal of getting clicks and social-media buzz than selling copies. I can't say that I disagree with them. The newsstand system is a shit show of incompetence and inefficiency."
    This esteemed friend is wrong about most publishers and not so wrong about efficiency. The newsstand is not irrelevant to most publishers, in fact just the opposite. It is only the large publishers to which "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant." In 2017 there were 7,176 titles and many, perhaps most, gain their revenue from retail sales.
    Which brings us to Linda Ruth's article about AMI and the newsstand. Does AMI, now exposed to possible legal issues or at least an in-depth examination, put more stress on the now admittedly fragile newsstand?
    What if? That is what I keep thinking. What If an implosion happens? What would be the real time effects on our printers, publishers and, as I said before, thousands of employees in the distribution side of the business? 
    We need the newsstand to survive and thrive. Over the years there have been forecasts of its death and proposed plans to save it. Neither have happened. No modernization, little-to-no overhaul and, of course, no death.

    Regardless of what happens to AMI I don't foresee the death of the newsstand as we know it. I don't believe the newsstand will ever evaporate, because there are still billions to be made in it. No businessman likes a vacuum, and someone will eventually reconstitute a distribution system. But the intervening space between implosion and reconstruction would obviously be devastating. 

    Since the demise is unimaginable, I prefer to think the newsstand will continue along its way with a stumble or two every now and again.  
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out; No,There Isn't a Media Malaise

    BoSacks Speaks Out; No,There Isn't a Media Malaise

    BoSacks Speaks Out: There isn't a week that goes by when I'm not asked about my substrate preferences. A long-time reader and publisher from England yesterday asked me for an electronic subscription to Magazine Media Quarterly "or is digital against your principles?" A pretty funny question to ask the guy who publishes the world's
    oldest e-newsletter. 

    For the record, I am neither rabidly pro-print nor a digital zealot. I am a businessman who likes profit, and I'm willing to use any substrate that achieves a sustainable goal of revenue. I like to think of my approach as that of a pragmatic publishing prophet, and my advice, like a good prosecuting attorney's advice, is to "follow the money".

    Publishing Pragmatism brings me to the point where we understand the publisher/reader relationship as a service with a client. Determining what suits the clients' needs best is the solution to the substrate question.

    Different publishing products work better on one substrate than another, and no two media niches are alike. Enthusiast titles are preforming well in both print and web-based properties. State and regional titles are also performing well. There are a few I can name that are outperforming their own expectations, such as Our State Magazine of North Carolina or feisty W42ST, a New York City magazine that just hit its stride with its 50th Issue. The publisher of W42ST wrote to me yesterday describing his print magazine as "A bootstrapped business, built out of love, hard graft, and a little heartbreak, it's an incredible story of how, in the digital age, print has the power to bring a community together ... we have ambitious plans to grow in 2019 and beyond."

    As I sit here in the industry analyst's seat, I see the following - a hopeful expectation that the chaos will finally settle into a period of stasis, not quite a period of inactivity but more of equilibrium. I must report to you that isn't going to happen any time soon for the magazine media industry. Expect continued disruption at every quarter for the foreseeable future.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • How creepy can marketing get?

    How creepy can marketing get?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: How creepy can marketing get? 
    Bob Hoffman once wrote that "Advertising used to be concerned with imparting information. Today it is concerned with collecting information."
    Facebook, Google, Amazon damn near every digital giant is exploring every part of your life. That is not a generic anonymous part your life, but a specific personal intrusion on every individual in the modern day ecosystem.
    There is no way I can overstate that this is one of perils of our times. Among other things I am overwhelmed by the lack of integrity and propensity for pure greed at any cost. The robber barons of yesteryear have been replaced by eRobber Princelings of digital creeps.
    What we need is clarity of the situation and a path to safety, because as individuals we are horrifically exposed to predators. And there doesn't seem to be a central source of protection anywhere on the horizon. Our government, a mostly geriatric group of legislators, haven't a clue about how the system works.
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • Saying Goodbye to Glamour

    Saying Goodbye to Glamour

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Here is a question. Who is surviving and thriving in the magazine business of the 21st century? Is it the old school corporate shirts or the feisty, nimble entrepreneurs? The answer is complicated, because both new and old are facing a new set of business rule-breaking never before seen, and, therefore, there is no road map. 

    In addition the obscene quantity of digital advertising fraud makes the answer to the question complex and murky. I think a case could be made that, under the stain of digital fraud, print should be shining as an example of needed and trusted media. It isn't; at least not yet. It seems day after day large corporations are condensing and reinventing themselves and their bloated methodologies to compensate for factors they still don't quite understand, while new publishing adventurers explore the limitless possibilities of publishing to ever widening niche audiences.

    Which brings me to a limited twitter conversation between @DeadTreeEdition, @AndyKowl, @newsstandpromos and @bosacks at the news of the demise of the print version of Glamour
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks: The Profit Prophet: 7 Tips for Advancing Your Career

    BoSacks: The Profit Prophet: 7 Tips for Advancing Your Career

    BoSacks Speaks Out: I stumbled upon this article today while rummaging through some older files. On November1, 2010 I penned this for Publishing Executive Magazine.

    It is simple but important generic advice for staging a successful career. It seems to me that it holds up pretty well eight years later and is worth re-sending. The more seasoned professional subscribers of this publication will already be practicing these skill-sets. But the readership of this newsletter is broad. Not only do we have most of the senior management in our industry, which means most likely your immediate supervisors are readers too, but also new hires as well.

    The most important thing to remember is 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 actually do is of vital importance. Inter-departmental communication and knowledge facilitates the teamwork of successful and efficient organizations.

    You must network and join professional organizations and, if possible, go to trade shows as if your job depends upon it, because it does. If your company won't pay for it, pay for it yourself. Your current job is only a part of your career.

    A good professional group has the collective intelligence of the entire industry. They are a tremendous resource. If you have a question or stumble upon an unfamiliar situation, someone in that group knows the answer. If you ever get that pink slip, they know where the new jobs are. Professional organizations are important on many levels, not the least of which is exposure with your contemporaries and possibly your next great boss.

    Essentially, you have either a job or a career. Career people stay employed. You must always be working on your career. Stay alert and continue to educate yourself about our industry and good things will happen, because you will be ready to adapt and react with grace and style. 


    BoSacks: The Profit Prophet: 7 Tips for Advancing Your Career

    November1, 2010

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 15, 2018
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: AD SMACKDOWN: CATS VS DATA

    BoSacks Speaks Out: AD SMACKDOWN: CATS VS DATA

    There is something I have wanted to discuss for a very long time, although for once I don't have the answer. In fact, I am seeking the answer from this august group of media professionals. The question is pretty simple. Why are so many ads annoying? There is no question that they are intentionally made that way, but it escapes me why so. I understand the idea that annoying is memorable. But for me these ads not only bring displeasure in the experience, but also turn me off the product itself.
    I'm not sure if you have heard the ZYPPAH anti-snoring commercials on radio. Here we have an announcer/narrator who has intentionally the rudest, most annoying voice I can ever remember hearing. It is a sort of warped Bronx/Brooklyn accent with an obnoxious personality taken to the extreme. He says, "If you think my voice is annoying, think about your snoring." His voice is like horribly vibrating, squeaky chalk on a blackboard. I don't know about you, but I find the ad so annoying, I immediately change the station. I may or may not get back to that station any time soon. So, not only did the advertiser lose me, so did the radio station. I change the station every time I hear that commercial.
    So back to my original question - Why? Is it as simple as I will remember this terrible ad and the now associated terrible product? Why not spend the same energy and talent making the ad and the product appealing?
    While I'm on the subject, I have another question about advertising that annoys me, I don't have the answer here either. It's about the idiot consumer. Let me start by saying that I don't think there are idiot consumers, and then let me drill down on that thought a bit. Of course, there are idiots in this world. But if I had a retail/product business, I wouldn't think that my customers could possibly be idiots. At least I would hope I wouldn't think that of my customers. But so may ads portray dumb-as-rocks consumers that it boggles my mind. Am I supposed to identify with the know nothing jerk in the ad? Am I supposed to think, hey I'm like that guy and therefore I should buy the Acme whatsit to make my life perfect? It baffles me that so many ads have a dumb man or dumb woman. Does smart not sell? 
    Now let me get back to the why question. I don't dispute that these ads containing offensive narrators or less then smart consumers work - they obviously do, as billions of advertising dollars have been spent this way for generations. Can anyone out there explain to this idiot why and how they work?
    Print used to have its fair share of bad and disrespectful-to-the-reader ads, but to the best of my knowledge most of that was in our past. It seems to me printed magazines and their advertisers respect our customers more than radio and TV. Is that correct? 
    I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it 'creative.' I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.
    David Ogilvy





    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 15, 2018
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: A David Carey Retrospective

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The first time I remember meeting David Carey was, of course, at one of the trade shows. My memory is that it was at a cocktail party and it was just before the launch of Portfolio Magazine. He was then and always has been congenial and thoughtful in all our personal conversations. I have always admired David's leadership. I am constantly asked in my travels what publishing houses get it "right" in the current market place. My answer has always been David and Hearst. 

    You may say that it is easy for the big guys to do well. Not so. Kodak, Bear Stearns, Enron, Ford Edsel, New Coke just to name a few colossal failures from giants who could have/should have known better. No, it's not easy being at the top of a giant cooperation. When you are that big a leader, you have to be cautiously aggressive, and that is no easy task.

    I've always been an entrepreneur and for me, taking aggressive risks is part of the job definition. That methodology takes on new meaning when thousands of employees stand and fall by your decisions. It is not for the weak of heart. Bravo to David and his next bold moves!

    As an aside, I have always taken great pride that David has publicly stated on more than one occasion, that he reads this newsletter every day. That has nothing to do with my admiration, but it doesn't hurt either.

    Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.
    Sun Tzu


    Looking back at the venerable career of an industry leader.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 15, 2018
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: MPA-IMAG, Focusing on the Consumer Rather Than The Advertiser

    BoSacks Speaks Out: MPA-IMAG, Focusing on the Consumer Rather Than The Advertiser

    There is a trend in the publishing media conferences that has been growing for the past few years, and when I tell you what it is, you'll say, of course.

    It's a conversation I've seen growing around the world in publishing conferences. I've heard it in Berlin at The Digital Innovator's Summit and at MagNet: Canada's Magazine Conference. I've heard it in London and Oxford, Mississippi. It was repeated in NYC at the AMMC-MPA annual event and now playing out at MPA-IMAG last Wednesday and Thursday in Boston, Massachusetts. I'll eventually tell you what this "new" revelation is, but not just yet. I want to build up to the simple epiphany.

    It is usually reasonable to start at the beginning when explaining damn near anything. So, I figure I'll start with Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO of the MPA who opened the IMAG event. Since her arrival at the MPA, I have seen an era of advanced messaging for the magazine industry. Today was yet another step in the right direction and I suppose a tangent to the campaign: Magazine Media. Better. Believe it.  

    Linda's presentation at IMAG was titled Credibility By The Numbers. It was an insightful look at the making of a magazine and the carefully researched and rendered articles within.

    Linda shared data on several articles from several magazines. I'll just tell you about the article that ran in Parent's Magazine called "I think there's something wrong with my child". It took two years of research with 7 moms, 1 fact checker, 2 photo editors, 1 photographer, 1 production Manager, 8 print editors, 4 digital editors, 2 copy editors, 4 psychiatrists/psychologists, and 2 lawyers. You get the point.

    Magazines have credibility with the public partly due to the amount of time, research, personnel, money and energy invested in them to make them credible. No, not all magazines can afford to perform to the level of excellence of Parent's Magazine. But I will submit that most print magazines do try to the best of their ability and monetary war-chest to give their readers words and ideas not only worth reading but also worth trusting. With all the Sturm und Drang of the internet, print has over its 600-year history created longtime trust in our products. Just being in print adds the aforementioned credibility, even to some titles that don't deserve it.

    As many surveys tell us, it is true that traditional media is more trusted than online media. But let's be honest the advertising agencies of the world don't seem interested in our credibility and are still deeply attracted to the digital placement of advertising dollars. And that brings me back to the trends I've seen in the publishing media conferences, literally everywhere on the planet. It's as simple as this: "Let's have the readers pay for our content." I told you you'd say "of course." 

    Yes, that is what we should have been doing all along. Advertising revenue should be the gravy on the meat adding just a little something extra to the dish and not the unreliable and indigestible thing it has become. Everywhere I go the conversation is about two things: giving the readers the information that they want, when they what it and, through various means and programs, having them pay for it. 

    Again, totally obvious, but to our industry only in hindsight. The industry has now made that turn and is doing exceeding well in many areas. All this was in evidence at IMAG and is being discussed everywhere.  

    This focus on alternative revenue and the creative ways publishers are achieving it is very uplifting to an industry that was struggling for quite some time.  

    Sure, we will still get print advertising revenue and lots of it, but it is fast becoming just one of many revenue streams and the not the sole addictive Goliath it once was. 

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted June 21, 2018
    (0) Comments

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