BoSacks Speaks Out: My friend Samir Husni has penned a short essay and complaint about "numbers" used in our industry for purposes of industry review and analysis (See below). He bemoans the way some media reporters publish stats on the number of new titles in each quarter, and he wishes that they reached out to him for his extensive collected number of new launches. I suggest that his collection of data is very large, unique and probably the most definitive.
It is true that the numbers we read in the trade press are varied and terribly inconsistent. From my perspective as an industry insider, it has always been fun to see the numbers and the constant surplus of new titles. That being said, I am using Samir's essay to launch my own observations about data in our industry in a week of many numbers which, although interesting to read, are for the most part irrelevant and misleading.
Let's start with the number of new titles in each quarter. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the number of new titles has nothing to do with the vibrancy of our industry. (See chart.)
Skyrocketing number of magazines in red and plummeting total circ in yellow. (Thanks to Dr. Joe Webb for the chart)
In fact, the number of new magazines we make is a red herring to our actual vibrancy. The only stat that matters is how many magazines we sell, and those numbers have been dropping since 2007 to a loss of over 50% in newsstand sales and, depending upon who you talk to, 18% in subs.
Maria Rodale, is a fascinating member of the publishing community. She is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc., which makes the claim to be the world's largest independent publisher of health, wellness, and environmental content, and the largest independent book publisher in the United States. Who am I to disagree? In fact, I love the world's largest claim, as I claim to publish the world's oldest eNewsletter. Maria is a third generation publisher whose grandfather J.I. Rodale founded the company in 1930. She is a lifelong advocate of organic farming and gardening. She is the author of five books. And she graciously agreed to my interviewing her. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW
As Content & Technology Converge, Publishers Feel the Squeeze
Is there a difference between a content company and a technology company? The answer to that question is becoming increasingly difficult to answer. In the recent past, publishers were by and large content companies. Today, with the blending of multiple content distribution formats, magazine media companies have forged new business alliances and discovered new types of competitors, blurring the lines between magazine companies and technology companies.
David Carey recently noted that, "Hearst is a content company, operating with a platform mentality...functioning as one global entity as far as content sharing." I suggest to you that only a technology company that sells content on such a vast scale can achieve the goal of that kind of global outreach.
Let's put a bunch of companies in the same sentence and see if we can divine the differences: The New York Times, Hearst, Condé Nast, Yahoo, Buzzfeed, Vox, and Upworthy. Can you distinguish the differences between these companies and their missions? If we are all fast becoming technology companies, as it seems we are, perhaps we should consider the differences and significance of online readership and off-line readership. Are we nearing a point when it will all be just readership?
It seems to me that my opinion on the changes to the ASME guidelines will be in the minority. To me it boils down to integrity: you have it or you don't.
As an industry we seem to keep diluting our once unimpeachable integrity, whittling at it here and there, until before we know it, we have none. Native advertising, ads on the cover, editors working hand in hand with advertisers -- where does it end? Oh, I see there actually is no end, just a slow whimpering slide into total duplicity. Yes, you can fool all the readers some of the time and some of the readers all the time, but you absolutely can't fool all the readers all the time.
In the end the ASME rules don't matter and they never did.
Lets face it, we have never been a "pure" industry and we have always pushed the business envelope hard for a few extra bucks. But now we don't wish to even fake it anymore.
What does matter is our self-image. Editors of old would be appalled at what we have become and allow. I hear you -- modern times require modern guidelines. I'm sure that is true. But I tell you this, there continues to be less and less that differentiates the magazine media business from multiple internet scams or from the 16 year old kid doing whatever he pleases to score with the girl next door. It may work for the kid, but not for the industry.
I think the old guidelines of the magazine industry that were in place for decades helped develop the enduring value for our franchises. We are still riding on the coattails of those old values, and the public still believes in us and our integrity based on what we did in the past. It will take time, but not as much time as took to develop that trust, for it to evaporate. Is it worth it to destroy a legacy for just a few shekels? I guess so.
BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On ASME, Time Inc., On Newsstand and Circ issues.
Re: The Shady Industry That's Trapping Door-to-Door Magazine Sellers
Bob, thanks for posting. Rita Cohen from the MPA summed up the situation - selling this way is worth the hassle because agents have connections that publishers may not have. "Our hope is that we can rely on the agents to do business as we put forth in our guidelines so that we can continue to get our content to as broad an audience as possible." Since the MPA publishes guidelines on behalf of their members - the publishers, they have a responsibility to enforce them. It is obvious they are not being enforced. The MPA should be held to a higher standard in monitoring these activities.
(Submitted by a Publishing Executive)
RE: Blurred Lines Now Official per ASME
It seems to us that the ASME has lost some of its teeth, and this is their way of playing catch-up and trying to stay relevant as the marketing dollars make more and more of the editorial decisions. Appeasement has a way of falling short in the long run, and consumers have a way of seeing through this kind of veiled attempt at maintaining lines.
Simply waving around your guideline isn't enough to prop up your integrity when it starts to falter.
(Submitted by a Printer)
BoSacks Speaks Out: On Niche Media Publishing Conference
Last week I went to Denver to attend the Niche Media Conference. As I sat there at the opening ceremony I started to wonder about the term "niche". We all use it, but do any of us know the actual meaning of the word. I didn't. The term comes from Vulgar Latin, vulgar in this case meaning "common or vernacular Latin" rather than Classical Latin. The Vulgar Latin word was nīdiculāre which means to stay in one's nest. From Latin the French used the word nicher or "to make a nest."
I tell you all this because Carl Landau has succeed in making a publishing nest at his Niche Media Conference. I must have asked 45 of the 250 attendees if they liked the event and why. Most of the people I met were returnees, and that says something right there. A few have been coming since the beginning, which I think I heard Carl say was 9 years ago.
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