BoSacks Speaks Out: I have four Alexa devices in my home. And I use them every day. When I wake up I ask Alexa for first the local weather report and then for my personal news brief collected from news organizations that I choose from the Alexa app. My list contains, NPR, the Economist, the BBC, Associated Press and I finish it off with a little humor from The Daily Show and the Tonight Show. Not a bad way to start an informed day.
But when I read about Jamie Court, who is the president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group discussing new patent ideas from Amazon: "When you read parts of the (Alexa) applications, it's really clear that this is spyware and a surveillance system meant to serve you up to advertisers." Well that makes me wonder how far this is going to go. The article below goes on and states, "That information could then be used to identify a person's desires or interests, which could be mined for ads and product recommendations."
There are so many layers to this I don't know where to begin. As a media professional who sees intrusive advertising everywhere, this is another big leap into the weaponization of intrusion ad-warfare.
When you combine Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Google, Alexa and all the other information intrusion activists you get a very scary picture of corruptibility. Well, you should get that picture, although none of this is yet illegal. Yes, we are all targets, and there are two advertising bullseyes on the head and heart of every individual on the planet. They will pull the strings of your heart by listening to the stirrings of your brain.
And, worst of all, this is just the beginning, as Alexa was launched in November 2014 just a little over three years ago.
What do media professionals think about this subject?
I can't recall if I have ever publicly discussed membership schemes for magazine revenue. It's not a new idea and sometimes it's really just semantics. When I was young, and I bought a subscription to the National Geographic they called me a member of the Society. I can't recall if I received anything special beyond the best printed magazine of its day, other than pride of being a so-called member of the National Geographic Society, but that seemed pretty cool at the time. And then there was Consumer Reports - that, too, was always called a membership. I have always been a fan of membership enterprises. In 1999 I was the COO of a membership organization called YAPA, the Young Adult Professional Association. Our plan was to be like AARP but instead of retirees as members we cultivated college graduates, with discount programs, job guidance and of course a magazine. We raised multiple millions of dollars and died an untimely death in the dotcom doom of 2000. It's still a great idea.
But here we are in the 21st century, and membership models are a "thing" again, but unlike the traditional publishing model, which is based on a transactional relationship of you give me money and I'll send you a magazine for a year or two. The new membership plans usually contain special offers, discounts, and many times a chance to meet your favorite editors and writers at events. I guess you could call it a 360 approach. I'm sure someone else already has. As American Express has said for years "membership has its privileges." The membership approach drives an affinity with the brand.
The New York Times has Time Plus, and the Wall Street Journal oddly has WSJ Plus. Both successful membership programs.
If ever I was to start another magazine, I would explore the membership model. It wouldn't work unless the magazine and the content was something special. With unlimited content everywhere on the planet why go into a new publishing business, if what you have to offer isn't excellence itself?
Today I'm headed to Berlin, Germany to attend one of my favorite publishing events, FIPP's Digital Innovators Summit which starts Monday, March 19th. It is a wonderful cross-planet collection of modernizers and theorists making sense and profit from the still evolving phenomenon we once called publishing.
This article about UK's NME's demise suggests various pressures on consumer magazines. The article reminds me of some things I've said before. There once was a time when there were rules and an established pecking order. If you were in TV, Radio or Print, you knew the process and the possibilities of your profession. Each method of communication had pluses and minuses, boundaries and well-trodden logical pathways to reach the consumer and make a profit in the process. One might also say there was once relative business stability.
I've also noted before that what makes the current state of affairs so different is the evaporation of boundaries, rules and stability. There is little distinction between publishing, TV and radio because they are all streamed. Print or off-line media is obviously not streamed, and that is its problem. It is stuck in an old-style world of rules and boundaries while connected, digitized communications are completely free range. For many the nostalgic rules of print are deemed a blessing and satisfying in their permanency. But the old rules also limit print's value most importantly to the vagaries of young, inexperienced media buyers. We have proof that print is still a good buy, but in aggregate they buy less of it each year. Nevertheless, there are plenty of print sectors doing quite well. (CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE)
Once again the largest players in the magazine media industry gathered for the annual plumage display. Everybody is excited to be there including me. I annually and happily re-meet so many old friends accumulated through a lifetime in the industry that it is a joy to be there among my comrades. We share old war stories and new thoughts of the current conditions of our media empires.
Linda Thomas Brooks, President and Chief Executive Officer of the MPA, opened the event with a thoughtful message she received once directly from the Dalai Lama. It was as mystical and as far reaching with simplicity as you might expect. "Keep working on it." You see, at first you go: what? And then the simple complexity settles in. Yes, no matter what it is that's going on, just keep working on it till you find an answer. Linda's application of that for the industry was, "there is no one answer," just keep working on it. And how right she is.
There was a time in the magazine industry when almost every publisher large and small worked from extremely similar business plans. We were all in the highly definable, easily explained, magazine publishing business. Now-a-days I'll bet there are no two business plans alike. The complexities and unlimited diversity of information delivery platforms in the magazine media business makes every business exploration for revenue uniquely different. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
John Palumbo makes a passionate discussion here for newsstand placement and retail problems in City and Regional Magazines. But I want say, it's not the darkest hour for all magazines in the genre. Take Our State Magazine, which celebrates life in North Carolina. To the best of my knowledge it is thriving and perhaps more so than any other regional magazine I am aware of. Why, you may ask?
A few months ago, I had lunch with my friend Bernie Mann, the publisher of Our State Magazine and asked what was, as Warren Buffett calls it, his Secret Sauce? (For the record Bernie and I meet twice a year out of mutual respect and idea sharing. We both drive two hours to meet in the middle for lunch. It is always worth it.)
So, what is Bernie's Secret Sauce? He says, "The reader." Bernie says you have to love, cherish and respect the intelligence of the reader and never do anything that makes the reader 'work' to enjoy the magazine. He goes on the describe what he means. "No belly bands, no stickers on the cover, no stories continued in the back of the magazine, no ads disguised as stories with the word "advertisement" or "Promotion" in 2 point type.
Bernie says part of the Secret Sauce of his success is the idea that the advertising has to be bought not sold. He interestingly goes on to point out that in his opinion, "The model of ad agencies buying advertising in magazines is broken," as agencies are more interested in making money from digital. Bernie's answer is to go directly to the client.
If you want a role model for the City and Regional Magazine arena, I strongly suggest you check out Our State Magazine. To the best of my knowledge they are never under 250 pages per month and often much more. You want success? This is it
Bosacks Speaks Out: Odd things happen at odd and sometimes inconvenient times. For me, although this newsletter always gets out no matter what, sometimes when breaking news happens, there are days that are more convenient than others.
This week I am in Houston visiting a family member in hospice, so since the Time Inc. story broke, I have not had the luxury to read all the prognosticators’ prognostications about the meaning of Life (pun Intended) as I usually would have. So, if what I am about to briefly say has been said by others, well that just means two of us had similar observations.
There seem to be many publishing professionals stressing and wringing their hands at the sale of Time Inc. to Meredith.
First, let me say that few businesses can be successfully run on the fumes of nostalgia. We all loved the old Time Inc. for what it was and what we thought it could have become. Now both the “what” and the “could” are in the past and have been for some time. The magazine industry is thriving and reinventing itself in the here and the now. For many reasons Time Inc. currently is not reflective of where we as an industry are going, but only where we have been.
I applaud the multitude of digital moves made by Time Inc. of late, and had they been spun off as totally independent projects many or all could have flourished and still might. Mostly there is too much historic baggage and too many legacy mistakes, and so we have the sale of the decade. But magazine giants have always risen to peaks and eventually evaporated in corporate smoke, usually with a whimper not a bang. TV Guide comes to mind as do Curtis publishing and many more. Giants in their day, now distant industrial memories.
When I worked for McCall’s magazine in the 1980s, Time Inc. was a Co-owner. Those were the great years when Time was the undisputed leader of the entire magazine industry in all respects. When is the last time that could be said of Time Inc.? I miss the industry leadership and their profound, always on-going experimentation in the magazine business and the supreme search for the efficiency of the product. Time Inc. deserves its place in the halls of media Olympus, but like Zeus and the gang, they are but rumblings of distant nostalgic thunder, fond to think about but forever gone.
For the record I'm on many blogs, threads and various news chains. One of them a few days ago asked a typical but still important question. Where will ebooks be in five years? That, of course, started me pondering several things about the magazine media business. Where were we five years ago and where are we now? And is that perspective an accurate forecaster for the next five years or ten for that matter?
In five years - Ok, shoot me if it is ten - most successful publishing businesses and technologies will morph almost beyond recognition from our traditional heritages with the exception of the one technology that won't be changing any time soon, and that is that words have to be read on one substrate or another.
Let me start with this: in five years, or yes perhaps ten, the media universe will have continued its trajectory away from organic substrates. I ask all the other pundits claiming an affection for print: what will stop the current trends? Nothing really. But I agree with these same pundits that print will always have a special place for some of those who are willing to pay for it. Those printed products that do remain in five or ten years, will be very profitable. Those special interest niche magazines and digitally printed focused publications will have great longevity. As I have said many times, the print survivors will be considered as a luxury item and not an inexpensive commodity product. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
BoSacks Speaks Out: I know the author of What does the departure of four top editors say about the future of magazines, Cable Neuhaus. The two of us had dinner a few years ago in New York City, where we exchanged ideas. He is smart, experienced and has great perspective, much of it from longevity on the publishing playing field. He writes a great heartfelt missive here about the magazine business. He says:
"In short, magazines have been my love and my livelihood nearly all my adult life. It affords me zero pleasure to observe their slow, steady decline. I cherish them, but I cannot look you in the eye and pretend that those of us who make and joyously consume magazines are not an abysmally small club these days."
My friend Cable and too many others mistake a change in dominance for death. Loss of dominance is not equivalent to death-it just feels that way. I believe that there are ever-present super opportunities here today and an on-going era of great publishing expansion. That would be the expansion of the media world, delivered by multiple methods to various devices, only one of which is paper. Here is where the disconnect comes from. In the old days - and what guys like Cable and I remember - the traditional publisher owned and controlled his own medium. Whether it was printed paper or on the airwaves, the traditional revenue stream was paid for by the advertiser. The advertiser needed that rare and hard to achieve platform of a large readership that traditional publishers provided. This relationship, which used to pay for everything, has been totally and brutally disrupted. It will, of course, never return to the way it was. Fine, it's about time we got over it.
The truth is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of publishers doing great these days. Admittedly not all, but Darwin allows for this in his publishing handbook. Those that adapt to the business conditions at hand have a great chance of survival, while those who can't adapt retire from the jungle. (Click here for the full article)
Friedrich 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. How many headlines have you seen that report that "Print is dead" or "Print is alive" or "Print is vibrant" and back to "Print is obsolete"? These types of headlines appear relentlessly every day. It's enough to make a grown man cry, and indeed some do.
So, what does it mean? Can both concepts, death and vibrancy be correct? The obvious answer is yes. It's all a matter of perspective. Falling back on another famous yet underappreciated quote from the prophet George Carlin, "Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be."
And there you have it. The expectations and the glass that hold the print industry need to be adjusted to a smaller container to fit the current conditions we work in. Based on all relevant data that glass needs to be at least half the size it was ten years ago, as we print, mail and engage in half the advertising we once owned and cherished. I offer this perspective because the only way to keep your sanity is to question the things that we have long taken for granted. (Click here for the full article)