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Bosacks Speaks Out

  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Time Inc. Can't be Saved by Nostalgia

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Time Inc. Can't be Saved by Nostalgia

    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. 

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 29, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Where will you and your media business be in five years?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Where will you and your media business be in five years?

    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

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Is this the End of an Era for the Magazine Industry?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Is this the End of an Era for the Magazine Industry?

    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)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: High-end digital publishers discover a new platform: print

    BoSacks Speaks Out: High-end digital publishers discover a new platform: print

    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)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: This Walmart rapid delivery story at first glance has nothing to do with the publishing industry, but I will

    BoSacks Speaks Out: This Walmart rapid delivery story at first glance has nothing to do with the publishing industry, but I will

    Speed of delivery is becoming one of the paramount barometers to business success. How is your speed of delivery? How long does it take you to fulfill a subscription? Is it 6 or 8 weeks? Just writing that business cycle-time frame in the 21st century is embarrassing.

    Every year, as an industry, not only do newsstand sales drop but so do subscriptions. In this age of Amazon and Walmart and the legendarily accepted two-day delivery cycle nothing says antique when making a sale like, "I'll get it to you in month or maybe two."  There was once a time that this was an acceptable business practice. It was a time of the Sears Catalog and the horse and buggy. It was a simple time when no knew how to, nor needed to, accelerate a business proposition.

    Why do we print publishers continue such an aged process? In some cases, it is a tool for rate base adjustment. For others it is the cheapest - no, I mean the most cost-effective - path of delivery. There are several titles that I know of that ship their subscriptions instantly upon receipt. In my discussions with them they are successful with this approach, they deem it a worthwhile investment and their readers are respectful of the speedy delivery. (Click here for the Full article)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Charlottesville, Nazis, Trump, Hate and Love

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Charlottesville, Nazis, Trump, Hate and Love

    It's not what we do in times of peace and tranquility that defines us, it is what we do in times of crisis that makes history and explains us to ourselves and our posterity.

    I usually try to avoid politics in these pages, which some have told me they find odd and out of character for an old outspoken hippy who was a twice elected politician and former publisher of several underground/over-ground political publications. 

    As most of you know I live in Charlottesville, Va. I am an immigrant coming south to live a little over five years ago from upstate New York. I have lived in many places both urban and rural. Charlottesville suits Carol and me, and we love living here.  It is a thoughtful, lovely community rich in multiculturalism, arts, music, history and natural beauty.  I enjoy living here more than anywhere else I have lived. 

    Yesterday that peace was temporally blown-up. We were invaded by self-proclaimed Nazis. They came here to disrupt a peaceful community and do as much harm as they could. They came with hate, helmets, shields and weapons. They came to "kill" our unity and ended up killing one of our citizens and grievously wounding dozens of others. 

    They succeeded in their mission far beyond their expectations. How so? They were endorsed by the President of the United States as co-equals. The Nazis were grossly and intentionally conflated with the peaceful defenders of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all by an ignoramus. I could go into writing pages of my outrage for the infant-king we are now saddled with. I could dissect his every infantile move of the last two years leading up to the recent, but sadly not the last, disgrace.  But I won't. 

    I write this rant to try to reconcile and understand my own feelings and share my disgust. It didn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way. Hate is obviously historic. Was there ever a time when it wasn't present somewhere, in some place or another? It is a sad reminder that with all the progress humanity has made in the last millennium we still have pockets of venom. (For the Complete Article Click Here)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted August 13, 2017
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  • Bosacks Speaks Out: With Magazine Ads down 16%, what does it mean to the magazine Industry?

    Bosacks Speaks Out: With Magazine Ads down 16%, what does it mean to the magazine Industry?

    Let's be honest, although many attempt to do so, there is no way to find a positive spin to the data in this or any industry-wide report with magazine ads down another 16%. As an industry, we have seen negative numbers every year for a decade. Were you expecting a change?   Newsstand sales of magazines have plummeted at least 50%, and periodicals run through the USPS have dropped 55% and diminish each year.  Meanwhile ad sales, as seen in this report, continue on their long decline seeking a yet undiscovered plateau.   

    We have seen associations use sleight of hand to try to change the subject and use illusory metrics. Has that helped?  We have seen pundits declare that all is well and that print will live and be prosperous forever. Neither of those is helpful as a solution nor a recognition of the situation at hand.  

    While we were discussing this new data my friend Mr. Dead Tree offered this to me in an email yesterday: 

    "Maybe the message needs to be what AA and the other 12-step groups say: To fix a problem, first you have to acknowledge you have one. On the print side of our industry, there seems to be lots of denial and not much innovation."

    My hypothesis is that there is no longer a magazine publishing industry at large as we once understood it. There are however individual sectors that are incorrectly lumped into a total of false equivalency. There are the large publishing houses that have absolutely nothing in common with small niche publishers. Yet somehow, they are deemed to be in the same industry with incorrectly compared metrics. There are regional publishing houses that have little to nothing in common with enthusiast titles, but they are also judged by the same over-all criteria. 

    Let's be honest, although many attempt to do so, there is no way to find a positive spin to the data in this or any industry-wide report with magazine ads down another 16%. As an industry, we have seen negative numbers every year for a decade. Were you expecting a change?   Newsstand sales of magazines have plummeted at least 50%, and periodicals run through the USPS have dropped 55% and diminish each year.  Meanwhile ad sales, as seen in this report, continue on their long decline seeking a yet undiscovered plateau.   

    We have seen associations use sleight of hand to try to change the subject and use illusory metrics. Has that helped?  We have seen pundits declare that all is well and that print will live and be prosperous forever. Neither of those is helpful as a solution nor a recognition of the situation at hand.  

    While we were discussing this new data my friend Mr. Dead Tree offered this to me in an email yesterday: 

    "Maybe the message needs to be what AA and the other 12-step groups say: To fix a problem, first you have to acknowledge you have one. On the print side of our industry, there seems to be lots of denial and not much innovation."

    My hypothesis is that there is no longer a magazine publishing industry at large as we once understood it. There are however individual sectors that are incorrectly lumped into a total of false equivalency. There are the large publishing houses that have absolutely nothing in common with small niche publishers. Yet somehow, they are deemed to be in the same industry with incorrectly compared metrics. There are regional publishing houses that have little to nothing in common with enthusiast titles, but they are also judged by the same over-all criteria.  FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted July 26, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out; NASA Calls Bullshit on Goop's $120 'Bio-Frequency Healing'

    BoSacks Speaks Out; NASA Calls Bullshit on Goop's $120 'Bio-Frequency Healing'

    In an age of abundant fake news, unlimited ad fraud and other nefarious communication systems to defraud both the public and the publishing community, I continue to wonder where fake and even dangerous advertised products fall in the current scheme of publishing things. My question is this: if a publisher knowingly and in the pursuit of profit promotes known or dangerous junk products, is it in any way responsible and/or liable?  Forgetting the legal possibilities, is it also contributing to the demise of overall trust in media? I think so.  

    Last month I vented about two such known opportunists. They were Doctor Oz and Gwyneth Paltrow's yet to be released Goop magazine. I asked, "If we continue to create 'fake or alternative news' or promote 'selling junk health products,' then we have to accept the moniker we deserve. Media is much more about profit then any quaint perception of truth. "  

    Where do we as an industry draw a line between honor and income? Where does credibility start? I ask because Paltrow's team is in the news again. Who is the complainant this time? Would you believe me if I said it was the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) who called out GOOP for fraudulent claims. Yes, you heard me right, NASA.  

    The GOOP brand among other insane claims "is now promoting stickers called 'Body Vibes.' The product, which I remind you, is literally a sticker, uses 'NASA space suit material' to 'rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies'."  

    Ladies and gentleman of the publishing jury, with all the endless impediments to honest journalism that we are currently confronting, are you willing and ready to defend a known charlatan? Is it really worth 30 silver coins to join the pantheon of hucksters?    

    Am I missing something? What is your opinion?

     
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted July 26, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out:  Takeaways from Digital Innovators Summit 2017

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Takeaways from Digital Innovators Summit 2017

     I have the privilege of attending about 16 publishing media conferences each year. The shows I go to run the gamut of media publishing enterprises. I attend meetings with editors (ASME), circulators (MBR), and production folk (PRIMEX). I meet with various groups of media professionals such as regional publishers (CRMA, IRMA), large publishers (MPA, IMAG), Digital Book Conferences, and International Conferences (FIPP World Conference). It is by attending these broadly different events that I gather my perspectives on media and deliver the opinions that you read each day. 

    In most of these events there is a discernable pattern. In some spiritual way most of the meetings open up with a similar chant or mantra. The audiences hum to "print is not dead, print is not dead, oh lord please agree that print is not dead." After that apparently mandatory professional obeisance, the conversations are all about digital processes, digital strategies and new digital revenues.   

    You've heard me say that I live in the future and only come to the present to give lectures about what is ahead for publishers. There is one show that I go to each year that doesn't follow that mantra trend and is as much a part of the future as I am. It is the Digital Innovators Summit hosted by FIPP and held each year in Berlin.  It is by far one of my most favorite events. The agenda there is all about successful digital methodologies currently and actively in place. If you work for a company with vision, get them to send you to DIS. It is an event that I would recommend to any company that wants to see the future of our business in action today.  FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted July 26, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out:  Grappling with Ad Fraud and its Nuances

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Grappling with Ad Fraud and its Nuances

    Charles Dickens once penned the now famous line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  I am going to counter that with a quote from Art Buchwald, "Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got." I bring this up while trying to grapple with advertising and the best/worst of times we now find ourselves in.  Here is an open question for us all. In an environment of unlimited content, there is also by default unlimited advertising. What is the revenue destiny of unlimited ads and unlimited content?  Do you know the answer?  

    It's obvious that there is now more complexity going on in our industry than at any other time in media's long history. So much that it is hard to keep up with the constant changes on any meaningful level. Among those changes ad fraud is one of the hottest of topics. What does ad fraud really mean other than the theft of something valuable?  What are the far-reaching parameters of ad fraud? What do they include?  

    Perhaps the obvious place to start is a recent news release from the Association of National Advertisers which proudly boasted that ad fraud will drop 10% this year from 7.2 billion dollars to about 6.5 billion. To that I suggest that all quantifying statements on this topic are at best a guess and at worst an additional fraud.  

    Ad fraud is not yet a trackable science. There is no benchmark from which to make any kind of all conclusive declarative statement, least of all that it is going down.  If there is a known fact anywhere here, it is that the fraudsters are and always have been many steps ahead of the supposed "rule makers." The problem is that you can't track by any means what you don't know. So, any statement that ad fraud is going down is patently absurd. While it might be possible to define in broad terms what ad fraud is, it isn't possible to quantify it now.  

    Is ad fraud about robots(bots) pretending to be humans clicking on ads?   CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted July 26, 2017
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