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Bosacks Speaks Out

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Newsstand Sales Fall 16% and it still Ain't Armageddon

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Newsstand Sales Fall 16% and it still Ain't Armageddon

    So here we are again with some dreary numbers and a continuation of print's adjustment from King-o-the-Hill to mere but honored participant in the multiverse of the world's communication network.  Last year I gave my perspective on the subject, and it still holds true.

    I have many friends who are publishers and many friends who are printers. Most of these compatriots, that I know, despite the generally negative numbers, are doing well, and some are actually thriving. That's the funny thing about aggregate numbers - even if the overall analysis is bad or even terrible, and it is, it doesn't mean a damn thing if your printing plant or your publication is doing well. So there ya have it - the only meaningful bottom line in this period of stressful monetary communication wars is, how are you doing?

    As the printing pond gets smaller and smaller, which it obviously is by any standard of reporting, what is left by Darwin's publishing laws of supply and demand should become increasingly more expensive and therefore more valuable. All you have to do is to survive the current Armageddon and put out the most outstanding products possible for those who are still addicted and still hungry for printed reading products. Give the readers what they want, on the substrate that they want, and when they want it at that moment in time. Simple really. Just be beyond  excellent in every part of your enterprise.  

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted April 15, 2016
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Impact on Hearst-Condé Nast Venture to Merge Back-Office Ops

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Impact on Hearst-Condé Nast Venture to Merge Back-Office Ops

    Here is my take on PubWorx LLC, the joint venture to combine circulation, procurement and production functions by Condé Nast and Hearst Magazines. Distilled down to their lowest common denominator production departments are about great efficiency and superior quality, probably in that order, but variable depending on the particular organization. The skills include shrewd procurement and a great proficiency in manufacturing and distribution. On the other hand, circulation is still less a science and more akin to alchemy, but many circulator's will no doubt dispute that concept.  

    The conjoining of the two companies makes perfect efficient sense to me. Again with a probable dispute by some professionals who read this, production departments just make interchangeable widgets. We put ink or pixels in the exact right place and fling them hither and yon around the globe. It doesn't really matter if we are making one widget or a hundred. Our job is to coordinate at the most reasonable price with the best possible quality in that price range, and "ship" on time and with great regularity.

    The production process is agnostic to content. We don't really care what it is and so can combine and ship an unlimited number of disparate titles from unlimited companies.  As Archimedes sort of said, Give me a production staff smart enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 15, 2016
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  • Ad Blocking is Our Reward for Abusing Reader Trust

    Ad Blocking is Our Reward for Abusing Reader Trust

    Full disclosure: I may or most likely may not be the normal reading consumer on the internet, and for the record I do use ad blocking software. Without it my day on the web was increasingly a painful, slow and a terribly intrusive experience. Also for the record, and most importantly, I am willing to pay for the reading material I want and need. I pay for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Texture (formally known as Next Issue Media) among several others.  In fact, it is no secret that most of my working day is either reading on the web or writing about what I read. So I am something of an expert about the on-line user experience.

    Here is my take on the situation. Ad blocking is serious business brought upon us by our own misuse of trust given to us by the reading public, the trust we had correctly build up over the last 100 years as the guardians of publishing and of print.  I have always felt that the publishing community and the rest of the advertising internet infrastructure has from the outset abused the privileges of permission on-line.  I don't want to be tracked by companies that want not only a large slice of my wallet but also the uninvited intrusion into my mind and how I'm thinking and where I am at any given moment. I am also offended that these unsought intrusions that slow down my web experience with bloated and unwanted downloads.  FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

     

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 26, 2016
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper

    There is a recent article titled Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper, that came across my info-radar today. Articles like these are always popping up. They are interesting to me, because science must do what science does, question everything. As a geek-at-heart, I am all for the pursuit of knowledge. I sometimes think that all good production people are geeks, but that is a story for another day. 

    There are several things that must be pointed out in this article. The headline is click bait appealing to paper lovers and trying to confirm what they think they already know. However, the data here is not as overwhelming for the paper lovers as the headline suggests. The biggest issue is the supposed edge in the emotional response to paper as opposed to digital.  To me that is much more generational than a universal law of astro-advertising. 

    The main thing to remember here is that in a very meaningful way none of this digital-does-this-and-paper-does-that-science will matter as we proceed further. Why, you wisely ask? Because, we aren't ever going to go back to being a major paper transmitting society. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    Posted October 06, 2015
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  • Dissecting the 1% Prediction of Magazine Sales

    Dissecting the 1% Prediction of Magazine Sales

    We keep reading and hearing about the reading public's love of print. Why then don't they show that love at the newsstand? Every year newsstand drops double digits in sales. If that is love, I'll take something else. We keep hearing how advertisers get better ROI in print. That may be true, but then why does advertising in print diminish every year? We keep hearing of the many new titles each year. Why then do all magazine sales show a steep drop in magazines sold? In the same vein why are print subscriptions dropping as well, (if not as fast as newsstand)? In the end, it doesn't matter how many magazines we print, the only relevant statistic is how many we sell.
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 26, 2015
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  • With A Strong Brand, A Magazine Can Be Anything

    With A Strong Brand, A Magazine Can Be Anything

    Active Interest Media serves as role model for extending magazine brands and businesses.

    As we all know, the magazine industry is transforming from a print-focused concept to a broader, more media-diverse, "branded" approach to content distribution. In the new approach there are many extensions of the branded experience that lead to revenue success, and in many cases better, broader, and more stable empires than in the past. Active Interest Media (AIM) is a perfect example of brand extensions and off-the-page thinking.

    AIM has five distinct publishing groups and publishes some of the country's leading consumer enthusiast magazines, such as Yoga Journal,BackpackerVegetarian TimesYachts InternationalBlack BeltAmerican CowboyPractical HorsemanLog Home Living, and many more. I think the key phrase here is "consumer enthusiast" magazines. Look at the diversity of this publishing house and the broad reach they have. No single-topic concentration in this publisher's large enterprise, but rather five main categories each with a broad range of brands that satisfy passionate readers and their very particular interests.

     

    A few months ago I had a conversation with AIM's president and CEO Andrew Clurman. Andy said, "Today's operative words at AIM are diversification and proliferation. We are continually finding seams within the verticals we're in of unfilled audience interests and needs."

    What Andy is saying here and what all publishers large or small must be considering is the revenue extension possibilities of your readers/consumer's passions.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

     

     
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 01, 2015
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  • The Mystery of Magazine Numbers Revealed

    The Mystery of Magazine Numbers Revealed

    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. 

    FOR THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted July 05, 2015
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  • Thoughts on MAGNET 2015 Q1 Newsstand Sales Results

    Thoughts on MAGNET 2015 Q1 Newsstand Sales Results

    There is absolutely nothing new in the latest newsstand reports that we didn't really already know, and the latest stats shouldn't be any kind of surprise to anyone. The print enthusiasts on the planet will continue to deny that there is anything wrong with the medium, and many new print titles will still be born despite the statistically obvious fact that print gets a smaller footprint each and every quarter since 2008. There is no bottom to this trend and there is no correction possible anywhere in sight. Nevertheless. I suggest that there is some hope.

    My question to you all is this: Is totality of averages really the only effective way to look at our industry? Are we actually one big inter-connected publishing company and it's sink or swim together? Or are there thousands of separate companies and titles that have their own hidden successes as well as the obvious on-going failures? With our predilection for schadenfreude, we humans love a story of things that have gone wrong. We get distracted and perhaps enchanted by negative news, of which there is plenty, and forget that there are successes happening every day, too. What about the hundreds of titles that are actually doing well, even in the dark and murky newsstand? What about the enthusiast titles that are doing fine and have reworked their business plans to gather an extraordinary amount of revenue in other areas than declining print?  

    What this means to all of us is that we aren't dead nor dying as an industry. I will admit that there may be a great deal of major industrial pruning yet to happen. But evidence has shown that consistent growth is a possible outcome for some titles and even some entire genres.

    There isn't going to be an end to this trend until we lose the concept of print as a commodity and follow the bookazines to success. Better, more expensive magazines produced in smaller numbers is the path to success in print. Simply put, we need to print less and charge much more. I have said for a very long time that print isn't dead or dying, but it is going on a stringent and long term diet. As painful as the smaller more expensive footprint might sound, this is the path to profitability and sustainability for a print product in the 21st century.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted June 06, 2015
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  • Thought’s on the IMAG-MPA Conference And Samir Husni’s Love Letter to IMAG

    Thought’s on the IMAG-MPA Conference And Samir Husni’s Love Letter to IMAG

    Professor Samir Husni and I both love the magazine industry, yet we come to that affection from completely different directions. He is enamored withprint on paperOpens in a new window, while I am enamored by the global power of content distribution in/and on any platform that the consumer/reader wishes. The differences of our perspectives are very significant, but don't preclude a decades-long, great friendship. Conversations between us are at the very least dynamic, as one young man found out when he was sitting between us at dinner on the first night of the IMAG Conference in Boulder. He got an earful from both sides.

    Samir's takeawayOpens in a new window from the IMAG conference is a product of his affection and belief in print. Although I, too, believe in the moderate longevity of print, I also believe and fully acknowledge that it is continuing to take a second seat to other platforms and other paths of sustainable revenue.  In fact all the IMAG conference subject lines were how to make money and grow your company in every possible way other than print. And that to me is ironic in the extreme. Allow me to explain the irony.

    In the early 2000s I was publicly very critical of the MPA Conferences. In my mind there was a digital revolution about to happen and there was little to no dialog in the annual meetings about the juggernaut I saw coming directly at us. Now in the most interesting of turnabouts the reverse is in play, and most, if not all, of the convention is about digital. Digital is the only thing talked about with little to nothing about traditional magazines and how to make them better and sustainable. No sessions about how to make a great cover or distribution tricks to improve circulation or news about paper and/or printing trends - pretty much nothing about the print part of the magazine media business. CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted May 22, 2015
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  • As Content & Technology Converge, Publishers Feel the Squeeze

    As Content & Technology Converge, Publishers Feel the Squeeze

    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?

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted May 01, 2015
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