Bosacks Speaks Out
By Bob Sacks
My friend David Pilcher, of Freeport Press (please note he is a printer) wrote a passionate article last Friday titled Hyperbole and Hysteria in the Magazine Industry in which he claims that Without Print, There IS No Magazine Industry. In the article he argued that print is inextricably linked to the definition of what a magazine is and print magazines are here to stay.
I applaud all passions when it comes to this subject, and perhaps it is time once again to revisit and reconsider the question, what is a magazine? But at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. The death of magazines, which isn't really happening, is a red herring when considering how we keep score. The only viable score card, when one is in a business dialog, is revenue. Many printers are doing very well in these trying times, while at the same time the magazine business on the whole isn't. Ad revenue on an industry wide basis is down, newsstand sales are down, and subscriptions are down. Down is not equivalent to death, but it is a leading indicator of the change in direction for the reading public. It is because of all the documented data above that the MPA has chosen to change the statistical score card and track total magazine media engagements, rather than just pages printed and ad revenue reported.
The real culprit in this dialog is time. How much time does anyone have and where are they spending their time? Time spent with magazines is decreasing and has decreased more than 1% per year for the last 5 years. The last report from Mary Meaker showed that when compared to all other media, magazines received about 6% of time spent with any media. Is there any reason to think that it won't be at 5% percent this year? No! FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE
Brands and branding are funny things. They go back further than you might think, but have different meanings to us in media today than originally intended. In the earliest days, artisans would make their mark, or their brand, on their manufactured materials to identify themselves as the maker.
This process took an interesting turn later in history in the American Southwest as cattle ranchers put the mark or their brand on their cattle, identifying ownership instead of "makemanship." One of the Old West stories goes so far as to tell us about a gentleman named Maverick who didn't put his brand on the cattle, and since then unbranded cattle were known as mavericks.
Today brands and branding have somewhat different connotations. Now the brand identifies the company that made the product and in most cases the products themselves.
I have said for decades that humans, too, have brands and should always be working on their own branding. As we progress through our corporate careers we should remember that we are marked or branded by the way we regularly display our expertise. Remembering your personal or corporate brand is a strategy that will give you an edge in competitive situations, be they careers or marketplaces. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
The past Thursday evening High Times Magazine held its 40th Anniversary party. 450 invitation-only people attended the event at a club on Delancey Street in lower Manhattan. Among other things there was a lot of electricity in the air. In attendance were some old friends and fellow founding fathers. (Special note there were also founding mothers, but none in attendance at the party.)
It was great to see Ed Dwyer, the first editor of High Times, who went on to a fine career, as many High Times graduates did. Ed was a top editor for companies such as AARP the Magazine, Penthouse, Los Angeles Magazine, and Whittle Communications. Also enjoyed seeing Larry "Ratso" Sloman, another early editor at High Times, who made a career writing books on Dylan and Houdini and whose best-sellers were in collaboration with Howard Stern on the radio personality's Private Parts and Miss America. My best friend Andy Kowl, who notably was High Times' first publisher and helped it achieve much of its success, was also there making the rounds and meeting new friends and old. Andy has been a publisher many times over these past years and now is using his extraordinary skills helping other publishers generate increased reader engagement and profits online.
High Times was without a doubt a school of publishing. Many greats got their start there. Original graduating class Art Director Diana Laguardia won awards for best design while at Conde Nast and the New York Times, while the late, great Toni Brown became art director of People. Some have conquered ad agencies as Senior VP's. Glenn O'Brien ghost-wrote books for Madonna and is a mainstay at GQ. Shelley Levitt became a senior editor at People, west coast editor at Self, and has been featured in too many national magazines to mention. Susan Wyler became a best-selling cookbook author - even without including marijuana in her recipes. Production personal have developed, orchestrated, and retooled production techniques for many companies such as Time Inc, helping to implement "running to the numbers," a system that every printing plant uses today. One member of the class even publishes the world's oldest e-newsletter, not a small accomplishment in itself. And on and
There is an age-old phrase that claims that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, meaning in un-apple terms that one wrong person can negatively affect a whole group. I was wondering if the reverse can be true. Can one person or even a small number of persons show exemplary leadership and change the bunch in a positive direction?
Here is what I'm getting at. The latest reports from AAM on circulation seem dauntingly negative when viewed as whole. The last AAM report was filled with sad statistics such as: of the top selling 25 titles, only three improved their sales, and of the top 100, there were only 24 that showed positive momentum. It is those negative figures that everybody is focused on, and perhaps it is understandable to do so. As an industry trend, it isn't pretty. But what about the winners in that multitude of industry misery?
As reported by John Harrington of NScopy.com, the "Food Network Magazine was up 12.1% to an average of 448,734, and its dollars were $9.0 million, 15th among audited publications. Sports Illustrated grew 14.7%, an average of 68,132, and the dollars were $8.7 million, #16. Women's Health grew by one percent to 300,790, and its $7.5 million put it 21st." So, although the statistics seem to point to a whole bad batch, it is not really true for all. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
My Goodness, Rance Crain wrote a terrific, important and timely articledirected for the advertising world. And it is just as meaningful for magazine publishers as it is for ad agencies. It's time to stop the Bull. You can take all the surveys you want, but multiples of 25X pass-a-long for every magazine you produce is Bull with a capital "B". It doesn't really happen.
From the article:
"Bullshit is different from lying. Lying is willful. When you lie, you know what the truth is, but you intentionally misrepresent it. In a way, bullshit is more insidious, because people who bullshit often don't know what the truth is and don't care. We use it on consumers, we use it on our clients and we are now bullshitting ourselves."
As the industry moves forward with the MPA's 360 program I implore you all to avoid the bullshit. Our new effort at creating the complete magazine media picture is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, because we need to do something. But relying on fraudulent digital data, which is everywhere, is a very dangerous thing to build our evolving new media businesses upon. Claiming media reach is a dicey and sometimes meaningless expression when using digital statistics.
Here is just one example, Facebook itself says at least 67.65 million fake accounts were used last month. That number can go as high as 137.76 million, if the company's higher-end estimate is to be believed.
The criteria for ad visibility on the web is beyond a joke. Did you know that a web ad seen for one second "counts" as an ad seen? Did you know that in many and most cases a web ad run "below the fold", as in at the bottom of the page, counts as an ad seen? HUH?
Yes, I understand the strong impetus to get away from the factual counting of ad pages that are printed. But moving our industry into the digital sweepstakes swamps of web metrics is a dangerous arena to slog through cleanly. I suspect the we will eventually all get caught in our own morass of bull.
So here in the 21st century the major publishers no longer wish to publicly broadcast one of the two major stats that are actually verifiable - printed ad pages and actual copies sold.
Of course, we also used to broadcast the bull of ad revenue with the ad count, but no one believed that number anyway. Everyone knew that the revenue portion of that data was full of bull-oney. At least the ad page count was based on actual printed pages. In truth, how many of those ad pages were make-goods, free, some kind of in-trade deal, or some other cross-pollination subterfuge was never actually known. But at least they were printed and verifiable as ads. And at the end of the day, I didn't/don't care how the ad got there, just that it was an ad, clearly distinguishable from the editorial. Of course, native advertising is another bag of worms, but that is a rant for another day. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
You would think that a guy who goes to a dozen publishing conferences a year and is also the writer/publisher of a daily newsletter on the subject of media, would find it easy to explain why the annual ACT magazine events at the University of Mississippi are so compelling. My problem is that it is hard to exactly define magic, and this special event is filled with magic and marvel. It is hosted by my good friend and industry debating partner Professor Samir Husni, who continuously attracts a world-wide concoction of diverse speakers. But it is not exactly the diversity of the presenters that makes it so special. If that was all it took, it would be easy to replicate, but nobody has an event quite like this one.
Perhaps the most unique thing about the conference is the intimacy of the event along with the interchange with the students. 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 amount of journalism/media students. We are an intentionally mixed group sitting randomly in the journalism school's cozy auditorium, senior publishing professionals hobnobbing side-by-side with the next and soon to be leaders of the noble enterprise we call media. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
An interesting professional sobriety hit the magazine business this week that was a long time in its maturation. The MPA moved us off the teat of accounting for print ad pages as our franchise enabler and instead offered a solution of cross-media oversight. Concurrent with this move was the decision to no longer make public printed ad page stats. This move attempts to take the consistently depressing news about declining page counts off the front page and to make them available only to MPA members and their affiliates.
I understand the desire to camouflage the dissent, as the information is depressing and, I think, often times misleading. I have stated many times in this newsletter that trends do not reflect the specifics of individual titles or companies. Many print magazines are doing very well. But the overall trend of the industry continues to quickly head south. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
3 factors that will lead to digital's eclipse of print as the dominant source of magazine media revenue
There is an odd form of delusion in the publishing world, characterized by a resistance to reason in the face of actual facts. This inability to recognize modern business trends is easy for most Millennials to understand, but hard for many magazine traditionalists to reconcile. It is the concept of print's current and future position in the grand scheme of revenue production in the information distribution industry. You see, the cause of this misunderstanding is that print is still the major source of revenue for most traditional publishers and that colors their thinking, even as paper-produced revenues on the whole continue to steadily decline.
To be very clear, the future of our industry and our ability to make an honest living is digital. The only real question on that subject is when the watershed moment of digital supremacy will arrive. I think that when we look back at the end of 2014 we will see that that moment is happening now.
Obviously there are many digital only publishers today who are already making a fortune in territory that was once a print-dominated field. Newspapers, news magazines, and assorted niche publications used to rule the info-sphere. Now sites like Buzzfeed, Vox, Upworthy, Flipboard, and many others satisfy the public's thirst for news as it happens. It makes perfect sense that "news" would be the first to fall to the digital axe and behead journalism as we once knew it. Over time our perception of news has changed. Now news isn't news if it is in any way not of an immediate nature. It wasn't always that way. In colonial days news took six weeks to cross the Atlantic and when it got here, it was well received as real news, true, and valuable. Now we receive news of events as they happen in real-time, which is something that no paper-sourced delivery can ever hope to contend with.
Yet even taking those new successful news sites into consideration, the predominant method of generating revenue for traditional publishers is, for the moment, their print products. There are three main contributors to the headspace of this pulp addiction and all are easy to understand.
Leave it to the wordsmiths of the publishing universe to dismiss the great bard's advice and call an old cabbage, a rose with a piquant odor. There is a big debate going on in our industry and under all the fluff and misdirection, it is about lying and deceiving our public.
This pox on our industry is called Native Advertising. What a brilliant use of words, so clean sounding and innocent. It is nothing more or less than the selling out of our souls and our integrity for less than a fleeting buck. An editor should understand advertising and how any publication works, survives and creates revenue. But neither an editor nor a disguised editorial page should ever be advertising in hiding. Such a situation dilutes the whole foundation of our small universe and stains journalism in putrid colors. If one of your articles is suspect, the whole publication is corrupted and suspected to be what it is - a shill for promoting something and anything for a fee. It is the prostitution of an industry suffering from the lack of a spine and the lost business creativity to produce honest revenue.
BoSacks Speak Out: Sometimes I just have to put the tequila aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry to offset some irrational exuberance. I do this because I love the magazine media industry, and I don't want anyone to misinterpret the facts and true conditions of our industry.
First, we are not dead, dying or otherwise crippled into irrelevance. Print will be around for generations to come and be loved and cherished by many. That being said, whatever you read elsewhere, we are still and continue to be in a position of readjustment and weight loss. We are no longer the dominant player we once were. Sure there are more magazines than ever before, but that notation is irrelevant when you consider the fact that we continue to sell fewer and fewer magazines year in and year out. And revenue, despite many singular and quite excellent print successes, continues to decline in the industry. The pinnacle for magazines based on quantity is long gone and a decade in the past. Click Here for the full Article