Bosacks Speaks Out
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
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
The following data is new and fresh. There has been no time for proper analysis or deep study. It looks like newsstand sales are down -13.4%, and sell through looks to be down to 24.4%. As noted below this is a limited version of the data. It is worth noting that Hudson Atlas News is not included in these totals nor is Barnes & Nobel. There has been some discussion of the Mary Meeker 2017 data in this newsletter over the past few days, and this new Magnet data does seem to parallel that other data set. But that too is just a set of numbers. Some have said those numbers are biased. I put forth the proposition that all analysis no matter how innocently prepared is to a greater or lesser degree biased. You take what you understand and apply your own real time experience to it for meaningful comprehension.
I have many times and continue to point out that this data and other charts are an aggregate of everyone and, although they might be interesting, averages contain both winners and losers. There has always been death and destruction in the magazine business. But there have also always been winners, and I believe we need to continue to focus on the winners.
I take the position that at our peak of production in the early years of the 21st century, when our competitors were only TV and radio, we had reached a print position of irrational exuberance. We topped out because readers could/would support it. Now as we head into a more digital focused age of media distribution, it is harder, but surely not impossible, to justify an existence for print titles. The bar for success in print is now higher. The readership is now more refined and narrow. Niche enthusiast titles rule the roost and general mass market titles are fewer and fewer. Still, there is plenty of room for print titles and the paper that supports the process.
The days of irrational exuberance in print are over, but we are reaching a point of cogent maturity for publishers, printers and paper manufacturers. Print will be around for quite some time, not as a commodity, but as a luxury item worth paying for. The only catch is that what is printed has to be worthy of the commercial exercise to produce it.
Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine, held his annual ACT 7 conference at the University of Mississippi in late April. The program was a good round up of what is going on in publishing, what our hopes and fears, challenges and opportunities are, and what the most forward-looking publishers, large and small, are doing to create success in their businesses. And on the last day, drawing together the threads of what had been discussed and adding fresh thoughts in his usual outspoken way, Bo Sacks gave his take on it all in a presentation entitled "The Truth About Digital Lies."
Some of the current dialog about magazine publishing, Bo believes, stems from simple nostalgia, a yearning for the grand old days of the past. That's all well and good unless, by looking backward, we fail to look forward, and by remembering what once worked - but doesn't any longer - we fail to move past traditional thinking, we fail to break new ground, and we fail to challenge our own long-standing assumptions.
Because, like it or not, most of the reading public is leaving print behind. We spend more time with digital devices, where we get instant access to any and all information, than we spend with the printed word. Time spent on digital has exploded, from less than an hour in 2010 to over five hours in 2016. By 2021, nearly 90% of all internet traffic will come from smartphones.
A corollary to the reality of this shift in attention is this: attention can be monetized, but publishers are failing to monetize it effectively. The companies making money from the changes in audience attention flow are Google and Facebook. Well over half the digital ad spend goes to Google and Facebook, with no other digital publisher enjoying even 4% of the total revenues. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
I have several media conferences that I relish and greatly look forward to each year, and IMAG-MPA is one of the best of them. Imagine what is like for a long-time publishing enthusiast like me to be in a room filled with like-minded entrepreneurs who happen to be in the magazine business. Intoxicating yes? Here we have publishers whose companies range from $5 million to $100 million in revenues, and yet they play very well together regardless of pecking order.
The opening night was a smashing success when we all hopped aboard busses and attended opening night cocktails and dinner at TEN: The Enthusiast Network Headquarters. The TEN building is huge and row upon row of computer work stations almost as far as the eye can see, generating and executing the placement of content in the automotive media sector. TEN covers the automotive in-market and automotive after-market services. Perhaps their most famous tile is Motor Trend, but there are dozens of other media enterprises under the hood at TEN. It was quite a display of energy and success in these troubled media moments.
One of the constant threads of the whole IMAG-MPA event was kicked off by a discussion by Mike Benson, Head of Marketing, Amazon Originals. Right out of the box and continuing for the next few days from many speakers was a conversation about magazine media and video. (I wrote last week that my reaction to the video conversation was that video was of course a revenue thing but not the revenuething for the future of our business depending upon what sector your franchise is in.)
Tuesday morning, Scott Dickey, Chief Executive Officer, TEN: The Enthusiast Network, opened the main part of the conference with an interesting and sober comment. He said, "We know what it's like to be down 21%, but we also know how to survive." Bravo for such honesty in an open forum and, Indeed, TEN is not only thriving but sharing how to do so. Scott suggested that in next few days, "We will share information and we are in some way partners." He went on to say, "This big ideas showcased here is transferable to your businesses." Within reason I think that is correct. Not every idea is transferable to any and all businesses, but with creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit, most good ideas are worth "borrowing" and bending to your own enterprise's needs. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
My friend Esther Kezia Thorpe, whom I met in a London rooftop pub a few years ago when she interviewed me, makes some interesting observations here. But I think the survival or death of Airbnb magazine will rise or fall like any other publication: on its excellence or the lack therein and of course the uniqueness of the information provided. There are unlimited travel information opportunities everywhere in print and on-line. What separates success from failure are the rarities and qualities of the information provided combined with the format that the information resides upon. Digital is relatively cheap to produce and to sustain, and it has the advantage of being accessible literally everywhere at any time. Even inferiorly produced printed products, which Airbnb won't be, are quite the opposite as they are relatively expensive to produce and distribute. So, the chance of survivability many times depends upon the expense to produce the product. Hearst is not known for half-way measures, so I expect that Airbnb with have both editorial and production excellence. That doesn't assure success, but it does offer a reasonable chance for one.
Esther states that a possible problem for continued success is the mixed message between the two lead agents in the projects. She points out that: "A far more serious issue at the heart of Airbnb mag is the vast gulf between the two companies' views on the purpose of the magazine. Compare these two statements from Chesky and Coles on how important revenue on the magazine is to them: CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Bosacks Speaks Out: Call me a skeptic if you will, but I don't yet have much trust in the…
There was a time, and it doesn't seem like it was that long ago, when no matter where your company was in the hierarchy of publishing, the most common denominator to the magazine franchise was that we all published printed magazines. That is no longer the case, and the magazine industry is almost unrecognizable from its past lifetimes. For 600 years we put thoughtful ink on paper and sold it to a willing public who were in the need to know. Now as we reallocate resources and streams of income, print, although it is still about 75% on average of the revenue pie, gets little of the conversation and only a small amount of the love.
This reaction comes from just attending the IMAG-MPA conference in Los Angles. It was a great show filled with important media conversations, and I highly recommend you go if and when you can. It seemed to me without looking at my notes, that at this event 90% of the conversation was about video. This is clearly what everyone expects to be the next big thing when it comes to new revenue streams. I personally have my doubts. Will it be a thing? Absolutely! But THE thing? I am not so sure.
Success and with it the resulting revenue clearly depends upon what your franchise is based upon. Ten, The Enthusiast Network which was the IMAG host publisher in LA and which is to auto industry lovers as Bayer is to pills, is a perfect candidate for success in the auto action/instruction video gambit. I see ample opportunities for major success for them. At the IMAG conference and at the tour of their offices they demonstrated that success and power. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
As my long-time readers know I have a global interest in regards to the information distribution business formally known as publishing. The following article is obviously from India, but some of the dialog from India could be heard at any domestic media conference. And that is the point of sending this type of article out. Media with its multitude of nuances is global. One way or another every information distributor faces similar obstacles and successes. Keeping a world view on publishing helps me see trends that I might otherwise miss.
Speaking of missing a "print is not dying" moment, last week I sent out an article titled As Print Continues to Die, Why are Conde Nast and Hearst Launching New Magazines. That article discussed among other titles that Penthouse did away with its print edition. Both my favorite newsstand consultant and Kelly Holland, the CEO Owner of Penthouse Global Media, immediately contacted me with the correction that Penthouse is still on the newsstands and according to Kelly, "We are expanding from 10 issues annual to 12." Kelly and I had a conference call today where she briefly brought me up to speed with how they are working and revitalizing this classic brand. I didn't hear anything that couldn't work. Adult titles are one of many niche publishing areas of focus. As I suggested to Kelly, "It all sounds reasonable. The trick in any company or any niche is execution of the business plan." The caveat, of course, is that proper execution and a fair amount of luck is no easy task, but both are accomplished every day.