Bosacks Speaks Out
In the early part of my publishing career one of my first supervisors showed me how the magazine production professionals could actually see into the future by observing the newspaper industry. It was suggested to me that newspapers were the canaries of the media industry. Whatever happens in our industry happens first in their sector. When I was a major paper buyer I used to track how well the newspaper advertising was doing and adjust my paper inventory up or down predicated on how the newspaper industry was doing. It was at the time a six-month lead indicator or vision of the future, and for quite some time it was pretty damn accurate. Over time things may have changed and I don't buy paper anymore, but I'm guessing there is still a strong time-machine correlation between magazines and newspapers and that it still happens first in the newspaper business and then trickles down to the magazine industry. CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STORY
There is a quote in an article about print magazines that really troubles me. It is the following:
"It comes back to the idea of a bit of curation, really. That's the thing we can do that you can't really get online. That's the trouble, really... in the media landscape in general. There is too much information, too little context, not enough shaping of the material to give you anything other than a sense of complete chaos."
To say that the web and web sites can't have curation is dangerously mistaken. It can and in many places it does. It is borderline hubris to think that a web site can't be professionally edited, correctly curated and wonderfully designed.
I put forward that sole difference is in the medium and not the content or potential lack of curation.
The haptic experience between print and digital is mainly a different feel, a different sensation and, perhaps above all else, a different expectation. Print doesn't offer distractions other than the words and thinking on the page, while the web does. Just knowing that you can click and go elsewhere is seductive. Even if you stay focused you know in the background of your brain that you can travel beyond your current involvement. With print the expectation is built right into the product as linear and fixed, with no possibility of "surfing" beyond the next page. This grounding, too, is in the background of your brain. And those particular expectations make for different reading experiences. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Well, being a production guy, I have to say I enjoyed this rant by D. Eadward Tree. His missive is…
There was a time when you couldn't pick up a media trade journal and not have almost half the conversation about the paper industry. At the same time magazine manufacturing costs for print titles (there was no other option) were approximately 60% of the cost of doing business. In today's marketplace there is very little "talk" about paper, the one and only substrate for printed magazines, although we as an industry do have lots of dialog about "what is a magazine" or "how long magazines will be around."
As a case in point, I had a very challenging conversation - one of many - while on my trip cross country. My friend who is in our business took the position that magazines won't be around much longer. It is possible, even probable, that he was testing my opinions and was taking a contrary position just for fun. Nonetheless it was an exciting conversation. He showed me charts and graphs about our industry that were steeper in the negative than Mount Everest. I pointed out that those 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 focus on the winners. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Every year I look forward to Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends report. I suppose it's just a thing us futurists like to do for fun. For me trend analysis is a key factor in making decisions both large and small, and I'm always looking for the repeating patterns in life and in business. The report is always filled with fascinating data and, of course, trend analysis. One of the prized slides that I have closely tracked is the % of Time Spent with Media Vs the % of Advertising Spending in that particular media. Now as much as I like this report and I think it has important and meaningful data, I am not completely convinced that some of the conclusions in this particular slide are correct.
Here is what I mean, print now gets only 4% of time spent with any media. Mary Meeker's conclusion is that there is/should be an equivalent amount of ad spend to the amount of time spent with that media. There may, in fact, be some sort of correlation between the two data points, but I think the type of media in question should also be considered. The experiences of media to media are in fact very different. Print is not like radio and radio is not like TV and for sure print is not like digital.
This is not the whining observation of a bibliophile, but rather an experienced media professional who has tracked the industry for over 4.5 decades. It's my conclusion that the amount of attention/time spent doesn't necessarily mean that ad spending should be an identical % number. How does one measure the quality and richness of time spent? Where is that chart? CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
We are at an interesting crossroads in the magazine industry. Not all business plans are, if you will pardon the expression, on the same page.
There is a large set of business focused on the of selling of magazines on the newsstand. There are thousands of people and hundreds of businesses dedicated to the shipping, selling, coordinating, and returning of magazines in the retail supply chain. Their salaries depend on the success of the newsstand.
It is a complex process that thousands have devoted their careers to. In this mix not only are the newsstand organizations, the supply subgroups, but also actual magazines that live and die on the newsstand alone as their main source of revenue.
Then there is another group. I affectionately call them the Olympians. The Hearst's, The Conde` Nast's, Time Inc, and the Meredith's. They, too, sell magazines on the newsstand. But their business model is no longer, as it once was, contingent on that part of the industry. They have their own business plans that from the outset weren't about protecting or sustaining the newsstand business. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
I go to a dozen or more media conferences each year. Many I speak at and others I report on as a media analyst and journalist. I always hope to learn something new or hear different perspectives. I have seen the best and the not so great. Having attended the good and the bad, it is fair to say that I have a broad perspective on the subject of conferences and their worth to the attendees. After all, if there is no real intrinsic value to the "customer", what's the point?
That being said I recently attended for the fourth time FIPP'S Digital Innovator's Summit (DIS) which is held each year in Berlin. It is by far one of the best shows I attend each year. I always look forward to it, because I walk away with greater insights into our business then when I arrived. Where some shows are about industrial cheerleading, this show is about practical insights and new media methodologies. This meeting had more than 600 attendees from over 30 countries. Just having the opportunity to meet and chat with these publishers from around the globe is a meaningful experience in and of itself. But there is much more to this event then schmoozing with peers.
There is nothing at this event that is not near perfect. The organization, the setting, the clever timing of the speakers, and the overall rhythm of the show is smooth, filled with professional insights and enjoyable. I'm not sure how they gather such excellence in presenters, but other organizations could learn a thing or two by observation and replication. I know as I write this that it sounds like hyperbole on my part, but it ain't. I don't lightly travel to Germany for three nights and then quickly return unless there is a strong reward, and here there is.
Leo F. Buscaglia (1924 -1998) was a teacher at the University of Southern California in the late 1960s when one of his students committed suicide. This so greatly affected Professor Buscaglia that, in his pursuit for meaning of the sad event, he formed a non-credit class titled Love 1A. As you might expect, there were no grades for Love 1A, because how could you possibly fail someone in this class on that subject?
He became a cheerleader for Life, and he was most closely associated with the topic of love and human relationships, emphasizing the value of positive human touch, especially hugs. He once said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
You might ask, what this has to do with media and especially my review of the PRIMEX Conference held in New York City two weeks ago? Well, it was the professor who came to my mind when my good friend Daniel Dejan, who is the Print & Creative Manager of Sappi Fine Papers, opened the event. I know a world full of nice and wonderful people, but I'd have to rack my brains to find a man or woman with more glowing love for life and humans and the pure joy of creativity. I know Daniel quite well, so it was no surprise that his presentation that day was "The Haptic Brain/Haptic Brand and the Neuroscience of Touch." And, as Professor Buscaglia said, "... too often we underestimate the power of a touch..."
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.
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.