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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Who or What is a publisher in the 21st Century?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Who or What is a publisher in the 21st Century?

    I think our publishing industry is at a crossroad and we have been  approaching it for quite some time, at least since 2007 and surely since 2010, with the introduction of the iPad. Perhaps Mary Berner, CEO of the MPA, has it right when she now calls our former publishing houses Magazine Media.

    In this day and age how would you define a magazine publisher? We are no longer what we once were, because our readers and, most importantly, our revenue streams are very different.  And they, too, are continually becoming something else. What we are becoming is not less relevant, but is much harder to define and even more confusing as we proceed into the near future.

    It seems to me we are suffering from a strong identity crisis. Pre-2007 if you were a publisher you were for the most part in the print business, and the bulk of your revenue was derived from print. Now a publisher can be called a publisher just by hosting a web page, sending out a newsletter, or a blog or, of course, a printed magazine.

    The concept of magazine media does combine all the available platforms into one descriptive business type.  But changing our business identity doesn’t solve the problems of lost revenue and shifting reading patterns of our current and former consumers.Even the understanding that there is a universe of multiple platforms beyond print doesn’t help most publishers. Sure the big guys have plenty of dough to throw at as many substrates as seems prudent, and they do just that. What about the moderate to small publishers? They don’t have the money or the internal infrastructure to be so omnipresent. HERE FOR THE FULL STORY

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 09, 2014
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The Results of 50 years of Irrational Publishing Exuberance

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The Results of 50 years of Irrational Publishing Exuberance

    Assuming that we are all adults here, it is time for a frank and honest conversation about the future of print. Never in the pages of this newsletter have I proposed the death of print, not even its near death. That is not happening and will not happen any time soon. But, my goodness! we do need to collect our thoughts and maintain some sobriety. Both Samir and Mr. Dead Tree have published recent articles about this non-death. Samir calls it, "the amplification of print in a digital age."  I can live with that.  But in my judgment the exuberance needs to tempered just a bit with the flip side of reality.

    Below in a chart produced by Dr. Joe Webb is the problem as I see it. Even with all this exciting "amplification," where is the MONEY? As an industry, printed books, magazines, and newspapers have been non-stop losing revenue year in and year out since 2007. I am fine with all the brouhaha that this title and that title went from the web to print. I am ecstatic that some titles are being revived, and I think it is wonderful that there are new titles each and every year.  But the money, that revenue that feeds our children, is diminishing - maybe not for all, but clearly for many and maybe, according to the chart, for most.

    I believe there is, in fact, a bottom line somewhere where printed products as an industry will do just fine, but we aren't there yet. I ask you, is this a chart to brag by? If you saw this chart at your Wall Street broker's office, would you buy this stock to secure your family's mortgage?  I have stated many times in these pages that aggregated data doesn't reflect single titles and that there are many successes that we can and should brag about as an industry. But those are singular cases and NOT reflective of the industry as a whole. CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE STORY

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 08, 2014
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  • by Joe Webb
    Posted January 07, 2014
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  • Why Time Inc., Isn't Destroying Journalism?

    Why Time Inc., Isn't Destroying Journalism?

    There is an interesting law of nature that parallels itself in all business environments. The law that "nature abhors a vacuum" is as strong in any revenue producing ecosystem as it is in nature. This "law" is at the heart of many a successful entrepreneur, and it is a strategic advantage often missed by corporate shirts. These nimble entrepreneurs have the ability to see the vacuums that are constantly created in the wake of larger organizations' somewhat lumbering journeys. 

    I bring this up because there has been a recent plethora of pundit conversations lately about the death of journalism based on the news that the editorial department at Time Inc. will now report to the business department.  Indeed this move by Time's new management breaks the time-honored separation of church and state rule that exists in many, if not most, reputable publishing houses.

    This separation has such gravity that outgoing editor-in-chief of Time Inc. Martha Nelson sent pieces of the "Pope's Miter" to many Time Inc. editors. The whole miter had previously been passed from the company's outgoing editor-in-chief to the incoming editor-in-chief.  The miter, which is traditionally the hat of the pope or other religious figures, symbolized the importance of keeping the editorial content of magazines pure and from being unduly influenced by advertisers' needs, wants and desires. Ms. Nelson, who left Time Inc. so as not to be part of a newly perceived and sullied tradition, sent the following note:

    "This fragment comes from the 'Pope's Miter,' which resided in the office of the editor in chief of Time Inc. While the miter was passed on in jest, it symbolized the earnest belief in editorial independence, truth and integrity. Now that responsibility rests in your hands."

    The theory is that for the assured integrity of any house of writers, there needs to be a strong separation of the editorial and the business environments, so that the written word is not unduly influenced by the seductive dollar, thus giving editors the freedom to explore and speak the truth on any given subject or company, even an advertiser. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

     

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 07, 2014
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Need a Native-Ad Rock Star? Find a Former Forbes Exec

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Need a Native-Ad Rock Star? Find a Former Forbes Exec

    BoSacks Speaks Out: I must admit that I was rather appalled when I read that integrity between reader and publisher is an archaic business practice and that to be truly modern and successful publishers have to be duplicitous with their advertising.  As old fashioned as it is, I will continue to stand for transparency and honesty in all things including business.
     
     Here is what especially peaked my interest:
     

    "Protestations aside, native advertising is the rage -- and storied media institutions like The New York Times and The Washington Post are joining in.

      

    "To captain those efforts, both papers sought execs with a Forbes pedigree. Kevin Gentzel, the Post's chief revenue officer, and Meredith Kopit Levien, exec-VP advertising at the Times, learned from Forbes Media's chief product officer, Lewis D'Vorkin, an outspoken proponent and pioneer of native ads.

     
    "These alumni are the first to actually chip away and transform and begin to modernize the culture, model and conversation," said Robin Steinberg, exec VP-and director of publishing investment and activation at MediaVest."  
     
    I ask you all, am I an old dinosaur trying to hold onto the missing esteem of a once somewhat noble enterprise? Is there something wrong with advertising that it can't actually be called advertising, but needs to be hidden behind the "native" sow's ear? 
     
    It is the above quote from an investment banker about these alumni that has me up in arms. My interpretation is that she is chipping away at the morality of our publishing culture. That we might actually chose an honest business model instead of hacking away at our culture is apparently not understood by some investment bankers. 
     
    Here is my bottom line on this subject -- if after this exploratory exercise in quick profiteering all we become is a platform for native advertising, then we ain't got nothing of value nor of much longevity. 
     

    The great bard got it right, when he said something like an ad by any other name is still an ad. While I'm in a paraphrasing mode, Benjamin Franklin sort of said that, those who are willing to sacrifice their integrity for profit will in the end have neither.

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted December 07, 2013
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Acts Out Again In Mississippi

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Acts Out Again In Mississippi

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Acts Out Again In Mississippi 

     

     

    Imagine, if you will, a cozy academic auditorium filled with professionals from every part of the publishing universe - publishers, editors, circulators, investment bankers, writers, digital visionaries, retail experts, printers and even people who sell paper. Sure, and let's throw a pundit or two into the mix and then fill the rest of the seats with enthusiastic journalism students. What you have is the ACT 4 Experience at Ole Miss created and hosted by Dr. Samir Husni.

     

    This is the fourth year of this amazing annual event and the third time for me. I would have been at all the events but four years ago I had a fight with some kidney stones, and I lost my first and only debate in many a season. It turns out that logic doesn't work with kidney stones.

     

    Over the course of two days we heard perspectives from every aspect possible in the publishing business. The event opened when we heard from Billy Morris, CEO of Morris Communications, a private, family-owned company which began more than two centuries ago as a single newspaper in Augusta, Ga. and today has grown into a diversified, midsized, global media company. Mr. Morris explained how his company is still growing and merging his print empire into a diversified global print and digital company. He explained carefully that print and digital are a marriage and for them to work together both have to be respected.  He said, "We believe in print and it is paying the bills." He also said, "Digital is not a challenge nor a threat, but rather it is an opportunity and an evolving new media.  What we do is gather, assemble, package and deliver content on any platform. We are now selling a continued contact with the reader."

     

    Next we heard from Donna Kessler, President of Morris Media Network which publishes Where Magazine. Yes, that's right, the magazine you and I have found in any major city hotel in damn near any country you can name.  Did you know that the world-wide circulation of Where Magazine is 65,000,000?  They have created a broad platform in each market. As an example they have printed 60 million brochures in Paris in multiple languages including Chinese.  If I heard Donna right she suggested that they have the high end magazine, the middle end magazine, and a lesser grade magazine in each market, and all built off of one single platform. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted December 05, 2013
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On MPA-AMC Keynote by Mary Berner

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On MPA-AMC Keynote by Mary Berner

    BoSacks Speaks Out: It was my intent to cover the whole MPA-AMC in one report. But it turns out that to do the conference any justice it will take several essays, as I have over ten pages of notes and those are without any personal commentary. So I will start at the beginning and as the pages fill up I will conclude on another posting. President and CEO of the MPA Mary Berner opened with her usual verve and esprit de corps as the opening keynote speaker at the AM²C 2013 Conference.  She opened with the comment that “I’m not pissed anymore at least about where we are and where we are headed as an industry.” I can’t address what Mary may or may not be angry about, but I agree that we have made great strides in adapting to the necessary changes that face our industry. 

    But those strides have come in some strange ways at the cost of our older identities as print magazine peoples. I confess that either I or the industry, or maybe both, are a bit schizophrenic. By that I am referencing my comments about the AMC last week when I suggested that we open every conference with the benediction, “Print is not dead, print is not dead,” and we complete the opening prayer by declaring to anyone who will listen that 90% of our revenue is still print revenue. I went on to question why was it that almost nowhere in any industry convention that the actual technicalities and best practices in the revenue producing print product were discussed.  What about a few lessons on print efficiencies, best cover practices, how to create the best headlines, or the latest secrets of newsstand success stories?  (There are a few exceptions to this rule, but few and far between)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted October 27, 2013
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  • Backlash against Apple’s Newsstand gains momentum

    Backlash against Apple’s Newsstand gains momentum

    by D.B. Hebbard 

    Developers and publishers question the merits of Newsstand publishing as discoverability problems mount (and sales drop)

    In the past I’ve criticized the organization, search capability and management of the Apple Newsstand before, but the posts rarely gained much traction. But Marko Karppinen of the Finish software company Ritchie (its publishing platform is called Maggio) wrote last week about why publishers should avoid the Apple Newsstand and his post was picked up by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber – that means wide exposure. Karppinen’s position is that the Newsstand is where publication apps go to die, undiscovered. His position is that publishers should launch their apps as stand-alone apps, outside the Newsstand. There is a lot of merit to the argument, the biggest one being that launching an app outside the Newsstand does not preclude one from one day moving the app into the Newsstand if you want.. READ THE ARTICLE


    Posted October 21, 2013
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The Nuts & Bolts  of Magazines - A Review of PRIMEX NYC

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The Nuts & Bolts of Magazines - A Review of PRIMEX NYC

    In Esquire's approximately 286 page October issue, I read a quote from Arthur Miller that reminded me of the publishing industry in general, and of my experience at PRIMEX last week. "Fear, like love, is difficult to explain after it has subsided, probably because it draws away the veils of illusion as it disappears." Indeed, the print industry has had the fears, misconceptions and its illusions drawn away as we move forward and adjust our business plans to 21st century communication. To me this adjustment was clearly evident at PRIMEX, which has been chaired with great success for several years by Laura Reid, VP of Production at Hearst Magazines. 

    David Steinhardt, President & CEO at IDEAlliance, the organization that runs PRIMEX, opened the day-long conference in NYC saying we are at the intersection of interactivity. How does it grow print? How does it work with print? What are the best practices for the total supply chain? How do we work with the new technologies and create increasingly better workflows? 

    Posted October 14, 2013
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On FMA Day 2103

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On FMA Day 2103

    The FMA Day 2013 held at the Princeton Club opened with a clear presentation by Ethan Grey, SVP of Digital Strategy & Initiatives, MPA, who shared several digital success stories and then went on to explain that as an industry we need to market digital editions better than we have to date. He used Hearst as an example of a digital industry leader who has a "be everywhere strategy." He said Hearst is on every platform known to digi-hood and has instituted a "read them first in digital strategy," whereby all issues are released in digital format before the print editions are available. (I think that it is worth noting that Hearst is up to 1.3 million full priced digital subscriptions, representing 3% of their total circ and, as I have reported before, Hearst Digital circ could hit 25% in five years.)  Another successful Hearst initiative is weekly digital editions of Esquire and soon to be released weekly Elle editions
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted October 14, 2013
    (0) Comments

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