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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Understanding Advertising Today

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Understanding Advertising Today

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On a day when we read that digital advertising is to surpass print and TV for the first time, it boggles the mind how much known fraud there is in anything digital. Why does the advertising community "trust" what is obviously a global confidence game?

    Fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, paying for ads never seen, fake web sites that look real but aren't grabbing an obvious overabundance of loot. Not to mention the theft of our very selves. Our whole lives and families' interests bundled for sale not to the highest bidder, but to any bidder.

    The online advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand much less control under the current conditions we find ourselves in. Despite what we hear from the lofty P&G, there is no competent leadership anywhere, and I'm compelled to add the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is nothing but a joke.

    Where is the industry leadership? I used to think the US government could be the answer to regulate this problem. Forget that pipe dream. Too many senators have demonstrated clear stupidity about the Internet. It's ridiculous, but the lawmakers who have the power to regulate technology have absolutely no idea how technology works.

    Do you remember when Sen. Orrin Hatch asked Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook is able to sustain a business model while running as a free service. I'm sure Zuck stifled an internal chuckle and was barely able to keep a straight face when he responded, "Senator, we run ads." "I see, that's great," Hatch replied. No, there will be no shining knight from the Capitol to save the day.

    Part and parcel with the fraud, how is it that we all ignore the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people? Not their rights, our rights. Facebook's lies, duplicity and personal intrusion by hidden surveillance systems all go unchecked. Do you know that Facebook tracks you through third parties whether or not you are logged into Facebook? As Bob Hoffman pointed out a few weeks ago "And the pièce de résistance -- Facebook's new data policy asserts that they track you even if you don't have a Facebook account."

    This is not a rant about Facebook. They are just a single example of the on-going digital depravity.

    It's an old stat, but did you know that for every $3 spent on digital ads, fraud takes $1 (Adage.com, 2015)

    Did you know that US brands would lose $6.5 billion to ad fraud in 2017. (Marketing Week, 2017)

    Here is a 2018 stat - How much have you spent on fraudulent ads today? How much have your fellow advertisers? Try $51 million. Research estimated that digital advertisers wasted $51 million on ad fraud every single day in 2018. That's a massive $19 billion over the year.
     
    There is an abundance of data that shows that magazines are more trusted than any other delivery vehicle. It is rated and respected by readers for top quality and accuracy in reporting.

    Yet, in review, print which is trusted by all parties loses market share every year, while obviously fraudulent digital advertising is to surpass print and TV for the first time.

    Advertising is the Big Brother we were warned about. Its mission is nothing short of surveillance for a profit. The information on us is stored, sorted and turned against us as an algorithm. And if the algorithm is good, we will march to it.

    Now is the time where I should make some sort of demand or plea for us band together and transform the system. Nope, that isn't going to happen. There is too much greed and too much money for this to change any time soon. How does this rectify? Is there hope in this digital morass?

    I have hope, but no ideas.

     
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Bezos, AMI and the American Newsstand

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Bezos, AMI and the American Newsstand

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Why is our industry always seeming to be at a crossroads of crisis when it comes to the newsstand part of our industry? 

    When I got into the magazine game in the 1970s the newsstand was in some parts corrupt and yet reliable and profitable. Once you figured out the "system" you could do very well and never worry about its brittleness because it was a strong delivery business with a functioning national infrastructure. These days many knowledgeable professionals constantly talk about its fragility.

    The newsstand is often misunderstood and is more complex than most realize. There are an unusually large set of varied businesses focused on the selling of magazines on the newsstand. There are thousands of people and hundreds of businesses dedicated to the shipping, driving, selling, stocking, coordinating, consulting 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 chain subgroups, but also actual magazines that live and die on the newsstand alone as their main source of revenue.

    Last year a friend/publisher e-mailed me the following, "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most magazine publishers. Big publishers now create covers more with the goal of getting clicks and social-media buzz than selling copies. I can't say that I disagree with them. The newsstand system is a shit show of incompetence and inefficiency."
     
    This esteemed friend is wrong about most publishers and not so wrong about efficiency. The newsstand is not irrelevant to most publishers, in fact just the opposite. It is only the large publishers to which "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant." In 2017 there were 7,176 titles and many, perhaps most, gain their revenue from retail sales.
     
    Which brings us to Linda Ruth's article about AMI and the newsstand. Does AMI, now exposed to possible legal issues or at least an in-depth examination, put more stress on the now admittedly fragile newsstand?
     
    What if? That is what I keep thinking. What If an implosion happens? What would be the real time effects on our printers, publishers and, as I said before, thousands of employees in the distribution side of the business? 
     
    We need the newsstand to survive and thrive. Over the years there have been forecasts of its death and proposed plans to save it. Neither have happened. No modernization, little-to-no overhaul and, of course, no death.

    Regardless of what happens to AMI I don't foresee the death of the newsstand as we know it. I don't believe the newsstand will ever evaporate, because there are still billions to be made in it. No businessman likes a vacuum, and someone will eventually reconstitute a distribution system. But the intervening space between implosion and reconstruction would obviously be devastating. 

    Since the demise is unimaginable, I prefer to think the newsstand will continue along its way with a stumble or two every now and again.  
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out; No,There Isn't a Media Malaise

    BoSacks Speaks Out; No,There Isn't a Media Malaise

    BoSacks Speaks Out: There isn't a week that goes by when I'm not asked about my substrate preferences. A long-time reader and publisher from England yesterday asked me for an electronic subscription to Magazine Media Quarterly "or is digital against your principles?" A pretty funny question to ask the guy who publishes the world's
    oldest e-newsletter. 

    For the record, I am neither rabidly pro-print nor a digital zealot. I am a businessman who likes profit, and I'm willing to use any substrate that achieves a sustainable goal of revenue. I like to think of my approach as that of a pragmatic publishing prophet, and my advice, like a good prosecuting attorney's advice, is to "follow the money".

    Publishing Pragmatism brings me to the point where we understand the publisher/reader relationship as a service with a client. Determining what suits the clients' needs best is the solution to the substrate question.

    Different publishing products work better on one substrate than another, and no two media niches are alike. Enthusiast titles are preforming well in both print and web-based properties. State and regional titles are also performing well. There are a few I can name that are outperforming their own expectations, such as Our State Magazine of North Carolina or feisty W42ST, a New York City magazine that just hit its stride with its 50th Issue. The publisher of W42ST wrote to me yesterday describing his print magazine as "A bootstrapped business, built out of love, hard graft, and a little heartbreak, it's an incredible story of how, in the digital age, print has the power to bring a community together ... we have ambitious plans to grow in 2019 and beyond."

    As I sit here in the industry analyst's seat, I see the following - a hopeful expectation that the chaos will finally settle into a period of stasis, not quite a period of inactivity but more of equilibrium. I must report to you that isn't going to happen any time soon for the magazine media industry. Expect continued disruption at every quarter for the foreseeable future.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • How creepy can marketing get?

    How creepy can marketing get?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: How creepy can marketing get? 
     
    Bob Hoffman once wrote that "Advertising used to be concerned with imparting information. Today it is concerned with collecting information."
     
    Facebook, Google, Amazon damn near every digital giant is exploring every part of your life. That is not a generic anonymous part your life, but a specific personal intrusion on every individual in the modern day ecosystem.
     
    There is no way I can overstate that this is one of perils of our times. Among other things I am overwhelmed by the lack of integrity and propensity for pure greed at any cost. The robber barons of yesteryear have been replaced by eRobber Princelings of digital creeps.
     
    What we need is clarity of the situation and a path to safety, because as individuals we are horrifically exposed to predators. And there doesn't seem to be a central source of protection anywhere on the horizon. Our government, a mostly geriatric group of legislators, haven't a clue about how the system works.
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • Saying Goodbye to Glamour

    Saying Goodbye to Glamour

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Here is a question. Who is surviving and thriving in the magazine business of the 21st century? Is it the old school corporate shirts or the feisty, nimble entrepreneurs? The answer is complicated, because both new and old are facing a new set of business rule-breaking never before seen, and, therefore, there is no road map. 

    In addition the obscene quantity of digital advertising fraud makes the answer to the question complex and murky. I think a case could be made that, under the stain of digital fraud, print should be shining as an example of needed and trusted media. It isn't; at least not yet. It seems day after day large corporations are condensing and reinventing themselves and their bloated methodologies to compensate for factors they still don't quite understand, while new publishing adventurers explore the limitless possibilities of publishing to ever widening niche audiences.

    Which brings me to a limited twitter conversation between @DeadTreeEdition, @AndyKowl, @newsstandpromos and @bosacks at the news of the demise of the print version of Glamour
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 22, 2019
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: A David Carey Retrospective

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The first time I remember meeting David Carey was, of course, at one of the trade shows. My memory is that it was at a cocktail party and it was just before the launch of Portfolio Magazine. He was then and always has been congenial and thoughtful in all our personal conversations. I have always admired David's leadership. I am constantly asked in my travels what publishing houses get it "right" in the current market place. My answer has always been David and Hearst. 

    You may say that it is easy for the big guys to do well. Not so. Kodak, Bear Stearns, Enron, Ford Edsel, New Coke just to name a few colossal failures from giants who could have/should have known better. No, it's not easy being at the top of a giant cooperation. When you are that big a leader, you have to be cautiously aggressive, and that is no easy task.

    I've always been an entrepreneur and for me, taking aggressive risks is part of the job definition. That methodology takes on new meaning when thousands of employees stand and fall by your decisions. It is not for the weak of heart. Bravo to David and his next bold moves!

    As an aside, I have always taken great pride that David has publicly stated on more than one occasion, that he reads this newsletter every day. That has nothing to do with my admiration, but it doesn't hurt either.



    Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.
    Sun Tzu

     

    Looking back at the venerable career of an industry leader.
     

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted September 15, 2018
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Scariest Chart in Mary Meeker's Media Slide Deck

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Scariest Chart in Mary Meeker's Media Slide Deck

    Anyone who has seen a "Bo-talk" knows that I always spend some time and a few slides with Mary Meeker's work and analysis of the media industry. It is not the be-all and end-all of data analysis, but it is something to understand and acknowledge as we proceed. The charts you see below that track print and ad buys since 2010 to the present are exactly what I have brought to my audiences and with the same conclusions for the last seven years.

    What is not mentioned here but is worth noting is the fact that many magazines are bucking the obvious trends and are doing quite well. As I also suggest in my talks, aggregates only tell part of the story. Averages being what averages are, 50% of the titles are above the trend line. As I said in my last lecture at Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association a month ago, "I postulate that the 4% of time spent with print are valuable and precious minutes off the grid. Our strength is the total focus that print provides.

    The question is, can we convince young media buyers of the quality and worth of precious minutes off the grid?

    Does science matter in making media decisions?


    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 digital experience does.  


    With print the expectation is built right into the product as linear and fixed with no possibility of "surfing" beyond the next page. This firm foundation is in the background of your brain. Those particular expectations make for different reading experiences.

     Here is the science of what we know:

    1) Paper stimulates a stronger emotional response.

    2) Paper is more action-oriented than digital, because its physical format stimulates mental processes that guide consumer behavior.

    I think a case can be made that reading on the web requires a modern kind of discipline to actually finish the article you started to read, whereas in print there is no place else to go but finish what you picked up to read. Not everybody finishes every article regardless of the substrate. But to get readers to finish anything containing words requires good writing, good editing and a compelling subject.It is addictive content properly constructed and distributed that brings success to any magazine in print or on the web. It is that simple . . . and that hard.

    FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted June 21, 2018
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  • A Response to Baird Davis'  Protecting the Newsstand (Part 2)

    A Response to Baird Davis' Protecting the Newsstand (Part 2)

    I could quibble over a long list of essentially minor points in Baird Davis' "Modest Plan", but the fact is the underlying message - something must be done about the newsstand - is undeniable.

    Two questions hang over the future:

    Can and will publishers make aggressive steps to create a manageable distribution channel? And; If yes to that, can the apparently inexorable decline in sales be halted so that a manageable channel can survive?

    As I have said on many occasions, there is little history that indicates publishers are willing to embark on a cooperative effort to revamp the channel, but perhaps staring into the abyss may rattle their long-demonstrated reluctance.

    As for sales, magazine retail dollar volume was $5 billion in 2007 and is likely to be little more than $1 billion by the end of 2018. For years, everyone was asked the question, "Where is the bottom?" For years, the response has been, "Who knows?" Which translates as zero, and which leads to the question, "Why would anyone commit to an effort to restructure, if the market will, like the old soldier, just fade away?

    Clearly, if publishers are going to recreate the channel, they must also commit to improving the sales environment. It's a two-part project.   

    I will once again express my skepticism about the likelihood of publishers undertaking the challenge. However, if such an ambitious task were to be initiated, I offer my modest suggestions about what elements it might have to contain.

    Baird's suggestion of establishing a newsstand public utility is right on. Players on each side - publishers and wholesalers - would have to put some ego aside, but when the alternative is the abyss, that shouldn't be too difficult. Perhaps publishers, at least some of the largest, might be able to partner in some fashion with the two remaining wholesalers [1]. If such a utility could be established, it might operate on a modification of the a so-called "pay-for-service" model that was part of the industry discussion back ten or fifteen years ago, and it would be available to all publishers willing to pay for the offered services. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by John Harrington
    Posted May 16, 2018
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  • Protecting the Newsstand Channel - A Modest Plan (Part 1)

    Protecting the Newsstand Channel - A Modest Plan (Part 1)

    The original intent of the recent newsstand articles that John Harrington and I did, at Bosacks' insistent urging, was to inspire a vigorous discussion about the often misunderstood process of selling magazines at retail. In that regard we hit a nerve - the response has been hefty and spirited. Thank you to everyone that joined the discussion.

    Now that the discussion has begun in earnest I want to offer some more grist to the dialogue mill. In this note I'll present a rough-hewn plan for protecting the embattled newsstand channel. It combines ideas gained from recent reader feedback with those based on my own experience as a circulator and long time newsstand observer.

    Publishers Troubling "Blind Eye" Approach

    There have been many attempts at newsstand channel reform and continuous warnings, twice a year from me, of the dangers that lay ahead for the channel. All of this to no avail. The reform efforts never came to fruition and the warnings have fallen on the deaf ears of publishers.

    What appears to have happened is publishers adopted a fait accompli attitude toward the newsstand; seemingly content to live with decreasing sales and higher newsstand service costs. This doesn't mean, however, that publishers weren't acutely aware of the adverse economic effects of - declining sales, reduced efficiency, increased processing costs and less service from national distributors and wholesalers. They knew there was a problem, but, as always, they seemed perplexed about what to do. 

    In retrospect it's become obvious that publishers seriously underestimated the effect of the dynamic changes occurring to the channel infrastructure. In 2009 major wholesaler Anderson News dropped out of the business. In 2014 mega-wholesaler Source Interlink followed suit saying the business wasn't profitable and hadn't been for a long time. These two wholesalers at one time represented nearly 50% of the magazine retail distribution volume. A total meltdown was averted in 2014 when The News Group (TNG), with support from Hudson News*, scooped up the Source Interlink leavings. In doing so they "won" the long brutal wholesaling war of attrition.

     *It should be noted that Hudson News remains in the magazine wholesaling business, but in a non-competitive manner with TNG. 

    The result - TNG emerges at the top of the newsstand wholesaling heap, controlling 75% to 80% of the magazine wholesaling volume.  Click here for the complete article

    by Baird Davis
    Posted May 16, 2018
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Saving Our Precious Newsstand

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Saving Our Precious Newsstand

    If you know that there is danger in the bushes, that's a good thing, right? Isn't it best to know what confronts you whether in a business or personal situation? In most cases I would say yes. But apparently not the magazine business when it comes to magazine sales figures. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the discomfort of the data and the ripple effect that publicizing that data across to members of our community and associated sectors can have. Bad news generally begets continued negative momentum.

    Here is what I'm getting at. I think it is time for an honest discussion about the current state and future possibilities of the American magazine newsstand. As a frequent attendee and speaker to media trade shows across the country, I constantly talk with publishers about our business and many times about the newsstand.

    Just yesterday a friend/publisher e-mailed me the following, "The newsstand system is becoming increasingly irrelevant to most magazine publishers. Big publishers now create covers more with the goal of getting clicks and social-media buzz than selling copies. I can't say that I disagree with them. The newsstand system is a shit show of incompetence and inefficiency." Do you agree with my friend? 

    And this is just one of the many skeptical notes I have gotten concerning the remote possibility of publishers saving the once beloved newsstand.

    I state today that I am not a skeptic. Well, actually I am, but not on this subject. My first business partner, Andy Kowl, was the first person to explain to me that business abhors a vacuum. If there is room to make a buck, a buck will be made by entrepreneurs finding the holes in any commercial system. In this case, I suggest if the newsstand that we know implodes, someone somehow will fill the vacuum created by the implosion and deliver magazines to a new "newsstand" and make the proverbial buck in the process. But I think that would be, at least in the beginning stages, very inefficient and costly and take years for a rebound in sales and outlets. It can be done, but should it? Can't we fix the "shit show of incompetence and inefficiency"?   CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted April 10, 2018
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