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.
Five Strategies to Integrate Data and Editorial at Publishing Companies
For publishers today, data has become the key to competitive advantage. But executing against data has traditionally been a challenge. Only in recent years has the publishing industry invested in the technology required to make sense of data's complexity and volume. It speaks to a culture shift, with publishers realizing the need to be more than just content players. We must be technologists in order to survive. We're seeing that pay off now, through data-first publishers like Vocativ and BuzzFeed.
Data is ushering in a new wave of benefits for the publishing industry, including the ability to help publishers identify relevant content, create better content and develop a true user-first approach. For legacy news media, the ability to identify and break stories that drive traffic and scale is critical. Data teams can analyze web patterns and other online activity to determine and even predict stories in their infancy that might have been overlooked by a team of editors.
A year ago last week, it seemed as if print newspapers might be on the verge of a comeback, or at least on the brink of, well, survival.
Jeff Bezos, an avatar of digital innovation as the founder of Amazon, came out of nowhere and plunked down $250 million for The Washington Post. His vote of confidence in the future of print and serious news was seen by some - including me - as a sign that an era of "optimism or potential" for the industry was getting underway.
Turns out, not so much - quite the opposite, really. The Washington Post seems fine, but recently, in just over a week, three of the biggest players in American newspapers - Gannett,Tribune Company and E. W. Scripps, companies built on print franchises that expanded into television - dumped those properties like yesterday's news in a series of spinoffs.
The recent flurry of divestitures scanned as one of those movies about global warming where icebergs calve huge chunks into churning waters. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
It has been a very interesting and active week for publishers everywhere. The news of Source Interlink ceasing operation and the release of 6,000 workers is dramatic and traumatic to say the least. To those that track the industry the news of SID closing is not a surprise, but perhaps the speed of the demise was. Time Inc.'s announcement this week combined with the Bauer Publications' decision about three weeks ago to pull out of SID put the final nail in the coffin.
As reported many times in my newsletter and in the New York Times recently, "In the last five years, the retail magazine business has shrunk 50 percent, to less than $3 billion. And while there were hundreds of magazine wholesalers in the 1990s, the industry has consolidated into just a few major players in recent years: Source Interlink, TNG and Hudson News."
This turmoil has no end in sight. The sales we have lost as an industry in the last five years have little likelihood of returning. What we need to do is somewhere finally reach a sales plateau from which we can work on growth as an industry and as individual titles.
For my part there is ongoing and absurd doggerel from some members of our industry that the newsstand is a small part of the publishing business and its fall has little to do with the health of the magazine business. This thinking is part of a larger identity problem we are having and is patently not true, at least not true for most of the magazine industry.
The big guys -- you know who I mean -- don't really need the newsstand and have the bucks and the infrastructure to create and do as they will, and they will survive nicely, at least for a while. I do think their hugeness and current profits blind them from long term generational thinking. A newsstand presence gives a magazine and an entire industry visibility as an industry with the consumer. And conversely a lack of visibility breeds long term irrelevance. But perhaps that's the plan. The demise of an infrastructure not thought be needed by the current giants.
Jill Davison, a Time Inc. spokeswoman, said recently, "The regional markets that Source Interlink served -- Southern California, Chicago, and the Mid-Atlantic States -- might face shortages of popular Time magazines like People and Sports Illustrated for up to 12 weeks."
Disruption in the newsstand field for 3 months at least is lost sales, the kind that will never come back. Humans are creatures of habit. This disruption will no doubt create new non-newsstand habits in some of our old and trusted readers, thereby hastening an already depressed newsstand. Is there another interpretation that I am missing? CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Last week, PBS MediaShift ran a piece on how to measure multi-platform success for print magazines, which amounted to three brief interviews with magazine industry insiders. One of them was Samir Husni, well-known as Mr. Magazine and a professor at the University of Mississippi. The article stated:
Husni argues that digital magazines not paired with print publications are worth little, in financial terms. "They have no monetary value. I don't know of a single digital-only magazine since the iPad came out that's making money, that has any source of revenue, if it doesn't have a print counterpart.'"
His statement is so demonstrably false that I quickly tweeted my disagreement, and left it at that.
But I kept thinking about it-and getting angry. Samir Husni is widely considered a thought leader in the magazine industry, and his "counts" of new magazine launches in print or on newsstand are widely reported.
Why do we care about this count in the first place? Who does it matter to, and what does it have to do with the future of the magazine business? Should the health of the magazine industry be evaluated by newsstand or print visibility, in an era of declining newsstand and print sales?
And, ultimately, who thinks it's a good idea to base any aspect of a new magazine's business model on newsstand sales? CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
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 Interview with Gavin Gillas CEO of The Magazine Channel -
Finally the answer to search for the Magazine Media Business - the Pandora for Magazine Content
BoSacks - You are involved in a new format for digital distribution of magazines. What is it and how does it work?
Gavin Gillas - We developed STACKS by starting with the digital-first consumer--the one that whips out her phone while waiting in line, the one who grabs his iPad off the nightstand the first thing in the morning to catch up on the news, the multi-tasker, the person on the go. Our team realized that music, video, and news had all adapted to these consumers, while magazines were still finding their way. STACKS starts that reader out with complete choice over what to read and where to share it. We focused on articles as the core part of the magazine experience. We as consumers buy music by singles, watch movie trailers, listen to soundbites - so our team found an easier way to dive into new magazines. STACKS does a beautiful job of presenting magazine content and recommending related articles and topics. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW
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