BoSacks Speaks Out: My friend Samir Husni has penned a short essay and complaint about "numbers" used in our industry for purposes of industry review and analysis (See below). He bemoans the way some media reporters publish stats on the number of new titles in each quarter, and he wishes that they reached out to him for his extensive collected number of new launches. I suggest that his collection of data is very large, unique and probably the most definitive.
It is true that the numbers we read in the trade press are varied and terribly inconsistent. From my perspective as an industry insider, it has always been fun to see the numbers and the constant surplus of new titles. That being said, I am using Samir's essay to launch my own observations about data in our industry in a week of many numbers which, although interesting to read, are for the most part irrelevant and misleading.
Let's start with the number of new titles in each quarter. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the number of new titles has nothing to do with the vibrancy of our industry. (See chart.)
Skyrocketing number of magazines in red and plummeting total circ in yellow. (Thanks to Dr. Joe Webb for the chart)
In fact, the number of new magazines we make is a red herring to our actual vibrancy. The only stat that matters is how many magazines we sell, and those numbers have been dropping since 2007 to a loss of over 50% in newsstand sales and, depending upon who you talk to, 18% in subs.
Maria Rodale, is a fascinating member of the publishing community. She is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc., which makes the claim to be the world's largest independent publisher of health, wellness, and environmental content, and the largest independent book publisher in the United States. Who am I to disagree? In fact, I love the world's largest claim, as I claim to publish the world's oldest eNewsletter. Maria is a third generation publisher whose grandfather J.I. Rodale founded the company in 1930. She is a lifelong advocate of organic farming and gardening. She is the author of five books. And she graciously agreed to my interviewing her. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW
As Content & Technology Converge, Publishers Feel the Squeeze
Is there a difference between a content company and a technology company? The answer to that question is becoming increasingly difficult to answer. In the recent past, publishers were by and large content companies. Today, with the blending of multiple content distribution formats, magazine media companies have forged new business alliances and discovered new types of competitors, blurring the lines between magazine companies and technology companies.
David Carey recently noted that, "Hearst is a content company, operating with a platform mentality...functioning as one global entity as far as content sharing." I suggest to you that only a technology company that sells content on such a vast scale can achieve the goal of that kind of global outreach.
Let's put a bunch of companies in the same sentence and see if we can divine the differences: The New York Times, Hearst, Condé Nast, Yahoo, Buzzfeed, Vox, and Upworthy. Can you distinguish the differences between these companies and their missions? If we are all fast becoming technology companies, as it seems we are, perhaps we should consider the differences and significance of online readership and off-line readership. Are we nearing a point when it will all be just readership?
It seems to me that my opinion on the changes to the ASME guidelines will be in the minority. To me it boils down to integrity: you have it or you don't.
As an industry we seem to keep diluting our once unimpeachable integrity, whittling at it here and there, until before we know it, we have none. Native advertising, ads on the cover, editors working hand in hand with advertisers -- where does it end? Oh, I see there actually is no end, just a slow whimpering slide into total duplicity. Yes, you can fool all the readers some of the time and some of the readers all the time, but you absolutely can't fool all the readers all the time.
In the end the ASME rules don't matter and they never did.
Lets face it, we have never been a "pure" industry and we have always pushed the business envelope hard for a few extra bucks. But now we don't wish to even fake it anymore.
What does matter is our self-image. Editors of old would be appalled at what we have become and allow. I hear you -- modern times require modern guidelines. I'm sure that is true. But I tell you this, there continues to be less and less that differentiates the magazine media business from multiple internet scams or from the 16 year old kid doing whatever he pleases to score with the girl next door. It may work for the kid, but not for the industry.
I think the old guidelines of the magazine industry that were in place for decades helped develop the enduring value for our franchises. We are still riding on the coattails of those old values, and the public still believes in us and our integrity based on what we did in the past. It will take time, but not as much time as took to develop that trust, for it to evaporate. Is it worth it to destroy a legacy for just a few shekels? I guess so.
BoSacks Speaks Out: On PRIMEX, and the Important Nuts and Bolts of the Magazine Industry
There is an unsung part of the magazine media industry that many of us rarely think or hear about, and yet a case can be made that this hard working section of the industry is the mighty engine that actually keeps us running.
We constantly read about creativity in our industry, about the art or editorial without which we wouldn't have a business. We read about newsstand issues, both the good and the bad. But the "magazine auto mechanic" who keeps the engine running is rarely in the forefront of industry discussions. Yet without a good, well distributed substrate, where would you put your creative content?
The somewhat hidden yet vital sectors of our business are the production departments. Having been a member of that elite group myself, I know the perils of the position all too well. Our job is to keep costs down to minimum and quality up to a maximum. Sounds easy, right? Other than those cost and quality conditions we only surface when things go wrong. What kind of person would actually take on that kind of responsibility? The fact that we get it right and near perfect 99.9% of the time is irrelevant when the pulp hits the fan of manufactured discontent. FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE
Many of the people who read this blog are in one way or another devoted to the process of print. Some of them are printers, some of them are publishers and most of them have a strong and deep bias, which is clearly and understandably centered around making a profitable living. In fact, we all, regardless of what our profession is, have a biased point of view that is skewed by our need to make a living. In this discussion I am not in any way saying a bias is wrong, just that it exists and aids us in forming our opinions.
Actually this bias comes twofold. Not only is it based on our need to make a living and feed the family, but also to be in our comfort zone. This comfort zone is, for the most part, like Mom's cooking. By that I mean that the things we learned early when we were growing up are filled with a nostalgia that makes us feel most comfortable with what we knew and experienced then, something along the lines of Mom's cooking. If you didn't grow up in an internet era your comfort in it is less than the screenager who has never experienced lack of instant access to any and all information.
Why Print Ain't Dead!
Too many times in the last decade pundits, printers, publishers and workers in the ranks have heard or have talked about it themselves - the inescapable, oft repeated mantra that print is dead. I am so tired of it that it boggles the mind.
Here is my statement and you should repeat after me, "Print is not dead or dying. The facts plainly show otherwise." Let's agree right here and now to get on with the necessary process of information distribution for a profit and forget about fear mongering old wives tales.
In today's marketplace print is one of the largest industries in the world. Print eclipses auto-manufacturing in employment. Did you know that? Did you know that print is a $640 billion dollar business and has been reported to drive $3.8 trillion in related services? That ain't death, nor near death.
If we can finally accept that print is far from dead, we can move on to the truly confused ideological problem of our industry - incorrectly assuming that print and magazines are the same thing. They are not and never have been the same, and their trajectories are not tied together. Printed magazines, in fact, are a very small part of the entirety of the print business. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE
Truth in Advertising - Magazine Statistics, Magnet,MIN and MPA 360.
As the most recent MAGNET reports came in, I started to ponder other recent changes in reporting on the magazine media industry. You will remember that the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), which had until recently been chronicling the magazine industry's ad page performance for almost 70 years, was asked to stop tracking and distributing "sold" ad page data to media professionals with its legendary Boxscores. MIN editor-in-chief Steve Cohn reported that publishers were being discouraged from turning over their numbers as the MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, was getting ready to unveil a new way of calibrating the industry's performance called Magazine Media 360. Now that the Industry has done away with MIN's Boxscore reports, what do we know about the performance of our industry?
We also now have the ability to track the number of e-shares, e-posts and e-reply's on any given month. How are ad pages doing? That information is no longer distributed to the professional public at large. We can guess, but we do not know. Is guessing better than knowing? Perhaps in some cases it is.
At the same time as we all know, almost every magazine media company still counts on their print editions and not the web for the majority of their revenue. There has been some progress in gaining some web dollars in this exchange, but in most cases, they haven't come close yet to a print replacement. I believe eventually digital revenue will supplant print as a major revenue source, but clearly not quite yet and at least not yet for most titles.
Which brings me back to the MagNet report which noted that U.S. magazine newsstand sales fell 27% in third quarter of this year, a larger loss than usual, but for clearly obvious reasons - Source Interlink's bankruptcy. I thought I would try and discuss the industry's understandable wish to camouflage the continuous array of bad stats and sublimate them with always positive web-only engagement data. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE