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  • The Answer to Publishing's Enigma of Survival

    The Answer to Publishing's Enigma of Survival

    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.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 28, 2015
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  • Why Print Ain't Dead!

    Why Print Ain't Dead!

    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

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    by Bob Sacks
    Posted January 21, 2015
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  • Truth in Advertising - Magazine Statistics, Magnet, MIN and MPA 360.

    Truth in Advertising  - Magazine Statistics, Magnet,MIN and MPA 360. 

     

    nullAs 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?

     

    As I read the most recent chart derived from the 360 numbers in MIN there was not a single negative number of followers for any magazine, nor was there a difference in the % of Differential in Followers from September to October.  So, Bravo to all! Web followers have not gone down in a month and in some cases they have grown considerably. According to the report, there are now mostly positive numbers for the magazine 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

     

     
    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 30, 2014
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  • Without Print, There IS No Magazine Industry

    Without Print, There IS No Magazine Industry

    By Bob Sacks  

    My friend David Pilcher, of Freeport Press (please note he is a printer) wrote a passionate article last Friday titled Hyperbole and Hysteria in the Magazine Industry  in which he claims that Without Print, There IS No Magazine Industry.  In the article he argued that print is inextricably linked to the definition of what a magazine is and print magazines are here to stay. 

    I applaud all passions when it comes to this subject, and perhaps it is time once again to revisit and reconsider the question, what is a magazine? But at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. The death of magazines, which isn't really happening, is a red herring when considering how we keep score. The only viable score card, when one is in a business dialog, is revenue. Many printers are doing very well in these trying times, while at the same time the magazine business on the whole isn't. Ad revenue on an industry wide basis is down, newsstand sales are down, and subscriptions are down. Down is not equivalent to death, but it is a leading indicator of the change in direction for the reading public. It is because of all the documented data above that the MPA has chosen to change the statistical score card and track total magazine media engagements, rather than just pages printed and ad revenue reported.

    The real culprit in this dialog is time. How much time does anyone have and where are they spending their time? Time spent with magazines is decreasing and has decreased more than 1% per year for the last 5 years. The last report from Mary Meaker showed that when compared to all other media, magazines received about 6% of time spent with any media. Is there any reason to think that it won't be at 5% percent this year? No!   FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 10, 2014
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  • What's the Magazine Industry's Brand Identity?

    What's the Magazine Industry's Brand Identity?

    Brands and branding are funny things. They go back further than you might think, but have different meanings to us in media today than originally intended. In the earliest days, artisans would make their mark, or their brand, on their manufactured materials to identify themselves as the maker.

     

    This process took an interesting turn later in history in the American Southwest as cattle ranchers put the mark or their brand on their cattle, identifying ownership instead of "makemanship." One of the Old West stories goes so far as to tell us about a gentleman named Maverick who didn't put his brand on the cattle, and since then unbranded cattle were known as mavericks. 

     

    Today brands and branding have somewhat different connotations. Now the brand identifies the company that made the product and in most cases the products themselves. 

     

    I have said for decades that humans, too, have brands and should always be working on their own branding. As we progress through our corporate careers we should remember that we are marked or branded by the way we regularly display our expertise. Remembering your personal or corporate brand is a strategy that will give you an edge in competitive situations, be they careers or marketplaces.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted October 22, 2014
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  • Grim Industry Averages Overlook Many Cases of Individual Success.

    Grim Industry Averages Overlook Many Cases of Individual Success.

    There is an age-old phrase that claims that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, meaning in un-apple terms that one wrong person can negatively affect a whole group. I was wondering if the reverse can be true. Can one person or even a small number of persons show exemplary leadership and change the bunch in a positive direction? 

    Here is what I'm getting at. The latest reports from AAM on circulation seem dauntingly negative when viewed as whole. The last AAM report was filled with sad statistics such as: of the top selling 25 titles, only three improved their sales, and of the top 100, there were only 24 that showed positive momentum. It is those negative figures that everybody is focused on, and perhaps it is understandable to do so. As an industry trend, it isn't pretty.  But what about the winners in that multitude of industry misery?  

    As reported by John Harrington of NScopy.com, the "Food Network Magazine was up 12.1% to an average of 448,734, and its dollars were $9.0 million, 15th among audited publications. Sports Illustrated grew 14.7%, an average of 68,132, and the dollars were $8.7 million, #16. Women's Health grew by one percent to 300,790, and its $7.5 million put it 21st." So, although the statistics seem to point to a whole bad batch, it is not really true for all.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted October 16, 2014
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  • Like the Ad Industry, Publishing is Often a Load of Bull

    Like the Ad Industry, Publishing is Often a Load of Bull

    My Goodness, Rance Crain wrote a terrific, important and timely articleOpens in a new windowdirected for the advertising world. And it is just as meaningful for magazine publishers as it is for ad agencies. It's time to stop the Bull. You can take all the surveys you want, but multiples of 25X pass-a-long for every magazine you produce is Bull with a capital "B". It doesn't really happen. 

    From the article:
    "Bullshit is different from lying. Lying is willful. When you lie, you know what the truth is, but you intentionally misrepresent it. In a way, bullshit is more insidious, because people who bullshit often don't know what the truth is and don't care. We use it on consumers, we use it on our clients and we are now bullshitting ourselves." 

    As the industry moves forward with the MPA's 360 program I implore you all to avoid the bullshit. Our new effort at creating the complete magazine media picture is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, because we need to do something. But relying on fraudulent digital data, which is everywhere, is a very dangerous thing to build our evolving new media businesses upon. Claiming media reach is a dicey and sometimes meaningless expression when using digital statistics. 

    Here is just one example, Facebook itself says at least 67.65 million fake accounts were used last month. That number can go as high as 137.76 million, if the company's higher-end estimate is to be believed.  

    The criteria for ad visibility on the web is beyond a joke. Did you know that a web ad seen for one second "counts" as an ad seen? Did you know that in many and most cases a web ad run "below the fold", as in at the bottom of the page, counts as an ad seen? HUH?

    Yes, I understand the strong impetus to get away from the factual counting of ad pages that are printed. But moving our industry into the digital sweepstakes swamps of web metrics is a dangerous arena to slog through cleanly. I suspect the we will eventually all get caught in our own morass of bull.

    So here in the 21st century the major publishers no longer wish to publicly broadcast one of the two major stats that are actually verifiable - printed ad pages and actual copies sold.

    Of course, we also used to broadcast the bull of ad revenue with the ad count, but no one believed that number anyway. Everyone knew that the revenue portion of that data was full of bull-oney. At least the ad page count was based on actual printed pages. In truth, how many of those ad pages were make-goods, free, some kind of in-trade deal, or some other cross-pollination subterfuge was never actually known. But at least they were printed and verifiable as ads. And at the end of the day, I didn't/don't care how the ad got there, just that it was an ad, clearly distinguishable from the editorial. Of course, native advertising is another bag of worms, but that is a rant for another day.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted October 15, 2014
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  • Is Publishing On the Verge of Digital's Watershed Moment?

    Is Publishing On the Verge of Digital's Watershed Moment?

    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 BuzzfeedOpens in a new windowVoxOpens in a new windowUpworthyOpens in a new windowFlipboardOpens in a new window, 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. 

    CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted August 22, 2014
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  • Making Sense of the Nonsensical Newsstand

    Making Sense of the Nonsensical Newsstand

    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

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted June 02, 2014
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  • Stop Looking for Innovation on the Newsstand

    Stop Looking for Innovation on the Newsstand

    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

    by Jane Friendman
    Posted May 28, 2014
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