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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Trends and Successes Worth Thinking About

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Trends and Successes Worth Thinking About

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” I did not know old Fredrich was a prognosticator for the publishing industry, but he was correct. We have reached a stage in the magazine media business that there is no right way; there is only your way. Of course, I am referring to publishing business models of which there are no two alike.
     
    As a publishing community we basically do two things. We gather disparate niches or groups of the public and make containers of thought for them. We make and sell boxes of content that are constructed with either material atoms or digital ether. We do this for a profit. 
     
    I want to try to examine where we are and where we are going as an industry. I’ll throw in some specifics, but it is actually the general trends and new business models I am more interested in for todays’ exercise.
     
    The top obvious move here in the redeployment of our industry is the shift towards revenue diversification, moving on and away from a traditional advertising-heavy funding model.
     
    Alfred Heintze, COO, Burda International said this spring, “We must make ourselves independent from advertising revenues. That’s the lesson we’ve been learning since the 80s and 90s. All of our business models should be based on consumer happiness.”
     
    I like that sentiment, business models based on consumer happiness. If nothing else, it is a noble idea. Profit from happiness.
     
    Magazines now have in no particular order e-commerce, paid and free podcasts, paid and free newsletters, events, wine clubs, and travel clubs in addition to ink-on-paper publications. Also special Interest publications and an emphasis on paid subscriptions, sometimes now called memberships by many titles. The New York Times, which believes it has a potential addressable market of at least 100 million people willing to pay for English-language journalism, and the Wall Street Journal come to mind, but there are many others as well.
     
    Speaking of the New York Times, did you know that they have about 50 newsletters which are read by 15 million people weekly?
     
    Vogue is changing its revenue model too. Vogue has a global collective reach of 270 million people. Historically mainly funded by advertising, Vogue is now in the midst of a global transformation, propelled by its parent company Condé Nast, that includes membership tiers and a range of highly successful e-commerce offerings.
     
    On top of revenue changes, we are also developing new skillsets with data literacy and useful real time metrics for our editorial teams. We now have ways of gathering information about our audiences, whether it’s clicks and opens, time spent, or where people came from and how they got here. And also how loyal they are. We’ve arguably never had more ways to measure things.
     
    I think it is fair to say we have been in a burn-the-ships moment for a decade or more.  This is, of course, a reference to Cortez. When he reached the shores of the Yucatan, Cortez turned to his men and said, “Burn the boats.” Cortez refused to let turning back be an option. For the sake of his mission, it would be all or nothing. Those of us who are still here successfully have burned the boats and adapted new world strategies.
     
    I guess it is fair to say that effective transformation requires a change of mindset. To adopt a modern mindset, a publisher needs people who understand the need for constant never-ending innovation.
     
    Bauer is a good example of innovation and making a bet on making print a major part of the e-commerce funnel. Bauer is betting on the advancement of image recognition technology to close that gap between print and digital. They are set to incorporate new scannable images – without the need for QR codes or watermarks. These images, once scanned, will then take readers directly to a storefront for more information and purchase options.
     
    And speaking of the innovation and data literacy mentioned above, Meredith Corporation has a new slate of premium video and podcasting programming driven by real-time insights and predictive intelligence capabilities.
     
    Meredith’s Digital Chief Content Officer Amanda Dameron said, ““Podcasting is immediate and intimate. It creates a unique space for an authentic, unguarded exchange of ideas and is perfectly suited for our brands.” Again a traditional publisher leaning into redeployment and shifting towards revenue diversification.
     
    In the past 18 months, we have reinvented everything that could be analyzed and made more efficient.
     
    We learned that readers are willing to pay for quality journalism.
     
    We learned that the traditional methodologies and business plans that were in place in January 2020 were mostly a dream based on a previous unsustainable reality.
     
    Perhaps the toughest thing we learned was pulling the plug on the existing advertising model. In a further review that plug was removed for us.
     
    I think we can conclude that with a strong brand a magazine can be anything, transforming from a print-focused concept to a broader, more media-diverse, "branded" approach to content distribution. In the new approach there are many extensions of the branded experience that lead to revenue success, and in many cases better, broader, and more stable empires than in the past.
     
    Now the world has moved on and our industry with it. We are doing exciting things with our properties.
     
    We have reengineered the event business and have started to make virtual conferences work and be profitable.
     
    We have learned that there are various new methods to drive subscriptions such as podcasts, texting and, of course, beloved newsletters, not to mention – and most importantly – damned good content worth paying for.
     
    We have created new opportunities for consumers to form new habits, enabling publishers to establish more direct consumer relationships.
     
    I expect that what we have learned, the new revenue pathways, and the new processes will profit us in the near and the long term.
     
    Looking back, we have done an excellent job adapting to the conditions presented to us. I’m most proud to belong to such a fascinating and industrious publishing community
     

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted August 22, 2021
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  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Thoughts, Stats and an Exploration of TikTok

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Thoughts, Stats and an Exploration of TikTok

    Here are a few stats about TikTok to ponder and to help you see if you can in some way incorporate what is happening into your business model. Will it work for everyone? No! Could it work for you? Maybe. The wild numbers to me mandate and exploration.
     
    Here are just a few items about TikTok:
     
    Monthly Active Users – TikTok has about 1 billion monthly active users.
     
    Total App Downloads – The TikTok app has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times worldwide, as reported by Sensor Tower in December, 2020.
     
    Monthly Active Users in the United States – TikTok now has over 130 million active users in the U.S
     
    The percentage of U.S.-based TikTok users by age:
    10-19 – 32.5%,
    20-29 – 29.5%,
    30-39 – 16.4%,
    40-49 – 13.9%,
    50+ – 7.1%. All data via Comscore.
     
    Average Minutes Per User – TikTok users love the app. They spend an average of 52 minutes per day in the platform
     
    Opens – A user opens the TikTok app 8 times per day.
     
    U.S. Audience –TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States. 60% are female, 40% are male. 60% are between the ages of 16-24. 26% are between the ages 25-44. 80% are between the ages 16-34. This data comes straight from TikTok.
     
    I have been exploring TikTok for about a month just trying to understand the successful phenomenon. What I see on my phone is an unusual conglomerate of very different and many times very unusual subjects, some of them entertaining and occasionally some of them just stupid and meanspirited.
     
    I see bits of interesting perhaps real history, but I don’t know its accuracy. Even though it might be fake tidbits of history, I’m still interested. I just don’t take them as the gospel. I see a lot of cooking tips and tricks, again some very cool and some just weird.
     
    There are nostalgic 15 second bursts from past movies and television shows. When there was flooding in Europe and China there were videos quicker than the newscasts. The California fires, too.
     
    And then there are the pranks, lots of pranks. Some are funny and some are not. I’ll date myself here, but many of the short funny videos remind me of the British comedian Benny Hill.
     
    Oh yes, let’s not forget the cat videos, lot of cats, and dogs and other animals, too. I saw a woman who has a 75-pound tortoise that she takes for a walk each morning. I kid you not. There are celebrities there, I guess to push their brands and their movies. There are influencers wearing and selling products from legitimate companies.
    There are influencers sometimes in skimpy outfits just to gain a large audience of followers.
     
    TikTok has recently created a $1 Billion Creator Fund. This money will be paid by TikTok directly to its creators in an effort to further solidify its relationships with influencers. TikTok influencers with 2.5 million followers or more will be given around $600-1000 per post, compared to $100-$200 for every 10,000-20,000 followers on Instagram.
     
    Which brings me to another tok trend. An article from MSN called What is BookTok: the TikTok trend sending decades-old books up bestseller lists says:
     
    TikTok has created almost every bizarre trend imaginable. The platform is credited with popularizing everything from reciting sea shanties to cottagecore, and who can forget chanting along to a musical version of the Pixar film Ratatouille.”
     
    “Now, another trend has emerged but this time with an educational twist. Introducing: BookTok. Novels - old and new - have been going viral thanks to a new wave of book-loving influencers discussing their young adult literary picks.”
     
    “TikTok doesn’t seem like an obvious destination for book buzz but that hasn’t stopped it from booming. The #BookTok hashtag has racked up over 5.8 billion views, and some authors have seen a tenfold increase in book sales for works that are often decades old.”
     
    “Even bookstores are jumping on the trend. The Barnes & Noble website now has a “BookTok” page dedicated to the most popular books on TikTok and its American stores have introduced allocated sections displaying titles that have gone viral on the platform.”
     
    So, there you have it publishing community. If your company wants to reach out to a new audience between 19 and 49, this is where they spend 52 minutes a day, every day. I say again, it may not for everyone. But depending on your brand your content, and your creativity, this is where the action is today. 

    BoSacks
    Posted August 08, 2021
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  • Publisher’s Roundtable - E-Commerce: Few Things are More Important to our Industry

    Publisher’s Roundtable - E-Commerce: Few Things are More Important to our Industry

    Publisher’s Roundtable - E-Commerce: Few Things are More Important to our Industry
    BY Linda Ruth
     
    One topic that remains of consuming interest to all of the members of the Publisher’s Roundtable (Post-Pandemic, as we fervently hope)—Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, Samir Husni, Gemma Peckham, and me—is the issue of developing a workable e-commerce solution for publishers wanting to participate in the click-to-curb model that retailers and their customers are increasingly adapting to. In a 2020 Roundtable, we learned from Jerry Lynch that the MBR , along with its member publishers, is working hard to make that goal a reality. Jerry recently joined us to give us an update on their progress.
     
    Sherin: Long before COVID the Old Farmer’s Almanac was committed to working with retailers on their e-commerce platforms, and we did develop some programs, although not in as universal a sense as we would like. The changing shopping patterns that came with COVID make this issue an urgent one for all of us. The retailers are developing and implementing their e-commerce platforms, but to a very great extent magazines are not a part of them.
     
    Jerry: Our goal is to make sure that magazines are able to participate in these retailer e-commerce solutions. Our focus is the click-and-collect model, where magazines will be distributed right out of the retailers’ stores, as opposed to from a centralized distribution location. The first step is to develop or identify a platform that facilitates it, and the second is retailers having to connect to the platform. We’re making progress on both sides of that equation. We spent the last 5 months working through the mechanics of the process with a small group of titles, comprising about 60 UPCs in total. It requires getting the titles up on the platform and having them change the issues on a regular basis so that the images are current. It’s a complicated process and it took some time.
     
    Existing platforms such as Syndigo, which MBR is using, are built for traditional product. We don’t fit the mold. Most products are more static. It’s a plus that we turn over, we stay fresh, but it makes it hard to shoehorn frequency magazines into the system. Yet we have gotten to the point where we’re set up to do it for monthlies. Over the last few weeks, we successfully delivered titles via the Syndigo platform at a northeast retailer. This included changing out cover images. We have some fine tuning to do but Weeklies will be next step.
     
    Another hurdle is that retailers will be fulfilling their customer’s orders from inventory, and in a scan-based-trading environment, the retailers typically don’t actually have a record of their inventory. But these are challenges we must meet, and obstacles we must overcome. By 2022, over 30% of retailer sales will be from e-commerce. We’re going to want to be part of that.
     
    Sherin: Right. If we can’t find a way to be part of it, magazines will be left behind.
     
    Jerry: To make it happen, we as an industry need to convince ourselves this is a big opportunity, and one that’s worth the investment.
    Linda: What do you see for the rollout?
     
    Jerry: We’ll start with a small group of magazines that can demonstrate success to the retailer. From there, we grow. We actually have items in E-comm
     
    We have such a wide array of titles, but our space at retail has been eroding. If we can replace the loss of mainline space with an online presence, in a way consumers want to engage, that will be tremendous. The opportunities are huge. But it’s not just getting the magazines included on the retailers’ e-commerce sites. They also have to be discoverable. So how can we make them easy to find?
     
    Joe: This question comes into play both online and in the physical store itself. My experience is, if we say a magazine is in a store and someone can’t find it, nine times out of ten it’s there and they’ve overlooked it. We need to come up with a response to “it’s not there.”
     
    Sherin: We have a “Where to Buy” function on our site. It works well for retail, and could be also adapted for the e-commerce portion.
     
    Joe: Smaller titles won’t be in every store in a chain. If a chain’s click-to-curb function isn’t individualized on a by-store basis, this will be something we’ll have to solve.
     
    Jerry: Yes, and as magazines increasingly participate in e-commerce, there will be more opportunities for sell-out situations in the stores. Our industry’s participation is about increasing our opportunity to broaden the selection, and to broaden our engagement with consumers. We have to make sure it’s a satisfying experience--that when the consumer goes to the store, having ordered online, or created a list on-line,the product is there. Also, think about when product is delivered. An issue could hit the store on Friday, Saturday, or up till Tuesday. Our approach is to say Tuesday.
     
    Bo: It makes sense: under-promise, over-deliver.
     
    Sherin: What titles are participating in the test?
     
    Jerry: They include Bauer, National Geographic, Trusted Media, Penny Press, Hearst, Centennial—it’s a pretty good mix.
     
    Sherin: Are any retailers easier to work with, and can stand as an example of how it can be done successfully?
     
    Jerry: Overall we’re finding that they are eager to work with the category, but most are somewhat daunted by the particular challenges we present.
     
    Joe: What other projects is the MBR working on?
     
    Jerry: We’re starting in on category advocacy. Our target is to educate the upper management in the retailer community about the value of magazines. We’ve lost space, and the loss of space resulted in the loss of sale, which in turn results in the further loss of space. Trying to stop that snowball will require effort, it will require new research, it will require an investment on the part of our industry. Our productivity has gone up—that is, we’re putting more product through less space. And some of our benefits, for example our offering the ease of scan-based-trading to our retail partners, aren’t quantified in ways that show up on the retailers’ spreadsheets. We’re not just transactional; we bring people into the stores, we show them what to buy; there are so many benefits to the category. It’s up to us to tell that story.
     
    Bo: We’ve always been our own worst enemy. We’re an industry of marketing geniuses who can’t market our industry.
     
    Joe: That benefit-based business model needs to be sold not only to retailers, but to publishers as well. Many are turning away from the newsstand.
     
    Jerry: And that’s something else we can do through our communication with our publishers. Over the course of the year, we plan to do more webinars, and we’re also looking into the possibility of a physical event. People want to get back together. We’re focusing on getting the right content in the right format.
     
     

    Linda Ruth
    Posted July 27, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - Moving From Deals to Training, FIPP Continues to Offer Value

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - Moving From Deals to Training, FIPP Continues to Offer Value

    By Linda Ruth
     
    Our Pandemic Roundtable—Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me--welcomed James Hewes of FIPP to talk about the diversification of publishing strategies, the fate of events, and the roaring twenties, touching on Samir and Bo’s tendency to agree or disagree along the way.
     
    FIPP is global a trade association for companies, as James put it, “formerly known as magazine companies”. Founded in France in 1925, and seen as one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious membership associations, FIPP has grown over its century of existence to include media owners and content creators from around the world.
     
    Joe: How has the pandemic affected FIPP?
     
    James: Five years ago the main reason people joined FIPP was to do cross-border publishing deals. Leading up to the pandemic and accelerated in pandemic the shift has been to learning. We added new services, including a training business and a consulting business; for example, we just started a five-module course on digital subscriptions, which is free to members. We’re not for profit, and we add the commercial bit to keep costs down for members. The networking part is more bespoke, where we facilitate meetings and conversations cross borders.
     
    Joe: Several major publishing associations have closed down or merged with others. Why is that?
     
    James: It’s been a trend for years, that these associations are no longer supported by the industry. The member companies are changing, the needs of their members changing. Also so much of the critical legislative stuff that they used to do is now pan-national. There are some issues that still need addressing; for example, we should have more concerted effort in the regulation of the big tech companies. But the ability of publishing associations at the local level to have impact has dropped. It’s less about postal regulations today, and more about Facebook and Google. In some cases the associations have stayed relevant by narrowing their focus to legislative; in a way it’s a shame. Publishers have left their old homes, and in many cases haven’t found new ones.
     
    Bo: Agreed. It used to be that magazine business models were consistent company to company and across borders. Now no two magazines have same the business model.
     
    Joe: On the level of city and state magazines there still is a lot of similarity; but outside that, we do see many different approaches.
     
    Samir: The survival of our associations depends on the big media companies; and we’re seeing a lot of smaller independent publishers coming into the market. I just got 12 first editions from the UK. What is being done to include them?
     
    James: That’s an accurate observation. The boom in independent publishing is happening everywhere around the world. The legacy publishers are also starting to adopt the tactics of the independents—lower frequencies, higher prices, higher pagination, higher quality.
     
    Which is great, it’s lifting the whole market. We work with the independents; we give them preferential rates; we help them learn. We put in place a paywall on the site, so instead of paying thousands of pounds to join smaller publishers can access it via the paywall to learn. Those publishers are still part of the FIPP family and we work with them and help them; we get them to speak at our events, to share their knowledge and successes. We involve them, but the fragmenting market makes it a good way for them to participate, through the site.
     
    Linda: A lot of the reason publishers have fallen away has to do with shrinking budgets.
     
    James: We’re focused on value. When people come to join, we need to find out what they’re looking to get out of it. We want people to get the most out of their membership. For example our digital subscription course is a valuable benefit to members. We’re trying to create as much value as we can for our members, show they can show a return on their investment. Value is the key, and the pandemic has focused that.
     
    Bo: The value of the FIPP conferences is extraordinary.

    FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 29, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable –with the International Magazine Center

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable –with the International Magazine Center

    Nikki Simpson’s International Magazine Centre Offers Something Different
     
    The first time I zoomed with Nikki Simpson, I knew that our little group—Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Gemma Peckham, and I—had to have her as a guest at our Pandemic Roundtable. She’s got a great event coming up, and our Roundtable members will be there for it. And joining the Centre is the easiest thing in the world, all publishing people are welcome.
     
    Nikki isn’t someone who sees obstacles. She sees only opportunity. So when she noticed that publishers starting international offices in the UK were doing so, as a rule, in London, she saw an opportunity to welcome them to Scotland. What could be easier? Get a building where publishers can have space, office infrastructure, freelancers, and the support and inspiration of other publishers. In the meantime, while you’re working on that, there’s plenty of good you can bring the publishing community—training courses and events, ideas and introductions.
     
    Gemma: Is the International Magazine Centre based in Edinburgh?
     
    Nikki: It will be. We want to be somewhere it will feel natural to go to a coffee with a publisher. Now, while we’re saving money to open our doors, we’re doing as much digitally as possible. We’re currently working on an online training course, which will be free to our members.
     
    Joe: This is a new and exciting concept.
     
    Nikki: Yes, there are trade organizations, but they take a different angle. We in the publishing industry tend to be magazine geeks. We spend a lot of time talking to each other, but not enough, I think, talking to the people who read our magazines. We’re doing that. And we focus on the small publishers, something the other organizations cannot afford to do to the same extent, given their business models.
     
    Bo: Till now there hasn’t been a real mechanism for the little ones. We as an industry need the small publishers, and they need support. I’ve spoken for years about the need to incubate young publishers.
     
    Nikki: That’s part of what we’ll be doing. Sometimes it seems as if the industry is netting down to the top three publishers, but there are an incredible number of very creative ideas, and a lot of up-and-comers.
     
    Bo: When companies like Future buy out everyone else, it creates a vacuum that provides openings for other new businesses.
     
    Nikki: There’s still too much focus on audited circulation, because the big publishers generally use it, and, since the big ones are newsstand-based, the message the advertisers get from these publishers is that the business is dying. This message trickles down to the advertising base of the little ones. So every time the audit numbers come out, the advertisers lose interest in advertising, and the smaller advertisers who go to the smaller magazines also lose interest. It makes small publishers feel like imposters. You hear them saying, “Well, I’m not really a publisher, I’m not audited, I don’t go to conferences, I’m just someone putting out a magazine.”
     
    Bo: It’s a shame because there’s a lot that can be learned at conferences.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE


    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 17, 2021
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  • Publishers Pandemic Round table - David Atkins’ Newsstand Concierge Stands Ready to Assist

    Publishers Pandemic Round table - David Atkins’ Newsstand Concierge Stands Ready to Assist

    If you are unfamiliar with David Atkins and his business newsstand.co.uk, he is almost certainly not unfamiliar with you. Newsstand, the world’s largest print newsstand online, has over 4,000 magazines available with same day dispatch, worldwide.
     
    The Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, and me—welcomed him to our group to talk about his operation, the movement to print-on-demand, and the opportunities for publishers moving into online sales.
     
    David’s business began in 1898 as a family wholesaler business, JG Palmer. Changes in the industry, with the consequent losses of many independent wholesalers, led the company to reassess what the needs of the customer were, and how they could help. The result was the shift to online, beginning with subscriptions and moving to single copies in 2011. Today, their online strategy enables publishers to get their publications into the hands of the reader through internet sales and online orders as economically and as quickly as possible. Through their concierge service, they are able to offer publications to readers based on their area of interest.
     
    Joe: When did your shift to online take place?
     
    David:  We stopped being a wholesaler in 2006, dabbled with projects for Tesco’s and national newspaper publishers and started concentrating on online sales in 2009. We started working with independent publishers in 2015. It’s been a nice journey. We get our copies from the wholesalers, various distributors and directly from the publishers themselves. We sell either subs or single copy at the same price point, it’s the same thing to us with the only difference being the frequency of the purchase. We’ve gone from 100% subs to, today, about 50/50. It’s slowly tilting to single copy. Maybe 10% of customers will buy more than 1 copy and we have some voracious customers.
     
    Joe: How different is your warehouse setup now from when you were a retail tieline?
     
    David: Very different. We had a huge packing machine, unique on the planet, that packed into boxes for 4,000 retailers, in every day, out every day. Now we have endless shelving! It’s tricky for staff working with packing lists with 65 different issues rather than the one. It’s an investment in equipment, an ongoing process but still a mainly manual one.
     
    Bo: You have a great site--functional, easy to use, one-click purchase; it’s a brilliant setup.
     
    David: Thank you Bo! I’m really all about function over form; but we want to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. Of course there are always improvements to make to the website but we tend to place more importance on the service that the image, there’s always work to be done in either direction.
     
    Samir: How did your business change with the pandemic?
     
    David: It’s had its plusses and minuses. The pandemic initially strengthened our sales, which were spiked to two to three times greater year over year. At the same time, it led to other companies, both at home and abroad, focusing on online, so we needed to work harder to maintain our share of market. On the other hand, more people also have discovered they can buy single print copies online.
     
    Internally, there are all the challenges of keeping the people on site (in the warehouse) happy, as well as helping others to transition to working from home. It’s not easy and I am keen to get everyone back into the office soon. General anxiety in the population reflects in how people interact with customer service; in our case, emails into customer service went up 400% and not all of them were pleasant.
     
    Sherin: We’ve all had to up our game. Amazon set the standard for delivery. Publishers need to learn to keep up with that. We have to turn everything around in a day or two. The pandemic has taught us to be faster, smarter leaner and deliver to our customers so they keep coming back.
     
    David: You’re right about that; we went big on getting copies to the customer tomorrow. The rest of the industry was still going with 10-12 weeks. You can get a refrigerator tomorrow but have to wait 3 months for a magazine; it doesn’t make sense. We’ve been busy changing that. FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 11, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Chief Content Officer Guy Gonzalez of LibraryPass

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Chief Content Officer Guy Gonzalez of LibraryPass

    What could be more relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities than digital content? Guy Gonzalez joined the Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me—to talk about it.

    Guy is Chief Content Officer for LibraryPass, a new company, started only last year, which curates digital content for libraries and schools. Its main product, Comics Plus, offers unlimited, simultaneous access to digital comic books, graphic novels and manga through libraries and schools. Though LibraryPass is new, Comics Plus has been around for a decade, originally as a consumer and library product, but is now only available to libraries and schools. The other major company in the space, Comixology, is the current market leader; owned by Amazon, Comixology is exclusively commercial, with no library presence.

    That’s where LibraryPass comes in.

    Guy: One of the biggest challenges libraries face today has to do with the cost of providing access to digital content for patrons. When the pandemic hit, everything turned around. Bookstores and libraries were closed and print sales were mostly put on hold; people were turning to digital for purchasing and borrowing. This went on so long it now looks like it might be a permanent change in behavior; a lot of people have grown accustomed to digital reading and are likely to stick with it for at least some of their reading. But it’s more expensive for libraries to offer digital content than you’d think. For starters, libraries are going into this budget year with less money to spend overall. Ebook collections are mainly driven by patron demand, so bestsellers eat up the bulk of a content budget. As a result, you see less active curation. Digital licenses from the major publishers expire after a certain number of checkouts or a certain period of time, typically 52 checkouts or two years. With major bestsellers, some libraries are finding that the cost of keeping a single copy of a single ebook in circulation could be as much $500 per year. 

    LibraryPass’ model is based on unlimited, simultaneous access which enables libraries meet demand without worrying about wait lists or expensive single-user licenses. They can host community reads without special terms as multiple copies can be checked out at once. It’s a risk for us, of course, as publishers get paid by usage rather than units, but offering a deeper backlist means that usage is spread wider than in the traditional model. You might remember that a number of years ago, Scribd had to cut back on its romance titles for their unlimited access subscriptions because romance readers are voracious, and Scribd was paying out more for royalties than it was making in subscriptions. Getting the subscription model right is a tricky balance to ensure fair pricing for libraries without us going out of business!

    Joe: Tell us about the value of comics for libraries and schools.

    Guy: Unlike Comixology and some publishers’ dedicated offerings that are primarily consumer-focused, Comics Plus doesn’t have a consumer angle. We serve readers only through libraries and schools. Comics are immersive, engaging; readers of all ages enjoy them, and many can be used in educational settings and aligned with curricula. Our most widely circulating series right now is Avatar: The Last Airbender thanks to the cartoon debuting on Netflix last year. It introduced a brand-new audience of kids to the series and they’re devouring the comics. 

    Bo: How do you market the comics?

    Guy:  Comics are the most word-of-mouth driven media there is. Kids discover comics amongst themselves. Adult fans have lifelong favorites they still read and love.

    Joe: And how do you hear back from the kids, what they’ve discovered, what’s hot?

    Guy: Unlike traditional book publishing, the comic segment is relatively transparent with its sales data. The numbers can be huge, but even a “bad” comic can sell more copies than the average book.

    Joe: Tell us about the evolution of the digital format in comics and graphic novels.

    Guy: With variations on a “guided view” for mobile devices, the experience is more tactile than reading a regular ebook. Digital comics are good to read on iPads, better than magazines, but the main usage is, increasingly, on phones. Webtoons are digital comics specifically created for mobile and is the fastest-growing segment of the market worldwide.

    Bo: What age group predominates?

    Guy: Broadly speaking, kids’ comics are the fastest growing and best-selling. Manga remains hugely popular, too, and is a massive force worldwide. Netflix has done a good job of bringing anime to mainstream attention, too, which is driving some manga sales. Superheroes are declining, and the market tends to be an older audience, and one that is increasingly niche. Webtoons skew younger and arguably much more diverse with a huge international audience. 

    Joe: Tell about Webtoons.

    Guy: WEBTOON is a literal platform, and also the Kleenex of digital comics brands as people use “webtoons” to refer to any comics created first for digital reading. Some are effectively throwbacks to old comic strips; some are single panels; some are full-fledged stories. Most scroll left to right, same as we do in the US and as they do in Korea, which has a huge audience.

    The accessibility of digital platforms has changed the way people publish comics, and the way people read them. Technology often changes behavior; sometimes it’s slow and subtle, and sometimes it’s immediate. WordPress, for example, did more to change publishing than the Kindle did, in my opinion, building on the success of blogging platforms that came before it. Today, Substack is WordPress for email; structurally the same concept but with email as their focus, which allows for better customer acquisition and monetization than blogs ever managed. Each email is just a webpage on your Substack blog. These kinds of evolutions can change who gets to be a publisher, what they publish, how they publish, and who reads them.

    Bo: Which is why cross-pollination is necessary from each realm of publishing to the others.


    Linda Ruth
    Posted May 20, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • Publisher’s Pandemic Roundtable - With Lizanne Barber of Distripress

    Publisher’s Pandemic Roundtable - With Lizanne Barber of Distripress

    We Will Once More Meet Face to Face

    Our Pandemic Roundtable, comprising Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me, started one year ago and is, amazingly, going stronger than ever. Recently we hosted Lizanne Barber, Managing Director for Distripress, the international association of distributors, publishers, and associated press industry supply chain service providers.

    Distripress’ mission is, as it has always been, to connect its international members in the world of publishing. It started almost seventy years ago, and has grown to, today, 200 members from 50 countries around the world. Many members have joined historically to take part in the Congress, where every fall they have had the opportunity to meet up with industry colleagues from the world’s markets. For decades the Congress served as the one way that people could meet up with their international colleagues and discuss their international business—and still is often the only time people meet their international partners face to face.  
    Linda: I first attended Distripress in Toronto in 1988. The next year, when I went back, I was astonished that people remembered me from the year before; I was new to the industry, and it seemed no one in the US remembered me from meeting to meeting. Going back year after year, I came to feel a real connection with these people, even though we only saw each other a few days once a year. 
    Lizanne: Yes, it’s all about building connections, and it really is a community. My first Congress was in Monte Carlo, and I had the same experience. Once you’re in Distripress you are in its community forever. Last year was the first year Congress couldn’t take place. Meetings by Zoom have been fantastic, but we’re all looking forward to meeting face to face again.
    Joe: As the new Managing Director, tell us about your mission at Distripress.
    Lizanne: Irreplaceable as the Congress is, I want to look at Distripress and make sure we’re offering connections throughout the year, and not just that once in the fall. I’m surveying our members and looking for touchpoints, finding out more about their businesses, about how they have been managing in the pandemic and how they are structuring their businesses coming out of it. So far, I’ve spoken to over 75 members. 
    Joe: And what have you discovered? 
    Lizanne: The main reason they are members is the connection with the community that we offer. And as we emerge post-COVID, we will continue to organise the Distripress Congress event, and look for more ways of strengthening those connections, and adding touchpoints, all year long. This year we plan for the Congress to be a smaller event, because there will be parts of the world where people still won’t be able to travel. But in the US for example, we’re finding that people are willing to travel again. That’s fantastic for our community.
    People are willing – and wanting -  to meet up again face to face. So we’re planning a two-day conference in Zurich this fall, with a half-day forum of industry presentations and a day and a half of face to face meetings. For those who cannot attend we will be offering a virtual meeting platform a few weeks later and the opportunity to view and listen to the half day Forum presentations on the Distripress website, which will be available to all members. The planned – and widely anticipated-  larger Congress in Estoril has been moved to 2022 when we plan to welcome all members back in full force.
    People are really excited about the opportunity to meet again. It’s great to have virtual meetings, but face to face is a different level of connection. So many things can happen, so much can happen serendipitously, in person as opposed to over Zoom. 
    Bo: Humans like to mingle. You can’t mingle on zoom. You can talk but not mingle.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted May 09, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • MCMA - A Candid Conversation with BoSacks

    MCMA - A Candid Conversation with BoSacks

    Media & Content Marketing Association
    Reporting on this event provided by: Greg Wolfe, MCMA Board Member
     
    The MCMA held another zoom “Candid Conversation” event on Friday 4/24. Noted magazine expert and publisher of Heard on the Web media newsletter, Bo Sacks, joined as a special guest and Matt Steinmetz from Adweek was our moderator.
     
    We had a lively discussion over zoom about many topics facing the magazine industry, with attendees from consumer and business publishing, and also vendors that serve the industry as well.
     
    In his introduction, Bo said he thought that the problem for publishers is the commodification of content. Media was once a “luxury item,” he said and will need to be again for us to be sustainable as an industry. “Trust and brand recognition would be media’s life preserver amid the rising tide of fake news and shifting consumption habits.”
     
    He said that “we are in the solution business” and challenged the attendees to think about what the solution is that their publication provides. “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole, “he said.
     
    Bo was nonetheless very optimistic about publishing and said he thought we were entering the “next golden age of publishing,” with vast opportunities for success with both digital and print publications.
    In terms of magazine categories doing well, Bo said home and decorating, and food titles were overperforming. He also mentioned that the association magazine from AARP is the largest circulation magazine in the U.S, serving the senior and elderly community, and that was a strong category.
     
    There was some discussion on podcasts and Bo said he was a big proponent. He thought that there was a serious revenue play from sponsors.
     
    One attendee raised the subject of third-party cookies going away and what the impact would be on publishers. Bo thought it would make publisher’s first-party data very valuable but said the thing about “big data” is that you can have a huge amount but if you don’t know how to analyze it properly and make it actionable it’s useless. He also said that there is so much fraud in programmatic advertising, and if that comes more to light, the first-party data will empower publishers more than ever.
     
    In terms of print, Bo remarked that print is now a “luxury item” and that low-quality print is a non-starter in this day and age. He advised that the future for success in print was very high-quality and very expensive.
     
     On the subject of remote vs. in-person offices in publishing, he felt that remote working would be a major factor in the future and would continue post-pandemic, but that creativity blossomed in a face-to-face environment and would still be needed and valuable. He threw out a projection of maybe 20% in-person and 80% remote. Other participants felt that face to face was important for relationship building and collaboration across the work teams.
     
    Another attendee, a long-time b2b publishing executive, shared that another benefit of remote working was how it opened the pool of potential employees much more broadly and allowed businesses to hire the best person regardless of geographic location.
     
    There was a lively discussion about trends in the event side of the business. In response to a question, Bo commented that the publisher’s content was at the core but there were an unlimited number of ways to provide other products and services to their customers, such as events, and highlighted the wine clubs that have been successful for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Bo was bullish on the membership model approach with many spokes coming off the wheel.
     
    Bo thought that virtual conferences were “not as thrilling” as live and that the opportunity to make a new friend was one of the important benefits of live events that you don’t get from virtual. Bo thinks it is going to be a slow transition back to live events, though. There will be questions of trust and sorting out how vaccination requirements play into it.
     
    Lisa Pistilli, from Lester and President of MCMA felt there was also a question of how fast conference travel budgets and sponsor budgets would come back as well.
     
    Matt Steinmetz from Adweek, who was moderating the event, mentioned that he could get many more people to attend a virtual event than a live event, and they have been successful from a financial standpoint with virtual events this past year. Bo agreed that publishers had figured out how to make virtual events work and they would also be here to stay, even after it was safe to go back to live events.
     
    There was a thought, among those online, that a benefit was that businesses were inclined to send more people to virtual or hybrid events due to the lower cost of attending virtually.
     
    One vendor spoke from their perspective after having attended virtual conferences this past year and felt the value for her company was considerably less, from a sales standpoint. She mentioned that some of the upcoming hybrid conferences she is considering sponsoring are making guarantees of in-person attendance numbers, and she is planning to attend some events in second half of 2021.
     
    In talking about virtual conferences, a theme was that the most successful events this past year didn’t try to replicate an in-person experience, but rather built a new experience that would bring value to the attendees and sponsors in a new way. The comparison to Amazon, that didn’t replicate the experience of a bricks and mortar store online but created a new online shopping experience that was different but satisfying.
     
    When asked about what industry conference he was most looking forward to, Bo said it was Samir’s ACT events at the University of Mississippi, where Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni is a professor of journalism. “Samir puts together 40 high-tier publishing professionals all giving their best insights not only to the other professionals but more importantly to the J-students. There is no more intimate conference in the business.”
     
     He noted that at the end of the conference beside Bo doing a wrap-up keynote, they then go to Morgan Freeman’s Blues club called Ground Zero “and that’s worth everything!”
     
    I think we’re all looking forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we will be back together in person. Morgan Freeman’s blues club in Mississippi sounds like a great way to kick that off.

    Greg Wolfe
    Posted May 04, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out - On the New Normal, The week Junior, White Knights, and Conde Nast

    BoSacks Readers Speak Out - On the New Normal, The week Junior, White Knights, and Conde Nast

    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year later
    GREAT share and dead on perspectives Bo! ... Man it's been a helluva 12 months but it's been amazing to see how folks have creatively adapted, and found ways to grow and thrive.
    (Submitted by a VP, Media Sales)
     
    RE: INTERVIEW with Andrea Barbalich, Editor In Chief, The Week Junior US
    My kids were all readers. I took them to the library once a week, and we came home with stacks of books, which they read in bed, on the couch, in the back yard, in the attic, in the car ... everywhere. I loved it. If they had spent all that time with their faces in a screen, I would not have been happy. Almost anything that gets kids away from the screen is a good idea.
     
    RE: "Magazines and the American Experience" exhibition
    I realize that book reviews are a rare feature in your esteemed newsletter, but I'm driven to take pen in hand to say that the catalog of the "Magazines and the American Experience" exhibition, currently running at the Grolier Club, is a book that anyone with even a passing interest in publishing history should buy immediately, without hesitation.
     
    The exhibition is drawn from the magazine collection of Steven Lomazow, and God bless him for gathering an extraordinary range of titles, from the earliest American magazines to today's, and for assembling an remarkably coherent historical narrative based on subject rather than just a timeline.
     
    Since I live on the West Coast I ponied up $75 for the catalog (a coffee table-size hardbound) in lieu of going to New York to see the exhibition... the best $75 I ever spent. It's been a long time since anyone published anything about magazines this comprehensive or as beautifully packaged.
     
    The illustrations are particularly rich, and they complement the text instead of simply illustrating it. You don't see printing of this quality very often these days.
     
    I was especially gratified to see a large section dedicated to African-American magazines, which have gotten pretty short shrift in general histories up until now. The wealth of titles that Lomazow has collected in this area (and many others!) is staggering... and a tribute to his vision.
     
    Required reading! Book at https://www.oakknoll.com/. Exhibition at https://www.grolierclub.org/
    Submitted by an official BoSacks Cub Reporter and a Publisher)
     
    Re: “Housty, how can we boost the audience of our newsletter?”
    Great share Bo ... MRI-Simmons' custom research work for publishers over the past few years has highlighted the benefits of well-done newsletters ... expanding the brand footprint, extending value to existing customers ... and overall generating better, deeper engagement for the media brand overall.
    (Submitted by a VP, Media Sales)

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    Posted March 22, 2021
    (0) Comments

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