Publishing News You Can Use

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year Later

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year Later

    It’s been about a year since the world and the publishing industry went into quarantine and an unknown dangerous void lay before us. Last year I wrote an article titled Presumptions of the New Normal where I laid the case that:
    “the magazine industry was under stress before the rise of COVID-19. Each year advertising was down double digits, and so were magazine newsstand sales. There are, of course, many success stories out there, and that is important to recognize. You may be one of them. But when viewed as a whole, the charts and statistics were not pretty. I guess you can say there were many individual victories, but the war wasn't going well.”
    A year later where are we and what is happening?
    I think it is safe to say that the great Klingon writer Worf Nietzsche got it right when he said, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
    Those of us who survived are indeed stronger on so many levels. We have reinvented everything that could be analyzed and made more efficient. We learned that we could work remotely and still thrive. It also seems that we have proved that our offices are quaint vestiges of the past and in many cases irrelevant to a successful media product.
    We learned that readers are willing to pay for quality journalism. I wonder what took us so long to make that conclusion? Could it have been the seductive allure of flighty mistress Advertising?
    We learned that the traditional methodologies and business plans that were in place in January 2020 were mostly a dream based on a previous reality.
    The time machine we entered into a year ago accelerated whatever was happening before into new possibilities that under pre-covid processes would have taken years to develop. 
    We learned we could take the entire magazine process and launch it into the cloud. Sure, we all worked in the cloud before, but not like we did that year. Instead of taking years for the technological jump, we did it in days. One day in early March you worked in an office, and the next day you stayed at home for a year and worked in the refuge of family, zoom and casual attire, and you did not miss a beat. The cloud became your new best friend.
    Perhaps the toughest thing we learned was pulling the plug on the existing advertising model. It is fairer to say that plug was removed for you.
    Now the world has moved on and our industry with it. We are doing exciting things with our properties.
    The industry is working hard to create drop-down menus for on-line shopping and the selling of magazines from retail stores and grocery chains.
    We have reengineered the event business and have started to make virtual conferences work and be profitable. Admittedly in most cases not as profitable as live, in-person events, but we are headed in the right direction. (I am a big fan of the networking possibilities of in-person events and what the connections made do for your career.)
    We have learned that there are various new methods to drive subscriptions such as podcasts, texting, and, of course, newsletters, not to mention 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. As the popularity of subscriptions increased, many publishers have been able to move away from low price trials, improving profitability, as well as broadening their offer with enhanced membership benefits to reward increased loyalty. Hearst, for example, reported that they were able to remove a number of their lowest-priced trial offers and still grow subscribers by 33%.
    The pandemic indeed introduced stress to the already struggling magazine newsstand industry, but it may have boosted the success of bookazines. Meredith, which publishes People, Food & Wine and dozens of other popular titles, has seen newsstand revenue grew by $3 million in the past quarter compared to the year prior. Its earnings report specifically cited bookazines, which are usually presented as single-topic, in-depth magazines often marketed to consumers as collectors' items. Hearst produced 80 bookazines last year, up from 75 in 2019.
    What are the lasting long-term effects of the covid year I discussed above? No doubt a continuation of remote working where possible, continued searches for efficiency, and an ever-flighty and unpredictable advertising market.
    Last March I also suggested that we will have a new roaring 20s. The public will emerge from quarantine with a revitalized lust for life. That will manifest in splurges in retail spending, restaurant visitations, air travel, car travel, and hotel stays. Concerts and plays will be back and with all this a rebirth in alternative weeklies, local magazines, and the concurrent advertising to go with it.
     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 publishing community. It has always been our job to communicate, inform, counsel, entertain and inject cautious sobriety into the body politic. And that is something we are dammed good at.
     We will always adapt our work methodologies and our business plans, and, in so doing, protect the public by distributing knowledge. That is what we do best. That is the responsibility we have always willingly accepted.
     A year into the new normal and under conditions no one could have prophesized we are about to come out as a leaner and stronger industry. More so than anyone might have expected in March of 2020. 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.


    Keep up the good work. And congratulations on your stamina, good cheer under an extraordinary situation, and your creativity.
    Posted March 18, 2021
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  • One Pandemic, Many Responses: How Magazine Publishing is Faring Around the World.

    One Pandemic, Many Responses: How Magazine Publishing is Faring Around the World.

    Moving our focus out for an international perspective, Ian Watts dropped in on the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me—to tell us that there are bright points of hope in a world market that is still facing the impact of the pandemic.
    Ian is the Director of Pincot Consulting Ltd, from whence he provides international circulation services to Genera Solutions, America’s largest magazine exporter. I can’t remember when I met Ian; he’s been in our business a long time. He started out with WH Smith Wholesale in the UK in the 1970’s.
    “That was a great academy for English circulation people, back in the day,” he tells us. “They did great training, hoping to invest in people they would then keep for life.” Those who left were picked up by publishers—in Ian’s case, Murdoch in the 1980’s, then SM Magazine Distribution, then Hachette, who owned an export company in the UK and COMAG UK. He’s been in international ever since.
    Following a stint as International Sales Director of Comag UK, Ian went on his own. His specialty was taking kids’ product and making it international product. He launched some big success stories internationally, including Spice Girls magazines, and later Sudoku magazines. His job now is to liaise with the 70-80 markets around the world that receive American exports and get the best deals and service for Genera’s US publisher clients.
    Ian: It’s a fascinating, exciting field. Every market around the world is an individual market with its own characteristics, facing the same issues that we face, but dealing with it individually. It’s very stimulating, learning about how these different markets manage.
    Joe: Can you give us an idea as to how these various markets look for imported product?
    Ian: Due to Covid responses It’s tough everywhere. International markets are going through a hard time for their own domestic publications; and it’s harder still for import. A lot of the import sale comes from travel locations, and of course travel has been decimated in most countries. There are exceptions. Some of the larger markets, for example Australia, continue to have domestic travel; but overall travel is down 90%, and outlets are closed in many airports. The sales we are currently getting are indicative of the market for import products consisting of people who live in the market, as opposed to travelers. They could be local-language speakers, or expatriates.
    Joe: Do you see any bright spots?
    Ian: There are certainly exceptions to this downturn. The strong, heavy-edit magazines, ones that look toward American politics, and to how we might fix the world, ones oriented toward business, are doing relatively well travel outlets notwithstanding. Examples are Foreign Affairs, Atlantic magazine and the New York Review of Books. US Business magazines are highly respected, for example Harvard Business Review.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted March 10, 2021
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  • BoSacks Readers Speaks Out: On Disputing the Death of  Journalism

    BoSacks Readers Speaks Out: On Disputing the Death of Journalism

    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    Dear Bo, I enjoyed reading your opinion, and I enjoyed more seeing our cartoon and picture.
    Here’s to the rebirth of good, solid, truthful journalism.
    (Submitted by Professor Samir Husni)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I think we've all been in publishing long enough to be skeptical of anyone proclaiming some aspect of the industry's death—whether it's the death of print, the death of magazines, the death of the book, the death of the novel, the death of reading. I think, at its root, proclaiming the "death of X" comes from a deep sense of loss or grief over a world that has changed and sometimes not always for the best. This can unfortunately turn into nostalgia and desire to return to the past. But we can't go back, nor should we.
    Fortunately, there is more quality journalism available today than there has ever been in my lifetime—reading Bo Sacks for 20 years has taught me that. And much of it isn't necessarily found in the places we once looked. Journalism is undoubtedly changing because it must. It's questioning itself and its purpose and how to regain the trust of the people.
    (Submitted by a Publisher)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    Thanks for taking that view Bo. I always dispute when people say journalism is dead and the media is worthless. I understand where they are coming from as the pretense of objectivity has been prominently dropped in many cases, and more recently, the acceptance of facts has taken a hit. But to say it is dead is a gross overstatement. There is plenty of great reporting still going on and I am hopeful that we will figure out a sustainable model that will ensure journalism lives and thrives going forward.
    (Submitted by a CEO)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I remember well the Lane Press Publisher Consortium bringing both you and Samir together. It was an enlightening discussion offering two different perspectives into the growth path of our industry. Your and Samir's dialogue was then and remains today a combination of both opinion and fact - indeed both valuable sources of information, but invaluable when both viewpoints are free-flowing and debated with respect. Open discussion is the pathway for informed decisions and understanding and I applaud you and Samir for respectfully learning from one another and together helping to shape the dynamics of our industry.
    (Submitted by a Salesperson)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I think the two of you are using different definitions of journalism. Samir uses the term to mean independent, objective, opinion-free journalism, and you are saying opinion-based journalism has been around for a long time, so we can't define "journalism" that way. I think you're both right. The opinion-based garbage we get today is nothing new, and is "journalism," but it's of a different kind than the more noble type they (supposedly) teach in journalism school.


    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted March 02, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism

    My friend Samir Husni is the founder and director of The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi's School of Journalism and New Media.  He is a journalism professor, a successful publishing consultant, and very much like me, a man filled with opinions.
    Samir and I first met somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s at a publishing conference held by Lane Press for their customers. The chemistry was instantaneous. I don't remember the topic, but we immediately went into our corners, took our positions, and debated.
    That was not why Lane press brought us there; we were there just to give separate lectures on our take on the business of publishing. But what they got was an unexpected bonus for the attendees.
    Our off-the-cuff discussions were such a hit that word got out to the trade magazines, and Samir and I hit the road publicly debating our industry's future on a national basis.
    He is a dear and respected friend, and we both love taking sides just for the intellectual fun of it.
    Last week at our weekly Publishers Pandemic Roundtable, we didn't have a guest speaker, so it was just the gang together to chat and share thoughts.
    That is when Samir shared with the group his feelings that Journalism is dead. Well, if Bo has ever seen an opportunity to take a different opinion, this was it, and we had our usual back and forth on the topic. It went ten rounds. Alas, since we didn't have a guest speaker, we didn't record the dialog. But it was a good one and for the ages.
    A few days later I suggested to Samir that I would like to pursue the topic publicly, and I asked him for a statement on the subject that I could use as a starting point to delve into the topic. Here is his statement:
    "Journalism as I knew it growing up is dead or dying. It is so hard to find the good solid truthful journalism of yesteryears. There is too much information out there and too little understanding. The line between journalism and opinion has disappeared. I learned in journalism school that when a journalist gives his or her opinion, he or she is no longer a journalist...By that sentence I can easily say we are losing journalism by the second if not faster..."
    I disagree with much of that, but we can't proceed without an accepted definition of what journalism is.
    Merriam-Webster's definition of journalism is as follows:
    1a: the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media
    b: the public press
    c: an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium
    2a: writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine
    b: writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation
    c: writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest
    Let me start out first that this is an opinion essay, not a work of journalism, although I'll do my best to include some facts along with my opinions.
    I can agree with Merriam-Webster's definition above and add that for me, Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current events, science, history, and other areas of public interest based on facts and supported with proof or evidence.
    I would add that with today's instant information distribution systems in place globally, contrary to Samir's point I see that journalism has seen a dramatic improvement in quality over the years. Advances in technology and increased specialization have done wonders for fact-checking, data analysis, and even long-form writing.
    Here is where the good professor and I agree, there is more information out there than ever before, and to Samir's point, too much of it isn't reliable or truthful. But there is also an abundance of excellent, honest, journalism by the definitions stated above.  
    Do we need to avoid echo chambers? Yes, of course. But that is nothing new. Historic yellow journalism comes to my mind when pining for the glory of the “good solid truthful journalism of yesteryears. 
    The term yellow journalism was started as a war between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, coined in the mid-1890s and was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. It used irresponsible, exaggerated, lurid, and even slanderous reporting. The wide appeal reached a million copies a day and opened the way to mass-circulation newspapers that depended on advertising revenue rather than cover price or political party subsidies. (Sound familiar?)
    It was Thomas Jefferson who said:
    “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Much of his opinion was due to the trash printed about him in the day's newspapers that were viciously opposed to him.
    Crass, opinionated, mean-spirited, foe journalism is nothing new. Likewise, some of modern style journalism is very partisan and supported by more biased revenue streams – in other words, like the journalism of 200 years ago.
    But not all journalism then or today is without merit. Finding and reporting the truth remains critical to civic life and a healthy democracy. Some examples of excellent sources in my mind would include:
    Vox. The Atlantic, NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, LA Times, CJR- Columbia Journalism Review, The Boston Globe., Chicago Tribune. San Francisco Chronicle. USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Time Magazine to name a few, and there are many others.
    Do these publishers get it right 100% of the time? No, of course not. But the body of work over an extended period of time leaves us with excellent journalism.
    And what do they report on? Climate Change and the Environment, Youth and Education, Immigration, Health Care, Money, Power, Corruption, Criminal Justice, and let us not forget, Politics. Politics can be reported on fairly and factually, however hard that might be for the reporter.
    We can easily agree that some works of journalism are qualitatively better than others. Great sustained journalism is a costly enterprise. Not all can afford to focus on quality and fact-checking, but many do, as I shared above.  
    The issue is not that excellent journalism is not being produced; I believe that it is and on a daily basis. But it is being so overwhelmed by the quantity of inferior content, that it is sometimes unnoticed and has to be searched for. Nevertheless, once we find the sources of true journalism, it is there for us continuously, and, for those that do it well, profitably.
    What are your thoughts on this subject? Is journalism dead or dying? 
    Posted February 28, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - One Source’s Unique Front-End Magazine Program

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - One Source’s Unique Front-End Magazine Program

    Last week, at the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me— spent our hour with Gregg Mason of One Source, the distributor to major Natural Food specialty retailers, discussing the unique nature of the One Source checkout program, the changes that the pandemic has brought, and what we might anticipate for 2021.
    Joe: Can you give us some background on One Source and your role in the company?
    Gregg: One Source is a traditional direct distributor, in that it orders its product from publishers and ships to one location for pick and pack. We service primarily the natural food segment, with close to 2000 retailers nationwide. Our largest chain is Whole Foods, with 500 stores, followed by Sprouts with 365 locations. We also service a small sports retail segment.
    One Source started small when the chains were small and grew along with them.  Our approach to magazine merchandising is unique—we don’t have mainlines. We are front-end focused with pockets at the checkout-only, and with non-logo’d pockets. Without logos, it allows dynamic movement of magazines which caters to the impulse buy of shoppers. We can sell more of what sells and the fixture presentation changes often.  
    When our retailers wanted a magazine program and looked at what traditional grocers had, they wanted something different, something fluid and dynamic. Something that would appeal to both new and returning customers; something that had the ability to drive high efficiencies. This fluid checkout was the solution.
    Bo: Does the fluidity you exercise with different titles in the pockets create a better sell through?
    Gregg: Having the titles move around drives greater sales and sell through as they do stay in store but get shifted. Older product moves down, newer product comes in at the top of the rack. Titles with enough product at release for two pockets consolidate down to one over time. In this way we can extend shelf life for high-selling magazines. Our best-selling regular-frequency titles are all either bi-monthlies or quarterlies, we’re able to give them their full on-sale period.


    Linda Ruth
    Posted February 28, 2021
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  • Bosacks Readers Speak Out: On Big Fail for publishers?, niche audiences, and The Life Blood Of The Magazine Industry

    Bosacks Readers Speak Out: On Big Fail for publishers?, niche audiences, and The Life Blood Of The Magazine Industry

    Re; Big Fail for publishers? Just $92 per household spent on recreational reading in 2019—and even that may decline long term
    Every now and then a really insightful and well-informed article comes along, and David Rothman's "Big Fail for Publishers" is this year's leading contender, at least so far. Thanks very much for sending it. His point that book publishers have failed to grow significantly in the past few years, despite plenty of opportunity, is very well thought out. And the use of actual statistics to support his case is so unusual... it's like finding a fossil or an old arrowhead or something. A few items really hit home for me. One was that publishers seem to be doing their best to discourage library use, which seems like the very definition of shortsightedness. Another is that everyone seems to ignore the used book market, which is a large and awesome resource, fueled by tax deductions. And then, finally, is the broad fact that the most important stats haven't really changed that much over the past couple of decades. The ultimate cure for almost every problem related to publishing is education. You reap what you sow.
    (Submitted by a Publisher and an Official BoSacks Cub Reporter)  


    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted February 18, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The new media surveillance wars of 2021

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The new media surveillance wars of 2021

    Back in the last decade circa 2018, I started to incorporate in my lectures about the media industry the growing crisis of surveillance capitalism. Now things are taking a turn, and the surveillance players are beginning to eat each other. Of course, I'm talking about the current and growing war between Apple and Facebook.
    One of the problems of living through any revolution is that it is almost impossible to take a long view of what's happening. Hindsight is the only exact science at play.
    So, before I go forward, let us review a few of my observations from 2018.


    There once was a time when advertising was focused on imparting information.
    Sadly today it is more concerned with collecting information. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and damn near every digital giant is exploring every microscopic part of our lives. That is not a generic, anonymous life, but a specific personal intrusion on every individual in the modern-day ecosystem. It is evident to anyone that we are living through the most profound transformation of the media industry since Gutenberg's invention of movable type and the printing press in approximately 1439.
    With the incredible and on-going acceleration of technology and our reliance on it, we are irresistibly embedded in it. The truth is we cannot function without the modern infosphere. If you stop and think about it, technology surrounds us everywhere to the point that we have to stop thinking of it as a mobile service but rather ubiquitous technology. Soon nothing will be mobile because everything will be mobile.
    The big picture is that It has all come too fast without evolving safe societal rules. We are saturated with life-rattling new technologies. Yet more is on its way — artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robots and greater use of cyber weapons. These are changing our lives and our businesses in ways that are both good and near evil.
    We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behavior of those users in astonishing detail without their explicit consent.
    It takes our private experiences and turns them into revenue opportunities. It changes everything. It's impossible to overstate the peril of our times. We used to fear the totalitarian government who knew everything about us, followed us everywhere. We are well on our way to such a nightmare. Except it isn't our government that knows everything about us, follows us everywhere, knows who we are talking to and what we are saying, and keeps secret files about us. It is the marketing industry.
    All this brings me to Apple's CEO Tim Cook and what he said last week.
    Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed.
    Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we're here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.
    If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.
    We should not look away from the bigger picture and a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theory is juiced by algorithms. We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better, and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.
    Too many are still asking the question, 'How much can we get away with?' When they need to be asking, 'What are the consequences?'
    What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?
    What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?
    What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?
    It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn't come with a cause. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.
    A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe."
    Here is what Justin Bariso noted in his article from
    “The fact that Cook doesn't name Facebook somehow increases its impact. Because as you hear Cook's 's speech, you can't help but immediately think of the house that Zuckerberg built.
    “If you're wondering how Apple and Facebook ended up at odds, you can read more of the details here. But the reality is these two tech giants have been heading towards a major conflict for quite some time. 
    “The problem is that Apple's and Facebook's business philosophies are diametrically opposed to each other: 
    “Apple is a lifestyle brand. And part of the lifestyle Apple sells is users having more control over their privacy.
    “Facebook, on the other hand, is in the data business. The more data they collect on users, the more effectively they can sell targeted ads.
    ‘But collecting and selling all that data comes at great cost, as Cook highlights. ‘The end result of all of this is that you are no longer the customer,’ said Cook. "You are the product."
    Justin Bariso concluded with this:
    “Now is the time to ask yourself: 
    “Which philosophy do I want to pursue? 
    “Do I want a business that serves my customers? Or one that takes advantage of customers to serve my business?
    “Because in the end, only one of these philosophies is sustainable for the long-term. The other will lead you to crash and burn.
    “And while the long-term solution may initially prove more challenging, remember:
    "The path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom."
    Stay tuned to this situation.
    On a fourth-quarter earnings call last Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lashed out at Apple, calling Apple anti-competitive.
    The Apple and Facebook wars are heating up, with Facebook threatening to sue Apple. This war of words and lawsuits is just the beginning, and I will be keeping my eye on it and report to you any developments.
    Posted January 31, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: Looking Forward to the Next Act

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: Looking Forward to the Next Act

    I Used to Be Somebody:
    Looking Forward to the Next Act
    By Linda Ruth
    Carl Landau, founder of Pickleball Media and publisher of the podcast and newsletter I Used to Be Somebody joined the Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, and me—to talk about what to do after you finish doing what you’ve been doing all this time.
    Joe: You used to own and run the popular Niche Publishing Conference for the magazine industry, and sold your company a couple of years ago, so I’m very interested in hearing what you have to say about second and third acts.
    Carl: Yes, I sold Niche Publishing to Second Street Media a year and a half ago. They are a platform for contests—they bought us for our database of 18,000 publishers. I worked for them part time for a year to help with the transition—which was a peaceful one. The year gave me my first opportunity since my paper route when I was 14 to have a part time job. It was refreshing.
    After that, my wife and I planned to travel. Then COVID hit.
    This left me thinking about what to do with my time, experience, and energy. And my mind turned to podcasting. Eight years ago I did a podcast—Events: What Wakes You up at 3 am. It was a lot of fun, and garnered some interest, but I had a full time job, and really couldn’t sustain it. What I enjoyed most about it was building the audience.
    And I love podcasts; I listen to four or five of them every day. You’ll find that media companies selling for a lot of money are podcast forward. Several that produce podcasts have sold for over 200 million. Now there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts, and smart companies looking for growth areas turn to them as another way to build audience.
    Sherin: Podcasts are great because they’re so portable. You can be out for a walk and learning about a subject.
    Joe: The podcasts that are successful—where does their money come from? The events they throw? Advertising?
    Carl: Sponsorship. Some podcasts have audiences of millions. That’s bigger than mainstream news. I just sold my first sponsorship, starting in March, after 12 episodes. My first weekly episode came out in October.
    For me, the demographic that is most interesting is the Baby Boomers. There are 80 million of us. Ten thousand people a day turn 65. And that will continue another 5-6 years. For baby boomers, there are at least 25 podcasts about money, by financial advisors. I was more interested in what boomers might do for a second act.
    Twenty years ago, you were done at sixty. Now continuing on is the rule, rather than the exception.
    Linda: Do you think that’s because of the nature of the people turning sixty, or because Social Security has been pushed back?
    Carl: I think it’s a combination. We’re also living a lot longer. If you’re going to make it into your 80s, that’s a lot of post-retirement time on your hands.
    Bo: Does what happens vary by industry? In publishing we have a consistent pattern of getting rid of institutional memory. When you turn 65ish—you’re gone. You make too much money and you get to save the company’s bottom line. It is a historic pattern.
    Carl: I see that everywhere, in every industry. An amazing amount of wealth and intelligence is concentrated in this group—and yet it is mostly ignored by the media.
    I Used to Be Somebody is for people who had successful careers and now want to do something entirely different. I like to get emotionally involved with them, find out who that person is, what they’ve done. That’s my format, and it’s how I engage my audience, which has grown in this short time to almost 1300 subscribers.
    Joe: Your company is called Pickleball Media. Should we be looking for a pickleball magazine to come out sometime soon?
    Carl: There is one. Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the US. Close to 5 million people play it, and no one’s heard of it! If it weren’t for pandemic, it was going to explode this year. This is what’s really helped me in this transition. Getting out of the familiar thing I’ve been doing for 20 years has energized me incredibly. I’ve been doing all this new stuff, podcasts, pickleball, and learning new things. It’s been really fun having this year to explore these opportunities. And that happens a lot with the people I interview. One big time lawyer took up photography and poetry. Those are the stories I explore in my podcast. It’s been really inspiring talking to these people. Having a podcast gives a forum you can talk to people you’d never have otherwise met.
    Linda: Could you distribute podcasts for other people?
    Carl: I wouldn’t, but there are lots of people who do it. There are so many opportunities, so many directions to go in. There is room for another event in the field, focusing on teaching people how to do podcasts, how to sell sponsorships. Right now I’m teaching older people how to listen to a podcast. So far I’ve taught 40 people, and it’s helped them a lot.
    This is a field that costs next to nothing to get in.
    Sherin: What you need is good equipment and a good story.
    Carl: That’s right, and the equipment costs like nothing. You can get a good microphone for eighty dollars. I use Zencastr to record for $20 a month and it’s like I’m in the same room with my guest. Between the prep, recording, and editing, one episode takes 8 hours to put together.
    I use Lidsyn for distribution and that’s $20 a month, and it gets you on Apple, Spotify, and 20 other platforms. They provide a report, too. I Used to Be Somebody is already in 60 countries. We have over 60 people in India alone that listen to my podcast. 
    Joe: How would somebody begin their second act?
    Carl: I’m the jump in the pool sort. My wife is more the ease into it sort. You could do it either way. But some people, if they jump in too soon, feel that they haven’t given themselves enough time to get a sense of what they could do. And a lot of times they end up doing the same thing they were doing—which is not what you want to end up doing.
    Go within your network, talk to your friends. Ask them what they could envision you doing that you’re not doing, maybe haven’t considered. These are the kinds of things that come out in my interviews; it’s why interviewing is the most fun. It can take six or eight before you get comfortable. The way to bring it to life is, don’t worry so much about what your questions are, but make it a real conversation.
    Bo: It’s worth pointing out that you have a magic way of engaging. You did it in the Niche conferences, where you got people to engage with you and, most magically, got them to engage with each other. I saw that same methodology in the podcast.   


    Linda Ruth
    Posted January 18, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    At this time of a new year I’m usually asked for my predictions of the incoming year. My usual glib answer is something like, “Next year will be like this year only more so.”
    As I look back on 2020 and then forward into 2021, I am starting to think my comedic answer was more prescient then humorous. I’m afraid that a good deal of 2021, which we all looked forward to with relish, will be exactly like the tail end of 2020. There is no permanent new normal until the covid plague is defeated, and that I’m sad to say isn’t on the near horizon.
    Bummer, yes. I know. And I’m sorry for pointing that out. The best current estimates are that everyone will be vaccinated by June. If past is prolog, I don’t believe that estimate. But let’s say it does work out that way, then the first half of 2021 will be pretty much like the end 2020. The same conditions of personal and business reinvention and adjustments.
    Let me start here in the middle of the plague. With all our new covid related problems we have and are still dealing with our old unresolved issues, such as fake news, fake ads, real ad blockers, fake impressions, fake humans (bots), fake ad placement and undeniable declines in magazine advertising.
    Are there exceptions to the declines in advertising? Of course, there are. As I’ve stated for the last decade, what really matters is the success or failure of your magazines or media enterprises. It doesn’t matter what the industry as a whole is doing, as many titles are doing quite well. It only matters how you are doing.
    I am bullish on the industry as it clearly grows and morphs into something new at an on-going and accelerated rate. More people read, collect and share distributed media information than ever before. There is more revenue being made in media beyond the wildest dreams of our publishing ancestors. The only problem with that observation is that most of the money isn’t in traditional businesses. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and the like are undeniably media companies, although they deny it. They have the lion’s share of the revenue pie and their growth is exponential, while print’s isn’t. Growth, yes. Exponential growth perhaps for some, but limited for most.
    With the above as a foundation here are my totally random and unresearched predictions for media in 2021 and beyond.
    Will subscription fatigue finally sink inIf we accept the concept that there is a limit to everyone’s disposable income, how will the still growing shift to a subscription model everywhere be sustained? Will there eventually be subscription fatigue? The answer to fighting the fatigue must be like Amazon Prime and the great bundling caper. Subscribe for this cool product, thing and widget and we will give you all these other things and widgets at no additional cost. Mr publisher what can you bundle with your subscriptions?
    The growth of podcasting will continue to grow. Ok, that is a no brainer but still must be listed. The growing podcasting technology and accessibility is reaching more and more consumers with a vast assortment of new content. Revenues in the podcast advertising market are projected to grow 14.7% year over year to nearly $1 billion in 2020, according to the IAB and PricewaterhouseCooper.
    The Apple and Facebook slugfest. Apple is now letting users decide whether to allow apps to track certain forms of personal data, like the websites they visit or the things they have been shopping for.  Apple wants the user to decide what information about them is shared with advertisers. Facebook is worried that this will change the value of advertising, which is the foundation of Facebook’s revenue stream. The adage has never been truer: "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold"
    Home voice platforms will continue to grow. Alexa and her competitors will soon be ubiquitous. Each morning I listen to “flash briefings” from publishers such as The Washington Post, ESPN, NPR, The New York Times, and the Harvard Business Review just to name a few. We have reached Star Trek levels of voice activated computer access. This will continue to grow and new “tricks” will be added that will no doubt astound us. I’m not clear about the monetization paths, but with ubiquity almost anything can produce revenue.
    Google and Facebook get bombarded by antitrust suits. The end of 2020 saw many actions by governments around the world to try to regulate the media giants. The DOJ is suing Google for allegedly violating anti-trust laws. Facebook has also been hit with lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of dozens of states. Sadly, Google and Facebook have more than enough money to fight in the courts for years. But perhaps in 2021 the legal distraction will help publishers and advertisers get reacquainted with each other.
    Social eCommerce Will Increase in 2021. This is nothing new but the speed of change and buying habits of consumers has predominantly and permanently shifted to a digital path. If you as a publisher want 2021 to be a year of growth, your business model will need to focus partly on social ecommerce and multiple paths of revenue.
    Working remotely has permanently reshaped the media industry. The adhesiveness of the new pandemic stay-at-home lifestyles will continue well past the end of the plague. When will we all get back to physical workplaces? Never, not all of us, but some of us will with limited business travel, limited time in the office, and executive leaders questioning all expenses as never before. Management has discovered new forms of what they will be calling efficiencies. The enforced quarantine and power of technology has rewritten the workforce rules of the requirements of a physical presence.
    As we move into 2021 with all the changes still ahead of us, remember our purpose. We have the power to make our customers laugh, cry or become more knowledgeable on any and every subject. At the end of our efforts, we hope our work is appreciated, valued and paid for.
    Our publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are still unexpected and unexplored.
    The plague has undoubtedly created an interesting time for media professionals. Some of us in media have made momentous leaps while others are still trying to figure out the new rules of engagement. But have no fear -- we as an industry are strong, vibrant and creative. Yes, there will be unexpected changes and unusual turns of events still to come. Rather than fear it, embrace the future, because there is no rational alternative where everyone – even you – is empowered to be a disruptor.

    Posted January 03, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    January 3rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Welcome to 2020, a new decade and, in Star Wars terms, a new hope. About this time of year there are always a plethora of articles that forecast and focus on the near and far future of our media businesses. When that happens I find myself looking back, not for nostalgic purposes but for a foothold of perspective. I find it is often best to understand where you came from to have a good sense of direction as to where you need to be and how to get there. Good questions are how did I get here and where do I adjust my plans to move forward? What is working and what is not? In my last holiday message of 2019, I offered a "Be Here Now" approach appropriate for both business and personal objectives…
    January 13th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks OutFriedrich Nietzsche once said, "There are no facts, only interpretations." That comes mighty close to our understanding of the magazine industry today, at least when it comes to the various reports we constantly read on the subject.
    Too often some industry prognosticators confuse what is happening to "the big guys" to be representative of the entire publishing industry. It is not. There is a complete disconnect between mid and modest titles and the Hearst's, Conde's, and New York Times of this world. What Conde does is irrelevant to any other publishing house large or small. It is a fiefdom with its own set of rules, agendas, and methodologies. Whatever game plan Hearst or any other large publishing house has is nothing like yours or your competitors. It is a brave new world out there, and it is adapt or die time…
    January 16th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: LSC announced the closing of its manufacturing facilities in Strasburg, Va.; Glasgow, Ky.; and Mattoon, Ill. The closing of the three printing plants is expected to be completed by July 2020.
    These plants were legendary magazine plants, each with its own personality and style. I had the privilege through my career at various points to have hustled many a magazine through each facility. I have fond memories of the employees and various management teams. Spending time in those printing plants and learning from talented employees was the bedrock of my career as a director of manufacturing. I have always been thankful for the experiences…
    January 27TH 2020
    Special people and special companies deserve a shout out of thanks and gratitude from time to time. In this case, I want to bring to your attention the tireless work of John Mennell of and Joel Quadracci of Quad Graphics. In my book they are unsung heroes performing necessary acts of kindness valiantly even though behind the scenes.
 supplies recycled printed products, new magazines, and comics to literacy programs around the country. From their web site comes the following statement: “Why are magazines and comics so special for literacy, you might ask? Promoting literacy establishes a lifelong reading habit. Studies show that holding reading materials in your hands increases learning. Magazines and comic books become familiar and not intimidating. They educate and inspire. Magazines and comic books in hands and homes foster ownership and build self-esteem.”…
    John went on to say, “With these and other Quad supported efforts, we’ve moved over a million magazines." John pointed out that "Joel and his team have been so generous, and never flinching, allowing us to have an enormous impact and showing us what’s possible as we reach for meeting our full promise.”
    Well, doesn’t that story make you feel good? My thanks to Joel and John for doing this meaningful and impactful philanthropy and for promoting genuine kindness on such a profound human scale. Magazines can help those in need, and perhaps literacy can help to end poverty.
    Click here to contact Magazine Literacy
    Recycle your magazines and comic books for literacy. 


    March 18th 2020

    I’m not sure where to begin. As a man in his 60s with asthma, I sit here safely in self-imposed isolation in the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, frustrated and worried about my family and friends, and like everyone else hoping for effective leadership for all of us from our governments both large and small.
    I can only briefly try to express my sorrow for those lives already lost and for those yet to come in unknown numbers. The loss of life I expect will be so staggering, so overwhelming, so incomprehensible, as to be at first numbing and then painfully dwarfing anything in the experience of all our lives except for military wars. I hope I’m wrong, but I think not…
    March 23rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: What publishers can learn from The Independent’s growth story I'm having a personal déjà vu publishing moment. It's not that the situation is the same; It isn't, not even close. But the effect for me and this newsletter is strikingly similar. The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on Sept. 29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intraday trading, and the publishing industry took it on the chin. Although the industry has made tremendous positive progress, the print world is decidedly less than it was before 2008. The resulting publishing effect for me was the sending out of negative but necessary industry news for an extended period of time. It had to be done then, and I believe it has to be done now. With the new and more powerful globe-changing event, the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe we need to stay as informed as possible about all perspectives. That is what I always try to do – Keep you informed…
    April 20th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Reports from the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: My friend and circulation consultant Joe Berger had a great idea a few weeks ago of getting together a team of publishing professionals to have weekly zoom conversations about what is happening to our industry from a ground floor perspective. We have had publishers, professors, consultants, and this week a printer. We didn’t know how our meetings would evolve, but we deemed them a good idea with benefits for all. So far we have had two reports of our conversations captured by Linda Ruth, who is a circulation consultant, and distributed to you in this newsletter.
    At a time when most American businesses are struggling to survive during this challenging time, we need to stay alert and flexible with the still-evolving changing economic conditions. Hotels are empty, retail outlets are closed, and restaurants, bars, and eateries are struggling to exist with carryout or delivery orders…


    April 29th 2020
    In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas at the same time. In 1936 F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
    I'm not saying I have a first-rate intelligence, but I do have two thoughts that are rolling around in my head. They are that the publishing industry isn't in peril, but many of its employees may be…
    July 13th 2020
    Last Friday, David Leonhardt wrote an article in the New York Times titled “It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?” It was subtitled, “The pandemic could shape the world, much as World War II and the Great Depression did.” It ran somewhat parallel with my essay last week that the pandemic has placed us in a time machine. We either accelerate to match the speed of change, or we get run over by it and replaced by something else…
    July 15th 2020
    There was a time when I was a monthly columnist for Publishing Executive Magazine. Each year my editor asked me to do a tips and tricks article offering suggestions for a healthy and successful publishing career.
    One of the core elements I always suggested was that knowledge is power, and industry knowledge is employment power. If you can speak knowledgeably of the entire media process, you are a more desirable candidate for the job you have or, perhaps even more importantly, the job you want to have. Understanding what the other departments do is of vital importance. Inter-departmental communication and knowledge facilitate the teamwork of successful and efficient organizations.
    I bring this up today, realizing that networking may be hard or near to impossible for an extended period of time due to COVID 19 and the increasing use of zoom meetings. If forecasters are correct, those industries that can now work mostly from home will continue to work from home. That puts a strain on making new industry friends and makes it harder to share industrial knowledge.
    Additionally, in-person meetings and in-person conferences may, in large part, be a thing of the past. If that is so, it strikes a dagger in the ability to network. The loss of networking is a loss to both the industry and our careers…


    July 22nd, 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: In many ways the readership and the topics of interest covered in this newsletter have tracked the profound changes in the magazine industry very closely. In the early days of this newsletter, subscribers had several specific areas of publishing interest they could subscribe to. One of the popular subscription options was all about paper. In the late 1990s, there were over 2,500 people who were solely interested in the paper industry and subscribed to that list.
    Do you know that in the old days of the 1980s and perhaps the 1990s FolioMagazine had a monthly column about the paper side of our business? Did you know that the MPA would hold a special session at every annual meeting to talk about paper in the large open session?
    Now we are in 2020, and we sell near 50% fewer magazines than we used to produce a decade or so ago. The obvious consequence is that we buy less paper.
    The article Verso shutdown would have devastating impact on forestry trucking, construction industries demonstrates clearly the ripple effect of our selling fewer magazines on the related supply chain vendors. 
    July 29th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Sometimes I have to put the bourbon aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry. I do this because I love the magazine media industry, and I don't want anyone to misinterpret the facts and actual conditions of our industry. 
    In turbulent times, turbulent things happen. What I have to report tonight is a reflection of the turmoil of the times we live in. I was asked by those in the know not to say what I am about to tell you, and I would have kept that promise, but we live in an instant messaging age.
    A person I do not know tweeted today that Folio: Magazine is no more. Because of that tweet, I feel I am relieved of the responsibility of keeping my silence…


    August 4th, 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: There is a brief comment in the article How to shift towards a paywall that I sent out last night. It is an oft repeated expression throughout the industry that “We have to face it: people hate ads.” I beg to differ on that point. What people hate are bad ads and bad advertising campaigns. People hate intrusive ads that follow you everywhere tracking advertising…
    Perhaps it is counting on an algorithm for success rather than creativity that is at the heart of advertising’s problems today. Could it be that corporate consumer surveillance has replaced innovation and imagination? I think so…
    August 12th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Most of us naturally track our industry and know the score of what the plague and the media tech platforms (FANG) are doing to us. It is a toxic combination not only for our health but also for our careers and our business wellbeing.
    I follow our industry very closely and read of layoffs and closures almost every day. We all read about them and absorb the data as shots from a sniper one information bullet at a time. The article Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs brings it into focus as a shotgun blast of intelligence right to the heart of our media industry. The entire global media workforce is shrinking. The plague and the media stress are a wide-spread phenomenon.
    We are all hoping for a relatively fast vaccine and an equally speedy economic recovery. When that happens, media will get back on track and rehire, reinvent and reestablish itself, but perhaps not as it was. We have all learned to do more with less. That is one of the new permanent conditions we will live with long after the new normal solidifies. Some of us might never work from an office again. Being self-employed I haven't worked from an office since 1996. This will be a change in lifestyles for many media professionals.


    August 28th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis
    I have been a digital futurist for the publishing industry since the early 1990s and probably before that, depending on when you start counting my industry predictions. I still believe in the future of digital as THE most efficient and effective communication tool yet known to man. But my prognostications have always been tempered with pragmatism, as I am what I call a pragmatic optimist.
    The web and all that it contains, the good and very bad, will be with us as far as one can see into the future. But while reading the article How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis I was thinking, "How did it come to this?" Which is what King Theoden asked in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. Now I ask the same question – How did it come to this? How can the advertising business lose $42 billion dollars in ad fraud while at the same time fraud-free, safe and proven magazines continue to lose ad dollars every quarter? How can there be so much excess revenue that an industry can lose $42 billion and do very little about it?
    September 9th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines
    Five years from now, we won't be worried about the effectiveness of Zoom calls because it will be an antique process. I'm not saying the next few years will be easy; They won't be. Hell, the next year alone promises to be a COVID backbreaker for many. What I am saying is that in five years, our jobs and methodologies will have morphed into something new. It has always been that way, only now it happens faster than ever… 


    September 28th 2020 
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic
    …To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
    With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
    As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
    To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you.
    November 6th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
    There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion: that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.
    The author states:
    “You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”
    We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways…
    December 21, 2020
    I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting…
    We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous…
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year


    Posted December 30, 2020
    (0) Comments

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