Bosacks Speaks Out
Digital press manufacturers have been for many years in a constant hunt to entice magazine publishers to print their magazines as a digital product and not an offset product. It is a fascinating and flexible technology, and I have seen copies that rival offset in quality. It works wonderfully for catalogs and direct mail. But magazines are a different breed.
Most magazines are already specialized niche products. I would postulate most magazines don't have enough edit to make personalizing printed magazines to each reader possible or profitable. I would also suggest that most magazines don't have a detailed database of their readers, although that is rapidly changing with the growth of surveillance capitalism.
There are circumstances and some companies where digitally printing a magazine could work quite well, but on the whole offset is still less expensive. And with the creative binding processes that are available, variable editorial based on reader interest has been obtainable for almost 50 years.
My favorite example is Farm Journal. They have used what is called a Selectronic binder, which is, of course, computer driven binding from a database. It has been around since the 1980s. It works like this - If you are a farmer and you grow corn and wheat and also have some chickens, you will get printed signatures with those editorial pages and ads that match your farm's profile. If your farm grows soy and alfalfa and you have cows, you too would get a different set of signatures and a different personalized magazine. Pretty cool right? This is accomplished while binding the entire magazines press run in one pass. I saw this process in the last century, and I have always loved the creative solutions to the manufacturing process.
Sadly, the magazine industry neither trained nor compensated their sales forces to learn the technology, thereby diminishing a pretty cool and advanced process to a mostly underutilized "could have been" in the annals of publishing missed opportunities.
There are always exceptions, but unless you have a strong database on your readers as Farm Journal does and the vast editorial will to produce multiple stories for each issue, a digital press, however wonderful, is at this point a technological exuberance for most printed magazines.
That doesn't say we shouldn't keep our eyes on the progress of digital printing. There may come a time soon when it is priced at or near offset. At that point why not go digital even if you use the process sparingly? I'm sure every publishing house can and will come up with creative uses for the process in both advertising and in edit. Who knows, perhaps Yoga Journal for the Left Handed reader is in the works as I write this?
Lastly, I implore any and all digital press manufacturers and publishers to start a dialog here in these pages. Consider it an opportunity to reach out to the perfect publishing audience.
William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian writer who has been called the "noir prophet" of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. It was Gibson who coined the term "cyberspace" in his short story Burning Chrome. He is also responsible for one of my favorite quotes, which I often used to open my lectures in the early 2000's, "The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed."
In our industry nowhere is that more evident than at the Digital Innovators Summit (DIS) held each year in Berlin. I have had the privilege to attend it for seven years. In doing so I have witnessed the digital transformation of publishing media firsthand and with a global perspective. It is partly this experience that enables me to speak with authority about our industry and its future.
Publishers Are Finding Profits in Diversification I think the most obvious takeaway from almost every presentation is that the crisis of confidence is over, and we are now in a better state than we were five years ago.
There is now overwhelming proof from multiple global sources that digital can supply revenue and profits. Subscriptions are real and readers, especially those that trend younger, are willing to pay. Parallel to that is the formula of: Quality + Specialization = Premium Pricing. CLICK HERE FOR THE ENTIRE ARTICLE
Last week I wrote a sober article about the state of digital fraud invading our lives, our families, our jobs and our psyche. I wasn't wrong, as each day new intrusive assaults are discovered.
Last Friday we received news of yet another of what seems like weekly Facebook abominations. Now it has been revealed that Facebook collects intensely personal information secretly from thousands of popular smartphone apps and just seconds after users enter their personal information. Facebook gets it, even if the user has no connection to Facebook. More surveillance for a profit. George Orwell in the book 1984wrote "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself." Good luck with that, there are no secrets any more. Pretty depressing, right? Well it is, and it should be.
According to The New York Times... Parliament denounced Facebook and its leadership as "digital gangsters." The British are always so damn polite.
But wait, there is a bright side here, and that is print and the magazine industry. It's not that we can prevent what's going on digitally. We can't. But we can be fertile ground for profitability and safety. Print is and should be a shinning beacon standing tall among the fraudsters. There are successes in many places for the magazine print industry and billions still being made.
I go to many magazine conferences all around the world each year. And guess what? There are profitable publishers in every conference. Here is a true example where size doesn't matter. Large or small, many publishers are doing well and creating centers of profitability. I had lunch last week with Alison Dickie, the publisher of a local magazine here in Virginia called Albemarle Magazine. It's a smallish, local publication that has to fight for every dollar. It's not easy, but they do it. And the results are impressive.
In a week or two I'll be having lunch with my friend Bernie Mann, the publisher ofOur State magazine.(196 pages last issue) They are doing gangbusters and, as far as I can tell, they are among the most successful regional magazines in the country.
Last month I spoke at the Canada Magazines Business Summit. Here again is a group of successful B2B publishers.
In a few weeks I'm off to DIS (the Digital Innovators Summit) in Berlin. It is a collection of publishers from around the globe sharing success stories in publishing. Not one of those tales will be about digital abuses of power, but rather about gaining revenue and market share, and from my perspective, honorably.
This year I'll also be attending IRMA International Regional Magazine Association. This is a terrific group of regional print publishers growing and making revenue positive strides.
And dare I not mention Samir's Husni's Annual Magazine conference ACT at the University of Mississippi. As conferences go it is probably the smallest by population, yet the biggest in comradery and geniality. The auditorium is filled with 40 professional speakers and about the same number of journalism/media students. All the publishing professionals represent successful publishing operations.
Let's not forget the printers and paper companies of our industry. They, too, represent on-going strength and successful revenue streams.
I could go on and on, but my point is that print is viable and profitable.
The irony should escape no one that the nature of our product of off-line media is safe and totally non-intrusive to sharing anyone's personal secrets.
Let's use print and thoughtful, thorough journalism to stop, hinder and otherwise mute the digital surveillance network of privacy pirates and not let them distract us from our successes.