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  • Lead Gen Programs Can Benefit from Impact of Covid

    Lead Gen Programs Can Benefit from Impact of Covid

    The last 18 months of the COVID‐shaped advertising environment has actually accelerated change that was already taking place in the ad market. For example, according to MediaRadar (MR), the more than 1,400 B2B magazines that they track produced 11% fewer total ad pages in 2019 than they did in 2018. This was long before COVID became a household word.
     
    Fact is, print advertising has been in decline in the B2B segment for the last half dozen years, some categories longer, and the more recent COVID challenge has simply pushed publications to ad page counts few would have believed possible.
     
    However, the COVID‐related impact across all areas of marketing have produced some monetary benefit to certain digital products, specifically those related to lead generation. Due to travel and crowd restrictions put in place at the start of the pandemic, companies were forced to turn their sales forces into professional Zoomers and eliminate trade shows altogether from their marketing mix. These two events drove the need for qualified sales leads sky high and publishers who had quality lead gen products have enjoyed a sales boom. One of our clients is a perfect case study on this situation. When we started representing them in 2015, we sold roughly 60 webinars, a number considered at the upper limit of demand and their production capacity at the time. This year—2021—we will have sold over twice as many webinars for that client, a number we now consider the maximum due to response / performance considerations. Also, greatly increased success with white papers, eBooks, and other lead gen products have led to our best revenue year ever with that client.
     
    We believe there will be a temptation for publishers to consider the 2020‐2021 period as a one‐time‐only situation which will soon evaporate as customers gradually return to pre‐ COVID practices. We disagree with this thinking for three reasons. 
     
    •         First, marketers have learned, forcibly to be sure, that there are far, far more efficient means to generate leads for a sales force than to create a very expensive, very time‐ consuming year‐long trade show caravan. And increased show expenses apparently await. Just two weeks ago an advertiser bitterly complained to one of our sellers at a trade show that she just received an additional $14,000 shipping upcharge for an exhibit that was sent on a Boston to Philadelphia round trip. And it wasn’t an enormous exhibit.  
     
    •         Second, trade shows may soon return but trade show attendees may not. We know COVID‐ related concerns still affect how people work and plan. Moreover, we saw that the trade show mentioned above attracted only one‐third the number of visitors it did in the years before COVID. Same show, same city/location, one‐third the visitors. We don’t believe that people will have spent the better part of two years avoiding all physically compromising situations and then suddenly rush out to a trade show to stand shoulder to shoulder with 10,000 or more strangers. In our view, trade show attendance will return very gradually, likely over years. Marketers will have to find those lost attendees elsewhere—through webinars, white papers, and other proven media devices.
     
    •         Third, corporate learning is slow but so is corporate forgetfulness. No sales manager ever born would have had the nerve to cancel all trade show participation on the unproven belief that there is a better, more efficient way to produce leads for the sales force. But the entire universe of sales managers was forced into that experience. Not just for six months. It will be closer to two years for most and in that time, they discovered and created new strategies and tactics that worked. For example, we produced some webinars this past year that had over 1,200 registrants for a tiny fraction of the time and cost those companies would have spent for similar results at a trade show. That kind of success isn’t easily forgotten.
     

    Posted September 15, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- Printers: The Unsung Heroes

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- Printers: The Unsung Heroes

    Now more than ever, printers who can work with publishers to overcome the challenges posed by rising prices and shortages of paper, labor, and time are proving to be the unsung heroes of the publishing business. Linda Thewes, sales executive with Fry Communications, joined the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Sherin Pierce, Joe Berger, Gemma Peckham, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, and me—to talk about how it’s done.
     
    Linda, who studied printing as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon, has been with Fry for thirty years; prior to that, she spent five years with another printer.  Printing, as we remarked, has changed quite a bit over the intervening years; a sentiment to which Linda wholeheartedly agreed.
     
    Linda (laughing): Oh boy has it. I remember stripping, light tables—
     
    Sherin: Exacto-knife, cut and paste--
     
    Joe: Compared to those days, what do you see impacting printing today?
     
    Linda: It’s a stressful time to be in printing, and there are a lot of contributing factors: rapidly escalating paper costs, paper shortages, other material costs increasing. And of course postage continues to rise. Co-mailing has helped offset rising costs, with more changes coming; we’re going to have to quickly figure out the impact of these changes, and how to continue to offset them; until we do so, our clients will likely experience some financial hits. Capacity is another challenge—the fall is always busy, as publishers are releasing catalogs and other marketing materials for the fourth quarter, and this year is particularly challenging, due to the labor shortage.
     
    Bo: The entire supply chain is under duress, every piece, every industry.
     
    Joe: What is causing the paper shortages?
    Linda: We have many supply chain issues, including transporting, pulp shortage, and labor issues. A lot of capacity was taken out of the market by mills to convert to products more profitable than paper stock.
    Sherin: Corrugate, for example.
     
    Me: Would you say these changes are temporary, or is this a new trend?
     
    Linda: I wish I could say.
     
    Sherin: I think it’s here to stay.
     
    Bo: Containerized freight last year cost $4000; this year it shot up to $20,000. How can a business absorb that kind of change? Shippers are re-routing to more profitable markets.
     
    Sherin: Other products can adjust more easily and absorb the change through changing their pricing. It isn’t so easy for publishers, although we’re going to have to sit down and revisit all our prices.
     
    Bo:  Everything is going to be more expensive, and we’re going to have to get in front of that. Meanwhile, the whole country is looking for truckers. How is Fry managing?
     
    Linda: We’re admittedly paying more for trucks, but we have good relationships with our truckers, and we’re thinking outside the box to circumvent the shortage. We’ve been able to transport mail by rail freight, for example, which has been a help.
     
    Joe: What is causing the labor shortage?
     
    Linda: I have some theories. Thanks to COVID, people who have worked their whole lives in manufacturing have seen that people can work from home, and want to make similar shifts. But that doesn’t work for us; you need a body present to run machinery. It’s hard to hire younger people into manufacturing, because they perceive there’s less flexibility.  
     
    Me: Are there more jobs in manufacturing to fill due to the former administration’s push to bring back manufacturing?
     
    Linda: The trend seems to pre-date that.
     
    Sherin: You can’t bring an industry back when they disassemble an entire plant. You have to bring back the equipment. But you’ve always had labor shortages in printing.
     
    Me: Have COVID deaths impacted the labor force?
     
    Linda: Well, COVID has forced people to rethink priorities and how and where they want to apply their resources. Can I live working fewer hours, making less money? Can our family survive on one income, rather than two? I don’t think it’s specifically deaths that have affected the labor force, at least not at Fry, thank God!
     
    Joe: Bo made a statement that I come back to daily: the pandemic has advanced everything in publishing and printing by 5-6 years. What do you see?
     
    Linda: There have been changes. With higher prices, we were always looking for ways to save costs. But even pre-COVID, the newsstand was heading in the direction of higher price, better quality products. And those exercises to cut quality to trim cost just aren’t happening now.
     
    Not only in newsstand—medical books and trade publications, for example, are also maintaining higher quality product over lower pricing. If you are going to print, it is for a reason. You want the experience of the product. Run lengths are shorter, we have better data, and we only put the product in the hands of those it makes sense for. I used to get a Pottery Barn catalog every week. Now I do four times a year, which is plenty. Last time there was a giant jump in postage, catalogs disappeared—along with their sales. They’ve come back in a more sensible way. With this postage increase, publishers are looking to cut their mailing in smart ways. Some can’t do it right away, but we’re going to see these trends impact 2022 planning.
     
    Joe: Tech-wise, what big changes have you seen?
     
    Linda: The changes here, like everywhere, have been in terms of giving people the ability to work from home.  On the floor of the plant, there haven’t been major tech changes in the last year or year and a half. We don’t have the ability to turn on a dime, it takes time to change equipment on that scale. That could be a problem if something major changes suddenly in terms of production formats.
     
    Joe: Will your office staff come back to the plant or will they continue to work from home?
     
    Linda: That’s a work in progress. They’ve proven they can work from home, but there are also advantages to having bodies present. As with many companies, we’ll likely end up with some kind of hybrid solution.
     
    Bo: A big part of the equation that’s missing since COVID is customer interaction. I used to visit my printing plants two or three times a year. I used to bring three dozen New York bagels every time. While every plant will do its best, the personal relationship adds a little extra.
     
    Linda: Agreed, there’s a great benefit to in-person meetings. It is a favorite day of mine when I can take a publisher on a visit to a facility. With the current Delta variant surge, however, we’re currently postponing most visits for the safety of our staff and to avoid jeopardizing print schedules due to mandatory quarantines after exposure to the virus.
     
    Joe: People who don’t know how things are done can’t understand the challenges.
     
    Sherin: As Bo says, the printers are the unsung heroes
     
    Linda Ruth
    Posted September 08, 2021
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  • A Good Time for Magazines, A Great Time for Books

    A Good Time for Magazines, A Great Time for Books

    The Pandemic Roundtable Talks with Barnes and Nobles Krifka Steffey
     
    Few retailers are more important to specialty magazine publishers than Barnes and Noble. The Publishing Pandemic Roundtable (Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Gemma Peckham, Sherin Pierce, and me) met with Krifka Steffey, the Director of Merchandise for Newsstand and Media, to talk about the chain’s recovery in 2021, and the fresh, innovative product she’d like to see.
     
    Since we last spoke, Barnes and Noble has closed two of their New York offices, the one on 6th Avenue and the 5th Avenue office where magazine publishers have been accustomed to go for their meetings.
     
    The majority of the Barnes and Noble personnel will have their offices in the location above Union Square, along with new office space in Clifton NJ.  While Krifka expects to be in the office many days, others she will work remote or from one of the stores.
     
    She’s taken advantage of this time to visit the stores. While the chain was already moving in the direction of refreshing and customizing their stores by location, that change was accelerated by the temporary closings and shorter hours of the COVID lockdown. One of biggest changes Krifka finds is that the cookie-cutter approach of former years is now gone. Each of the individual stores in the chain are molding themselves into unique bookstores. The look and feel of the stores, the books set out front, the hand selling, the books recommended—all are now individualized.
     
    Bo: I think the direction you’re taking is one hundred percent fabulous.
     
    Krifka: It’s a work in progress, changing a direction that had been set for years.
     
    Joe: What difference do these changes make in the product buying?
     
    Krifka: For magazines, we’re still doing it the same; but, for example, with trade books, headquarters will do the initial distribution, and then there are district-level replenishment buyers and store managers who will make local decisions. When something is regionally focused, an author from an area, you’ll see it reflected. It’s a big shift to more local control.
     
    Sherin: Where each store is operating almost as an independent bookstore.
     
    Krifka: Right. On our newsstand, the way we’ve always bought has been individualized. Our work with magazines is highly curated. It’s nice that the book side is starting to mirror that.
     
    Joe: Is store traffic increasing?
     
    Krifka: Yes, overall. New York City has shown a slower recovery than elsewhere. But everywhere we’re seeing positive year-over-year growth week after week. We’re also comparing to two years ago and seeing positive trends even against pre-COVID sales levels.
     
    Sherin: It’s the same with our products. The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Guide has grown dramatically. Comparing to 2019, we’re through the roof.
     
    Krifka: Yes, we’re seeing nice growth in Home and Garden. And we’re seeing a switch from digital back to physical. Our customer likes the experience of print copies.
     
    Bo: Are you seeing an influence from Book Tok?
     
    Krifka: Anything that does well on Book Tok sells like crazy in our stores.
     
    Bo: It’s at almost ten billion views.
     
    Krifka: And they’re the right age group, young adults turning into loyal customers. Manga, for example, is huge, and we’ve got a great assortment. Outrageous food trends are big.
     
    Joe: How are things developing in the magazine world?
     
    Krifka: We’re not seeing a lot of surprises. Customers are following their former patterns, buying what we’d expect them to buy. There aren’t many new launches or big things pending. I’m seeing some missed opportunities. We should have seen some publications on outer space, that could have been big. Post-COVID, they’ll be a lot of people struggling to get back into new routines; where’s the product for that?
     
    Publishers need to dig in, to ask, what are people going to need from us, what are they going to use? People are moving back into schedules. Hotel bookings are up, people are moving around more; we need to see those publications for drives, for traveling. There are holes in our assortments, and we need fresh, new, relevant product. I can get the customers back into the store, I can get the magazines out on the shelves, but if I don’t have exciting new product sales are not going to improve.
     
    Sherin: This summer Yankee magazine is publishing 31 great things to do in New England.
     
    Krifka: That’s great, Sherin! Talk to Yankee about drives in the region with local stops; also haunted anything is blowing up; also murder mystery stuff. Those are all topics that tie so nicely into regionality. I think some of these trends are going to keep going. People are planning travel.
     
    Gemma: we just had our best issue ever of Road Life.
     
    Krifka: Rolling Stone has had some fantastic issues; we’ve sold about a million dollars of Harry Styles product; music and entertainment is going to be huge with concerts, music festivals opening up. A release, a concert, an artist—all offer a bright spot on the newsstand.
     
    Joe: On the flip side, what categories are struggling?
     
    Krifka: Mostly ones that were already in decline. The men’s category is almost gone. Science spikes with specials but the category isn���t supportive of regular frequency publications.
     
    Linda: How about the business category?
     
    Krifka: We need more content focusing on entrepreneurial matters, how to run a business, how to start a business, how to turn a hobby into a business, how to do taxes for a business. Inc and Fast Company used to do that kind of thing a lot; it seems those publishers focused on digital and it’s driven the category down. We need good and trustworthy guides, maybe even in workbook format.
     
    Bo: 80% of the public trust magazines.
     
    Joe: I’ve been in some of your new, smaller-format stores.
     
    Krifka: Each new store has a completely different layout. Each store is its own unique location. We have one that just opened in Connecticut in an old Restoration Hardware store. We’re looking at restaurants that have closed down as possible locations. It’s a lot more management for us in the small stores as we shrink from 2500 titles to 1000 or even 500. Square footage varies drastically, some are as small as 4000-6000 sq ft. Some won’t have a newsstand at all. We’ll be opening 10-15 new stores per year, and closing some of the larger format stores as leases expire.
     
    Bo: How’s supply chain?
     
    Krifka: Improving. We’ve had some issues with broken boxes but no crazy mis-ships.  Publishers are now notifying us that paper supplies are becoming a huge problem. There are special issues that will not go to print because of this lack of supply. Additionally, I do expect to have delays and issues for the holiday season as the amount of packages in the system increases.
     
    Bo: Our industry is having a problem with slow shipping and lack of drivers.
     
    Sherin: The Old Farmer’s Almanac is in the middle of it, shipping now. We’re finding that the market is really tight, we have to make all of our deadlines perfectly. There’s not a lot of leeway.
     
    Krifka: We’ve had some delays with imports but nothing catastrophic.
     
    Sherin: Everything is later, everything is slower. There are paper shortages, labor shortages; despite paying good wages and bonuses the printers can’t get enough people to fill the jobs.
     
    Krifka: That seems to be true across all businesses. We’re seeing it in retail. But it’s an exciting time. We’re finally inviting people back into the stores; we’re offering specials, I’ve announced a Buy One Get One for the newsstand. I’ve been hearing that the fall publishing schedule for books is astounding. We’ll see two plus seasons of publishing all crammed in together. And any time there’s big news in books, it’s fantastic for the newsstand.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted August 31, 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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