Archive for July, 2007

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I promise, I paid for it…

July 31, 2007

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Although the editors of Vapors magazine want you to steal their magazine, I promise I did not do it. I paid my $4.95 for the magazine regardless of what they told me to do. This issue of Vapors with its “Street Couture” tag line comes with three covers, but I opted for this one because it reminded me with the famous National Lampoon cover with the gun pointed at the head of the dog and a cover line that read “Buy this magazine or we will shoot this dog.” That issue sold out on the newsstands. If this issue of Vapors sells out on the newsstands, it may or may not be because it sold out, but rather because people listened to the advice of the editors and just stole the magazine. A clever cover idea with a lot of risk!

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Wholesalers are not dying… take two

July 30, 2007

The responses to my blog on the wholesalers (click here to read) have been overwhelming to say the least. From the comments on the blog site, to the “off the record” and “phone calls” responds and to the comments in the publications of two of my colleagues in this business Bob Sacks and John Harrington. The underlying theme is there is a major need to talk about the problem and to address it in a completely different way as it is been addressed today. First I will share with you what John wrote and what Bob’s readers commented and then I will ask you to respond on the record.

John in this week’s issue of The New Single Copy commented on the Mediaweek article and on mine. Regarding my blog he wrote

“A more impassioned approach appeared on the website of Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi journalism professor, best known for his work on new titles. The title of his article, “Wholesalers are not dying…they are committing suicide,” gives a hint about his position. Husni references some of the information previously reported in The New Single Copy, including a letter from Kable Media Services president Mike Duloc. Among his recommendations is “If wholesalers do not want to commit suicide they need to force other publishers to lower the single copy prices of other magazines to be equal or close to that of [their] subscription prices.” By the end of the week, seven responses, five from wholesalers and two from publishers, were posted on Husni’s website, which is http://www.mrmagazine.wordpress.com. For the record, the Harrington Associates study, The Impact of Low Cover Price Magazines, was based on wholesaler cost data supplied by members of Magazine Information Network (MagNet). It was reported on originally in the 12/11/06 issue of The New Single Copy. It is available in electronic format on request to info@nscopy.com.

As for the Bosacks electronic newsletter he published the following responses last night:
BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Wholesalers…

Re: Wholesalers are not Dying . . . they are Committing Suicide
It is about time that someone finally put in print what some people have been saying for a long time. Thank You!!!!
It is time that the w/s community realize that they are a delivery service for the magazine industry and that they do a semi good job at that, however when they start analyzing the delivery system this is where they are failing.
Good for you Bo keep up the great job and maybe someone at the w/s level will start listening and doing what you are suggesting.
(Submitted by a Senior Wholesaler)

Re: Wholesalers are not Dying . . . they are Committing Suicide
This is by far the GREATEST article I have read over the past 12 years describing the utter futility of the newsstand single copy industry. The nail was hit directly on the head. Unfortunately the people who should be reading this, will probably dismiss it as pure fluff. What a shame, they still have there heads up their be-hinds.
(Submitted by a new and Unknown Reader)

Re: Wholesalers are not Dying . . . they are Committing Suicide
One of these days Wal-Mart is going to get their way and the publishers will deal with them direct and cut out these folks. Last time I heard, “Wally-World”, as we call them here, account for over 25% of newsstand sales, why not deal direct? Save a bunch of money regarding distribution costs and probably knock off 33% of the cover price to the customer, what a concept.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

Re: Wholesalers are not Dying . . . they are Committing Suicide
Bo, thanks for the best, most interesting news delivery system in our business. I never know what you will send out each day, but it is always of interest to me and my career. You have improved my ability to understand this industry ten-fold.
As to the newsstand situation it is part and parcel of the bigger picture of an old and formerly honorable business gone to the dogs. Everyone scrambling to endue another year or two, as the industry changes and the management at best treads water..
(Submitted by an Unknown Reader)

I welcome all responses on this important matter and I invite you to post all your comments “on the record.” I understand the reason some of you only respond “off the record,” but we cannot continue to hide our head in the sand and hope for the problems to go away. We are heading toward what can be the most difficult time in single copy sales in this country, and I do not believe we can solve our problems off the record. The time is now to speak out, not for the sake of any one publisher or wholesaler or retailer, but for the sake of the entire magazine industry. I hope you will consider this as a plea to get involved.

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Separated at Birth…

July 30, 2007

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The July issue of the British Esquire magazine brought back memories of the first issue of Radar published earlier this year. The only difference between the two smoking figures is that one is a boy and the other is a girl. One is on the beach and the other is on the bed. The two poses are so close that you will think the same photographer took the two pictures, or (which is more likely) a photographer who really liked Radar’s cover idea decided to try it across the pond. It is just another day in magazine publishing where imitation is the best form of flattery. Enjoy.

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Antenna: One stop shopping for the urban male…

July 28, 2007

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Are you willing to spend $7.95 in order to save on time, gas and fighting the crowds. If your answer is yes, you are in luck. The premiere issue of Antenna is out and it is the best one stop shopping magazine for the urban male that I have ever seen. Think of Antenna as your search engine for everything related to urban men. From major items such as cars to minor items such as the soda you drink and the cookies you eat, Antenna provides you with choices and more choices without any editorials. It’s like they search, you choose. If you can think of it, you will find it inside the 188-page magazine. The quarterly is well designed, well packaged and well done. One beautiful thing about Antenna, the magazine is celebrity free, no opium for the masses here. The magazine is published quarterly by Harris Publications under the able hands of Publisher Dennis S. Page and Editorial Director Tony Gervino. Pick up a copy today or check their web site to order your own subscription. It is worth the price.

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The third time’s not a charm… Success magazine folds one more time

July 26, 2007

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It was all about success, the first time, the second time and the third time around… however it seems the third time was not a charm and the magazine folded yet one more time. “The doors are locked and the staff is gone,” a source and friend told me. I was sorry to hear that, but for history’s sake, here is what the folks at Success wrote on their website about their magazine:

“Success is a new kind of business magazine, a magazine dedicated to success in business, and in life. Success is the result of what our 650,000 subscriber base have told us over the past two years. Both women and men have said they want a magazine that’s edited with a personal perspective, a business magazine for and about real people. “No more Donald and Martha, show us real people who’ve succeeded, people like us!”

Well, I guess Donald and Martha are still here… the same can’t be said about Success.

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So did Kelly Ripa give sex or love tip to the readers of Redbook?

July 25, 2007

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To love your life, you have to be honest with your life first. Stacy Morrison, Editor-in-Chief of Redbook magazine, did a great job reinventing the magazine last month, but failed to get rid of the hypocrisy (oh, sorry it is a marketing ploy) that she inherited regarding exchanging the words “love” and “sex” when used on the cover of the magazine for subscribers and single copy editions. The August issue goes even one step further by attributing a tip to their cover star Kelly Ripa in which the subscribers receive “the love tip she just has to share” and the single copy buyers receive “the sex tip she just has to share.” Ms. Morrison, I know you are in charge, so please stop the hypocrisy and give your readers some credit. If you think they are not going to buy the magazine because you do not use the word sex on the cover instead of love, trust me you do not want those readers. Love your life is your new tag line and not Sex your life. Or, is it Sex your life?
On a separate note, did you know that Redbook is also selling in some parts of the country at the low price of $1.99? (See related story below) Here is my copy bought at Books-a-Million. redbook-199.jpg

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Wholesalers are not dying… they are committing suicide

July 24, 2007

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I just came back from my usual weekly magazine purchasing tour in Memphis, TN. I bought 105 magazines and spend over $500.00. The price of the magazines ranged from $1.59 to $19.95. Some were $1.99, some were $2.99 and some were $5.99. Different prices for different magazines. The average cover price for a new magazine last year was over $6.50. Why the lengthy introduction? Very simple. The media lately has been filled with news that magazine wholesalers are pushing publishers of low priced magazines to cut draw and raise the price of their magazines. Some say that wholesalers cannot make any money on any magazine priced less than $2.50. In fact this week Mediaweek carried an article (read it here) by Lucia Moses titled
“Wholesalers Pressure Magazine Publishers to Up Cover Prices, Cut Draw.” John Harrington’s The New Single Copy editor repeated the findings of a study sponsored by Magazine Information Network. The study “reported that it was not possible for wholesalers to earn a profit on publications, no matter what the sale or retail sell-through percentage, on publications with prices of $2.50 or under.” The study drew a sharp response from Michael Duloc President and CEO of Kable Distribution Services, a national distribution company. His response to the MagNet study (and John Harrington), published in The New Single Copy this week states, “Relating to your (John’s) recent comments on this subject, your viewpoint, in our estimation, continues to be very slanted. It would appear that the major wholesalers (or perhaps another weekly celebrity publisher) are contributing beyond normal subscription rates to keep the issue of lower cover price, yet highly efficient titles on the radar screen. The question is, where would wholesalers be without this additional $450 million in annual retail sales? From your writings, one would quickly assume better off. I’d like to see audited numbers, versus the fuzzy number which have been used to substantiate this claim.”
It is amazing that the only publisher who revived single handedly the single copy sales, and I mean Bauer Publications, is now forced to kill what would have been their fourth weekly because of the “single copy market climate.” In the good old days, and in most of the world, magazines that sell are rewarded with better placement and good publicity. The wholesalers in their recent attempt to force Bauer to increase the cover prices of their magazines, and those of the rest of the publishers of low cover priced magazines, is gasping for their last breath of air. Those low priced magazines are needed to bring the traffic to the newsstands and to maintain the unit sales of their “bread and butter.” What type of logic is this that bites the hand that feeds you? It does not take a researcher or a Ph.D. (although I claim to be one and do have a Ph.D.) to see the flow in the wholesalers logic. They are digging their own grave and they are digging it deep. When you hear people say that the wholesalers are in trouble, check and see if the trouble is from their own making. Wholesalers are not dying in this country, they are committing suicide. They have buried their head so deep in the sand that they can’t differentiate between friend and foe.
As a matter of fact, do you know that four of the top ten revenue-generating magazines on the newsstands are Bauer magazines and are all priced under $2.00. If they, as publishers, can survive and make money from this single-copy driven model of publishing (unlike many other advertising driven publishing models), I cannot see or understand how the wholesalers cannot make any money unless the price is over $2.50. Wholesalers deliver magazines as a whole (in boxes) and not by single units and titles, and the average cover price of all magazines distributed (old and new) is almost $4.95. The magazine distribution channel is indeed broken, but the low-priced magazines that they are selling are not the cause of the problem. In fact if wholesalers do not want to commit suicide they need to force other publishers to lower the single copy prices of other magazines to be equal or close to that of the subscription prices. I cannot believe that they see fault with a magazine that sells at $1.99 and has almost a similar price for subscription, but they do not see fault with a magazine that sells for $5.95 on the newsstand but sells for less than 50 cents by subscription. It is a world gone mad. By the way, none of the covers shown above are from Bauer. I just wanted to show the proliferation of the low-priced magazines besides Bauer. They include respectively Meredith, HFM, Time Inc., Penny Press and Hearst. If those publishers did not see the wisdom of the low-priced single copy sales in reviving the single copy marketplace, a practice that Bauer has adopted since its inception as a company in this country in 1981, I do not know why they are doing it then! I am not going to second guess Bauer and their decision of not publishing Cocktail Weekly, but I am going to continue to give them credit for saving America’s newsstands, and the wholesalers, from a sure death. They maybe the only company that can help bring the wholesalers from the brink of death. Time for the wholesalers to hit the brakes and rethink their collective stand against the low-priced magazines. Rethink now!

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From toys to mags…is it the new convergence?

July 18, 2007

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For anyone who still doubts the future of magazines, and print in general, here are two new magazines that were launched this year celebrating toys, yes toys… Barbie and Hot Wheels. Need more proof that innovation does not have to end on a screen? Check those two new magazines and have fun girls and boys…it is a different kind of convergence, a one between print and toys and their machines…I presume! The big question of the day: What would Barbie drive? Read all about it in Hot Wheels.

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Relevant content 1843 + Relevant content 2007 = The Successful Economist… plus The Week and Time = my weekly journalistic diet

July 17, 2007

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Not Radio, not Television, not the World Wide Web, not the thousands more magazines that arrived to the marketplace since 1843, not cable or satellite has stopped the growth of The Economist magazine. Bucking all trends the magazine has been growing both in advertising revenue and circulation year after year in the North American marketplace. In fact this year’s circulation in North America is 639,000, up 12.3% vs. last year. The secret is very simple and to quote The Economist folks: “The Economist is as topical and relevant today as it was at its founding in 1843.” I agree. The Economist today (that I am sure of, the 1843 I don’t know… I was not there) is still extremely relevant and indeed necessary. Together with The Week (My Rolls Royce of the weeklies) and the new Time (My best reinvented magazine this year) those three magazines give me all I need to know about all what matters for that week. The Economist gives me the analysis with the news; The Week provides me with the skinny on everything that matters (and I mean everything) and Time provides me with two or three in-depth packages on the important issues that answer the simple question of what is in it for me? My weekly journalistic diet is complete with those three magazines. They are not only necessary but also sufficient.
On a separate note, The Economist is now printed in three locations in the United States to make the delivery of the magazine faster to the newsstands and subscribers. The latest printing location is Texas, and thus the Proudly Made in Texas cover wrap of the June 23rd issue delivered to media folks announcing the new print site.
Once again, to paraphrase President Clinton, it is the content, stupid. And relevant content is what these three magazines deliver.

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Saving Reader’s Digest…take two

July 15, 2007

As you may recall, I published a blog two days ago on Saving Reader’s Digest. I also published a response from Reader’s Digest editor in chief Jakie Leo. (See both my blog and her response here.) Two more responses on Saving Reader’s Digest follow. One is from a former employee of Reader’s Digest Association who requested, for very good reasons to withhold the name, and the comments from Bob Sacks on his blog regarding Reader’s Digest. First is the former employee of RDA and second is Bob Sack’s.

Spot on!
Your observations about Reader’s Digest are right on the screws. They tried to turn it into a women’s service magazine–but one without the physical size needed to splash the photos up big. The formulaic face of this thing carries the same shouting cover lines everyone else on the newsstand uses. And one celebrity photo, one health story, a sex story, some government scandal, maybe a big numeral played up…..They mainstreamed it, made it a “me-too” magazine, and wonder why the rate base had to fall from 12 million to 10 million to 8 million in fewer than 10 years.
Geez, it just had to be competition from the internet, not that they’ve made something that emulates everything else shouting at people from the newsstand these days.
When they dropped the rate base from 12 to 10 million, they advised the investment analysts, “We’re not in trouble, we’ve just right-sized it!” And then guaranteed that 10 million circ. for 5 years. It was all smoke and mirrors…they held that number with 4-for1 and 5-for1 gift offers among other tricks tolerated by “the new ABC”. They gave it away.
Then, when Ripplewood buys the company and there is a regime change, the number drops 20% virtually overnight. Hmmm……
DeWitt Wallace, and later, Roy Reiman, did not face some of the same pressures that plague publishers today, but they did understand one truism that still holds: If you make something absolutely unique, and focus like a laser on the reader, you will succeed. Every other publisher out there would nod in agreement and say they do just that. But they don’t. In practice, they focus on the advertiser or the shareholder first and make bad decisions because of it. And instead of listening to the reader, they myopically look at what “the competition” is doing, and say, “We can do a magazine like that, but we’ll do it our way….and do it better!”
Bunk.
That’s why everyone is aping everyone else on the newsstand.
These days we could use a lot more DeWitt Wallaces and Roy Reimans. Energetic men of humble beginnings not afraid to be different. Or to work hard themselves. Egotistical know-it-alls who do nothing but hire freelancers to do their work while they fly to conferences, network, sit in endless meetings and find other pompous ways to play business are in trouble now. And they wonder why.
It must be the evil internet…..it couldn’t be that we are making something so mundane nobody wants to read it.
–A Former Employee of RDA

Bob Sacks response to my blog follows:

BoSacks Speaks Out: I had no idea that DeWitt Wallace who conceived of Reader’s Digest was such a visionary. Please read the article below (click here to read it) and send me back your thoughts. I think that the 87 year old wisdom of DeWitt Wallace displayed below, could help save our industry today. I have been preaching for over a decade, that the path to our success will be in developing addictive content. I have my own particular definition about that, but I am in love with Mr. Wallace’s excellent interpretation. I truly wish I could have had the opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a conversation with him about the industry.
Sometimes Samir Husni and I are at very opposite ends of magazine punditry. Today we are in total agreement. I must mark that down in my calendar

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