Archive for October, 2008

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It’s the Economy, Stupid!

October 31, 2008

Ann Moore, CEO of Time Inc. is reported in Folio saying that

Time Inc.’s decision to reorganize had “nothing to do with digital and one hundred percent to do with the recession.” The reasons for Time Inc.’s reorganization, Moore said, included centralization for faster decision making; collaboration and sharing across titles; simplification to eliminate all work that doesn’t add value to Time Inc.’s editorial department or client services (“you can always add them back,” she said of cut positions); alignment of goals to reduce costs and grow revenues; and innovation, citing the company’s launch of Maghound and LIFE.com.

The prophets of doom and gloom continue to rally their forces to predict the death of print using examples of magazines either shutting down or scaling down their publishing frequency. What those prophets fail to see is that we are witnessing the worst economic crisis in our history. Banks are closing, credit lines are frozen, and investment banks are disappearing… and guess what, the web and the internet are not the reason for that… it is the economy. Why is it so hard for our prophets of doom and gloom to accept the fact that this down cycle in the magazine industry has little, if not nothing, to do with the web or the internet, but rather with the economy and the publishing model that our magazine publisher follow in this country since WWII. The advertising funded model has worked fine for years and years. It is time to change and to start to look at circulation driven models where readers and customers pay the price of the magazine without ad subsidies. The publishing model is broken, and most of the bailout plans that I have seen so far, fail short of a drastic change in the way we do business. If now is not a good time for change, I have no earthly idea when will be a good time.
On another front, it never ceases to amaze me that when I report bad news when it comes to new magazine launches, the prophets of doom and gloom directly post my blog on theirs and spread the news. When I reported last month about what a great September it was for new magazines, only one newsletter reported the story. In few days I am going to report on Oct. launches, and guess what, the numbers are up again and they will surprise you in the midst of those dreadful economic times. Don’t count on the prophets of doom and gloom to report those number either. There are still a lot of good news to read and enjoy in our magazine world. Take a look at the 3rd quarter of the new magazine launches. Relax and take a deep breath. The light at the end of the tunnel is NOT the train coming.

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McCain and Obama: From Touching Hands to Kissing… A Picture is Still Worth 1,000 Words

October 28, 2008


The cover of New York magazine sporting the two presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama relaxing on a beach and touching hands received a lot of accolades from the media world (including yours truly). Now, The Progressive magazine takes that relationship one step further and produces a poster-like cover with no type showing the two candidates kissing. The cover begs the question how far is too far? Are the presidential candidates fair game? Part of me, mainly the magazine-person in me, likes the idea of covers that stops you in your tracks, such as The Progressive cover. However, another part of me, the professor-person in me , is bothered with this cover and feels that may seem that it is intended for nothing but the shock and awe effect. However, for a magazine that is ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary, I do not think that the editors or the magazine readers are interested in the “shock and awe” effects, but rather in the magazine content and its take on the issues. The Progressive is published by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and therefore can’t endorse candidates. I don’t know if this cover reflects their attempt not to endorse a candidate directly, but rather through the cover illustration a major endorsement is made without the need for words… Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words!” Indeed it is.

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A Whole Lot of GOOD…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Max Schorr, Community Director of GOOD Magazine

October 27, 2008


GOOD is for people who give a damn. Its an entertaining magazine about things that matter.” That is the tag line that appears on every issue of GOOD magazine since its inception two years ago. Well, I have decided to talk with a person “who gives a damn and knows things that matter about GOOD.” Max Schorr, the 28-year-old C0-Founder, Publisher and now Community Director of GOOD, has seen GOOD grow from a printed magazine to a whole lot more… It is a printed magazine, a website, a weekly GOOD Sheets distributed free at Starbucks Coffee shops, a Mini GOOD magazine distributed via The New York Times, a beta new magazine GOOD Business among other things. The aforementioned communities have one thing in common: showing that people can and should give a damn. Whether it is education, politics, money, food, immigration, health GOOD has been on the forefront of the issues. Great content that is complemented by excellent design, GOOD is on a mission to change the world and Max Schorr with his co-founders and buddies of GOOD Ben Goldhirsh and Casey Caplowe is ready to do that.


I asked Max what is GOOD?

Good is a BIG idea that we became so inspired that we felt like we needed to create a platform for it and the first platform was in print. We now see Good as a collaboration of the people, businesses and non-profits pushing the world forward. We really think there is an exciting cultural moment, kind of what Wired was for technology. We see ourselves filling that role for social engagement. Whether it is an individual or a business looking to align their self-interest with a broader interest, it is just such an exciting moment. A lot is changing, but we think that this idea is really coming to the forefront, so we want to be both entertaining and relevant. We want to be both pragmatic and idealistic. We want to be local, but also global, and we want to be fun and serious and always keep a sense of humor, even when we deal with serious topics. That is a brief overview of Good.

What is the mission of Good? What are you trying to accomplish with Good?

I think the mission of Good is to move the world forward and to do as much good as possible.

Can you briefly tell me a little bit about the genesis of the idea of Good? How did the idea come into being and who was behind the idea?

When I was in college and when the other co-founders were in college, I thought that if you look around, you will see that people give a damn. They are hungry for what they can do that is both meaningful, but also can allow them to achieve success. I think there just weren’t that many opportunities to choose from. Are you going to be an investment banker or join the peace corp.? What we really wanted was a way that you could do both at the same time, and we knew a lot of other people felt this way. So, we wanted to create a platform for this. I think simultaneously that the idea of a do-gooder was something that was seen as a pejorative term. It was soft, it was naive, and it was weak. At the same time, we really wanted to make a difference in the people who we really respected and admired. They were making a difference and were doing good, so we thought there is a real perception gap here, and this needs to be re-branded as a moister, energized, clean, fun and serious thing that is not about altruism and getting people to postpone their self-interest, but a way to really align people’s self-interest with a broader interest. That was in 2004, when Ben Goldhirsh (chairman of Good and son of the late Bernard Goldhirsh founder of Inc. and Sail magazines) who was one of my best friends from high school, started a film company called Reason Pictures with the goal to use film to make the world better. The idea was to make films that were both entertaining and relevant. He called his college roommate and me up and said that he thought it would be a good idea to do a magazine called Good that was all about sensibility. We kind of knew what he was talking about; it was an idea that we had all been kicking around for a while. We were in the back room of this little office in Los Angeles and were allowed to just think big and dream what would this platform be. It has been such a thrill to see it come to life and see the idea resonate with other people; all of the amazing contributors and businesses that we have been able to partner with. It has been just a couple of years into it, but it has been an amazing experience.

What was the biggest stumbling block you faced during that process?

I think the biggest stumbling block that we faced and continue to face is how do you grow print circulation in a cost effective quality way. It is so hard. You see all of the independent titles struggling with this, and I think it is a large reason why there aren’t that many independent titles. Direct mail is obviously the way most magazines do it and have done it, and, with the internet, we thought that there has to be a better way. We looked at how expensive it was and all of our advisers, who were really smart and we really respected, basically said you have to do direct mail. I think it has been a constant challenge to figure out how to grow without really prioritizing direct mail. We came up with the Choose Good campaign, which has been really successful and has built us an incredible community of people and done so in a cost effective way while generating money for non-profits, but the challenge has been scale, so right now we are at a 75,000 rate base, and we are doing quite well on the newsstand. We are selling about 30,000 copies an issue, which is about a 45 % sell-through rate, which is all wonderful, but still we face that ongoing challenge of how do we scale this in a cost effective way.

Can you tell me more about the genesis of the Choose Good campaign?

The genesis of the Choose Good campaign (in which all the proceeds of the magazine subscriptions go to non-profit organizations of the subscriber’s choice) was that we were working with some advisers helping us figure out how to make this magazine work. Circulation was the key and direct mail was their solution and, basically, the only way to go. We outlined an acquisition cost of about $45.00 per subscriber, and, at the same time, we said we are doing six issues a year, so the most we could charge was $20.00. We were stuck. We didn’t even think that direct mail was going to get the young-minded readers that we wanted to reach, because we knew that we don’t respond to direct mail. We were thinking that it is really expensive, and we aren’t even sure if it is going to work in the way that we need it to work, so how could we use that $20.00 in a different way? It just came to us that all of these amazing non-profits inspired us, and it just came up as a crazy idea and everyone liked it, so we went live with it. I think it really helped convey this idea to people.

What do you think was the most pleasurable surprise that faced you through this process?

There are several things that have stunned me. One is when the physical issue was out there and you could see it. I was at a coffee shop the other day, and this really cool looking person was reading a copy of GOOD; It always stuns me to see a normal person reading it. Just seeing the process of it going from an idea to actually being a real thing in the world was a really moving thing for me. Going into these incredible institutions and being treated with respect and having so many wonderful organizations want to partner with us has been an incredible experience. I think that all of that has been encouraging and really exciting.

Are you now more into a community business? Tell me more about the Good community.

I think that is the key. We really think of GOOD as an idea and as a collaboration. The print form has been really amazing. We love it, and we love what we can do whether it is the magazine or print extension in The New York Times, but I think we are really excited about how we can best use this idea to connect businesses and individuals and move the world forward. I am taking on more of a role and thinking in a broader sense how that applies to print, online and in personal experiences.

Do you think that is the future of publishing?

Yeah. I am not one to necessarily predict the future, but I think that integrated media is a good thing. We are learning.


What is behind the idea of presenting information using info-graphics and charts?

That has been a really fun section in the magazine. Casey Caplowe, who is a co-founder and our creative director, has done an amazing job at coming up with this transparency stuff and design. Also, our Design Director Scott Stowell has done such incredible work for us. He is such a pleasure to work with. The two of them took this idea of how we can convey information in a really powerful way, and they go out to different design firms each time. The results have been really fun. I think we live in an information age, but there is still so much noise, and I think it is fun to take a relevant piece of information and present it in a dynamic way. I guess that is the challenge each time.

What makes you tick in the morning?

I think this has been my dream job. It has been such a wonderful opportunity to create something you believe in and work with such incredible people. I think this idea is something we believe in, and it is really, really hard to make this happen so if you stir that up, it gets me fired up in the morning. I think that and the combination that a lot of things are wrong right now and a lot of things aren’t going well — whether it is the economy, the war or the environment — there is a lot of stuff that isn’t going right, and, at the same time, there has never been more opportunity. Also there is so much talent. It is the challenge of the generation to try to do something about it.


Do you think that the magazine business in general is in trouble? Do you think we need a bailout?

I think it is going to be a period of creative destruction, and I think that innovation has to happen. I think print will always be useful for what it is, but the question is how to make that work as a business; and that is going to change. I think there is also the question of how do you reach young people through print. I think that is an ongoing question. I don’t have a bailout plan right now.

What is your view or your vision of the future for magazine publishing? Do you see GOOD in print five years from now or ten years from now?

I see us definitely doing print initiatives for a long, long, long time to come. The question is how. We want to work with our audience, advertisers and work internally to figure out the best ways to do that. I think it is exciting that a lot of the answers are still unknown.

How about the GOOD Sheets. Is it going to continue or is it just the election?

This is an eleven-week program, so after the election we are going to regroup and talk about how this went, and we hope to do more stuff like that in the future.

What advice would you give people younger than you who are in journalism schools now? Should they stay in journalism? What should they know to be prepared to be where you are now?

Can you find a way to do what you love more than anything else? Is this what you love to do? I think if you do that then it is going to work out. If they actually wanted to start a magazine then go to a local paper. If they are on the editorial side, then do the best editorial work in the world. There will always be a space for the best content creators. If they want to create their own magazine, I think it would be foolish to not look online before you look in print. You can do print in a really local, simple way and scale it up, but I would try to be profitable as soon as possible. If we were to do it again, I would have more energy going online before throwing so much energy in print. I just think the joy in life is doing what you love to do. Journalism is so needed right now.

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Greece adds Your… and Yet Another Reader-Generated Magazine is Born

October 24, 2008


Reader-generated content is becoming something of the present. Before the web (BTW) magazines like Country and Taste of Home depended on the postal service to deliver bags of mail to create the reader- generated content that was the corner stone of the Reiman Publications’ empire before selling it to Reader’s Digest Association. After the web (ATW) JPG magazine and its publishing company 8020 pioneered the use of the internet to create printed reader-generated content magazines. Budget Travel magazine and This Old House both created magazines written completely by readers. In fact This Old House altered the name of the magazine to Your Old House to reflect the nature of the content.

Now in this ATW age, comes Greece magazine from the United Kingdom. Merricks Media’s John Weir tells me that the November issue of Greece magazine will be their first reader-generated issue and they too altered the name of the magazine from Greece to Your Greece.

I asked John about this ATW experiment with Greece magazine and the input he received from the readers.

He responded, “We had more than 500 entries to the reader issue. The really pleasing thing is the quality of both written submissions and picture entries -in many cases the quality and selection of pictures were better than the photo libraries!!”

And as to who had the final say in the selections of the articles and pictures, John said, “The editor and the editorial team did the selection of both articles and pictures and then contacted the readers who were successful in submitting the material.”

As for the major benefit from this experiment John told me that “In all cases, the major benefit to the magazine was the detail on the “undiscovered” Greece – all the tavernas, restaurants, tourist sights and antiquities that are both off the beaten track and real finds for tourists. They are exactly the sorts of things that one journalist cannot find but that thousands of readers can.”

Will he do it again? “We’ll definitely do it again – already we’ve seen a 30% rise in subscription applications and the emails have started coming asking when the next issue containing reader content will be put together,” he said.

John added, “If anything, it has exceeded expectations, and has encouraged us to get a more regular conversation going with readers.”
http://www.merricksmedia.co.uk

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“Change (in Rolling Stone) You Can Believe In”

October 20, 2008


“Like the man we are featuring on the cover for the third time in seven months — a record equaled only by John Lennon — we embrace the idea of change.” Thus starts Jann Wenner’s introduction to the newly redesigned and re-sized Rolling Stone magazine. Sporting a tightly close-up, and as far as I can tell un-retouched photo of Barack Obama (See Newsweek’s Sarah Palin’s Cover Photo here if you don’t get when I mean), Wenner the magazine founder, editor and publisher introduces the magazine that started in 1967 as a “tabloid-size newspaper.”

For those who are not familiar with the history of Rolling Stone, Mr. Wenner takes them through a trip down memory lane. From the 24-page newspaper black and white tabloid, to the 1973 four-color printing, to the 1981 “big step when we essentially became a hybrid of a newspaper and a magazine.” For the 21st Century Rolling Stone offers its readers (all 13 million of them according to Mr. Wenner) change that is “not change for the sake of change, but change as the kind of cultural renaissance that gave birth to Rolling Stone more than four decades ago.”

Wenner ends his intro writing, “Of course, what never changes is our DNA. A great magazine is a set of voices and values, artfully and urgently translated into great stories and great pictures. The soul and mission of Rolling Stone remain the same as a magazine coming from midtown Manhattan as they were when we were a rock & roll newspaper published from a warehouse-district loft in San Francisco…”

The success of Rolling Stone is totally embodied with that last paragraph from Wenner’s Editor’s Note. Not too many magazines can claim that they have been true to their DNA, soul and mission through the years. Even when the magazine deviated from its original mission and soul, ever so briefly, Jann Wenner was able to navigate the ship back to its course. A job well done. This issue is a keeper whether you paid $4.50 on the newsstands or a mere 33 cents by subscription. A great example of how change can be executed without messing up with the DNA and soul of your publication. Whoever coined the phrase “size does not matter” was absolutely right when in comes to the new standard size of Rolling Stone. The only thing that matters now is that the magazine feels, forget about feels, it actually has, more pages and more “good” stuff that I can only hope that I will have the time to read every other week. To quote Graydon Carter editor of Vanity Fair at last week’s TimeWarner Summit Politics 2008, “We carve out our ground and try to tell great stories and have great pictures, which is something you can’t get on the internet.” I know he was not talking about Rolling Stone, but about his magazine Vanity Fair, yet I feel what he said is even more applicable to Rolling Stone. Thank you Jann Wenner for the change in Rolling Stone that we can believe in.

Click here to read more about Rolling Stone and good journalism.

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Bloom in the Midst of Gloom… The 3rd Quarter New Magazine Launches Report

October 16, 2008

I am sure that we all need a touch of bloom in the midst of all the doom and gloom economic climate we are witnessing these days. So, without further due, here is some good news. The number of new magazine launches for the third quarter of 2008 exceeded that of the similar period of 2007 by 29 magazines. For the first time this year, the new magazine launches reversed the huge downturn trend that started with the third quarter of 2007 and continued throughout the first half of 2008. Read the first half report here.


Motorpsycho, LA and Beach Blvd. Bride are but three out of the 155 new titles that were launched in the third quarter of 08 compared with 126 in the same period of 07. There were at least 462 new titles launched so far this year compared to 480 in the same period of 07, thus closing the wide gap between 07 and 08 to a mere 22 titles less this year. However, if the fourth quarter continues to reflect the third quarter numbers, we are on the road to witness more magazine launches this year than the year before.

And for the prophets of doom and gloom, here is more good news from the third quarter of 2008. A total of 51 magazines were launched with a frequency of four times or more in the third quarter compared with 43 last year. An increase of 8 new titles. It never fails to remind folks all the time not to write-off the launches of new magazines from the media landscape. Every new magazine published is a new media by itself. Check all the titles published throughout this year here and be your own judge on how healthy our magazine industry is.

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It Is Not The Picture, Stupid!

October 10, 2008


Much has been said about the picture of Sarah Palin on the cover of this week’s issue of Newsweek. I was interviewed yesterday by Joe Mathieu’s Press Pool program on XM Satellite Radio’s political channel about this issue, which by the way, is all over the media channels. I told Joe that the funny thing about our business is that we are “damned if we retouch a picture, and we are damned if we don’t.” You all recall the trouble TIME magazine got into when they retouched O J Simpson’s picture for their cover back in the mid 90s. Yes, it is a fact that we use Photoshop and retouching on a lot of pictures in fashion magazines, men’s magazines, teen magazines, etc., but when it comes to news magazines that is when I draw the line. If we retouch or alter a picture, we owe it to our readers to tell them that this is a photo illustration.
Well, back to the issue at hand. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with Sarah Palin’s picture on the cover of Newsweek. It is in line with some other covers that Newsweek has been producing lately using tight cropping of the images on the cover. However, two things most media pundits have ignored and not commented on: The first is that the newsstand edition of Newsweek had an additional cover flap that covered half of Sarah Palin’s face and focused the attention more on How to Fix Capitalism, thus reducing the IN YOUR FACE impact of the cover image. The second issue, and this in fact is the main one, is the cover line and the byline on the cover. The cover lines present a statement (She’s One of The Folks) and a response to the statement (And that’s the problem) and the byline is that of Newsweek’s editor Jon Meacham. In the newspaper world they call that an editorial and not a cover story or an article. What happened to the days where columnists used to editorialize and editors used to present a fair and balanced (in other words, non-biased views) of things to their readers? I know we all have our biases, but the so-called newsweeklies have always separated between the news articles and the opinions, until today… and that, my friends is the main problem. It is not the picture stupid, it is the content that is the main problem.

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Newsstands should not be used as a “promotional tool…”

October 7, 2008

I could lie and say that I was surprised by a comment from John Loughlin, executive vp, general manager, Hearst Magazines at the current American Magazine Conference in San Francisco. Media week reported that Loughlin “said that if the current trends continue, magazines could be facing a time when instead of 1,000 titles, 200 or fewer are on display in stores, depriving the industry of critical promotional opportunities. The situation, he said, speaking on a panel, “is unfortunately incredibly fragile.”‘

To me, that is the heart of the single copy distribution problem in this country. The majority of magazine companies in recent years started to treat the newsstands as anything but a source of revenue. Even when Bauer Publishing reinvented the use of the single copy sales by introducing the right-priced publications, Bauer was faced by “the forces of the industry” to back off their right-priced magazines.

I just wished that our magazine industry leaders will wake up one day and start talking solutions rather than doom and gloom and predictions that will continue to add to the ills of the industry. Yes, the situation maybe dire out there, but if the leaders are going to join the “slugfest” who is going to offer the solutions?

I invite our industry leaders to go and visit some of the newsstands in Germany, Holland, Finland, Estonia, Japan, the United Kingdom just to name a few and try to count the number of magazines being distributed there on the newsstands. Count the numbers, check the prices and the use of the newsstands to promote the sale of the copies on the stands. Our efforts should focus on ways, prices, etc. to move magazines on the newsstands and not the opposite. I am sure that many of our industry leaders still recall the days when magazines such as Family Circle, Woman’s Day and Cosmopolitan were sold only at the newsstands. Subscriptions to the aforementioned magazines cost more than buying them on the newsstands. Those were the days when the newsstands were a good source of revenue, and not just a “promotional” tool to show off your magazine to the 50+ customers who reside on Madison Ave. rather than the 1,000,000 customers who reside across this great country of ours.
To sample some of the industry bailout programs click here and here.

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The Mr. Magazine™ Interview: Mitchell Fox, President and CEO of 8020 Media…

October 5, 2008

Cats Must Fail… and Other Words of Wisdom from Mitch Fox


Mitch Fox, President and CEO of 8020 Media

“There is a philosophical disconnect between most bloggers and a print vehicle”

From retail to Details, from Details to Vanity Fair up the ladder of Condé Nast publishing and then out, Mitch Fox continues to do his dream job of “building businesses and making them grow.” The former Condé Nast executive is now the President and CEO of an entrepreneurial company based in San Francisco called 8020 Media publisher of JPG magazine. He moved to San Francisco earlier this year to join the company that his old friend C/Net founder Halsey Minor has invested in.

The move from the east coast to the west coast was the subject of my first question:

How is life in San Francisco, I asked.

It is quite good. The media community up here in general is such a departure from the New York culture. The media community in New York is best typified by a cartoon that ran in the New Yorker of two dogs sitting in a bar in suits drinking martinis and one dog says to the other, “it is not enough that dogs succeed, but cats must fail.” That is exactly how the media business, particularly the magazine business in New York, is. Out here, it is not quite like that. Maybe, it is because it is an expanding pie. Here partnerships between what most would consider competitors are common place. Advice and recommendations are shared pretty openly, although no one is about to reveal their secrets, but, at least, they communicate in a civil way. If one person goes from one company to another, typically, the executive will call me and say you have got a great person. It is just a whole different culture.

How is it different to go from being part of a media giant to creating what may possibly be the genes of a media giant from scratch?

The difference is that in a big company you have more resources just by virtue of having more people to consult with. I like consulting with people. But, in a smaller company, you can be much more nimble. You can be much more creative, and there is no politics. When we make a decision to do something as the small management team here, we don’t have to worry about anybody else approving, agreeing or doing anything to undermine our success internally. We can focus 100 percent of our efforts on simply making sure that our decisions are successful ones.

Are magazine companies oversized? Did we super-sized our staff to the point of no return? Can we still hire editors and publishers in the same way that we used to hire them in the good old days?

I think that, because business was so good for so long, magazine companies’ overhead became inflated past a point that is reasonable. The expenses associated with those enormous staffs, just the shear operational expenses, have become so inflated that it is extremely difficult to be profitable.

However, I don’t think we have gotten ourselves to the point where it is too expensive to hire editors and publishers. I think what we do is expect too little of them relative to their contributions to producing the magazines.

What are the strategies and plans that you have for 8020 Media? Where do you see them going?

When I first learned about this company, I guess it was in October of 2006 right after they started, and it was from my old friend who had invested in the company. My plan for the company is relatively self-evident, especially after ceasing publication of Everywhere magazine although we keep the website going. It is to build a platform that will permit us to create communities around vertical interests and have those communities contribute content that other members can vote on, determine what the best of it is and, when we pull off that best content that the community determines, create stunningly beautiful magazines from that content. With the platform being finally developed at JPG where we can now replicate it, we are about to announce our next properties, which we can now turn out fairly quickly one after the other, because really our greatest skill, in addition to creating beautiful magazines, is community management. Growing, developing and nurturing communities are what we spend an immense amount of our time on.

So, will there be more print products, or will there be just communities online like Everywhere?

Everywhere is an anomaly because we have a pretty small online community and it never made itself into a really good magazine. We will never again have a community that does not launch or spawn a magazine. The wonderful part about the magazines is that it is a terrific reward for those people who contribute online, because it is still a rare opportunity to have your contribution and your work published in any nationally or internationally published magazine. That is a very exciting prospect for most people. Consequently, the magazine has such great tactile value. There is something about magazines and the ability they have in peoples’ lives. It is very exciting for people to be able to say they have been published. We will always have a magazine that is the result of a community’s efforts, and the next business unit, which we are planning to announce probably in two weeks, will similarly have a big magazine component to it.

The community seems to be your magnet, but what about this business philosophy? What is your plan of linking the pixels on the screen with the ink on paper? Can you expand a little on that relationship?

It is easy, because our community members interact with each other relative to the content that they have contributed and the content that their peers have contributed. We have this notion of self interest that all of the members have in playing this “game” to get themselves voted highly enough to become part of this fantastic end product, which is the magazine. The magazine is sold at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters, and really becomes a touchstone that all the members want to be a part of. Like I said, it is a very exciting notion for advanced amateurs of any kind to be able to be published in this beautiful magazine.

You make it seem so easy. Why don’t other people turn their blogs and communities into print publications?

I think there is a philosophical disconnect between most bloggers and a print vehicle. There is a very high cost associated with producing a magazine. There is also a very high barrier of professional expertise needed to produce a magazine. Consequently, it is a lot more complicated to produce a magazine than it is to produce a blog. It is infinitely more complicated to produce a good magazine, distribute it, and sell it, than it is to just get a blog up and running.

Would you please explain the name of the company 8020.

Truth be told, it changes periodically, depending on what we are discussing, because some might say that 80 percent of the content comes from the community, and 20 percent of the content is created by the editors. That is probably the best explanation, because editors play a significant role in the magazines in that they do have about 20 percent control relative to community involvement. They create the narrative for the magazines. If a photo or a story comes in too close to the deadline, and, as a result, could not garner enough votes to really earn its way in, but we love it and want to publish it, then we will pull it and publish it.

Since you joined 8020, what would you consider the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome?

I would say the biggest hurdle was sharing the understanding that we have to create a single platform from which we can launch other titles. When I joined, Everywhere was on a completely separate platform. That is it was like starting a completely separate business that ran parallel to JPG. The first thing that was important was to share the broader vision of having a platform that is replicable across other business units, so that we could create other communities and ultimately publish other magazines.

What was the most pleasurable surprise that faced you?

I am in San Francisco, so I am just delighted that the media community out here, especially within my own company, are so ambitious, driven and success oriented, but not focused in any way on politics and failure of competitors.

What makes you tick? What makes you get out of bed in the morning and say like wow?

My background is not really from the magazine business per se. I worked in retail marketing for many years, and I was a client for those years, so I like to build business and watch them grow and succeed. Growing and developing a business is really what I love the most.
This is to me the most fantastic job I could have ever dreamed of, because I get so much pleasure out of developing and growing a business. In this case, I am able to apply so much of the thinking and ambition that I held out for larger magazine companies. Larger magazine companies could benefit by what we are doing, but it would be very difficult for them to change their own self-perception to be able to take that action.

Do you think the magazine business in general is in trouble? Do you think we need to bailout?

I think that the magazine business will always exist. However, it will very shortly exist in a much smaller version. The magazine industry has to be prepared for that. I think that what we do here relative to magazines is something that big magazine companies could learn a lot from. They could build more sustainability into their businesses if they could integrate some of the community actions that we have done here. I don’t think any big magazine company is ready to do that, because it would mean that editors have to yield space in the magazine to readers and the voice of readers would become more prominent. I don’t think traditional editors are prepared for that.

What is your view or vision of future magazine publishing in the United States?

I think that it will be a somewhat smaller business than what it is now, and there will be some of those magazines that have made a terrific link between the digital platforms and the print platforms. If they make that link effectively, they can have a very exciting business. They can’t have one succeed and the other fail. They both have to be successful. While we have some magazines today that have terrific digital platforms, their magazine side is in a decline. That is not good. Also, there are so many magazines that have no digital presence of any form or of any consequence, but their print business, all be it down, still throws off a profit that is enough for the magazine company to retain the legacy that those titles hold. They are ultimately going to have to let go of that legacy if they want to reinvent themselves.

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The Insane Bailout Plan of the Failing Magazine Circulation Crisis…

October 2, 2008

Followers of my blog will recall my stand on the crazy subscription prices for magazines. For years I have been advocating charging the right price for the right magazine both on the newsstands and by subscription. Our industry is going insane and the offers magazines are making to prospective subscribers show once again that the big magazines, and some smaller magazines, are more than willing and ready to give their magazines away for free.
I read with interest today the report from Europe on the fate of the free-distributed newspapers. I hope they are wrong, but every time you are willing to give your content for free, my experience and my gut-feeling tell me that you will succeed in the beginning than you will hit ground zero. I wrote a book called Selling Content that focused mainly on the art of packaging your magazine so it will sell. Yes SELL and not give away.
So, why do magazines continue taking this suicide route of giving their publications away for free. This week I picked up two magazines and was surprised by their bail out packages to salvage their subscription numbers and get more of what I call “counting customers instead of finding customers who count.” Inside the October issue of Reader’s Digest a subscription card inviting you to fill in the information to receive 12 more issues of the magazine for free just because you paid $3.99 to buy the magazine on the newsstand. So for a mere $3.99 you now receive 13 issues of the mass circulating Reader’s Digest.
The same is true with the ultra specialized Sporting Classics magazine that has a skyline cover line screaming the fact that “Buy this magazine and get 2 issues free!!!” That is half-a-year subscription for the price of one issue you pay at the newsstand.
If that is not an insane bailout plan, I do not know what is the definition of insane! I doubt that any of the aforementioned issues will be discussed at the Magazine Publishers of America’s American Magazine Conference in San Fransisco next week, but I am sure that the organizers and attendees are going to have a great time. I doubt that there will be a vote on a bailout plan for the magazine circulation crisis. Stay tuned, they may surprise us!

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