Traveling through-out Europe last week, I came back with tens of newspapers and magazines celebrating the inauguration of President Obama. It was a complete celebration. You would have thought that President Obama has been elected president in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Spain, and even as far as Finland. However, one magazine stopped me in my tracks: the Italian newsweekly Panorama. Their cover read George W. Obama and the picture is one of the best photo-shopped images that I have witnessed on a magazine cover in a long time. Judge it for yourself and let me know whether you agree with me or not. It pays to be different (sometimes)…
Archive for January, 2009
I will leave it up to other media reporters and critics to report the bad news of our industry. As for me, I will continue to be the bearer of good news, and talking of good news I am glad to report that the number of new magazines launched in 2008 has exceeded that of 2007 by two titles. Our final tally of new magazine launches reveal that in 2008 a total of 715 new magazines were launched compared with 713 in 2007. Of note is that this number exceeds all predictions (including mine) that the number of new launches in 2008 will be down. Of more interest is the number of new launches 20 years ago totaled 491 new magazines. Of course, for those of us with short memories, there was no internet in 1988.
While the number of magazines published with a 4X frequency or more continues to witness declines in the last few years, the number of annuals and specials are on an increase. Publishers are finding solace in all those book-a-zines in which the cover price ranges from $9.95 to $14.95. Even the annuals have taken a back seat to all those specials that have no frequency commitment (lovingly referred to in our industry as one-shots).
The chart below illustrates the breakdown of titles in 1988, 2007 and 2008.
For those who need the exact breakdown, here are the numbers for 1988, 2007 and 2008:
Annual: 157, 21, 22
4x or more: 290, 243, 217
Special: 44, 422, 456
Total: 491, 713 , 715
And if that is not enough to give you some hope, take a look at the chart below to see the number of new magazine launches during the last 20 years and how did we fare in this business.
So, the next time you hear or read about yet one more magazine beating the dust, just in keep in mind that it is not all bad out there. It is just so hard when the times are tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can only see the train coming. I hope the charts above will act as a reminder that it is much better to “light a candle rather than curse the dark.”
In the ever going attempt to keep the single copy sales mechanism afloat, Anderson News announced two weeks ago their intend to charge magazine publishers 7 cents for every magazine distributed. I have been watching the debate between magazine publishers and their distributors for years now, and I find it amazing that after years of silence on behalf of the distributors the mode have changed. Distributors are now breaking that code of silence that engulfed the industry for years and starting to communicate with the media.
What follows is the introduction from an e mail that Anderson News sent earlier today:
US Magazine Industry Risks Circulation Meltdown
Clearing up 10 misconceptions about the Anderson plan could avert severe disruption
To continue distribution of magazine copies after February 1, 2009, Anderson News has
announced that it requires $.07/copy in excess of its current discount and reimbursement of its
scanned based trading (SBT) customer inventory costs…
The ten misconceptions that Anderson’s press release discusses are:
1. Anderson’s proposal will cost publishers over $1 billion.
2. Anderson wants to exit the business.
3. Publishers can use the US Postal service to deliver and sell magazines to retailers.
4. Anderson should get its fees by lowering retail discounts.
5. Retail discounts are too high and should be reduced.
6. National distributions have a solution to the wholesalers’ financial challenges.
7. Anderson’s exit will serve the best interests of publishers and retailers alike.
8. Anderson is more expensive than the non-service or “direct” wholesale model.
9. Anderson’s competitors can absorb its business.
10. Anderson has made proposals like this in the past and is bluffing today.
Anderson News had one answer to all of the above so-called misconceptions. False.
For those of you who are interested in the details of this matter, here is the entire release from Anderson News: (Be warned, it is lengthy…)
US Magazine Industry Risks Circulation Meltdown
Clearing up 10 misconceptions about the Anderson plan could avert severe disruption
To continue distribution of magazine copies after February 1, 2009, Anderson News has
announced that it requires $.07/copy in excess of its current discount and reimbursement of its
scanned based trading (SBT) customer inventory costs.
Anderson’s proposal may be viewed as a temporary or “stop gap” measure designed to create
immediate stability, ensuring distribution of magazines to a competitive marketplace. Once
Anderson has eliminated its operating losses, it welcomes alternative longer-term compensation
strategies and solutions.
Since Anderson’s announcement there have been several articles written on the subject. Also,
Anderson News has had a number of conversations with its retail customers, national distributors
and publishers and found a number of misconceptions and misstatements about our proposal and
about our business in general. A discussion of ten of these misconceptions follows:
1. Anderson’s proposal will cost publishers over $1 billion. False. The application of $.07
per copy to the 2.184 billion annual copies distributed through full service wholesalers results in
an aggregate gross cost to all publishers of $152 million, not $1 billion. Over the past ten years
wholesaler gross profits have not kept pace with inflation as measured by the CPI. The $.07 fee
will quickly restore stability to our business by eliminating our operating losses. The fee will
also act as an incentive to eliminate waste represented by print order copies that exceed retail
display capacities. Obviously, copies that will not fit on retail display fixtures have no hope of
sale. Eliminating this waste would reduce print orders, saving publishers print, paper and
distribution costs. Indeed if selling efficiency of single copy magazines increased from the
current 35% to 41%, the aggregate publisher PP&D cost savings exceeds the proposed fees.
2. Anderson wants to exit the business. False. Anderson wants a viable, profitable business. It
is no longer willing to absorb losses. Anderson News’ magazine sales in 2008 were about $760
million, and it reported a net loss of over $20 million. Its projections show that the $.07 fee
after allowance for reduced print runs will reverse the Anderson losses. Going forward,
Anderson projects that its net operating margin to be less than 2% of sales.
3. Publishers can use the US Postal service to deliver and sell magazines to retailers. False.
The postal service can make deliveries to storefronts, but store delivery is just a part of wholesale
services. Anderson aggregates and coordinates product, service and information for retailers
and publishers. Imagine the chaos of multiple deliveries to retailers. Anderson gets all
publications to storefronts in one delivery. Anderson creates weekly orders for each storefront
from its massive data files, delivers and checks-in each order (which is needed for payment and
to maintain retail “item” files that track retail transactions), and merchandises the copies by
placing new publications on display and by removing unsold copies for processing and
destruction. Anderson also monitors and updates retailer POS systems. The cost sharing
routines of Anderson are effective. For little more than half the cost of one $.42 first class
stamp, Anderson does much more than the post office. Anderson adds value to the single copy
channel. Publishers have sold direct to retailers, and the results were a disaster for the both the
retailer and publisher. Publications failed to get timely display and retail shortages,
discrepancies and payment problems were common.
4. Anderson should get its fees by lowering retail discounts. False. Anderson operates in a
highly competitive marketplace. If Anderson reduces its retailer discounts, it loses business.
Maintaining sales is important to the density and effectiveness of its delivery routes. Anderson
has met the higher discounts of its competition only when necessary to maintain its sales volume
and protect its route density. Anderson has lost business when the competitive bids were too
5. Retail discounts are too high and should be reduced. False. The single copy magazine
category is mature and has experienced sales declines over the past decade. The category
competes at retail for display space with hundreds of other items. The magazine category is
being deemphasized by retailers as it fails to deliver sales growth. Many examples exist where
key retailers have reduced the category’s display space or moved displays outside of higher
traffic areas. If retail margins are reduced or costs otherwise increased for retailers, display space
for the magazine category will further decline.
6. National distributions have a solution to the wholesalers’ financial challenges. False. The
national distributors have known of the channel’s failed economic model for over a decade.
Rather than address the challenges through innovative change and leadership, national
distributors did little except protect their own financial interests by rewriting their client
agreements to pass financial risk and costs through to publishers. National distributors inhibited
Anderson’s efforts to hold substantive discussions with their client publishers and to institute
meaningful change. National distributors could have been working with their client publishers to
rationalize all discounts relative to their underlying distribution costs. They could have removed
the “free rider” title subsidies associated with certain large publication (most notably found with
certain lower cover price weekly publications). National distributors could have eliminated
discriminatory pricing practices of client publishers that have fueled retail demands by national
retail chains. Also, they could have limited print orders to balance production with retail display
capacities. National distributors are uniquely positioned to change the compensation strategies
of its clients’ distribution channel. The current compensation structure contains no cost based
fee element. (Incorporation of such fees results in strong incentives for efficient behavior and
discourages waste and inefficiency, eliminating substantial costs for all parties.) Anderson is
compensated purely based upon a percentage of sales. Given the mature nature of the industry,
this compensation model is broken. Intermediaries like wholesalers should be paid for the value
added activities they perform. The current compensation model simply has not kept up with the
increasing costs to pick, pack, deliver, merchandise, and return magazines. Rather than acting,
national distributors have waited until the need to act has become dire and the potential
consequences of inaction catastrophic. To date, national distributors’ have responded to
Anderson’s proposal with calls for “business as usual”, reflecting that that they are part of the
problem and not the solution.
7. Anderson’s exit will serve the best interests of publishers and retailers alike. False. When
Anderson announced its proposal, one national distributor executive reportedly commented that
another wholesaler would take Anderson business. Without meaningful change, why would
another wholesaler want more unprofitable business? The obvious answer is that profits can be
restored when competition in a market is eliminated. Reduced competition will hurt publishers
and retailers alike. When competition is eliminated without regulatory oversight all parties lose.
Competition is the driving force to innovation and efficiency. Without competition, retailers and
publishers risk their existing discounts and the category will lose its relevancy to retailers.
Display space will be lost to competing consumer products. Even though the category needs
competition, certain national distributors are recommending the implementation of distribution
plans to the marketplace that are premised on the elimination of “choice” and competition. Why
would publishers put so much at risk when acceptance of Anderson’s proposal entails a
manageable cost and flexibility for the future?
8. Anderson is more expensive than the non-service or “direct” wholesale model. False. The
“direct” wholesalers are paid “reship” or freight allowances, given RDA through a base discount,
and enjoy other favorable terms and conditions. For some publishers these allowances represent
more than Anderson’s $.07 fee proposal and are currently paid to competitors that typically do
not perform in-store service. Publishers pay more and get less when they sell copies to non-
service distributors. These practices are nonsensical and may violate fair trade laws and
regulations that prohibit discriminatory pricing. It is wrong to give better terms and conditions to
some wholesalers than others. Anderson’s in-store service model costs publishers less and
provides them greater value through its in-store merchandising services. Further, its proposed
fee narrows the existing compensation gap with competing “direct’ wholesalers.
9. Anderson’s competitors can absorb its business. False. Anderson’s key competitors have
acknowledged operating losses. One competitor, Source Interlink, is a public company. On
December 10, 2008 Source Interlink reported massive net losses for the nine months ended
October 31, and its balance sheet reflected liabilities that exceeded tangible assets by nearly $1.4
billion. To absorb Anderson’s business, competitors (including Source Interlink) will have to
purchase over $70 million of inventory that Anderson owns and that is located in the stores of
some of Anderson’s largest retail customers. Otherwise, retail sales will suffer if Anderson is
forced to reclaim its retail inventories for its secured lenders. Anderson’s competitors will incur
substantial costs to replicate Anderson’s distribution network that crosses the United States. The
requisite capital investment together with the expense to hire and adequately train several
thousand associates is prohibitive. The aggregate costs to Anderson’s exit are staggering. How
can Anderson’s competitors that have each acknowledged operating at a loss afford such costs?
They cannot. Further, how much will be lost in magazine sales during a chaotic transition?
10. Anderson has made proposals like this in the past and is bluffing today. False. Anderson
has proposed changes to address serious problems within the single copy distribution channel on
numerous occasions. Those efforts elicited such limited action and change by publishers and
national distributors that Anderson is forced to take urgent action on its own. Anderson’s
contingency plans include meeting with its retail customers to discuss how retailers might
directly buy certain nonparticipating titles. Anderson wants to stay in business with the same
publishers and retailers that it has served for decades.
Killing the messenger is not a solution. Creating stability is the prudent solution.
Innovation seems to be the topic of the moment. Bright spots in the midst of all the dark clouds surrounding our industry are starting to surface. One such bright spot is a new magazine that was launched last July: Design Mind. Today the second issue is out. What follows are two clips from the magazine’s press release and an in-depth interview I have conducted with Sam Martin, Design Mind editor-in-chief.
Design Mind in their own words:
“By reading design mind, business leaders and design professionals gain ideas and insights into everything from social innovation and design research to technology news and management techniques,” said Sam Martin, editor-in-chief of design mind. “Following the successful launch of our first print issue, we’ve taken the magazine to a new level, designing it so that our readers can easily engage with frog’s leading thinkers.”
Written by frog designers, technologists, and strategists, design mind articles provide the design and innovation community with perspectives on industry trends, emerging technologies, and global consumer culture. The magazine is published three times per year and features interviews with high-profile thought leaders along with contributions from external writers, designers, and photographers.
My Interview with Sam Martin, Design Mind’s Editor-in-Chief
When the first issue arrived in my office I was stunned by an elegant personalized hand-written note from the editor-in-chief. It was something I have not seen in ages. The handwritten note and the magazine were reason enough for me to get in touch with Mr. Martin and ask him a series of questions. Whose behind Design Mind? What does it offer? Why in print? Is there a future for print? These questions and more were answered by the magazine’s editor-in-chief Sam Martin. I asked Mr. Martin What is Design Mind?
Design Mind publishes articles that comment on the intersection of technology, business, and culture. A lot of what informs this intersection is design, so we sort of look at culture, business, and technology through the lens of design.
This is the product Frog Design, Inc. Can you give us a little background? What is the link between the two?
Yes, there is definitely a link. That is, it is published by Frog Design and is part of the Frog marketing platform. It is a custom publication. However, we are very much looking for a journalistic voice here and some really objective commentary. We consider it a thought leadership effort at picking out trends that are building, looking at the fringe of what is happening in culture and business and where things might be headed. Frog is what we call a global innovation firm. We’re going to have our 40th anniversary as a company next year.
We were started in Germany by a well-known German product designer named Hartmut Esslinger. Hartmut worked for Sony in the seventies. His big break was being hired by Steve Jobs at Apple in the early eighties where he helped design and actually came up with the design language for the Apple 2C computer, which is called the Snow White computer language. It was a big break that came with a lot of attention. That’s when Hartmut and the whole team moved to California.
Over the years, we have taken on a lot more. We get a lot of product design. We also moved into sort of visual design, designing user interfaces in cell phones, web sites, and other kinds of digital software and that sort of thing. After all of this, we’ve now become design consultants, where we give largely global Fortune 500 companies advice on product strategy and that sort of thing. So, Frog is the reason behind the magazine, but it’s also its own brand.
Which brings me to my next question: why a magazine? Are magazines still matter? Does print still matter in your business?
Yes. I think print does matter. I don’t think print is dead, as has been the contention for so many years. I think that this is because print has a longevity that’s not available by digital means. Now, I do think that print is being redefined. We think it’s a good idea because we can target our audience, almost hyper-targeting. We do a small print run at 5000 copies an issue. And we have the ability to partner with other media groups or with conferences like Poptech. We think that the value that it gives our clients as a piece of marketing material is second to none. In fact, there are statistics that show that business executives still read print. It’s almost a 2:1 margin in print versus web reading. While my opinion is that news and print aren’t necessarily compatible, I think print offers much more memorable long term and valuable outlet for information. It’s something you want to keep around. It’s the tactile feel that people really enjoy, and, from a marketing prospective, it’s also a little bit of a surprise. We got a lot of media attention because of it. Why are you doing print? And for us, it’s actually working quite well. It’s doing what we need it to do, which is drumming up some PR. It’s an excellent outlet for the people that work in our company. We have over 400 people worldwide working at Frog, the kind of people that always have great ideas. They’re looking for outlets, and this a great place for them to show their ideas off.
So, what is your publishing model that you are following with Design Mind?
That’s an interesting question. We have to figure out a different way to use print, and I think that might be what you’re getting. The fact that it is significant that this magazine is being published by Frog Design Company, using a marketing budget. I think it speaks to sort of the splintering of news. It’s commensurate with what’s happening with this world. This long tailing of fact where you’ve got lots of small businesses or many voices as opposed to one voice. Because we produced it from the inside looking out, it worked. It wouldn’t work if we did it as if we were talking at people, even overly pushing the fact that it comes from Frog Design or tried to sell our brand. This really is about talking about relevant ideas and exploring trends. It just happens to be sponsored by Frog Design. It works for the reader and the publisher in that regard.
Why themed issues? First it was Numbers, now Motion….
Well, the themes that we choose are largely based around the areas in the industries that we’re playing in, we want to play in, or we want to get involved with. They are very, very loosely interpreted.
On Motion, Frog does a lot of work in the mobile industry. We also do a lot of work in the health care industry. So, we thought motion could encompass both of those things. There is also stuff on the entertainment industry, so we could talk about moving pictures on a very basic level. There’s also going to be an article on ADHD, because children with ADHD are often described as being in perpetual motion. The mobile industry and the movement of digital media and social media is also gonna be part of the next issue. So, we choose the things because we think they’re interesting. They’re focused on the industries that we deal with.
One of the things in the magazine that has received a lot of high accolades is terms of the design in terms of the presentation, and if we look at the name, Design Mind, how do we create a name for a magazine? Where did the name Design Mind come from?
I think a lot goes into a name of a magazine. Design Mind, for us, speaks to our background as designers. That is the reason why we’re in existence. That is the lens through which we look at all of our dealings, so design had to be in the title somewhere. Design Mind really speaks to the fact that we want this to be a thought leadership publication. We wanted to let people know that if you’re reading this magazine, you’re reading our minds. You’re seeing what’s going on behind the scenes. You can have a better understanding of how designers think, and how we are applying design to lots of different problems going on. I think that’s the key. Design has changed so much over the years. What we’re talking about with the magazine is how design can be applied to various problems be they social, how you use a product, how you approach a life situation, how you organize information, how you get to the doctors, how you measure your health, how you watch media or how you connect with other people. Design isn’t just graphic design. It’s not just product design. It’s really kind of a solution-based issue.
What makes Sam Martin tick?
I’m in a unique position here. My background is in journalism. I was an editor at This Old House Magazine for a number of years and before that Mother Earth News. I’ve written a number of nonfiction books, so coming into a company working for a marketing team is a little bit of a change of pace for me. Doing a custom publication has a lot of freedom. Handwriting a note is part of that customization. It’s part of being able to be personal with my audience. I think that is lost sometimes in digital. I think print is very personal because it’s so tactile. It even has a smell to it. I also think that’s very much what this company’s all about. We work with some of the largest companies in the world on many different continents, but we’re small, and we we’re able to give personalized attention to each of our clients. It’s just a culture here, and, for me, it’s important as a writer. You always want to know that you can reach out and influence somebody with your writing and I guess that’s why I sent the handwritten note.
Do you consider yourself a writer or designer or both or can you separate between the two?
I definitely consider myself a writer wearing an editor’s hat right now. Design is something that, I specialized in over the years. I feel very close to the process and being here I’m learning a lot more about it. But I’m a writer first and foremost.
What about the future of print?
I think that this splintering and this hyper-targeting of print products is the future, because I think that’s the only way it can survive. You know the newspaper industry is in such turmoil right now because they just can’t keep up with the news. I think we’re seeing an increase in op-ed style articles. We’re also seeing an increase in trend stories. That’s the only way for print to survive right now. It can’t compete with online news reporting. Print has to become either a thought leadership proposition, or it has to become a deep dive into trends. If you look at successful books like Freakanomics or Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these are books that have picked out trends. They’ve gone past the first couple layers and they’re making connections on the fringes of culture that are not normally made. That’s what innovation is, and, interestingly, Frog is an innovation company. In order for print to innovate, you have to be able to spend time writing your stories. It used to be where reporters would go out and 80% of the time was spent reporting, 20% of the time was spent writing and that’s the way print would work. It would make sense that you would have this hyper-targeted magazines targeting smaller audiences but having many more of them. It’s the long tailing. It’s the same idea behind the long tailing business or the boutiquing of businesses.
So we’ll be doing more digging then?
More digging. Yeah. More searching. There’s too much information. You have to be able to make sense of the information, and you have to be able to draw atypical conclusions. You have to be able to spend more time looking at the information in order to make relevant conclusions.
If somebody asked you and said, Mr. Martin, recommend some magazines for me to actually engage with, benefit from, learn from, imitate, what would those magazines be, besides Design Mind?
I think The New Yorker is still perhaps the best magazine out there right now because of the resources they give to their reporters and the quality of the reporting. Fast Company is one that kind of plays on the same field as Frog does, where they have one foot in design and one foot in business, using that to comment on the culture of those things.
Paul Quinn, one of our journalism students at the University of Mississippi interviewed me on the subject of the future of newspapers and print. In a nutshell, I repeated my views that print is not dead but rather it is the publishing model that is DEAD. Now is the time to innovate and to do what Greg Schumann told me yesterday, “Innovate. Do not ride it out. Do not stay the course.”
Innovate. Don’t Stay the Course. Don’t Ride it Out. Words of Wisdom from Greg Schumann, Group Publisher, The Parenting GroupJanuary 14, 2009
“Innovation is the key and not staying the course,” says Greg Schumann, vice president and group publisher of Bonnier Corp.’s Parenting Group (TPG). That, in fact, sums Schumann’s take on the current status of magazine publishing in general and on Parenting magazine in particular. Parenting magazine is now two magazines serving the needs of two separate groups of moms, where the mantra of “one size fits all” no longer exists.
Schumann’s strategy is not only limited to innovation.
The new strategy isn’t just an innovative way to launch a new publication. By separating the current Parenting (for moms of kids 0-12, 2.15 million circ) into two separate monthly editions – Parenting School Years (for moms of kids in kindergarten through 5th grade, 500,000 circ) and Parenting Early Years (for moms of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, 1.65 million circ), Parenting is offering readers the ability to choose the content that’s most relevant to them, and offering advertisers a new way to customize their marketing messages to target moms with children in different age groups.
This strategy brings to life what TPG has learned from studying the effects of Gen Y moms on the parenting media landscape: Today’s generation of web-savvy moms expect customization – so it’s time to rethink the concept of the “one-size-fits-all” mass parenting magazine in a media universe populated with niche web sites and mommy blogs targeted to every possible subset of moms. The more targeted the content, the better. And the more relevant the magazine is to its readers, the more advertisers’ messages will resonate with their intended audience.
To follow up on this strategy, I asked Mr. Schumann few questions regarding Parenting magazine, The Bonnier Corp. and the magazine industry in general.
What is the secret of your success with Parenting and what is the secret of Bonnier Corp.’s success in the midst of all this doom and gloom?
Well, I think I’ll answer in two-fold. I’ll answer it first on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I had lunch with a business consultant in the industry, and we were talking about (the fact that) there’s so much defensiveness going on right now in light of the turbulence that’s being felt economically and certainly in our industry. But I am a believer that difficult or challenging circumstances demand innovation. And that’s the time you should be looking to do things differently and to improve on things versus, let’s ride it out or stay the course.
The rationale behind one magazine with two editions is based in that I am a believer in the research that we did leading up to deciding definitively on our strategy that this approach of one size fits all for moms is no longer working. I would even argue that one size fits all is becoming a challenge to strategy. The needs of moms are so different relative to the stages that they’re in motherhood, relative to the age of their child or children. You just couldn’t think that you are going to be able to properly address their informational needs in one entity.
We’re taking the approach with the business model from a consumer standpoint. We’re serving her more targeted, more relevant information that feels more personalized, more customized, relative to the place she’s in. And also for advertisers, to a point, we are providing the most efficient means to invest their dollars relative to their target, the sub-segment targets of mom. The response we’ve gotten and the feedback have been incredibly positive. It’s been incredibly positive from moms. It’s been incredibly positive from the advertising community.
But in the midst of the doom and gloom, and I know it sounds really cliché and maybe a little holier than thou, but there should be no conditions on doing the right thing for the business. There should be no circumstances that dictate whether you do the right thing or not as far as figuring out constantly how you best serve your consumer and in our case, obviously, moms. So, to me the economy, and the advertising climate shouldn’t weigh into that debate. We have a mission: How do we best serve moms? We think we’ve found the best way to do it with this versioning, targeting strategy. We’re going to do it, whether the economy’s healthy or not healthy. Whether the advertising business is up or down…because it’s the right business decision.
As far as how is Bonnier is doing it, I think this is one of the advantages of being operated by a philosophy that’s looking long term. When Jonas Bonnier acquired our division along with the rest of the other titles that we were sold from Time, Inc., he made it very clear: I am doing it to expand our business, to expand our footprint in the United States, and I’m doing it to have a long term viable, sustainable, growing business. And so, he always talks about the notion of evaluating 20 years from now. The fact that we’re privately held allows, obviously, and helps facilitate being able to take a longer term approach to things. Unlike the industry that seems to live quarter by quarter, as far as how Wall Street goes, earnings and so forth… I do think that in too many instances, in our industry and in American business, we foster just short term thinking. The industry is always trying to get immediate gratification or instant gratification for the business needs, perhaps at the expense of really thinking long term and figuring out what’s the best model looking outward.
I think we’re fortunate to be in a corporation, part of an entity that does look at things long term.
Are we really in such a gloom and doom marketplace today? Is the cup half full or half empty?
The current industry environment too often is viewed as problematic. And I believe it is opportunistic. If you adhere or believe in the notion that within any problem lies an opportunity, I think that without question, that the economic landscape’s changing, our industry landscape’s changing, but anytime there’s change, there’s opportunity. It’s just that too often people tend to look at it as the change is problematic. I think that there is a little too much negativity. Because the country as a whole, and even our industry has been a little bit traumatized by the events in the last twelve month and in particular the last six months.
So do you see light at the end of the tunnel or is it the train coming?
Well, I had an interesting explanation from someone in the financial industry. He said you should look at this situation as though the economy is a giant pan and we’re at the bottom of the pan. But the pan is elongated, meaning it’s not going to get much worse, but it’s not going to be remedied quickly. And so I’m of the school of thought that I think you’re going to be hard pressed to see the economy really turn around, this year.
But, I do adhere to the thinking that the mood, this fear that you talk about, the doom and gloom, that’s the first thing that will go. People are going to start to see the sun again. And then I think that’s going to be the precursor to seeing re-investments and the general dynamic of the economy starting to turn and then people starting to invest more aggressively, but I think that’s probably not going to happen until 2010. So what do you do? I think that everybody has to re-examine their business model. This is the time that everyone should be thinking about innovation. If you look at this situation as an opportunity instead of a problem I think that’s what should be our approach.
“Jet-setter, international style maker and Monocle magazine founder Tyler Brûlé is confident about the future of print as he launches a series of branded shops and newsstands internationally.” So, says the introduction to Brûlé’s interview with Katja Pantzar, English Editor of Bluewings magazine, the Finnair Magazine published by Sanoma Magazines Finland. Tyler Brûlé is the cover subject of the Jan. 09 issue of the magazine and he shares with Katja his views on print, journalism, and the readers of today among many other design and travel related issues. Here are some of the highlights of his answers:
“The printed word and image on glossy or matte paper is a very effective way of getting a high-impact message across. Our view is that the web is not a great place to read anything, which is why most of our web content is video or audio-based.”
“With Monocle, we’re going to completely different parts of the world and investing in a level of journalism which I think is rapidly evaporating – that’s a view that’s shared by both advertisers and consumers…”
On Readers and advertisers:
“We are a premium product… There’s an audience out there looking for quality. We are lucky because we can spread our risk around globally: for example, we have a lot of Japanese advertisers who simply don’t advertise anywhere else internationally. This shows that our advertisers strongly believe that our readers will read their content.”
All I can add to that is Amen! If you want to see more of Tyler Brûlé’s views on print and journalism click here.
If you would like to read the entire interview with him in Bluewings magazine click here (Thanks Calhan)
So you’d not think Meredith is the only company publishing the same magazine with two different names, here is an example from Time Inc.’s newest spin-off from People. In most parts of the country the magazine is selling as People: Country Special . However, in some places the magazine is selling as Country: From the Editors of People. That is not the first time Time Inc. experiments with the name presentation of People’s spin-offs. People’s Style Watch was tested in many different variations of the name in its early stages of testing. I wonder if we are going to see Country as the latest regular launch from the folks at People!
Media reporters and bloggers alike have been swarming like bees over the news of the demise of 8020 Media and JPG magazine. I have said it once, and I will say it again now, we’ve become an industry (media reporters, bloggers) that thrive on the bad news of the demise of our own media. We are quick to report the news of the death, slow to report the news of the success or birth of new publications. And even when we report the bad news we do not offer any solutions. The news surrounding 8020 Media and JPG magazine is yet another example of what I have been trying to promote regarding the need for a new publishing model. That’s why I referred to 8020 Media and JPG as the “candle in the wind.”
The publishing model pre WWII was based on circulation driven revenues, after WWII we shifted to an advertising driven revenue model. Now we are stuck. Very few magazines remained sincere to their original mission and revenue stream, i.e. circulation driven (Highlights, Consumer Reports, and the entire herd of Reiman publications during the Roy Reiman ownership era). The current magazine model that depends on advertising as a major source of revenue hit a major set back with the horrific economic meltdown. Major magazine publishers continue to chase numbers rather than customers hoping that by giving their magazines away they can be ready for the advertising come back. So, today you can get 24 issues of Cosmopolitan for $10, O, The Oprah Magazine, 24 issues for a mere $10 and of course my favorite example 52 issues of Newsweek for $10.
Well, today Mitch Fox, President and CEO of 8020 Media, e-mailed me what I felt is a true call for action regarding the magazine industry. With his permission, here is the entire e-mail:
I’m still disappointed that not one magazine company can see this as a game changer for them….At the least the beginning of what can be a game changer for them.
They already have a pre — existing community of people (readers/subscribers) who they need to connect with in a NEW way…as well as recruit NEW members to this community….and ultimately retain them as readers/subscribers or; just web visitors (uniques) or; just buyers of their branded products, or just attendees at their (paid) events….in sum, they have to open up every revenue source possible…it’s just naive to think that any ONE revenue source will be so substantial that it can sustain a business any longer.
At one time that revenue source was subscription / newsstand revenue. Later, the paradigm shifted to advertising revenue. And for some time we have been aware that advertising will no longer sustain us…yet we’ve not changed our business models significantly enough.
Now…there is no one revenue source substantial enough to sustain our businesses.
So I’d suggest magazines develop the web to reach out and expand their universe of customers (readers) and monetize them (online advertising) and recruit them to subscribe to the magazine, and to participate in it ( the key to growing the online community) and continue to market to them in all the ways I described above, and all the ways we have yet to imagine. And that my friends is a way to begin to “re — build” the NEW magazine model…
Some of this will work, some won’t, but innovation is imperative, and damn it…this is a great (and cheap) place to start. (Build an online community around the title web visitors and readers.) See the response to a well-organized community by reading savejpg.com.
The power behind these magazines titles (brands?) has to be unleashed to remain competitive in this shifting media landscape. Otherwise, the next generation of readers, who are upon us NOW by the way, will simply not look to the magazines as sources for entertainment, inspiration or information…they will look elsewhere…they already do…and only a few rare titles, filing niche market needs will survive. Maybe we wouldn’t feel so anxious if the economy had not crashed around us so suddenly, thereby making this need for a new model such an imperative…but no matter, we deal with the circumstances we face, not the ones we wish for….and our reality is such that we have to innovate, and even improvise, but not ignore. Some magazines have already moved through this transition, most have not…I hope to see more push themselves to change their own self perception enough to push themselves to this new place, and enjoy the success that will come with such experimentation.
It’s late…but not too late.
Do you rather go on a diet or would you rather have a plan just for you to lose weight? That is the question that the folks at Meredith seem not to find an answer to. Thus they gave their newest Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication magazine two different names with the exact same content (and what seems to be the IN cover-line these days Yes, You Can!). One edition of the magazine is called Diet 2009 and the other edition is called My Weight Loss. However, neither name of the magazine is to be found anywhere inside the magazine. Even on the table of contents the editors managed to introduce a design element that covered the name of the magazine on the inside cover replica. Clever, very clever indeed!