Archive for February, 2009

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Once again the American publishing model proves to be DEAD… A new center for innovation to be born soon

February 25, 2009

What is wrong with this picture? Earlier this month I received the following press release from the folks at Hallmark magazine:

Hallmark Magazine’s February/March ’09 issue, on newsstands beginning today, is up 53% in paging and 37% in revenue when compared with the same 2008 issue. Those numbers are not typos. In this economy, when many publishers are managing layoffs, cutbacks and advertising discounts, Hallmark Magazine’s Carol Campbell Boggs continues to leverage the power of the Hallmark halo to tremendous effect.

hallmark-magazineNew advertisers in the February/March issue include: Pfizer, Sony, Novartis and PBS with new business from P&G, GSK and Hormel. The issue also represents the first with the rate base increase to 800,000 — a 100% increase since the magazine’s fall 2006 launch. This sustained growth is certainly cause for celebration within Hallmark; it’s also a marked success in the publishing industry during a time of major transition.

And, as indicated in the 2008 year-end PIB report, Hallmark Magazine is one of the few to finish the year ahead – and one of only a handful of magazines enjoying double-digit growth!

Today I received the news that Hallmark magazine is no longer going to be published. Folio magazine quoted Hallmark president and CEO Donald J. Hall Jr., saying that

“the decision to stop publishing the magazine was reached after a “comprehensive analysis” of the overall magazine industry.

“Despite favorable consumer acceptance of the publication, we cannot justify continued investment in the magazine at a time when we must focus our efforts and resources only on those projects that will lead to long-term profitable revenue growth for the company,” he said.

The magazine’s 28 employees have been laid off, the company said. In addition, 10 Kansas City, Missouri-based positions in the company’s creative division will be eliminated.

How on earth can you justify a magazine that is growing both in advertising and circulation is being shuttered? Very simple, it means that the magazine was not making any money from circulation and at the same time it brings to question the revenues coming from advertising. Is it heavy discounts or give-a-ways? Who knows? One thing I know for sure is that the American publishing model is DEAD. It is time to reinvent the publishing model. It is time to charge the readers the price of the magazines. It is time for innovation in print and in the American publishing model. Stop giving away your pages and your content on a silver platter with no real price. Now is the time for change. A change that will not take us from print to the web, but rather a change that will create a new publishing model incorporating both print and the web. A model that uses content and the concept of selling content as its basic corner stone. We MUST stopping giving our content and our pages for free or close to free. It is a shame (I can’t think of any other word) when a successful (or so we were told a few weeks ago) magazine like Hallmark is forced to shut down. We need to search for a cure for the ills of our industry. Every venue is sick. An over the counter medicine is not going to be enough. Our illnesses are grave, but they are not terminal if we innovate. We have to invent new medicines to cure the ills of our industry, all venues of our industry. The publishing model, the distribution model, the pricing model and the staffing model. We have to innovate and to create new ways of doing publishing. If we claim to be creative people (journalists, marketers, analysts, designers) now is the time to put our money where our mouth is.

In the next few days, I will be taking the first humble step toward the formation of a new center dealing with magazine and print innovation. The center will be called Magazine Innovation Center (MIC) and will focus on amplifying the future of print. I will need all the help that I can get from all the folks in our industry, here and abroad. We need to innovate. We need to create and be creative. Stay tuned for more details later.

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A Mirage You Can Only See in Print…

February 23, 2009

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To borrow a phrase from our friends in the United Kingdom this is the age of the Super Glossy Magazines. POP magazine may have started this trend eight years ago, and now comes the ultimate super glossy: Mirage. Conceived in South Africa and printed in Germany with a worldwide network of offices and ad reps, Mirage offers a 360-page picture book utilizing the best printing techniques and opting for the best paper combination to create “an international fashion and swimwear magazine inspired by the worlds of jetset hedonism, old school attitude and a certain adolescent nervousness.”

The first issue of Mirage is anything but a mirage. It is as real as it can be. You can hold it, feel the paper, engage and interact with the images, display on your coffee table and in fact start a conversation with anyone who visits you and see the Mirage displayed on your coffee table.

The magazine is published in limited editions of 25,000 and sells for $16.95. Mirage promises “a provocative and universal subject: a new generation of hot boys and girls taking a stand against mediocricy.”

Mirage combines “jetset hedonism with 21st century voyeurism” and provides solid proof for the Thomases of this world, that print even makes a Mirage something that you see, touch and enjoy. Check the magazine on the newsstands and its media kit here.

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One Dead, Three Are Born… A Cause for Crafts Celebration

February 19, 2009

While others are mourning the death of the quarterly Craft magazine, I am celebrating the birth of three new craft magazines born the same week Craft was pronounced dead. Stampington & Company of Laguna Hills, CA, publishers of art and crafts magazines since 1994, introduced the three new craft magazines last week. Each magazine priced at a well-deserved hefty $14.99 cover price is unique in its own ways.

apronologyThe first magazine, and my own favorite, is called (apron.ology). It is the magazine for “aprons with attitude!” 144 pages of beautifully crafted and designed aprons that are set to satisfy the needs and wants of all “the apronistas of the world.”

The second magazine Art Journaling is also a hefty 144 pages showcasing “artists who choose courage over self-doubt as they share the unique ways in which they write their thoughts onto a page and juxtapose them with the artistic imprint of who they are.”art-journaling

stuffedLast but not least, is the third new magazine Stuffed, a gathering of softies. More than 100 “softie” projects fill the 144-page magazine offered complete “with an artist portfolio, techniques articles and a large gallery section.”

To paraphrase an old saying, Craft is dead, long live (apron.ology), Art Journaling and Stuffed. And just for the record, those new titles are not but three additional titles in the staple of Stampington & Company’s 25 magazine titles. Check them here.

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Shocking News: The Web is NOT a PRINT Medium…

February 11, 2009

For starters I agree with the saying, “if it does not move, or if it does not sound, it has no place on the web.” The beauty of the internet is it provides us with moving objects, beautiful sounds and animated illustrations. Unlike magazines, which by nature, are meant to provide us with still objects (frozen great images) and a combination of the 26 lead soldiers (the ABCs for those who want to know) in a way that will and should (if done well) captivate all our senses. To each medium its own.

So, it is beyond me to understand why people, very creative people, spend so much time to create what they call “e-zines” that do nothing but imitate ink on paper. If I want a magazine page to flip open, I will reach to a printed magazine. Why should I imitate that flipping feel of a real magazine on the web? If I wanted to read something for the pleasure of reading why do I have to use a magnifier to do so on the screen? I do not do that with my printed magazine. picture-1

The web and the internet are completely different beasts from the printed publications. Until we use them as such, we will continue to do our industry and our magazines a disservice to both our readers and customers. New media deserve to be treated with new ideas and not a mere rehash of old stuff that we’ve being used too. What are the benefits of recreating “traditional media” on the screens of the “new media?” It is, for sure, beyond my scope of understanding. Successful ventures are going to be those which utilize all the relevant channels to serve the relevant audiences with the relevant messages.

It is a shame to put good ideas to waste, just because we are trying to imitate something else.

By the way, the reason for this blog is an e mail I received this morning from the United Kingdom. David Leydon, the creator of a new e-zine Good Bad Ugly sent me an e-mail introducing his new e-zine. He wrote:

Good Bad Ugly is another one of those e-zines that keep cropping up, but Good Bad Ugly is hopefully a little different in approach and style and hopefully we manage to deliver a half decent magazine for free.

If you think about it how often do you spend £4 on a magazine and feel robbed? Belittled? Disappointed? Saddened? Angry? Or Frustrated? Well it happened to us at Good Bad Ugly a lot. In fact almost every time we bought a magazine at least one of those things buzzed through our head. So we set about building our very own magazine. Take a look and decide what you think, hopefully you’ll avoid some of those emotions as you wander through Good Bad Ugly’s very first issue, the TV Issue. Or we just be a rubbish free mag – who knows???

The idea behind it all is that if you contribute you take ownership of what you do and have complete artistic freedom with it – well as long as it’s not going to get sued!

Check it out and find I6 pages of irreverent, hopefully entertaining, possibly artistic, different, inventive (well it could be?),free and completely independent goodness.

Click here to read the first issue of Good Bad Ugly. To me, Good Bad Ugly deserves an A for effort, as for the execution, that is a different story for a different blog.

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Alyce Alston: A Purpose Driven Publisher Who’s Helping Reinvent the Publishing Model

February 8, 2009

Alyce Alston is on a purpose driven mission: meeting customers’ demands and acknowledging that content is king. She is not afraid of what is going on in the media business nor she is afraid of starting new magazines in this climate. “This is the real world,” she told me in a phone interview, “and we have no other choice but to find unique ways to publish and to leverage the Reader’s Digest global brand.” The President of the Home & Garden and Health & Wellness at The Reader’s Digest Association is living the real world both in her professional and personal life. She launches three new magazines this week and enjoys driving a mini-van while living in a country house watching birds with her son. The former publisher of W and O, The Oprah magazine said that her current job is the “most entrepreneurial job she’s ever held.” She referred to her job at RD both as a “producer and a development officer.”
purposedrivenconnectionBeing true to her title at RD, she is in the business of “planting seeds.” And this week Alston isplanting three new seeds, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Connection, Best You and Fresh Home. Three new magazines but the “greatest of them all” is the Purpose Driven Connection. “These are exciting times, planting new seeds, finding new ways to do things and being involved in the biggest effort and investment of a new launch.” The Purpose Driven Connection is “The Bomb, The Big Thing” Alston said. “It requires a different level of confidence and a totally new model of publishing.”
Creating a “microphone to the world” was the genesis of the idea Alston presented to the Rev. Rick Warren. RD is a global company and Warren is global. RD is a multi-media and so is Warren. RD, the 3 billion dollar company has a giant marketing arm that can reach afar. “So, taking the message and vision of Rick Warren and putting the two power houses together, Purpose Driven Connection was born.” Warren has the content, the vision and the longevity. He is “an everyday visionaire” said Alston and we wanted to take that vision and content and create “an ongoing communication vehicle.”
Alston asked herself a series of questions regarding this ongoing vehicle. “How to disseminate the content? What is the best medium to do such a job? What is the best approach to create such a vehicle?” Well, the answer came in Alston’s vision of a new publishing model: the membership model. “We have the message, we have the audience, now we have to create the channel,” she said. So, a magazine alone was not enough, but a rather a bundle of information (a magazine, a video, a workbook, a website, etc) all aimed at members rather than just readers. “That bundle of information will provide a lot of value to the consumers and will have a much bigger value than the price the consumer will pay for the product.”
The Purpose Driven Connection is being launched with a circulation of 500,000 with the aim of reaching a million circulation by the end of the first year. The publishing model is based on a two-tier model. First tapping in the 100,000 plus churches that are affiliated with Rick Warren, than other churches offering them memberships in the Purpose Driven Connection. Direct mail and e-mail blasts and kits will be reaching those churches and their pastors inviting them to be members of the PDC. The other part is putting the magazine on the newsstands providing the same opportunity for folks to join the network. “This is a circulation driven model,” Alston said. “The focus is on building the membership first.” Next in the plans for the PDC and Alston is the launch next week of the “biggest Christian website ever built.”
bestyouYou will think that the Purpose Driven Connection project should be keeping Alston busy 24/7. Well, think again. The mission-driven publisher with the purpose to reach customers who count is launching two other titles at the same time. Fresh Home and Best You are two new quarterlies that share one secret according to Alston. “The model is completely different. I am leveraging the assets of our global company and I am leveraging the content from other countries,” she said. “You can’t publish a new magazine today if we don’t find a better way of efficiently planting seeds.” freshhomeblog Fresh Home is using re-purposed content from a sister magazine in Australia and Best You is doing the same from a sister publication in Canada. “We will not do it if it was not for the content re-purposing,” Alston said. “The cost will make it prohibitive in today’s marketplace. I have no other choice.”
Alston is using the newsstands as the “acid test” for those two new magazines and hoping that the “consumer demand” that their research showed will come true on the newsstands. Both magazines offer fresh (no pun intended) content to serve the best of you. This is the real world indeed, and those are real magazines. Alyce Alston is helping plant some new seeds to create a new publishing model. The time is right, and as Alston said “content is king” and “consumer demand” will be the key to open the new publishing kingdom doors.
No wonder Alyce Alston is a purpose driven publisher.

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Winds of Change in the Publishing Model Are Starting to Blow…

February 5, 2009

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It has been over five years since I first suggested the crazy idea of charging people for the content that we create. I wrote a book called “Selling Content” to illustrate that very point. I have written articles and blogs preaching the importance of charging for our content if we are to survive. In most cases it fell on deaf ears or on those who were quick to tell me why it will never work. Moving from a business that count customers to a business that find customers who count should be the essence of our new publishing model.
Well, tomorrow, TIME magazine runs a cover story on How to Save Your Newspaper by Walter Isaacson. The article by Isaacson states that the way magazines and newspapers are dispensing their content for free makes no sense. He says, “This is not a business model that makes sense.” I say, Amen. Read the entire article by Walter Isaacson here. The irony of course, is that I am doing the opposite of what Mr. Isaacson and I are preaching: letting you read the article for free.

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If MTV marries HGTV the baby will be MH+L…

February 3, 2009

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OK, enough from the cryptic language. Here is a story about publishing with passion. Forget the big name companies. Forget all the magazine closings in recent months. Forget the statistics and all the analysis that go with them. Avoid the paralysis analysis and follow your gut feeling to create a brand, yes a brand and not just a magazine, or a web site, or even a television channel.
This is not a poetic introduction for some romantic love affair with magazines. It is a true story of a man who have more passion in his voice and more energy in his actions than I have seen in a long long time. His name is Herman Flores and his current title is Publisher and Co-founder of a new venture that will be a magazine in print, a web site and a television channel. His wanna-be brand is Modern Homes + Living or for short MH+L.
I spoke with Mr. Flores yesterday and was captivated by his passion for what he is doing. His work with the industry started back in 1994 as a co-creator of Industry Insider Magazine. In 2000 he co-created DUB magazine converging cars and lifestyle in one publication and later he co-created MTV Cribs Car Edition. For the last eight years he has been co-producing MTV’s Cribs. The man knows what he is doing and knows exactly what is next on his plate. His goal is to provide the industry with an outlet, a brand, that is defined by the following mission statement:

In showcasing the homes and lifestyles of celebrities, it is the mission of MH+L to present its readers with the interior and exterior design styles, approaches and products that comprise successful living in a new and unique way…one that enlightens rather confuses, inspires rather than intimidates, teaches rather than promotes.

Why now and why in print? I asked. “I know print has taken a major hit,” he fired back, “But there is still nothing like the way you hold, display, showcase stuff in a printed medium.” However, Mr. Flores was quick to add that in addition to the printed magazine there will be an online component and a television presence. His plan reminded me of the speech that I gave in Brussels two weeks ago entitled: One Message, One Customer, Multi-Channels. Mr. Flores knows his audience and knows how and where to reach them and to enhance their way of life and living.
MH+L aims to define successful living, he told me. It will go beyond the traditional home magazines that shows you how to redo your kitchen for less than a $1,000 and in fact, showcase a kitchen, a bedroom or a living room of a celebrity, an actor or actress, a singer or songwriter, an athlete who “have earned the right to buck convention and express themselves in ways that are new, unique, genuine and committed.”
The magazine will not only be an invitation from celebrities to see how they live, but also to learn what makes their house their home. Flores’ plan for MH+L is to become a major brand with its printed magazine, website, television channel (think MTV meets HGTV) and a major industry trade show. Learn more about the MH+L here and look for the first issue of the printed magazine is to appear at a newsstands near you in April.
Thank you Mr. Flores for lighting yet another candle in the new world of publishing rather than cursing the dark.

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