Archive for March, 2009

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On Innovation, Print and the Web: A series of Q and A with industry leaders. Part One

March 31, 2009


Print. The Web. Innovation. The Future. As I move ahead with the preparations for the Magazine Innovation Center, I will be asking industry leaders to share their views on the aforementioned issues. A question or two with a brief answer will form the cornerstone for this new series of blogs. Today, Eleanor Griffin and Howard Greenberg answer my first two questions.
Eleanor Griffin is editor in chief of Southern Living magazine, or as she likes to refer to herself “reader-in-chief” of the magazine. I asked her, during a visit with a group of my magazine students to the Southern Progress Corp. in Birmingham, Al, “Where do you find the soul of a publication? In print or on the web?” Click on the video above to listen to her answer.
I also asked Howard Greenberg, design director at Southern Living magazine “How does innovation in the magazine differ from the web?” Click on the video below to listen to his answer.

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What Recession? New Magazine Launches Up, Up, Up

March 29, 2009

twenty-three11What do Disney Twenty-Three, Dirt Rag Bicycle Times, and Big Man have in common? They are but three new magazines published in the midst of the worst economic times we’ve seen in our lifetime. However, when in comes to new magazine launches last month, the numbers beg the question What Recession? bicycletimes1181 new titles appeared for the first time on the nation’s newsstands in February (the best February yet) despite all the problems with the wholesalers and distribution channels. In one way or another those magazines found their way to the retailers and offered readers options to buy one out of 30 magazines published at least four times a year, one with a twice a year frequency, four annuals and 46 specials or book-a-zines.
big-man11When I announced earlier this month my intentions to create the Magazine Innovation Center this coming August, I knew that, despite the prophets of doom and gloom, that there is still a long long life for print both in the magazine and newspaper business and that the end is not near. The host of new magazines being published now are not but a case-in-point that we are not dead, but rather our publishing model is. Take Disney Twenty-Three magazine (named after the founding of Disney in 1923). The over-sized 64-pages quarterly aimed at the D23: The Official Community for Disney Fans sells for $15.95 and quotes Walt Disney on its back cover saying, “It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell.” Yes indeed.
purposedrivenconnection1Another case-in-point is the Purpose Driven Connection magazine published by the Reader’s Digest Association. The quarterly sells for $9.99 and offers readers a 144-page magazine, a DVD and a Six-Session Video-Based Study Guide for Small Groups taught by the Rev. Rick Warren.
The aforementioned magazines are produced with an “outside the box” run-of-the-mill publishing model. Both have “membership” as a base for that publishing model. Remember the “good ol’ days” when National Geographic will not give you a subscription to its flag ship magazine unless someone nominated you for membership in the Society? Innovation does not mean that we have to come up with ideas that have never been tried before. Innovation means to stop, think and find ways to enhance and add to the power of print and its abilities. Innovation means to stop acting in a state of panic. We have to take time off, to think and to do “publishing” in a different way that we’ve done for years.
Take a look at some of the new launches and spread the word: Print is NOT dead, it is the publishing model that died last September. Let us work on finding a new model. Let us INNOVATE.
bestyou1beckettbarackobamathepresidents11showcase1wellwed11freshhome11apronologyart-journalingstuffed

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It’s the Publishing Model—Not Print—That’s Dead

March 17, 2009

That is the headline of my guest column for the March issue of Publishing Executive magazine. The editors introduced the column by writing, “‘Mr. Magazine’ offers a history lesson to an industry short on and desperate for good news.”

Here is the intro for my column as published in Publishing Executive:

We live in interesting times. That statement reminds me of the day I was in a hospital bed surrounded by a team of doctors. They were telling each other, “This is an interesting case.” I looked up at the doctors and said, “For a journalist, anything interesting (case, times, etc.) means you have no earthly idea what is going on.” The same can be said today about the publishing industry in general and the magazine industry in particular. We live in interesting times.

To read the entire column click here.

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More on the Magazine Innovation Center in an Interview with Publishing Executive

March 13, 2009

Publishing Executive magazine’s on line weekly edition interviewed me for its INBOX section. The interview conducted by Janet Spavlik sheds more light on MIC and my plans for the center. Here is the interview as it appeared on Publishing Executive’s website earlier today.

A Center for Industry Innovation: Samir ‘Mr. Magazine’ Husni on his new, nonprofit venture and the role he hopes it will play in the future of print
By Janet Spavlik

In a posting on his blog, Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni announced last week his plans to create a center “devoted to the study of magazines in particular and print in general.” The Magazine Innovation Center (MIC), scheduled to launch Aug. 15, will serve the industry as a nonprofit organization with a mission to foster innovation in magazines and other print media through international collaboration.

“I have decided to devote the remaining years of my professional career to study the medium which I cherish, and trust that it still has a great future regardless of the doom and gloom that surrounds it in today’s marketplace,” wrote Husni.

According to Husni, the MIC will be headquartered in Oxford, Miss., at the University of Mississippi, where he serves as chair, professor of journalism and Hederman Lecturer.
“[It will be located] away from the ‘noise’ of the big publishing headquarters and big cities,” he says. “MIC will provide a calm and relaxed location that will help those who gather at the center to be able to think and innovate away from the everyday grinds of work.”

Husni spoke with Publishing Executive Inbox about his plans for developing the center and the overwhelming response he has already received from the industry.

INBOX: How long has the center been in development? Who are you collaborating with on it?
SAMIR “MR. MAGAZINE” HUSNI: I have been thinking about the center for years, but the recent “killings” of magazines that were deemed successful pushed MIC to the front burner of my thinking … . I will be working with anyone who is willing to help and support the center. It is not an exclusive club, nor is it limited to those who contribute and help. The center will collaborate with publishers, printers, distributors, manufacturers, paper companies, circulation folks, associations, b-to-b, consumer, custom publications — it is going to be international in scope … .

INBOX: What is the purpose of the center?
HUSNI: The short answer is to amplify the future of print — and that includes newspapers and other paper products.

INBOX: What will be the center’s goals and activities?
HUSNI: MIC will catalyze innovation in order to ensure a thriving future for magazines and the print industry. The center [will] offer a wide spectrum of perspectives inside and outside of print media. MIC will act as a think tank that will bring people together at the center to come up with solutions for some of the industry’s most pressing issues. We will deal with one issue at a time, and we will try to have a variety of people from a variety of demographics and clusters of work to come up with these solutions. We will have workshops, seminars and how-to sessions to help in the process of innovation and enhancing the power of magazines and other print products.

INBOX: Have you established a board of directors yet? Who will be involved?
HUSNI: The board of directors has not been established yet; however, I have a list of more than 150 people worldwide who have expressed interest in being on the board. I am more interested [now] in establishing the cornerstones of the center, the physical location, the offices, etc., before forming the board or even asking for contributions to raise the amount of money needed to pay for the cost of the center’s activities. My goal is to raise a million dollars this year and, as the economy improves, fulfill my goal of raising five million dollars to ensure that the center will continue for years to come. Only the interest from the money contributed will be used by the center, and it will only be used to run the activities of the center.

INBOX: When the center opens in August, what issue(s) will be its top priorities?
HUSNI: … The publishing model, which I believe is dead, is priority number one. Like I said in my column in [the March issue of] Publishing Executive, the publishing model is dead, not print. So coming up with a new publishing model will be priority number one. Other items will include finding new ways to reach customers, distribution methods, innovations in print, dealing with digital, and finding customers who count for our business … .

INBOX: How can interested magazine industry executives get involved?
HUSNI: … The majority of folks from the major media companies have e-mailed me and expressed interest in the center. I hope to hear from more as the idea of the center becomes more clear to people and as we release more information. I also hope that the industry associations will get involved. It will be such a small investment on their behalf in what will help and benefit our industry for years to come. The center will not compete with any industry or organizations — it will just complement what is out there and provide an independent outlet to help enhance research and solutions for the industry.

To learn more about the center or to be added to the center’s e-mail list, drop me an e-mail at samir.husni@gmail.com

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Next: Obama, The Magazine

March 9, 2009

wizard1ms1
President Obama did not only occupy the White House, but also hundreds of magazine covers and newspaper front pages. I do not recall any other time in recent history when a president mastered as many covers and special issues of magazines as President Obama. Any visitor to the newsstands can easily count 10 to 15 magazines devoted to the life and times of the president. The closest I can remember regarding such a phenomena is the magazine Slick Times that was published bimonthly during the Clinton era. However, it was one and only one title devoted to the Clinton’s presidency.
Now, the number of titles devoted to the president are countless and the number of issues of regular magazines with him on the cover is beyond count. Two magazines caught my attention this week. Wizard and Ms. magazines both featured Obama as Superman, each in its own different way. My friend Gareb Shamus at Wizard expects the April issue of Wizard to be the number one seller for the magazine. The Ms. magazine cover may also do the same. It has been widely reported that the Obama’s magazine covers and front-pages of newspapers have been nothing but great newsstands sellers. Maybe now is the time to start a new Obama monthly or weekly magazine. I will bet you that it will be a great seller and a greater stimulus print. I can’t wait to see who is going to take me on my offer and start the second most successful magazine in history. Just in case you are wondering about the first one, of course who else will it be but O, The Oprah Magazine. It is ironic that the first lady of television gave us one of the most successful women’s magazines and it is more ironic that the first “tech” president is giving print such a boost. Thanks Mr. President, and can’t week to see the first issue of Obama, the magazine.

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Magazine Innovation Center: Amplifying the Future of Print

March 3, 2009

mic-logo
As reported in Folio earlier today, my plans to create a center devoted to the study of magazines in particular and print in general is one step closer to reality. The Magazine Innovation Center will become a reality on August 15 of this year. I have decided to devote the remaining years of my professional career to study the medium which I cherish and trust that it still has a great future regardless of the doom and gloom that surrounds it in today’s marketplace. The Magazine Innovation Center will have one major goal in mind: Amplify the future and power of print and its place in the media realm of the 21st Century. MIC’s mission and structure is described in the following outline:

Mission
The Magazine Innovation Center (a not for profit organization) is an international collaboration between the best thinkers in publishing, printing, advertising and distribution. MIC seeks to generate focused innovation in magazines and other print media. As an industry, we employ the world’s great minds. The Center will channel their creativity and intellect (away from the grinds of everyday work and challenges) to provide blueprints for productive change.

Goals
MIC will catalyze innovation in order to ensure a thriving future for magazines and the print industry. The Center plans to offer a wide spectrum of perspectives inside and outside of print media.

Open Source Thinking
Each year groups of experts will be brought to the Center to participate in extensive and visionary programs. They will be afforded the time and resources needed to create practical guidelines and directions for the future success of print. Results will be distributed worldwide.

Smart Money
MIC will seek a rapid-start fund of $1 million to address the most pressing issues. A fully funded endowment will be required to maintain MIC over the long-term and to finance continual interchange and development of productive strategies.

Structure
The Center will be under the directorship of Samir A. Husni with a board of directors that will guide, navigate and oversee the work of MIC. These directors will include leaders in the fields of publishing, printing, advertising and distribution; they will be instrumental in helping to identify key issues that affect the growth and health of our industry.
Another group of advisors at MIC will be responsible for seeking out talents who have innovative ideas and spark. These forward-thinking individuals will comprise the proactive energy behind the collaborative efforts of the center.

The support for MIC, since I wrote the first mention about it, has been overwhelming. I welcome your support and I look forward to your involvement. Print is not dead and the MIC will be the candle that lights the way for our future in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us. For more info or to be included on MIC’s e mail list please drop me an e mail at samir.husni@gmail.com

Stay tuned for more information about MIC.

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In PRINT we TRUST… and on the WEB we LOOK

March 2, 2009

In a survey polling 316 people ranging in age from 12 to 72, The Rosen Group, a New York City based Public Relations firm, found that “the vast majority of adult consumers still consider the print editions of these publications indispensable sources of news and entertainment.” In fact the survey found that

Nearly 80 percent of respondents still subscribe to magazines and the vast majority (83 percent) find that daily newspapers are still relevant.
Despite a pronounced move toward online news consumption, respondents still believe news is fit to print. When asked if newspapers and magazines will exist in 10 years, nearly half of those surveyed (45 percent) said yes, while 40 percent remained uncertain.
“People are looking online for news and lifestyle information, but they are not abandoning their print editions,” said Lori Rosen, founder and president of The Rosen Group. “There is still a certain satisfaction and ease to holding printed text in your hands, and PDAs or PCs will not replace this just yet.” Among the evidence: Even though the public can’t ignore the burgeoning blogosphere, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed agree that the information found on blogs is not credible.

The survey also found that:

* Thirty percent cite Web sites devoted to news as their top source for updates; 66 percent say that they are among their daily news sources.
* Only 18 percent say that a print newspaper is their first stop for news, but 55 percent of respondents still look at newspapers on any given day. Fifty-three percent still subscribe to the print version of a newspaper.
* When it comes to leisure time, print magazines and Web sites tied for first as a leading entertainment source (26 percent). Only seven percent seek out their favorite magazines online.
* Sixty-five percent of respondents find weekly news magazines relevant.

The results of the survey are clear. Print is still an important and major player in the life of people. The key is to provide the relevant content in print. News and ink-on-paper may no longer be the most relevant content for our papers and magazines. However content that takes the “searching surfing” audience and turns it to a “critically thinking” audience is and will continue to be the essence of print and its future.

Studies like the one above conducted by The Rosen Group and the forth coming Magazine Innovation Center, are but the first steps in the journey of the one thousand miles to amplify the future of print. Stay tuned and thanks Lori Rosen for this timely study.

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