Archive for April, 2009

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Bringing the Global Magazine Family Together: Waving a Magic Wand in a Troubled Business Model

April 29, 2009

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It is in tough and troubled times like these that meetings and gatherings of the members of the global magazine families are needed. Canceling a meeting or a convention may save you some money, but it is not the answer to enhancing your business model and to benefiting from the powerful collective thinking of the group.

One such convention has not been canceled and it promises to bring together a host of magazine makers from across the globe. It is the 37th FIPP World Magazine Congress that will be held in London next week.

sarahtunstallpicI asked Sarah Tunstall, COO of the PPA, the association for publishers and providers of consumer, customer and business media in the UK, who was instrumental in the preparations for this conference few questions regarding the World Magazine Congress and the Magic World of Magazines.

SH: Several magazine and newspaper associations have canceled their annual conventions due to the downturn in the economy. Why do you think the Magazine World Congress decided to go ahead with its meeting?

ST: It shows the confidence and dynamism of the worldwide magazine industry. This is the largest and highest profile event in the magazine world this year, with a stellar cast of speakers. Support from delegates and sponsors is very strong. It shows that if you have a market-leading product, people will support it.

SH: What do you expect to be the take away message from the conference?

ST: There will be many messages across all publishing platforms. The key message is that magazines are the perfect vehicle for providing valuable and entertaining and trusted content to every type of audience. They do this in print, digitally, and face to face – carrying their brand values across all platforms.

SH: What are the numbers? More people attending this year than the last event? Less? The same?

ST: Numbers are, if anything, better than expected. We will have a full hall and packed break-out sessions. Direct comparison with the 2007 event in Beijing is difficult because it was in many respects a different event.

SH: The Chinese define insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results every time. What do you think the Magazine Congress is going to do different this time and what do you expect the results to be…

ST: We are aiming for the best-ever Congress – as every host nation should do. We believe that we have brought extra qualities of imagination, together with meticulous planning. The next Congress in Delhi in 2011 should take London as the benchmark and move ahead from there.

SH: Some of the speakers have just folded some of their print magazines. What do you think is the message that they will be sending the audience?

ST: No product has a divine right to make money, and all products have a beginning and an end. The history of leading magazine brands is that they are remarkably resilient, and remarkably able to evolve and develop to meet changing market expectations. Magazines continue to be launched – in print and digitally. An alert, creative magazine industry is always looking for the market gap, the market niche – and continues to find gaps and niches even in the toughest market.

SH: How do you think the conference is going to add to the amplification of print?

ST: The conference program itself – the physical program – showcases innovative print techniques some of which have been specially developed for the program and have never been used before. The message is that print has a dynamic future and continues to evolve. Watch out for copies of the program on e-Bay….

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Three Qs and As with Condé Nast Portfolio’s David Carey

April 27, 2009

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While the prophets of doom and gloom are celebrating the death of Condé Nast Portfolio magazine, I opted to ask David Carey, group president and founding publisher of the magazine, three questions about the entire status of the magazine industry and the American publishing model.

SH: Is the closure of Portfolio another evidence that the American publishing model is dead and that a need for a new model is more than needed today?

DC: THE BUSINESS CYCLE IS ALIVE AND WELL — AND WITH IT, ECONOMIES EXPAND AND CONTRACT. WE’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A SHARP CONTRACTION PHASE. THE MODELS FOR FEW INDUSTRIES ARE WORKING WELL TODAY — BUT THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS IN A RECESSION, IT FORCES EVOLUTION.

SH: Is it the economy, the internet or both that are hurting print
today? Were we after counting customers rather than finding and
charging the customers who count?

DC: FOR MAGAZINES, WHILE THERE IS PRESSURE FROM DIGITAL SUBSTITUTION, THE CORE ISSUE IS CYCLICAL, AS THE TYPE OF ADVERTISERS WHO SPEND THE MOST IN PRINT ARE FACING ENORMOUS PRESSURE ON THEIR BUSINESSES.

SH: Does David Carey still see the cup half full or he is now seeing
the empty side?

DC: THERE ARE ALWAYS OPPORTUNITIES, IN EVERY MARKET. DURING A TOUGH CYCLICAL RECESSION, THEY ARE HARDER TO FIND, BUT THE SMART, NIMBLE ENTREPRENEURS WILL FIND POCKETS OF OPPORTUNITY EVEN TODAY — OF THAT I’M VERY CONFIDENT.

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On innovation, print and the web: A series of Q and A with industry leaders. Part eight

April 27, 2009


Innovation is not dead and so are many business to business magazines. Those of us who refuse to believe that print is dead and the end is near (I have to keep on reminding people that what we are witnessing these days is the death of the American publishing model and the publications that depend on it). Here is, in part eight of my series on Innovation, Print and the Web, an interview with Chris Beytes, editor & publisher of GrowerTalks and Green Profit magazines. I asked Mr. Beytes what is he doing to revitalize his print magazines? His answer, derived from interviews with his readers, sheds on the light on how he combined two magazines in one thus achieving a wider reach to the customers who count rather than just counting customers. Click on the video above to hear his entire answer.

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On the decline of Journalism and other words of wisdom from Chris Hedges

April 24, 2009

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This has been a great week for me as a professor and chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. It was even a greater week for our students and faculty. It was the 25th annual Journalism Week, something that I started as Magazine Week when I joined the faculty here in 1984. Many speakers came to campus and interacted with our students on “all things journalism.” I will be sharing some of their insights here and all of their insights on the J-Department web site here.

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, gave the Stuart Bullion Memorial Lecture in Journalism. His speech “The Death of News and the Rise of the Entertainment Culture” touched on the major factors facing journalism in general, and newspapers in particular, today. Here are some excerpts:

The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.

The Internet will not save newspapers. Although all most newspapers have Web sites, and have had for a while, newspaper Web sites make up less than 10 percent of newspaper ad revenue. Advertisers have not gravitated to newspaper sites, either unsure of how to use the Internet or suspicious that it can’t match the viewer attention of older media. And the decline of revenues means an assault on the very heart of the news – the ability to gather and produce news. No internet site will ever bring in the kind of revenue that allows a large newspaper, such as The Los Angeles Times, to field a newsroom staff – a staff which even with all its lay offs — still employs 700 people.

Those who rely on the Internet gravitate to sites that reinforce their beliefs. The filtering of information through an ideological lens, which is destroying television journalism, defies the purpose of reporting. Journalism is about transmitting information that doesn’t care what you think. Reporting challenges, countermands or destabilizes established beliefs. Reporting, which is time-consuming and often expensive, begins from the premise that there are things we need to know and understand, even if these things make us uncomfortable. If we lose this ethic we are left with pandering, packaging and partisanship. We are left awash in a sea of competing propaganda. Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions. Take a look at The Drudge Report. This may be the new face of what we call news.

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. And this assault has been a body blow to a free press, which is, like the humanities, designed to promote intellectual and moral questioning. The confusion of bread and circus with news means that social critics, those who do not shout clichés on cable news shows, but who challenge and question the assumptions and structures of the corporate state itself are left without a voice.

We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome’s bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. Societies in decline, as the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, see their emotional and political passions subsumed by the excitement and emotional life of the arena.

Television journalism is largely a farce. Celebrity reporters, masquerading as journalists, who make millions a year give a platform to the powerful and the famous so they can spin, equivocate, and lie. Sitting in a studio, putting on makeup, and chatting with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, or Lawrence Summers has little to do with journalism. If you are a true journalist, you should start to worry if you make $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that serving the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike journalists – and they should. Ask Amy Goodman, Seymour Hersh, Walter Pincus, Robert Scheer or David Cay Johnston.

You can watch the entire lecture here and I welcome your comments on the future of news, journalism and the rest of the issues raised by Mr. Hedges.

Photo by Robert Jordan

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On innovation, print and the web: A series of Q and A with industry leaders. Part seven

April 20, 2009


Greg Sullivan is founder and CEO of AFAR Media, a new media company that is ready to launch a new magazine AFAR this coming August. The magazine’s tag line is Where Travel Can Take You and its content will be solely devoted to international “Experiential Travel.” I asked Greg whether he is crazy to launch a new magazine, in print first and then on the web, in this day and age. Click on the video to hear his response.
By the way, Mr. Sullivan spoke earlier today to our students at Ole Miss about his new magazine venture. Stay tuned to a link soon to his speech on the Ole Miss campus.

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It’s the season for statistics, so what can we learn from and about New Magazine Launches?

April 16, 2009

Media reporters and pundits these days are having a field day with the quarterly statistics from different agencies reporting the decline of magazine advertising and newspaper advertising and revenues. Those reporters and pundits remind me with an old western where the villains force you to dig your own grave then they throw you in it. All the reports have one theme in common: things are so bad that you will think print is the only medium that is hurting in the midst of the worst economic crisis in our history.

There is no doubt that our established media are hurting, but do not blame the medium. As I have mentioned more than once on this blog, it is the publishing model that is to blame. The American publishing model as we know is DEAD. We need to change and change must be radical in nature.

Well, a lot of new magazines are doing things differently. They are trying to adapt to a new publishing model. We just finished the final statistics of the new launches of 2008 and the numbers are amazing. Here are some facts that you need to know about our industry and about how some “prophets of bloom” are doing to combat all the grave diggers:

Total New Launches in 2008: 697

Launches with a Quarterly frequency or more 196

Average Cover Price $8.10, yes you read that write…almost $5.00 more than the established magazines

Average Subscription Price $28.05, imagine that real price for the cost of the magazines and of course your receive fewer issues (4 or 6 issues for that price).. compare that with 52 issues for an average of $20.

Average Advertising Pages 12.34, way less than the 50/50 split…it is more like 10% of the entire magazine…we are back in the business of selling content first and charging for it the fair price without subsidies…

Average Total Pages 111.01

And which categories were the hot ones? Here are the top ten of 2008

Top Categories

1. Epicurean… 97 (we love to eat regardless of the economy)

2. Crafts… 68 (since we are cooking at home we have time to do some crafts while the food is in the oven)

3. Sports… 62 (armchair sports people are still looking for something to complement their addiction)

4. Home… 44 (see number one, we are spending more time at home, so we better take care of it)

5. Entertainment…42 (finished all the food, done the crafts, read the sports at home, now is time to catch up with our other addiction: celebrities: they are free and will cost you nothing but the price of the magazine)

6. Metropolitan… 23 (there is no better place than home…act globally but live locally)

7. Fashion… 21 (money is low, fantasy replaces reality)

8. Health… 19 (do you really want to count how many articles dealt with stress and how to cope?)

T9. Games… 17 (first it was crosswords, then word seek, now Sudoko is the king/queen of the games magazines)

T9. Sex… 17 (I guess some still feel there is not enough on TV and the web)

And for you, the doubting Thomases of this world and the grave diggers, if you really want to see the magazines behind the statistics all what you have to do is to click here and take a tour of some of the products that folks who do not believe the end is near are doing and succeeding. The first three months of 2009 are already on display.

Learning from the new launches is going to be but one important aspect of the new Magazine Innovation Center that I am launching in August. Stay tuned for more info about MIC and our entire publishing industry. There is HOPE and there is more to come. Enjoy.

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On innovation, print and the web: A series of Q and A with industry leaders. Part six

April 14, 2009


David McDonald is Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Media group which consists of Sunshine Media, Sunshine Printing, True North Custom Publishing and Blue Canoe Dynamic Media. During a visit to Ole Miss I had the opportunity to ask David a question regarding the future of print, the web and the role of innovation in both. “The printed word is the clothing of our intellect,” he mused among many others words of wisdom. Check his view by clicking on the video above to hear his complete answer.

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