Archive for November, 2009

h1

As some major magazine brands hibernate this winter, it is time to reinvent our business model and create the “Must Have” rather than “Nice to Have” magazines

November 29, 2009

Three established brands are entering a period of hibernation this coming month (and, unlike bears, they did not have too many ads in the previous months that they had to hibernate, but rather just the opposite). All three brands, Ladies’ Home Journal, Playboy and Reader’s Digest, are skipping their January issues and combining them with the December one to create one double issue. Is it a sign of the times or is yet another proof that the current American business publishing model that depends on advertising as THE major source of revenue for most magazines is no longer working? A quick look at the prices all three brands charge their subscribers should be enough evidence to illustrate that non of the three magazines make much money from their subscribers. None charges more than a dollar, if that, per issue for a one year subscription. Does it really takes a genius or a Ph.D. in economics to figure out that the subscription price is not bringing any “real” money to the bank accounts of the aforementioned magazines?

I do not believe that the issue is a choice of either and or, but rather the problem is all. It is a sign of the times for all three magazines and it is the economic model of publishing. If you take a look at the three aforementioned magazines and ask yourself the simple question of what are those magazines offering their readers that is so unique that they can’t find any other place, what would be your answer? Take a look at the covers of all three magazines and tell me where is the WOW factor? What makes you pick up a magazine, and specifically these magazines, from the nation’s newsstand? Fighting the flu? A dog celebrating Christmas? Or yet another celebrity showing a little bit more of herself?

On today’s crowded newsstands, and in this media age, the room for good enough magazines is slowly, but surely eroding. The creation of a necessary, sufficient and relevant publication is, now more than ever, the only way to survive in this and any economic media climate. We can no longer afford to have a “nice to have” magazines. We are entering the age of the “Must Have” publications, that is if we are interested in survival. All three magazines have been lately experimenting and testing different versions of their covers, different designs and different content and content presentations. The goal is one: stop the bleeding circulation, reinvent the brand and last but not least stay relevant. Will it work? Well, if we keep in mind that brands, like humans, while aging, may have a face lift, a botox shot here and there, and some plastic surgeries that may add a nicer appearance to them, yet as we know for sure, all the plastic surgeries will not prevent humans from dying. So rather than fixing the problem with some cosmetic surgeries, why don’t we look at the real problems and attack them. Ask yourself the simple question, What makes my magazine needed, wanted and desired by my readers? If you can answer that, than add the six-million dollar question to your answer, “How much are readers willing to pay for the magazine?” If your answer does not cover the cost of the creation of the magazine and the cost of delivery, then you are better off pulling the plug on your magazine title and creating another magazine that can provide better answers to the aforementioned questions. We have to accept the fact that magazines are like humans, there is a time to be born and a time to die. Our customers have way too many options for them to choose from, so if you are not creating a unique magazine with unique content for a relevant audience, you can rest assured that you are not doing yourself a favor and that you are trying to avoid the unavoidable.

We are living the media age, and we have to be different and relevant to stay alive. Any other combination is not going to work. So as you hibernate this winter, try to reinvent your business plan as you reinvent your magazine. In marketing, folks always look for a Unique Selling Proposition ( USP). In journalism, we are always looking for Unique Selling Features (USF). What is yours and how much is it worth to the customers (readers) first and the advertisers second. The answer to that question may hold the key for your future success.

I would love to hear your comments on the aforementioned magazines and on the future of our business in general. Do you think our American business model is still viable? Can we continue to create “good enough” magazines? Which magazines do you consider “Must Have” publications. As the media landscape changes, we better be ready and willing to change and create publications that our readers not only want, but rather are willing to pay for to get what they want.

h1

Happy Thanksgiving From Mr. Magazine™ to Y’all

November 25, 2009


Wishing each and everyone a happy Thanksgiving this holiday season. I have so much to be thankful for. I have been blessed by a loving family, colleagues who understand me and, last but not least, hundreds of friends in the magazine and media world here and around the world. So, to one and all, have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your turkey. All the best, Samir.

h1

Another Myth Shattered: Kids Don’t Read Cobblestone Magazine, the History Magazine for Children, Celebrates 30 Years of Publishing

November 23, 2009


Kids don’t read. That, in short, is myth number one that you hear day in and day out. And if you are willing to believe myth number one, then for sure you will believe myth number two: even if kids read they do not read history magazines. Well, the funny thing about both myths is just that: they are myths. Kids do read and kids have enjoyed reading a history magazine aimed at them called Cobblestone for almost 30 years.

Cobblestone magazine was founded by two New Hampshire women, Hope Pettegrew and Frances Nankin, in January of 1980. They wrote in the introduction to the first issue of the magazine, “Month by month we will be traveling together around our country, visiting the different people, places and events which have played an important part in our history.” The magazine is now part of the Carus Publishing group and this coming January will publish its 30th anniversary issue celebrating 30 Greatest Americans.

I asked Lou Waryncia, Editorial Director of Cobblestone Publishing, five questions regarding the magazine, kids’ reading habits, the future, the impact of technology and the status of children’s magazines in what can be described a “collective Attention Deficit Disorder society.” What follows is the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Lou Waryncia:

Samir Husni: With the internet taking off faster than a speeding bullet, and digital technology moving printed magazines and books out of the front page news, do you think the end is near for children’s printed magazines?

Lou Waryncia: I do not think the end is near for children’s magazines. I’m a firm believer that print will be around for a long time. Certainly technology is changing the magazine industry, and we’re all trying different ways to co-exist with these changes. But magazines still have a place with children (and adults). We get letters from children all the time saying how much they enjoy their magazines. Getting that magazine in the mail (with their name on it) is still a big deal to most kids. I had a mother tell me recently (and this isn’t the first time) that her son hides himself away in his room and reads his magazine cover to cover the moment it arrives. That one-on-one connection is real.

SH: Do you know whether it makes a difference for kids to read from a laptop, digital device or a printed magazine or book? Any studies you are aware of?

LW: The only study I’m aware of is a 2007 report from the National Endowment for the Arts that indicated a drop in test scores was due to a decrease in the amount of time children read. It brought up the point that kids are reading elsewhere, other than books and magazines, but gave no conclusions on what type of reading is best for kids. Does it make a difference where kids read? I think it depends on the child. I read books, but I was not a big book reader as a kid, but I devoured magazines. I think it’s the same for kids today. There are just more choices today. I think magazines have the capacity to compete with the Internet and other digital devices because of the variety of content and due to great graphics and design.

SH: Cobblestone is celebrating 30 years of publishing and is continuing to focus on history for young kids, do you think that the so called “collective ADD society” can still focus on history and its role in our lives?

LW: The longevity of our magazine proves that kids can and will focus on history if it’s written and presented to them in a way that they find interesting. Cobblestone has grown and changed with the times to make history fun as well as informative. Our goal is to show kids that history has an important place in their lives because it defines who they are and where they came from. Understanding history is a very important part of being a good citizen. Will all kids enjoy Cobblestone, no. But that’s true with any magazine. Yet I think we do a good job of making the subject matter enticing, and I hope entertaining, to a wide audience.

SH: Where do you see the future for all Carus’ magazines? Have you been growing? Steady? Declining?

LW: This has been a tough year for us as a publishing company. But we’ve remained fairly steady in terms of circulation. No dramatic decrease in circulation among our company’s 14 magazines. And we’re non-advertising based. Our subscription rates are higher than other magazines and pay for the publications. One reason I believe we continue to be successful is that parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians value our magazines and want to get them into the hands of their children. Adults will skimp on themselves, but will still buy items, such as our magazines, that they believe are important for their children. People make a commitment when they buy our magazines.

As to the future, I hope to be around for Cobblestone’s 40th anniversary. And I feel strongly that my company’s magazines will still have a place in the lives of children. Will there be changes, or interactions with technology, definitely. We’re still trying to find our place on the Internet. And will we deliver our content in different ways? Definitely. But I believe we’ll still be flipping through print magazine pages as well.

SH: Will it matter where your great content is consumed? On the screen or on the pages of the magazine?

LW: Ultimately, I don’t think so. Good content is good content. But I think the experience is different. And people respond to media differently. Attention span and the amount of value one places on a medium, or what someone simply likes better has a lot to do with how content is consumed. Studies will eventually tell us if reading on a screen is different, better, worse, or equal to print. I wish I knew the answer. But as in most media battles, everyone seems to find a way to coexist. I believe the magazine will still be an important part of children’s lives for some time.

h1

Innovation in Print: Three Magazines that Count …

November 19, 2009


What would you call a person who is willing to pay $20 for a single issue of a magazine? A customer who counts. This last week I bought two magazines, Vintage and MyMag that I paid $20 and $10 for a single copy for each respectively, and I did that gladly. A third magazine (which is on its way to me) that also counts is the Dutch magazine O.K. Periodical, the design oriented magazine from The Netherlands. All three have one thing in common: innovation for customers who count and not just count customers together with the best usage of technology to amplify the printed product.


Vintage magazine‘s premiere issue is a printed beauty to hold. The magazine, modeled after the famous Flair magazine of the 50s (which by the way, I have every issue of), uses various different types of paper, die-cuts, fold-outs and is sewn together rather than stapled or glued. Each page explores the “possibilities of print, font, color, photography, and texture…” The magazine is the brainchild of Ivy Baer Sherman who was inspired to create Vintage magazine by Fleur Cowles who published and edited Flair in 1950 -51. Vintage magazine is worth every penny of the $20 and can be ordered at the magazine’s website here.

MyMag on the other hand, is the $10 an issue new magazine founded by Mangus Greaves, Phil Rugile and Warren Noronha. Each issue of MyMag uses a celebrity to scan the available media in order to create a magazine that addresses the desires of that celebrity. So, if you are a fan of Steve AOKI, you will love the first issue of the magazine that AOKI put together for you. For a visual and voyeur society, what best can bring you the thoughts and actions of a celebrity right there to your mailbox. MyMag is sold on the magazine’s website here and can ordered on an issue by issue basis.


O.K. Periodicals third issue is themed Repeat. The Dutch independent design-magazine, shows the world’s first crowd-sourced magazine cover. A brilliant idea of using technology and digital to create a print product that would have taken ages to do in the golden olden days. “Hundreds of people have made their contribution by designing a small part of it,” says William van Giessen on behalf of the editorial team of the magazine. He adds, ” The bizarre yet unique reproduction underlines the power of the online network.” The magazine, published twice a year, launched their third issue in Berlin to celebrate the “on and off line celebration of media.” The issue can be ordered from the magazine’s website here.

The aforementioned three magazines are nothing but a tiny example of what innovation can do to preserve print and the role of print in a fast moving technological and digital age. It is another reminder that we must use technology to amplify the future of print and not just vice versa. We have to continue to explore and expand our ways on how to reach our relevant customers through the relevant media without the need to sacrifice one on the alter of the other. Our future is not going to be either or, but rather, all.

h1

Food Network magazine: The Most Notable Launch of the Year

November 17, 2009


In an exclusive report on Foliomag.com, the Hearst Communications’ new launch Food Network magazine was named The Most Notable Launch of the Year. The magazine, launched in Nov. 08 was selected from a field of 752 magazines published between Oct. 08 and Sept. 09. Read the entire story by Folio’s Matt Kinsman here.

Some excerpts from Foliomag.com are below:

While 2009 may be remembered more for the number (and quality) of magazines that closed, it was also an active year for launches, with 752 new titles debuting between October 2008 and September 2009, according to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi.

Of those 752 new magazines, Husni has identified the 15 most notable launches of the past year. His criteria include five key questions:

■ How much publicity did the magazine generate?
■ How relevant was the magazine to the intended market?
■ Was the magazine notably diversified and specialized?
■ How innovative were the magazines?
■ Was the magazine so bizarre it had to be included?

“Since the industry seemingly came to a crashing halt in September 2008, we are starting to see more and more evidence that the American publishing model of the past is dead and that our industry has to innovate to survive,” says Husni. “Many of these notable launches are witnesses to that.”

For a complete look at Husni’s 15 Most Notable Launches of the Year, and his interview with Food Network magazine publisher Vicki Wellington, look for FOLIO:’s December issue.

h1

From Brazil with Love: Words of Wisdom from Roberto Civita, The Henry Luce of Brazil: Our Job is to Make a Difference, to Change the World and to Produce Magazines with Souls

November 15, 2009

roberto civita“It will continue to be essential.” Those were the six-word-answer that Roberto Civita, CEO and Editor in Chief of the Abril group in Sao Paulo gave me when I asked him about the future of journalism. An avid speaker and an engaging journalist first and most, Mr. Civita was the lunchon speaker at the Third Brazilian National Association of Magazine Editors Forum (ANER) in Sao Paulo last week. The theme of the Forum was “A digital future that preserves the print.” In one of those rare positions in today’s marketplace, Mr. Civita holds the highest rank, on both editorial and business sides, of one of Latin America’s largest publishing, printing and electronic media companies. The last person, in modern times, to play such a dual role in a major media company (as far as I can remember) is Henry Luce, the founder of Time Inc. in the early 1920s in the United States of America.

Mr. Civita spoke about Quality Journalism in the Multimedia Age. “Quality journalism comes before everything else,” he told the audience at the Forum. “This means journalism must continue to provide engaging content that respect the facts and is committed to the truth.” His call to action included a broad definition of what a journalist should do, now, tomorrow and in the future. “Journalist must verify all the information, be creative, respect the readers and always be ethical, no exceptions regardless of what type of journalism they are engaging in: news, fashion, sports, etc.” he added.

“Our future,” Mr. Civita said, “depends on competent and able journalist who can produce the content readers want and need. We should not stop at the want, but also include the need.” He emphasized the need to establish a long lasting relationship with our readers, one that is based on the publication, the magazine, the brand. “Yes, I resisted using the word brand for years,” he said, “But now I am willing to use it. However, I will never refer to our magazines and publications as products. Products are for things like soap and other stuff that you just use and finish with. We are much more than products, with all due respect to soap and all other products. We are about relationships.”

As for the changing media landscape, Mr. Civita said, “Managing a company today, in a world that has changed, needs organizational competence. Just like the printing press changed the entire world in the 1400s, so is the digital revolution is doing now. “Mind you, however, this revolution is still in its infancy. You need to improve your competence and add a digital component to what you do,” he added. “People now have access to more things, more information and in the end they will converge in the same place.” But no matter what, there are two things that will never change when in comes to our future Mr. Civita said. “There will always be only 24 hours in a day and there will always be the need to look for reliable and credible information.”

Mr. Civita’s final words charged the journalists with six essentials to ensure a future full with quality journalism:

1. Understand the technological changes and trends that are taking place
2. Focus on your audience. Get to know them. It is the journalist who should know the audience, not the marketing person.
3. Produce and deliver content that works in this new environment… as they (the audience) want it.
4. Integrate interactivity and social media… one way is over.
5. Explore and extend your brand… at the end it is going to be an issue of who can they trust.
6. Bring together VERIFIED digital and print content. It is the key to do everything. There should be no talk about journalism without multimedia skills.

“Our job here is not just to make money,” the CEO of Abril said, “Our job is to make a difference, to change the world, to produce magazines with souls. That will make all the difference in the future of quality journalism.”

The next day, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Civito at his headquarters in Sao Paulo where I asked him during lunch with him and some of his key Abril folks about the future of journalism. Listen to the short, but most effective six-word-answer from the man himself, Mr. Roberto Civita, the Henry Luce of Brazil.

samir in brazilFrom Brazil with love, yours truly standing on the balcony of the executive dinning room at the media company Abril. On Wed. Nov. 11, I gave a speech at the Third ANER Forum in Sao Paulo entitled, “Don’t Promote The Suicide of Your Print Magazine” and on Thursday Nov. 12, I spoke at the second annual Web Conference at Abril on the “Using Technology to Amplify the Future of Print.”

h1

Augmented Reality…Technology At Its Best or More Cotton Candy For Our Taste Buds?

November 11, 2009

Picture 12Picture 10Picture 11

Esquire’s December issue screams Augmented Reality Issue, The First Ever. Well, first things first, COLORS magazine had its Augmented Reality issue on the newsstands at least two weeks before Esquire, so what gives with this First Ever business.

However, I am first to give credit where credit is due, and Esquire magazine in the last 12 months has not been afraid of experimenting with innovative ideas and mixing technology and ink on paper, so kudos goes to the folks at Esquire for not being asleep behind the wheel. That aside, both magazines are promising the readers “A living, breathing, moving, talking magazine? For instructions on how to use this thing Downey’s sitting on, see pg. 21 and visit www.esquire.com/ar” as in the case of Esquire, and “This magazine is incomplete… aim this square towards a webcam at www.colorsmagazine.com to find the full content.”

Well, I did. I followed both instructions and recorded my experiment with both magazines using my laptop and my flip camera to record the “the first ever” in what I am sure will be many other first evers. The result was fun, captivating and useless, all three in one… like eating cotton candy…eating all that hot air that will satisfy your taste buds but will leave you hungry rather than satisfied.

Later today, I am speaking at the Brazilian Association of Magazine Editors (ANER) in Sao Paulo and my topic is “Don’t promote the suicide of your print magazine.” Experimenting with Augmented Reality before giving my speech, gave me more ammunition to push even more towards creating a necessary, sufficient and relevant medium… one medium at a time. (More about the ANER conference in an another blog later).

Enjoy the two experiments and let me know what you think? One final word of caution: Focus on the experiment and not my ability to handle a Flip Video camera, a lap top, and two ink on paper magazines all at the same time. By the way, don’t you think it would have been easier on the readers and more helpful to just post those videos on the website and ask readers to go watch them… at least then, there will be nothing between your face and your lap top screen… Go figure.

Enough commentary from me…watch the two two-minute videos and judge for yourself.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,339 other followers

%d bloggers like this: