Archive for May, 2019


BoSacks Speaks Of Peril And Opportunity In ACT 9’s Capstone Speech. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 16

May 12, 2019

Bo Sacks wound up the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 9 on Thursday with a much-anticipated capstone speech, where he sounded some very strong warnings and spoke of great opportunities. Sacks, we remember, spent a decade debating the future of journalism with Dr. Samir Husni, Mr. Magazine™; and Sacks reminded us that Husni actually created the Ph.D. in magazine journalism that did not exist. Mr. Magazine™ has been recognized for his significant influence in shaping this business and popular perception of it.

Sacks referenced the highlights of the conference: Linda Brooks identifying magazines as invited guests; Jeff Joseph mentioning the history of vinyl as a comparison to print; Lori Oglesbee saying that without a free press, democracy dies; James Hewes warning of the risk of depending on a single revenue stream.

Tying it together, Sacks spoke of the incredible acceleration of growth of technology into the present. Soon nothing will be mobile because everything will be mobile. It came too fast, and it led to some chilling consequences. Today, the digital giants are exploring every part of our lives. Facebook, Amazon, and Google, are intruding into every part of everyone’s existence, learning where we are going, what we are doing, what we are saying, what we are thinking, and using it to sell to us.

No one could have known the Gutenberg press would have had effects from fueling the reformation to changing the shape of our brain. Today, new technologies have started a new revolution. Living through this revolution makes it impossible to take a long view. We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism. It takes our private experiences and turns them into revenue opportunities. It changes everything.

It’s impossible to overstate the peril of our times. Robber barons of yesterday have been replaced by e-robbers. We used to fear the totalitarian government who knew everything about us, followed us everywhere. Well it isn’t the government, but it’s happening.

Digital advertising has surpassed the other forms, including TV—yet the level of fraud in digital advertising is mind-boggling. It’s the largest crime in terms of money generated globally. Fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, fake websites, are all grabbing loot online. And technology companies are designing content with the sole intention of capturing as much attention as possible, creating a race to the bottom of the brain stem.

The online advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand or control, and there is no competent leadership. Why is it happening? Ad trade organizations and marketers are making too much money to change anything. The intrusion and fraud could be ended in a heartbeat—but there is no cure for greed. The lawmakers with the power to change it have absolutely no idea how it works.

Print should be a shining beacon in a sea of criminality. We have the trusted content. Everywhere on the planet, it’s as simple as this: Let’s have the readers pay for the content. Ad revenue should be the gravy on the meat, not the unreliable indigestible thing advertising has become. Give the readers what they want, when they want it, and have them pay for it—that’s the formula for success.

Diversification is opportunity. Your brand may be venerable, but it shouldn’t be static. Without alternative revenue streams you have zombie momentum. Create a better user experience. Add experiences, memberships, products. A relationship is a strong building block to revenue. Consider every option to keep readers engaged with personalized bundles. There are billions of dollars left to earn.

And try new things. Structure follows strategy. If you base your strategy on your existing structure, you limit your potential to what you’ve already done.

Addressing the students, Sacks finished: Now is the time to re-think the unthinkable. This is a unique and historic period where the unthinkable has never been more possible.

To watch Bo Sacks presentation click on the video below:


Hola! Magazine, A 75-Year Old Success Story. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 15

May 12, 2019

Jay Annis, VP of Hello Media, invited us to celebrate with him on day 3 of Mr. Magazine’s ACT 9 at the University of Mississippi. It’s the 75th anniversary of Hola! magazine, launched in Spain in 1944. Coming out of Spain’s bloody civil war, followed by the impact of World War 2 on the country, Hola’s mission was to offer good news and uplifting features. There is not and never will be anything dark or negative in this magazine.

Hola! is credited as the first magazine to create celebrity journalism. Hola! covered Elizabeth Taylor throughout her life; it covered the royal family of Monaco from childhood to old age. Its interest in the full range of celebrity lives creates continuity, so that generations of families read this publication. It covers tragedy—for example JFK’s assassination—but in a way that celebrates the victim’s life. Celebrities trust Hola, because they know there will be nothing negative in their coverage.

Hola! came to the UK thirty years ago as Hello magazine. Now there are 30 editions in 10 languages reaching 20 million readers per week. Every second around the world 15 people pick up their magazines. They do SIPs—cooking, homes, décor, parenting, travel, in packages ranging from 250 to 400 pages. Hola runs eight different websites with 27 million monthly uniques, tied together by design and voice. They have 18.5 million social media follows; a Spanish YouTube channel with influencers submitting content; the channel has over 16.5 million viewers and almost 200,000 subscribers.

With this global footprint, the US has been in the franchise’s sights, and they decided to launch in the US in 2016. The US hispanic community is 54 million, making the US the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. This big, broad, young, growing market is perfect for Hola magazine. They launched with print,, social media, Hola TV. Now they have between one and two million on every digital platform; in print, their readership has grown to 400,000 in less than three years.

Hola! is published in both English and Spanish; subscribers can take their pick. Older readers want to read in Spanish; the younger readers prefer English. The magazine accommodates reader preferences, both online and in print. And because the readers are different, the online content is not necessarily the same.

Getting advertising is tough—but Hola had over 60 major advertisers in its first year. They work with their advertisers on branded content, video, cross platform.

Hola! is a global brand with local relevancy. Their global prestige allows for worldwide exclusives.

Hola! was recognized as one of the ten best magazine launches in 2016.

After 75 years, the magazine that celebrates the good, the happy and the uplifting has amply earned its own celebration. Happy birthday, Hola!

Click the video below to watch Jay Annis presentation:


An Historic Meeting Of the Four Media Associations CEOs: Magazine Media Challenges Today. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 14

May 9, 2019

The third morning of ACT 9 brings together for the first time the heads of the four major trade associations: Linda Thomas Brooks from the MPA, James Hewes from FIPP, Jerry Lynch from MBR, and Michael Marchesano from Connectiv.

Yes, the magazine industry is disrupted, says Brooks. So is every business I’ve every been in. There is no one answer, there are lots of answers. There is no silver bullet but there might be silver buckshot. I signed up for this business because it really, really matters.

Lynch adds that there are lots of industries (e.g. video rental) that are gone; magazines are still here and worth fighting for. This is a passionate business, and that passion is what brought me into this business.

In fact, says Hewes, this is the most exciting time to be in the business, with so many new ways to get our content to our audience. Most people would kill to have a job in media.

The biggest job this industry faces, says Hewes, is vocabulary. What do we call ourselves? We need to be more comfortable and confident as to how we describe ourselves.

From the distribution side, says Lynch, there is a disconnect between the understandings of the publisher and the retailer. It’s hard to bring the two parties together. The opportunity is in bringing the two parties together around the consumer. That relationship is so valuable, publishers need to show retailers that relationship can benefit the store.

On a B to B level, says Marchesano, the challenge is to make sure the audience, who has a buying influence, recognizes the value of the data provided. Making the investment, making the commitment, and looking for ROI.

From Brooks’ perspective, data can be a challenge. Data—and especially a single piece of data—does not equal truth. You can lead yourself to bad business decisions looking at individual bits of data. Algorithms do not get handed down from on high, they are written by people, and included the biases or limitations of those people. We need to use those algorithms and data in the right way. Understanding data bias, data perspective, is hugely important. Business fundamentals are math—never say you hate math when interviewing for jobs in journalism.

Putting together data, legacy and passion: computers are great for correlating data but not good at finding what the correlation means. You have to have a combination of understanding data and using your common sense to evaluate it, says Hewes. Consumers have no idea how much data is being collected about them. When they find out, there will be blood on the streets. Do the mattress test—put your phone on the kitchen table, talk about mattresses for an hour, then see how many ads you get served about mattresses.

This led to a flurry of comment:

Brooks: It’s like you’re sitting in a bar talking about mattresses, and a mattress salesperson interrupts to try to sell you one.

Hewes: This behavior might be getting normalized. It doesn’t mean it’s right.

Brooks: In China they’re collecting a social score. They’re assessing your worth based on it, and assigning consequences to it.

Hewes: And it’s a short step to assigning credit ratings in this country.

Brooks: Many industry bodies are working on privacy issues, but it’s going to take everyone in our industry working with our government to figure this out. MPA spends much time in Washington talking about it.

Marchesano: State level laws with strong consumer rights bias could have an impact on the national agenda.

Lynch: This kind of data is key to business. We need to get in early to help craft the right decision.

Hewes: Facebook will be broken up. They don’t know it yet; but the EU and other bodies will be creating regulations. This is the reason we need trade associations. There are issues to consider that these associations can address.

Lynch: These associations can craft a consistent message in a diverse category.

Brooks: The business isn’t changing as fast or dramatically as we’d like it, but we’re seeing some good indicators.

Ten years ago when I started the MIC, says Dr. Husni, my goal was to amplify the future of print, and everyone thought I had lost it. Last year Linda Brooks stood in front all the ACT Experience attendees and said, don’t ever say print is dead or print is not dead. It’s a vindication.

To watch the entire panel discussion please click on the video below:


It’s All About Circulation and Distribution Or Is It? The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 13

May 9, 2019

The following is a panel discussion that took place on the last day of the ACT 9 Experience concerning circulation issues and challenges that face magazine media companies in the retail space and with current business models today. The central theme centered on reimagining the world of print and what it can do in the form of Special Interest Publications and partnerships. And also discussion about a much-needed revitalization of the magazine distribution system. And your ACT 9 Scribe, Linda Ruth was also a guest on the panel.

The panel featured:

Moderator, Tony Silber: President of Long Hill Media

Clayton Clabaugh: Director, Fundraising and Product Annuity, Focus on the Family
Linda Ruth: Publishing Management and Consulting, PSCS Consulting & Official ACT 9 Scribe
Drew Wintemberg: Founder, AJW Leadership & Insights and former president, Time Inc. Retail

Now, let’s revisit this interesting discussion…

Tony Silber: We are celebrating the enduring power of print in what is undeniably a media revolution. As we adapt to a changing media world, we need to acknowledge the macro trends, all of which are difficult. Most of us engage with media digitally and on mobile; print is not our first point of contact. Google, Facebook and Amazon represent 75% of advertising dollars. Advertising, which has been the foundation of magazine revenue, is less important than ever before. Reader revenue becomes more important; but the distribution system is contracting, even collapsing. If you look at the supply chain of an industry you can learn a lot about its health. We can celebrate print, but must understand the context.

Drew Wintemberg: All major companies are facing the same headwinds at retail. Checkouts are disappearing; urbanization is reducing the presence of large-format retail stores. We have been building our business in retailers that don’t exist to the same degree anymore. The magazine category must evolve. Circulation must serve a purpose. The direction of publishing is in the direction of personalization, specialization; we need to look at the publications beyond the AAM audited ones. The AAM titles are shrinking; but the non-audited titles still grow. The picture is better than what we’re looking at. Our competitors for front end space are saying magazines are dead; we need to answer this. Niche titles, special interest titles are growing. As our space at front end shrinks, we can’t afford to give seven pockets to the women’s titles.

Linda Ruth: The industry has gone in two separate directions. The success of publishers is in the direction of higher prices, higher quality, lower frequency. The industry’s infrastructure, on the other side, has been built for the old AAM/mass market titles. It’s consolidated into essentially one company, a company that is trying to streamline to scale.

At the same time retailers have been streamlining; tracking and sales have switched to scan-based-trading. SBT ensures that the only copies verified as sale are the ones going through the register. These two things—the consolidation of distribution on the wholesale side and SBT is like using a machete for fine-carving. Specialty magazines need a targeted distribution. There are successful magazines now that cost several dollars to print and ship, that cost close to $20 at retail. These publishers can’t afford the high returns that the system currently generates. Publishers need to find new ways to get their product to market. There must arise new ways of bringing product to market and also new ways of accountability for tracking and paying for sales. SBT was created and authenticated for product that is higher frequency, lower price. Today’s special interest titles are more vulnerable to shrink. We need to see more follow up, more access to the merchandisers, more accountability.

Drew Wintemberg: The thing that frightens me most about the SIPS (Special Interest Publications) is that it could vanish tomorrow, like the adult coloring book craze.

Tony Silber: The subscription economy is booming. Does it have a detrimental impact?

Clayton Clabaugh: There is potential there to partner up with somebody and add a publication into an existing subscription box.

Drew Wintemberg: For the longest time, it was a one to one relationship, publication and reader. Publishers now want so many touchpoints with the consumer, they want to be engaged in people’s lives all along the line. Engage them socially, at events, through clubs, super-subscriber packages. Everyone wants the club because it gives them access to all the names. It isn’t detrimental; we have lots of other issues.

Linda Ruth: And lots of other ways of approaching it. E-learning, for example, is way under-penetrated in media—it’s a $46 billion business globally.

Clayton Clabaugh: We’re testing micro-learning. Embedding bits of content. We are testing through email and Facebook, and the tests we’ve done have been robust. We launched an email offer to an e-learning course on a Friday afternoon, had 14,000 subscribers by Monday; it brought in some donors as well. There is a different tie between the content of a magazine and the micro-learning that can come from it.

Linda Ruth: We have the audience, the knowledge, the enthusiasts. So much of our content can be taught and needs to be taught. And John Mennell of Magazine Literacy has suggested that we create opportunities throughout the year for people to buy magazines on the newsstand and leave them in bins for at-risk kids to create waves of enthusiasm and a really good feeling about print. We need to throw out what we think we know and start again, start fresh.

Drew Wintemberg: If you’d told me ten years ago we’d be paying for radio, I’d have said you were out of your mind. We do need to re-invent ourselves. There has to be a way to leverage our content to make it richer, to make it live longer.

Linda Ruth: I’ve been discovering with my special interest publishers that one way to go is to make the content interactive. Interactive prompts in the magazine, along with making print more beautiful, more tactile.

Drew Wintemberg: If you start out beholden to the advertisers, you lose all control. The SIPs are going from a content standpoint.

Tony Silber: Then what does the revenue mix look like?

Clayton Clabaugh: From the point of view of a non-profit, it’s donors, subscribers, and the extra add-ons; this puts us in the black.

Tony Silber: Can circulation revenue take the place of advertising on a mass scale?

Drew Wintemberg: Ad revenue is still very important. It’s going to be a slow process trying to change that.

Linda Ruth: Every business model will look different. But if you’re going to be less dependent on ad revenue, you have to build efficiencies. These high-end publications can’t survive at low efficiencies. Also the gap between subscriptions and newsstands needs to shrink as well. Sub prices have to get more into alignment with newsstand. And your online model: you use your content to build your list and sell stuff to the list. E-learning is a piece to be used to use the list, to sell to the list, and to sell other products to the list through the classes.

Drew Wintemberg: What some publishers are doing with events is phenomenal. Engaging core constituent in the place they want to be.

Clayton Clabaugh: We’re raising the prices of our magazines; we’re sacrificing some response rate but it’s putting us in the black. It also becomes part of our story. We’re also using outside lists to bring new names in to our audience.

Tony Silber: What marketing techniques are working in digital subscription development?

Clayton Clabaugh: We’re advertising in Facebook, and it’s competitive with acquisition costs in direct mail. And e-learning is also promising.

Linda Ruth: It comes back to building email lists; to do so, you do need to give away free stuff, and as you build it, those are the people you sell to.

Please click below on the video link to watch the entire panel presentation:


Data Bridges The Gap Between Magazine Media Platforms. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 12

May 8, 2019

On Day 3 of Mr. Magazine’s ACT 9 at the Magazine Innovation Center of Ole Miss, we welcomed Jim Elliott, President of James G. Elliott Co., to moderate a panel with Alan English, the VP of Communications for the Military Officers Association of America, John French of French LLC, Michael Marchesano of Connectiv/SIIA/AM&P, and Kevin Shirin of Focus on the Family.

Elliott came out of the agency business, where everyone was predicting the death of TV. You’ll always hear that about various platforms. Today, the gap between platforms is shrinking.

Print has transformed itself to provide value and connectivity with the audience, said Marchesano. Data and technology enable us to personalize content for our audience members. Events are a great way to extend the brand, to extend the relationship with the audience. Our virtual world enhances the value of coming together in person to create partnerships and learn. Events, however, are not a lifetime annuity; they need to be changed from year to year; they need to stay on the leading edge.

Data is the big conversation at the MOAA, said English. They have a lot of data, they know a lot about their membership. Currently the data exists on disparate systems; they are working on bringing the information together to help it inform the offerings they create for their members. Events provide a whole new platform for storytelling as a benefit for the existing audience and to attract new audience members. Every event needs either a tearjerker or a great moment; and test your market with small events before growing to bigger ones.

It’s always easier to sell to an existing customer than a new one, added Marchesano. Data about those customers show their interests, what you can provide them. Data is what is enabling media to bridge the gap between print products, events, and other platforms. Use your own editorial team to plan the content of events; you can go out for help with logistics. Use your great data to build a story around it. This brings data to life and makes it actionable. Advertorials have always been part of the mix, which continues with native; the media company are the editorial experts, they’re the one who should tell the story.

Shirin agreed that using data to shape content development, delivering more relevant information to the audience. A number of years ago Focus on the Family made the mistake of asking for too much data, which misstep they are still recovering from. It’s important to continue to learn and try.

French has found events a great way to get revenue, as booth space can be prepaid up to a year in advance. If you have data on who is visiting your website, you can use it to invite people to nearby events that might interest them. Better to have fewer people you know more about than more people you know less about. Any time you have communication with a reader, ask questions. Find out about them. Turn it into data that will tell you how to run your business.Another convergence is with advertising, and the important thing here is to clearly indicate what content is editorial and what is not.

Wrapping up, Elliott summarized some key points: 1) Find the best for every platform, 2) Always ask why, 3) Switch things up.

It’s an exciting time to be in media. Be a sponge, but bring your point of view, your perspective. Embrace the opportunities.

Click the video below to watch the panel discussion:


Magazine Media Trends And What They Mean For Your Business. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 11

May 8, 2019

People tend to look to the past to predict the future, said James Hewes, president and CEO of FIPP, on the third morning of Mr. Magazine’s ACT 9. But the rate of change is happening faster than anyone could have foreseen. To be successful in the modern world, publishers need to change their business, to have four robust revenue streams. The number one stream should be paid content. As an industry we’re beginning to make back some of the ground we lost when we started giving away content for free. However there are ten additional revenue streams that Hewe identified, including philanthropy, IT, memberships, and events. The ad dependent model is not gone; however, it now needs to be one stream among several.

A second trend is consolidation, which, along with its attendant churn, will continue. At the same time, we’re seeing the emergence of new, independent publishers. New ideas and new thinking are coming into the market.

The most important revenue streams, paid content, has required some re-education of consumers, who are becoming more savvy as to the need to pay. In the news space, if you are not charging for content online, you’re not in the game anymore. The Economist is now charging the same for a digital subscription as for print, on the grounds that they are paying for the content, not the format. Then, once you have a focused audience, you need to transact with them through e-commerce and events. A lot of work needs to be done, however, to make the process seamless. It’s so easy to buy through one-click on Amazon, so difficult on most publisher sites.

Advertising has never been less important to the industry, which is in some ways a good thing. Publishers need to break down the silos in their business and create authentic, opinionated and purposeful native copy. Editors are the best guardians of content; they need to be part of this process. Ad blocking is everywhere prevalent; publishers can communicate the need to their readers to turn off the ad blocking technology.

Only about half the traffic on the internet is real people. The rest are bots. And half those bots are impersonators, scraping money out of the system to the tune of many millions of dollars of loss to publishers. About three quarters of online ad revenue goes to three players: Google, Facebook and Amazon. Everyone else splits up the rest.

Print is regaining its prestige. Every year FIPP finds innovations in the print space. Print offers strong journalism unavailable online. Private Eye, the UK satire magazine, is growing because it never embraced digital. Publications are creating new packaging for enhanced reader value. Brands are exploring higher quality premium products.

You cannot rely on Facebook for traffic. A lot of companies did; but Facebook can change their algorithm at any time. Eitghteen months ago they did so, and publisher traffic fell by half. The ad-funded digital editorial model might not be sustainable for this reason. The change made Google the single biggest source of referral traffic. All the others put together are insignificant. Apple’s business model is to destroy anyone else’s business model. In any case, reliance on a single revenue stream is risky.

Platform-focused content: ask yourself, do they enhance your brand? Does a financial services brand need a snapchat account? Each platform really needs original content.

Ai is being used to power content recommendations; to edit homepages or section pages on a site; routine journalism; changing marketing approach for dynamic paywalls, and, crucially, translation. Look at the potential of AI and what it can do for you; it could enhance content output by aiding research and commoditizing dull and repetitive tasks. AI is going to have the biggest effect on media among all industries.

Diversity is the biggest issue in the question of talent and culture, creating an attractive workplace environment. Companies need to cultivate it. Change can’t be driven from the top down; it needs to percolate up from the base.

The trend report was taken up by Jerry Lynch, president of the MBR, who takes us beyond the transaction to the audience. Who is reading this product?

45% of all US growth is coming from non-store retail. Retailers need to change with their customers, who are getting more urban, older, more diverse, and more polarized in terms of income. Retail growth reflects evolving shopper priorities with online growing the most; however, supermarkets are still big and growing. If you look at the online sales environment, for the most part magazines aren’t there.

The omni channel evolution is closely anchored into the evolving fulfillment system: ship to home, in-store pickup, curbside pickup, grocery delivery, on-demand delivery, surprise subscription, and auto-replenishment subscription. The store offers scale, but the omnichannel shopping represents growth. As omni channel takes market share, it’s going to effect the retail mix also.

No category in the store has a stronger presence in mobile than publications. We need to use that mobile connection to sell products.

The trends reveal opportunities. We can see the changes, and need to adapt our business models to take advantage of them.

To watch both of the aforementioned presentations please click the videos below:


John French On Reinventing Legacy Media. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 10

May 8, 2019

When did “legacy” become a bad word? James French, President of French LLC asks. We used to want to leave a legacy. And what is the difference between journalism and “new media”? We shouldn’t even need the name.

You should expect as much sizzle, as much beauty, in trade magazines as in consumer—because the people who read those magazines are consumers, professional consumers. When French improved the look of his print magazines, the digital design improved along with it, tracking the improved morale of his team. Magical things can come from makeovers. If something is legacy, is old, is not working—ask why. What can a redesign, a fresh perspective accomplish?

There are no legacy products. It’s how you view the product and what you do with it. How many swings at the piñata are allowed? As many as it takes to break through. You don’t only get one shot. There are lots of shots. No matter how good the dogfood is, if the dog doesn’t like it t’s no good. Keep changing it till it works.

Nowadays everything is legacy: print, online, events, mobile, social. It’s all legacy. What you need to figure out is what it’s going to take to make it vibrant.

Be a force in the industry. Treat everything as new, fresh, worth work and change. Don’t treat it as legacy. Print is personalized, changed, evolving—but it isn’t legacy, French told the assembled students. It’s part of the mix. You are alive, you have a chance to change something. Don’t say you’ll work on this, not that. You are in media. Be in media.

To watch John French’s presentation please click on the video below:

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