Archive for the ‘ACT 6 Experience’ Category


Joe Berger: The ACT 6 Conference Addresses the Newsstand.* Epilogue 2.

May 5, 2016

Joe Berger In 2009 I was excited to hear that Dr. Samir Husni (aka Mr. Magazine) had launched the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. I thought it was past time that the conventional wisdom was challenged. Yes, the world of information is changing. Yes, digital is the future. But did that mean that digital was the only future? While we embrace digital, revise how we look at media and magazines and journalism do we have to dance so happily on the grave of printed magazines?

One of the missions of the MIC is to host conferences that discuss the business of publishing in an open and free ranging forum. The conferences are called ACT (ACT is the acronym for “Amplify, Clarify and Testify.”) At the first ACT conference I was thrilled to see speakers beyond the usual batch of insiders who spoke at most magazine conventions. Better yet, we got to hear from a wide range of Samir’s publishing acquaintances from overseas and learned how they were addressing the changes in the magazine world. And even better than that, the auditorium in Overby Hall was filled with journalism students, undergraduates and graduates who were there to learn about magazine publishing and what the future may hold for them.

This year, the ACT conference was in the Spring (April 20 – 22) instead of the Fall. After five conferences that focused on a wide variety of topics, this years’ ACT featured several panels on the struggles of the newsstand side of the business.

Day One of the ACT conference kicked off with an industry overview from Tony Silber of Folio Magazine. It was followed by a very lively and informative address from Sid Evans of Southern Living Magazine.

Day Two took on a whole different form.

The conference kicked off with an historical overview of the makeup of the newsstand distribution industry from John Harrington, a consultant and editor of the New Single Copy newsletter and former head of the industry trade group, The Council for Periodical Distributors of America (CPDA). John is a long time industry veteran and he was able to lay out for many conference participants how the newsstand was organized, how it had worked for many years. Finally he explained why the industry experienced such rapid consolidation and had arrived at such a precarious position in the second decade of the 21st century.

But for any newsstand veteran, the surprise was the next panel, “Reimagining The Newsstand”. This was a remarkably open and frank discussion between several publishers, a major magazine wholesaler, and the major supplier of books and magazines to Barnes & Noble. The panel was moderated by Gil Brechtel, a former magazine wholesaler and current CEO of MagNet, a data service that provides publishers with store level information on their newsstand sales. The members of the panel were: Shawn Everson of Ingram Content, David Parry of TNG, Hubert Boehle of Bauer Media, Andy Clurman of AIM Publishing and Eric Hoffman of Hoffman Media.

While it was not that remarkable to have wholesalers and publishers on a panel discussion, this panel was more lively and open (Perhaps because we were nowhere near either coast?). Before the panel opened, each participant was given the opportunity to give a short presentation on their side of the business. This was incredibly informative. I could understand, fully for a change, the incredible pressures that TNG operates under (High fixed costs, pressures from retail customers, competitors for space within those retail customers, pressure from magazine suppliers). I could see why a publisher from another country (Hubert Boehle of Bauer) would view the American newsstand with a skeptical and quizzical eye (Germany has similar sales volume as the US, yet a higher sell through and lower remittance to the retailer). It was fascinating to hear about the transformation of Ingram from a strictly magazine and bookstore reship operation into a multi-channel company that also profited from digital production and distribution was impressive and remarkable.

Did the panel fix the newsstand?

Of course not. The challenges that face the newsstand distribution business can’t be fixed in one morning. But to my mind, this was the first of what should be many open, frank, and engaging discussions. We should continue this conversation. You can watch the presentation below:

This panel was followed up with another MagNet sponsored panel titled “Cover Data Analysis for Editors”. This was led by Joshua Gary of MagNet and included Brooke Belle of Hoffman Media, Josh Ellis of Success Magazine, Liz Vaccariello of Readers Digest and Sid Evans of Southern Living. From my perspective, this was another successful panel. It was refreshing to hear from editors who understand that newsstand copies are the public front door to their magazine. That something designed to appeal to a potential reader could make that part time fan of the magazine a full time paying subscriber.

Consider the potential streams of revenue open to magazine publishers today: Events, e-commerce, newsletters, blogs, video, subscriptions. Ask yourself, why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward with every single issue that hits the newsstand? Why wouldn’t every newsstand cover be a piece of art instead of the very last thing you think of?

I don’t know. Any art directors or editors want to chime in?

In a March editorial, Tony Silber, the VP of Folio Magazine stated that the fate of the newsstand is not the same fate of print magazines. Tony correctly points out how the channel no longer generates much, if any profit. That racks are “truncated”. That many editorial pursuits have moved online. His address at the opening of the ACT conference was inspiring. But on this point I’d have to disagree. What has happened to the newsstand could very well be the fate of the printed word if publishers do not pay attention to all aspects their business. If all they do is react.

The fate of the newsstand is the fate of any business if the participants pay no attention the rumblings of their customers or suppliers. If you don’t watch and respond to trends, the fate of the newsstand is waiting for you.

If we want readers to buy newsstand copies, we have to give them a reason to do so. If we want the newsstand channel to be profitable, then the participants in the channel have to cooperate and on the same page about who, how, when and how much they will get paid.

Recently a supplier contacted one of my customers and rather (Rudely I thought) informed them that they were not profitable, that they would have to switch to another form of discount and that they would have to agree to this right now this very minute or else they would be dropped. A quick review of this distributors sales showed that their sales losses were significantly higher than anything else this title had ever experienced. Moreover the discount structure that the title was currently declared “unprofitable” had been imposed by the distributor in an earlier “either/or” declaration. In other words, the losses this distributor incurred were self inflicted. Why? Because they took their eye off the ball and didn’t think long term.

When will sales stop declining? When we give readers a compelling reason to buy. When the producers of the content, the publishers decide that it is a channel of sales that they should pay attention to. In fact, during the ACT conference, we heard from several publishers who are doing well on the newsstand precisely because they are paying attention to their business.

It’s my hope that the discussions that were started at this years ACT conference continue. The alternative is a continued drift. At a certain point, we need to stop the drift and chart a new course. That point really is now.
* Reposted with permission.


John Harrington: ACT 6 Experience — What I Think I Meant. An Epilogue

May 3, 2016

John Harrington wrote the following To former readers of THE·NEW·SINGLE·COPY:*

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 5.01.58 PM In late April, I attended the ACT 6 Conference, sponsored by the Magazine Innovation Center at the journalism school of the University of Mississippi. Samir Husni is the director of MIC. I have attended and spoke at each of these programs and as I have stated often have found them among the most significant and valuable publishing gatherings I have ever participated in, and believe me over nearly 40 years there have been a bunch of them. The unique quality of the ACT conferences is the participation of the students, undergraduate and graduate. Samir has turned the school into a pipeline of talented people into the magazine media world.

The 2016 program celebrated print and the central role it plays in the broader realm of magazine media. And while troubling issues, particularly the newsstand, were examined, the atmosphere was encouraging, well actually it was exhilarating. The program has been extensively reported on via Samir’s website,, by Linda Ruth. However, I would still like to provide my own interpretation of my contribution to ACT 6, which was in fact the opening presentation and the lead-in the panel, “Reimagining the Newsstand,” assembled and led by Gil Brechtel, president of MagNet.

What I Think I Meant

A Short History of the Long Story of the Magazine Distribution Channel

There is bit of presumption in contending that a report about a presentation you made did not fully capture the essence of what you intended. The fact is you just might not have been all that clear; however, it is also distinctly challenging for an observer to translate the interior meaning of a presentation spread across a score of slides and accompanied by some rather digressive accompanying comments. Therefore, while I can point out that a video of my presentation is available on You Tube (Click on the video below), I have also chosen to provide this summary of what I entitled “A Short History of the Long Story of the Magazine Distribution Channel.”

The old magazine channel, that which existed prior to 1995, characterized by more than 300 wholesalers (of varying sizes and representing around 200 ownerships), operating in defined and dense market areas and with little competition, in its last full year, sold more than 2.1 billion units, worth more that $3.9 billion, and at a retail sell-through of better than 40%.

Last year, 2015, the “modern” channel, with two traditional wholesalers and one direct distributor, sold only 453 million copies (less than 25% of the 1994 figure), whose retail values was only $2.5 billion (down 40% and less than half of the number for 2007, the last good year). On top of that, the sales efficiency was down to 26%.

What Happened? Well, in short there were three channel explosions, in 1995, 2009, and in 2014, which severely altered the system; and there were two external factors that changed the environment for selling magazines: the Great Recession of 2008 and the warp speed technology developments which created a wealth of new platforms for delivering information and entertainment to consumers.

The Great Disruption:

In 1995, what had once been regional retail chains and had expanded their markets into mega-regions and even national, forced changes in the contractual relationships they had existed for more than 40 years with wholesalers. They forced wholesalers into providing delivery and supply far beyond the traditional geographies. It also ushered in a period of virulent competition among wholesalers, shattering the nearly universal discount structures that had existed, which were essentially established and maintained by publishers. Not only were gross profit levels distressed, merchandising costs escalated and signing bonuses, a new phenomenon for the business, were introduced. The result was a unprecedented level of consolidation and concentration in the channel. Within 18 months, there were only about 60 wholesaler ownerships, compared to 200 in early 1995. By 1999, four wholesaler management groups represented more than 90% of all retail sales. Despite their large size, all of them were widely acknowledged to be unprofitable.

However, magazine sales levels were maintained and in some years managed to grow, dollars peaking in 2007 at nearly $5 billion. At the same time, magazine advertising, which of course drives the economics of publishing, was strong. The result was that, despite some general recognition of the distribution channel’s fragile finances, senior publishing management was generally content with its performance, even if it was wobbling a bit.

However, the Great Recession of 2008 had an immediate disruptive effect on both the channel and the economics of publishing. Retail unit sales tumbled by more than 10% that year, the worst decline in history. The damage for advertising was even more destructive, estimated to be a shrinkage of as much as 26%. Almost simultaneously, magazine publishing was beginning to be noticeably impacted by digital developments. Mobile phones became much more than just telephony, moving into sources of information and entertainment. Not far behind them came the entry of tablets, notably the iPad, offering platforms for publishers to compete with their own printed editions. Publishing management appeared solely focused on how to expand their valuable magazine brands into digital formats, and not on repairing their damaged print circulation sources.

2009 – The Anderson News Exit:

Early in 2009, when it was clear that magazine retail sales were not going to recover the losses of 2008, but in fact that the decline would continue, Anderson News, then the second largest wholesaler with a market share of about 25%, took a controversial and risky step. Having complained of financial losses extending back over a decade, they made two serious demands – a seven cents per copy distributed handling fee and for publishers to cover Anderson’s cost of instituting scan-based-trading. After it was clear that their demands would not be met, and some suppliers cut off supplies, Anderson ceased operations. For a short period nearly 50% of retailers did not receive magazines (Source Interlink Distribution had briefly made similar demands, but quickly backed down). It was as much as three months before most former Anderson-supplied retailers were being delivered by the three remaining large wholesalers. Thousands of small retailers never sold magazines again.

2014 – The Source Distribution Collapse:

After a court-ordered injunction restored publisher supply, Source Interlink, with a market share of an estimated 30%, survived the events of 2009. However it went through a structured bankruptcy soon after, later emerging as a private company. Yet, as retail sales continued to crater, the company’s financial situation became increasingly perilous. In an effort to get publishers to accept their proposals for different terms, the company reportedly began delaying payments. The strategy backfired, and the largest publisher-national distributor, Time Inc., stopped supplying Source in late spring of 2014. Source immediately declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. Because they were virtually the only wholesaler in some broad geographies, magazine product was virtually non-existent in large swathes of the country. Even after the two traditional wholesalers and the surviving direct distributor took over delivery to much of the abandoned markets, like after the Anderson exit, a number of small retailers were out of the magazine business.

The Other Factors:

Although the national economy was generally recognized as moving out of the Great Recession by late 2009, magazine newsstand sales continued to tank at a catastrophic 10%-annual pace. Two factors. The recession had changed consumer shopping habits in a radical way. Shoppers, who had cut out much discretionary spending during the worst of times, realized there were some things they didn’t need as much as they once thought they did. They were now sticking to their shopping lists, which affected, most deeply, impulse items, a major source of magazine retail sales. The lingering effect of the recession is often referred to as the recession hangover.

Still, the biggest driver of the collapse of magazine sales was and still is the increase in social media, most notably through mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Take a look at the plight of the celebrity weeklies. Their growth drove the magazine distribution channel through the last good year, 2007. Since then, their sales, including those of the unquestioned category leader, People, are off by more than 50%, and there is no recovery in sight. An audience interested in that milieu, thanks to mobile platforms, has access to whatever it wants on a 24/7 basis. No need to wait a week.

Could the events of 1995, 2009, and 2014 have been prevented?

It may be stretching the narrative to claim that these implosions, contractions, call them what you will, were avoidable, but none of them occurred without warning. Each of these staggering events were preceded by some levels of warning signs, which for various reasons, at all levels of the channel, were to varying degrees either ignored or discounted.

In the immediate years leading up to 1995, retailers were increasingly frustrated with the lack of choice they had of magazine suppliers, at the same time as their geographical markets were expanding. In terms of the power of the magazine category, while unit and dollar sales were still significant, the impact of individual titles was waning. TV Guide, which had once sold more than 12 million copies each, was down to less than five million, and its new ownership, in place since 1989, was not as prepared to face down retailer demands. The number of wholesalers had been contracting for years, but in a gradual fashion, and in a manner that maintained the market density that was key to maintaining it as a profitable and enviable business. Yet, there were discussions taking place among some of the larger players about forming regional alliances that might better resist the increasing strengths of retail chains. Furthermore, publishers were generally comfortable with these discussions. However, the urgency was not there and retailers broke down the traditional structure before any cooperative efforts became realities. The most surprising element of the events of 1995 was not the fact that retailers took control, but the speed with which the shape of the channel changed. Virtually overnight, the dynamics of the business were no longer those which had been maintained it for 40 years.

When 2009 dawned, the channel was widely acknowledged to have been financially broken for well over a decade. Yet the economic changes that had occurred were literally applying band-aids when surgery was required. If significant restructuring was to have taken place, it was up to the major publishers to take the initiative. Yet, until only the year before, advertising was generally strong. and at senior levels the attitude of publishing management appeared to be that there may have problems in the retail distribution channel, but it had staggered along for nearly 15 years, so why shouldn’t it continue to do so. Obviously, they were wrong.

2014 was in many ways a replay of 2009. As a senior printing executive said in effect at a conference not long after Source collapsed, we saw all the warning signs in each of these catastrophes, but we did nothing to avoid them. Will we do anything now?

For the most part, the response of publishers appears to be a possibly inevitable disenchantment with newsstand sales, and a determination to maintain print rate bases through aggressive subscription marketing and expanding their brands into digital media formats. One problem with that is it does nothing to stem the erosion at retail, which could fade away to the point of irrelevance.

At numerous opportunities, I have asked publisher, national distributor, and wholesaler executives, “Where is the bottom?” Without fail, the answer is “I don’t know.”

In The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot wrote:

“This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Is that will happen to that American icon, the newsstand?

Yet, it still has a role, even in a period of diminished expectations, for publishers. It is central to the launch of new titles and remains important to the maintenance of a publication’s brand. Yet, it is only the largest publishers who can take the steps needed to save the channel. To date, it has not been demonstrated that the willingness is there.
*Reposted with permission.


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — HOT NEWS FLASH: Bo Sacks Admits: “PRINT AIN’T DEAD OR DYING.” The Last Chapter.

May 2, 2016

BoSacks Mr. Magazine’s friendly rival Bo Sacks, known for his lively defense of digital media, wound up the ACT 6 conference with a message to the media students in the audience: print lives!

While not a wholly surprising statement—Bo Sacks has supported media in all formats, and despite his vigorous debates with Dr. Husni often finds points of agreement as well—it was an encouraging way to end the conference. Sacks summarized some of the conference’s themes:

· Magazines are about immersion

· People read to retreat

· Magazines are personal, surprising, social, actionable, credible, physical

· It’s not about digital or print—it’s about content

· The newsstand is challenged, but not yet moribund

Sacks admitted to being inspired by the honesty expressed and concepts shared in this year’s ACT 6. He ended by carrying the “Reimagine the newsstand” theme a step farther, challenging Husni’s students to reimagine their lives. “I am giving each of you a promotion,” he told Husni’s group. “Each of you is now the president of your own corporation. Remember this when you go out into the workforce. You are the president of Me Inc., and you can create what you choose in your life.”

Click below to watch Bo Sacks’ presentation at the ACT 6 Experience.

Thank you speakers, sponsors, and moderators. Save the date for the ACT 7 Experience, April 25 to 27, 2017 themed Magazines Matter, Print Matters. Stay tuned.


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — Scott Coffman, Lumina Media: Media is Hard–But Worth Pursuing. Chapter 10.

May 2, 2016

Scott Coffman “We’re not in an easy business,” warned Scott Coffman, Senior VP and General Manager of Lumina Media. “Media is hard.”

He was speaking to the group of students and magazine professionals at MIC’s ACT 6, and went on to say that, despite the difficulty of the landscape, there exist opportunities and potential for publishers speaking for and to passionate and enthusiastic readers. Lumina Media creates product in several categories, including pet, farm, and auto, which reach enthusiast audiences.

As an example of how Lumina addressed today’s media challenges, the publisher re-launched the 50-year-old brands, Cat Fancy and Dog Fancy, in association with the Catster and Dogster websites. The move enabled the publisher to create a print and digital brand that has more history and authority than the parent sites and a more updated, engaging, and immediate voice than the print parent. With a more relaxed style and tone, which evoke a best friend or family member giving pet advice, sales on the newsstand have doubled.

Coffman believes that, like Lumina, other publishers who are rising to meet the current media challenges can counter the downward trends. The challenge is to move confidently and aggressively to grow sales to support the newsstand channel. But our approach needs to be a long term one. We must look past the next two or three years, and think in 30 year terms.

With other ACT 6 speakers, Coffman suggested that publishers find out where their most targeted readers shop and work with those retailers to create partnerships. Get with the retailer to take a look at their marketing plans with an eye for identifying synergies and opportunities. An example he mentioned was Tractor Supplies’ Chick Days, an annual opportunity for publishers and editors to develop content to support retailer plans. Remember, Coffman cautioned, to involve the wholesaler, who has to implement whatever program you agree upon.

Retailers today look for content to support their digital and social sites, so a possible partnership might include a promotion via publisher’s social media to bring customers to partner stores. Retailers are aware (though it never hurts to remind them) that specialty magazines drive sales of other products carried in their stores. They may work with you by providing data to analyze that supports the value of these magazine partnerships for both parties.

Watch Scott Coffman’s presentation at the ACT 6 Experience below:


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — Print Re-asserts Primacy In Content Creation. Chapter 9.

May 2, 2016

Jim Meyers Great magazine publishing connects readers with their passions and, for content creators, it goes beyond that as well. A strong content creation program establishes thought leadership and brand awareness. At last week’s ACT 6, from Mr. Magazine’s Magazine Innovation Center, James Meyers of iMAGINATION talked about the power of content creation—and the importance of getting it right.

As an example of what a strong content creation program can accomplish, iMAGINATION created Food Fanatics magazine for its client, US Foods. US Foods is a supplier, and its customers are chefs. From what sounds, to an outsider, like a fairly pedestrian start, US Foods positioned itself as an expert in foods, trends, the life of the chef, and the front of the house experience. It accomplished this through a 68-page quarterly magazine, along with focal events and a strong digital component. From its beginning as a magazine, Food Fanatics has grown to a movement, a community, an identification, and a point of pride for US Foods customers.

Publishing, Meyers told the assembled group, is no longer about print versus digital, or, in fact, about any specific channel of content. It’s about creating content that is made available through any channel that’s is most effective in a given situation. And, while that truth has been widely acknowledged, what we need to additionally acknowledge is what it means to the publisher. The corollary is that nothing is standard, nothing the same from day to day.

Print, in this past year, has been re-asserting its primacy, with the print/digital ratio reversing in favor of print. Yet for creators of integrated, omni-channel custom content programs such as iMAGINATION, print and digital are equally important, with the key being the degree to which each can support the other. Print improves brand awareness and demonstrates thought leadership; as a result, 77% of iMagination clients publish in print. According to one study, among U.S. adults, 70% read an average of three print publications in the last 30 days, while 63% said they had not read a digital magazine in the last 30 days. It naturally follows, for many brand publishers, that print becomes a focal point of an omni-platform strategy.

Meyer’s tips for creators of custom content includes:
· Ensure that your business goals drive your content.

· Audiences need you to answer their questions, solve their problems and teach them.

· Content must heighten brand awareness, generate new leads, position the publisher as a subject matter expert, and convert visitors into paying customers.

If you keep these things in mind while creating custom content, you are positioning your product for a win.

Click on the video below to watch Jim Meyres’ presentation at the ACT 6 Experience:


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — Enthusiast Publications Light Path To Success. Chapter 11.

May 2, 2016

Joe Berger Joe Berger drew from his experience as a consultant to magazine publishers in telling the assembled ACT 6 group that, not only can downward trends be reversed by committed publishers, but it is still possible to make money on the newsstand. Not only are newsstand sales a direct source of revenue, but they also create indirect revenue streams, through highly-qualified subscription generation and contribution to rate base. Smart publishers won’t turn their backs on newsstand, because it’s still a visible, public way to get magazines seen. Not only will a great editorial product and a well-crafted cover drive sales, it will also generate lots of PR. But as they move into newsstand, consumer magazine publishers need to make sure they ask, and answer, the essential questions: who is going to manage your newsstand sales? How to get on the newsstand? Who will manage the finances? Who are your competitors? What are your costs? When will you launch? When will you evaluate results and plan to go forward? Where do you want to be displayed? Where do you expect to be seen? Unasked questions, Berger reminded the group, can result in legendary disasters.

“And I wish that someone had given me that list of questions when I was starting out,” commented Monique Reidy, publisher of the regional lifestyle magazine Southern California Life.
Her advice to publishers is to ask questions. “Talk to smart people who have accomplished what you are setting out to do,” she said. Learn from them.”

Aaron Day One of the smart people that Ryan Waterfield has learned from is Eleanor Roosevelt. The publisher of another regional lifestyle magazine, Big Life, Waterfield took as her motto Roosevelt’s advice that we do something that scares us, every day. Big Life was born of the resolution to do just that, and from Waterfield’s passion for the mountains and the sky. “Be authentic,” Waterfield advised. “Share your passion. Try something new.”

Waterfield and Reidy were part of a panel of enthusiast publishers, moderated by Aaron Day, the CEO of Trend Offset Printing. In only six years, Trend has grown its business by 120 million dollars. They have done so through adding value to their printing services—value such as workflow solutions, a digital storefront, and mailing and delivery solutions.

In support of Trend’s conviction that print is alive and well, Ron Adams, the Publisher and Founder of Via Corsa, spoke of his publication as the evolution of an idea. The value of magazines, Adams said, goes beyond the 45 minutes it takes to read it. It continues through the weeks, and months, and maybe years in which you keep the publication and refer to it—it refers to their staying power, their collectability. And a publisher who understands the audience adds immeasurably to the collectability of the publication.

Via Corsa’s unique value proposition is its role as a post-purchase companion. Other auto magazines are guides for the purchase. By contrast, the Via Corsa reader has bought that dream car and now wants to get out and drive it. What adventures might there be, what experiences with the car? Via Corsa brings the answers to these questions to life through event sponsorship, co-partnerships, and memorabilia, in addition to the editorial content of the magazine itself. Via Corsa readers already have their cars. The publication encourages them to go out and enjoy them.

Adams was followed by Brandie Gilliam, Founder and Creative Director of Thoughtfully magazine, a publication whose mission is to advocate for a life lived passionately, beautifully, and, yes, thoughtfully. “We see ourselves as creative curators and inspiration enthusiasts,” Gilliam said. “Since we’re here, we might as well do it right.” For Thoughtfully, doing it right grew from a blog, to a site, and then to print, propelled into thought-leader status through the content developed throughout her media. Having created the magazine she wanted to read, Gilliam grew it from a lifestyle into a community, with readers, advertisers, and retailers participating in the experience.

Finding a unique opportunity in an exploding market is what Garrett Rudolph’s Marijuana Venture is all about. While editorial content existed for end users, nothing existed for the business end of the marijuana market. Rudolph saw the opportunity and seized it, launching an eight-page, black-and-white publication and growing it to its current size of 164 pages with 100 advertisers per issue and a distribution of 15,000 copies. It hasn’t always been easy—for example, his bank flagged some checks from his advertisers and peremptorily closed his account—but his unique value proposition, speaking to the business, rather than the consumer, has paid off.

Bauer’s Simple Grace also found an underserved market niche—one that led to a distribution of 300,000 copies across the nation. “What magazine readers have been missing is hope,” explained Carey Ostergard, Deputy Editor. “There is a huge untapped market for it.” Not anger, not judgement, not politics, or church speak, or being right or wrong—just love, and peace, and acceptance for the (mostly) women who have experienced pain and suffering and are turning to their religions for solace. Built around daily devotions, features, and storytelling, Simple Grace speaks to women who are strong, faithful, and devoted to their families. “What’s next? Perhaps branching off the brand, creating a version for girls. Offering something every day that cannot be googled, cannot be found online.” And continuing to offer a loving safe place for people to go—a space you can find on the newsstand. “Newsstand,” said Ostergard, “is still alive. And it’s open to newcomers.”

Click below to watch Joe Berger’s presentation at the ACT 6 Experience:

Click below to watch Aaron Day moderates the new magazine launches panel:

Watch this space for the final ACT 6 Experience as reported by Linda Ruth…


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — Stories, And The People Who Tell Them. Chapter 8.

April 29, 2016

The final morning of the Magazine Innovation Center’s Act 6 was devoted to the craft and the power of storytelling.

Liz Vaccariello As a child, Liz Vaccariello expressed a wish to her father that she might, through writing and editing, share stories with others. Decades later, she told that story in her first letter as Editor in Chief of Readers Digest, and the response of her readers was extraordinary. She received 400 letters that week. Since then, she has told a story in every editor’s letter, and her use of storytelling to connect with her readers has become a hallmark of her time at the Reader’s Digest.

Storytelling, Vaccariello told the group of students, faculty, and publishing professionals at Act 6, has made Reader’s Digest first among its competitive set in time spent with the magazine, with readers spending almost a full hour with every issue.

So what is a story? It has a beginning, middle and end; it is designed to interest, arouse, or instruct. But the key to a great story is its power to connect emotionally to the reader. Through that connection, Vaccariello said, stories become a powerful way to change something, to provide meaning, to build connections. And part of the job of a great editor is to find the great stories. That requires reading everything, and in so doing, to ask: do I feel something?

Readers look to Vaccariello’s publication to make them feel understood. To surprise them with a secret, or a laugh, or moment of delight, or an unexpected cause for pride. Even sadness and outrage are emotions that a reader will welcome when a great story elicits them.

Great stories can change lives, Vaccariello told the group. Storytelling in the context of family is a powerful bond from generation to generation. Children who hear stories from their parents and grandparents about how they, over the years, met and overcame adversity, are more resilient.

Sherin Pierce Sherin Pierce, the Publisher of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, North America’s oldest continuously-published vehicle for journalism and storytelling, followed Vaccariello with a story of her own: the story of how the Old Farmer’s Almanac was launched, grew and prospered for “225 years of love, luck and tradition.”

“We speak of disruption in publishing,” Pierce told the group. “Think of the disruption in the life of Robert B Thomas, who was born in 1766, and launched the Almanac when he was only 26 years old. He was born on a farm, and before he was grown he saw how a ragtag group of farmers stood up to the might of the British Empire.” That first issue was 46 pages, with a print run of 3000 copies. And there was no RDA, no placement fees…and no returns. With this auspicious start, Thomas tripled the draw the following year.

In 1816, Pierce related, late to meet his press date, the printer called to ask for Thomas’ July weather forecast. Thomas irritably replied, “Call for rain, hail and snow!” And the printer dropped that prediction, which briefly made a laughingstock out of Thomas, into the publication. But that was the year that the eruption, in the Dutch East Indies, of Mount Tambora, brought “The Year Without a Summer”—along with a July snowfall in Boston. It was a disaster for farmers, but it made a lasting name for Robert B. Thomas, and for his Almanac.

While the Old Farmer’s Almanac has changed with the times, many things have remained the same. The cover engravings of seasonal images and portraits of Ben Franklin and Robert B Thomas hark back to 1851, as does the iconic hole in the corner of the cover, useful to hang for year-round reference. The 1858 Almanac was used by the young lawyer Abraham, defending a client accused of a midnight murder. The Almanac’s corroborating proof that the night in question was moonless was key to Lincoln’s client’s acquital.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has long been proud of its trend of continuous publishing. When the US Office of Censorship asked the publisher to cease publication for the duration of World War Two—two German spies had been found in possession of a copy, thought to be helpful in planning forays around weather and tides—the publisher asked for, and was granted, permission to continue, with the agreement to leave out the weather and continue with indications and proverbs for the duration of the war.

In a newsstand-challenged, era, the Old Farmer’s Almanac prints 4 million copies per issue, and sells 40% on the newsstand. And its brand pre-eminence, established the Year Without a Summer, remains as strong today as it was then. “There is only one Old Farmer’s Almanac,” Pierce told the group. “We’ve had that name since 1842. It’s what you think of when you think of an almanac. And rightly so, based on the specificity of its identification. “Farmer’s almanac’ is, after all, a generic term.”

Click on the video below to watch Liz Vaccariello presentation at the ACT 6 Experience:

Click on the video below to watch Sherin Pierce presentation at the ACT 6 Experience:

Stay tuned to watch the rest of the ACT 6 Experience on this blog…


From ACT 6 With Love: Tony Silber Reports*: Mr. Indefatigable — A Reflection On Samir Husni And His Advocacy Of Print Media. Chapter 7.

April 29, 2016

SamirHusni Media-industry conferences run the gamut. You get the super trendy ones, like SXSW, in equally trendy locations. You get monster events like CES, to which media execs gravitate every January. You get the new-media boutique events, with the hottest digital-media brands represented and the young savants in skinny jeans with all the answers. You also have the more pedestrian ones, the workhorse events, not showhorse conferences.

There are association events, regional events, B2B events, marketing events, social-media events, hosted-buyer events, big-tent events like our own Folio: Show, and small executive forums.

And then you have the ACT Conference, the sixth iteration of which I attended last week in Oxford, Mississippi. (ACT is an acronym that stands for “Amplify, Clarify, Testify.”) ACT is run by Samir Husni, the Ole Miss J-school professor, who over the last 25 years has become one of the best-known people in the magazine industry.

The ACT conference is a different kind of event. It’s small. Only perhaps 100-130 people attend, give or take. Since it’s held at a university, the students also attend. Sometimes Samir pairs them with industry figures, mentee to mentor.

It’s way off the beaten path for the media industry. That’s part of its charm. It’s a different perspective for sometimes-jaded media people.

Each year, Samir attracts several major industry figures as speakers. This year, he brought in most of the participants in the supply chain of that most beleaguered part of the business: the newsstand. Samir hosted a special meeting of wholesalers and publishers. He brought in Hubert Boehle, CEO of Bauer Publishing, the German company that is probably the most successful company on the newsstand in the United States. Interestingly, Boehle said Germany, a country about one-fifth the size of the U.S. and Canada, generates the same revenue from the newsstand as does North America. The “why” of that is a story in itself.

Samir brought in Andy Clurman, CEO one Active Interest Media, of the most successful enthusiast-media companies in the country; and Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest; Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living; Sherin Pierce, Publisher/VP, The Old Farmer’s Almanac; and Daniel Fuchs, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV Magazine, among others.

Samir brings in those people because of his stature in the business—and because of his decades-long advocacy. Samir Husni is an unapologetic believer in the enduring strength of print media, and that’s what his conference is about. No ifs, ands or buts. I gave the conference-opening “State of the Industry” report, and truth be told, I thought about that contextual reality before I made my presentation. LOL.

Samir calls himself “Mr. Magazine.” Last I saw his car, it was even on his license plate. I’ve known him for a long time. In that time, he’s been tireless and persuasive, generous and inclusive. Maybe “Mr. Indefatigable” is just as appropriate.

Because of his advocacy, plus his unrelenting determination to make his case and push his cause, plus his 30-year run of cataloging all the print-magazine launches of the year—and selecting the most important 30 of them—Samir is as well-known and respected as anyone in the business. Now, for the last several years, he’s added a worthwhile media conference to his portfolio—one with a decided point of view.
* Tony Silber is vice president at Folio: and he published those reflections on the Folio: website here. Reposted with permission.


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Making Money In Print. Chapter 6.

April 29, 2016

IMG_2869 This is the segment of the ACT 6 Experience that focused on making money in print and what people are doing today to ensure that the revenue streams continue, whether it’s from circulation or advertising. Magazine Power is going to be a combination of the different ways and means by which people can still generate revenue from print, whether it is advertising in established magazines; advertising in new magazines, or bookazines and how those publications are making money.

Making Money in Print and the power of magazines was moderated by Brian F. O’Leary, Principal, Magellan Media Consulting Partners, with the following panelists listed in alphabetical order: Newt Collinson, Chairman and Founder, Collinson Media & Events, Jim Elliott, President, The James G. Elliott Co. Inc., Daniel Fuchs, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV magazine, and Fred J. Parry, Publisher, Inside Columbia Magazine.

What follows are the individual presentations of the panelists followed by the panel discussion moderated by Brian F. O’Leary.

Click on the video below to watch Newt Collinson:

Click on the video below to watch Jim Elliott:

Click on the video below to watch Daniel Fuchs:

Click on the video below to watch Fred Parry:

Click on the video below to watch the panel discussion:

And stay tuned as we post more videos from the ACT 6 Experience and more reports from Linda Ruth about the ACT 6 Experience.


From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Cover Data Analysis For Editors. Chapter 5.

April 28, 2016

Cover Testing For Editors Cover Data Analysis For Editors – This riveting panel discussion about how print editorial staffs can learn more about consumers, their likes/dislikes, and how to attract more newsstand buyers in a competitive, distracted world was a big hit at the ACT 6 Experience. The panel of distinguished editors from Reader’s Digest, Southern Living, First for Women, Simple Grace, Success and Hoffman Media discussed and dissected magazine cover lines, cover image types, positioning, and “do’s” and “don’ts” regarding covers, all using smart data modeling.

The Cover Data Analysis For Editors panel took place on Thursday April 21 and was moderated by Joshua Gary from MagNet. Panelists were (in alphabetical order):
Brooke Bell, Director of Editorial Operations, Hoffman Media, Josh Ellis, Editor in Chief, Success magazine, Sid Evans, Editor in Chief, Southern Living magazine, Carey Ostergard, Deputy Editor, First for Women and Simple Grace, and Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Reader’s Digest magazine.

Click on the video below to watch the entire panel discussion from the ACT 6 Experience.

Stay tuned for more videos from the ACT 6 Experience.

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