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David Nussbaum

One CEO's Take on E-Readers

David Nussbaum emedia and Technology - 03/29/2010-10:30 AM

As we anticipate the launch of Apple's iPad next week, it's worth taking a look at the current ereader - or as we like to call it Digital Book Reader - landscape from one publisher's perspective.

Just some quick notes on F+W Media:

--we sold 10.2 million books in 2009
--we have a backlist of approximately 3,500 books
--we publish on average 600 new books annually
-- 200 new books in the relationship, self-help, business, writing and memoir categories
-- 400 or more in illustrated categories such as art, craft, collectibles, numismatics
--we publish 35 magazines

Thus, we have a serious, vested interest in the e-book world, as well as the p-book world.

So where does the world stand today?

--Amazon: By far the dominant player in e-books, despite the limits of black-and-white publishing, and the skirmishes they've been engaged in with a number of the "Big Six" publishing houses. They tell us that they are selling more physical books today; in addition to the dominance they've shown in Kindle sales. It is also fascinating to watch as they launch an iPad application, and an iPhone application to compete in that realm as well.

It's a reminder that all technology merges at one point or another. In fact, there is a new application available for the iPhone called Line Two, which could eliminate AT&T's profitable iPhone business.

If Amazon is successful with its various "I" apps, combined with their dominant online bookstore, what does that mean for Steve Jobs' ambitions in the "ibook" industry?

--Apple: It's a bit surprising that the first edition of the iPad is only accepting epub files, which means no illustrated books in the first ibook store. To me, that seems to play into Amazon's hands, as the main difference between the Kindle and iPad, from a book perspective, is black and white versus color. Moving images, versus static.

We can assume that Apple will move in the direction of more flexible formats to allow for illustrated content, but it's certainly a disappointment that they are not launching that way.

Of course, there is usually a method to Apple's launch plans, marketing plans and new functionality plans - AND most reports say the device is now on backorder. Over 1m units are expected to be sold by year end.

Regardless, we all wait with bated breath for the new device, and F+W expects to have product in the ibook store soon.

--Google Edition: Ah, how can we forget the monster that ate all media? As Bezos and Jobs battle the publicity wars, Google quietly is building a "store" that will sell black and white, color, video books, audio enhanced - whatever can be conceived with a chip, will be in their store.

And add to that, the fact that Google Book Search already drives millions of search pages, millions of users looking for content... it's not a far leap to offering those searchers a buy button. And after purchasing, the reader will be able to download to their laptop, their iPhone, their iPad, their Apple TV, wherever they choose to read the book. Always keep an eye on for the sleeping giant.

No matter how the landscape changes, we at F+W will remain media-agnostic and delivery-agnostic. Our evergreen content is equally suited to p-books and e-books. We will continue to offer our content however, wherever, our customers and communities demand. As a company, are encouraged by, excited by, and most importantly fully engaged with these seemingly daily developments across the industry and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.

David Nussbaum

‘Print is Dead’ vs. ‘I’m Not Dead Yet’

David Nussbaum B2B - 12/07/2007-18:03 PM


I’m not sure if it’s because more of my time these days is spent meeting with media management, investigating possible acquisition opportunities, or simply doing more research. But it seems that there is a growing debate in our industry.

I’d call it the print is dead vs. “I’m not dead yet” (Monty Python reference) crowd.

The print is dead group (Steve Ballmer, who famously said that in 10 years all media will be digital, serves as the group’s unofficial chairman) has strong revenue growth on its side, demographic shifts, and focused metrics to prove its argument. “I’m not dead yet,” knows that magazines/books/newspapers still are the preferred media for the human eye, the airplane, and also for “brand building.”

For the Web to continue its growth, it will need to add the element of “surprise and delight” to its success as a search tool, research tool, news tool and social aggregation.

For print to reverse recent trends, there has to be more focus on core strengths such as community (yes, print offers a clear community of interest), graphics and ease of use, and the ability to tell us what we didn’t know we needed to know.

David Nussbaum

Managing a Magazine Like Starbucks

David Nussbaum M and A and Finance - 11/21/2007-10:13 AM

FOLIO: has asked me to blog occasionally for their newly designed, recently launched Web site. I was both flattered and flummoxed since I haven't had to deal with deadlines, or word counts since my days as a journalist way back when our businesses were called trade magazines and trade shows, rather than b-to-b media, the event business and content factories.

So my first question was, what would you like me to write about?

I have a passion for all things "e." I love new technology, but I'm not really an expert. I've been in the magazine business in one shape or another since college, writing, editing, selling and publishing.

But there are many others who are currently fighting that good fight. I've run a number of major trade shows, like PC Expo, Internet World, Variety Merchandise, Natural Products Expo. But again, there are many people more qualified to blog on the in-person business than I am.

FOLIO: suggested I discuss the M&A business since I am now in partnership with one of the most respected, and most successful private equity firms in the business, ABRY Partners. And although I am clearly now involved in the acquisition and investment business (at least until we make our first platform deal), I thought I'd save some thoughts on that path for a future blog.

So today, I'm going to touch on a topic near and dear to me: management of creative, energetic, and passionate people. The people who make the media landscape so interesting and an exciting career.

I've always thought that Starbucks got it right. If senior management spent it's time recognizing that their most important constituency is not their customer base, not their shareholders, but their employees, there would be more successful businesses where people actually liked to work.

Focus on your staff. Recognize that each individual is crucial and should be treated in a unique and personally designed way. Make the environment one where risks can safely be taken, where energy and extra effort is rewarded, and find many ways to compliment and congratulate. Communicate, over-communicate, and communicate again with your team. Respond quickly to their issues, questions, problems. You don't always have to say yes, but you do have to react quickly and be clear in why you might be saying no.

Management is easy. Remember that your people will always give you 95%. It's great managers who can lift the spirits of their staff so that they get that additional five percent.