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Stefanie Botelho

Post-Photoshop Crisis, Hearst Receives Shrink Wrap Demand

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 06/07/2012-14:30 PM


Hearst can’t catch a break. Shortly after the dust settled (more or less) around the Seventeen/Photoshop controversy, a new crusade against another female-centric title (Cosmopolitan) began. According to a press statement released this week, Victoria Hearst (granddaughter of Hearst Corp. founder William Randolph Hearst) partnered with Projectinspired.com founder Nicole Weider in an “Anti-Cosmo Mission.”

The Mission requests Cosmo not change its content, but “take responsibility for it,” according to Weider. The magazine already caught flack earlier this year after featuring two “underage” starlets (Selena Gomez, 19 and Dakota Fanning, now 18) on its February and March covers, alongside its typically racy headlines.

Now, Hearst joins Weider in her efforts to ensure Cosmo is only sold to adults 18 and above.

“About 11 years ago, I contacted Frank Bennack and the Board of the Hearst Corporation and told them that what they are publishing in Cosmopolitan magazine was pornographic. I had the support of two female psychologists and counselors who attest that this content hurts young girls. Like Nicole, I also asked that the magazine be sold only to adults 18 and older,” says Hearst in the statement. “I never received a reply from anyone at the Hearst Corporation, but I had peace because I delivered the message. When I heard about Nicole’s campaign, I knew I needed to join in her mission to put Cosmopolitan in a bag and make sure that its pornographic content cannot be sold to minors!”

A Change.org campaign (which garnered over 33,000 signatures so far) is going so far as to demand the magazine be sold in a non-transparent wrapper. Weider summarizes the goal of the campaign, “That no one under the age of 18 sees the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine on newsstands or at their grocery stores, and that no one under 18 can legally buy Cosmopolitan magazine.”

This is a tall order to ask of any magazine, as cover art is the only bait publishers have on the newsstand. And what about those over 18 who would like to preview the content of the magazine before they purchase it? If by some wild turn this campaign does go through (and I believe it won’t), it will certainly raise concerns about the rest of the industry.

If Cosmo is considered pornographic, what about the scantily clad bunnies on Playboy? The “hot sex” tips covering Men's Health? The breast-feeding antics of TIME? Surely, if one controversial magazine is bagged, the rest will shortly have to follow suit—and for an industry already struggling with single copy sales, that would be one costly bag.

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Stefanie Botelho

A Curious Commencement Speech, Brought to Butler Students By TIME

Stefanie Botelho Editorial - 05/17/2012-14:42 PM

On May 12, TIME managing editor Rick Stengel spoke at Indianapolis’ Butler University graduation ceremony. While such a large media presence likely excited the recent grads at first, some of what Stengel said must have left the crowd a bit...perplexed.

As FOLIO: sister publication min points out, one quote shows promise for an insightful speech, as Stengel reflects on the difference between information and knowledge: “Information is data; knowledge is understanding. Information is statistics; knowledge is insight. Information is foreground; knowledge is background.”

But then he quickly takes a strange turn as he says, “Information is everywhere, and it’s largely free…[knowledge] is scarce and valuable — and you might just have to pay for it.”

The paid content jabs don’t stop there, as seen in the following quotes:

“Information feels like it’s free because it comes to you in a frictionless way with a click on your keyboard. But the information – the knowledge you get from a TIME story about the Middle East—comes at the cost of keeping correspondents in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Jerusalem. That’s not free. And those people are often risking their lives to bring you that information and knowledge.”

“A comment on a blog is free. But you will have to pay for the insight of [TIME columnists] Joe Klein or...Fareed Zakaria, for there is a deep investment that has been made in their experience, their talent, their contacts, their perspective. That’s worth a lot."

While getting consumers to pay for content is a hot button issue in the publishing industry, I wonder exactly what Stengel was hoping to accomplish by broaching the subject during his speech. Were his intentions to convert graduates to subscribers? Perhaps Stengel should have saved his paid content woes for an op-ed, and used this platform instead to demonstrate what actually makes TIME worth paying for: wisdom from a trusted, researched source.

Sadly, this marks a missed opportunity for Stengel, TIME and the magazine industry overall. Educated youth should be enticed to become readers of legacy media brands, not guilted into a subscription purchase.

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Stefanie Botelho

Seventeen Under Fire

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 05/04/2012-14:35 PM


As long as there has been celebrity culture, there have been women griping about the unobtainability of airbrushed perfection. The latest controversy is led by 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, whose online petition asking Hearst’s Seventeen to publish one Photoshop-free spread a month caught the attention of the nation. The petition on change.org now has over 49,400 signatures, and the crusade culminated in a protest outside Hearst Towers yesterday.

In response to a request for comment, a Seventeen spokesperson emailed, “We’re proud of Julia for being so passionate about an issue – it’s exactly the kind of attitude we encourage in our readers – so we invited her to our office to meet with editor in chief Ann Shoket this morning. They had a great discussion, and we believe that Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their authentic selves, and that’s how we present them. We feature real girls in our pages and there is no other magazine that highlights such a diversity of size, shape, skin tone and ethnicity.”

One can only imagine the conversation between Shoket and Bluhm, and whether Bluhm felt as if her concerns were properly addressed.

Regardless of Seventeen’s resolution, the rest of the industry is slowly addressing the “real women” controversy. Conde Nast International announced the 19 editors on its international Vogue editions will “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder,” reports the Wall Street Journal. PEOPLE opened its “Most Beautiful” Issue to reader submissions; though only those between the age of 20 and 59 are eligible for consideration. Ladies’ Home Journal continues the trend of “real women” integration into its pages, with audience contribution featured in the majority of editorial content.

Setting impossible standards for the everyday woman is a crime media is often accused of, be it magazines, television or movies. But on the other side, one has to wonder if those women demanding realistic depictions on glossy covers would continue to buy products if this came true: Fantasy is a large selling point for consumer magazines, whether readers realize it or not.

Blaming Seventeen, Cosmo, Vogue etc. for creating impossible stereotypes strikes me as an oversimplification of a complex matter. Expecting corporate-produced products with ad page and circulation quotas to serve as moral compasses is as silly as expecting pop stars to behave as role models.

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Stefanie Botelho

Pay-Per-View

Stefanie Botelho Editorial - 04/05/2012-12:44 PM

In the world of publishing, it is expected that sales teams are rewarded for performance with commission; but for a long time, there was no opportunity for editors to earn outside of their base pay. “Church” may be considered holier, but “state” tended to be greener.

That is, until now. Recently, a few publishers began to compensate their editors based on performance. Performance is a relative term in this case: two publishers implementing this model chose difference audience indicators as the determiner of top editorial performers. Forbes’ chief product officer Lewis DVorkin expanded on how his company is rewarding writers at FOLIO:’s March Roundtable.

“We had two individual contributors, not staff members, who drove one million unique visitors each and they were incentive-based. They were incented to drive audience, not incented to drive page views, and they are further incented to drive repeat users per month,” says DVorkin.

DVorkin then stated that Forbes “doesn’t focus that much on page views” when quantifying successful articles.

On the other side is Vance Publishing Corporation, which launched its editorial rewards program in January. Dean Horowitz, vice president of e-media and market intelligence, details how Vance is rewarding top editors based on page views, or impressions, during a FOLIO: 40 interview.

“Now the editors who said they were posting and are not really posting are seeing how transparent it is, and how it affects their compensation. Initially, there was pushback: it’s open on who the top performers are,” says Horowitz. “We have to value the people making the content more than ever before. It’s about the product, more than it is the sales story.”

Vance installed an editorial audit board to keep the process fair as possible. “They help make sure the editors aren’t using search bait,” says Horowitz.

Both of these models seem to be in beta stages, but progressive nonetheless, in leveling the publishing payment field. At first glance, there are a few hitches that may or may not outweigh the positives. What constitutes a quality article may not always make it the most popular; for those tasked with more mundane subjects in any given niche, paychecks may suffer.

Vance’s transparent model is commendable in its honesty, but may inspire an increased amount of jealousy and rivalry among employees. While a bit of healthy competition is welcome in any work atmosphere, pitting co-editors against each other for dollar reward (in the already cutthroat industry of magazine publishing) seems to be an inevitable and dangerous outcome of this system.

Of course, no new system is without flaw. Cheers to empowering editors, however publishers choose to do so.

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Stefanie Botelho

What’s Your Digital Business Worth?

Stefanie Botelho Editorial - 03/15/2012-12:26 PM

In between last week’s DMA Circulation Marketing Day and the upcoming MPA Digital: Swipe conference on March 20, I thought it may be appropriate to reflect on a pattern forming in the magazine publishing industry. It doesn’t require expert sleuthing skills to deduce how much the industry has changed over the past year; a massive shift in focus is evident.

Digital used to occupy a session or two at any given conference, though the open Q&A’s at the end of panel discussions showed this is where audience concerns really lie. In 2012, by hosting and participating in a plethora of digitally focused events, publishers are confirming digital is not an add-on or afterthought, but a necessary part of strategy (albeit a frustrating one, as publishers attempt to pin revenue models on the slippery suckers called apps).

I don’t think this means that print is doomed in 2012, as the rest of the world is predicted to be. What I do think it means is that print is a medium the magazine industry has more or less mastered, and peers are looking outward for guidance in the new digital terrain.

And one of the biggest concerns is digital revenue. At Circ Day, Meredith’s chief digital officer Liz Schimel explained her company’s app portfolio is a mix of paid and free offerings.

“Where they are free: we believe that getting scale to platform is most important, rather than monetization upfront. We monetize through advertisers, upselling packages and sampling for our magazine,” says Schimel. “We’re looking at contribution to circ, advertising details and discreet paid content. Getting out to the broadest possible audience is the main driver, rather than getting the most money up front.”

Katelyn Belyus, circulation fulfillment manager of The Nation, says their app is available to subscribers for an additional $10. She says the publisher is considering creating another paid non-replica app, but explained, “We’re not convinced apps are the future.”

Nina LaFrance, vice president of consumer marketing at Forbes, broke down Forbes’ current digital strategy. “Our digital strategy is different than the rest of the community. We don’t have a tablet app for the magazine. The apps we have in market are free apps designed to support Forbes brand content,” LaFrance said. “We have to decide which platforms will be paid or free. With the size of our audience, we can’t drive them through a paywall. The question is, is ad revenue high enough so Forbes Web content can remain free?”

What may be more interesting than current rev models is the uncertainity of presenters at DMA's Circulation Marketing Day. Those winning in the digital space looked visibly relieved their strategies are actually working; while others revealed how fluid current digital models are.

In the midst of all the reflecting and forecasting of the conference, it was refreshing to hear Bonnier's Bruce Miller (who was inducted into the DMA's Circulation Hall of Fame) reinforce what the industry sometimes seems to overlook, "We can do what we want in digital. We write our own ticket." 

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Stefanie Botelho

New iPad on the Way

Stefanie Botelho emedia and Technology - 03/07/2012-15:16 PM


In a much-buzzed about announcement that was not a surprise to anyone with Internet access, Apple debuted the latest reincarnation of the iPad at a splashy event today at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. We think our invite [pictured, right] to the event must have gotten spammed, so we’re relying on the copious amount of live blogs saturating the Web to get the full Apple scoop. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Name: The latest iPad is not called “the iPad 3”, or the “HD iPad” as speculated, but simply “the new iPad.”

Price point: the 16 GB iPad with Wi-Fi will start at $499; $599 for the 32GB version; and the tablet with 64 GB is available for $699. According to AllThingsD, the 4G wireless versions cost $130 more a pop. ABC News reports the iPad 2 will now be sold at a beginning price of $399.

Weight: 1.4 pounds.

Dimensions: Mashable reports the new iPad will be 9.7 inches long and 9.4 millimeters thick.

Presentation: The third version of the iPad has a 2048 x 1537-pixel “retina display.”
“It has 31 million pixels with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. That’s 1 million more pixels than an HD TV,” says marketing chief Phil Schiller said, according to AllThingsD.

Color: The tablet will be available in black and white.

Sales: In Q4 2011, 15.4 million iPads were sold. The new iPad is available for pre-order today, and for sale on March 16.

Battery power: Similar to the iPad 2, the new iPad has 10 hours for regular use, and nine hours of 4G LTE use.

Support: AllThingsD reports the new iPad is supported by an A5X chip “with quad-core graphics needed for new high-resolution display.”

Networks: Coming to AT&T and Verizon. The new iPad will also act as a Personal Hotspot, allowing laptops, etc. to use its signal for Internet access.

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Stefanie Botelho

PEOPLE Turns Oscars Into Its Own Party

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 02/23/2012-15:29 PM


The 84th Academy Awards
are taking place this Sunday, February 26, and the magazine industry is taking note. Vanity Fair cashed in on the upcoming Awards with its March Hollywood issue, in which ad pages spiked 44 percent YOY. Time Inc.’s celebrity staple PEOPLE is also getting into the Oscar game, with Academy Award specials in print, digital and retail.

PEOPLE dubbed the Oscars “the Super Bowl of celebrity style”, and put together a special print publication to commemorate the occasion. The issue includes style tips, designer news and an Oscar ballot for reader predictions. The special edition will be a value-add for PEOPLE’s nearly four million subscribers.

To keep the event social, PEOPLE is connecting its community members through the virtual Red Carpet Trivia LIVE game. After completing the game, players will be able to compare scores with their Facebook friends and the online PEOPLE community. PEOPLE.com will also live blog the Oscars, posting photos and news on Sunday night.

Nowadays, it seems as if no publishing campaign is complete without a retail aspect. To that end, PEOPLE partnered with Redbox to offer single copy consumers a free one-night movie rental at select retail locations. Over 11,000 stores in the U.S. are participating, including Kroger, Supervalue and Ahold.

PEOPLE’s Stylewatch digital channel will also curate items appearing on the Oscar red carpet on Gilt.com. The "Get the Look: Red Carpet" event will include dresses, accessories and beauty products.

A “Red Carpet Giveway”, with a trip to L.A. for two, hotel accommodations, $500 in cash and a “Swag Bag”, completes the PEOPLE Oscar madness.

Host Billy Crystal may not draw the young’uns in (a coveted Oscar audience demographic), but PEOPLE is certainly doing its best to do so.

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Stefanie Botelho

On the Revival of a Suffering Genre: the Music Magazine

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 02/16/2012-15:43 PM


“If you’re going to have a magazine in 2012, there better be a point to it,” says Mike Albanese, publisher of SPIN.

In what may seem like an obvious statement, Albanese manages to summarize the movement of the entire magazine industry. Print is often no longer substantial enough to act as a publication’s sole business; but it still holds a place in editorial strategy and audience fondness. SPIN, with a lowered print frequency, slashed rate base and realigned digital focus, is positioning its print product to be just that.

The new SPIN, now published six times a year, has a larger trim size (up 9.5” x 12”) and varied textures in-book. The cover has a matte finish (similar to Conde’s WIRED cover treatment), but opening pages of the magazine are still glossy and bright. About a third of the way through the book, paper stock switches back to the rougher stuff the cover lives on.

On SPIN’s editorial strategy, Albanese says the print magazine will serve as a “broad” platform for content; a home for cultural fodder surrounding the music industry. SPIN’s website (and music player iPad app, and over 1,500 album reviews via Twitter) will still be devoted to its music mainstay.

The revamp follows a mass changing-of-the-guards at the publication. Former editor-in-chief Doug Brod and publisher Malcolm Campbell left in June; Caryn Ganz joined as online editor-in-chief, Christopher R. Weingarten as senior editor and David Bevan as associate editor in October. Ganz is the first to hold this position with the magazine.

Cutting print frequency and dropping rate bases (SPIN is down from 450,000 to 350,000) is often seen as a “trouble” flag in the industry. However, in this case, I applaud the magazine for thinking strategically and resizing its content portfolio. One might even view it as brave: downsizing print presence eliminates advertising opportunity, and risks alienating the Luddites of the SPIN audience. Such a shift is a gamble, even in the most sturdy media landscape.

Music rags are suffering: according to the latest FAS FAX report from ABC, Rolling Stone single copy sales fell 18.2 percent from second half 2010 to second half 2011. Subscriptions remained basically flat, eking up three percent YOY in the last six months of ’11. SPIN’s single copy sales dropped 35.2 percent from the last half of 2010 to the same period in 2011; total subscriptions are down 1.2 percent.

To reassess and reorganize may give these brands a second chance in the digital-first music scene, whereas plodding along in the same manner would lead to one end: closure. 2012 will tell whether the new SPIN (somewhere between a traditional magazine and coffee table book, according to Albanese) will be able to ride out the transition.

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Stefanie Botelho

Report: Three Demand Media Founders Out

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 01/31/2012-13:11 PM


Demand Media has lost three of its founders. According to a report from paidContent, Larry Fitzgibbon, Joe Perez and Steven Kydd are leaving the company.

Fitzgibbon was EVP of international operations; Perez was executive vice president of products; and Kydd acted as EVP of studios. All three have already been removed from Demand’s masthead.

A rep for Demand said the exits were “just coincidence”, and departed execs will “pursue separate opportunities and new business ventures”. EVP of media & marketplace Michael Blend will assume the majority of the responsibilities left open by the staff changes.

Demand Media has been dubbed, less than affectionately, as a prime example of a “content farm” in the publishing industry. A company churning out piece upon piece of SEO-enhanced, freelance-produced copy may be successful, but its model is not viewed as an admirable strategy, especially among publishing vets (see one reaction here).

Perhaps in part to appease its critics, Demand improved wages for its writers in May 2011. Feature writers are now compensated $80 to $350 for their contributions; previously, they earned roughly $15 per article.

Upon closer inspection of Demand’s executive roster, I also noticed a rather odd title: EVP, people operations, held by Courtney Montpas. This appears to be a human resources role, and it’s a shrewd move by Demand to include “people” in this title, almost as if to say, “We really do recognize our employees as human beings!”

While not much is known about why the trio left, or where they are headed next, it is interesting to watch a company so scrutinized in its industry move forward. Three founders, Richard Rosenblatt, Shawn Colo and Montpas, remain with Demand. The company’s video division is set to partner with YouTube in 2012 for its premium content video launch (other partners include Warner Bros. and the Shine Group).

Demand is expected to announce fourth quarter and fiscal 2011 results on February 16.

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Stefanie Botelho

Twittifying SPIN

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 01/12/2012-13:02 PM


This week, music magazine SPIN announced its decision to run the lion’s share of its music reviews on Twitter in 2012. Under the handle @SPINreviews, SPIN’s eight staff editors (and a team of freelancers) will weigh in on over 1,500 albums in 140 characters or less throughout the year. The decision comes amidst other changes at SPIN, including an editorial realignment marking a heavier focus on digital.

On SPIN’s blog, senior editor Christopher Weingarten makes valid points to back this decision. In the digital era, fans often privy to records at the same time music critics are. Leaked albums abound; though, the cynic is me suspects the artists/record labels/PR teams behind them sometimes may be responsible for these leaks. Case in point: in the summer of 2010, songs from Taylor Swift’s hit album “Speak Now” leaked 12 days before the official launch, forcing Big Machine Records to release it early. Within hours, the single “Mine” was number one in iTunes. Hello, publicity.

Weingarten rationalizes, “The value of the average rock critic’s opinion has plummeted now that…you can listen and decide for yourself whether it’s worth a damn.” He also says this method will spare SPIN readers lengthy reviews of mediocre bands: 140 characters later, we’ll know whether an album is worth buying.

Weingarten is correct in this thinking, to an extent. But I think he’s neglecting some of the largest pleasures of an album review, perhaps purposely: the in-depth parsing of a band’s journey, the decoding of instrumentals and influences from an expert’s point of view. In an overly politically correct, PR-manned media world, candid music reviews are refreshing, and never more needed. What would Cameron Crowe say about all of this? The music review is considered an editorial staple in a music mag’s table of contents.

That being said, SPIN will still run 20 long-form reviews monthly on its website. SPIN released 1,000 album critiques on Twitter in 2009, and the strategy must have produced measurable success to be repeated in 2012. I also suspect the one-sentence reviews are borne of a business necessity: 1,500 reviews are a lot, especially for an in-house editorial staff of eight undoubtedly crazed with other responsibilities.

Fortunately, like many digital decisions, this strategy does not have to be a permanent model. It will be interesting to see how fans, and the music industry overall, react to SPIN’s compressed reviews.

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Stefanie Botelho

TIME’s Cover Double Take

Stefanie Botelho Design and Production - 01/05/2012-10:09 AM

In an interesting move, TIME magazine will run the cover art from its December 12, 2011 issue again on its January 16, 2012 issue. The photo of Mitt Romney’s picture is the same in both treatments, but the headlines and positioning of the image covering the upcoming edition will change. See the covers, and read TIME managing editor Rick Stengel’s letter about the Iowa caucuses as well as the cover decision, below.


Why Iowa Matters (Even If It Shouldn’t)

Iowa is an outlier. The 122,000 people who showed up to vote in the state's caucuses represent less than a fifth of registered Iowa Republicans and exactly 0.09% of the U.S. electorate. In a representative democracy, Iowa is not very representative. It is 91% white and has few Latinos, not many immigrants and low unemployment. Iowa is also the only place in presidential politics where retail campaigning can still make a difference. Jimmy Carter showed this back in 1976, and Rick Santorum followed the same playbook this year.

But Iowa matters, in part because the candidates and media put so much emphasis on it. Probably too much. We would all be better off with a regional primary system, but that's not in the cards. So after more than a year of polls, debates, position papers and commercials, we finally have actual people voting, which is the fundamental right in a democracy. That's really why Iowa matters.

If this week's cover feels a little familiar, there's a good reason for that. In early December, we put Mitt Romney on the cover and asked, "Why Don't They Like Me?" — a question that has been at the heart of the GOP primary process. This week, in the wake of Romney's razor-thin win in Iowa, we've updated and revised the question, using the other half of the same portrait of Romney. The first cover got a lot of attention, not least from Governor Romney himself, who began annotating the cover for those who asked him to sign it. Now the voters in New Hampshire and beyond can answer the question for themselves.

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Stefanie Botelho

Hearst’s David Carey Calls for Aggressive Growth in 2012

Stefanie Botelho Consumer - 01/03/2012-12:10 PM


Hearst Magazines president David Carey addressed the past year and what’s next for the publisher in a letter to employees sent out this morning. According to Carey, Hearst’s aggressive growth in 2011 (including the acquisition of Lagardere and Hachette Fillappacci; the launch of HGTV Magazine; the debut of brand supplement Marie Claire @Work; and purchases of Red Aril and PayDQ) will continue in 2012.

Now claiming 400,000 digital edition sales a month (the publisher hit 300,000 in late September), Carey reiterates Hearst’s goal to tip one million monthly paid digital subscriptions in the new year. He seems to have found the recipe for instant media attention: call out a projected audience number, and watch as web buzz booms.

Other digital initiatives include the continued transition of Hearst’s magazine sites to HTML5. Good Housekeeping’s website (which was once included among the worst magazine websites on the 'net) was the first to get the HTML5 treatment in 2011.

Though digital may be considered the sexier playing field in the publishing industry, Hearst’s print portfolio will not be neglected in 2012. Aside from the forthcoming semiannual Cosmopolitan Latina, Harper’s Bazaar print presence will launch a revamped look; an increased trim size will debut in February.

Carey highlights streamlined production through the Hachette merger as another benefit of the deal (a less obvious coup than titles like Elle magazine), “[We] are able to realize significant cost synergies through the…work of our service departments, particularly our production, IT and consumer marketing teams.”

As a result of these cross-company initiatives, Carey says, “…roughly 40 percent of our revenues are U.S. print and digital, 40 percent international print and digital, and 20 percent are services (iCrossing and CDS Global).”

Hearst’s growth is impressive, but lends little actionable strategy to publishers of smaller scale and lesser resources. With its new YouTube channels, large acquisitions and flashy media partnerships (Hearst took a 50 percent stake in reality television company Mark Burnett Productions in April), Hearst continues to perpetuate one of the most pervasive trends in the magazine industry as of late: publishers doing a lot of business besides publishing.

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