After an acquisition, some staff turnover is expected. But when that acquisition also means moving the brand halfway across the country, you'd better be ready to do some significant rebuilding of personnel. This rings especially true when a magazine relocates from, say, New York to Wisconsinâ€”as happened with Discover magazine after Waukesha-based Kalmbach bought it. Privately-owned Kalmbach, an enthusiast, craft and hobbyist publisher with titles such as Astronomy, Model Railroader and Cabin Life, among others, picked up Discover two years ago from private equity backers WallerSutton and Sandler Capital Management. At the time, Discover had revenues of about $14 million. Less than a year later, Kalmbach outsourced the sales operation to James G. Elliott, Co., a partnership that's still in place. Which left the edit team (production and back office operations were already set up in Waukesha) still in New York. In August this year the company finally announced that it was closing the editorial offices and moving operations to Wisconsin. At the time, about 20 edit and design staff were faced with the decision on whether to move. All opted outâ€”except former editor-in-chief Corey S. Powell, who was with the brand for 15 years and will continue as editor-at-large and columnist, and executive editor Pamela Weintraub, who remains in a consultative role. Today, Discover announced a completely rebuilt edit and design team. The magazine has hired 13 new staff members.The magazine's new editor-in-chief is Stephen George, who was last with Reader's Digest at the Greendale, Wisconsin branch as its executive editor in the book and special publication group. Former managing editor of Kalmbach's Trains magazine will take the same title at Discover. From there, two senior editors, a photo editor, four associate editors, a senior graphic designer, staff writer, editorial assistant and copy editor have also come on board. Still open is a design director spot, says vice president-editorial and publisher Kevin Keefe.
An essay by Craig Mod has been making the rounds lately among media watchers. It's a terrific read. Mod, a current independent writer and former Flipbook employee, touts what he's calling the Subcompact Manifesto, which places a premium on a minimalist approach to digital publishing. His manifesto emerges out of one of the main criticisms 'traditional' publishers have received for their tablet magazines and apps: They're unwieldy, hard to use, have too many bells and whistles and take up too much room. But most importantly, they're tied to print production schedules, design and pricing. In other words, tablet editions are not exploiting the medium in the open, nimble, socially-forward way they could and/or should be.As Mod says: So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because itâ€™s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).Unfortunatelyâ€”from a medium-specific user experience point of viewâ€”itâ€™s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications.The key here, for Mod, is the "indigenous magazine"â€”a product born exclusively for the mobile-digital platform, free of any print production and pricing frameworks. He goes on to highlight The Magazine, created by Marco Arment, as a perfect example of the digitally indigenous magazine. It's short (four or five articles), it's design is breezy and open, it's file size is small, it's cheap and easy to snack on.This all may be true, and there's probably an audience for The Magazine and future brands just like it. But what's wrong with publishing a tablet magazine that's full of print magazine design and rich media content, that's $4.99 for a single copy and might take all night to download to Apple's Newsstand? Nothing, really, because there's room in the market for the digitally indigenous magazine and the digital magazine that's married, for good or bad, to its print namesake. I understand that with digital comes an expectation of disruption and re-invention. And not just an expectation, but actual disruption. But it's also a world where all sorts of business models live and play.I don't think Mod is necessarily saying all publishers need to drop their old-school, print-legacy-based digital magazines and start producing $2, 4-article, scrolling mini-apps. He does say though, that publishers are balking at producing products like these because they're not based on a familiar model and they're not likely to produce immediate and significant returns. Funnily enough, neither have the full-blown tablet magazines, for now. What will be interesting to see is how much the subcompact model informs or influences the sedan version of digital magazinesâ€”or simply rides next to it.
ABM, which is wrapping up its Executive Forum being held in Chicago this week, voted nine new companies into membership at its board of directors meeting Monday.Media members include Editorial Projects in Education, InsuranceNewsNet.com and new international member Beuth Verlag GmbH.The association also added six associate members, including Adobe Systems Inc., bXb Online, LiveIntent, MagToGo, Tout and WeiserMazars LLP. "These new membersâ€”ranging from traditional and international media companies to progressive businesses focused on app development, social media, virtual event technologies and digital monetization solutionsâ€”support ABM's initiative to represent the wide range of platforms and models leveraged by business information and media companies," said ABM president and CEO Clark Pettit in a statement. Meanwhile, news out of the Executive Forum includes a bit of research ABM did in partnership with Outsell that examined mobile content and business models. B-to-b executives responding to the joint survey, it seems, are not in it for the moneyâ€”yet. Instead, brand enhancement, content delivery, serving advertisers' needs and creating a superior digital experience were the top mobile objectives, with 64 percent, 60 percent, 60 percent and 52 percent of responses, respectively. At the bottom of the objectives list were "new revenue from mobile users (29 percent) and "enable mobile e-commerce" (24 percent).Additionally, only 20 percent of respondents indicated they have a formal mobile strategy in place. The majority of respondents (56 percent) say their mobile strategy is somewhere between formal and ad hoc. A quarter, or 24 percent, say mobile is on an ad hoc, project or case-by-case basis. Given that objectives aren't quite standardized and that 40 percent of respondents expect to break even with their mobile investments and 48 percent expect a negative ROI, mobile initiatives are clearly still in the experimental phase.For more results from the study and the slide deck on the ABM/Outsell presentation from the Executive Forum, click here [pdf].
Source Interlink Media's enthusiast sports group, GrindMedia, bought Dirt Sports and Off-Road Industry magazines from Ryan Communications Group this week. The deal sets up a new Dirt Sports group within Grind for Source, which also includes existing titles Dirt Rider, ATV Rider, Endurocross and Motocross.com. Ryan Communications founder Jim Ryan will head up the new group.The deal is the second one for GrindMedia, which bought Baseball America last December. The GrindMedia group is Source's gen-y, young male consumer group, which, says the company, reaches a monthly audience of 20,000,000 along with other brands such as Skateboarder, Bike, Powder and Slam. The latter recently extended its model into Football with the release of TD and TDdaily.com.
A new report conducted by app store analytics firm Distimo finds that the United States is the most "socially savvy" country by virtue of its download volume of social apps. According to Distimo, out of the most popular apps downloaded, 20 percent of the volume is apps from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. In countries in Europe and South East Asia, social app download volume doesn't exceed 10 percent. These findings are part of a larger look at how social media app downloads compare to other apps. As an example, the report finds that while download volume among the 100 most popular apps in Apple's App Store increased 43 percent over the last two years, the top 100 social applications increased 193 percent between July 2010 and July 2012. Further, Facebook lost its prominence by July 2012 as the top downloaded social app, falling to the third spot behind Instagram and Twitter (as measured across Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Korea, United Kingdom, and the U.S.).For the full report, click here.
Some of us "older" publishing pros often quip it's the "digitally-savvy youngsters" that are driving the new publishing eraâ€”not just as consumers, but as talented members of the magazine publishing community. In that spirit, it's time once again to turn the FOLIO: spotlight on the younger set and profile the next group of rising stars and innovators across traditional publishing roles, never-before-seen positions in new lines of business, and market-shaping start-ups: FOLIO:'s 15 Under 30.
Last year's list featured a cross-section of talent responsible for social media, interactive marketing, community management and new digital companies. These are all excellent, and we're equally impressed with individuals who are leading the way in defining new competitive opportunities for existing, more traditional products. The nomination process is officially openâ€”tell us who you think deserves to be on the list by filling out our simple online form. Our list-makers will appear in the October issue.The only catch? All nominees must be younger than 30.The deadline for nominations is Monday, September 10. Good luck and thanks for participating!
Once derided as Johnny-come-latelys to the digital media game, traditional publishers are now becoming enthusiastic start-up accelerators, buying or incubating early-stage companies that aim to disrupt the media market. Bonnier has just joined the club with its own Innovation Lab, a 14-week program seeking applicants who are interested in "developing revolutionary products and services that will change the way major media companies engage with their audiences." The idea being that Bonnier, like other publishers, has already waded its way into the modern media world and knows a thing or two about digital business and audience development, marketing and content strategy. Not quite an ownership-based incubator, such as Hearst's Interactive Media unit, the Innovation Lab is more like an educational program that helps entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground and into the market. The brainchild of David Rich, Bonnier Corp.'s director of digital innovation, the program features a dozen mentors. Some are from Bonnier's ranks, including CEO Terry Snow, digital audience and analytics director Jennifer Anderson and VP of corporate communications Dean Turcol. And some are from VC firms and other start-ups. Four start-ups will be selected for the first program and each receives a pretty generous set of perks, including a minimum of $25,000 in seed capital, $5,000 in PR support, $10,000 in PayPal transaction fees and about $79,000 in hosting credits from a variety of services including Amazon, Rackspace and Microsoft Azure. For its part, Bonnier will get an equity stake in the startups if they make it from drawing board to real companyâ€”and presumably first dibs if it's a concept uniquely appealing to Bonnier. But how much that ends up being depends on the progress of each start-up and what is ultimately negotiated as they progress through the Lab.
An announcement went out today, but if you haven't seen it, we've decided to put Foliomag.com on a metered paid-access model. Here's why:Our mission has always been to provide you with the most up-to-date and in-depth resources to help media companies succeed. Our news and analysis lead the industry. Our blogs, columns and more offer the context and perspective you need to optimize your business.At the core of our decision was this: We felt that it's very important to place a clear value on our content, and to recognize the value that our best customers see in what we do. Also, as a brand that covers the digital-media transformation, we seek to not just reflect what the industry is doing, but to lead it as well.This paid-access initiative will also allow us to invest in Foliomag.comâ€”to significantly improve it over time. We'll be adding regular multimedia features, more voices, more connectivity and more content.Our paid-access model begins immediately. Here's the way it will work: Each month, you'll get to read eight stories on a complimentary basis. You'll be reminded as you get closer to the eighth report. After that, you'll be given the option of buying an annual subscription to Foliomag.com for $69.95. Alternatively, you can gain full access to the site on a monthly basis for $14.95.As a leader of the digital-content marketplace, we to need to adapt to the changing times. Our new format allows you, our most loyal customers, to choose the level of information you need.
Feel free to comment below; you can also email me at bmickey at red7media.com.Â
While there are pockets of good news on the ad revenue side of the publishing business these days, overall publishers are still duking it out on the front lines. This is illustrated for better or worse in Time Inc.'s 10-Q report released last week. The publishing giant's revenues dropped nine percent in the second quarter to $858 million and six percent for the half to $1.6 billion. Every segment within the publishing division recorded a loss in revenues. And the losses prompted the company to warn that because "soft market" conditions are expected to continue through the third quarter, the fair value and book value of the company's brands are getting uncomfortably close.Â This ratio is pointed out by anonymous blogger Dead Tree edition, who also notes operating income for the half is down 60 percent compared to same period 2011. As of the end of last year, Time Warner says the fair value of Time Inc. is 19 percent higher than its book value, and that it didn't actually have to do an impairment analysis during the second quarter, but if that 19 percent gets erased due to continued declines this year, the company may have to take a non-cash charge out of earnings that are already significantly pinched. "During 2012, the Publishing segment has experienced soft market conditions that have negatively impacted its operating results," says the report. "If those market conditions worsen, it is possible that the book values of the Time Inc. reporting unit and certain of its tradenames will exceed their respective fair values, which may result in the Company recognizing a noncash impairment that could be material."This may never happen, the 19 percent separation in value is a decent cushion but with the market condition the way it is, the company felt compelled to issue a warning nevertheless. If book values (the value of the company straight off the balance sheet) do end up exceeding fair value (the value of the company determined by a hypothetical sale, or market value), then there will be a non-cash charge to the bottom line.In the meantime, the report also highlights just how expensive digital investments have become for companies that are making heavy commitments to web, mobile and tablet development. As print production scales back, savings are immediately eaten up by digital. TW says that in the second quarter costs dropped about 4 percent, or $13 million due to less production associated with lower print volumes, but were entirely offset by investments in websites and tablet magazines. As for the publishing group's segments, subscription revenues were down 11 percent for the second quarter to $292 million and 7 percent for the half to $623 million. Advertising was down 7 percent for the quarter and 6 percent for the half to $472 million and $855 million respectively. Content sales were down 20 percent in the quarter to $20 million, but that gap narrowed by the end of the half to a loss of 5 percent, ending at $39 million. In the second quarter, Time Inc. took back the management of SI.com and Golf.com from Turner, who had been paying Time Inc. licensing fees to manage the sites. With the two site back in the fold, advertising losses were partially offset by about $7 million, but that was nulled by the loss of $9 million Time Inc. would have had from licensing fees.
Joe Pompeo at Capital New York reports that Huffington Post has made its Huffington app, launched in June, free. The app's single copy price was 99 cents, $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year and, at the time, reflected the you-don't-get something-for-nothing mentality now so prevalent in digital content publishingâ€”especially when producing a magazine app like this one is still far from efficient or low-cost.But, in hindsight, Huffington had clearly wrestled with whether to charge for the app or not. When Folio: first reported on the app's coming launch, executive editor Tim O'Brien said the business model had yet to be determinedâ€”and this was only weeks out from its debut.SEE ALSO: Inside Huffington Post's Weekly Magazine AppPompeo says the change in strategy was revealed during a company meeting yesterday, and the app is already listed as free in the App Store. All of this was underscored earlier this week when News Corp.'s The Daily axed 29 percent of its workforce, or 50 employees, and streamlined its content production.
The changes at Huffington and The Daily highlight the difficulty publishers are having with nailing down a consistent business model for magazine apps. The technology is new and the products and the experience they offer are still new for consumers and that mix can bloom into a confusing array of strategies as publishers balance customer preferences with business realities. This can be especially frustrating as publishers also try to figure out how apps relate with and exist next to their traditional products. A Huffington spokesperson tells Pompeo that the decision to go free was triggered by the fact that The Huffington Post itself is free and the app's paid model clashed with that. Perception goes a long way.
In an earlier blog post, Penton Media senior vice president of strategy and business development Warren Bimblick sniffed out a pricing scheme that might have been a bit too perfunctory.Â Â
During IAC's second quarter earnings call today, chairman Barry Diller provided some feedback on the future of Newsweek as a print magazine. While the print version's survivability has been endlessly speculated on, Diller took an opportunity in the call to put the issue in better, if not entirely clear, focus. In answering a question from an analyst on the outlook for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and whether there were plans to make it a "lighter asset," Diller noted that the brand is doing better overall. "The brand is now much better and stronger than when we acquired it," he said. "There has been a true improvement in the book and Tina Brown and her staff have done a superb job."However, the recent decision by the Harman family to stop investing in Newsweek has shifted the majority stake onto IAC, as well as more of the burden of managing what is still a money-losing operation. "The consolidation does put it squarely on our heads," said Diller who added that investments from IAC will also be scaling back. "Our investment next year will be considerably less than it is this year."And while Diller said the brand is stronger, its print operation is still a wrench in the gears. "So what is the problem? The problem is in manufacturing and producing a weekly news magazine and that has to be solved. Advertising in this category is entirely elective. The transition to online from hard print will take place. We're examining all of our options."From there, Diller tapered off on providing any specifics on when and how the transition might happen, but noted that things will begin to look "different" starting next year.Currently, Newsweek's web presence is relegated to a channel via the main nav bar on The Daily Beast's home page. For the first half, ad pages were up about 8 percent for the magazine, per PIB numbers, and as of the December 2011 ABC publisher's statement, single copy sales were up about 3 percent for the six-month period.
Update: Jim Romenesko has a staff memo from Tina Brown that douses some of the more aggressive reporting that Newsweek is going online only. She says: "Barry Diller would like to make it clear that he did not say on the earnings call as reported that Newsweek is going digital in September. He made the uncontroversial, industry-wide observation that print is moving in the direction of digital."
Do the names Hanley and Wood mean anything to you? They should. Mike Hanley and Michael Wood are the founders of one of the biggest b-to-b media companies in the U.S. And the two were reunited recently in a deal through Mr. Wood's investment firm, Redwood Investments. The firm bought CSP Information Group last week, a b-to-b media company that targets the convenience store and restaurant markets. The portfolio includes four magazines and associated newsletters, websites and events. The deal was brokered by Berkery Noyes, which represented Redwood.Wood's son, Mike Wood, Jr., who is president of Redwood, will become CEO of CSP, which he says has tripled its revenue in the last six years. According to Wood Jr., CSP will become a platform for further acquisitions in the convenience store and restaurant media space. "We expect to invest in and grow CSP's existing businesses particularly in the digital, mobile and information realms, and to become an active acquirer of c-store, restaurant and foodservice industry media, trade shows and businesses," he says in a statement. Michael Wood will become chairman of the new company and Mike Hanley, an investor in the company, will also join the board. Pair this deal with the recent acquisition of Northstar Travel Media by the Wicks Group and you get the sense that b-to-b media companies that effectively spread their revenue across print, digital and live events still have appeal. Marketing services may be where the action is, and banks definitely still have some troubled assets on their hands which has pinched financing and can wreak havoc with structuring a deal, but these types of transactions are still getting done.