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Dylan Stableford

New York Times Publisher on Whether There Will Be a Print Edition in 10 Years: ‘We Can’t Care’

Dylan Stableford Audience Development - 10/24/2008-09:37 AM

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher of New York Times Company, delivered the keynote address yesterday at WebbyConnect, a three-day summit on the future of media, which was organized by the producers of the Webby Awards and held in Dana Point, California.

Sulzberger, sometimes referred to by the nickname "Pinch," gave an interesting answer to the “Will there be a print edition of the New York Times in 10 years?” question:

“Let's start with the fact that the heart of the answer must be we can't care. We do care; I care very much. But we must be where people want us for our information. It's the thought of cannibalizing yourself before somebody else cannibalizes you. So that's one answer."

He also articulated what Andrew Sullivan and others (I’ll put myself in there) have been preaching about the need to link to competitors:

"Embracing the hyperlink ethos of the Web to a degree not seen before, news organizations are becoming more comfortable linking to competitors acting in effect like aggregators. Fundamentally we are addressing a common desire for comprehensiveness. The desire of people to find the news and information that they want from their most trusted sources. The era of the walled garden is over."

More from the Webby blog here …

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Dylan Stableford

For November Issues, Magazines Hedge Presidential Bets

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 10/23/2008-10:03 AM

With the election less than two weeks away, many magazines have already put their November and December issues—the ones in mailboxes and on newsstands—to bed. And those that are referencing the election have been forced to declare a winner between early. Vogue, for one, featured a cover line alluding to a Barack Obama win (“All the Vice President’s Women”—featuring “four generations of [Joe] Biden beauties”) on its November cover.

The American Bar Association’s monthly magazine smartly hedged its bets with two covers for its November issue cover story, “The Lawyers Who May Run America,” in which the magazine profiled 40 attorneys “who sources say may be appointed to senior positions in the next administration.” The front cover features a painting of McCain taking the oath of office. On the flipside, Obama takes the oath.

Why McCain on the front? “We used presidential debate rules: He won the coin toss,” said ABA Journal editor and publisher Ed Adams. “It’s our way of getting ahead of the news while living with the typical lengthy production cycle for a monthly magazine.”

What some magazine should’ve done (and, if you’re a weekly, can possibly still do—all I ask is that you credit me as a "contributing editor") is a cover with a headshot of George W. Bush printed in scratch-off ink—like a lottery ticket—with instructions not to scratch off W.’s face until 12:00AM on November 2, revealing the magazine’s pick for president. It would be just like an Advent calendar—no cheating!

And, in many ways, this election has resembled Christmas—it’s endless, the media shoves it down your throat, you’re forced to listen to zany uncles (“Joe the Plumber,” Joe Biden), crazy aunts (Sarah Palin) and, even before it arrives, you can’t wait ‘til it’s over.

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Dylan Stableford

A ‘Sexy’ Dental Magazine?

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 10/23/2008-09:00 AM

Like the economy, the health of the magazine industry is a big topic of conversation among publishers and pundits heading into 2009. One, Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, the University of Mississippi professor who tracks magazine launches, is vying to become the industry’s number one Kool-Aid distributor:

I am sure that we all need a touch of bloom in the midst of all the doom and gloom economic climate we are witnessing these days. So, without further due, here is some good news. The number of new magazine launches for the third quarter of 2008 exceeded that of the similar period of 2007 by 29 magazines. For the first time this year, the new magazine launches reversed the huge downturn trend that started with the third quarter of 2007 and continued throughout the first half of 2008.

With all due respect to the publishers of Motorpsycho, if the arrival of a “magazine for those who live and breathe for the machines” is a signal of the industry’s health, we’re all, pardon me, screwed.

Still, as Dr. Husni points out, it “never fails to remind folks all the time not to write-off the launches of new magazines from the media landscape.” Every new magazine, after all, “is a new media by itself.”

So in that vein, I’d like to alert you to what the Philadephia Inquirer calls the “the sexiest dental magazine this side of the Atlantic.”

Imagine the “uncommon common sense” of Dear Abby, the no-nonsense expert opinions of Consumer Reports and the sheer star-power of People, and the synthesis would be Dear Doctor – Dentistry & Oral Health.

That’s from their press release. The “sexy” part comes via its covers, which so far have included Christie Brinkley, Jessica Simpson (Romo), Carrie Underwood and Mario Lopez. The goal of the new consumer magazine, according to the release, is “to put a shiny new veneer on a traditionally mundane subject.”

Other magazines covering traditionally “mundane” subjects have gone the celebrity route to sex up their covers (WebMD and Golf Digest’s current Justin Timberlake cover story come to mind).

But launches, even sexy dental magazine ones, are not the cure for the industry’s ills. Like Jessica Simpson’s teeth, they may be bright spots, but, ultimately, cosmetic.

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Dylan Stableford

Does Color Count as Product Placement?

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 10/22/2008-16:10 PM

New York magazine this week joined a small but growing list of publishers to turn over their magazines to a single sponsor, selling 24 front-of-book advertising pages to HSBC, the European bank—making it the magazine’s largest single-issue advertiser ever.

The New Yorker famously sold its entire inventory to Target in 2005, sparking a debate over the ethics of running a campaign that used illustrations, mimicking the New Yorker’s famed covers, and a cover that, itself, featured beach balls mimicking Target’s red and white colors.

While less known, HSBC’s colors, also red and white, are used on New York magazine’s cover this week. Intentional?

“Absolutely not,” Serena Torrey, a representative for New York magazine, wrote in an e-mail. “Red, white and black are employed frequently on New York magazine's covers (and inside the magazine) and have been for decades. As Adam [Moss] said in his letter on the Table of Contents page, 'ads and editorial matter in New York are always completely independent of one another, this issue included.’ Of course, the cover is some of our most important and visible 'editorial matter' and is always subject to exactly the same hard-line 'church and state' separation as is the rest of the magazine.”

(Torrey, I should mention, attached 15 recent covers using red, white and/or black to prove her point.)

In August, TV Guide published an issue with ABC Television as its sole advertiser, with 21 ad pages promoting ABC Television’s fall lineup. (TV Guide didn’t bother matching ABC’s color palette; they simply put Patrick Dempsey, the star of ABC’s primetime drama Grey’s Anatomy, on the issue’s cover.)

While TV Guide’s cover treatment raises legitimate ethical questions (Did they really sell the cover to ABC? Would ABC still have run its ads if TV Guide put, say, Kiefer “Jack Bauer” Sutherland on its cover?) there’s nothing wrong with what New York or the New Yorker did here, regardless of intent.

But as perennial National Magazine Award winners, they’ll never admit it. As David Carey, then-VP and publisher of the New Yorker, said at the time: "The editorial integrity of our product is a big thing."

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Dylan Stableford

Are Ad Page Figures Inflated?

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 10/22/2008-09:15 AM

We’ve pointed out numerous times, the Publishers Information Bureau’s revenue figures, given the steep discounts magazines often give advertisers, are bogus.

Just how bogus? Roughly 40 to 75 percent, according to this report on the Media Daily News Web site. As Bob Sacks, consultant and noted futurist, notes, “That is a lot of smoke and mirrors for an industry with limited accountability.” (FOLIO: stopped paying attention to PIB’s rate card-reported revenue years ago, focusing, instead, on ad page counts.)

One of the biggest discounters appears to be Meredith: “The company reported publishing ad revenues of $308 million in the first half of 2008, compared to PIB rate card revenues of $1.16 billion. This suggests that its 25 consumer magazines are collectively offering discounts of almost 75% off the official rates.”

Time Inc. and Martha Stewart Living are mentioned in the MDN report, too, but this epidemic is widespread.

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Dylan Stableford

Should Time Link to Newsweek?

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 10/17/2008-13:57 PM

Poignant riff in Andrew Sullivan’s 5,300-word “Why I Blog” essay—for the most part a defense of blogging as journalistic form—in the newly redesigned Atlantic:

Writing in this new form is a collective enterprise as much as it is an individual one—and the connections between bloggers are as important as the content on the blogs. The links not only drive conversation, they drive readers. The more you link, the more others will link to you, and the more traffic and readers you will get. The zero-sum game of old media—in which Time benefits from Newsweek’s decline and vice versa—becomes win-win. It’s great for Time to be linked to by Newsweek and the other way round. One of the most prized statistics in the blogosphere is therefore not the total number of readers or page views, but the “authority” you get by being linked to by other blogs. It’s an indication of how central you are to the online conversation of humankind.

This is a simple but important point. Too many magazines—even those that have embraced Web 2.0 touchstones like blogging and social networking—don’t link to their competitors nearly enough, because of the once-logical-now-ridiculous notion that readers will eschew coming to their site in favor of sending traffic to the enemy.

That’s just not true. If anything, your readers will appreciate you pointing them to a story of interest, and will look to you as a trusted, invaluable resource—or, as Sullivan calls it, "authority." (Check out “The Art of Linking” for what some of the blog-o-dome’s most-trafficked bloggers think about linking to rivals.)

Regular visitors to FOLIOmag.com know that we’ll link to any competitor—Ad Age, Mediaweek, Paid Content, the Times, Perez Hilton, etc.—if they have something of interest that we don’t have.

For some publishers, this is a fundamental shift in the way of thinking about your competitors—they’re not your “enemies” anymore.

They’re resources.

Besides, as Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, notes, your users “spend a majority of their time on someone else’s site.”

Might as well help them out.

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Dylan Stableford

R.I.P. Mygazines, 2008-2008

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/16/2008-11:40 AM

It’s over:

Dear valued members, visitors and publishers,

Due to monetary reasons and the state of the global economy, we unfortunately must close mygazines.com. We simply ran out of funds to support the daily operations.

We thank you for your patronage.

If you are a publisher interested in understanding more about our model and vision for the future of the publishing industry going forward, or to discuss our Business to Business model opportunities, please email us at mygazines@gmail.com.

Sincerely,
The Mygazines Team

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Dylan Stableford

Welcome to the Magazine Spin Zone

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 10/16/2008-10:19 AM

Every three months, the Publishers Information Bureau, the part of the Magazine Publishers of America which counts advertising pages and estimates rate card revenue, puts out a press release summarizing the performance for the previous quarter. And, like clockwork, the copy of that press release reads like pro-print, partisan spin. Every time. Friends, it drives me crazy.

This week’s PIB release was no different. Here was the headline the MPA went with:

FOOD & FOOD PRODUCTS AND RETAIL LEAD AD CATEGORIES
IN REVENUE GAINS THROUGH FIRST THREE QUARTERS OF 2008

Yes, yes they did. One minor point the MPA chose not to highlight in the headline: including food and retail, there were a total of three—three—categories that posted revenue gains through September. Every other category tracked by PIB has seen a decline. Why did the MPA do this? Because this is what else they had to report:

Total magazine rate-card-reported advertising revenue through the first three quarters of 2008 closed at $18,452,988,859, posting a 5% decline against the previous year, according to Publishers Information Bureau (PIB).  There were 164,125 ad pages generated through the first three quarters of the year, a drop of 9.5% compared to the same period in 2007.

Now, why did the MPA choose to highlight year-to-date ad performance first? Well, that’s because the third quarter was even worse:

For the third quarter, total magazine rate-card-reported advertising revenue generated $5,988,323,154, which was an 8.8% decrease compared to 2007’s third quarter.  There were 52,778 advertising pages in the third quarter, a drop of 12.9% compared to the same period in 2007. 

Talk about burying the lead. It’s like reading game reports by Kansas City Royals beat reporters. (“The Royals lost 12-1 again? Let’s go with this headline: ‘Royals Reliever Tosses Scoreless Inning’!”)

The MPA is not alone here. American Business Media, the b-to-b association, is just as guilty in projecting confidence while their members are hemorrhaging print ad dollars. (They’re just slow in reporting it—the Business Information Network, ABM’s monthly equivalent to PIB, is only on June.)

And it’s not just the associations. PR firms are also prone to passing out the Kool-Aid. After one of the recent PIB reports, one magazine flack sent an e-mail boasting that her title was flat. (“Flat is the new up, right?!?!”)

I don’t necessarily blame PR reps for spinning the numbers. It’s their job to do that. But I don’t understand why associations have to. It’s not like their members don’t realize how scary it is out there.

Why won’t the MPA or ABM acknowledge reality? Because, like it or not, it’s here. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

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Dylan Stableford

Esquire's E-Ink Cover Inspires Hacker Community

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 10/14/2008-14:11 PM

Esquire’s much ballyhooed (and equally berated) electronic cover has spawned a mini-movement of YouTube-friendly hackers bent on manipulating its circuitry. (This is the kind of nerd-dom normally reserved for Make magazine meet-ups.)

Below, some of the best attempts—including one enterprising geek who says he’s made over $200 selling his copies on eBay—as well as some odd clips featuring the Esquire cover which, thankfully, don’t involve cats:

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Dylan Stableford

Newsweek Pulls ‘Up-Close’ Coverage of Palin for Kindle

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 10/14/2008-11:54 AM

Newsweek is pulling together its election coverage for a series of e-books packaged for Amazon’s Kindle. (Newsweek is the first magazine to do so, Amazon says.) Given all the hullabaloo surrounding last week’s Newsweek cover—featured an unretouched, hair-and-pore-exposing Sarah Palin closeup—I thought the tagline of the Palin e-book [above, right] was a bit ironic.

Click here for more on Newsweek’s Kindle book coverage ...

And click here for more on the ridiculous cover controversy ...

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Dylan Stableford

The Atlantic Unveils Redesign

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 10/14/2008-09:54 AM

While Newsweek has apparently started the process of reimagining its print magazine—ordering design guru Roger Black to come up “fantasy versions” of the newsweekly—another iconic American magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, has completed a radical revamp of its own.

FOLIO: VIDEO Q+A: Atlantic Media President Justin Smith

The magazine is set to unveil the redesign—just the eighth in its 151-year-history—tonight at an art gallery on Manhattan’s West Side. Pentagram, the design firm charged with the Atlantic’s overhaul, has posted some behind-the-scenes photos of the process, including a few options that didn’t make the cut.

Check out more here ...

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Dylan Stableford

Video Interview: Luke Hayman

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 10/13/2008-16:14 PM

On the rooftop of the Chicago Marriott at the FOLIO: Show a few weeks ago, I did an interview with Luke Hayman, the renowned magazine designer at Pentagram and one of the conference’s speakers, about trends in magazine design. Hayman spoke quite favorably about Esquire (“I love what David Curcurito is doing”) and, I thought refreshingly, spoke openly about his disdain for the trend of “free magazines” as perpetuated by Niche Media. His argument? “They’re treated like garbage and they look like garbage.”

Tell us how you really feel, Luke!

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