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Josh Gordon

Are Digital Magazines Still ‘Fish with Feet’?

Josh Gordon emedia and Technology - 11/21/2007-10:16 AM

In 2005, search guru John Battelle was credited with sound bite critique of digital magazines describing them as "fish with feet," merely a transitional product for the digitally challenged who need extra help migrating from paper to the Web.

If Battelle was right, digital magazines should be fading away and gone in a few years. Also, his concern about the long term could become an objection raised by clients blocking your next digital magazine media sale.

While digital magazines have detractors they are now enjoying huge growth:

Digital publisher NXTbook Media reported a 254 percent increase in sales and a 359 percent rise in traffic to its digital magazines over the year before. This August, digital magazine publisher Zinio announced the launch of 65 new digital releases.

Sorry Mr. Battelle, but growth is robust.

In addition, almost all current media could be viewed as "fish with feet." In fact, going through some kind of tech transition focusing on delivery is typical these days:

▪ In two years, the current analogue standard of television is mandated to shut down and be replaced with a digital system as per order of the US Federal Communications Commission.

▪ Five years from now radio may morph into a medium with as many time shifted listeners as live.

▪ Just now, there is a technology fight in cable TV where IPTV technology (like FiOS from Verizon) is being deployed to compete with the current generation of cable delivery.

▪ The current Internet you are reading this blog on will one day be replaced with Internet2 technology now in beta at Universities.

If digital magazines are evolutionary products they are in very good company.

Today, Digital Magazines are robust and growing. To those detractors that suggest that they are irrelevant because they may yet evolve, remind them in today's media world evolution is a sign of viability, not weakness.

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.

Josh Gordon

Media Buyers and Sellers Agree: Stop the Buzz Words!

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 11/21/2007-09:53 AM

Earlier this year, MediaPost subscribers-which include media buyers and sellers-were surveyed by Dynamic Logic and asked if there were buzzwords they would like to have people stop using. About half (49.5%) said yes.

Top of their "stop using" list? "Web 2.0" and "engagement."

On a call, it's a good idea to check the buzzwords at the door. The problem with words like these, is they mean different things to different people, so using them often does not advance communication.

Download: PDF of the survey

Read more here ...

Josh Gordon

Why Didn’t Someone at Sports Illustrated Start ESPN?

Josh Gordon Consumer - 11/21/2007-09:49 AM

In the late '80s while managing the sales and marketing of CableVision magazine I saw magazine myopia at its worst. As I watched, first hand, the rapid growth of many new cable networks I wondered how the opportunities they represented had slipped by my publishing peers:

Why didn't someone at Sports Illustrated start ESPN?
Why didn't someone at Time or Newsweek start CNN?
Why didn't someone at Rolling Stone start MTV?
Why didn't someone at National Geographic start the Discovery Channel?

The list could go on...but I fear history could be repeating itself, this time with regional magazines.

Read more here ...

Josh Gordon

Magazines Drive Buying Intent ... More Than TV!

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 11/20/2007-16:06 PM

The Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) just released a U.K.-based study that tests advertising on different media for their ability to drive traffic to search engines. Of the all the media tested, television was the top driver beating out magazines by a nose.

But in the second part of the study magazines pulled off an upset. Of the people who were both driven to search AND made a purchase, magazines beat TV. While magazines may not generate the big bang that television does, it has greater influence for people driven to search who are purchase oriented.

Use it on a call. This study sets up a great story: Magazines may be second to television in driving traffic to search, but the nature of the audience magazines drive is different. Since a magazine ad can be revisited, marked up, and torn out and carried to a store it is a superior ad medium for driving search traffic that results in a sale.

Download: PowerPoint
Visit: PPA homepage

Read more here ...

Paul Conley

ASME’s Silence on Ethics: ‘Pathetic’

Paul Conley Editorial - 11/20/2007-15:48 PM

I'm in a good mood.

Just a day after I noted that Ziff Davis' PC Magazine had broken its word and once again violated industry ethics by using ads-within-edit, a reader of this blog sent me some good news.

American Business Media has changed the rules for its Neal Awards. Henceforth:

"Web sites submitted (for consideration for Best Web site) should not hyperlink editorial content to advertising or other paid material. (You can read all the rules in this PDF document.)

I'll take some credit for this change. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I complained earlier this year when eWeek was nominated for a Neal Award even though the magazine's Web site violated ABM's ethics policy. Check out this earlier post in which ABM's Sara Sheadel responded and said the organization would likely change its rules.

Selling links inside editorial copy is wrong. It's offensive, misleading and disgusting. It belittles the work that thousands of B2B journalist do every day of their careers. It cheapens a Web site and damages the reputation of all of us in B2B publishing.

ASBPE has ruled on this issue. And now ABM has made its stance clear as well. ASME, however, remains silent.

And that is just pathetic.

Read more here ...

Mark Newman

How Regionals Differ From City Magazines

Mark Newman City and Regionals - 11/20/2007-14:54 PM

As editor-in-chief of a regional magazine-Southern Breeze-I get a lot of other regionals across my desk that I never knew existed. And while all magazines everywhere-with the exception of InStyle and most of the other ladies books-are fighting for ad dollars, our challenge seems wholly unique, even in the regional realm.

Southern Breeze delivers "the good life on the Gulf Coast" so we cover the tropical South along the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Apalachicola, Florida. Editorially, this is great because we have a large swath of the Southeast to feature in every issue. From an advertising standpoint there are significant challenges. What is a benefit for the writers-an entire region to cover-is a detriment for the ad salespeople. Why would a restaurant in Baton Rouge buy a full page ad when the magazine only covers a portion of its audience?

We also can't do a lot of the types of stories that city magazines do each year like the "Top 10 Doctors," "Top 10 Lawyers" et al because we're not exclusive to any one city. What is a boon to most city magazines would be ill-advised for us. Add to this conundrum the fact that we compete with other city publications and you'll find the print advertising dollar stretched very thin. There are only a few regional mags that have pulled this off successfully that I can think of, most notably Southern Living (duh), Midwest Living and Sunset.

As spectacular as these magazines are, none of them had their entire coverage area gutted by a spate of what we down here call "tropical occurrences." Hurricanes Katrina, Ivan and Rita gave us all a bit of a beating physically, financially, and emotionally. Sure our advertising dollars dwindled during that time, but we bounced back pretty quickly. We're not just the little regional magazine that could, we're the little regional magazine that does: ad dollars, competition, and Mother Nature notwithstanding.

Ted Bahr

Maybe Branding Isn’t Dead

Ted Bahr Sales and Marketing - 11/20/2007-14:36 PM

In the wake of all the noise about everything going digital, everything being measurable on the Internet and demands for accountable ROI comes this story via the Wall Street Journal: "Starbucks Posts Decline in U.S. Store Traffic, Plans Ad Campaign."

An ad campaign. To increase awareness. How retro! They're going to use TV ads-you know, mass market, branding, all that. Sheesh, why aren't they grinding out interstitial EyeBlaster BrainBurst SoulSucker pop-up ads on all the kewl internet video sites?

Isn't that what everyone is supposed to do? Apparently not.

Maybe we're ready to move beyond the "Revenge of the Sock Puppet" phase of anti-branding. You remember the sock puppet mascot for The lesson absorbed by VCs and CFOs everywhere in 2001 was, "Don't do anything even resembling branding, look what followed in the wake of the Super Bowl advertising for" Of course, it had nothing to do with their business model or the recession. Lots of targeted branding efforts were just thrown out with the bathwater. Branding somehow meant "Super Bowl ads." For years afterwards I met with marketers who said either the venture capitalists or their CFO said, "Yes you can spend millions of dollars, but don't you dare advertise for awareness or brand-building." I wonder if the marketers would ever turn around and say to the CFO, "you can run A/P and A/R but don't you dare use a spreadsheet!"

In this case, it appears as if Starbucks CEO Jim Donald is letting the marketers do what they were hired to do: marketing. As quoted in the Journal, Donald says Starbucks is getting into television advertising because "as we grow our stores, we're trying to reach out to this broader audience that maybe [has] not had a chance to experience Starbucks." I call that building awareness. The old-fashioned way.

Henry Donahue

Dead Cats and Digital Media Panels

Henry Donahue emedia and Technology - 11/20/2007-14:05 PM

You can't swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting an industry panel discussion about the death of print, the transition to digital or some variation thereof. This has been true now for the better part of a decade. The panels just come with different titles:

1997: "Avoid Becoming Roadkill on the Information Superhighway"
2007: "The Magabrand Revolution”

Cycling through a number of failed strategies—homegrown portal sites, blockbuster acquisitions, digital editions—most publishers still have a hard time getting over the fact that branded, high-quality content doesn't seem to have the same value on-line as it does off-line.

Intuitively, established magazine brands should have an advantage over competitors they perceive as underwear-clad, basement-dwelling overachievers. Magazines have loyal audiences. Their content is professionally reported, edited and fact-checked. Longstanding brands connote a certain level of quality.

But it doesn't work that way. Perez Hilton competes on the same field as People, Drudge with Newsweek, TVNewser with Mediaweek, and on and on. On top of that, advertisers pay a significantly lower CPM online than they do for print, hurting magazine publishers in the tradeoff.

At the risk of getting sucked into the same repetitively lame dialogue I just mocked, this is what I want to blog about. As someone who started in the online world ( circa 1999) and then transitioned to magazine management, I hope to bring a perspective that cuts through a lot of the doomsaying and navel-gazing.

I'm going to highlight what works from the print, integrated or exclusively on-line perspectives. And if I plug my own magazine (Discover) and online product ( along the way, so be it. At least you don't have to sit through another integrated media panel discussion.

Joanna Pettas

The New Yorker of Health Insurance Underwriter Magazines

Joanna Pettas Association and Non-Profit - 11/20/2007-11:29 AM

Baseball is the cover theme of HIU (Health Insurance Underwriter) magazine for no reason other than that October is a big month for the sport.

"There's no deep meaning behind the cover," says freelance illustrator Bruce MacPherson. "It may be the only light part of the whole thing."

Since MacPherson started working with HIU, which serves the National Association of Health Underwriters, the magazine's covers have had very little to do with its content. "I don't read it. I flip through it," he says. It's an intentionally light-hearted approach.

"The magazine is about health insurance," says managing editor Martin Carr. "Sometimes that just doesn't translate well into art. How many times can you see people sitting around a conference room on a cover?"

When we passed this cover along for commentary, we got mixed response. "I like seeing illustration on the cover. It adds personality to a topic," said Brian Taylor, design director for National Defense magazine. Donathan Salkaln, art director at Successful Meetings, said the illustration was wonderful.

But, aesthetics aside, the cover has issues. "The concept is out of left field, unless it's just trying to be self-promoting," said Salkaln.

The image of someone reading HIU while he or she is supposed to be working-in this case, the umpire-is an ongoing, inside joke. "Readers are distracted by their own magazine in the midst of other tasks. People appreciate that, for better or worse," says MacPherson.

MacPherson says readers are "in on" the concept, partly because it's an association mag. "It's a closed audience," he says. "There's kind of a ‘homey' feel."

Association or not, Taylor says, "There should be a connection. I find it misleading if the cover isn't representational of the editorial content inside."

Still, when your readers are members, not just subscribers or purchasers at newsstand, that might imply a sort of dedication that allows for a little more fun. It seems to work for HIU; Carr says readers are vocal about how much they like the new approach to covers since they started with it a few years ago.

Jason Fell

Men’s Health, Taking Cues from Maxim?

Jason Fell Consumer - 11/19/2007-19:25 PM

There's nothing like a practically naked woman to grab a man's attention. That said, it struck as somewhat odd when we noticed this photo as part of the annual gift guide featured in the December issue of Men's Health, on newsstands Tuesday.

The editors used a number of photos from a shoot with Dania Ramirez-a star on the hit NBC television show "Heroes"-throughout the gift guide package. The best way, apparently, to display Fender's new VG Stratocaster guitar was to have Ramirez strip off her clothes and wear it.

"We love women and, of course, we're going to have photos of beautiful women on our pages," a Men's Health communications staffer told FOLIO:.

When asked if featuring a mostly nude woman was a sort of departure for the magazine, the staffer responded, "She wasn't completely nude. She was wearing a pair of heels."

What's your opinion?

Joanna Pettas

Association Publishers Keeping Score

Joanna Pettas Association and Non-Profit - 11/19/2007-16:30 PM

At the SNAP conference today in Chicago, Richard Creighton, principal and co-founder of The Magazine Group, said that association publishers need to look to models "from the other side" in order to create a 360-degree platform to surround members with relevant, authoritative information in the same way that custom publishing surrounds customers.

Creighton suggested association publishers rate themselves in ten categories heavily drawn upon by successful custom publishers to communicate with their target audiences:

1. Print
2. Web site
3. E-newsletter
4. Blog
5. Podcast
6. TV/Video
7. Wikis
8. Mobile
9. Webinars
10. Multiple Languages

A 360-degree platform will widen the reach of an association publisher's content, which can help bring in new and retain existing members. If monetized, these channels can provide new revenue sources for the association and possibly help increase dues and donations as well as brand awareness. According to Creighton, many associations are already drawing on Webinars and podcasts, but less on more advanced technologies, as in the mobile arena.