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Dylan Stableford

Bill Clinton Fetes Esquire, Takes Swipe at Rupe, Overshadows E-Ink

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/11/2008-13:55 PM

RELATED POST: Will Esquire's Cover Really 'Revolutionize' the Way We Read Magazines?

Esquire celebrated its 75th anniversary last night with a swanky party at New York City’s Gotham Hall, with some 600 partygoers turning out—including Bill Murray, Lebron James and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales—enjoying the open bar (there were five bars, actually, arranged by type of alcohol) and quite possibly the best food of any magazine industry cocktail party (the best sandwiches from around the world were recreated for event).

The highlight of the night, though, was when editor-in-chief David Granger, speaking high above the floor between the hall’s Gothic pillars, passed the mic to former president Bill Clinton, who spoke briefly about politics (“… as a Democrat, it’s somewhat uncomfortable for me being up here and Rupert Murdoch down there”), the future of philanthropy and, of course, his admiration for Esquire. (Bill and Hilary were both named to Esquire’s 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century list in the October issue).

What was interesting, given the hype surrounding the magazine’s historic e-ink cover, was how little attention attendees paid to it. (A snippet of one conversation I overheard: “Are you kidding me? That’s what they spent all the money on? It’s just silly.”)

It seemed they were, for the most part, more concerned with scoring face time with Granger, or getting the proper amount of salt on their margaritas.

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Dylan Stableford

Area Satirical Newspaper Launches Real Site to Compete With Other Area Sites

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 09/08/2008-09:25 AM

An area satirical newspaper calling itself America’s Finest News Source has unveiled something called the Decider, an online listing Web site that will help area men and women decide, among other things, where to drink heavily.

Via TechCrunch:

The site is initially launching with content for Chicago, with plans to support more cities over the next few months. The site has a clean (albeit somewhat generic) interface, with integrated Google Maps pinpointing each reviewed restaurant and a calendar for upcoming events. In addition to regular editorial content, users will be allowed to post their own reviews and comments.

Sound familiar? That’s because Citysearch has long owned this space, but has seen its grip slip in recent years as regional magazines have beefed up their Web sites to provide similar services to their loyal readers. (Earlier this year, for instance, Greenspun Media revealed it was building a “category-crushing” Web portal for the Vegas market which it plans to roll out to its other luxury regionals like Gotham and Capitol File.)

As fans of the Onion already know, it devotes roughly half of its weekly editorial space to music and film reviews and such cultural listings (see the Onion's A.V. Club). Still, that a satirical newspaper thinks it carve out a part of the listings space should be cause for concern for any regional magazine that hasn’t done this already.

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Dylan Stableford

What I Learned About Women’s Magazines Flipping Through 4,628 Pages of Them

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/05/2008-13:06 PM

For the second year in a row, FOLIO: rang in the fall by pilfering the local newsstand (read: Barnes & Noble) of the biggest women’s fall fashion issues we could carry, weighing them in the Red 7 mailroom and undertaking the entirely tedious task of counting ad pages before and after their editor’s notes. It’s an interesting sociological experiment for someone who rarely reads women’s magazines.

Here, in typical women’s magazine fashion, are 7 “hot” observations about this year’s fall books:

1. Fashion magazines like their T.O.C.s to appear out of nowhere. Finding the table of contents in many of these women’s magazines is like trying to find a model over 105 pounds. Finding them twice is even trickier.

2. Editorial page design (with the exception of W) is often virtually indistinguishable from the ads. It really is. The advertisers must love it, and I assume most readers don’t mind either. (When you’re counting ad pages, though, it becomes treacherous.)

3. Celebrities are sometimes ridiculed for their endorsements, but they certainly help with ad recall. I couldn’t tell you who the Dolce & Gabbana girl is this year, but Tod’s (Gwyneth Paltrow), Revlon (Jessica Alba), Gap (Liv Tyler), Damiani (Sharon Stone for some reason) and Jessica Simpson (Jessica Simpson) have all been bludgeoned into my memory.

4. The agencies repping the fashion industry can come up with some creepy creative. Like this ad, for instance:



5. Women’s magazines love to bury their features. Usually in the back of the magazine. Perhaps this is because they can run them without pummeling the reader with ads. Still, when Vogue’s cover spread begins on page 666, or Harper’s Bazaar’s absurd cover “story” depicting Tyra Banks as Michelle Obama starts on 517, it proves the cover, at least editorially, far outweighs what’s inside.

6. Women’s magazine editors are page count cocky. But, like, say, baseball sluggers, they only appear to tout their page counts when they get above 600—of the major women’s magazines, only Vogue (798) Elle (“600+ pages—our biggest issue ever!). After that, they resort to counting “new looks” (Harper’s Bazaar: 1,207) or “ideas” (Lucky: 981) or “steals” (Glamour: 289).

7. Purple is in this season. Just saying.

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Dylan Stableford

What Not to Write in a Friday E-mail to Staffers

Dylan Stableford B2B - 09/03/2008-15:15 PM

For all of you high-powered, high-rolling, “wheels-up” publishing executives, consider this story about Emap’s chief executive, via London’s Daily Mail, a cautionary tale about what one should and shouldn’t joke in a Friday e-mail during a recession:

David Gilbertson, who lives in a £2.5 million house in Hampstead, north London, and drives a flashy Aston Martin DB9 with personalised number plates, signed off his regular Friday email to staff by commenting on his "huge" rented villa that could house up to 50 people.

"If you are passing through the Dordogne and need a bed for the night and there are fewer than about 50 of you, we can probably put you up," he joked.

But staff complained that the email was insensitive after many of its 24 business magazines, which include Nursing Times and Drapers, have been asked to cut spending by between £100,000 and £200,000—or come up with ways of making more money.

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Dylan Stableford

Why Brownridge Stepped Aside

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 08/21/2008-10:28 AM

Yesterday, Kent Brownridge—the former Wenner Media executive who, along with Quadrangle Partners, formed Alpha Media last year after acquiring Dennis Publishing’s U.S. assets (Maxim, Stuff and Blender, though not The Week) for $240 million—announced he was stepping down as CEO. The company named a pair of co-CEOs to take his place, with Brownridge retaining the title of chairman.

This was a curious move, because Brownridge, a notorious workaholic, became known for his hands-on management style at Wenner Media, where he spent 21 years as Jann Wenner’s consigliore. And despite the curious timing—both Blender and Maxim, like most consumer titles, have struggled to sell ads in 2008—it appears that Brownridge’s departure is truly a case of a 68-year-old publishing executive wanting to spend more time away from the office, cut the 100-hour workweeks in half and, perhaps for the first time in his career, take a “summer Friday” or two.

“I have a new wife who's not liking this very much. And while my health is very good, I want it to stay that way,” Brownridge told Portfolio. "I plan to get home at six instead of 10. Also, we have summer Fridays here, so I might even do that."

Brownridge sounded more confident that he would, in fact, take them when he spoke to WWD: “I’m going to take summer Fridays, not go into the office every day, and I’m not going to stay past 5 p.m.” He admitted that his post-Wenner “retirement” didn’t work, which is why he plans to be an “active” chairman while spending less time fielding a "steady flow of e-mails at all hours to [his] BlackBerry."

The sources I spoke with yesterday seemed to buy Brownridge’s version, and refuted the notion that there was pressure from Quadrangle to move Brownridge out, although that’s always a possibility.

For now, though, he can rest his BlackBerry thumb, and take that summer Friday.

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Dylan Stableford

D’oh!

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 08/18/2008-10:32 AM

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to a magazine, and it won’t be the last.

Still, D’oh!:

Warner Bros. gave Harry the school year off, announcing last week it was bumping the sixth movie in the series from fall to next summer. But Entertainment Weekly—which shares the studio's parent company, Time Warner Inc.—was unaware, featuring "Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe on the cover of its Aug. 22-29 fall-preview issue.

The magazine leads off the issue with a six-page spread pegged to "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which Warner Bros. on Thursday moved from its Nov. 21 release date to July 17, 2009.

This isn’t as egregious as, say, putting new Jets quarterback Brett Favre on the cover of the Madden 2009 video game—as a Packer—but it’s a rough time for the magazine to stumble.

Single copy sales of Entertainment Weekly fell 7 percent in the first half, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest Fas-Fax. Ad pages, meanwhile, were down 16.8 percent during the first half, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, while ad revenue declined 13 percent.

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Dylan Stableford

Nike Product Placement on a Cover That Actually Works

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 08/15/2008-11:57 AM

I’ve been running a lot this summer. I live in the New York metro area. I like sports.

I also write about the magazine industry, and am blessed (or saddled, depending on your perspective) with a bit of an old-school mentality of journalistic integrity. That is, church-state separation, where magazine editors and ad salespeople are divided by Plexiglas and the cover is an untainted, pristine piece of real estate. (That wall, as you know, is crumbling every day, as the pressure mounts for more and more magazines to bridge the gap between editorial and advertorial, art and commerce.)

It’s with this as a backdrop that I picked up a copy of the latest issue of Metro Sports, a free monthly magazine covering outdoor sports like running and rock climbing and mountaineering in the New York area. The company also publishes versions in D.C. as well as Chicago (Windy City Sports), Denver (Rocky Mountain Sports), Boston (New England Sports Mag) and elsewhere.

The cover features Sarah Reinertsen, the first female leg amputee to finish an Ironman triathlon. She’s wearing one Nike shoe and a Nike t-shirt, with the words “Where Will You Be?” under the date “08.31.08” emblazoned on her chest. In the bottom left corner, Nike’s swoosh logo accompanies a cover line—“The Human Race 10K”—and a callout to “See page 12.”

The inside cover features a two-page ad for Nike Plus’ “Human Race” taking place on, yes, August 31. On page 12, Bob Babbitt, publisher and founder of Gen-A, the magazine’s parent company, writes what only can be described as brochure copy for the event. (“Seventeen million runs have been logged on the site since early July. Some people have been running with music on their iPods, while folks who would rather do without tunes are logging miles with a Nike+ Sportband, All are pointing towards The Human Race.”)

Product placement, particularly for outdoorsy titles, is nothing new. (See Outside’s treatment of a Bode Miller cover feature in 2006 just before the Winter Olympics.) But I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an advertiser’s logo incorporated into a cover line.

But that’s the old-school mentality talking. As a "runner," I wanted to know more about this Human Race thing. Didn’t matter if it came from Nike or a publisher pimping Nike. I didn’t care.

This is rare, though. I can’t imagine I would have the same carefree attitude if Esquire or Vanity Fair or Wired ran a cover feature that read like marketing copy, or incorporated a movie’s logo into a coverline.

But like I said, the walls are crumbling. And I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Dylan Stableford

Emmis: Our Cuts are ‘Considerably More Thoughtful and Measured Than What We've Seen from Many of Our Peers’

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 08/15/2008-10:13 AM

As we reported late Thursday, Emmis Communications, publisher of the award-winning Texas Monthly, Los Angeles magazine and five other regional titles (I'm considering Country Sampler a Southern regional; you don't have to), is cutting roughly 40 jobs from its magazine publishing division. That's 4.5 percent of its workforce, which is a significant number when you consider Gannett, the newspaper publisher, just cut 3 percent—or 1,000 jobs—from its workforce, and I heard about that on a local morning radio broadcast driving to work.

More significant, though, was the announcement of Emmis’ 2 percent salary cut across the board for the remaining employees. We’ve heard about frozen salaries at plenty of publishing companies this year, but I can only recall one—Cygnus—that rolled them back, which was a bit of a PR and morale nightmare for them.

And this, despite Emmis reporting first quarter publishing division revenue of $22.6 million, up slightly from $22.2 million from the same period last year.

Here’s the official statement from Emmis:

Earlier this week, Emmis Publishing instituted a series of steps to better position its magazines for success. Those steps included a 4.5 percent workforce reduction, as well as a salary reduction for current employees, generally equaling two percent. Notified employees received generous severance packages and other support.

The publishing industry has seen a steady stream of staff reductions and expense cutting in recent months. We believe that the expense reductions we are implementing for the coming year are considerably more thoughtful and measured than what we've seen from many of our peers. Emmis Publishing employs some of the most talented people in our industry and is continually honored for excellence. We are very confident in the future of the city and regional magazine business.

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Dylan Stableford

Obama Cover Causing Bad Blood in Denver

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 08/11/2008-15:56 PM

We work in an industry filled with some begrudging, petty, spitefully competitive people. Kind of like Washington.

Case in point: it may not be of Hillary-Barack proportions, but it appears that the lead-up to the Democratic National Convention is causing a bloodthirsty rivalry among the regional magazines in Denver.

Just to give you an idea of how catty the magazine industry—even the relatively small, bucolic Denver, Colorado market—can be, look no further than this e-mail—anonymous of course—I received after posting a story about 5280’s August cover, one designed by Shepard Fairey, a famous street artist, for the Democratic National Convention:

Mr. Stableford,

Your recent blog and Google alert this morning caught me off-guard. What 5280 has done with their cover is pompous and lacks in journalistic integrity. When Dan says he shot off a blind email to Fairey to produce a cover for his magazine, he failed to mention it was after he found out the competing city magazine in town was going to have Obama on the cover. Once he and his top edit staff realized that their competitors had an exclusive interview with Michelle and Barack, and would be placing Sen. Obama on the cover, Brogan shot off that blind email to Fairey and paid him (what I'm sure was) a staggering amount to produce. Check out denvermagazine.com if you'd like to see the cover that came out a week before Mr. Brogan and his $8 million juggernaut decided to release theirs.

Thank you.

No, please, thank you.

This is the third such toned e-mail I’ve gotten on the topic. To me, if this is true, it sounds like Brogan is guilty of … well, competing. It’s the friggin’ Democratic National Convention. Of course Denver’s regional magazines are going to go with Obama covers in August. Same thing will happen with McCain in September, when the Republicans gather in Minneapolis. (Mpls St Paul, Minnesota Monthly—that means you!)

And, knowing Fairey did the iconic Obama poster earlier this campaign season, I’ll take Brogan’s word that Fairey cut 5280 a decent rate.

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Dylan Stableford

With Help From Lohan, Spitzer, New York Magazine Reports Strong Newsstand Sales

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 08/07/2008-10:30 AM

As the consumer magazine world braces for the release of the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ much-anticipated Fas-Fax newsstand figures on Monday (early returns indicate it’s gonna be ugly), publishers with actual good news to report are already touting it. Take, for instance, New York magazine, which is reporting a 3.4 percent increase in single copy sales for the first half of 2008 over first half 2007.

And this, they point out, with a 20 percent cover price increase (to an average of $4.16, with regular issues at $3.99 from $2.99 and double or perfect-bound issues at $4.99 from $3.99). Total circulation, increased by about one percentage point to 433,289.

A few issues in particular helped New York’s newsstand cause. Its February 25 issue, featuring a nude Lindsay Lohan-as-Marilyn Monroe photo shoot, sold 43,791 single copies, more than any other cover during the first half and nearly double its average of 22,572 single copies sold. New York’s Eliot Spitzer cover, featuring the disgraced governor with the word “BRAIN” and a simple arrow pointing to his crotch, sold 34,426 single copies, second most during the first six months of ‘08.

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Dylan Stableford

Mygazines Wants to Work with Publishers ‘To Fortify the Future of Magazines’

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 08/06/2008-10:44 AM

This Mygazines thing has taken on a life of its own. Over the weekend I got a cryptic e-mail from a “jsmith” at mygazines.com:

-----Original Message-----
From: jsmith@mygazines.com [mailto:jsmith@mygazines.com]
Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2008 2:23 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: Addition: Mygazines

As well, aren't we an interesting option for Google, Yahoo and Microsoft as the next major asset in the ads war. We can work with the industry or independently to achieve such. We prefer the former.

I replied with some questions, and have yet to receive a response. But it appears it was a truncated version of an email that’s making the rounds in other media outlets. Here’s the one U.K.-based Press Gazette got:

Thank you for taking the time to write about Mygazines. I did however want to clear up a few misunderstandings about our site.

We will re-iterate we have every intention of working with the industry to fortify the future of magazines and the industry in general. The comparison to Napster with respect to someone driving past you with a radio on and claim that sharing, is not at all our position.

We are saying, if you were to take all of the office's in the world that purchase magazines for the sole purpose of providing entertainment for their clients, is the same as sharing. Furthermore, these offices see different people everyday, so the sharing is constant and consistent and usually includes many back dated issues as well as new. By virtue of the fact that these groups change everyday makes it like a free magazine store.

The most surprising aspect of almost every article is that they are completely missing our inactive revenue model. We have ways of drawing revenue from a number of sources, some more obvious than others. Mygazines is hardly a pirate website with the interest of breaking the industry. Rather, we offer a paradigm shift that is far more fiscally comprehensive than meets the eye and yet easily transitionable by even the biggest publishers.

The true future of the industry lies in the final stages of our site concept. We can easily transition to the final revenue model quickly with the co-operation of the publishers. We cannot however reveal the full concept at this time as we are saving that discussion for the publishing industry directly.

If our goal were to be pirates, we could have made live a number of features, including but not limited to, downloading and printing allowable to visitors and members alike.

Finally, to compare us to other similar sites with the only difference with of us being free, is to disregard the importance of the 'mygazines' custom magazine for users, notifications, and our full ability to share on the go, across the globe instantly.

As per our press release: We have every intention of working with the industry to provide not only revenue streams that are vast, but also an answer for the Publishers in general. Our method will increase current revenue, halt and reverse advertising revenue lost to the internet, and overcome the lack of the ability for magazines to stay current.

Mygazines sharing model is a solid one with lots of hidden potential revenue and demographics to appease all.

We can certainly continue to make our case and meet in the courts if need be. That seems to be the intention of the publishers as a whole. But ask yourself, to what end. Even if they are triumphant in this battle, they will lose the war. Apple already has a delivery system for digital reading via both the iphone and now ipod. Microsoft is also working to employ touch sensitivity to its products.

Our idea would work as easily for those companies due to our concept. If we were to reveal such to those corporations, they could follow the business model and succeed without the need for working with the publishers at all. That's all I can say at this point regarding our current revenue potential as well as the future model.

The competitiors have missed the boat. Even the sites that think they have come up with the future online version for magazines, they have not! Publisher friendly or not! There is a final stage missing that can't be seen unless one has the freedom to think outside of the limitations of the industry as is. In doing so, we have ironically found a way to fortify the industry for all of those involved, increase jobs and magazine selection, while cutting overhead and increasing revenue dramatically for the publishers and industry as a whole.

We cannot elaborate fully as that would be tipping the hand too much. We wish to only divulge that information to the industry directly and sooner rather than later.

As well, aren't we an interesting option for Google, Yahoo and Microsoft as the next major asset in the ads war. We can work with the industry or independently to achieve such. We prefer the former.

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Dylan Stableford

Entrepreneur CEO's Memo: 'I Have Made the Decision Not to Proceed with the Sale'

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 07/31/2008-22:07 PM

Yesterday, Entrepreneur CEO Peter Shea announced the sale of Entrepreneur Media was all but dead. Here's his memo to staffers:

To All Entrepreneur Employees:
 
I have made the decision not to proceed with the sale of Entrepreneur Media. There are several reasons for this; one being that I decided that I am not ready to retire, another reason being that the debt market has made it a very difficult market for buy out funds to raise debt financing at a reasonable multiple and percentage rate. I would like to point out several things however; the proposed sale of Entrepreneur Media was only contemplated because of a very good offer, not because the company is in any trouble. In fact, we are debt free and have been for the past 5 years. We are a profitable company and we will remain so in a very difficult time for the publishing business in general. We expect continuous profitable growth this year. We look forward to continuing this growth trend and will make changes where necessary to continue this trend for the health of the company and its employees. We look forward to a new and exciting era in our editorial department both in print and online with the addition of our new VP, Editor-in-Chief Amy Cosper.
 
I look forward to the future for the continued growth and success of Entrepreneur and the health of all our employees.
 
Sincerely,
 
Peter J. Shea
CEO/Chairman

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