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Tony Silber

Crossing the Line With Ads and Edit is Like a Small Knife Cut: One May Not Hurt, But If You Keep Doing It…

Tony Silber Editorial - 09/10/2007-02:00 AM

There was a time in the summer of 2006 when Folio: ran an article about ABC's new rules for Verified Circulation, and, because of a last-minute change in the map, an ABC ad fell right next to the ABC story. It was my responsibility to catch the unfortunate juxtaposition, and I didn't.

Then in Circulation Management last year, we ran a story about fulfillment services from outsource providers. A couple of months before that, I had lunch with the president of one of the fulfillment companies, who asked me to use him as a source-where appropriate. No pressure, no questionable suggestions of quid pro quo. Fine. So I passed that info on to the edit team, and said use him where appropriate and without any consideration of advertising.

Of course, the best intentions sometimes go awry, and again because of a map change (and the ad side not following closely enough what was happening on the edit pages) we ended up running a photo of the guy on an edit page across from his ad. Not good, and I heard about it from the company's competition.

I bring these anecdotes up simply to point out that this stuff happens inadvertently sometimes, but even then-as I tell our editors-even then, perceptions get formed and reputations get damaged, sometimes permanently.

You have to be both clean and buttoned up.

Which is why it disturbs me when I see others in our market do this so blatantly and so consistently. You can only make so many inadvertent mistakes. You can only give so many mulligans. When you see ads for products followed by stories whose headlines explicitly reference the exact name of the product in the ad, that's bad. When you see photos of suppliers appearing in stories built to please suppliers (not readers)-and those photos are next to the supplier's ad-and this happens consistently, that's bad. When stories fill the book issue after issue that are "ad traps," not valuable information for the reader, that's bad. When the owner of the cover-2 ad spread also has an editorial column on the back page, that's bad. And all this is widespread not just in my market but throughout b-to-b. (Consumer magazines are also frequent ad-edit ethics violators as well, so my intention is not to accuse just one sector here. B-to-b happens to be the subject of this post, that's all.)

Back to my market. I don't like to throw stones. And I'm obviously biased, as a competitor. And even though those kinds of shenanigans work in my favor in the competitive sense, I can tell you it makes me mad as anything as a reader that I'm treated in a disrespectful manner.

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Jason Fell

Industry Standard: The Return?

Jason Fell Consumer - 09/07/2007-02:00 AM

As we scoured the Internet this week for news about the unfortunate shuttering of Time Inc.'s Business 2.0, we came across a blog post recalling the similar demise of tech mag the Industry Standard six years ago.

In the post, Eric Savitz-a former Standard writer-indicates that the magazine for a time attempted to maintain an online presence after the print version died and points readers to the thestandard.com. All that's there is a dark grey logo on a black screen, and the words: "coming back..." (It's almost like when you go to your favorite restaurant for dinner and you find the doors are locked and the lights are out. In the window, there's a sign that says the restaurant is closed temporarily for renovations. It never reopens.)

But what if the Industry Standard were to relaunch solely online? And why not? Magazines are launching only online without an established brand. That'd be one leg up for the Standard.

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Bill Mickey

U.S. News and World Report Now in “Best Of” Business

Bill Mickey Consumer - 09/07/2007-02:00 AM

Keith Kelly at The New York Post reports that news mag U.S. News and World Report will be increasing its frequency of ‘Best Of' issues-stretching, for example, ‘Best Hospitals' to ‘Best Kids Hospitals' for the September 3 issue.

Kelly notes that a source concedes the magazine is "effectively tossing in the towel on any plan to try to compete with Time and Newsweek on news."

U.S. News president Bill Holiber told Folio: basically the same thing two years ago when it announced a strategic shift away from print to focus more on its Web business, essentially letting Time and Newsweek fight over the mass newsweekly market themselves:

"At times it may come across as being not the most exciting product, but it's a very well-thought-out, information-driven product. As we move in this direction, I think you'll see more information on the page. I think Time and Newsweek are battling it out, trying to be all things to all people. They want to be big-very, very big. We've found there's a certain type of consumer we attract, and that's who we're focusing on: "Give me the facts, I'll decide."

And, after all, that might not be such a bad thing, and maybe Time and Newsweek should consider competing with U.S. News as it embarks on its new content mission, since the newsweeklies are constantly fending off the ‘news-as-commodity' specter. Kelly reports that the magazine will be publishing product-oriented ‘Best of' issues; a ‘Best Cars' issue is in the works. "We'll probably look at consumer products," editor Brian Kelly told the other Kelly. Look out Consumer Reports.

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Dylan Stableford

Sadistic/Cool: Consumer Reports Launches Online Crash Test Videos

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 09/05/2007-02:00 AM

File under sadistically cool: Consumer Reports has partnered with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to launch a section of its Web site devoted to crash test videos. Searchable footage of some 200 vehicles tested at the iInstitute's Ruckersville, Virginia testing center can be found at consumerreports.org/crashtest, and the magazine has plans to add more as more vehicles are crash-tested.

Consumer Reports, by the way, is closing in on 3,000,000 paid online subscriptions. As in, people pay money to research what they're about to lose money on.

Luckily for us, the crash footage is free to non-subscribers.

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Dylan Stableford

Tina Brown Headed to Magazine Editors Hall of Fame

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 09/04/2007-02:00 AM

Like Barry Bonds' eventual spot in Cooperstown, Tina Brown's induction to the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame was inevitable, making today's announcement by the American Society of Magazine Editors a forgone conclusion. The induction has fueled speculation that Brown -- the former editor of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and short-lived Talk and author of the bestselling Diana Chronicles -- may be quietly mulling a return to the magazine industry, something she has denied.

What was a surprise, though, was the concurrent announcement of Jack Kliger, Hachette's president and current MPA chairman, as the recipient of the Henry Johnson Fisher Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Kliger has been around for three decades, but his recent history at Hachette has been decidedly uneven, marked by the abrupt shuttering of popular teen title ElleGirl and scandal/failure of the controversial import Shock -- one of the blackest eyes on the industry in recent memory.

Brown and Kliger will be feted in January in New York.

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Dylan Stableford

Is Sports Illustrated Losing Potential Writers to ESPN?

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 08/31/2007-02:00 AM

Sports Illustrated recently hired a pair of senior writers with newspaper pedigrees - the New York Times' Damon Hack and Jim Trotter of the San Diego Union Tribune - away from their respective papers. (Both were African-American, notes Journal-isms' Richard Prince, tripling the total of black senior writers on staff.)

But SI group managing editor Terry McDonnel faces stiff talent recruitment competition from ESPN, where its multiplatform cache is too splashy to pass up. Take, for instance, the explanation given by columnist J.A. Adande, who McDonnel tried to lure after Adande took a buyout from Los Angeles Times: "I wouldn't say I 'turned down' Sports Illustrated because I'm not sure it ever came to a formal offer. Yes, Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Terry McDonnel called me when h found out I was leaving the Times. I was flattered that SI would think of me, and McDonnel had some intriguing ideas for what I could do for them. But I couldn't continue to appear on Around the Horn in that scenario."

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Dylan Stableford

Elle Kills Owen Wilson Q+A

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 08/30/2007-02:00 AM

With the news out of Hollywood concerning the shocking apparent suicide attempt by A-list actor and partyboy Owen Wilson, the crass touting of "Exclusive!" news about Wilson and promotion of subject experts (Radar's editors are available for comment!) -- and the eschewing of his family's pleas for privacy -- were to be expected. (Us Weekly doesn't exist in a sphere, after all.) What was unexpected, though, was Elle magazine's rather classy decision to kill a Q+A with Wilson it had conducted weeks before the actor's alleged binge-y overdose.

WWD reports
that the piece slated for its December Hollywood issue was killed by editor Roberta Myers: "Obviously the circumstances have changed significantly," she said.

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MPA Recycling Campaign: Small Steps To Help Combat A Big Problem

Marrecca Fiore Design and Production - 03/09/2007-03:00 AM

No one would ever describe me as an environmentalist. I have a deep appreciation for the beauty and tranquility of the Rhode Island coastal community in which I grew up and would love to see it preserved for generations to come. But I also think the noise and the garbage and the graffiti is a small, but important, part of what makes New York the greatest city in the world and I really wouldn’t want to see that change either.
That said, I think the Magazine Publishers of America has the right idea in mind with the recycling campaign it launched earlier this week. The campaign is simple and straightforward. It doesn’t preach doom and gloom. All it does is remind readers that they can toss their magazines into the bins with the rest of their recyclables.
Currently, only about 20 percent of magazines are recycled. Some of that may be due to the fact that people don’t realize magazines are recyclable, says MPA CEO Nina Link. She may be right. I had no idea magazines were recyclable and I’ve always tossed them in the trash. That’ll soon change, however.
In addition to its recycling campaign, MPA is also encouraging its members to use more certified paper in their publications. Certified paper is paper harvested responsibly and in an effort to keep the world’s forests healthy.
By placing one of the two logos MPA has designed for its recycling campaign and using more certified paper (for more information on certified paper and certificate programs visit magazine.org and click on the environmental section), publishers, in very small ways, can do their part to help combat very big problems such as global warming and air pollution.

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Tony Silber

The Decline Of Vanity Fair

Tony Silber Consumer - 03/08/2007-03:00 AM

For the second year in a row, Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue features a photo shoot that includes naked woman and fully-clothed men. This year’s March issue is for a story on The Sopranos, breathlessly hyped on the cover as the “best show in TV history.” Umm…hyperbole, anyone?

On the fully-dressed Tony Soprano’s lap is a nude woman, her face turned away from the camera. On Tony’s left is one of the other male characters, also fully dressed.

Last year’s Hollywood issue featured Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley nude on the cover with the issue’s guest creative director, Tom Ford, who was fully clothed. Rachel McAdams was also supposed to be on the cover, but she declined to appear nude. Anyway, that issue generated a lot of attention for its approach, most of it negative, so it’s surprising that Graydon Carter decided to reprise the approach this year.

There’s always been a sort of sleazy, misogynistic side of Hollywood culture—it’s a worldview and it’s very distinct and it pervades the movie business at a certain level. It seems to me that in the last several years Vanity Fair has to an increasing extent become about that aspect of Hollywood rather than the sometimes-transcendent art that the industry also creates.

Maybe it’s just me, but I used to look to Vanity Fair for great reporting and stories that offered new and valuable perspective. I used to view Graydon Carter as one of the great journalists of his time—he created Spy and he made Vanity Fair a profitable business where even Tina Brown did not. Now Vanity Fair is too often about shameless movie-star puffery. And I have a hard time getting beyond its dirty-old-man covers.

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Matt Kinsman

When Blogs Go Bad

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 03/06/2007-03:00 AM

Few examples of blogging gone wrong are as prominent as the recent case of Jim Zumbo, former hunting editor of Time Inc.’s Outdoor Life the second largest outdoor magazine in the U.S. In a February 16 blog post (since removed from the Outdoor Life site), Zumbo expressed his thoughts on so-called “assault rifles” by saying, “Excuse me, maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I see no place for these weapons among our hunting fraternity. As hunters, we don’t need to be lumped into the group of people who terrorize the world with them…I’ll go so far as to call them ‘terrorist rifles.’” The response was swift, and not just from the NRA. The post generated more than 2,000 comments, most of them negative. Hunting and shooting chat rooms buzzed all over the Internet. The post was made on a Friday evening, and by Sunday afternoon, Zumbo had posted an apology. Unfortunately for Zumbo, the damage was done. His TV show, “Jim Zumbo Outdoors” on the Outdoor Channel, was put on permanent hiatus. His longtime corporate sponsor, Remington Arms Co., dropped their relationship with him. And Outdoor Life, pressured by advertisers and readers alike, accepted Zumbo’s resignation. Zumbo has since apologized, but of course that doesn’t have as much impact in the blogosphere as the original comments. Zumbo, a longtime hunting and outdoors personality, has had his career severely damaged. Outdoor Life has a black eye, both for being the conduit for comments perceived as insulting by its readers and its advertisers, but also for caving to the pressure and severing ties with one of its longtime editors so rapidly. With blogging now a de facto part of just about every editor’s job, expect this scenario to play itself in other publishing categories, again and again.

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Internet Aggregation Etiquette

Marrecca Fiore emedia and Technology - 02/16/2007-03:00 AM

In the Internet space, there are no competitors. Publishers have realized that to best serve their audiences online they must aggregate their own content, as well as the content of others, including their competitors. However, one rule of thumb remains, if you’re going to aggregate someone else’s content, you must link back to the story you’re citing.

Let’s face it. None of us want to drive traffic off our sites. However, if readers come to know our Web sites as the place where they can get all of the news and information they’re looking for, they’ll visit us daily AND hit the backspace key after reading the articles we link to.

I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago Folio: ran a story in its newsletter that received a lot of pick-up from bloggers and news Web sites – for this we’re grateful. However, one site referenced our story, gave us credit, but didn’t link to the story itself.

To me, this does both a disservice to the site’s readers, as well as to the news organization (in this case us) that wrote the story. Look at it this way, if they had linked to the story, the reader could have hit the link, read the story and then gone back to the news aggregator’s site. Instead, if they wanted to read the story, they had to physically leave the aggregator’s site and go on to Foliomag.com. If anything, the aggregator probably hurt themselves by neglecting to link to the story.

The other day I picked up a story from a competitor (I’m a former newspaper reporter so it pains me to do this) and I linked to the story. It’s common courtesy. We got scooped. It happens. But it would have been a disservice to our readers had we not shared the news with them. Publishers: Keep aggregating. It’s clearly the best way to keep your readership informed. But when you do it, give credit where credit is due.

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Matt Kinsman

Stumbling Into Video

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 02/13/2007-03:00 AM

Don’t have video on your site? That’s so 2005. Or at least, that’s the popular thinking. SI.com re-launched last month with a video-heavy design (including a video box moved to the top of the page) and CarandDriver.com recently debuted a program that lets viewers take a virtual test drive.

However, turning video into a sustainable business model is proving to be a challenge. Even Google has stumbled by briefly featuring an Allstate ad in a Charlie Rose clip that blogger Scott Karp called “as interruptive, untargeted and utterly old school as anything mass TV advertising has ever inflicted on viewers.”

Video may offer a temporary spike in both viewers and advertisers but video by itself won’t keep them coming back. “Video for the sake of video will yield very modest increases in new visitors but most b-to-b video isn’t very good,” says Paul Calento, vice president of marketing at InfoWorld.

Calento says there is a four step process to making multimedia work: 1) start with the Deliverable of what you want to sell—video, podcasts, mobile; 2) The Measurable, the ROI component; 3) The Nice To Have—things like co-marketing that add to scale of program and sometimes validate the price point; 4) The Gotta Have—such as incorporating a piece of an advertiser’s existing buy that they already understand into the multimedia program. “If you do that, you’re not selling $5,000 programs, you’re selling $50,000+ programs,” Calento says.

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