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Dylan Stableford

The FOLIO: 40: A Call for Nominees

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/28/2008-16:33 PM

The FOLIO: 40, our prestigious annual list of magazine industry innovators, power players and under-the-radar influencers, is fast approaching. This year, we’re opening up the nomination process to all of our readers, both print and online. (We’ll ultimately award a slot via online vote, but more on that later.)

We’re looking for nominees in the following categories:

C-Level Visionaries
Director-Level Doers
Under the Radar
Ones to Watch

If you would like to nominate a colleague, competitor, or—as sometimes is the case—yourself, please fill out the form below.

Remember, nominations are one thing, but to ultimately be included among our list of 40, nominees must be able to demonstrate how they’ve succeeded in their market—or influenced the industry—with quantifiable metrics to back up your case. (Alas, low golf handicaps do not count).

Check out last year’s list here, and get nominating!

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Dylan Stableford

Do You Actually Have to Listen to an Album to Review It?

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 02/25/2008-17:34 PM

Maxim isn't exactly a bastion for journalistic integrity. Nor a bastion for music criticism. But according to the Black Crowes (you know, “Twice as Hard,” “Jealous Again,” Kate Hudson’s ex, beards) the magazine burned whatever credibility it had left by reviewing the band’s upcoming album without actually listening to it.

According to a post on the Black Crowes official site, the Maxim writer, who “has not heard the album since advance CDs were not made available—wrote what appears to be a disparaging assessment anyway, citing ‘it hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.’”

Peter Angelus, the band’s manager, said when confronted Maxim called the review an “educated guess”: “‘Of course, we always prefer hearing music, but sometimes there are big albums that we don’t want to ignore that aren’t available to hear, which is what happened with the Crowes. It’s either an educated guess preview or no coverage at all, so in this case we chose the former.’”

Angelos added: “What’s next—Maxim's concert reviews of shows they never attended, book reviews of books never read and film reviews of films never seen?”

I’m awaiting word from Maxim’s side of the story. But the incident does beg the question: Do you actually have to listen to an album (or read a book or watch a film) to review it?

UPDATE: An apology from Maxim editorial director Jim Kaminsky: "It is Maxim's editorial policy to assign star ratings only to those albums that have been heard in their entirety. Unfortunately, that policy was not followed in the March 2008 issue of our magazine and we apologize to our readers."

Dylan Stableford

Overheard at FPS | Day Two

Dylan Stableford FPS 2008 - 02/22/2008-11:34 AM

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following quotes are from various sessions during Day Two of the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit. We’ll add to this list throughout the day.]

"We have a society columnist who looks at the computer and says, 'Over my dead body.' And that may indeed be the situation."
—A city and regional publisher on the struggle to change the editorial culture at his magazine.

“They not only save you money, they bring young, fresh ideas into an organization. They’re not cynical. They don't know it can't be done.”
Michael T. Carr, president, Greenspun Media, on hiring interns.

“I have 85 people in open revolt at any given time.”
—Carr on getting his 1,200 employees to buy into a new business idea.

“We spend $4,000-$5,000 per issue. But we have to do it to create an environment for these high end advertisers.”
Lynne Groth, publisher, Gulfshore Life, on producing fashion pages for her magazine.

"We threw a $200,000 over-the-top party, and it cost us $10,000."
Dana Spain-Smith, COO, DLG Media Holdings, on selling event sponsorships.

"You need to put fire in the belly of your writers."
Don Tenant, vice president and editorial director, Infoworld and Coputerworld, on getting reporters to write daily breaking news.

"We look for the money shot. It may be only five seconds, but its something that just can't be told in a textual form."
Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief, Wired News

"Tremendous spikes [in Web traffic] can come through and then be gone. What does that mean?"
Hank Boye, publisher, Harvard Business Review.

"People are reading in completely different ways. I have a lot of designers who get it, a lot of sales people who really want to get it, and then I have a whole bunch of editors who are in total denial."
Craig Waller, chief marketing director, Pace Communications.

Dylan Stableford

Reed CEO Tad Smith: Sale 'Neither Surprises Nor Worries Me'

Dylan Stableford B2B - 02/22/2008-10:03 AM

The following memos were sent by Reed Business' U.S. CEO Tad Smith and global chief Gerard van de Aast, regarding yesterday's sale announcement:

From: Smith, Tad (RBI-US)
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 11:11 PM
To: RBI-US All Employees; RBI-US RCD - Canadian Employees

As many of you now know, our parent company Reed Elsevier announced this morning that it was putting Reed Business’ worldwide publishing business up for sale. Reed Elsevier no longer views advertising-dependent businesses as aligned with its growth strategy.

The announcement this morning neither surprises nor worries me. We have a vibrant and exciting business that is successfully making the transition from print to online across dozens of market sectors in countries all around the world. There will be a healthy appetite for our business and your many contributions as staff members.

The sale process will commence immediately, but it is unclear how long it will take to complete. For my part, I am committed to leading our business as your CEO during the sale process and thereafter. In the meantime, business will continue as usual and everyone’s jobs, benefits and pay will be unaffected.

Reed Elsevier also announced a restructuring program this morning. RBI-US has a 7-year history of diligent cost and headcount management actions, including some taken earlier this year. At this time, RBI-US has no plans for a large scale layoff or other special headcount reduction program beyond the extreme care we continue to exercise on headcount additions.

Tad Smith, CEO, RBI-US

Please read the attached communication from Reed Business CEO Gerard van de Aast for more information.

February 2008
Dear Reed Business colleagues,

Let me first address the question why Reed Elsevier has decided to divest Reed Business Information (RBI). RBI is a well managed, high quality business. However its strategic fit with Reed Elsevier is less clear since Reed Elsevier has decided to move away from advertising driven revenue models and focus on subscription based models. It is important to note that this says nothing about the quality and attractiveness of our business and the markets we serve. On the contrary we are a strong, well run business and our markets offer many opportunities, particularly in the online space. RBI is well positioned and I would like to share with you my view on our business and my confidence that we will continue to do well under new ownership. Let’s start by summarizing our key assets and attributes.

Attractive markets
The B2B markets that we operate in show solid, sustainable, long term growth of around 5-6% per year. Our advertising customers need to promote their brands, generate leads, create awareness and support their products and services and our readers keep themselves up to date through our print and online content. Although marketing spend and reader behaviour is shifting, in particular to online, the value proposition that we offer is as strong as ever.

Leading brands
We own many of the leading brands in our markets. The list is long and impressive with franchises like Variety, Interior Design, EDN, New Scientist, Estate Gazette, Totaljobs, Elsevier, Boerderij, Stratégies, Australian Doctor and so on. All our brands have a rich heritage going back in many cases over decades, but even more importantly have an exciting future as well through our online developments which are starting to have a real impact in our markets and enrich our long established brands.

Financial stability
Our business has size, scale and financial stability. RBI’s revenue in 2007 was $1,709m with adjusted operating profits of $253m, cash conversion was 109% providing a stable and attractive cash flow. Size and scale also matter allowing us to effectively manage our business and fund new developments derived from continued scale benefits and savings. RBI employs 8,164 people.

Clear strategy
Our strategy has been very clear and effective. It is built around protecting our core print business, driving online growth and making sure we have the best people in the business. We have complemented this with targeted acquisitions. Our strategy is very effective given our results in 2007 and prior years. We now have over $500m of online revenue which grew by 30% versus prior year. We will continue with this successful strategy going forward.

The best people
Most important of all we have great people that are very much connected with the markets we serve. Be it in editorial, sales or support functions we have great strengths and competence. We also have made great progress in understanding and executing online business models. Combined, this will continue to be the bedrock of our success.

Looking ahead
In the coming period, senior management together with Reed Elsevier will focus on finding the right new ownership for the business. We all can contribute to this by staying focussed on our business and deliver the results as before. Nothing changes in the short term and we should not be sidetracked by the divestment process.

Reed Exhibitions
Reed Exhibitions has pursued a very successful strategy in the last few years. This strategy, which focuses on organic growth enhanced by targeted acquisitions and development of our business in high growth economies (BRIC), has proven to deliver strong growth. In 2007 results again were good with revenue growth of 12%. Going forward we will continue with this strategy and add programs for online development which will become increasingly important. Reed Elsevier will continue to invest in the business and support the strategy. There is a Q&A specifically related to our exhibition business available to answer questions that might arise.

I would like to thank you for a good 2007. All businesses in Reed Business met or exceeded their targets and delivered good growth. In particular Reed Exhibitions performed strongly and in publishing we did see continued strong growth in online.

Although the publishing and exhibition businesses will go their separate ways, both are well positioned. I do understand that all this might raise questions including what it means for you personally. A list of frequently asked questions is available on your local intranet site and aREna today. I also encourage you to discuss concerns with your management. Communication will be straightforward and timely. When we have new information we will share it with you. Let me close by expressing my confidence in our future and give you my commitment that I will lead us through this process.

Kind regards,
Gerard van de Aast
CEO Reed Business

Dylan Stableford

Overheard at FPS

Dylan Stableford FPS 2008 - 02/21/2008-17:25 PM

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following quotes are from various sessions during Day One of the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit. We’ll add to this list throughout the day.]

“No one’s reading the magazine on the Web.”
Dana Spain-Smith, COO, DLG Media Holdings, on the tired practice of replicating articles online.

“I’m trying to eradicate the word ‘hope.’”
Michael T. Carr, president, Niche Media, on motivating his sales team to succeed.

“The company was founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway—clearly, we needed to change.”
Jack Griffin, president, Meredith

"I'd tell people it was for hot young women and the men who can afford them. That was the mission statement."
Carr on the launch of Vegas magazine.

"Every single company we've bought [had] underperformed badly."
Frank Anton, CEO, Hanley Wood, on the state of the companies acquired by Hanley Wood before being acquired.

"To grow a business, you have to take risks, and you have to fail."
Anton on his business philosophy.

"Since 2000, the business-to-business media has not grown at all. Not at all."
Anton, setting up an inspiring luncheon keynote.

"This sounds like heresy, but I don't think there's going to be many magazines left. It's not going to happen in my business career time, but I think it will happen."
Gloria Adams, senior VP audience, development, Pennwell, on her opinion of print-magazine life expectancy.

"It's not about your Web site, it's about things going on around your Web site—people linking to it, talking about you badly ..."
Chrisitine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and emedia, Bobit Business Media

"I think at some point there will be people who don't make the cut. It's hard to make those cultural changes."
Oldenbrook on salespeople's ability to sell e-media.

"If you have a Web 1.0 site, you probably need to redesign it."
Janet Ludwig, president, Allured Publishing

"We talk to women the way they speak to themselves."
Tina Johnson, editor-in-chief, Women's Health, on the voice of the magazine.

"Oh, no. Not the p-word again."
Chris Peacock, editor and vice president of, on the overuse
of the word 'platform.'

"YouTube has lowered the standard for everyone."
Kaitlin Quistgaard, editor-in-chief, Yoga Journal, on the obstacles of
producing high-quality video content for the Web.

Dylan Stableford

Capitol File Sales Executives Barred from Attending Parties

Dylan Stableford FPS 2008 - 02/21/2008-16:39 PM

MIAMI—Jason Binn loves a good party—and chances are you’ve been to one. The company’s magazines throw some 300 a year, says Michael T. Carr, Binn's boss and president of Niche partner Greenspun Media. But that doesn’t mean his sales teams are invited.

Carr told a working group at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit today that Capitol File, Niche Media’s luxury D.C. glossy, recently thre a party hosted by Forest Whitaker. The magazine’s sales team, though, was not allowed in. “They don’t attend the party,” Carr says. “They stand in the lobby—and stay in the lobby.” The sales staffers are required to greet every attendee on their way inside, and thank them on the way out—a quasi-host role, he says.

The reason? Their job is to schmooze, not—as it often happens—booze. “They can give a five minute sales pitch in the lobby,” he says.

Reasonable, but I’d wonder about what a policy like that does for morale. File that under “no fun.”

Dylan Stableford

Meredith Prez—On Crutches—Explains Why Their 'Whitebread' Titles Had to Change

Dylan Stableford FPS 2008 - 02/21/2008-13:43 PM

Meredith president Jack Griffin is tough. He showed up at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit in Miami to deliver his keynote this morning on crutches following emergency surgery on a broken leg he suffered a year ago, having lost his cellphone somewhere between LaGuardia and the Doral. And, like a seasoned prize fighter, he landed some key jabs on the state of the magazine business, through the lens of a Des Moines, Iowa publisher Griffin said was “founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.”

The company was “founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.” Which looks nothing like America in 2008, particularly in its ethnic makeup. For a company that publishes “white-bread” magazines, he said, “the change has been quite provocative.”

How provocative? Since 2002, they've spent roughly $600 million on launches (print and Web) and acquisitions, cobbled together an nice interactive marketing business. And despite some big successes (Griffin said Better Homes and Gardens had its best year ever in 2007), it's not all grits and gravy. In November, Meredith’s stock price was at $63 per share. Yesterday's closing price? "Forty-six dollars" he said.

SEE RELATED VIDEO Q+A: Griffin at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit


Dylan Stableford

Liveblogging From Miami

Dylan Stableford FPS 2008 - 02/21/2008-00:34 AM

Programming note: FOLIO:'s editorial staff will be liveblogging this week from the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit, which kicked off this afternoon at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami, Florida.

Check our special FPS page throughout the conference for updates, posts, videos and news reports, or by clicking on our FPS tag here.

Dylan Stableford

How to Write Like Gawker

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 02/15/2008-17:21 PM

If you’re like me, you follow the travails of Gawker Media with a relatively perverse interest, not unlike how the snarky blog network follows its own collection of preferred media targets. After all, it’s the closest thing the blogodome has to Conde Nast, something founder Nick Denton likes to point out from time to time in his media kit.

Following a mini-exodus of editors at its flagship earlier this year, there was quite a bit of talk about Gawker’s demise (Exhibit A: “Has Gawker Jumped the Snark” published in the New York Times last month, on the heels of Exhibit B: “Everybody Sucks,” published by New York magazine a few months before).

Of course, all the talk was premature. Gawker’s traffic—thanks in part to its admirably defiant posting of a Tom Cruise Scientology indoctrination video—set records in January. So enough of that for now.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is how scientific their particular brand of snark has become. Below, via New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog, is a memo—circulated this week to the company’s bloggers by Gawker Media’s Noah Robischon—with tips on how to match Gawker’s infamous tone:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Noah Robischon
Date: Feb 12, 2008 10:27 AM
Subject: Valleywag Voice Guide

Excellent post writing tips from Paul Boutin (and Owen) for your
Tuesday reading pleasure.
Paul Boutin's notes on the Valleywag voice
From EditorWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

We need to put back the Gawkeresque angry-creative-underclass glint to our voice. Just one glint of nastiness per post. I loved Carlson's advice to Paultards on their irrelevance: "Don't just take my word for it. Go to the polls and find out for yourselves." Zing, and irrefutably true.

If someone screwed up in business, find something nice to say about them: "The charmingly incompetent CEO." If someone succeeded, find a way to slap them. "The wildly successful blowhard." Denton says this is a key to Gawker posts about people, and when he got lazy he slipped on it and readers noticed in a roundabout way that the site felt less brilliant.

Write about Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ives rather than "Apple" as an actor. Or find out who their VP of sales is if they've had a wildly successful quarter and credit him/her, a nice detail. I don't want to read that the Zune is a flop, I want to read that Wink Twinkerton, head of the Zune division, has done for portable music players what Bill Gates did for CEO sex appeal.

Calling Ron Paul a loon isn't edgy. Much better was "voting for Ron Paul sends a message. The message is you're crazy and hate the FDA." That's a nice setup and punch line, and a good non-cliche detail rather than an unspecific "loon."

If someone whose politics or opinions you disagree with says something you want to call out, don't do a straight-ahead criticism. Instead, take their argument further to a simple but ridiculous conclusion. When Hillary Clinton proposed a moratorium on home foreclosures and a freeze on loan rates, Jordan Golson asked, "Why not a moratorium on people paying their mortgages? That seems easier."

You've wrung this out of them mostly, but I still see the young ones do the oldschool Ann Coulter / Molly Ivins thing of insulting someone three times in a paragraph when once would be better. Pick the one best dig and save the others for another time.

If someone says several stupid things in one piece, just quote them and don't rebut each line separately. Do a 100-word version with only the dumbest parts. Readers will get it.

Avoid journalist-speak like "He takes umbrage with our statement." You never say umbrage in real life.

Some, many, few ... these are journalist numbers for when they want to imply a trend. Often they're used to overstate the number of people who do or don't do something. "Some feel that Obama ..." Cut that, and instead give me a specific quote from a linkable person that sums up the general mood you're talking about.

We've slipped on that. Too many jokes comes across as not having enough to report. Keep the post short and move onto the next one.

Surprise readers by quitting on a review or report halfway through it, once you know you've hit the hight points already. Find some reason to explain your exit. Melissa Gira Grant started to summarize the SF Bay Guardian's annual sex guide, but when she got to a piece that was restaurant suggestions, she wrote, "I stopped reading here." It keeps posts short, and breaks the mold of the reviewer who takes 400 words to wind down.

Should be used to illustrate someone's foibles. E.g. President Steve Jobs issues the most expensive US budget ever, but it fits in a manila envelope.

Douche, douchebag, douchery, asshat. Techcrunch uses them, need I say more. (To which I'll add: "teh," "intarwebs," "lulz.")

[DISCLOSURE: I cover tennis for Gawker’s sports blog, Deadspin.]

Dylan Stableford

New York Decides to Throw Oscar Party After All

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 02/15/2008-15:08 PM

In the rarified air of magazine party throwers, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter is a sort of aristocratic Hugh Hefner. As such, Carter made headlines a few weeks ago for his decision to cancel his annual Oscar party out of respect for the Writers Guild strike. But now—with the writers back to work—it appears Carter pulled the plug too soon.

Enter New York magazine, which for the past two years has thrown a lesser known, decidedly low-key Oscar viewing party in New York. After weeks of internal wavering, editor Adam Moss and David Edelstein, the magazine’s chief film critic, have decided to make a go of it.

Dylan Stableford

Lick This Blog

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 02/14/2008-23:17 PM

People magazine is running an ad this month from Welch’s 100% grape juice which encourages readers to lick it. It tastes, I’m told, like Welch’s 100% grape juice.

It’s an historic acid test—the ad represents the final frontier of sensory marketing in magazines to be attempted by Madison Avenue.

We’ve seen ‘em try sight (remember the ad embedding LEDs a couple years back), sound (People once accepted an ad that played Elvis’ “Hound Dog” to annoying effect), touch and, of course, smell (see “Scent Strips Stink,” a post by FOLIO:’s resident perfume critic, John Brady).

How long before we see these in magazines ads? My guess—they’re already on their way.

What I’d really like to see, though, is a magazine’s editorial team embrace the available sensory technology. For example, what if you were, say, reading a 29-page Vanity Fair article on, say, the war in Iraq in which you could open a flap and actually smell Baghdad? Or how about lathering Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview in pine tar? Or ... what do you think?

[NOTE: Leave your best idea for an editorial sensory project in the comments section below.]

Dylan Stableford

Time Inc. Staffer Complains About SI Swimsuit Issue: ‘My Company Made Me Look at Porn’

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/13/2008-23:02 PM

Every year around this time, when Sports Illustrated unveils its annual swimsuit issue, columns criticizing the issue for its titillating content seem to wash up on shore. (Recall, if you will, the thongs, er, throngs of subscribers opting out of having their swimsuit issues delivered to their homes for fear of impressionable youngsters getting ahold of them.)

However, they’re usually not written by employees of SI’s parent company. And they’re certainly not published on one of the parent company’s blogs, like this one on

The [swimsuit] issues are considered so valuable that they're not even distributed in the bins downstairs; they're doled out, copy by copy, to each employee, like glossy, perfect-bound bonuses. So when I came in this morning, what do I find under my door but a beautifully laid out publication of porn. Who decided I wanted to look at 100-some pages of barely dressed girls with abs made of slate and boobs that defy reason? SI boasts that women cherish the swimsuit issue because it offers us fashion ideas for the bathing season. Seriously? I'm going to don this bikini made of dental floss this summer after I've just popped out Baby #2?

Look. I'm no prude. And it's not the same thing as working in an office whose walls are plastered with pin-ups, like the women workers at Halliburton/KBR had to endure. Still, I'd rather be offered the option of picking up a copy, rather than have it stuffed under my door like some urgent memo. What I want when I step into my office is a cup of tea. Not NFL cheerleaders in thongs.

Some interesting things to note here:

1. According to a commenter, some issues were delivered “face down.”
2. The blogger, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, is a Time staff writer. She has her own Web site.
3. That wasn’t dental floss, Lisa. That was the chord to a pair of iPod earbuds.
4. Again, this was on Time Inc.-owned blog. Which I think is very refreshing—a corporate environment where having opinions, even those critical of your boss' products, are not only encouraged—they’re published.

Still, you have to wonder where the consistency was here.