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Bill Mickey

Consumer Mag Advertising Sputters in Second Half 2011

Bill Mickey Consumer - 01/10/2012-15:01 PM


The MPA released full-year 2011 PIB numbers today and, as individual consumer publishers already know by now, the third and fourth quarters were not very kind.

There were some exceptions among specific titles of course, which I'll get to in a bit, but in 2011 overall advertising revenues were flat and pages fell about 3 percent compared to 2010.

In the first quarter of 2011, pages jumped 2.5 percent and revenue was up 6 percent compared to same period 2010. In Q2, in hindsight, you can see the slide beginning. Pages were flat at a .3 percent gain over same period 2010 and revenue was up only 2.4 percent.

Then in the third quarter, the numbers quickened their decline—pages falling 5.6 percent and revenue down 1.5 percent compared to same period 2010. Further, the fourth quarter of 2011 saw almost a 5 percent dip in revenue and an 8 percent tumble in pages.

Of the 12 ad categories tracked, 9 of them were in the negative for the full year. The three that grew were Toiletries and Cosmetics (3.8 percent); Apparel and Accessories (5.5 percent); and Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (12.7 percent).

The categories that saw the biggest drops were Home Furnishings and Supplies, down 16 percent, and Food and Food Products, which declined 17 percent.

Among individual magazines, Amex Publishing's Departures led the pack with a 43.3 percent jump in pages. AARP—The Magazine also did well, gaining 29.5 percent in pages for the year over 2010. Meredith's Siempre Mujer jumped 31.5 percent in pages.

People En Espanol and People Style Watch increased pages by 31.5 percent and 38.6 percent respectively. People itself, however, declined 5.6 percent in pages.

In fact, as a category, celebrity weeklies didn't do very well. Star fell 3.8 percent in pages for the year, US Weekly was flat at 1.8 percent, In Touch fell 13.1 percent, and OK fell 1.2 percent.

The two big newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek, were down 2.5 percent and 16.8 percent and The Week dropped 12.9 percent in pages.

Bloomberg Businessweek continued its comeback, ending the year up 19 percent in pages, while Forbes and Fortune were down 3.9 percent and .9 percent respectively.

In terms of total pages sold in 2011, People topped the list at 3,357. New York magazine came in at number two with 2,608 pages sold—not bad for a regional pub. Brides sold 2,603 pages. In Style tallied 2,544 pages and Vogue sold 2,509 pages to round out the top 5.

For more details on the numbers, visit MPA's PIB numbers here.


Bill Mickey

For Some, Digital Revenues a Sorely Needed Boon

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 11/29/2011-11:17 AM

As far as inflection points go, this is a good one. In a Reuters story, the Financial Times Group says it's expecting content revenues (subscription and single copy sales) to at least equal, and possibly overtake, print advertising revenue for the first time this year.

During the London portion of the Reuters Global Media Summit, FT CEO John Ridding acknowledged the rough advertising climate, which has put extra pressure on digital to perform. The FT's online operation, says the report, now accounts for 30 percent of its revenues.

In the first half of this year, the group boosted profits by 10 percent. Digital subscriptions are the main driver, and were up 34 percent during the period. The FT's web app, famous for ditching Apple's app store, reached its one millionth registrant in mid-November.

It's still difficult to determine the overall size of the business, however. In other words, quickly rising digital content sales is all well and good, but is it adequately covering the decline of print ad revenues?

Meanwhile, The Economist, in which the FT Group has a fifty percent stake, says it reached 100,000 paid, digital-only circ by the half-year point—twice the amount compared to the same period last year.

Elsewhere, in what could be an aberrant blip or a sign of the times, The Atlantic says its digital advertising revenue beat print ad revenue for the month of October—51 percent of ad sales to 49 percent. That 49 percent is still a record-setting amount, however, says the magazine.

Moreover, The Atlantic's digital ad revenue for October is up 89 percent over last year and 37 percent better year-to-date.

All of this is in the face of a sharp drop in third-quarter print advertising. According to PIB numbers, consumer magazine ad pages fell 5.6 percent in the quarter compared to the same period in 2010. That decline erased the gains for the year, which is now down 1.1 percent for the first 9 months.

Bill Mickey

Condé Nast Partners with HP for Print-On-Demand Content

Bill Mickey Consumer - 10/13/2011-11:40 AM

HP and Condé Nast are partnering in an on-demand, digital-to-print pilot program that will allow readers to, via a desktop printer widget, download selected content and print it from home.

At this point, says a Condé Nast spokesperson, the publisher is determining the kinds of content that would be appropriate for this delivery mechanism. Recipes from Epicurious, for example, might make sense, but the publisher is still trying to figure out how content from, say, Glamour might work in this setting.

In announcing the program, HP says Allure, Details, Epicurious, Glamour, Golf Digest, Self and Wired will participate in the pilot.

HP is trying to position itself as a way for content publishers to reach end users. With this digital-to-print effort, readers will see a downloadable widget on a brand's website.

The widget allows readers to schedule when they want their content printed.

The widget works with any Web-enabled printer, not just HP brands—a point that content publishers made clear with HP in order to open up the program to a wider segment of customers.

According to Annette Friskopp, HP's head of IWS strategic account management, there are two other paths of discovery to the content. HP's ePrintCenter has an apps page that showcases the various print-on-demand content options; and the HP printer itself—content brands will display on the printer's panel.

It may seem like a strange nook for Condé Nast to be exploring, but these days who knows what might stick with consumers. Nevertheless, Friskopp notes that HP customer research says people still like printing out content for reference, sharing and, she says, "once you've printed it you can find it again." Take that, digital information overload.

And with all this home printing HP and Condé Nast hope people will be doing, HP is introducing its Instant Ink program, a subscription-based home delivery service for ink cartridges.

Condé Nast will initially roll out with an ad-based revenue model, but that might change if the project catches on. "Again, this is a pilot program that's still in an infancy stage," says the spokesperson. "There are multiple ways that this could be monetized and we will look into all of them."

Bill Mickey

How Aud Dev and Analytics Support Content Creation

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 03/02/2011-10:48 AM

Much has been said about the publishing life cycle of news content online and in print. At Forbes, where we're kept apprised of the brand's new print and digital developments by chief product officer Lewis Dvorkin's blog posts, we can see how important analytics and audience development have become in content creation.

Dvorkin argues that the top-down "caste system" of traditional newsrooms has been outmoded by the way content is consumed and shared digitally. "The self-imposed newsroom caste system has run its course," he says in a recent post. "The three vital voices of the media business [content creators, audience members and marketers] now publish together and actually form relationships with one another."

The new newsroom, he says, is no longer a one-way operation where content is simply created and delivered to readers, rinse and repeat. The digital platform demands a much more interconnected process that links content with data (both demographic and feedback) and a strategic approach to production methods.

Interestingly, as Dvorkin describes the four columns that support the newsroom structure, we can see how important analytics and audience development are to the entire process.

Dvorkin's four main support components of his newsroom are:

1. Analytics--consisting of a small team that monitors activity at the page and site levels. The data is then used to help editors determine what content resonates and drives engagement.

2. Audience Development--another team that uses the data produced by the analytics team to develop KPIs and uncover new areas for audience growth.

3. Contributor Support--These folks work closely with the content creators, combining production tools with data insights to help creators optimize their production.

4. Programming--these guys also depend on AD and analytics to fast-track specific content packages and formats to maintain momentum created by content that resonates well with readers.

Dvorkin adds that, depending how you look at it, data could be king, or audience development or content. Yet that classification is diluted by the circular nature of the process.

Nevertheless, it's clear that the entire structure moves forward on the basis of what the analytics and audience development folks are picking up from the community. The business of content generation and its concomitant sales operation are perpetually refined or even re-engineered through this process.

Bill Mickey is executive editor of Audience Development magazine.

Bill Mickey

Will the Real Mag App Newsstand Please Step Forward?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/06/2011-09:00 AM

Maybe it's a true vote of confidence for magazine apps, despite recent reports of their sales drop-offs. There are now more than a few digital newsstands in production or existence, but are we watching a market being made or fractured beyond recognition?

That might be an irrelevant question. Like their physical world counterparts, publishers could simply populate specific newsstands with apps until sales performance dictates resource allocation. Or, since we're talking digital content here and presumably cheap and easy distribution, the outlet might not matter so much as making sure all bases are covered.

In the meantime, Apple, potentially Google and home team Next Issue Media are all reportedly working on their one-stop shops for digital periodicals, while Barnes & Noble, Amazon and some of the digital magazine vendors, such as Zinio, are already offering a newsstand experience.

What does this mean for the consumer? There are a host of issues that not only impact availability, but pricing. The inherent competitive nature among the big newsstand providers could create headaches for publishers and consumers-not to mention any early trip-ups by publishers in the design and pricing of their apps.

Is it simply about which newsstand has the most marketing power? How will partnership terms impact distribution and pricing? How will devices, and their operating systems, dictate transactions? Will we see "exclusives" where certain titles are available through some vendors/devices and not others? The TV Guide app managed to be selected to debut Apple's first iAd, maybe we'll see similar horse trading going on between publishers and digital newsstand providers.

Next Issue Media's play will be interesting to watch as well. Given that it has the inside track to the JV publishers' own customers, as well as its intention to maintain control of consumer data, it might become a more comfortable partner for other publishers to work with. The company has already indicated its storefront launch this year will only be compatible with devices running Google's Android system-unless Apple decides to get on board as well.

All of this, of course, hinges on whether the magazine app will be seen long-term as a viable product by consumers and/or a profitable one for publishers.

Bill Mickey is executive editor of Audience Development magazine.

Bill Mickey

Confimed: Consumer Engagement on the iPad is Complex

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 12/02/2010-09:45 AM

Time Inc. recently teamed up with UM, a marketing agency, and EmSense, a firm that studies quantitative neurometrics while people shop and look at advertisements, to strap electrodes to iPad owners. Literally.

The three companies just completed a study to determine how iPad users are interacting with advertisements in magazine apps-in this case, Time Inc. ones.

EmSense brought the science, measuring neuromatic responses of 180 iPad owners through a combination of EEG readings, eye tracking, surveys and one-on-one interviews.

Key findings have revealed that user interaction on the device is "complex." Results are being crunched from 24 million data points, but the companies have zeroed in on three engagement elements:

-Visual Attention: the ad's ability to grab the reader and keep him on the page
-Accessibility: whether the ad has "entry points" that enable the user to engage the iPad's swiping and tapping features
-Propulsion: whether those entry points actually engaged the reader, pulling him deeper into the experience

Publishers are all clearly interested in how folks use their mag apps and some are forming focus groups to determine likes and dislikes, but Time Inc. has pushed the concept into the realm of hard-core science.

According to the companies, this is the first time that biometrics research has been used for app ad engagement. Mike Haggerty, UM's senior vice president and director of research and marketing accountability, and Betsy Frank, Time Inc.'s chief research and insights officer, presented the study yesterday at Advertising Age's Media Evolved event in New York.

Can you picture a sales rep walking into an agency and unfurling an EEG readout? It'll be the new ABC statement. "Here, you can see how iPad user #136 reacted to the video in the Audi ad. Look at those spikes! His reading is off the charts!"

But I kid, a little. Even if publishers are treating tablets as a sort of alien to be poked and prodded, I'm sure studies like this will contribute to a valuable pool of data, which, I hope, will somehow be collected together for the industry to share.

In any case, this kind of study is very revealing in the sense of just how unknown this new digital frontier is to publishers-and how important they think it is to them.

Bill Mickey is executive editor of Audience Development magazine.

Bill Mickey is the Odd Man Out

Bill Mickey Consumer - 11/12/2010-16:11 PM

We've all heard by now the merger of The Daily Beast and Newsweek—tricked you, didn't they?—into The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, which everyone's already ignoring for the more fun variations of 'NewsBeast' and 'BeastWeek', etc. (How many games of rock-paper-scissors it took during that "coffee-mug toast" to determine the brand name order we'll never know.)

Speculation is now focusing on how the JV is going to overcome its combined losses—$10 million per year for The Daily Beast and $20 million for Newsweek. However, I’d like to know which Web site, or, will get top billing at best and lights out at worst.  

The two are very different operations. Given the way they handled the equitable but awkward company name, it could be fair to assume a similar approach will be employed to create a with a chalk line drawn down the middle of every page. A boisterous mix of culture/politics/celebrity on one side and a subdued mix of mass-appeal business/news/culture on the other.

However, given the positioning of the merger and the characterizations the principals are giving each other's companies, appears to be grasping the short straw.

According to Ms. Brown in an official statement announcing the deal, the Beast is swooping in with its "vibrant versatility," the "metabolism" of which will "help power the resurgence of Newsweek." Newsweek, in turn, "amplifies the range of talent and audience The Daily Beast can reach."

Meanwhile, Newsweek is "venerable" with "journalistic depth." It's also, according to the statement, just a magazine. There's no mention of the brand's digital platform, a strange omission given all the hupla over the importance of Web savvy.

Again, in her own post on the merger, Ms. Brown says, "And for Newsweek, The Daily Beast is a thriving frontline of breaking news and commentary that will raise the profile of the magazine’s bylines and quicken the pace of a great magazine’s revival." who?

In this merger, all the digital cache belongs to The Daily Beast, even though gets twice as many monthly uniques—10 million compared to The Daily Beast's 5 million, per company principals—and has a much more recognizable brand.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The original headline of this post was "Is the Odd Man Out?" But after posting we came across a NYT story in which new The Newsweek Daily Beast Company CEO Stephen Colvin says will indeed be folded into] 

Bill Mickey

Print Magazine Closures Slow, But So Do Launches

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 10/12/2010-13:55 PM

So far, 2010 has not been an exciting year for magazine launches. According to MediaFinder, a database of U.S. and Canadian magazines, 176 new print titles launched in the first three quarters and 127 shut down. That's down from 259 new launches and 383 closures in the same period 2009.

I suppose any new launch these days is still worthy of notice, and fewer closures is a good thing. However, MediaFinder's numbers bring up an interesting anomaly—that launches were higher during 2009 when the industry was still in turmoil.

In effect, 2010 is noted for a drop in shut-downs (good news), but also a drop in new launches (bad news), which could indicate a less-than enthusiastic outlook from existing and prospective publishers. We've essentially netted 49 magazines so far this year.

There were 26 magazines that went online-only, also down from the same period in 2009 when 64 titles pinned their hopes on a digital future.

The two top categories are perennial favorites among the launching crowd—food and regional, which have seen 24 and 14 new magazines respectively in the first three quarters.

MediaFinder also tracked 44 shut-downs in the b-to-b category and 29 new launches.

Bill Mickey

Consumer Marketing Back in the Limelight

Bill Mickey Sales and Marketing - 07/26/2010-12:12 PM

Publishers have been angling in this direction for some time now, but Condé Nast's elevation of Bob Sauerberg [pictured] to president is a very public acknowledgement of audience development's role in the corporate structure.

What nails the concept is CEO Charles Townsend's explicit recognition that advertising isn't the only game in town—and neither is print. Publishers have all known this for years, but what's finally emerging here is a greater understanding of the role customer insights can play—and not just for magazines, but all sorts of cross-platform products and services.

“The historical priorities that have served our company so well—great content, best-in-class magazines, key client relationships—remain the cornerstone of what we do, but we need to move beyond the magazine,” said Townsend in a statement announcing the management changes.  “The set of strategic course changes being put in motion today will reorient our organization to thrive in this new world of opportunity, assuring the brightest future for Condé Nast.”

Condé Nast's new model will be aligned with "digital connectivity, technology development and consumer insight." You can look at this as a sort of re-establishment of circulation marketing or subscription-based practices—the corporate gaze finally settling on this as a vibrant profit center—but it's much bigger than that. Paid content, digital products, and, yes, print subs are all optimized from unified insights into customer behavior and purchase patterns.

In the not-too-distant past, publishers diversified into all sorts of new product platforms to dilute their dependence on the advertising model: Events, custom publishing, data, new digital offerings, etc. But these were simply piling on more products. What was absent, and is now coalescing, was a strategic approach to leveraging customer insights according to which of those products they're buying, how often, whether they move in between them and what their preferences are. The implications of this new knowledge of course extends into advertising, too.

Chief among Sauerberg's new responsibilities will be getting the various groups, and not just people, but databases, within Condé to talk to each other—"integrating corporate resources," as the statement says. Without that integration, the "new world of opportunity" will be much harder to discover.

Bill Mickey

ABM OK With Elimination of Saturday Delivery

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 06/28/2010-16:23 PM

The USPS, as everyone knows by now, is in dire financial straits. Among a raft of cost-cutting proposals put forth by the Postmaster General is the elimination of Saturday delivery. ABM has announced that it is in favor of the measure—to a point.

Facing a staggering $250 billion loss over the next ten years, the severity of the USPS's problems practically overwhelms any challenge by its constituency to dramatic proposals to cut costs—particularly those that pass on burdensome price increases or impact the timeliness of periodicals.

ABM, for its part, has come out and said, in effect, that it's OK with the elimination of Saturday delivery—an issue that's probably less concerning for trade pubs, whose subscribers receive magazines at the office, than it is for consumer publications. "Therefore, while reduced service levels would pose a real challenge to ABM members, ABM can accept the elimination of Saturday street mail delivery and pickup, as long as weekend mail processing is maintained, as one of several steps that should be considered," says the association in a statement.

Note that ABM says "as long as weekend mail processing is maintained." That's a key condition along with the USPS's continued efforts to solve its facilities and personnel matters—particularly "overpayments into the retiree healthcare trust fund and the Civil Service Retirement Fund."

An audit has found that the USPS overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by $75 billion between 1972 and 2009—the return of which, or the realization of the benefits of the overpayment, could "fully fund the pension and health retiree plans," concludes the Office of Inspector General in the audit report. The $7 billion the USPS spends each year on pre-funding and premiums would be taken care of, and interest income would cover the premiums.

Click here for ABM's full statement on the issue.

Bill Mickey

What True/Slant's Acquisition Really Means for Forbes

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 05/27/2010-09:16 AM

Tuesdsay's announcement that Forbes is buying entrepreneurial journalism site True/Slant may be a small deal, but the event will have a pretty significant impact on both brands going forward.

PaidContent estimates the deal in the "low single digit millions." The site launched just a year ago, after all, and True/Slant founder and soon-to-be chief product officer Lewis Dvorkin [pictured] told me Tuesday that monetization efforts only kicked in once the site reached one million uniques. "We used the first round of money to build a product, scale the contributor base and scale the audience. We only started monetization when we hit a million uniques, which was in December and January."

Yet the deal is not a bolt-on for Forbes. True/Slant's content production and ad models will be assimilated into Forbes and will kick off a significant rebuild of both the magazine and The Web site is up first, says Dvorkin. "There's going to be a total re-architecture of—meaning a re-architecture of how it's produced, its structure, its UI and its design."

Sounds pretty much like a complete overhaul.

Dvorkin intends more than cosmetic changes for the magazine, as well. "I used to say that redesigns are more than a fresh coat of paint, you have to look at the foundation. How is content produced for the magazine? How is it produced for the Web site and how might those two play together?"

In the meantime, Dvorkin says the deal will close today, with a "good part" of the five-person team making the move over to Forbes (he wouldn't say who's going and who's not).

Of the three-hundred or so contributors who get paid on a flat-fee basis with monthly bonuses when traffic hits certain trigger points,  it's "business as usual" through June, he says. However, Forbes and Dvorkin will be scaling down the contributor network as the site transitions into Forbes. Daily Finance's Jeff Bercovici, who is also a True/Slant contributor and sat through a contributor conference call with Dvorkin, has more on this.

And, according to WWD, it appears Dvorkin might be doing some scaling down at Forbes as well. He's reportedly scrutinizing the masthead for some high-level cost cutting.

Bill Mickey

Mags Covered Their Costs for USPS

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 05/14/2010-08:41 AM

The anonymously authored blog Dead Tree Edition has pointed out that Time Inc.'s vice president of distribution and postal affairs Jim O'Brien was down in Washington, D.C. this week testifying before a congressional subcommittee.

He was representing Time Inc. and the MPA, speaking at a hearing called "The Price Is Right, or Is It? An Examination of USPS Workshare Discounts and Products that Do Not Cover Their Costs."

The topic? O'Brien was there to talk about costs associated with the Periodicals class.

The USPS has long contended that the Periodicals class, unlike other mailers, only covers about 75 percent of its costs. Lately, as the USPS scrambles to close the gap on a staggering 10-year projected loss of almost $250 billion, that shortfall has come under greater scrutiny.

Publishers Did Their Part, So What's the Problem?

The main point of O'Brien's argument is the publishing community has done much to make it easier and less costly for the USPS to process and deliver magazines—bundles, anyone? Co-palletization? Upside down address labels?—while the USPS has become less efficient mainly due to its failure to reduce its workforce in the face of greater automation.

"The Postal Service's workforce, however, has not shrunk as fast as the Postal Service's workload," says O'Brien in his testimony. "This is not a new problem. In fact, the increases in Periodicals costs can be tracked back to 1986, when the Postal Service started its letter mail automation program. Time Inc. even coined a phrase to explain what happened to Periodicals as a result of letter mail automation. The term is 'automation refugees,' and over the years more and more people have come to understand what that concept means. It means that excess capacity in one processing operation can make another processing operation less efficient. Machines are idled while manual processing occurs in order to absorb the available labor capacity, and classes that had nothing to do with the automation see their costs go up."

Periodicals Class Was Profitable for USPS

O'Brien's testimony, which you can read in its entirety here, cleverly maneuvers through the savings publishers should have provided for the USPS, why the USPS is not realizing those savings, and finally concludes that the Periodicals class "likely" made a positive contribution to the USPS in fiscal year 2009. In other words, the category more than covered its costs.

O'Brien is walking a fine line, arguing on behalf of publishers while recognizing the need to make certain concessions. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that, after a visit from Postmaster General John E. Potter, Time Inc. has agreed to go along with the USPS's proposal to cut Saturday delivery. “They came in and expressed some concerns,” Potter said in the report. “I explained the economics and they quickly came around.”