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Bill Mickey

When Did B-to-B Publishing Get So Confusing?

Bill Mickey B2B - 05/07/2010-09:39 AM

ABM held its annual meeting this week in Charleston, South Carolina. Many of the familiar faces were there.

Also familiar were some “legacy” issues that kept cropping up throughout the program. Issues that I hadn’t heard discussed in some time. For all of the innovation we continually speak and write about, there are still some persistent, fundamental problems that are fouling up the aerodynamics. And, no, I don’t just mean the lack of capital.

During the program I was periodically surprised to hear publishing leadership getting hung up with “missionary selling”; or criticized for merely duplicating content across platforms; or wondering how, or whether, they should supplement their ranks with skill-specific expertise from outside the industry.

That’s where the familiarities ended, however. As we’re all moving at light speed to keep up with equally quick market dynamics, these old issues are simply emerging in a different context. B-to-b publishing in the last few years has changed dramatically, and attendees at the event were candid about their confusion.

Warren Bimblick, Penton Media’s senior vice president of strategy and business development, admitted that audience development has become “the most difficult thing for us as a company to get right.” And he’s right. Metrics and campaign accountability have become an all-consuming issue for marketers asking for lead-generation and other performance-based programs. Data is the new currency. Publishers everywhere are still struggling to define and corral the ways in which audience interacts with each platform—even after we’ve long jumped on the revenue diversification bandwagon.

Labeling the Transformation

In his opening remarks, after having the gavel officially passed to him from past board chair and Vance CEO Peggy Walker, Charlie McCurdy was uncharacteristically bemused over b-to-b media’s state of transformation. “We don’t even have a vocabulary for our business anymore,” he said. “We’re not building our business around brands anymore in any sense of the word, we’re building it around customer insights. There’s no one word to describe what we produce. What do we call this?”

McCurdy added that it’s equally difficult to define an audience. “If they’re not ‘audiences’ anymore, what are they? ‘Users’? That sounds like a methadone clinic.”

Of course, some of this could still be the residual, dizzying effects of having our clocks cleaned during the last two years. I was talking with one attendee and we both agreed that the deathly pall evident at previous shows had mostly dissipated and was replaced with a sense of general befuddlement.

Yet even publishers who have been considered “canaries in the coal mine” and have led the charge in dramatically shifting their revenue sources are struggling to choose the right path. “We’re wrestling with ‘so, now you’re digital, so what?’” said Ziff Davis Enterprise CEO Steve Weitzner. “What happens next?”

Bill Mickey

App Metrics on Lockdown

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 04/15/2010-10:25 AM

Apple released a new set of rules last week governing the development of apps for its wildly popular iPhone and iPad—which just released a new 4.0 operating system upgrade prompting the new SDK rules.

Both devices have had publishers drooling over a new, potentially game-changing content platform even as they bristle at Apple's control over distribution and customer information.

According to reports on Apple's new programming rules, developers will not, among other restrictions, be able to integrate third-party measurement services in the apps. These would be services such as Google Analytics, Webtrends, and, well, Adobe's Omniture, among others. (There's been an avalanche of reporting on Apple's Adobe Flash dis for its mobile platform. And the new rules have prompted one Adobe employee to infamously declare "Go screw yourself Apple.")

The New York Times reports that developers are in a state of limbo, wondering over the fate of apps they've already created or will be creating for the iPhone and will presumably port to the iPad. Peter Farago, vice president of Flurry, an analytics company, says in the piece that his questions to Apple have so far been unanswered.

And Eric Peterson, principal at analytics consulting firm Web Analytics Demystified, and a frequent columnist and blogger for FOLIO: sister title Audience Development, has written an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs decrying the company's decision to lock out third-party measurement.

"Since many of your best Development partners are companies well-known for their general prowess for digital analytics—companies like Best Buy, Expedia, Cisco, Netflix, Disney, ABC, ESPN, and many, many more—you may want to give a little more thought to Section 3.3.9. If this section remains you are essentially blocking all of these companies (and all mobile developers in your App Store) from gaining valuable insight into how their applications can be more useful, more delightful, and frankly, more like Apple," he says.

The moves are considered to be part of a bigger picture of competitive posturing over an exploding mobile market and control thereof. Instead, Peterson feels, as do many others, I'm sure, that Apple has a great opportunity to define according to its own terms, but in a transparent way, mobile measurement for the industry.

"The most important thing is you would have an opportunity to craft a set of mobile tracking requirements that could be extended and applied across the entire mobile universe. In the same way Apple has changed our relationship with “pocket computing” forever, your company could essentially resolve a problem that in some ways is an accident waiting to happen, and do so in a way that creates opportunities rather than creating tension with the very group that is making your products so successful today."

And with so many players in the space jockeying for position to dominate devices, platforms, pricing, measurement and just plain old access, it's the standards that will settle the market down and coalesce the audience around the strongest players.

Bill Mickey

Hearst Carpet-Bombs the App Store

Bill Mickey Consumer - 03/18/2010-12:54 PM

At first, I thought Hearst's new iPhone app division sounded cheesy, but the idea is gradually growing on me.

The division, called LMK, short for "Let Me Know", is a lean operation. Five employees churn out apps that cost $.99 to $1.99 for a "few hundred dollars of employee time," said the division's executive vice president George Kliavkoff in an article by The Wall Street Journal. This thing is built with one objective, load up the App store with as many products as possible, as quickly as possible and wait for the money to flow in.

The app generation operation seems to have emerged out of a destination site called, originally built by Hearst Entertainment last year as a growing number of vertical channels supported by content aggregation and curation tactics.

The apps are essentially mini content aggregators by themselves. Each is built within a similar template and collects links from a variety of sources on a particular niche topic—specific celebrities, sports teams, etc. "LMK's five full-time employees simply dig up the best sources of information on each topic area and feed the sources into a common template," says the story. The only costs apparently are employee time and photo licensing as needed.

It's a corporate approach to everyone's app creation lottery fantasy. (What if we created an app that didn't require much work, chucked it into the App store for 99 cents and see if we can sell a few thou?)

It's an adaptable strategy. If it doesn't work, roll it up and move on. In the meantime, the plan is to eventually have thousands of apps available.

At its heart, the plan acknowledges that the store is already bloated with 150,000 apps and aims to tip the ratio in its favor (reports note that Hearst has confirmation from Apple that the apps will not be barred from the store despite their volume and lightweight utility). Second, studies have pointed out that many apps are downloaded, consumed and then discarded shortly thereafter anyway. Why not keep the pipeline stocked as long as the demand continues? As one trend emerges, LMK produces an app. As that trend dissipates, LMK is close behind with another app based on the next trend. Rinse, repeat.

Curiously, the strategy hinges on an automated, multi-source aggregation tactic that is reminiscent of similar tactics from other aggregators that frequently draw the ire of big publishers. It's also a light-weight product, a simple bet that consumers will value an aggregation tool at 99 cents that collects news about a favorite team or celebrity.

But it's a low-cost, under-the-radar operation for Hearst and one that just might produce decent returns.

Bill Mickey

Who Cares How Much GQ's iPhone App Made?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/25/2010-09:44 AM

Adding up the revenue from GQ's 18,000 $2.99 iPhone app downloads is, for now, missing the point.

Rather, publishers should be knocking on Charles Townsend's door with a list of questions about who those downloaders are and what, exactly, their behavior and engagement metrics are like. How many articles were read, how did they swipe and pinch their way to that article, how many jumped from an ad or story directly to a product and bought it?

Yes, 18,000 readers at sub-$40,000 is chump change when held up against the print magazine's distribution and ad sales. But we're two months into wondering how readers are going to interact with a full-text and image magazine squeezed onto a device with a 3.5-inch screen with, I'm guessing, fairly minimal marketing muscle behind it. Let's see how that goes first. 18,000 people is a pretty good-sized focus group.

I like Condé’s move. They went all-in, offering the full magazine. No half-step, incremental, bite-sized experiments. GQ is a strong brand and Condé put that strength to the test by seeing how it holds up and translates to a mobile environment.

A spokesperson at Condé Nast told me readers spent an average of 83 minutes with their iPhone GQ. That's a pretty long time.

There's been a lot of discussion about whether publishers are missing the point by trying to shoe-horn a print product carbon-copy, and its business model, into a mobile context. But let's use the GQ experiment, and any others like it, as the control and first see if it has legs on the small screen. Let's understand how readers interact with the functionality. Let's see how many ultimately download it, if it's worthwhile to market it, how users interact with it after they get it. Then, beyond the initial $2.99 sale, let's look at how else to monetize it if the audience density is there.

Condé Nast chose the proprietary route and built, along with Adobe, their own reader app for the iPhone. But I'd also like to see the digital edition providers, like Zinio and Nxtbook, that are developing platform-neutral access to digital editions pile on with their app and mobile device usage metrics too.

UPDATE: Nxtbook Media's Marcus Grimm has offered up some interesting stats of his own, and rightly questions Conde's method of acheiving that 83-minute average. Is that stat survey-sourced or from actual metrics? In the meantime, Grimm notes that, for mobile device Nxtbook readers, the iPhone has the highest time-spent metric with a more down-to-earth 3.5 minutes. Blackberry readers were next at just over 2.5 minutes. For a full breakdown, read Grimm's post here.

UPDATE 2: A Conde Nast spokesperson said the 83 minutes was lifted from actual app metrics, it's not the result of a user survey: "[The metric] comes from the analytics package built into the app. In other words, it is a metric that comes from real-world app use and our measurement of it."

Bill Mickey

Big Pubs Looking for Strength in Numbers

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 10/28/2009-09:43 AM

Where smaller publishers—from b-to-b to consumer enthusiast—form consortiums to attain economies of scale for materials and production services like printing, paper buying and distribution, the mass consumer publishers are setting aside their historically fierce competitiveness to tackle mass problems.  

Across-the-board ad page and revenue drops, online-sourced subscriptions, pay wall models, and digital content formats and distribution are some of the latest battles that big consumer publishers think can be won through solidarity.

It's an interesting concept that can be traced back to then Hachette CEO Jack Kliger's outspoken calls for pre-recession unity to revolutionize rate base—magazines needed to stop competing with each other, come together as a platform and compete with TV, the Internet and radio. "Circulation-based metrics are irrelevant to proving advertising effectiveness," he told an AMC audience in 2005.

Now, sick of feeling the sting from getting spanked by "aggregators," "plagiarists," and "content kleptomaniacs," as Ruport Murdoch put it at a recent event in Beijing where he and the AP's CEO Tom Curley continued their rant against Google et al, big publishers are joining together to ostensibly regain—or actually gain—control of how their content and advertising models are consumed.

How crazy would it have sounded if, before the recession hit, Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith all joined together to create a digital distribution platform to develop a proprietary content format and service eReaders?

How about creating an ad network? Up to now, publishers were leveraging and/or creating their own vertical networks. Martha Stewart Living, Meredith and Forbes were all creating them. Now, there's some background chatter about the formation of a multi-publisher ad network. AdAge reported on it, and PaidContent threw a wet blanket on the concept.

And then there's Time Inc.'s year-old Maghound, which offers custom subscription packages to a variety of publications from different publishers. 413,000 issues have been shipped so far, and Maghound's president Dave Ventresca told attendees at MPA's Innovation Summit this month that as the service moves out of its proof of concept stage, it will begin a more robust marketing campaign for all participating publisher titles, not just the Time Inc. ones.

Most recently, 15 British publishers formed a venture to promote their thinking person's magazines that apparently get lost in the crush of titles dealing with less weighty topics.

On a smaller publisher scale, but by no means tiny, Mother Jones is leading the formation of a journalistic co-op to tackle, in an investigative format, climate change—several magazines are sharing reporting resources. AdAge's Simon Dumenco spoke with MoJo co-editor Clara Jeffery about the project and her comments about the partnership can be applied to any area of the publishing business.

"We have complementary audiences, but even the biggest players seem to think they can benefit from having their work introduced to the core audiences of the other partners," she told Dumenco.

And, above all, it's the quickly-changing media world that's driving publishers to seek out ideas and and potential partners:  "Secondly, everybody is really eager to use this as a way to test-drive collaborations, which everybody sees as a vital part of the emerging media landscape. On that front, we'll likely learn as much from what doesn't work as what does."

Bill Mickey

The Time Inc./Condé Supergroup Conundrum

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 10/07/2009-15:36 PM

These latest rumblings about a publisher supergroup led by Time Inc. joining together in a dramatic effort to head Apple and Amazon off at digital distribution pass is significant news. You've got the country's biggest publishers—Time Inc., Hearst, Condé Nast, possibly Meredith—in a bid for solidarity to fulfill this statement copped from a leaked PowerPoint: "Whoever defines the interface wins."

That's a reference to a digital storefront that the consortium is to build, whether through a possible expansion of Time Inc.'s Maghound subscription site, which already offers subscription bundles from many of these same publishers and then some (yes, a la Netflix), or through a separate company created from a joint investment.

iTunes and Hulu business models are reportedly in the works, or at least are generating comparisons to what unnamed sources think is in the works. One makes money off of small, per-item payments, the other makes advertising revenue, which, apparently, is too old-school when we're talking about paid digital content.

So far, no one can hazard a guess at how the joint venture content will be formatted that's any different from what you get on a Web site, on an iPhone or in a digital edition. There's been some mention of personalization, but there is major balking at exactly how the consortium will get its content to be universally ported to devices that have proprietary formats.

And let's not forget that so far, Apple's iPhone/Touch tablet is still a rumor, albeit a strong one, and so is its $700-$900 price tag, which is an awful pricey device for reading magazines on.

Presumably (hopefully), Time Inc.'s John Squires and his colleagues have been busy working out the details on content formats, particularly if customers will be allowed to view on the variety of devices out there.

One industry executive I spoke with says this is no easy task. The joint venture is reportedly targeting HP and the Apple tablets for their hardware distribution. But what about the installed base of Kindle and eReaders? Who's going to purchase another device any time soon to read magazine content on?

Also difficult is asking consumers to mix and match and otherwise "personalize" their content—unless Time Inc.'s Mine magazine experiment has revealed something we don't know yet. Imagine the process a customer will have to go through to search and compile content from dozens of magazines? Maybe that's as fun as crafting a mix in iTunes, but songs have longer staying power than most magazine articles.

"We see things a little differently," said the executive I spoke with. "We believe that consumers will sign up for your magazine, but there's no way to know what device they'll be on the day you publish your issue. That's the publisher's problem—not the consumers problem."

Rather, he said, publishers should be thinking about seamless access regardless of device. "It's an important difference between solutions that require active 'management' and solutions that find the consumer," he said.

I'm all for reaching the customer when and where they are, but is it possible to over-saturate a market with access points, especially ones that require effort to manage?

Bill Mickey

On Tweets and Rumors (Big Ones)

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 09/24/2009-12:52 PM

Notch this one for the gossip column, but it does raise some interesting Twitter etiquette issues and highlights the confusion over just what kind of role Twitter plays in journalsm.

On Tuesday morning Peter Ha, technology editor for Time magazine, decided to ask his 1,000+ Twitter followers to confirm or deny a rumor that BusinessWeek was shutting down. The magazine has been on the block for a while now, and official bids are reportedly just being submitted. At this point, the last thing McGraw-Hill needs is a shutdown rumor on the loose.

In any case, Ha's tweet got picked up by a couple BusinessWeek employees—Arik Hesseldahl, BW senior tech writer (3,500 followers), Ron Casalotti, BW director of user participation, Business Exchange  (1,100 followers) and Steven Weiss, McGraw-Hill's corporate communications director (28 followers), who seemingly signed up to Twitter just for the occasion. Ha promptly had his wrist tweet-slapped for fanning rumor flames. Weiss went as far as urging Ha to "call me promptly."

Former Portfolio contributing editor and freelance writer Gary Weiss weighs in on what he thinks is some irresponsible behavior from Ha—and his post got picked up by Poynter.

It's a sensitive topic, to be sure, and one with significant repercussions either way. And sensitive particularly to those who work at the magazine, or used to, in Gary Weiss's case.

Seems to me, though, with the almost 5,000 followers between Hesseldahl and Casalotti, they might have been better off just ignoring Ha altogether.

Besides, journalists routinely use Twitter as a story-building tool. Ha may have been pursuing a story on the BusinessWeek sale, or he might have simply been curious about the tip—he's since gone dark on the topic—but what's the difference between using Twitter to confirm a rumor versus placing a few calls? Rumors still spread pretty quickly before we had Twitter. And reporters will still track them down.

Here's the exchange pieced together in one string, starting chronologically from the top.

Peter Ha (Time Inc.)
Just caught wind that BusinessWeek is shutting down. Can anyone confirm or deny?
8:10 AM Sep 22nd from TweetDeck

Ron Casalotti (BusinessWeek)
@ThePeterHa Hadn't you heard? BusinessWeek being sold, not to be interpreted as "shutting down" --please convey to all your retweeters
about 24 hours ago from Power Twitter in reply to ThePeterHa

Peter Ha
@roncasalotti I know what's going on w/ BW. I'm simply inquiring about what I heard this morning, which I hope is untrue.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to roncasalotti

Peter Ha
I never said BizWeek is shutting down. I know they're looking for a buyer, but heard this morning that it was being shut down.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck

Arik Hesseldahl (BusinessWeek)
@ThePeterHa Caught wind? Would you care to elaborate what you caught wind about?
9:55 AM Sep 22nd from TweetDeck

Peter Ha
@ahess247 I heard that it was being shut down!
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to ahess247

Arik Hesseldahl
@ThePeterHa then why don't you elaborate on what you heard this morning?
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck

Peter Ha
@ahess247 I heard it was being shut down and immediately ran back to my computer to see if something had happened.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck

Arik Hesseldahl
@ThePeterHa from whom? in what context? someone in a position to know something or the guy who shined your shoes?
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck

Peter Ha
@ahess247 bc my shoe shine guy would be a reliable source.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to ahess247

Arik Hesseldahl
@ThePeterHa And tweeted it to 1,028 people, some of whom promptly re-tweeted it. Thanks for that.

Peter Ha
@ahess247 It would be one thing if I stated that BW was shutting down, which I didn't. I was merely looking for a point of clarification.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to ahess247

Arik Hesseldahl
@ThePeterHa We'll soon see how good was the source of that breaking wind that you caught.
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck

Peter Ha
@ahess247 Is it because you're a Duck and I'm a Beaver?
about 23 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to ahess247

Steven Weiss (Corp Comm. McGraw-Hill)    
@ThePeterHa Want to discuss your irresponsible posts about BusinessWeek but you are not in Time directory - please give me ur contact info
about 22 hours ago from web

Peter Ha
@SHWeiss01 and you are?
about 21 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to SHWeiss01

Steven Weiss
@ThePeterHa I run communications for McGraw-Hill which owns BusinessWeek.
about 21 hours ago from web

Steven Weiss
@ThePeterHa You now know my name and employer. If you are a responsible journalist intent on factual reporting you will call me promptly.
about 21 hours ago from web

Peter Ha    
For the record: BizWeek is not shutting down. I never said it was shutting down. It was something I overheard this morning.
about 21 hours ago from TweetDeck

Peter Ha
And that's all I'm going to say about it
about 21 hours ago from TweetDeck

Bill Mickey

Time for Periodicals Class to Pay Up?

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 08/24/2009-15:15 PM

There's an interesting discussion going on at a recent post on the Office of Inspector General, USPS blog, which is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center.

The post is soliciting feedback on the pricing of periodicals class, which has long enjoyed a cap on price increases.

The post goes on the offense, highlighting some striking contrasts between periodicals class and the rest of the mailstream:

"In fact, in the final rate case in 2006 before the new price cap system of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act took effect, the 'markup' on Periodicals was only 0.2 percent. Periodicals prices were set so that revenue was only 0.2 percent above attributable costs. The average for all mail was 79.3 percent."


"In fiscal year (FY) 2008, Periodicals revenue did not cover costs. In fact, the cost coverage (the ratio of revenue to attributable costs) was only 84 percent. (In rate cases, the recommended prices had to be at least 100 percent of costs.)"

The post does, however, offer good questions for feedback, including a polling feature. Currently, after 203 votes, the choice "Periodicals are an important part of the mailstream, and should be priced to stave off volume losses, regardless of underlying measured costs" has 51 percent of the vote.

There are some great comments from Time Inc.'s Jim O'Brien, Watt's Jim Wessel and ABM's postal counsel David Sraus.

Interestingly, O'Brien notes that periodicals are a "mail multiplier," increasing volume in other classes of mail including first class (bills), standard (direct mail promos and renewal notices) and parcels (football phones and other such premiums).

Click here to read the post, vote and join the discussion.

Bill Mickey

Trying to Make Sense of Magazine Closings

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 08/19/2009-08:16 AM

The MPA wants to make a few things clear about the unfortunate string of magazine closures we've been experiencing.

It's the economy, stupid. That's not what they said, exactly, but they'd like to remind everyone that the readers are still there—it's the advertisers that are jumping ship. A data sheet posted on MPA's site in early August attempts to point out that consumer interest, via circ levels, is maintaining while advertising declines correspond with shutdowns.

Also, last year wasn't all that bad compared to other years. In fact, we didn't even come close to 2000-2001 levels.

The MPA cites closure metrics from Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. Apparently, there were 54 magazines closed in 2008, which is 11 less than 2007 and, interestingly, 50 less than 2006, which was the peak for mag closings after 2001.

None of this makes recent numbers any more tolerable, really. Closings and the subsequent job loss in any situation are horrible. But the MPA is attempting to take a big-picture view and attach the numbers to the economy rather than a specific loss of consumer interest, which would be really bad.

PIB revenue declines, for example, occurred only in recession years. ABC average circ dropped during these same periods, but by far lower percentages. Therefore, concludes MPA, advertising is the "dominant factor in magazine closings."

Yet looking at the Ulrich numbers only makes things more confusing. Yes, 2000 and 2001 saw unprecedented closure rates—125 and 166, respectively—but that recession period was an anomaly, if anything. The years between the indicated 1991 to 1992 and 2008 recession years experienced much higher closure rates, and are comparatively high even to 2000 and 2001 standards.

In other words, Ulrich's numbers don't necessarily jibe with the idea that closures are tied to a recession—there are lots of closings every year. As I mentioned earlier, 2006, not a recession year, had 104 magazine closings—twice as many as last year.

Plus, it would make a lot more sense to dig deeper and examine the kinds of magazines that close. Say, big mass-market mags versus smaller niche enthusiast titles.

Bill Mickey

SI Swimsuit iPhone App Tops Lifestyle Category

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 07/24/2009-14:38 PM

Time Inc., which publishes Sports Illustrated, home of the famed Swimsuit Issue juggernaut, announced today that one day after launch its "SI Swimsuit 2009" iPhone app is the number-one paid lifestyle application in Apple's App Store.

The app, developed by Acton, Massachusetts-based Azuki Systems, retails at $2.99 and is the first one by Sports Illustrated. It offers photos and video of 20 models, as well as a calendar feature that allows users to apply photos for each month and track schedules and scores for six sports teams.

Funnily enough, the top three apps in the paid Lifestyle category, for now at least, are SI's Swimsuit app, Ajnag's "Cannibis" app (which helps you locate medicinal marijuana collectives), and Digital Outcrop's "Mixologist - 7900 Drink & Cocktail Recipes." I guess this says a lot about who's currently cruising the Lifestyle category for iPhone entertainment.

But the Swimsuit app has enjoyed a swift ascent to the top rung—a Time Inc. spokesperson said the app shot to number six within hours, then went to number two, then hit number one by its first full day in the app store.

Bill Mickey

If Only Magazines Didn't Build Web Sites

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 07/15/2009-10:30 AM

I'm all for the idea of supplementing online article content with videos, but doing it just for the sake of having some 'multimedia' can stretch the point a bit too far.

Take the case of an otherwise great Atlantic story by contributing editor Michael Hirschorn called 'The Newsweekly's Last Stand.' In it, Hirschorn describes The Economist's teflon resistance to the ad crash and Time and Newsweek's struggles with obsolescence.

Embedded in the middle of the story is a video interview between Hirschorn and Bob Cohn,'s editorial director, which follows the familiar format of editor and writer revealing a behind-the-scenes look at the story. The trouble with this approach is sometimes the conversation veers out of the safe confines of the reporting and into nutty conjecture. (Admittedly, the story and video have been up for almost a month, but I’m just getting around to them now.)

In other words, this interview could have been about 44 seconds shorter. At the 5:45 mark, Cohn asks Hirschorn why The Economist didn't get "clobbered by the Web" like the other newsweeklies. This is where things get sketchy. Hirschorn goes on to say that because The Economist's Web strategy was so bad, people valued the print version more.

Got that? The magazine is thriving today because it didn't jump on that crazy Internet train like all those other suckers.

But wait, it gets better. Hirschorn continues by asking semi-rhetorically, "What would have happened if newspapers and magazines had not embraced the Web?"

Amazingly, the video concludes as he answers his own question this way: "It's entirely possible that if newspapers and magazines had not embraced the Web, that newspapers and magazines would be doing a lot better right now."

Bill Mickey

Quincy Jones Wants Vibe Back

Bill Mickey Consumer - 07/01/2009-09:32 AM

Yesterday, the media lit up with news that Vibe, the R&B and hip hop publication, had abruptly shut its doors.

Meanwhile, over at, Adrienne Samuels Gibbs reports that Quincy Jones [pictured], a distinguished jazz and pop music producer, artist, and Vibe founder, wants the magazine back. "I'm trying to buy the magazine back now," he told

And it appears he's not too pleased with the way the Wicks Group, a New York-based private equity firm that bought the magazine in 2006, handled the brand. "They just messed my magazine all up, but I'm going to get it back."

Nor is he happy with the state of print: "I'm' a take it online because print and all that stuff is over."

And while magazines from all markets are feeling the same pain, executives attached to the Vibe brand point out that the magazine's demise is particularly painful for ethnic media. "Unfortunately, you'll probably see other ethnic publications with similar fates in this economic environment," said former Vibe president Kenard Gibbs to Samuels Gibbs.

While we were compiling FOLIO:'s report, Len Burnett, who helped launch the magazine and went on to become CEO of Uptown magazine, told us it's a "black eye" for urban media, and he worries how the famously navel-gazing media world will interpret the shut-down. "It's unfortunate, obviously for the magazine and the employees, but also for the urban media space," he said. "A lot of agencies and clients look at it as a reflection of the overall business. Whether we're competitors or not, we're all fighting to keep the sense of urgency top of mind in the clients who, more often than not, don't recognize the diversity of media or the power of it."

Burnett continued, adding that Vibe was a launching ground for African American publishing execs. "There are a lot of African American media executives that came through the doors of Vibe, they've gone on to do tremendous things. So when you lose a magazine like Vibe, it's tough for African Americans to break into the business when there's not a vehicle that's speaking to them. It leaves a big void in the space."