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Vanessa Voltolina

Some Ad Agencies Realizing ‘You Don’t Have to Buy Conde Nast’

Vanessa Voltolina Sales and Marketing - 01/05/2009-16:16 PM

That magazine ad pages are down is not news. That they are down in January is not news either, considering it’s always a slow month for ad sales, and many publishers close their January books in October and November—when the reality of the U.S. financial crisis was setting in.

What is news is how a publisher like Condé Nast deals with such a decline.

According to the New York Times, Allure’s January ‘09 issue saw a decline in ad pages of 41 percent. Condé Nast’s tech title, Wired, took the worst hit of all, down 47 percent from a year ago to 43.6 ad pages, while Architectural Digest fell 46 percent, to 63.2, from 116.8. Vogue and Lucky were both down about 44 percent.

When ads decline this sharply, some publishers resort to price reductions to entice advertisers to commit to buying pages. Not Condé Nast.

 “The problem now is that some advertising agencies have come to realize that with the unnegotiability of Condé Nast’s titles,” Steve Greenberger, chief executive of the advertising firm S. R. Greenberger & Associates, told the Times. “And the broader demographic group that are associated with the more mid- and downscale brands, you don’t have to buy Condé Nast … You can buy Women’s Day, you can buy Parents. You can buy around it.”

While advertisers may be put off by Condé’s inability to adapt to the current economic climate, Jack Hanrahan, publisher of the newsletter CircMatters, said that Condé Nast had a smart long-term strategy: “[It’s] a fair approach to pricing and not this ‘I’ll do anything to get a schedule,’ which others do — and, I think, have paid for it. … In a negotiation environment, you’d be better off taking the hit now with regard to paging, but preserving your well-established, in their case long-term.”

It remains to be seen whether or not Condé Nast’s strategy of  “taking the hit now” will pay off in the long run. Or will more agencies discover that they can get more (or the same) bang for their buck with Condé’s (public) competitors like Time Inc. and American Media?

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Vanessa Voltolina

Was Condé Hasty with Blog Cuts?

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 12/17/2008-16:12 PM

On the heels of scaling back Portfolio, folding Men’s Vogue and zapping its teen girl creation, Flip.com, Condé Nast announced that it will close the company’s blog network created by Susan Kaplow, director of syndication and development.

Launched in 2007, the under-the-radar network boasted three bare-bones sites, Product Fiend, Elastic Waist and Daily Bedpost, a small staff and network of freelancers; while the three were originally billed as being separate from the company’s magazines, all display links to Condé Nast’s Glamour, Allure and Self. CN has decided to do away with this network in the face of slowing ad revenue growth.

"This blog network was a valued experiment,” Kaplow told Mediaweek in an email (supplied by a company spokesperson), adding that the network was growing. However, Condé Nast can “no longer continue to support it in this environment."

While Condé Nast did not immediately release traffic figures for the blogs, a company source told Mediaweek that Bedpost’s traffic was around 100,000 unique monthly users. However, marketing research company ComScore said the sites didn’t meet its minimum reporting threshold of 100,000 unique visitors per month.

Part of the challenge of embracing digital is allowing experimental new initiatives enough time to grow—and a fall 2007 to winter 2008 lifespan just doesn’t seem long enough. If the network was growing, why cut it now? It doesn’t appear that Conde is making a high investment of company resources—or dollars—in the network.

In the past, the mega publisher has kept sinking magazines afloat for some time before letting them go (House & Garden) at the expense of company dollars and resources. So why not let a new, potentially profitable Web network develop to its full potential?

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Vanessa Voltolina

Should Magazines Like Maxim Have Movie Ratings?

Vanessa Voltolina Audience Development - 12/09/2008-14:07 PM

Get your popcorn ready.

Britain’s MP Claire Curtis-Thomas is demanding that lad magazines be forced to carry cinema-style age ratings. Her Top Shelf report cites titles like Maxim, which are, she said, “little more than pornography and should be classified as such.”

The reason for the guidelines now, said Curtis-Thomas, is that many U.K. retailers are displaying lad magazines at the average height of a nine-year-old boy. The ratings system will indicate those magazines that should be displayed on the top shelf, out of reach (and sight) of children.

If the U.K.—which tends to be more lenient when it comes to sex—is considering ratings for magazines, it may only be a matter of time before U.S. lawmakers try to force a similar system on American publishers. (I asked the Magazine Publishers of America for comment. I'll post it here when they respond.)

Outside of the stigma that already comes with slapping an adult rating on their magazines, another issue for publishers like Alpha Media and Complex could be the sub-par newsstand placement that goes along with being out of reach of children, which may hurt the many already-suffering titles.

“We need to have age-related information put on the front of all lads' magazines,” According to Curtis-Thomas said. “I do not want to censor this material, but we must do something about the display of these titles.”

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Vanessa Voltolina

Did Obama Boost Time for Beer-Guzzling Co-eds?

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 12/05/2008-14:57 PM

Have college students put down their beers, signed out of Facebook and stopped reading trashy celebrity magazines? Well, not quite, but according to a recent survey, they just may be opting for more highbrow reads.

Since 2005, Anderson Analytics has posed a series of open-ended questions to college students about their favorite brands and activities. This year, the surprising find from a survey of more than 1,000 students across the nation: Time ranked as their number one magazine read, displacing perennial winner Cosmo and beating out last year's second place winner, People.

Tom Anderson, managing partner at Anderson Analytics, attributed this to the fact that for the first time in years, the presidential race (specifically Obama) attracted the attention of younger voters. Be it the influence of their parents’ generation, or its association as a reliable news source, Time was their go-to.

Although many publications ran features about the candidates and their running mates, newsmagazines (and Web sites) were of utmost importance, especially to students who strived to seem savvy and cultured about both sides of the campaign.

A spokeswoman said that Time didn’t run any specific marketing campaigns; however, its Web site does skew younger. She added: "We found through this election cycle that Time is such a trusted news brand that people turned to us for information."

Are colleges are breeding more news-savvy students, or was this an election-year fluke?

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Vanessa Voltolina

Study Shows Hot Women in Men’s Magazines Have Negative Impact on ... Men

Vanessa Voltolina Audience Development - 12/02/2008-13:05 PM

While there has been plenty of coverage of magazines misrepresenting women since the advent of the airbrush, a study published recently by the University of Missouri shows that the sexy, idealized women in magazines may impact men just as negatively as they do females.

Women have struggled with unrealistic body image representations since the beginning of time (read: the birth of Photoshop). However, the University of Missouri study shows that men also find women between (and on) the covers of laddie mags, like Maxim, FHM and Complex, to be emasculating and intimidating, yet again pointing out the need for more “real looking” female models (or less airbrushed ones, at least).

While female readers may respond to photos of skinny, flawless models with negative feelings about their own bodies, the study’s lead researcher, Jennifer Aubrey, said, “Men make inferences that in order to be sexual and romantic with women of the caliber they see in Maxim magazine, they also need to be attractive.”

Pictures of hot women, the study found, were more disturbing to a guy’s body image than were pictures of men with rippling abs and bulging biceps.

Who would have guessed that Maxim’s Edyta Sliwinska’s sultry look could be more intimidating than Taye Digg’s ripped thorax? Feeling insecure about our bodies, it appears, is equal opportunity.

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Vanessa Voltolina

How Gas Prices Affect the Newsstand

Vanessa Voltolina Audience Development - 11/26/2008-11:27 AM

While stopping to fill my gas tank (I’m from Connecticut—I pump my own gas) for the Thanksgiving holiday, I couldn’t believe the price—a “reasonable” $1.89 per gallon. While gas prices have been steadily declining nationwide from the huge spike this summer, I was still pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t going to cost me $50 to fill my tank.

CircMatters, the circulation newsletter, recently conducted a study that found single copy sales of celebrity magazines are inversely affected by gas prices. The results of his study beg the question: do lower per gallon gas prices mean the resurgence of single copy sales?

By comparing raw data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (and Energy Information Administration for gas prices), CircMatters discovered that as gas prices marched upwards of $4 per gallon earlier, aggregate single copy sales of 11 celebrity titles analyzed were lower.

Newsstand sales for three titles showed a much stronger negative correlation with gas prices than the others: Soap Opera Digest (-0.59), Life & Style (-0.57), and In Touch (-0.46). On the other hand, People, with its positive correlation, was less subject to the adverse impact of the cost of gasoline than other titles.

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Vanessa Voltolina

Yes, We’re at a Tipping Point—Now What?

Vanessa Voltolina B2B - 11/18/2008-10:34 AM

CHICAGO—During a day one session at American Business Media’s Top Management Meeting  here, the Jordan, Edmiston Group presented the key findings from the ABM Financial Trend Report, 2005-2007. The report—which showed revenue from all branded sources as relatively flat and print as 84 percent of average b-to-b publications’ income in 2007—already felt like old news.

But noteworthy discussion did eventually come when the moderator, BtoB/Media Business editor Ellis Booker, asked panelists if once the economy straightened itself out, whether the world would be changed permanently. And by world, he was referring to the possibility of print numbers even again looking like they did in the 2005-2007 report. Or are we, he asked, at a tipping point?

Of course, a general, open-ended question is dangerous in a setting like this, as it encourages the kind of endless bloviating that makes people loathe business panels in general. But a quick, certain response came from both panelists: Yes.

Incisive Media’s CEO Bill Pollak said that his worry was that publishing had, in fact, reached a tipping point. The landscape has “changed for a typical advertiser,” he said. “I think the world will change after these 18 months, or however long it takes [for the recession to be over].” He predicts advertisers spending more on Google and direct response that they can get online—and less on print or even b-to-b Web sites. He also considers that ABM’s reported revenue mix—with 84 percent of average b-to-b publication revenue coming from print—to dramatically change in the coming months.

Greg Watt, president of Watt Publishing, ended the session with a significant (and deliberately open-ended) question for all publishers to ponder: What can we stop spending money on so that we start spending money on what will be important after the recession?

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Vanessa Voltolina

Women’s Magazine Editors Discuss Digital Strategy

Vanessa Voltolina emedia and Technology - 11/13/2008-12:20 PM


“I think the conclusion that we’ve [the panelists] all come to is that the challenging economy is neither good nor bad for publishers,” said New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin, “it’s just a reality.”

Belkin, who moderated Mediabistro’s sixth annual “Dinner and Discourse,” held last night at 24 Fifth Avenue, challenged six senior-level women’s magazine editors to discuss the future of digital strategy and online content development. The talk, though, shifted to some of the nuts and bolts of cultivating an online audience—and the growing pains that come with it.

Erin Dailey, Hearst Digital Media's Web site managing editor, has been shocked to see the kind of response that some of Hearst’s blog posts have received. Pre-election, Cosmopolitan posted a blog outlining Obama’s stance on women’s rights. “It was a relatively short post,” Dailey said, but she cited the response rate as overwhelming. The reason, she considered, could be that the blog post offered a new, timely way of reconfiguring this content, allowing it to better resonate with readers, and enhance both reader experience as well as drive metrics.

Similarly, when Essence.com posted a photo slideshow on its site, “Barack and Michelle Obama’s Love Story,” the brand saw a high response on its message boards for zero investment. “The photos were free,” said Essence.com managing editor Angela Burt-Murray.

To this end, Belkin wondered if the increase in online audience response is a more recent development, or a result of having more available technological resources. “I’m not sure if readers were less vocal 15 years ago, or just didn’t have the means to express themselves,” she said. Either way, panelists cited situations where user comments or discussion board postings were less than flattering. “How many ‘angry comments’ do you allow?” asked Belkin. Panel members, including Realsimple.com’s executive director Tanya Singer, agreed that moderation guidelines of both message boards and user comments should be part of editorial policy going forward.

 

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Vanessa Voltolina

Will Layoffs Slow Publishers’ Digital Initiatives?

Vanessa Voltolina emedia and Technology - 11/11/2008-10:28 AM


It’s too depressing to enumerate the layoffs that magazines have experienced in the past month or so. [If you’re looking for them, just scroll through FOLIO:’s latest news headlines.]

As print publishing has been hit hard, many companies have made the move to reorganize its resources with an online focus. As Lloyd Trufelman, the president of Trylon SMR, noted in a recent PRWeek story:

“I'm not aware of a single major magazine, especially a trade magazine, that hasn't realized that its future is on the Web, and [publishers] are grappling with how to make that transition,” adding that while many consumers were alarmed when Hearst decided to fold CosmoGIRL in October and continue in a Web-only presence, the publisher was acting in a forward-looking manner. “[The reaction] should have been the other way around, because [the Internet is] where the kids are and [Hearst] made a very smart magazine decision.”

In addition to CosmoGIRL’s continued web-only presence, Radar’s shuttering left its Web remains, Radaronline.com, to American Media, Inc., while Hearst’s Quick and Simple folded with the intention of shifting its focus to the 300,000-circulation magazine’s “newly-enhanced Web site.” B-to-b publishers like Source, Nielsen and F+W have also reorganized edit staffs to revolve around online.

While it’s clear that publishers recognize online as the next frontier, could staff cutbacks end up slowing digital growth? Layoffs at Mansueto Ventures, publisher of Fast Company, forced its standalone online group to merge with its print department. With Mansueto digital president Ed Sussman departing the company to form a social publishing firm based on open source content management system Drupal, it appears that even a leading, progressive publisher may find it difficult—if not impossible—to allocate sufficient resources to expanding and executing Web-specific initiatives.

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Vanessa Voltolina

Macy’s Deflates its Print Bubble

Vanessa Voltolina Sales and Marketing - 11/04/2008-14:03 PM

The world’s largest store, Macy’s, has decided to cut its entire magazine spend for the first half of next year. This, according to several publishers who were impacted by the retailer’s 2009 media plan.

This news comes amid Macy’s marketing binge, which includes its 150th birthday celebration (complete with fireworks and a gala last week), its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, and an overflowing holiday marketing plan. A Macy's spokeswoman declined to confirm the print cut, or disclose specifics of the company’s media-buying strategies. Macy's media agency, Mediaedge:cia, also declined to comment.

While the past few weeks in the print world have been abysmal, this development is yet another hit to publishers relying on pieces of Macy's magazine budget (it topped $20 million in the first half of 2008 according to TNS Media Intelligence) for faltering ad sales. Back in 2006, when the transportation industry was at an all-time low, American Airlines managing director Rob Britton reacted similarly, cutting AA’s magazine spending in half from their marketing budget and redirecting it to television and Internet.

Still, it’s not just Macy’s that’s cutting print. While many marketers have not yet finalized budgets for 2009, automakers Nissan, Land Rover and Jaguar report they plan to spend less in the new year. Since U.S. auto sales have fallen 32 percent in 2008, Ford recently cut $200 million of its ad spend, as well.

But these print cuts don’t just apply to the auto industry: with traditional media hit hardest, ’09 may find marketers applying their ad dollars to more-measurable media (e.g. digital). According to Eloqua’s 2008 “State of the Marketer” survey, 55 percent of marketers anticipate a decrease in print ad spend three years from now.

Macy’s decision to cut print advertising out of its marketing budget, while not shocking, is significant: that a major retailer considers print magazines the weakest link in their marketing scheme, coming in last place to parades, galas and online, is not good news for an industry that’s reeling. In the end, though, it’s just another blow to consumer magazine publishers looking for anything resembling a float to cling to.

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Vanessa Voltolina

Is Details Ready for its Close Up?

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 10/31/2008-10:22 AM

Reality television has shown us that anyone can be a star. So it makes sense that Details announced plans to team with an indie film producer Larry Meistrich for its next promotional venture: a movie based on its best reader submission.

There seems to be few things that Details knows: New York-based indie producer Meistrich ("You Can Count on Me" and "Sling Blade") will help choose the winner. And submissions can take virtually any form, from a few sentences to a finished screenplay.

And that’s about it. Oh yes, and you have until May 1, 2009 to enter.

Of course, promotional contests have been done before on a much simpler scale, like ReaderDigest.com’s joke submission contest, which pays $100 to if your joke is selected and published in the magazine. But with print advertising tanking, magazine’s are desperately looking to TV and film for bigger and better branding opportunities.

But the idea for an essentially user-generated feature film wasn’t taken from any current media offerings. “A mutual friend of both [Details editor] Dan and Larry said that the two of them should meet. They seemed to have the same goals; it just made sense,” said a Details spokesperson.

Details editor-in-chief Dan Peres said that TV coverage of the movie-winning idea, from script stage through production and release, was a possibility, but uncertain. A spokesperson said that although the magazine “doesn’t know what to expect,” once they decide upon a winner, they’ll go through the scripting process and see what coverage they can give in the magazine.

While Details is “still figuring out timing,” it also has no particular movie genre, submission count, or circulation number in mind. And as far as a budget, “So much depends on the idea,” said a Details spokesperson. “Is it filmed all in one city? If so, this makes it more affordable. But there really isn’t a set limit.”

They just want their readers—"intelligent, modern, metropolitan men,"—to be able to relate to the film. Or maybe they just don’t want it going the way of Men’s Vogue?

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Vanessa Voltolina

Look Grandma! No Cover Lines!

Vanessa Voltolina Consumer - 10/28/2008-15:58 PM

Magazine cover design is cyclical. When every magazine is trying to be innovative—be it E-ink or loaded with cover lines and type, as Esquire has done—there’s always an urge to move in the opposite direction. The latest (but not new) trend in cover design? Minimalism. Specifically, no cover lines.

It’s a route normally reserved for political figures or prominent global personalities. Time magazine’s famous 1993 cover shot of Bill Clinton might be the most prominent example, but Rolling Stone has also dabbled in the art of no cover lines with its July Obama cover and its iconic 1981 Lennon-Ono cover.

Eldr, the magazine that “celebrates aging,” recently published its one year anniversary issue touting “no cover lines.”

After experimenting with a number of cover line combinations, Eldr editor in chief Dave Bunnell decided to “throw caution to the wind and let the photo—of three female skydivers aged 78, 73, and 70—stand on its own. Readers I tested this on all loved it and a couple even said it ‘provoked’ them to open the magazine,” he wrote in an email to FOLIO:.

But wait. The Eldr cover actually does have cover lines, however unobtrusive. Bunnell wrote that they “add some punch.”

For magazines dependent on newsstand revenue, of course, going “nude”—without any discernable points of entry—isn’t always a viable option.

“Newsstand to us is a very minor part of our circulation strategy,” Bunnell wrote. “So I decided it was worth the risk."

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