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Dylan Stableford

A Publisher Who 'Scrutinized Everything' Still Has to Make Cuts

Dylan Stableford B2B - 03/02/2009-09:53 AM

Here’s the internal announcement regarding the folding of three Vance Publishing décor titles. The market might be unique, but the words should sound familiar to publishers struggling to navigate the economic crisis.


As you all know, we are currently in a worldwide economic recession that is not expected to turn around until some time next year. Advertising has been particularly hard hit. While we have made great strides to develop digital and event business, our primary source of revenue is still print advertising. For the past several months, your management team has painstakingly reviewed each and every one of our expenses. On the production front, we have reduced circulation, folio size and trim size. We have reduced travel for non-sales personnel. We have evaluated our contracts with outside vendors looking for better deals. We have scrutinized everything. These efforts will help the bottom line, but alone, will not be enough to ensure our long-term viability. With the vast majority of our expenses being people, it was with great difficulty that we made the decision to downsize our workforce and cease publication of our Décor brands.

The moves we announced today will allow us to continue to profitably serve the agriculture, beauty and wood industries. We remain optimistic about our future and committed to our mutual success. We appreciate your understanding and professionalism.
Bill Vance                                 
Peggy Walker

Dylan Stableford

Welcome to the Magazine Spin Zone, Part Two

Dylan Stableford B2B - 02/27/2009-16:25 PM

On Wednesday afternoon, I was told by a publishing CEO that American Business Media’s Digital Velocity conference, scheduled for March 3-4 at McGraw-Hill’s Conference Center in New York, had been cancelled.

Thinking this was an important story—given the cancellation of the American Magazine Conference the week before—I shot an e-mail to ABM and called a couple of the event’s organizers. No response. Our publisher e-mailed three of the event’s scheduled speakers. Each wrote back saying the event was cancelled; two added they were told ABM was “working on a way to recreate the content as a series of Webinars.” Meanwhile, a couple of the event’s exhibitors said that they were told not to send their booths to New York.

On Thursday morning, we posted a story with this headline:

ABM Cancels Digital Conference
Second publishing association event pulled within week.

Shortly thereafter, I received a call from ABM, which was upset about the word “cancelation.”

This is not a cancelation, they said. We are just moving locations (to ABM’s offices), shortening it (to a half-day) and are going to broadcast the sessions on the Web, they said. This way, we will be able to reach thousands of people on the Web instead of a few hundred—around the globe!—they said.

More than a few phone calls and e-mails later, reluctantly, I changed the headline to this:

ABM Digital Event Downsized
Two-day event now half-day, held in association's conference room.

Still, I’m not convinced.

When a publishing conference goes from a 250-attendee, two-day event to a half-day series of Webcasts, produced in a conference room, with less than 50 live attendees expected, can you really call it a “conference”?

ABM can. I can’t.

And I don’t get it. What’s wrong with saying your publishing event is cancelled? In this economy, it’s not like it’s a surprise, or an embarrassment. It’s reality.

The same goes for the sugarcoat-y spin the MPA and ABM try to put on their on monthly advertising figures (“Welcome to the Magazine Spin Zone”). It's like listening to an Alex Rodriguez press conference—in press release form.

More than that, I think what the MPA and ABM are doing is smart: trying to salvage something of value for their members in what’s becoming a brutal, brutal year in magazine publishing.

Just call it what it is.

Dylan Stableford

The FOLIO: 40: A Call for Nominees

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/25/2009-13:40 PM

The FOLIO: 40, our prestigious annual list of magazine industry innovators, power players and under-the-radar influencers, is fast approaching. Once again, we’re opening up the nomination process to all of our readers, both print and online.

We’re looking for nominees in the following categories:

C-Level Visionaries
Director-Level Doers
Under the Radar

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.

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

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Dylan Stableford

A HuffPo for Hip-Hop?

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 02/24/2009-12:10 PM

Elliott Wilson, the former editor of XXL, the Source and others, is prepping the launch of Rap Radar, a Web site he says he’d like to see become the Huffington Post of hip-hop, a platform artists and producers can use to sound off on music, politics and culture.

Wilson has a reputation for being outspoken. And given his reported tendency toward rants, when I spoke to Wilson yesterday, I found him to be surprisingly level-headed about everything, from the state of print (“If you’re a magazine, in this climate, you have to prove your value”) to the Web (“in the climate we’re in, launching this way makes the most sense”) to business (“creative people have to put their business hats on now … [the recession] is forcing all of us to grow up”) to marketing (“I’ve been doing the legwork on Facebook and Twitter”), branding (“we’ll do Rap Radar magazine, Rap Radar socks, lunch boxes, whatever”) and need for community (“Right now, the goal is to build a brand”).

Once the ad-supported site is up and running, Wilson plans to invite artists and producers to post entries, Huffington Post-style. “If Jay-Z wants to express his feelings about Obama, there’s not really a forum where he can do that right now.”

Whether or not he’s successful remains to be seen. (After all, if a guy like Jay-Z wanted to sound off on Obama, he could blog for the Huffington Post; if he wanted to renew his beef with Nas, he could post it on his own blog—as Kanye West has proven, if you blog enough, people will find you, wherever you are.)

But he seems to have the right approach: Build your brand online first, and if there’s enough interest and a business rationale, launch a print product later.

Read the full story here …

Dylan Stableford

Readymade's San Francisco Staff Balks at Meredith’s Move to Des Moines, Quits

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 02/24/2009-10:49 AM

Pretend, for a moment, you have two options:

Keep your job at a hip and by all accounts growing magazine, but you have to move to Iowa.


Quit your job at the hip and by all accounts growing magazine, but stay in San Francisco.

When Meredith decided to move Readymade from San Francisco to Des Moines (part of a 7 percent overall workforce reduction) I figured there would be a good number—even a dissenting majority—of the staff who would decide not to make the move. However, I didn’t think no one would! Yet, that's what happened: None of the "half dozen" editorial employees, including co-founders Shoshana Berger and Grace Hawthorne [pictured, left to right], chose Iowa, according to a Meredith representative.

Moves like this are not uncommon in the magazine industry—think Time Inc.’s sale of Time 4 Media to Bonnier (New York to Winter Park, Florida) or, more recently, Playboy’s U-Haul from New York to Chicago. But San Francisco to Des Moines is a bit more drastic, considering the magazine’s sensibility:

The magazine was part of the Urban Ore/East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse neighborhood that surrounded it; its editors were talking about sustainability issues before sustainability was cool. Fans are concerned that it will take on the more traditional, Midwestern tenor of its corporate siblings when it is headquartered in Iowa.

But does geography matter when it comes to producing a magazine?

“Your sense of place does have an impact. Even though you have a virtual community of writers and readers, you also have a physical one. Where you get a cup of coffee, who you run into on the street, that all has an effect on you,” publisher Cameron Woo of Berkeley, California-based Bark told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't want to sound snobby, but there's a different sense of place in the Bay Area than there is in Des Moines.”

On the bright side, at least for Des Moines-area magazine talent, this means Meredith is hiring.

Dylan Stableford

Following Dropouts, AMC Cancellation, MPA Appeals to Members

Dylan Stableford Association and Non-Profit - 02/20/2009-16:34 PM


Following the exits of some of its prominent members—including Hachette and New York magazine—and the startling cancellation of the American Magazine Conference—one of the magazine industry’s flashiest events—the Magazine Publishers of America sent a note to its members today criticizing articles about the dropouts (including, presumably, FOLIO:’s) and highlighting what it’s been doing for its dues-paying membership.

Here’s the e-mail:

From: "Nina Link and John Q. Griffin”
Reply-To: [REDACTED]
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2009 14:56:19 -0500
Conversation: A message from John Q. Griffin and Nina Link
Subject: A message from John Q. Griffin and Nina Link

Dear MPA Member: Your support of MPA enables us to accomplish so much on behalf of the industry during these tough economic times.  Unfortunately, a few companies have withdrawn from MPA resulting in a number of articles in the press. This coverage has ignored or downplayed the benefits that MPA delivers to its community and done a disservice to all of our collective efforts. So let’s set the record straight on what we’ve achieved together and highlight some of the tough government affairs, advertising and digital challenges we will be tackling in 2009.

Represent magazines’ needs before Congress, the courts and state governments: 

  • Saved the industry more than $4 billion in postal costs since 2000.  We continue to fight to hold down postal rates.
  • Protecting more than $1.5 billion in annual prescription drug ad revenue by fighting government  efforts to restrict DTC ads
  • Protecting the deductibility of advertising expense (disallowing just 20% of ad costs could cost the advertising industry, including magazines, + $20 billion/year)
  • Protecting First Amendment rights to free press and free speech, and defending our members’ intellectual property assets from legislative and judicial treats.

Support ad revenue: 

  • Produced sales materials based on more than 50 independent research studies showcasing magazine ad effectiveness in increasing purchase intent, generating efficient ROI, driving web traffic/search and boosting word of mouth
  • Using this information, MPA has called on key agency and client executives seeing more than 1,400 in 2008 and nearly 400 already in 2009
  • Helped achieve almost a 1 point increase in consumer magazines’ share of the advertising pie between 2004 and 3rd quarter 2008 (full year not yet available), based on Magazine Marketing Coalition efforts
  • Encouraging the evolution of magazine ad measurement to allow magazines’ cross-platform offerings to be valued fairly relative to other media

Maintain viable distribution channels and address environmental concerns:

  • Spearheading industry efforts in protecting consumer magazines’ interests from Do Not Mail Threats in Washington and in state capitals, and by shaping the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service
  • Working to increase single copy sales via the annual Retail Conference and development of best practices, research and promotions
  • Providing resources to address environmental concerns through activities such as the Please Recycle Campaign, carbon footprint research and Environmental Handbook

Help the industry prepare for and navigate the digital transition: 

  • Exploring emerging digital platforms and business models enabled by new technology
  • Sharing digital insights and best practices through conferences and more than 25 digital seminars addressing the editorial, advertising and financial topics related to our cross-platform business
  • Accelerating the development of effective online subscription marketing through seminars, committees, and research, as digital technologies evolve
  • Defending online advertising practices from legislative and regulatory challenges impacting the growth of the behavioral advertising market. 

Like its member companies, MPA began making the hard decisions regarding the scope of its operations late last summer. We reduced staff by 20% and our operating budget by 18%. We also implemented an across-the-board dues reduction of 12.8% for all domestic members except those paying minimum dues. We recently conducted surveys of 2,300 of our members and are using these results to continuously sharpen our focus and deliver tangible benefits. Again, we want to thank you for your support.  Tough times often bring out the best in people and in organizations.  Your dues enable our magazine community to be stronger together than apart.


John Q. Griffin
Magazine Publishers of America
President, Magazine Group
National Geographic Society

Nina B. Link
President & CEO
Magazine Publishers of America

Dylan Stableford

Source, Time Inc. Statements on Settlement

Dylan Stableford Audience Development - 02/19/2009-14:12 PM

Time Inc. and Source Interlink announced today that they have reached a multi-year distribution agreement, effectively settling Source's antitrust lawsuit with Time Inc. and Time Warner Retail. It remains to be seen if the other companies named in the suit—American Media, Bauer, Curtis, Hachette, Hudson News, Kable Distribution and News Group—will follow suit, and settle, too.

Here are the statements from Time Inc. and Source.

Time Inc.:

February 19, 2009

Time Inc. has reached an agreement with Source Interlink to distribute Time Inc. magazines. The  multi-year agreement provides benefits to both parties.  Time Inc. is pleased with the new terms, which include no per-copy fee, and believes the agreement provides the foundation for a strong ongoing business relationship with Source.

Source Interlink:

Source Interlink Companies, Time Inc. and Time/Warner Retail Announce Settlement
Lawsuit Settled in Favor of Multi-Year Agreement

Bonita Springs, FL – February 19, 2009 – Source Interlink Companies (NASDAQ:SORC) today announced the settlement of its antitrust lawsuit against Time Inc. and Time/Warner Retail Sales & Marketing Inc.  Using the strength of their long-standing association, the parties reached a multi-year agreement securing Source’s access to Time Inc. magazine products.

“I am happy to make this announcement because it means the continuation of what has been a mutually beneficial relationship.  We have enjoyed working with our partners at Time and plan to keep working with them for many years to come”, declared Greg Mays, Chairman and CEO of Source.  “This agreement is effective immediately and assures that we can continue to supply all our mainstream, specialty and international customers with the popular Time titles.”   

“As we move ahead, the prospect of growth is clear.  It is fully our intention to create a bond with our publishers and national distributors that is as strong as the relationship we have with our retail partners,” Mays added.  

New Retail Business for Source Interlink Distribution

In a separate story, Source Interlink Companies today reported that its magazine distribution unit, Source Interlink Distribution (SID), has been awarded important new business from Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger / Fry’s Companies and Basha’s Supermarkets.  This additional business increases SID’s store count by 662 stores in 9 states.

“We are extremely pleased to announce this expression of confidence from our retailer partners,” said Greg Mays, Chairman and CEO of Source.  “The action of these leading retailers is particularly gratifying in light of the recent market disruptions.  As the flow of product to our distribution network resumes, nearly all of our major retailers have reaffirmed their selection of SID as their exclusive supplier of magazine products. We feel this customer loyalty reflects their recognition of the great service we have provided them over the years. Our goals and those of our retail partners and publisher clients remain aligned. Finally, I want to acknowledge our employees for both their core commitment and their energy in building new business.”

In addition to SID, which is one of the largest mainstream magazine wholesalers in the US, Source also operates the largest distributor of CDs and DVDs, the largest publisher of enthusiast magazines, the largest distributor of magazines to bookstores and other specialty retailers, and the largest importer of foreign magazine titles to US newsstands.

Dylan Stableford

The Atlantic Tries Regional Approach at the Newsstand

Dylan Stableford Audience Development - 02/17/2009-10:58 AM

The consumer magazine industry took a major hit at the newsstand during the second half of 2008. Of the nearly 500 magazines tracked by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, a staggering 355—some 75 percent—saw their single copy sales decline between June and December, while just 116 managed to increase sales at the newsstand.

One of those 116 was the Atlantic, which increased its single copy sales by … 1 percent. But the magazine is trying to goose that number, and for its March issue, the Atlantic is publishing four quasi-regional editions—New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto—each with targeted covers for its cover story “How the Crash Will Reshape America.” (The rest of the country gets the New York cover.)

The Atlantic averaged 57,880 single copy sales per issue during the second half of 2008, per ABC. Overall, the magazine’s average total paid and verified circulation was 456,529 during that timeframe—an increase of 5.8 percent over the last six months of 2007 and a healthy bonus—56,529 copies—delivered on its 400,000 rate base.

Dylan Stableford

Bonus: 257 Magazines Overdelivered on Circ Guarantees During Second Half

Dylan Stableford Audience Development - 02/11/2009-18:11 PM

As we found out definitively this week, the consumer magazine industry felt the brunt of the U.S. economic meltdown at the newsstand during the second half of 2008. As we reported, a staggering 355 magazines tracked by ABC—some 75 percent—saw their single copy sales decline between June and December. (Just 116 managed to increase sales at the newsstand.)

There was one major bright spot for publishers, however. Some 257 magazines overdelivered on their rate base guarantees to advertisers, while just 27 missed them.

This is good for those vying against television for bigger slices of marketers’ advertising budgets.

“With TV guarantees, under delivery is the norm,” Jack Hanrahan, publisher of the newsletter CircMatters, wrote in the latest edition. “Deficiencies of [5-to-10 percent] are not unusual. Makegood spots provide the missing advertising weight but the weight usually falls outside of the weeks when the rating points were desired.”

But giving advertisers too large a bonus—like Game Informer, which distributed, on average, of 1,217,598 more copies per issue than it guaranteed—can be problematic, and smacks of missed revenue.

Here are the top 10 over-and-underachievers during the second half, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.


Game Informer 3,517,598 2,300,000 1,217,598 52.94%
Giant 372,673 250,000 122,673 49.07%
Figure 733,893 550,000 183,893 33.44%
Domino 1,047,916 800,000 247,916 30.99%
National Review 187,968 150,000 37,968 25.31%
Archaeology 263,756 215,000 48,756 22.68%
Organic Gardening 284,675 235,000 49,675 21.14%
Technology Review 181,123 150,000 31,123 20.75%
Washingtonian 129,757 110,000 19,757 17.96%
BH+G: American Patchwork 293,918 250,000 43,918 17.57%


Soap Opera Weekly 169,674 225,000 -55,326 -24.59%
Mira! 93,259 120,000 -26,741 -22.28%
Today's Health & Wellness 137,902 175,000 -37,098 -21.20%
Athlon Baseball 143,986 170,000 -26,014 -15.30%
Life & Style 472,158 550,000 -77,842 -14.15%
In Touch 898,911 1,000,000 -101,089 -10.11%
PGA Tour Partners 483,183 525,000 -41,817 -7.97%
Workbench 278,702 300,000 -21,298 -7.10%
Robb Report 113,496 120,000 -6,504 -5.42%
Athlon Football 785,735 830,000 -44,265 -5.33%

For more fun with Fas-Fax, if you can stand it, click here ...

Dylan Stableford

VIDEO: SI Swimsuit Cover Revealed on Letterman

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 02/10/2009-09:13 AM

Last night in New York, the cover of Sports Illustrated’s perennially anticipated (and scorned) swimsuit issue—and its accompanying billboard on Broadway—was revealed on the Late Show with David Letterman. More on the business of the swimsuit issue later today on

Dylan Stableford

Domino Falls, and Shelter Magazines Run for Cover

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 02/06/2009-16:50 PM

The announcement by Condé Nast that it is shutting down Domino, its four-year-old shelter title, while not surprising, given the magazine advertising climate, hit harder than most. (On the day the news broke, I got more IMs—many including sad emoticons—than I have for other magazine closings.)

I have an odd, emotional attachment to Domino. Perhaps it’s because their launch party—a swanky, $500,000 bash held in Lower Manhattan—was one of the first magazine launch parties I ever attended.

(It could also be that I have somewhat of an interior design fetish, and sometimes fantasize about becoming an interior designer—with all the requisite antler-based light fixtures.)

Obviously, I’m not alone. The outcry in the blogodome was fast and furious:

Fans of the girlish, how-to decorating magazine owned by Condé Nast were vociferous in their disappointment, posting anguished comments on design sites like Apartment Therapy, Decorno and Design Sponge (which accrued 498 remarks in just a few hours), as well as nondesign sites, like The Huffington Post. Even Gawker readers set aside their snark to mourn. ... The commenters bemoaned the death of a magazine that “felt” like them, and worried that their Domino subscription renewals, already paid, would yield subscriptions to Architectural Digest, Condé Nast’s remaining shelter title (median reader age: 50).

In terms of a business, though, the magazine just wasn’t working for Condé Nast.

Which I admit, working for a b-to-b magazine, is hard to fathom, considering its estimated—though surely inflated—ad revenue was up 24.3 percent to $60 million in 2008, and ad pages (down 4.1 percent) fared better than the industry average. (I mean, how can you not figure out a way to be a viable business with $60 million in ad revenue?)

Not only that, the magazine was overdelivering on its rate base by about 200,000 copies—due mainly to taking over House & Garden’s subscriptions after Condé Nast decided to fold the 106-year-old title.

I guess in the end, with a name like Domino, it was sure to fall.

Dylan Stableford

Granger on Flap Over Esquire's Cover Flap

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 02/06/2009-10:36 AM

The February cover of Esquire, featuring—who else?—Barack Obama on its cover, caused a bit of a stir in hardlining church-state circles over a cover “window” that opens up to an ad for the Discovery Channel, as well as a mini-TOC.

Editor David Granger, who’s become something of a serial envelope pusher (see: Esquire’s e-ink cover, margin novella, etc.), claims it wasn’t a gimmick cooked up by some outside the box sales executive at Hearst, but a pure editorial play.  “This was an editorial idea,” he wrote in a post on the American Society of Magazine Editors blog.  “It's one of the several manufacturing gimmicks I presented to my publisher about a year and a half ago as things I would love to do if we could find a way to pay for them.”

RELATED VIDEO: Granger’s Keynote at the 2007 FOLIO: Show

Granger’s reasons for pushing the envelope this time run deeper than his well-documented restlessness with his position as editor of a print magazine.

“I got sick of reading about the demise of print, which is the best, most rewarding medium ever, and I got sick of all forms of print being labeled ‘old media,’” he wrote. “Yeah, print has been around for a long time, but that's because it works really well. Both aesthetically and as a business—which is more than one can say for most forms of ‘new media.’ So we've been trying to find ways to get people to reassess the print medium.”

For its part, ASME said it did not violate any guidelines: “A clever and audacious use of print, yes; an attempt to disguise advertising as editorial or compromise editorial independence, no.”

Read more here …