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Bill Mickey

The Industry Standard to Rise Again (Online)

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 10/31/2007-02:00 AM
 

Moderating a panel of tech media publishers and bloggers yesterday at the Future of Business Media conference in New York, Hammock Publishing CEO and blogger Rex Hammock asked panelist Bob Carrigan (IDG CEO) outright if IDG was indeed quietly planning to relaunch The Industry Standard, the once high-flying magazine that covered, and famously mirrored, the stratospheric highs and crushing lows of the Internet economy circa 1998-2001. After some demurring, Carrigan said that yes, the brand would relaunch in a "blog format" online in December, confirming what some observant individuals have been wondering for the last couple months.

Introduced in 1998, The Industry Standard rocketed to an amazing 7,558 advertising pages in 2000 only to fall victim less than a year later to the equally dramatic dot-com crash. The magazine folded in late summer 2001 after negotiations between publisher Standard Media and majority owner IDG fell through-and, some industry observers felt, one too many rooftop parties. Final issues of the magazine barely scraped 90 pages and had the dubious distinction of being number-one in decline in ad pages and revenues.

But the brand lived on. Carrigan noted at the FOBM conference that the archives have remained popular and a staff has been quietly working on a social media-based platform for the relaunch. There will be bloggers and "substantial input from the community," says Carrigan. For now, there's a sign-up box inviting users to a relaunch notification.

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Bill Mickey

ASME’s Cover of the Year Finalists Announced

Bill Mickey Design and Production - 10/22/2007-02:00 AM

 


The finalists for the American Society of Magazine Editors' (ASME) second annual Best Cover Contest were announced today. The judges apparently have a thing for The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert-his image is on three of the finalists.


L-R: Best Celebrity Cover, Best Concept Cover, Best Coverline


And they like babes on buildings, too.

 

-R: Best Celebrity Cover, Best Fashion Cover

There are seven categories and 21 finalists. See the full gallery here.


 

 

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Bill Mickey

Magazines ‘Out of Vogue’ Says Economist

Bill Mickey Consumer - 09/28/2007-02:00 AM

The Economist puffs into the print-is-dead smoke-screen with a story noting that consumer magazines ‘have problems.' And you'll never guess the culprit: The Internet. Apparently people are ‘spending more time' there and an ‘even greater share of advertising spending' is moving online. How much? We don't know, the writer doesn't provide any metrics.

Worse: ‘Magazine units are mostly a drag on growth for their parents.' How much of a drag? Still don't know. But apparently they're a drag on at least two parents-maybe, and possibly more-because Time Warner is fending off rumors of a Time Inc. divestment and ‘people in the industry' are saying it may also sell IPC Media, its British subsidiary, and that ‘publishers reckon' Bertlesmann may sell Gruner + Jahr next year.

That the divisions might be sold someday (isn't everything basically for sale anyway?) and they may indeed be a drag on the bottom line is all relative, and certainly not a reflection of the overall market. Time Warner and Bertlesmann are massive media conglomerates with unique financial pressures and don't represent the consumer magazine industry as a whole. Neither does Emap, which the writer determines might not sell because it's possible no one will pay good prices, which will only add to the industry's ‘gloom.'

But then, and I never thought I'd ever write this in a sentence, here the writer is hoisted on his or her petard, as they say. If Time Inc. is ever sold, buyers will line up around the block, and even Emap's magazine division is reportedly seeing interest from a healthy mix of private equity and strategic buyers. Why? Because in the right context magazines are still an excellent business to be in.

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Bill Mickey

The Economist: $1 Million Chicago Marketing Push

Bill Mickey Sales and Marketing - 09/17/2007-02:00 AM

Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune reports that The Economist is beginning a $1 million marketing push to boost readership in Chicago. It's part of a multi-city campaign that also includes Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Baltimore and Austin, Texas. Chicago's slice of the pie? 25,000 of the 700,000 U.S. copies, reports Rosenthal.

Be ready to dig in, however. This is no magazine for the time-sensitive. Editor-in-chief John Micklethwait wants you to work for your new global perspective: "You turn on your television anywhere now, you get so much pap that what I think people want is substance. We're going to make them think. There's no great theme behind it. We just follow the things we think are interesting. ... It is a part of the market that not everybody is in. But we've found the top of the market is bigger than other people thought."

The pap he refers to? "We have sadly undercovered Britney Spears," says Micklethwait.  

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Bill Mickey

U.S. News and World Report Now in “Best Of” Business

Bill Mickey Consumer - 09/07/2007-02:00 AM

Keith Kelly at The New York Post reports that news mag U.S. News and World Report will be increasing its frequency of ‘Best Of' issues-stretching, for example, ‘Best Hospitals' to ‘Best Kids Hospitals' for the September 3 issue.

Kelly notes that a source concedes the magazine is "effectively tossing in the towel on any plan to try to compete with Time and Newsweek on news."

U.S. News president Bill Holiber told Folio: basically the same thing two years ago when it announced a strategic shift away from print to focus more on its Web business, essentially letting Time and Newsweek fight over the mass newsweekly market themselves:

"At times it may come across as being not the most exciting product, but it's a very well-thought-out, information-driven product. As we move in this direction, I think you'll see more information on the page. I think Time and Newsweek are battling it out, trying to be all things to all people. They want to be big-very, very big. We've found there's a certain type of consumer we attract, and that's who we're focusing on: "Give me the facts, I'll decide."

And, after all, that might not be such a bad thing, and maybe Time and Newsweek should consider competing with U.S. News as it embarks on its new content mission, since the newsweeklies are constantly fending off the ‘news-as-commodity' specter. Kelly reports that the magazine will be publishing product-oriented ‘Best of' issues; a ‘Best Cars' issue is in the works. "We'll probably look at consumer products," editor Brian Kelly told the other Kelly. Look out Consumer Reports.

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Bill Mickey

Google Dumps Mags From Print Ad Sales Program

Bill Mickey Sales and Marketing - 02/12/2007-03:00 AM

Remember last winter when Google announced their print ad sales program? The search company bought ad space in magazines and newspapers, chopped it up into smaller sizes and began selling it to its AdWords customers. Well, Tom Phillips, with the somewhat incongruous title of director of print ads at Google, sat for an interview with Paidcontent.org’s Rafat Ali at the DeSilva + Phillips Media Dealmakers Summit last week and revealed magazines no longer fit the formula.

Phew, I think.

Newspapers, however, have become the preferred partner for their program. “One of the things we learned was high frequency was better. Daily newspapers are a better partner for us than other media,” said Phillips.

Phillips added that the program is about to graduate from alpha to beta mode sometime this spring, with roughly 30 newspaper companies, and their large metropolitan dailies, on board. The program has, he said without offering details, “exceeded our own benchmark by two-and-a-half times.”

He also noted that just because newspapers are in a slump doesn’t mean there’s no potential left. “This is a $47 billion market in the U.S. We think it’s been beaten down so much there’s some value we can bring back.”

The value of the program, says Phillips, will essentially be twofold. Newspapers potentially get advertisers that wouldn’t normally think to use that medium, and the marketers will be able to fine-tune their campaigns with better impact measurement tools.

According to Phillips, the newspapers enter available inventory into the program and sit back and wait for the bids to roll in. The papers are offering inventory sizes and sections that don’t already have national advertisers in them.

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Bill Mickey

Online Revenue At What Cost?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/29/2007-03:00 AM

Fellow b-to-b magazine blogger, Paul Conley, emailed me a note about his latest post. It seems Ziff Davis’s eWeek has begun using IntelliTXT’s keyword linking technology in its Web site editorial. I’ve written about this before, as has Conley, who this time suggests that pressures stemming from owner Willis Stein’s efforts to sell Ziff Davis have resulted in a revenue-at-all-costs Web site strategy:

Ziff Davis has had a dismal performance of late in print. But online revenue has risen. And that has given investment bank Lehman Brothers, which is advising Ziff Davis on a sale, something to push. And when you have a private equity company and an investment bank both intent on boosting online revenue in the short term to help drive the sale of the company, you’re going to wind up with some embarrassing behavior.

I don’t know what the magazine’s motivation is, beyond “monetizing” their editorial in a rather overt manner, but, as I’ve said before, it absolutely detracts from editorial integrity. But here’s another spin that you might find interesting: After a cursory look at the ways eWeek is using the linking technology, I found a review on Softek’s Storage Manager 2.5. The word “Storage” is hyperlinked to an IntelliTXT pop-up ad for Sun’s Solaris 10 operating system (in subsequent refreshes the link did not show up). Likewise, in a breaking news story about IBM’s purchase of Softek Storage Solutions, the words “Storage Solutions” link to a pop-up for HP’s DL 380 G5 server. As a publisher, I don’t think I’d want one vendor’s name linked to a pop-up ad for a competing vendor’s product.

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Bill Mickey

You Know You’Re Old When…

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/22/2007-03:00 AM

Interesting blog commentary and reporting out there recently involving Gawker Media and Weblogs, Inc. -- networks started by Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis that share a famous rivalry. The upshot? How both of these early movers in blog network business models are suffering old-media growing pains. It’s an art-imitating-life moment.

Valleywag, a Gawker Media blog, is reporting that AOL, which bought Calacanis’ Weblogs Inc. in 2005 as the first major blog M&A transaction for an estimated $25 million, is shutting down a collection of its smaller blog sites to focus attention on bigger revenue bread-winners like Engadget, Autoblog and Joystiq. Calacanis points out in a comment reply to the Valleywag post that “Niche blogs are great, but when you're running a scale business like AOL is you're better off focusing on your HUGE winners like Autoblog, Engadget, Joystiq, etc.” Sound familiar?

As for Denton’s Gawker Media, its namesake blog recently shuffled top editors as outgoing Chris Mohney will end his six-month tenure to be replaced by a returning Choire Sicha, who ran the site three years ago. In a Wall Street Journal Online story, Denton points out that, in some ways, his growing new media company is very much like an old media company. “Gawker Media is increasingly like a mainstream media company, where writers are reassigned, or leave the company, stay in the orbit and return, later.”

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Bill Mickey

The Many Lives Of Content

Bill Mickey Editorial - 01/15/2007-03:00 AM

I’m writing a story for the February issue on writer’s contracts and how magazine editors are setting them up in light of online’s growing influence. Contracts, and how the magazine’s – or Web site’s – use of content plays out are an interesting reflection of where the industry is pursuing their product opportunities – or should be. The models are varied – some publishers have retained separate online content producers, while others combine print and online editorial production teams. Consider MacWorld, which test-drives some if its content online before it makes it into the print title. (Kind of like what I’m doing here, to a lesser degree, for a story that’s scheduled for February.)

But it’s more than that. ”You can’t even say online,” says Erik Sherman, freelance writer and chair, American Society of Journalists and Authors contracts committee. “How about television? How about radio? What happens if your story gets turned into a movie, which gets turned into a Broadway musical? How about book rights?”

The New York Times on Sunday pointed out how magazines are serializing their office life as reality TV fodder, and content is regularly being turned into Webcast material. How this is all represented in a contract is getting increasingly complicated. But as publishers navigate the rights issues, the progressive ones are thinking beyond first publication and all electronic to what they think the content will ultimately be used for and representing that in their agreements with the content creator.

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Bill Mickey

Get 'Em While They're Hot

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 01/08/2007-03:00 AM

Private equity investors are chomping at the bit for more M&A action in 2007 after making headlines in 2006 as the new media M&A rainmakers. Indeed, private equity players are making a splash across many markets, not just magazines and media. Even as small to mid-sized companies are bought out and rolled up into operating platforms, large public companies are taking advantage of the active market to go private – to find relief from Sarbanes-Oxley, among other motivators.

But even as the reporting continues to examine private equity’s boom, there’s a building undercurrent of speculation on when the good times will end. At ABM’s Top Management Meeting in Chicago last November, bankers were marveling out one side of their mouths at private equity’s rise over the last 12 months while wondering out the other side when economic conditions would put the breaks on the whole thing. For now, no one is willing to get too specific. The stars have aligned: publishers have generally built up their event divisions, whether organically or via acquisition, and have moved aggressively into e-media with nary a glass of Kool-Aid in sight. And there’s a hungry pack of buyers ready to get going.

And e-media this year will be a critical dealmaking factor as all of 2006’s must-have features, services and products coalesce into practical (or not) business elements. As if to underscore buyer eagerness and, possibly, the sense that all good things will someday come to an end, the DeSilva + Phillips 2007 M&A Report puts it this way: “In 2006, media executives were still worried that getting it wrong would be more harmful than not acting at all. Yet if there was ever a case of pent-up demand – and a growing recognition that now is the time to act decisively – look at your watch. It’s time.”

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Bill Mickey

Too Radical?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 12/18/2006-03:00 AM

Chris Anderson, Wired editor, Long Tail author and Folio: cover subject, blogged about his ideas on ‘radical transparency’ in magazine publishing: “If the key word is ‘participation’, how could we encourage that to the fullest? If trust comes come from transparency, how might we open the entire process?”

Anderson takes the ideas of reader participation and transparent, ‘open source’ journalism to the wall, setting up a scenario where, among other ideas, writers expose their stories during the development stage and readers get to help – with downside comments, too. For example:

2) Show what we're working on. We already have internal wikis that are common scratch pads for teams working on projects. And most writers have their own thread-gathering processes, often online. Why no open them to all? Who knows, perhaps other people will have good ideas, too.

Upside: Tap the wisdom of crowds

Risk: Tip off competitors (although I'd argue that this would just as likely freeze them; after all the prior art would be obvious to all); Risks "scooping ourselves", robbing the final product of freshness.

3) “Process as Content”*. Why not share the reporting as it happens, uploading the text of each interview as soon as you can get it processed by your flat-world transcription service in India? (This may sound ridiculous, but it’s exactly what wire services such as the AP have long done--they update their stories with each new fragment of information). After you’ve woven together enough of the threads to have a semi-coherent draft, why not ask your readers to help edit it? (We did it here, and it worked great). And while you’re at it, let them write the headlines and subheads, not just for the site but also the punchier ones for the RSS feed and the one that has to work with the art for the magazine.

Upside: Open participation can make stories better--better researched, better thought through and deeper. It also can crowdsource some of the work of the copy desk and editors. And once the story is done and published, the participants have a sense of collective ownership that encourages them to spread the word.

Risk: Curating the process can quickly hit diminishing returns. Writers end up feeling like a cruise director, constantly trying to get people to participate. And all the other risks of the item above.

When you’re brainstorming, it’s always best for someone to present scenarios in one extreme or another – it’s one way of meeting in the middle. But it’s been interesting to see industry reactions. Some agree with Anderson, for different reasons. Others aren’t so sure.

I guess I’m in the second camp. I’m all for finding ways to ratchet up reader and user participation wherever possible. Any way a magazine can get its readers to further absorb the brand and content into their daily lives is essential.

Yet I can’t get my head around opening up content that’s historically been created by a magazine’s editors to public participation for fear of two risks that Anderson already cites, but I find fatal:

1. There’s no way I’d want my story ideas and sources exposed to the competition. Something Business 2.0’s editor, Josh Quittner, is drooling over at the expense of Wired.

2. If I, as a reader, participate in the creation of a story, whether by contributing ideas, sources or simply tweaking subheads, I’ll be burnt out on it by the time the story is finished. The novelty of participating is one thing, but what happens to the informational value of the story once it’s finally done if you’ve already been exposed to every creative nuance?

Some of this is ideal for certain areas of online content creation, something Quittner points out. Yet, Anderson proposes his ideas for the whole operation – print and Web. More...

Bill Mickey

Integrating Print And Online

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 12/11/2006-03:00 AM

Rodale announced today that they’re making some big changes in their org charts. Namely, by giving individual publishers their own dedicated online sales staff while simultaneously training print staff to sell online.

They’re also reassigning online editors to their respective editors in chief—this is particularly interesting to me because it puts online content control squarely in the hands of a magazine’s editor. It eliminates the content divide that separates the two editorial realms. At the end of the day, if you’ve got enough editorial staff to rationally support the operation via print and online, why not unite the vision under one content and policy guru? In Rodale’s case this seems to be not just the editor in chief but also a brand editor assigned to oversee brand initiatives across the entire media platform.

For more on Rodale’s integration efforts:
-Rodale Moves to Integrate Online, Print Staffs, via MediaWeek

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