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Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Wax Poetics

Robert Newman Design and Production - 08/22/2014-10:22 AM

I love the current trend towards independently published magazines. There's a great energy and passion in the movement, whether the publications cover food, fashion, music or art. Not so with their cover design though. To my eye, several trendy mags tend to be archly cool and distant, lacking the eye-popping quality that great covers embody. So many indie magazine covers look sleepy and dull, like the tabletop art books they emulate. Fortunately, there's Wax Poetics, whose covers are brilliant splashes of imagery, that resemble old-fashioned LPs filled with engaging brightness and poster-like impact.

Case in point: the latest cover, issue #59. It features a photo by Jonathan Mannion of Aaliyah, the young R&B singer and actress who tragically died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22. Creative director Freddy Anzures treats each cover as a graphic work of art, with minimal cover lines (in this case just Aaliyah's name) and simple typography. As with all Wax Poetics issues, there's so much goodness that they need two covers. Like a classic LP, you can flip the A-side over and there's a second cover on the back, this one featuring contemporary R&B singer Kelela (photographed by Yev Kazannik). That's a standard Wax Poetics format, and it's so effective that sometimes the back cover is better than the front. In this case they even put the issue's coverlines on the back instead of the front!

I'm a little biased when it comes to Wax Poetics, because it's one of my favorite magazines. The content mix of old school funk and R&B, jazz, Latin, blue-eyed soul and contemporary hip hop is right in my cultural sweet spot, and it doesn't hurt that the magazine is filled with vintage LP covers and labels and lots of back-in-the-day photographs. The covers work as brilliant graphic statements, and they blow up on social media. Awhile back I posted a cover featuring RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan on my Tumblr page, and it quickly became the most "liked" and reposted item I've ever featured.

What I really like about this Aaliyah cover so much is that it's simple, graphic, and iconic. It's also designed to engage its audience on every possible platform. This is a classic case of a magazine developing a cover format that not only works on an issue-to-issue basis, but also fits into a visual branding that defines the publication's identity. It's also a great example of how a low-budget magazine can use vintage stock photography to create a contemporary and modern-looking cover format.

There's a complete collection of every Wax Poetics cover stretching back to #1 on their website here.

No discussion of a Wax Poetics cover is complete without talking about its very distinctive and unusual logo. I'll admit that my old-school sensibilities were unsettled when the magazine ditched its old, all lowercase sans serif vintage jazz LP-style logo several years ago for an illustrative and more stylized approach. It's taken me a couple years to come around to appreciating the uniqueness of the new logo, with its resonance of LPs and recording tape. Apparently the editors and creative director are so sure of their branding and audience loyalty that they're comfortable not having the actual title of the magazine in the logo. I don't know anyone who refers to Wax Poetics as WP, but the logo is smart and stylish, reflecting the mix of old school and contemporary cutting edge that defines its editorial voice.

And it's that classic and modern mix that really makes this Wax Poetics cover so wonderful. It is vibrant, iconic, bold and simple, which makes it one of the brand's most memorable covers of the year.

Linda Ruth

When Big Data Isn’t Quite Big Enough

Linda Ruth Audience Development - 08/19/2014-14:00 PM



Experts on the issue of Internet privacy seem to agree on one point: It doesn’t exist. We are told that there is virtually nothing about any of us that cannot be learned with a click of a mouse.

I recently got an email alert from a data security company warning me to improve my levels of security by enabling two-factor password reset, and by supporting self service password reset for my audience members. The reason for this was, of course, a security breach. A Russian hacker group has amassed over 4.5 billion stolen personal records, according to the alert. 

Knowing just how much of our information a Russian teenage boy can get access to makes the recent Lands’ End/GQ contretemps all the more puzzling.

Lands’ End, according to a New York Times report, set up a partnership with CondĂ© Nast, to provide free magazines to its best customers. On the face of it, it’s a great idea. The customer gets a gift from the catalog merchant, the merchant gets credit for appreciating its customers, and CondĂ© Nast gets its magazines out in front of a new potential buyer. Win/win/win.

Somewhere along the line, something went wrong.

Conservative religious families, who had bought uniforms for their children to wear to a Christian private school, were in an uproar when the aptly (if coincidentally) named “Play with Fire” issue arrived in their mailboxes. It featured a topless woman as the cover model.

A few of my publisher friends called to pass this bit on to me. They all thought it knee-slappingly funny. So, in fact, do I. However, as one commented, “In the age of big data, we should be able to do better than that. It shouldn’t take much to figure out that a conservative clothing retailer and a racy cover image don’t mix.”


Baird Davis

How Book-a-Zines Are Endangering the Newsstand

Baird Davis Consumer - 08/11/2014-08:51 AM

You might have noticed that high priced "book-a-zine" products, carrying the brand name of well-recognized publications, are appearing more frequently on the newsstand. Their sales increases have been heralded as a bright spot on the otherwise dour newsstand scene.

I hate to throw cold water on this party, but they could actually be having a negative effect on overall newsstand performance. Perhaps, even more importantly, it now appears that the book-a-zine cover pricing experience may have translated into an over exuberance for increasing the cover price of regular frequency publications.

Seven Underlying Newsstand Market "Truths"

As background for this discussion, I've listed a set of what I'll call "newsstand market truths." These are not carved in stone, but they're a set of benchmarks to help guide publishers and circulators when making cover pricing and newsstand-only product (book-a-zine) decisions.

They're not meant to restrict innovation, but they can help publishers set efficient newsstand strategies and guard against over optimistic cover price assumptions and flawed newsstand-only product decisions. At their own peril, publishers have historically ignored these "truths."

  1. Zero-Sum Game - There's a popular belief (or is it a hope?) that sales of new products or sales increases from existing titles are all incremental at the newsstand. But the reality is the mature newsstand market is a zero-sum game - sales increases, both in units and revenue, for one title will result in comparable sales decreases for other titles. This phenomenon is especially acute within category. 
  2. Newsstand is Not a One-Off Experience - Newsstand sales for regular frequency publications are built on repeat customers. For example, the average newsstand buyer of a given monthly publication purchases 2, 3 or even 4 issues annually. For weekly publications, the average buyer may purchase 6, 7 or more issues annually. However, cover price increases reduce the average number of annual purchases of a given publication. This is why publishers should analyze purchasing behavior over an extended period of time when testing cover prices.
  3. Multiple Title Purchases - Many newsstand buyers purchase a multiple number of magazines, even within a competitive category. Cover price increases can limit (see: Zero-Sum Game) the total number of magazines purchased annually. 
  4. Cannibalization - The excessive build up subscription circ can certainly cannibalize newsstand sales. Sales can also be cannibalized by new non-competitive titles (the zero-sum market effect), but cannibalization is most readily understood by the effect of competitive titles and single-shot publications (i.e. "book-a-zines" or special editions) carrying the parent publication brand. 
  5. Cover Price Increases Result in Fewer Unit Sales - Increased revenue from cover price increases can, in some cases, offset the loss of unit sales, but price increases (especially those greater than 10%) for regular frequency titles generally result in unit sales declines. This is particularly true in the current market environment. 
  6. What's Good for the Major Titles is Good for the Market - The newsstand is a "best-seller" driven market led by major brands that are published on a regular frequency basis. The Top 20 newsstand sales publications account for a massive portion of the audited publication newsstand market—64.6 percent of units sold and 56.8 percent of revenue. So anything that affects the sales of the best selling regular frequency publications will have a huge residual impact on the newsstand channel as a whole. 
  7. Cover Price Sensitivity - Cover price sensitivity for regular frequency publications is very acute—never more so than in this current market environment. See the "cover price sensitivity divide" section of this article for more details.

Book-a-Zines May Be Biting the Hand that Feeds Them

Most of the best selling book-a-zines carry the brand of regular frequency publications. In fact a great majority of them are published by the seven leading newsstand publishing companies: Time. Inc, American Media, Wenner, Meredith, Bauer, Hearst and Condé Nast.

Book-a-zine sales performance, because of their symbiotic relationship with the parent publication, often has an inverse affect on their regular frequency parent. The zero-sum nature of the market and the prospect for cannibalization are continuously in play. The effect can potentially be more severe if the book-a-zine is carrying the brand of one of the top 20 newsstand publications (which many do). Then, its effect may extend beyond the parent publication to include the category and even the market as a whole.

Proliferating and Disruptive - It's increasingly evident that book-a-zines are subsuming prime locations on checkout racks, replacing regular frequency publications.

Recently, I visited my local supermarket (16 checkout lanes). On the checkout rack, I found 41 different book-a-zines on display with cover prices ranging from $9.99 to 14.99: Time (10), Life (9), BH&G (5), People (4), US Weekly (4) and one each for National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, Cooking Light, Southern Living, Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Time. Inc is, by far, the major player in the book-a-zine arena. In my small survey, they published 27 of the 41 titles, while Meredith and Wenner (five each), Condé Nast, National Geographic and TV Guide (one or two each) combined to publish the balance.

These results are confirmed by Magnet and AAM data. In the first half of 2013, Time. Inc sales of non-audited publications exceeded the entire combined non-audited publication sales of the other Big 7 publishers. Plus, they were the only publisher whose sales of non-audited publications rose during this period.

I probably shouldn't have been, but I was amazed at the extent to which book-a-zines have infiltrated the checkout lanes and how they disrupt display. Their sheer numbers and seemingly endless on-sale periods make it very difficult to properly dress the racks. The result, at least in the store I visited, was a messy disorganized display, which made it hard to identify regular frequency publications.

Cannibalizing Sales of Weekly Celebrity Publications

The limited sales data that is available supports the cannibalization effect of book-a-zines. Its effect is likely to be most severe among the six audited weekly celebrity titles because many of them are book-a-zine "parents." Their sales (shown below in ‘000's), over the last two years, are compared to the newsstand sales of all audited publications, less the six celebrity titles.


Unit sales of these six weekly celebrity titles declined 24.8 percent over the last two years. This compares to the unit sales of all other audited titles (less celebrity title sales), which declined 19.8 percent over the same period. This significant differential (5 percentage points) can, at least partially, be attributed to the cannibalizing effect of book-a-zines.

In the zero-sum newsstand market there is seldom a free lunch. This is true for book-a-zines. Their increased sales have not come without disrupting the sales of a host of other publications.

Cover Price Sensitivity Divide: Book-a-Zines and Regular Frequency Publications

The newsstand market for regular frequency publications has always been acutely price sensitive. That sensitivity has grown in recent years as publishers have chosen to maintain paid circ levels in the face of rapidly declining single copy circ. They have replaced the "lost" single copy circ with low priced subscriptions (i.e. partnership, verified, sponsored, combination, award sources) and replica circ, which now offers a legitimate single copy alternative. The expanded use of "alternative" subscription circ sources and replica circ have conspired to reduce newsstand demand, and in the process exacerbated newsstand cover price sensitivity.

This experience contrasts with book-a-zines. They are newsstand-only products, which are not encumbered by large subscription bases, circ level considerations or myriad low priced subscription promotions, like their regular frequency parents. Their cover pricing elasticity, therefore, is much greater. This is confirmed by rising book-a-zine sales, in a depressed market, even though they're being sold at prices three times higher than regular frequency publications.

Newsstand Market "Truth" #7 (continued) - Cover pricing elasticity between regular frequency publications and book-a-zines should never be confused. One is rather elastic the other remains extraordinarily inelastic.

Recklessly Testing the Bounds of Market Cover Price Sensitivity

The industry's cover pricing over-exuberance, which seems to be fueled by the apparent success of book-a-zines, reached a new peak several months ago when six of the industry's eleven best selling titles—People (#1), US (#2), National Enquirer (#4), Star (#6), Globe (#7) and OK! (#11)—increased their cover prices $1 (25 percent) to $4.99

This occurred with very little fanfare, but its implications are stunning. These six publications, from three publishers (Time. Inc, American Media and Wenner), represented more than a quarter (28.9 percent) of the unit sales for all audited publications in 2H 2013.

Look at it this way: a 25 percent cover price increase for these six publications is the equivalent of raising the cover price of all audited publications by 7.3 percent.

If there is a significant sales falloff, and there nearly always is when major publications with declining sales substantially raise cover price ("Truth #5), its effect will reverberate across the entire market.

If, for example, the combined unit sales declines for these six publications were relatively small, say 10 percent (over and above anticipated industry sales attrition, which has averaged 10% the last several years), this would result in a 3.0 percent incremental decline in total sales of audited publications. If the falloff were unitary (equal to the 25 percent price increase), which is certainly not beyond the realm of imagination, the incremental unit sales decline of all audited titles would be 7.5 percent. This means, as a result of raising cover prices on these six titles, that the annual sales slide of all audited publications could accelerate to 13, 14 or even as high as 18 percent.

Raising cover price prices on a quorum of major publications has placed the industry in uncharted territory. The invitable sales declines could have broad and unintended channel consequences.

Declining Sales of Major Weekly Titles: Broader Market Implications

Publishers and wholesalers should never lose sight of the fact that the newsstand is a "best seller" driven market, led by its nine major weekly frequency publications: People, US, Woman's World, In Touch, National Enquirer, Star, Life & Style, Globe, and OK!. It's their broad appeal and weekly frequency that attract the impulse-driven newsstand buyer. These nine titles give the newsstand its cache and freshness. They carry the newsstand load, accounting for nearly half of all unit sales of audited publications in the second half of 2013.

The problem the last several years, is the sales of major weekly publications are declining at a faster rate than other audited publications. As we've shown, the proliferation of book-a-zines may have contributed to this sales decline. Now, there's the very real prospect of further sales erosion due to the aggressive cover pricing of six major weekly publications.

Book-a-zines hogging checkout lanes and high priced major weekly publications present a concern for publishers because nothing (certainly not book-a-zines) can adequately replace the sales loss of the industry's bedrock regular frequency best-sellers.

It's Hard to Buck the "Truths"

The newsstand market has been roiled by thunderous changes that have precipitated sales declines averaging above 10 percent annually for five years. Adding to the channel misery is the implosion of one the industry's major wholesalers, Source Interlink Distribution. This has placed unexpected economic hardships on all the channel participants and has certainly lessened confidence in the prospect for correcting the channel difficulties.

But through it all, the newsstand "truths" tend to prevail. We're witnessing the zero-sum and cannibalization effects of book-a-zine expansion. Now, we're in the midst of a cover price increase experiment that's testing the bounds of normal cover price elasticity. There's a place for book-a-zines on the newsstand and opportunities for strategically raising cover prices. However, in these instances, witness the scale of these changes, publishers have apparently disregarded the "truths".

The result: the best-seller foundation of the newsstand is being endangered.

How Did This Happen?

The "blame" for book-a-zine proliferation lies primarily with Time Inc. As indicated previously, they're the undisputed kings of book-a-zines. They were able to achieve this lofty perch because only they, among the top newsstand publishers, have sufficient clout to influence display placement and the brand recognition necessary to give these products newsstand appeal. But in so doing they may have soured the checkout environment for regular frequency publications—their own, as well as others.

The exuberant cover pricing situation also finds Time Inc. at the forefront. By increasing the cover price of market leader, People, they may have inadvertently encouraged Wenner (US) and American Media (National Enquirer, Star, Globe, OK!) to follow suit. Bauer, the only other publisher with major newsstand weekly titles (Woman's World, In Touch, Life & Style), has held the line on cover pricing, as have Meredith, Hearst, Condé Nast, the other publishers of Top 20 newsstand publications.

Time Inc. Must Lead in Initiating Channel Reform

Book-a-zine proliferation and over exuberant cover pricing could cynically be viewed as quick revenue fix opportunities for the cash strapped publishers involved. But, of course, these things are only a part of the larger problems plaguing the newsstand channel. However, in a real sense, they are representative of publisher's "go-it-alone" newsstand strategies that have historically hindered newsstand channel reform.

Realistically, it's only the major publishers, acting cooperatively, that have the power to initiate the reform necessary to save the newsstand channel. After all, it's not the medium- and small-sized publishers that produce book-a-zines, that are displayed at checkout or whose cover price increases can sway the entire market. Saving the market rests squarely on the shoulders of the industry's seven major publishers.

But, as the industry has painfully discovered, it's been extremely difficult for this group to work cooperatively for the good of the channel. I now believe that Time Inc. (and only Time Inc.), among its publishing peers, has the power, influence and incentive to form and lead a cooperative publisher newsstand reform effort.

If these seven publishers can't get together to initiate meaningful channel reform, I'm afraid the broad-based newsstand market that publishers enjoy today may be lost forever.

Mike Kisseberth

Webrooming is Changing What Commerce Means for Publishers

Mike Kisseberth - 08/07/2014-08:10 AM

In digital publishing, commerce is usually seen as e-commerce—i.e., buying on-site. And with the global e-commerce market set to hit a record-breaking $1.5 trillion this year, the definition isn't much of a surprise. Everyone wants a piece of that pie.

But e-commerce can be a difficult nut to crack, even for top publishers. Click-to-buy integrations aren't successful overnight. They need category expertise, technology and more to support them. Operationally, e-commerce is capital intensive, with high barriers to entry.

But commerce is more than click-to-buy, and the opportunities extend beyond a website.

Enter Webrooming

Webrooming, or researching products online before buying in-store, isn't new. Yet, thanks to mobile and the rise of connected devices, it's growing like never before.

Sixty-nine percent with a smartphone between the ages of 18-36 have webroomed. Eighty-eight percent, in general, say they've at least tried it. As a result, webrooming is set to account for nearly $1.8 trillion in retail sales by 2017. The opportunity is huge.

And while brands are taking advantage by delivering new content to help consumers webroom online, third-party expert sites are really the main driver behind webrooming's adoption. This is because shoppers are more inclined to trust the buying recommendations of neutral publishers as opposed to the admittedly biased brands themselves. And, thanks to easy-to-use publishing platforms, expert sites are booming, making it simple for consumers to find relevant information from a credible source.

How Webrooming is Changing Commerce

Webrooming is bridging the longstanding gap between online and offline buying, without the click-to-buy integrations. It's making online content a commerce driver for in-store transactions. Digital content is essentially marketing collateral to compel a sale.

What's changed today is that the consumer is now "always on." They're connected to the Web via tablet, smartphone, smartwatch—you name it. This makes webrooming more convenient and appealing, broadening its usability. (It should be noted that formatting content for these different devices is something else publishers will have to get really good at—sometimes that may mean adding or subtracting content depending on the user's screen).

And this is how publishers need to see commerce moving forward. Their content is a commerce enabler that's encouraging audiences to buy. By understanding content's value in a webrooming culture, publishers can dream up new ways to more creatively and effectively monetize their strongest asset.

At our company, for example, we've invested significantly in our product reviews content over the last year, most recently adding Paul Reynolds, the first-ever Electronics Editor of Consumer Reports. Paul is broadening our reviews coverage and making it even easier for shoppers to webroom through our properties. But we're not the only ones. Everyone from Digital Trends to The Wall Street Journal are investing in product reviews because the opportunity is clear.


Of course, webrooming isn't perfect. Questions remain regarding performance. Publishers can't entirely quantify how many times a piece of content drove a sale.

However, though tracking the impact from online content consumption to offline sales can be nearly impossible because of attribution challenges, marketers are increasingly working with publishers to establish a performance proxy—a measurement of online activity that correlates closely to offline sales. Figuring out what those proxies are for product categories that audience shows the most interest in will enable the publisher to drive to that more measurable behavior.

Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Organic Gardening

Robert Newman Design and Production - 08/04/2014-12:18 PM

The August-September cover of Organic Gardening showcases a very different approach for a gardening and lifestyle magazine. The cover is completely illustrated by Peter Donnelly, right down to a redrawing of the logotype. With its simple, bold colors and whimsical style, the illustrated cover feels more like something from a children's book than a gardening magazine, but that's just fine with me. I think it's a bright, bold and forward-looking statement, a design that sets the magazine apart as distinctive and original. Its style feels homespun and yes, organic, and just right for a magazine that has cover lines about bees, honey and sustainable wearables. I can imagine that this strikes a positive note with potential readers when they see it in the checkout aisles at Whole Foods or their local health food store or food co-op.

Still, I have to ask: What's going on here? Has Organic Gardening decided that it's the natural lifestyle version of The New Yorker? I love the magazine's recent cover illustrations, and they do remind me of some of the beautiful New Yorker covers from the 1960s and 70s, before their covers got much cooler and more topical. The past two Organic Gardening overs are so striking that they should be turned into posters.

Organic Gardening started running illustrated covers with their April/May 2013 issue. They've done a couple more since then, most recently on the June/July 2014 cover, which featured a beautiful illustration of a woman holding a bowl of fruit, created by Denise Hilton Campbell. That illustration was delicate and lyrical, with floating butterflies and a good deal of the logo obscured by the woman's head and tree leaves. Magazine art director Susan Eugster has shown considerable skill at assigning the art for these recent covers and designing them in a very elegant format. I score these last two Organic Gardening covers as two of the best and most original American magazine covers this year.

However, let's hope the magazine's creative team sticks with this new illustrated format. For the past year, Organic Gardening swung wildly between varieties of cover designs. Those covers have gone from full-page photographs to illustrations to a chock-a-block grid of images. And they rotate between putting all the cover lines above the logo (which I like a lot) and running one main headline more prominently. All of these covers individually are very well done and quite beautiful in their execution. But together it's a jumble, and looks like a magazine in search of an identity (or struggling for newsstand sales). It may be that we've been watching a magazine go through a challenging and experimental phase to reach what is a very holistic cover design approach.

With the exception of the New Yorker, these days it's rare to find a magazine that will use illustration on the cover this aggressively. Politically oriented publications like Mother Jones and The Nation, and even occasionally Time use cover illustrations, but they tend to be caricatures or portraits. You have to reach back to the old Reader's Digest covers pre-1970 to find something this beautiful. Of course, there was a time from the 1920s-50s that magazines almost always featured sophisticatedly illustrated covers. This latest Organic Gardening cover is a throwback to that time, although the style of the artwork is highly contemporary.

And that might be the key to this current Organic Gardening look. It feels classic, old school, rooted in tradition, and as noted before, very organic in its presentation. Yet the style of the design and artwork is very contemporary, so it doesn't feel nostalgic or retro. There's a blog on the Organic Gardening website by Maria Rodale, who is chairman and CEO of the magazine's parent company. Her blog's mission statement includes "instilling a sense of responsibility about making the world a better place, respecting nature, and doing it all with a good strong dose of love." This could very well be a mission statement for Organic Gardening, and their new illustrated cover design advances it perfectly.

Katelyn Belyus

How to Win Them Back

Katelyn Belyus Audience Development - 08/04/2014-11:38 AM

If you're like me, you're always wondering why people who want to hear from you aren't giving you money. You test copy, creative, asks, offers and demos until you're blue in the face (and hopefully with a bit more coin in your pocket).

But I've also been wondering why people who originally wanted to hear from us have fallen off the map? I'm not talking about unsubscribes and opt-outs. I'm talking about ‘just-hit-deleters': those people who can't be bothered to unsubscribe, but who would rather just delete you the minute your name pops up in their inbox.

How do we win back these people?

Subscriber inactivity is usually a symptom of email fatigue-you've sent too many emails, and the subscriber just doesn't feel special anymore when they see your email arrive. Your brand has a numbing effect on their emotional engagement. It's not only a problem for business emails; it pops up for editorial emails as well, which is arguably worse. It's important to keep a close eye on regular opt-out rates. Establish a baseline for your email stats, and watch it closely.

For all emails, someone should be coordinating traffic for the entire company and keeping an eye on the company email calendar. Your company must establish rules for its list usage, wheres/whens/hows, and someone needs to be tasked to police this. It's not a glamorous job, but it's necessary. Ideally, this someone will have no vested interest in the email content (business v. editorial, for instance) and will call balderdash when the guidelines are being abused.

Still, people have short attention spans. Every six months, I find myself unsubscribing from every email list imaginable, thinking I'm so over this. But inevitably I go back. What makes me go back? Sweet deals, simple content and nothing too wordy. I want my content emails to be quick and clean. WNYC has a great Morning Brief newsletter that I can't live without. It gives me everything but not too much: weather, cleverly-written headlines, breaking news and story highlights ("Does Anyone Really Want to See Sharknado 2?" Duh, YES!).

But I'm a rare breed: an ‘unsubscriber' rather than a ‘just-hit-deleter.' It seems that people stop opening our emails much more than they opt out-they just stop engaging with us and hope we get the passive-aggressive hint that reeks of "it's not you, it's me."

Enter: The Mighty Reengagement Email.

Like a lost love letter found tucked into a notebook, a reengagement email should reignite a subscriber's passion for your brand. It should simply remind them that they loved having you in their life, and they miss you enough to want you back. Excite them about your content, and you'll be well on your way to increasing your delivery statistics, reducing your opt-outs (which can jeopardize delivery with major ESPs) and optimize the value of your list.

By all accounts, there are 3 major steps in a proper reengagement strategy:

1. Identify the recipients. Establish a threshold to define "lack of engagement." Maybe it's low opens. Maybe it's low clicks. Maybe it's low orders. Set a timing threshold: 90 or 120 days or something else-think about what makes sense for your brand. Do you want to start reengaging people after they haven't clicked through to a story in the past 120 days? That's four months of inactivity. Remember: People's attention spans are short. If they haven't interacted with you in four months, they've probably forgotten you. Soon they're going to forget why they ever cared about you. Remind them.

2. Use completely new creative. These are people who don't open what you're already sending-so send something new. Do something gutsy and different. Don't be cluttered. Send Smarter had a great round-up of reengagement creative, but if you find yourself stuck, any Google or Pinterest search will do. Acknowledge that they've fallen off your radar, but don't whine about it. Instead, try to win them back: offer discounts, sneak-peeks or even freemiums. Show, don't tell, subscribers what they may have missed: new writers, content, art or design. Make the ask specific (perhaps you want them to confirm their email address-then build a landing page that allows for this).

3. Stop fooling yourself. Some people just won't respond. They're done with you (remember: four months). You should consider getting rid of these inactives permanently. By all accounts, keep them somewhere in your ESP, so they can reactivate with you via an old email, and if they do, you can keep their history. But moving them to a permanent inactive list and NOT mailing to them will help your delivery rates and CAN-SPAM compliance (I predict ESPs are going to be more vigilant in the future, much like Google took it upon itself to sift through spam).

Reengagement emails shouldn't take forever: you don't want to loop them into another round of endless communication. Send four emails, over the course of 4-6 weeks, and then tell them you're ending the relationship. Tell them that they're welcome back at any time, but that you get it: they don't want to hear from you.

Don't expect huge conversion rates. Good reactivation rates vary anywhere from 2-5%, based on a variety of email marketing references. And don't forget: Open rates are going to increase automatically. Don't consider a campaign successful based on higher open rates alone.

Once you have a reengagement campaign in place, consider automating it for the future. Test timing and creative. Don't let people fall off in the future. Keeping them involved and excited about your brand will help your email delivery and performance, your social media presence (people engaged with you on email are going to engage with you in other outlets) and, ideally, fatten your wallet.

Roy Beagley

Are You Accepting Bitcoins Yet?

Roy Beagley Consumer - 07/29/2014-16:15 PM

Are you accepting bitcoins yet? And, should you?

A bitcoin is not a physical thing, it is a virtual currency; you cannot toss it to start a football game, roll it for illegal drug activity or fold it into a paper plane. Bitcoin owners keep their bitcoins in a wallet and when they use those bitcoins to purchase items, they just transfer the cost from their wallet to the seller's wallet and that is pretty much that. Since bitcoins are not physical things, you cannot send half a bitcoin, but you can transfer any percentage of a bitcoin.

Since I started to research this article, the value of one bitcoin has fallen from $621.37 to $578.59 - I'll let you know what the value is when I finish this article, but the point is bitcoins are subject to fluctuation.

I very much doubt anyone reading this has an expensive product they are selling so fluctuations would not be a major factor, but remember you keep your bitcoins in a virtual wallet, and let's says your wallet has ten bitcoins in it. These would have been worth $10,686 last November, now their value would be $5,786.90, Look at it this way, last November you could have brought 10,686 of your favorite friends a $1 cup of coffee each, but now, only 5,786 friends would get a cup of Joe. If however, in a real wallet you had $10,686 last November, today you would still have $10,686 - and 10,686 friends!

Most publishers will, at some point, want to balance the books and disclosing the value of your wallet is an easy enough thing. Turning the bitcoins into currency that you can toss, fold or fly is not as straightforward as you would think. There are basically three ways, two of which rely on your offering your bitcoins for sale and hoping someone buys them. There are other ways, but if you are really considering offering bitcoins as a form of payment, the above selling method is your best bet. What you cannot do is just cash them in, someone has to want them, and at an acceptable price.

Many years ago The Economist used to publish at annual review of how much items cost by the number of Mars bars you would have to hand over. A cup of coffee was one Mars bar in 1972, in 1977 it was three Mars bars etc... sound sort of familiar?

What if you have to make a refund on a subscription paid for by bitcoins? This could be interesting. It is quite conceivable that a customer could cancel their subscription and the refund for the "unused portion of the subscription" actually has a dollar value of more than was originally paid. Finance departments around the world will quake in their boots.

Bitcoins certainly have a value, but whether their value currently applies to subscriptions seems doubtful. Since I have been typing this article, the value of a bitcoin has dropped by $6.00, but since it is all virtual, should I really care?

Bill Mickey

A Call for Nominations: The Folio 100 and 30 Under 30

Bill Mickey Consumer - 07/22/2014-16:06 PM


The FOLIO: 100 is now open for nominations.

In case you don't know, the FOLIO: 100 is the magazine and media industry's best-known and most prestigious list of innovators, entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers.

Nominate a colleague—either at your company or at another one—that has made a quantifiable impact on a product, group, company or even the industry at large.

"Quantifiable impact" is important to emphasize. Vague explanations about why a person deserves to be on the list won't cut it. The FOLIO: 100 represents just about everyone on the org chart, but a nomination has to include measurable results.

Also, the FOLIO: 100 is equal opportunity. It's not reserved for senior executives. There's plenty of innovation and influence on the front lines, so be sure to give recognition where it's due. The more the merrier.

From editors to sales, audience development, design, production and digital—the FOLIO: 100 intersects consumer, b-to-b, regional, enthusiast and association publishing—big and small.

Click here to fill out our easy—and free—nomination form. Nominations are due August 15. 

And here's last year's FOLIO: 100 to get you in the mood.

The list-makers will be featured in the October issue and feted at an awards luncheon at MediaNext on October 21.


Additionally, FOLIO: is also taking nominations for its 30 Under 30 list, our list of some of the brightest individuals under the age of 30 who are executing on some of our industry’s most innovative ideas.

The deadline for 30 Under 30 nominations is August 15. Click here to enter your nomination.



Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Essence

Robert Newman Design and Production - 07/17/2014-14:58 PM

Michelle Obama has become a top magazine cover celebrity, arguably the top celebrity in terms of breadth and frequency of appearance. I can't think of anyone else who makes such a stylish splash every time she appears on a cover, and who also appears on so many different types of covers. I'm sure Baby Boomers who still adore Jackie Kennedy will disagree, but for my money Obama is by far the all-time leading First Lady in terms of iconic magazine cover appearances.

The August 2014 cover of Essence features Obama on what is her fifth cover for the magazine. The photograph is by Kwaku Alston, who has shot a number of her covers for various magazines, including the October 2011 issue of Essence, which is one of my favorites of the First Lady. On this cover, designed by Essence creative director Erika Perry, Obama is wearing a dress by the young American designer Azede Jean-Pierre. Alston's experience photographing Obama shows; she is relaxed, engaging and her smile jumps off the cover. Magazines struggle to get the kind of relaxed intimacy from celebrities that Obama consistently exudes in her cover shoots. And this cover exemplifies that.

I was part of a team that photographed her for the cover of Reader's Digest back in 2011. I've talked with a number of art directors who have photographed her for covers, and their experience seems to be universal. You get the option of setting up in a handful of rooms in the White House, including the First Lady's office. There's no advance notice of what she is going to wear, and her personal team handles her styling and makeup. No one gets more than a half hour with her (and often less). In fact, during the Reader's Digest shoot I kept a stopwatch running on my phone that I kept flashing at her assistant every time they tried to wrap up the shoot before our promised half hour. Still, within those parameters she's a gracious, cooperative subject who definitely knows how to work the camera and create brilliant cover images. That's one of the big reasons she's had so many smart and diverse magazine cover shoots. Obama's list of magazine covers in the past five years includes Vogue (twice), People, Reader's Digest, Parade, Parents, Good Housekeeping, AARP, Condé Nast Traveler, More, Glamour, Ladies' Home Journal, Prevention, Ebony and Better Homes and Gardens. The list is nearly endless. She's even been illustrated on the cover of The New Yorker. And she rarely seems to repeat the same clothing designer, which is quite a feat!

The most challenging part of the Essence cover is that it was shot in front of a brightly backlit window. The result, as anyone who has worked in this kind of situation knows, is uneven lighting, false colors and shadows in the wrong places. On this cover the photo ends up with an oddly faded-out section on Obama's lower arms and hands–just compare them to the rich color and texture of her upper arms. That said, while the blown-out background does not help Obama, it provides the perfect backdrop for a set of nicely articulated cover lines, all of which work to good effect. The editors and creative director manage to cram in a healthy amount of cover lines without overwhelming the photo. Arguably the very elegant thinness of the type in the "Head to Toe Skin Care Guide!" circle is a little too delicate for its usage here, and I would have avoided the unfortunate collision created where the "Education Special" pink nugget that appears to be poking the First Lady in the back and creating unnecessary visual tension. Still, those are minor quibbles. This is a tight, bold, modern, engaging-looking cover that works well both on newsstand (I bought a copy) and online (where it first grabbed my attention). Like its subject, this cover has an incredible sense of style.

Essence deserves credit for referencing children so directly on this cover. Cover lines about children are rare on women's magazines. When I was the creative director at Real Simple we had a guiding principle that children were rarely mentioned and pictured, and certainly never on the cover. I think the feeling was that it would take away from the escapist and aspirational aspects of the magazine. I haven't done a scientific survey of contemporary women's magazines on this subject, but my casual surveillance at the newsstand this week corroborates this.

Obama has mastered the art of creating iconic magazine cover images. There's not another person in politics who conveys such a sense of power, style, grace, beauty, intelligence and sex appeal, except of course, her husband Barack. While Barack Obama, as with other Presidents, has aged considerably with the job, Michelle looks even better and more energetic than she did in 2008. I would go so far as to say that I don't see any celebrities of any kind who have been able to create such a powerful set of cover images in such a short period of time.

Obama has dozens of solo magazine covers to her credit, and that doesn't even include the ones she's been on with Barack, or teamed up with other people, including her mother and Jill Biden. Even more impressive is that this unbroken string of successful covers has come during a time of fierce and heated political opposition to the politics of the Obama Administration, and by extension, to Michelle Obama. This cover shows, once again, that no one commands a magazine cover like Michelle Obama.

Roy Beagley

Don't Let Design Overtake Results in Your Promotional Efforts

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 07/08/2014-16:09 PM


It used to be in creating promotional work, a company would hire a copywriter and a designer unless they were fortunate enough to have these experts in-house.

This changed slightly when computer programs like Quark, In Design, Photoshop etc. became available, but being able to use the software did not turn us all into designers, merely people who could use design software.

With the explosion of websites, apps and all things digital, plus the move from managing circulation to developing audiences, even more programs became available to make designing easier. Suddenly promotions were being judged not by the results produced, but by how knowledgeable the keyboard operator was, how quickly they could be deployed and most importantly, in many instances, by the number of people who viewed the promotion.

The thing is, just because something looks good or can be deployed quickly or is viewed by a million people, unless you get orders, your promotion has failed.

No matter how adept one is at using a computer to design promotions, you still need the knowledge to know whether something will work, and sometimes ugly can be beautiful.

I knew of one publisher who produced an 8.5 x 11 letter/order form combo that was green and pink—to say it was vile is being kind. Covers were scanned in, one green, one pink and universally the promotion was hated, the publisher hated it, the designer hated it, the printer threatened to go on strike if they had to print it, yet it got the best requalifcation response of any promotion—ever. No test ever beat it. It worked year, after year, after year.

An advertising agency came in to bid on designing promotions, took one look at the package, said, “that will have to go straight away,” and the publisher threw them out of the office.

A knowledge of and experience in using what is considered to be sound direct marketing technique is invaluable and not dependent upon software or the latest technology.  

But remember, as time goes by things can change, it used to be deliverability on text emails was better than html, by and large this is no longer the case. Times change, people change and your market may well change. This means what did not work in the past, may now actually work, and what used to work may no longer do so. However, all of this is governed by producing good copy and good design. Simply because you may not like the way copy reads, or how the design looks, does not mean to say it is bad.

This is why you test everything, and if a test beats the control, it becomes the new control, and then you try and beat that.


Robert Newman

Face Up Online: Mother Jones

Robert Newman Design and Production - 07/01/2014-12:37 PM

When I was just starting out in publication design, I worked at a small monthly left-wing newspaper in Washington, D.C. We used to joke that we wanted the paper to be the National Enquirer of progressive politics, and even designed a tabloid-style logo. Years later in the early 1990s, when I became art director at The Village Voice, I played those ideas out further, using big screaming headlines, loud primary colors and graphic photo treatments. So it warmed my heart when I saw the July/August cover of Mother Jones, which gives a jagged, shouting tabloid treatment to a story about right-wing bogeymen the Koch Brothers.

The parody, designed by creative director Ivylise Simones, is spot on, with just the right mix of funkiness and visual chaos. The design holds nothing back, right down to the Mother Jones logo, which was redesigned for this issue to reflect a tabloid feel. The result is a cover that is fun, engaging, provocative and viral-ready. It takes a strong partnership between the editors and the visual team to create this kind of high-level, sophisticated cover design and it works brilliantly, crafting a set of images that work on so many levels.

Conventional wisdom is that a magazine's logo is sacrosanct, a critical part of the brand that should never be messed with, and I'm sure the Mother Jones logo change will confuse a few readers. Yet, what the magazine gains is a dynamic, comprehensive graphic approach that not only jumps off the page, but is destined to work quite effectively online and across the magazine's multiple platforms. Apparently altering logos to fit stylized covers has become a trend, because it's been done recently to great effect by both Bloomberg Businessweek (who have done it at least three times over the past year) and The New Republic.

For a recent cover story on Jeopardy TV host Alex Trebek, The New Republic designed itself to look like the famous Jeopardy game board, altering its logo to mimic the show's distinctive trademark. In early June, Bloomberg Businessweek published a story on progressive economist-of-the-moment Thomas Piketty designed to look like a teen fan magazine, complete with a bubble gum logo and small photos of both Justin Bieber and Karl Marx. Both covers take complicated, unsexy topics, but with graphic stylization they turned them into dynamic, pulsating covers, and the same is true with this Mother Jones cover. Of course, there's a long history of magazines designing covers to look like LP covers, posters, books, product packaging and more. It's very exciting that magazines that cover topics that are generally not considered flashy and cool (politics and business) are creating some of the liveliest, hip and memorable covers.

Lately there has been a true renaissance of cover design at some of the most notable liberal magazines. In addition to Mother Jones, The New Republic (creative director Dirk Barnett) and The Nation (creative director Robert Best) have all been turning out exceptional covers. Each have their own unique style: Mother Jones is polished and provocative, perfectly designed to be spread around on the internet; The New Republic is thoughtful, stylish, cutting edge, and very contemporary; The Nation, with its limited budget and weekly publishing schedule, has a funky, homemade, gonzo feel like many of the altweekly newspapers. There's a powerful energy and passion that runs through all three designs.

That raises this question: Why do liberal magazine covers look so much better and smarter than their conservative counterparts? While many liberal mags are having a design renaissance, two of the most prominent conservative publications, the National Review and The Weekly Standard, look dated and uninspired. The lefties have enthusiastically embraced a wide array of graphic techniques, modern illustration and typography and just flat out coolness, whereas the conservative magazines tend towards very crude and sophomoric illustrations–stuff that often looks one step above what you would see in a college newspaper (and sometimes not even that good!). The design of the National Review and The Weekly Standard covers looks straight out of the 1980s. Given that both publications wax nostalgic for the days when Ronald Reagan was President, there's certain logic to their resistance to enter the 21st Century in terms of cover design. The irony is that the National Review created brilliant covers in the 1960s and 70s; smart, edgy, graphic, nicely illustrated and very cool for their time. Also, given the fact that the National Review has a very vibrant, up-to-the-minute website and social media presence, their lack of a modern cover design is even more baffling.

Good cover design does not stem inherently from any particular political ideology, although I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of art directors, illustrators and creative magazine makers in the New York/Washington publishing scene lean to the left. Still, there are several conservative publications (most notably The American Conservative) that have crafted some smart looking covers. (Full disclosure: I helped create the initial design of The American Conservative when it launched in 2002). Political blogger Andrew Sullivan has popularized the concept of epistemic closure to describe the bubble that the right-wing media and many of its supporters operate within, shielded from other opinions and data-based facts that might upset their belief system. What's notable about the Mother Jones tabloid-styled cover is that's it's an attempt to expand the magazine's voice and reach beyond its traditional readership, and also an acknowledgement that there's a place for modern approaches in cover design for political publications.

Roy Beagley

Have a Great Idea for a New Marketing Campaign? Loop Your Fulfillment Company In

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 06/24/2014-16:02 PM


We all come up with good ideas for marketing and promotion, but in all honesty good ideas can vary from being very good ideas indeed to not so good.

Whenever you have ideas it is always good to run them by the one group of people that usually will be affected, yet often get ignored in the thought process—namely the fulfillment company.

The wise circulation professional or audience developer will always include the fulfillment company in initial planning because very often those are the people at the back end who have to make your ideas work. Involving them at the front end will save a great deal of heartache later on.

Not so long ago a publisher produced a print magazine on a regular frequency, and that was pretty much that. Now there are digital versions, websites, apps, feeds, white papers, Facebook, Pinterest, tweets, pings, pokes and also audio and video content, newsletters, and anything else that can be thought of to engage people.

Some publishers can engage their audience in person by running trade shows or seminars, as well as webinars. All of this takes thought and organization but very often the people who are to process all the information and disseminate materials are not even asked if they can handle the requirements. All too often it is just presumed the fulfillment company can handle whatever crazy ideas we have thought up, but truth be told, by including the fulfillment company from the outset, very often their questions and ideas will solve many a potential problem, and may well save you money in the short and long term.

Most fulfillment companies have email capacity, which you can control yourself if required. Many, but not all, have in-house lettershop services to help in sending out items via snail mail. They also have customer service staff. Unlike many publishers, customer service operates with hours that start in the Atlantic time zone and finish when the sun goes down in the Pacific time zone. Like publishers, fulfillment companies have also had to adapt and who is to say you have to use one fulfillment company for everything? The way our world is interconnected provides opportunities that past audience and circulation developers used to dream of.

There are very few new ideas today. It may seem like there are, but they are all variations on what marketers have been doing for years with the added advantage of new technology. And, it was ever thus. Now of course “new technology” comes more quickly and faster than ever before. 

The way we use things may be continually changing, but in most cases there is still a requirement for fulfillment services to interface with all the things we do, and the savvy professional will not exclude the good folks who end up making our crazy dreams and ideas come true. Though many ideas are new to us, the way they are executed is not.
As the great lady herself might say “fulfillment companies—they’re a good thing!”