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Paul Conley

Looking at Journalism's Future

Paul Conley emedia and Technology - 04/03/2008-16:36 PM

I recently had the opportunity to visit a number of universities and to attend two conventions for college journalists. This is the conclusion of a four-part series on my experiences. You can see part one here. You can read part two here. Check out part three here.

For a long time I was hopeful that journalism teachers would learn to embrace the future. I had this idea that the ability of the Web to reach people around the globe would enchant teachers. I believed that interactivity, feedback functions, user-generated content and all the other forms of conversational and democratic storytelling would appeal to people who dedicated their lives to telling stories and spreading information.

But I was wrong.

New media has brought out the worst in many teachers, turning them defensive, bitter, cowardly and curmudgeonly. The rise of new media, in other words, has had the same effect on many teachers that it has had on many legacy editors.
But there is a difference between editors and teachers. And it's silly for us not to acknowledge it: We can fire editors.

Many journalism programs are burdened with teachers who are poorly suited to teach a subject that changes as rapidly as does the media world.

But we're stuck with them. The rules of tenure and the traditions of academia mean that these folks ain't going anywhere.

So it's time for a "work around."

Read the entire post here ... 

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Josh Gordon

The Next Phase for Digital Magazines

Josh Gordon emedia and Technology - 04/03/2008-15:58 PM

Remember your magazine's first Web site?

For most publications it was a simple copy and paste job. We copied content from the magazine and pasted it right onto the the new Web site. The big question of the day was, "Should we hold off posting the Web content, as it might hurt readership of the identical print content?" Then something unexpected happened that changed everything:

Nothing.

That's right, nothing happened. Because we discovered that no new Web content meant no new Web visitors, and as result, no new ad dollars. The dialog abruptly shifted to how we could develop fresh content for the magazine's Web site and how to monetize it.

That was 10 years ago. So why are so many publishers having the same discussion, right now, about digital magazines?

I've heard it all over the magazine industry, "We tried publishing a digital magazine, but nothing happened." How soon we forget ... no new content equals no incremental new readership and no incremental new revenue.

But what if you put new content into digital magazines? What if they were not just a duplication of your magazine but an extension into niche areas unprofitable to service with print? What if they were utilized as a new content platform, not just a means of digital distribution? What if they were created to function as graphical, upscale newsletters in industries or categories where graphical appeal counts?

The trend has already started. Winding Road is a digital only car magazine that gets over 180,000 unique readers viewing an average of 22 pages every month. Click on the link and take a look. It could be your future.

P.S.: Why no industry association has taken the time to research the basics of how digital magazines work as an advertising platform is a mystery to me. I'd like to help start that discussion with anyone willing.

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Matt Kinsman

Your Next Hire? Online Advertising Troubleshooter

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 04/03/2008-10:41 AM

New titles are emerging daily with the shift to digital, such as "community editor," "multimedia asset manager" and "metrics analyst." Add to that list "online media optimization manager," a new position Hanley Wood developed to salvage underperforming campaigns and save thousands of dollars in potential digital makegoods.

Hanley Wood vet Martha Luchsinger, who has held positions including production operations manager and sales and data manager was tapped for the position late last year for her ability to analyze data complex data. She now oversees all aspects of Hanley Wood's online reporting and as it relates to performance and uses that data to identify issues and come up with solutions before a campaign runs off the rails.

For Hanley Wood Luchsinger has cut the online revenue loss due to under-delivery by 30 percent, saving thousands of dollars. For us, she warrants a place on the 2008 FOLIO: 40. And for the rest of the industry, she could be the model for the next MVP in your online department.

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Joanna Pettas

Is This the ‘World’s Most Expensive Magazine’?

Joanna Pettas Sales and Marketing - 04/02/2008-15:51 PM

The Four Seasons team: John Hamilton, contributor; Mark Caskie, editor, World of Four Seasons; Susan Weissman, executive editor; Jaimey Easler, design director; and Duncan Christy, editorial director.

Who says we’re in a recession? Probably not Four Seasons magazine.

The magazine held a cocktail party last night in the Cosmopolitan Room of New York’s Four Seasons to celebrate its relaunch under Pace. One hot topic of conversation among the 100 or so guests was the number of ad pages it managed to secure.

“I couldn’t even find the editor’s letter,” someone said to me. Why? Because it was preceded by 46 pages of ads for Gucci, Versace, Prada, Sotheby’s and other brands I could never afford. (By my count, the ad page total is 81 out of 176.)

Apparently, I can’t afford the magazine either: “It’s free as long as you can pay for the room,” said a woman introduced as “marketing guru” for Four Seasons, “which probably makes it the world’s most expensive magazine.”

On a side note, the editor’s letter offers an interesting reflection—that magazines should resemble a great dinner party, with the “liveliest assemblage of guests drawn from all quarters of life,” whose voices “should be neither chorus nor babel, but an interesting, even fascinating, series of soloists to whom we listen with pleasure.” I wonder if they need to be able to afford the magazine too...

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Dylan Stableford

An Indie Publisher’s Emotional Final Letter to Subscribers

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 04/02/2008-13:52 PM

This week, another small, fiercely-independent magazine folded (“Another Small Music Magazine Bites the Dust”). The publisher, as they often do, wrote an apologetic, heartfelt, 1,000-word note to subscribers detailing the constant struggle that is being an independent magazine publisher in 2008.

It’s also one of the best “exit” memos I’ve read in awhile (sadly, there have been enough of these lately to compare), touching not only on the “harsh and sudden shock” of having to fold, but also on the blood, sweat—the love, really—that went into launching a magazine like this (“Resonance began in a bedroom, moved to a living room, then, for the second half of the magazine's existence, persisted in the two-room attic”) in the first place.

Here it is, in full:

To our dear friends and supporters:

In January 2008, immediately before going to press with our 55th issue, we were forced to stop printing Resonance. The financial challenge of publishing an independent magazine finally overwhelmed us. Fueled by the tireless support of many people (readers, subscribers, staff, freelancers, advertisers, publicists, as well as long-suffering spouses and significant others), we stubbornly survived on a shoestring budget and volunteer staff for 14 years. Such a business model isn't sustainable forever.

Independent publishing has always been a challenge; the recent couple of years, however, have been a much greater struggle due a number of factors, not the least of which include: downturns in the magazine and music industries; rising paper, production and postage costs; the list goes on. We've always been a small-budget business, but we nonetheless made additional spending cuts wherever possible, many of them painful (being unable to pay staff for the previous year, for one). In the past we had survived the lean times by borrowing on credit to cover shortfalls, but these gaps have been steadily increasing to an unmanageable degree. I believed we would manage financially, like usual, by the skin of our teeth. Our debt finally reached its limit—immediately before going to press with issue 55.

This was a harsh and sudden shock. We had worked tirelessly and in good faith these past several months to produce the best issue possible in terms of editorial, design and integrity. So although not in hardcopy, we hope you will read our final issue, Resonance 55. With the help of contributors from around the globe, we pour hundreds, maybe thousands, of work hours into assembling each edition. This issue—even if only in digital form—shines as one of our best ever and will be permanently available on this site as a free, high-resolution download. Resonance 54, the first issue of 2007's bold redesign, is also posted here. Please download, enjoy, and share the link with others, too.

To our subscribers: You believed in our vision and are the most valued supporters of Resonance. Only one subscriber ever requested a refund since we began publishing. For this faithful support, accept my deepest gratitude. What may be harder to accept is my apology. We will take care of you, and are negotiating to ensure that all subscriptions will be fulfilled by another music title. I know this is not at all ideal. I am sorry. Please understand that this is our only option.

For the near term at least, Resonance as a media vehicle is on indefinite hiatus, and continuing a print version at a future date is highly unlikely. A more viable route may be to phoenix ourselves online with a site devoted to the same vision (and with a massively diminished carbon footprint). We shall see.

+++++++++++++++++++

Resonance launched in 1994 and consistently published quarterly editions for 14 years. The initial focus of Resonance was electronic music, but within the first year the mission evolved to focus on emerging artistic innovation itself, first across music genres, then encompassing other media such as books, film and the visual arts. The goal was to promote imagination in music and art, beyond the constraints of a single genre or medium. Creativity rarely stays in a vacuum, it explodes and interacts and influences everything around it. In the mid-'90s, the internet was making this synergy among media all the easier. We wanted a magazine that reflected this same kind of open-minded interconnectivity. Then, eschewing a narrow niche was considered ill-conceived marketing—we took the risk anyway. Now, such a kaleidoscope approach is common. We like to think we played a role in expanding the old, rigid view of what a magazine could be.

Eclectic content became one of the defining traits of the magazine. We wanted Resonance to cover media readers could actually talk about. So we launched a film department, featured visual art, and strongly developed our literature content. In fact, our feature interviews with book and graphic-novel authors count among some of our proudest pieces: e.g. David Sedaris, Miranda July, Eric Schlosser, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, Tony Millionaire, Irving Welsh, to name a very few ... and we put Eightball and Ghostworld creator Dan Clowes on the cover of issue 47. Resonance even received an Independent Press Award nomination for its arts and literature coverage from the Utne Reader.

None of us got much monetary gain from Resonance. As publisher, I barely made a living wage. The editors and contributors worked for small stipends or simply volunteered. We never had a real office, either—Resonance began in a bedroom, moved to a living room, then, for the second half of the magazine's existence, persisted in the two-room attic of a rented house in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. But financial reward was never the point for anyone involved. It was to be a part of something sincere, a cause to believe in, a labor of love fiercely committed to editorial integrity and excellence. We wanted to create an oasis amid a sea of advertorial-riddled media churning out predictable coverage of the newest flavor of the month (indie or otherwise). So we filled most of every edition with little-known artists creating something more ... inventive. And we were never afraid to go as far as giving them their first U.S. magazine cover, either (Lali Puna, Goldfrapp, MIA, Bobby Conn, Dan Deacon, Octopus Project, to name a few).

Whenever we had the opportunity, we tried to create content as unconventional as the artists Resonance championed. Perhaps our most unique achievement was orchestrating a dialogue between Thom Yorke and author Howard Zinn in issue 39—a worldwide-exclusive feature some readers thought was a fabrication. It wasn't. Even with interviews we looked for refreshing ways to engage artists, such as the single-topic Final Cut department, in which we shared candid, often hilarious, chats with diverse personalities such as David Byrne, Diamanda Galas, Afrika Bambaataa, Boy George, Britt Daniel, Vincent Gallo and many more. Our Toolkit page, for another example, showcased interviewees illustrating their answer to the question "What does your favorite song look like?" using only the limited (and masochistic) art supplies our staff provided.

Yeah, we liked to play around, a lot. A content mix of erudite and silly kept Resonance from becoming a somber, geeky journal for pundits. It was a nice balance. Besides, who wants to work for peanuts without some good laughs? Our penchant for costumes, props and mischief kept the photography lively, for sure. Long-suffering artists became characters as cartoonish as wing-and-halo'ed angels (Mogwai), Soviet comrades (Mates of State), hotel-room trashers (the Flaming Lips), and silver-skinned visitors from the future (Le Savy Fav).

Our most outrageous stunt was in 2000 when Yo la Tengo conspired with us to do a cover photo shoot, not of the band themselves, but with three unknown impersonators instead: a trio of attractive, young Latin models. The cover's headline read: "The sexy makeover of a hot Latin trio." Most readers got the joke, others believed the models were the band. Yo la Tengo's record label Matador responded with a cease-and-desist letter from their attorney that threatened legal action for misrepresenting their artists, citing "gross non-compliance of the fair-use agreement regarding Yo La Tengo imagery." We published the letter in the following issue. Many readers, Resonance staff, and Matador fans were alarmed that such a credible indie label would be so devoid of humor. Well ... they're not. The legal threat was also a joke, kept secret until now. Thanks to the label's then-publicist Ben Goldberg for help orchestrating it all, and for keeping mum for eight years. God, to this day I still chuckle about that.

Since 1994, Resonance celebrated the forward regions of music, books, film and the visual arts. We've always aimed to create a friendly mosaic—a mix of what's next, innovative and inspiring—accessible to everybody in one nicely designed package. That's what we ask readers to remember about Resonance. And if we reemerge online, the same spirit will continue.

We've had a lot of fun along the way—I hope you have, too. To all supporters of Resonance, thank you.

With warmest regards,

Andrew Monko, publisher
Resonance Magazine

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Josh Gordon

Social Networking is Hot, But is It a Business?

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 04/01/2008-10:25 AM

In earlier posts I have cautioned against adding online products to your magazine's brand portfolio because other publications seem to succeed at using them. There are strategic reasons for all online products but they may not fit your requirements. For example, blogs are fantastic web site traffic builders that can lift site traffic and thus rates. But trying to monetize blogs directly by selling sponsorships on them is typically much harder.

This week's Economist turns that same analysis to social networking and comes up with a similar cautionary tale:

"The big internet and media companies have bid up the implicit valuations of MySpace, Facebook and others. But that does not mean there is a working revenue model. Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, recently admitted that Google's “social networking inventory as a whole” was proving problematic and that the “monetisation work we were doing there didn't pan out as well as we had hoped.” Google has a contractual agreement with News Corp to place advertisements on its network, MySpace, and also owns its own network, Orkut. Clearly, Google is not making money from either.

Facebook, now allied to Microsoft, has fared worse. Its grand attempt to redefine the advertising industry by pioneering a new approach to social marketing, called Beacon, failed completely. Facebook's idea was to inform a user's friends whenever he bought something at certain online retailers, by running a small announcement inside the friends' “news feeds”. In theory, this was to become a new recommendation economy, an algorithmic form of word of mouth. In practice, users rebelled and privacy watchdogs cried foul. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, admitted in December that “we simply did a bad job with this release” and apologised.

So it is entirely conceivable that social networking, like web-mail, will never make oodles of money. That, however, in no way detracts from its enormous utility. Social networking has made explicit the connections between people, so that a thriving ecosystem of small programs can exploit this “social graph” to enable friends to interact via games, greetings, video clips and so on."

Read the whole article here ...

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Dylan Stableford

Newsweek's Statement on Buyouts

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 03/31/2008-16:27 PM

I just got an e-mail from a spokeperson for Newsweek confirming that 111 of the 150 staffers offered buyouts are leaving the magazine. They're calling it a "voluntary retirement program."

Here's Newsweek's statement:

"Confronting the challenges in today’s media climate, we recently offered a voluntary retirement program to some of our employees. We were fortunate to be able to provide generous packages for eligible staffers who wanted to move on, while also saving on some of our existing expenses. A number of the familiar faces who accepted the offer, including David Ansen, David Gates, Cathleen McGuigan, Mark Starr and John Barry, will continue to contribute to the magazine and Newsweek.com. And, of course, Newsweek remains home to Jonathan Alter, Sharon Begley, Ellis Cose, Chris Dickey, Howard Fineman, Daniel Gross, Mark Hosenball, Mike Isikoff, Melinda Liu, Johnnie Roberts, Evan Thomas, Fareed Zakaria, Anna Quindlen , George Will and many other star journalists. New voices will be joining Newsweek too. We will continue to invest in Newsweek, newsweek.com and other new ventures, which collectively will strengthen our company’s long-term health and vibrancy. We are committed to producing the compelling, innovative and news-breaking journalism that has defined Newsweek for its 75-year history."

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Bill Mickey

Time Inc.’s Environmental Impact

Bill Mickey Consumer - 03/31/2008-14:50 PM

When you're a $5 billion publisher like Time Inc., you can afford to hire someone like David Refkin as director of sustainable development. Indeed, the company has been studying the impact of its entire production process. At the MPA's 2008 Retail Conference in Tampa, Florida today, Refkin discussed Time Inc.'s efforts in environmental sustainability, offering up figures that give some insight into the company's impact:

  • The company buys 500,000 tons of paper each year from 53 mills.
  • 75 percent of the company's fiber meets certified sustainable forestry (CSF) standards, up 25 percent from 2002.
  • The carbon footprint of producing one issue of Time is equal to 160 people flying an airplane around the globe.

Refkin also said that only one out of six magazines in the home get recycled, and that Time Inc. has partnered with Verso Paper to increase consumer awareness, spending $5 million on outdoor advertising and another $6 million in magazines to push recyclable messaging. To learn more about the publisher's efforts, keep an eye out for its sustainability report due out in April.

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Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: New York's Spitzer Cover

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/31/2008-10:22 AM

New York magazine is no stranger to controversial covers (see its Lindsay Lohan cover and accompanying, server-melting photo shoot a few weeks back). But when the story of New York governor Eliot Spitzer's shocking involvement in a prostitution ring broke early (Monday) in the magazine's print cycle (New York publishes on Mondays), it put the magazine in a tricky spot: it would be six days until it had its turn—six days of New York Post covers, blog posts, tabloid headlines and late-night joke fodder—to weigh in with a cover of its own. And it delivered a memorable, edgy one.

We asked some of our design friends to critique New York's Spitzer cover. First up, Tim O'Brien, the illustrator behind the subject of our last cover critique—Rolling Stone's Obama.


NAME: Tim O'Brien
TITLE: freelance illustrator; VP, the Society of Illustrators
CRITIQUE: The March 24th cover of New York Magazine is a funny and effective catharsis for the shocked New Yorkers. Swept into office with a wave of hope and enthusiasm, it was all undone by lust and hypocrisy. The cover image, an awkward shot of Spitzer shot from above making him look small is effective in shrinking a small man even smaller. Not knowing where to put his hands he forms a halo over his crotch; completely unintentional I'm sure but there it is. The use of white isolating his figure adds to the look, one that is reminiscent of the famous George Lois Esquire cover of Muhammad Ali pierced by arrows. The cherry on the top is a Barbara Kruger-esque sign and arrow that sends it over the top. Over the top is what this story is and the cover is perfect.

NAME: Laura Wall
TITLE: design director, Pace Communications
CRITIQUE: Wow. What a good reminder to NEVER run for public office. New York magazine held nothing back on this cover. It’s clean, powerful and probably award-winning. I’d hate to be Spitzer—how completely humiliating!

NAME: Anthony Ficke
TITLE: creative director, CAB Communications
CRITIQUE: Well, I must say I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to design, but to put it bluntly ... this is pretty ballsy of a cover. The power created from this cover is that you were able to sum up an entire nation's exact same thought with only one word! Nothing else needs to be said on the cover, yet you are compelled to read the story, if only to see what lines the author might have crossed. Most importantly, the goal of intriguing the reader has definitely been achieved. On another note, I really like that the New York logo breaks away from the edge to give a photo-negative feel.

NAME: Marco Turelli
TITLE: art director, Wine Enthusiast
CRITIQUE: Image and concept is brilliant! Will it sell magazines based on lack of cover lines and starkness of image? Who knows. Do I see it winning awards? Probably. Does Mr. Spitzer want to get away? You bet he does.

NAME: José Reyes
TITLE: creative director/Principal Metaleap Design
CRITIQUE: I appreciate how they showed a photo of Eliot in a way that was not disdainful, disrespectful  or shaming—that would be too easy. Instead, they showed how everyone knew him—for better or worse—which makes for a much more compelling cover. An argument for the internal battle of personal restraint and what we allow the world to see vs. what we are capable of doing and hiding from others seems to also be a subtle statement that the editors are making with the smiling Spitzer. If so, well done. The cover, in my opinion, is provocative, clear, succinct, humorous and timely—perfect.

What do you think? Drop me a line [dstableford AT red7media DOT com] or add your own critiques in the comments section below.

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Mark Newman

Is It Wrong to Borrow From Other Magazines?

Mark Newman Editorial - 03/30/2008-21:09 PM

I wanted to broach the subject that I’m sure many editors, writers, art directors, et al. have come across over the years, and that’s the influence of other publications. I’m not talking plagiarism, just borrowing a good idea.

In the two years that I’ve been at the helm of Southern Breeze I haven’t been trying to reinvent the wheel, but I have been slowly nudging the magazine into a different arena with a more cutting edge, contemporary, and, yes, even urban feel. As a regional/lifestyle publication with Deep South roots, it would be far too easy to continue down the path of least resistance. But the South is changing. So, too, should its magazines.

Yes, we still have recipes, shopping, home fashion and all the things that make for a perfectly comfortable fit with our affable and affluent audience. But I felt the magazine could do more to truly reflect the diversity along the Gulf Coast.

Homage on the Range

I came up with the idea for our most recent cover [pictured above, right] while at a photo shoot for a piece on New Orleans pride as part of our new “Southern Breeze Hot List.” In previous years Southern Breeze has had a “Best Of” issue but trying to fit almost 30 topics into six to eight pages resulted in scattershot, albeit eclectic, feature. After seeing the photos at the shoot, I suggested using this as a cover option when my art director, Catherine, was not overly enthused by the other shots she had in her canon.

Once she sent out cover comps to me and my staff, we took a look at all 12 of them, and I picked the one above as my favorite [the one to the left is a typical cover from before my reign]. As my staff and I looked at the printouts, my assistant editor noted that the one I chose was just like a Time Out New York cover.

And then it hit me: Hell yeah, it looked like a TONY cover because that is my all-time favorite magazine and I’ve gleaned ideas from inside—and now, outside—its pages for a while, even before coming to Southern Breeze. For example, while managing editor at the late, great Lighting Dimensions we instituted a redesign and I suggested a “5 Questions With …” for the front of book, similar to TONY’s “Three Questions For …” in its FOB. It was included and proved to be a popular featurette. (The “5 Questions With …” survived Lighting Dimensions’ merger with Entertainment Design to become Live Design, which is more than I can say for the managing editor!)

So I guess my question is: Is it wrong to borrow from other magazines? It’s certainly not due to a lack of original ideas on our part, but I feel that if you see something that another magazine is doing that you think would work in your own publication, then why not? Besides, when I look at some of Southern Breeze’s competitors, it’s obvious they’ve borrowed a fair amount from us. Thankfully, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

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Dylan Stableford

1978: The Year Sports Illustrated's Covers Got Weird

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/28/2008-16:59 PM

The Sports Illustrated's recently-launched SI Vault is a treasure trove of weirdo vintage covers, as Gawker recently discovered. Just how weird? That cover above is merely the tip of the wack iceberg. (I wonder what the people who are criticizing Vogue for its Lebron and Gisele cover would've said about this one.)

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Joanna Pettas

Greenspun Looking to Hire 30 to 50 New Online Staffers

Joanna Pettas emedia and Technology - 03/28/2008-15:33 PM

It’s true! Greenspun is planning to hire a veritable army of 30 to 50 new online staffers over the next six months for its “category crushing” Web site, the company’s president Michael Carr wrote in an e-mail FOLIO: today.

The tip came from this comment, posted to our original story earlier this week:

There is a rumor that seems pretty credible that they are hiring close to 50 new web people in 2008. I saw a couple of folks from the [Las Vegas] Sun speak in San Francisco this week, and it was definitely the most impressive local news site I've seen. If those are the folks who are building the sites that this guy is talking about, then I have got to believe that they are going to do something interesting.

And this despite Greenspun’s decision this week to shutter its monthly Las Vegas Life and transition its content online, although that move may have had more to do with the fact that LVL was rubbing up against Greenspun’s other luxury glossy, Vegas.

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