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Josh Gordon

Why Hillary Clinton's 'Red Phone' Ad is Perfect for Magazine Ad Sales

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 03/25/2008-15:27 PM

Many credit Hillary Clinton's presidential primary wins in Ohio and Texas to her controversial "Red Phone" ad designed to raise doubts about Barack Obama's experience on national security.

Despicable sleaze? Clever politics? Love the ad or or hate it, what I saw was a common sales tactic that every media sales rep uses at some time in their career.

When you sell a product where the outcome cannot be predicted, like a presidential candidate or a media buy, raising doubts about your competition, a.k.a "playing the fear card," is an effective way to win business.

On your next sales call:

If you are in a competitive sell where you have the more established, better known, or widely accepted product you can ask "what if" questions to raise doubts about your competition in the mind of your media buyer. Clinton's ad raised asked "what if" an inexperienced president got a 3:00 AM Red Phone crisis dropped in his lap.

Media questions you can use to raise doubts about competition:

"What if your ad campaign fails because you did not cover a key demographic (that my media covers better)?"

"What if your ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media whose circulation is poor?"

"What if you ad campaign fails because you bought the cheaper media upstart instead of the media with the proven track recored?"

And if the media buy is very high profile:

"This is an important media buy. If it fails a lot of people could get hurt. Hey, remember the old saying from the 80's computer industry , "No one gets fired for buying IBM."

Don't push too hard. If your "sales technique" shows you will be branded as a manipulative huckster. To play the fear card you stoke the latent anxieties of your buyer but never overtly say the anxiety is totally justified. After you leave their office you just want them to worry about their media buy if it isn't with you.

Click here to read Larry David's take on the red phone.

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Jandos Rothstein

Photoshop Disasters: Blender's Britney Cover

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/25/2008-11:53 AM

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]

Photoshop Disasters writes with humor about digital flim-flam, including the current cover of Blender, which brings us the head of Britney Spears.

Still, you have to admire the tasteless audacity of the coverline: “Britney Spears Has Lost Her Kids, Her Fans, Her Underwear…and Her Mind HOW WILL IT END?”

In a puddle of Red Bull, clearly ...

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Jason Fell

J.Lo’s Twins = Traffic

Jason Fell emedia and Technology - 03/25/2008-11:40 AM

Move over Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

This week's source of server-testing traffic goes instead to singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, who appeared in People magazine with her newborn twins, Max and Emme. People.com reportedly clocked an all-time daily high of four million unique visitors hungry for the photos from People's exclusive shoot, doubling its previous total.

The tots won't touch New York magazine's "artful" nude photos of Lohan as Marilyn Monroe, which crashed nymag.com's servers in February to the tune of 20 million page views on each of the first two days the pics were posted.

Now, if anyone could only snap a new photo of baby Suri ...

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Jandos Rothstein

Editors vs. Art Directors: Part III

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/24/2008-14:58 PM

A word on the recent Mark Newman blog post about the art director/edi... er, excuse me, I mean the editor/art director relationship. It seems the editor is always right.

As you might expect, there's a bit of foot stomping about the piece in art directorial circles—at least I think that's what it is. As we are just art directors, we can't express ourselves very clearly with words—so I'm hearing complaints but I'm not really sure what they're about. People think we art directors speak a secret language, sorta like porpoises, but no, we make no more sense to each other than we do to anyone else. Sad.

So, as I am incapable of mounting an effective counter-argument, I think I better concede his point, yes the editor is always "right" but only because he or she is defined as being so-at most magazines the art director reports to the editor. I'm actually not sure why this is a point worth making, there are very few of us who do not report to someone—editors report to publishers, publishers report to presidents, and presidents report to boards of directors. There's a lot more Dagwoods around than Mr. Bumsteads.

So why is he making it? Probably because it has never been less true. In the 1940s, when art directors were assigning a fraction of the art that appears in a modern magazine and pasting up rude mechanicals for hot-type forms, Mark Newman would have felt no need to defend his autonomy against the visual clerks who brought largely generic form to his words. It's now that the culture has grown increasingly visual, and the cognitive walls between words, images, and form have been shattered at the most successful magazines that his point seems urgent. The editorial inches, budgets, and staff devoted to art and design has never been higher. Most editors know that if they aren't visually conversant, their career will be limited and their magazine will suffer.

Now, good art directors have always been word people. The translation of verbal ideas into visual and graphic ones requires it. But, a lot of old-school editors are playing catchup right now, and they know it. But clearly, there are also and a few who haven't noticed that the nature of the magazine has changed.

There are, of course hacks in every field-art directors who can't read or understand past a headline, and complacent and blunt-witted editors, but we have entered a period in which, whether you are an art director or an editor, you must be bicameral to be fully competent. The increasing number of visually astute editors (and editors who know they should be, but aren't) has been good for us, and it's the future. No matter who's boss, we'll be getting up in each other's business for the foreseeable future.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]

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Mark Newman

Breaking Up (With TV Guide) is Hard to Do

Mark Newman Consumer - 03/24/2008-08:41 AM

I didn’t use the old chestnut “it’s not you, it’s me” when I broke things off. After all, I was still the same guy I always was, right? She changed, not me. I got used to everything being the way it always was. I was happy. I knew what to expect week after week, month after month.

But then change came and I wasn’t interested in continuing the relationship. And this was a relationship that had lasted as long as I can honestly remember, but things just weren’t right between us. It was time to bring this decades-long relationship to an unceremonious end.

Yep, I let my subscription to TV Guide run out.

For the first time in my ENTIRE life, I do not receive this weekly staple that was once the largest circulation magazine in the world. TV Guide was one of those things I looked forward to as a kid (yes, I know it’s sad). From the stylish covers—cheesy posed photos or Al Hirschfield caricatures—to the shamefully easy crossword puzzle in the back (“_____ of Hazard”? Please!), TV Guide would send me into world that was all about one of my favorite things in the world: television.

Things were going fine until that fateful day back in 2005. No longer would it publish in its familiar digest-sized format; it was as big as People, Us Weekly, Men’s Fitness, etc. But it wasn’t the size that bothered me. It was the fact that it was trying to be all things to all people. The new grid for all the show listings was lacking and there were hours of the day that simply weren’t covered anymore. Somehow it lost its charm.

Typically familiarity breeds contempt but in this case it bred content and I was no longer content so when my subscription expired, I unceremoniously buried my relationship with a magazine I’d read all my life. I should also add that my cable company has a function that allows me to get more info about a given show than TV Guide now offered, so the decision was that much easier.

Now, I hardly even think about TV Guide. Sometimes I’ll see it in the grocery store but the feelings are no longer there. I’ve moved on. Does TV Guide miss me? Judging from the number of offers I still receive in the mail, apparently so, but not enough to go back to the way it was before: when I was happy.

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Dylan Stableford

Have the National Magazine Awards Become Too New York-Centric?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 03/20/2008-13:53 PM


The finalists for the National Magazines Awards were announced yesterday. And—like every year—the list included some surprises (Good), snubs (Esquire) and the requisite head-scratchers (Bloomberg Markets?) that make any awards process fun.

And, also like every year, the list, like a lot of things in the consumer magazine industry, was dominated by a disproportionate number of magazines about or originating in New York.

Of the 128 finalists for this year’s Ellies, at least 78 are based (or have significant staff) in New York City. That’s over 60 percent, for those of you scoring at home. (The New Yorker and New York magazine combined for 21 nominations alone.)

It’s always been a criticism of the media at-large. It locks its viewfinder on New York—to a lesser extent, L.A.—and nothing else. And the media that covers media—particularly the journalists that cover the magazine and advertising industries—are especially prone to overstating the importance of New York, or, perhaps more accurately, not expanding the scope beyond Manhattan enough.

I think it’s a valid gripe to have, but an unfair one, too. For starters, what is a journalist covering the magazine industry supposed to do when the American Society of Magazine Editors is not exactly hunting down new nominees (sorry, the Virginia Quarterly Review doesn’t count anymore)? And when virtually every major magazine publisher works or has a sales office in New York, it’s tough not to have your view distorted.

While we, at FOLIO:, always talk about representing the entire swath of magazine publishers in such far-flung places as “Washington D.C.” and “Chicago,” we’re admittedly part of the machinery that gives New York its big head. (We’ll shoot video and liveblog the Ellies in May, for example, like every other magazine media outlet—and we should.)

But who cares what I think. What do you think? Has ASME become too New York-centric? Have the National Magazine Awards become the New York Magazine Awards? Will the MPA ever tire of Adam Moss?

Drop your comments below …

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Brad Fayfield

Are Ski Magazines Recession-Proof?

Brad Fayfield Sales and Marketing - 03/19/2008-08:24 AM

In the midst of an economic slowdown, businesses in all industries are battening the hatches and bracing for what looks like an ugly ride. The storm looks even more brutal for publishers given rising postal and paper prices.

So what are we and our customers doing in the midst of this besieged economy? Going skiing, of course!

In every cloud there’s a silver lining, and for my company, Storm Mountain Publishing (we publish Freeskier and Snowboard magazines) that silver lining is snow. Lots and lots of snow. The big fluffy kind that makes grown adults forget their financial woes, throw caution to the wind and spend their money on ski gear and ski travel. Ah yes, the power of powder.

One huge benefit of our vertical market is that we’re somewhat “recession-proof” as it relates to the broader economy. Our business is snow. When the white stuff falls, our industry booms, recession or no recession.

Perhaps it’s the needed sense of escapism. Perhaps it’s just the allure of the mountains. Whatever the reason, snow inspires our customers to spend money on skiing and snowboarding. And it’s happening right now: above-average—even record—snowfall across North America has helped fuel explosive growth in the winter sports category, amidst some of the worst economic conditions our country has seen in decades.

So far this season, all snow sports sales channels are reporting growth in unit and dollar sales, underscored by an overall growth of approximately 13 percent over the same period last season. Even better news for Freeskier’s market, the twin tip ski category (skis used in terrain parks, half pipes, etc.) is the hottest selling type of ski on the market. Sales of twin tip skis are up 60% in units and 62% in dollars compared to last season.

So, while other businesses are worrying about the subprime mortgage crisis, GDP and the credit crunch—we’re dancing around our office doing everything we can to please the snow god, in hopes that the sky keeps falling.

Because snow, above all else, equates to a good season of ad sales and business for us.

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Jason Fell

Credit Market Making Publishers Nervous

Jason Fell M and A and Finance - 03/18/2008-12:47 PM

Less than a week after its 21st annual media conference wrapped up in Florida, investment firm giant Bear Stearns Co. was sold Monday to rival JP Morgan Chase & Co. for $240 million—or just $2 per share, a 90 percent loss to what the company was worth a week ago.

Although the dramatic news doesn't have a direct impact on the magazine industry (unless Bear Stearns owes your business money, of course), it does have Wall Street traders up in arms again in a credit market that has former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan—who some blame for the housing market fallout—calling the current U.S. economic crisis the "most wrenching since the end of the second world war."

Capital markets across all industries, including media investors, are nervous about yesterday's news—and for good reason. "Every time that we think that we've seen the bottom of the credit market, something like this happens and we see that it can get much, much worse," Veronis Suhler Stevenson managing partner Tom Kemp told me during a phone conversation this morning. "Every time these things happen, the credit approval process becomes more difficult, leverage will be tougher and pricing will be higher."

The Bear Stearns acquisition "certainly casts a gloomy outlook over where the markets and economy are headed," DeSilva + Phillips managing partner Reed Phillips says.

Kemp and Phillips are right. What's going to come of situations like that with Reed Elsevier announcing plans to divest business sector magazine publisher Reed Business Information? A number of potential suitors have emerged, but is there really a strategic buyer out there willing to pony up $2-2.5 billion now?

We'll have to wait and see.

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Jandos Rothstein

An Exquisite Corpse of a Magazine

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/18/2008-12:01 PM

Acido Surtido is a remarkable and lovely poster/magazine published in Argentina by a small editorial team with support from the Ministry of Culture. Printing only 2000 copies, I feel fortunate that I have had the opportunity to review a nearly complete run of the stunning mag. In some ways, AS is similar to Lumpen in that both publications are free, both are lovely because of, and not despite of low production values, and both are the product of a cheerful but competitive collaboration among artists. Contributors at AS, I gather, work separately but meet to assemble the final arrangement of panels that make up the magazine. But, unlike the Chicago pub, Acido Surtido (which roughly translates as "Acid Mix") is almost entirely visually driven. AS is, in essence, an exquisite corpse of a magazine—while each issue is based on a theme, how contributors approach the core idea is individualistic, or even idiosyncratic. In fact, a few panels seem included not because they are particularly interesting on their own, but because they make the overall piece stronger by providing white space or a dash of whimsy in an otherwise serious issue.

While AS is both more graphic than literary, and unfurls into a poster (occasionally, one side is devoted to a single image) it is also, in every sense, a magazine. The juxtaposition of various contributor’s work create the deep interactions that the best magazines relish in—but here it is image and image rather than text and image that work together. As you unfold AS wonderful little moments occur (like the one below) in a carefully orchestrated interactive experience. The reader feels as if he or she is opening a present or untangling a mystery.

Read and see more here ...

Also, below, a link to a whole side of another issue, too large to put on this page and do justice to, based, as it is on the 25″ x 37″ original.

Acido Surtido 14

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]

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Josh Gordon

Who Says Magazines Are Not Interactive?

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 03/18/2008-11:56 AM

Not my 14-year-old, Jenni, who (with profound apologies to GL magazine) found a way to interact with that publication in a way that is ... well, meaningful for a 14-year-old.

Magazines, and most print media, are more personal because you can hold them in your hands. From here interactivity can take on many forms: physical coupons, tear outs, inserts, pop ups, contest entry forms, and blow ins. There is a physical interactivity that comes from the act flipping pages. There is a lot of interactivity that comes from the more personal physical connection that only print can make ... even for a 14-year-old!

More here ...

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Mark Newman

Editors vs. Art Directors: Part II

Mark Newman Design and Production - 03/13/2008-17:28 PM

Apparently my last blog post—Editors vs. Art Directors—really struck a nerve, judging by the number of responses (22 by my last count). When the attacks got personal (name calling, questioning the legitimacy of my own magazine, etc.) it made me realize that there are some pretty deep-seeded feelings on this issue.

The overall point of the last blog was that while the editor and art director are partners, the burden of responsibility always falls onto the editor. I’ve seen a lot more editors than art directors lose their jobs due to a magazine’s poor performance in my career. However, I have routinely seen art directors get the majority—if not all—of the praise for how great a magazine has turned around while the efforts of the editorial staff go totally unnoticed.

That said, many of the art directors whom I sent the blog link to agreed with my comments. Maybe it helped that we worked (or still work) together in some capacity, or that they understood, not only where I was coming from, but my healthy attitude toward art directors.

Catherine Neill Juchheim, my art director at Southern Breeze, the REAL magazine I edit, says that it is essentially up to the A.D. to ride herd over the material as well as the editors and sales people. “Whether it is a duel with the editor (no, 1,000 words of copy will NOT fit there!) or a fight with the sales guys over those last minute ads (and money always wins), it is up to the intrepid art director to make it work.”

Anthony Picco, who served as my art director for four years at a not-for-profit, completely understood and agreed with my comments because we respected each other’s profession as well as each other as people.

“My job is to make the information in the magazine attractive, readable, and enjoyable,” Tony says. “I fully understand that there are times that business politics dictate cover choices or lead articles. I have no problem accommodating that. In a healthy working relationship, I am happy to listen to editors' suggestions.”

However Tony admits that he prefers less specific comments from his editors (“The cover looks too busy,” or “This article has to look spectacular”). He adds that nothing annoys him more than when an editor tries to do HIS job with the “Make that type red” or “I want the type justified, not flush right.” Or as he puts it: “Nothing drives an art director crazier than an editor who is a frustrated art director.”

Another former cohort, Samuel Fontanez, who worked as a staff artist and is now art director of a magazine I used to oversee, took exception to my seemingly iron-fisted management mantra. “While I agree it’s the editor’s job to reel in the A.D. into reality when he thinks they’ve gone too far, [the editor] is not the only person on staff privy to the magazine’s audience,” he says. “Any art director who doesn’t know the audience or industry he or she is doing layouts for is basically a temp who has overstayed his or her welcome. So I think we deserve a little more credit in that area.”

John Scott, another former colleague who worked on two monthly publications where I was the managing editor, feels a lot of the issues between editors and their art doyennes are simply due to ego. “I think all editors and art directors have big egos, whether or not they admit it, so naturally there will always be clashes,” John wrote in his response to my initial post. “However, it is the ones on both sides that know how to control their ego and not let it get in the way that are the most successful. It is a team effort and there must be mutual respect and a bit of humility.”

John adds that if those egos get out of control, the end product will suffer and the work situation will be miserable. “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? That's always gotten me through plenty of situations.”

Many of the initial blog responders took issue to the “art director is always the wife” statement comparing the editor/A.D. relationship to a marriage. Sam was no exception. To wit, he says that if art directors are the wife, “then I suggest we make Lorena Bobbit our patron saint!” (Anyone who doesn’t remember Lorena, Google her. And by the way, Sam … ouch!)

Catherine was also not a fan of the husband and wife mentality and stresses equality among the players. “It's the 21st century now, people; how many wives out there are truly subservient to their husbands?” she ponders. “It’s an equal partnership or else it ends in divorce.”

John admitted that the “editor has final say,” but added that doesn’t necessarily mean they are always right. I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. In one of my blog comments, I talked about how my art director and I were seemingly up against the editor-in-chief (who had been in that specific industry for over 15 years) and a mousey associate editor regarding a particular cover design. Jonathan, the A.D., created a stunning, emotional visual from an idea I had. Instead, the EIC opted for tired stock art that did nothing for the magazine. [PS: The magazine folded five months later and Jonathan and I are the only ones still working in the magazine industry.]

Unlike John, Tony acquiesced: “The editor is always right, in theory,” he says, “but there are ‘Editors from Hell’ and I have worked for some of them. What does an art director do when an editor has no taste whatsoever—not even bad taste—and yet that editor wants to interfere? What do you do with a micromanager editor who believes you can only do your job properly if your hand is held every step of the way, from concept to completion? Ultimately, I have been fortunate—only about 70% of the editors I worked for were insane.”

Whether or not an editor is always right, Catherine agrees that it is the editor—not the art director—who has the first and last word with a magazine. “It is the editor who writes or assigns the stories that sets the tone for the art director to follow,” she says. “It is the art director’s vision that brings those stories to life across the pages, but it is the editor's determination as to whether the art director's vision is in keeping with the spirit of the editorial written.”

Art directors lucky enough to have good editors basically have free reign with the look and feel of a magazine, which comes from mutual respect, according to Catherine. “It’s also an open communication atmosphere where the editor and art director freely share ideas and perhaps even cross the lines of responsibility at times. Mark listens to any story ideas that I might have for Southern Breeze and I listen to him when he has an idea for an image to go along with something he has written. We also tell each other pretty candidly when we think something isn't going to work, and why. That way, both parties are invested in all aspects of the magazine, and both are driven to produce the best issue they can, time and time again. That is the only way to a successful magazine.”

However, an atmosphere where the editor and art director are constantly at odds will only result in a second-rate magazine and a very tense environment. “There is just no way a publication can succeed if the two ‘parents’ are constantly fighting,” Catherine says. “That will just produce a take-side atmosphere and pretty soon the whole office is in an us-versus-them uproar and nothing good will come from that.”

And the final word has to go to Catherine: “To the editor who may consider his or her art director a freak or diva: it takes one to know one. And I think Mark would agree!!”

Boy do I!

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Jason Fell

Republican Congressman Proposes Fining Sites That Allow Anonymous Comments

Jason Fell emedia and Technology - 03/13/2008-17:01 PM

Kentucky Rep. Tim Couch (R-Hyden) has proposed a bill that would require people who contribute comments or other user-generated content to Web sites to register their real name, address and e-mail address with the host site. If passed, Web sites that violate the requirement would be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Apparently, Couch proposed the bill to call attention to what he says are unkind and often untrue comments about people being posted online by anonymous Kentuckians—specifically high school kids in his district who badmouth each other online.

While this may seem ridiculous on the surface, it raises a good question. How much responsibility does a Web site operator or media company have in regards to monitoring its user-generated content?

As someone pointed out Wednesday at McGraw-Hill’s Media Summit, magazines don’t hire anonymous reporters to write their stories, so why should they allow anonymous people to post content to their Web sites?

What do you think? Weigh in by leaving a comment below. (And, yes, anonymous posts are OK with us!)

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