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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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Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: Rolling Stone's Barack Obama Endorsement

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/13/2008-14:01 PM

In the midst of a fascinating 2008 presidential race, Rolling Stone unveiled its endorsement of Barack Obama last week with this cover. Like anything this race seems to touch, the cover was immediately tagged as controversial (with some cable news pundits suggesting the magazine touched up Obama's skin color to make him appear "whiter").

Putting that, and Jann Wenner's politics, aside for a moment, FOLIO: asked some of its friends in the design world to weigh in on the cover. Here are some early returns:


NAME:
Dan Trombetto
TITLE: Art director, FOLIO:
CRITIQUE: From a design standpoint, the composition and typography are very straight-forward - nothing very interesting going on there. The use of an Obama illustration portraying him as a glowing savior peering off into an unknown future? It seems a bit melodramatic. But I’m sure it will get some religious folks up in arms and create some controversy, which is probably the desired effect. If nothing else, it sure gives Barack a lot to live up to—especially since “A New Hope” contains no question mark after it.

NAME: Marco Turelli
TITLE: Art director, Wine Enthusiast
CRITIQUE: Doesn’t really do much for me. Coverlines don’t help sell it to the reader. Barack isn’t looking out into the distance nor is he making eye contact, so in effect he isn’t creating a sense of “greater purpose” nor is he connecting with the viewer. I would expect a more provocative coverline like “America’s Only Hope.” I’ve seen much better from RS in the past when covering political figures. They need to get Woodard back. Hillary’s Last Stand could have been fun though.

NAME:
Paola DiMeglio
TITLE: Associate art director, Psychiatric Times
CRITIQUE: First reaction was that this looked like something from a Jehovah's witness "The Watchtower" cover (those brochures that they pass out for a quarter) ... has this religious feel to it. It's more like he's doing a Superman stance. Maybe they should have put the "S" shirt under his jacket with the cap. That would have gotten the effect, but maybe taken as more of an insult than an endorsement. I don't really care for the fonts but I see it's their standard serif font. It looks more like The New Republic or The Week instead of Rolling Stone.

NAME: Randy Dunbar
TITLE: Freelance designer
CRITIQUE: Presumably this an illustration. As illustrations go, it's unremarkable. And Barack appears to have more lines on his face than Georgia O'Keefe. He also appears to be all ear. Personally, I am not inspired by this cover—by design, color, graphics, etc. If this is the "new hope" cover, the future appears to be cloudy ... I did check the cover out at the RS Web site and in a smaller version. It has more impact ... whatever that means ...

NAME: Robert Siel
TITLE: Production director, Sumner Communications
CRITIQUE: Very solid cover. I like the painterly touch to the illustration. Nothing really pops out at me about this cover, either great or bad, but it's solid. The stance of Barack and the one touch of color on the red tie seem to symbolize a Superman pose.

NAME: Bryan Canniff
TITLE: Owner, Bryan Canniff Designs
CRITIQUE: I have several reservations about this cover. If I were a Barack supporter I would not be too happy about his angry expression. The candidate for change seems to be looking forward to hard times ahead instead of "A New Hope". He looks so mad he is literally steaming. The blue color scheme is also not very positive. It makes his skin look even redder in contrast (and angrier). I don't see the need to cover up so much of the logo, unless it is an awkward attempt to say Rollin one. It looks forced since his head is so small and there is no need to show more of his rumpled suit and askew tie. Starting with his pitifully small light yellow name, the typography is very laid back and the layout is too predictable and unexciting.

UPDATE: Tim O'Brien, the illustrator behind the Obama cover, responds ...

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

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Jim O

What Went Wrong with the Postal Rate Hike?

Jim O'Brien Design and Production - 03/12/2008-14:19 PM

Recent data from the Postal Service indicate that Periodicals Class mail only covered 83% of its costs in fiscal year 2007. This news comes on the heels of the "cost based rates" that went into effect last July and were designed to reduce the Postal Service's costs. Many people in the industry are now wondering "What went wrong?" The answer is that "nothing went wrong," once three basic facts are understood:

  1. Since the new Periodicals Rates went into effect on July 15, 2007, the USPS' data only reflected 2-1/2 months of mailing under the new rate structure (the USPS fiscal year ended on September 30, 2007).
  2. In an effort to mitigate the impact on smaller mailers, the July, 2007 rates only reflected 40% of the actual bundle and container costs. As a result, mailers did not receive accurate pricing signals and some companies actually reduced the number of drop-ship entry points. This reduction resulted in increased USPS transportation costs.
  3. Many mailers focused 100% of their attention on implementing the new rate structure and spent very little time reviewing their mailing practices an implementing changes in 2007.

As a result of these three factors and others, the Postal Service did not reduce its costs in FY 2007. With this as a backdrop, the question now becomes, "Will the new rate structure have a positive impact on Postal Service costs in 2008?" To drive costs from the system, mailers need to make changes. Here are a few changes that are taking place at one mailer and in the printing industry.

Changes at Time Inc. 

Time Inc. is making a number of changes to its mailing behavior and these adjustments may be of use to other publishers. For starters, each title has been analyzed to determine if all or a portion of its circulation can take advantage of co-binding, co-mailing, and/or co-palletization. Today, six Time Inc. titles participate in co-mail pools and the company will soon begin to co-mail a portion of their large circulation monthly magazines. Most people think that large circulation titles are not good candidates for co-mail because they have little to gain in presort improvement, but that perception may soon change.

Todd Black, Time Inc.'s assistant director of postal operations, working in conjunction with Brown Printing and Time customer service, has developed an innovative plan for Essence magazine and other large circulation monthlies. It begins when Time customer service determines Essence's presort. The label data for the carrier route copies is sent to Brown Printing in its usual fashion and the copies are produced using selective binding. Following production, the carrier route copies are included in Fairrington Transportation's co-palletization pool and drop-shipped. Essence also has a number of copies that do not lend themselves to co-mailing (polywrapped, personalized wraps, etc.) and these copies are also included in the co-palletization/drop-ship pool. The balance of the non-carrier route labels are not presorted and customer service produces a SLIR file that is transmitted to Brown for inclusion in their co-mail pool. After manufacturing (using conventional binding) the copies are co-mailed, entered into the Fairrington pool-shipping program, and drop-shipped to 96 ADCs. As a result of this combination of co-mailing and co-palletization, virtually 100% of Essence is drop-shipped with very few sacks and a significant presort improvement.

Time Inc.'s weekly titles have also been reviewed and improvements have been made. Since these weekly magazines have large circulations and carrier route percentages in the 75% to 85% range, there is little opportunity for co-mailing and drop-ship improvement. However, certain editions of the magazines do quality for co-palletization. The best example of this is an edition of People magazine that is produced in one plant for a national distribution. Prior to the implementation of the new rate structure, this edition was placed in sacks and entered into the postal mail stream at the printing plant. Today, these copies are included in the Fairrington co-palletization pool and drop-shipped. As a result, these copies have shifted from "100% sacks and zero drop-shipping" to "nearly zero sacks and 100% drop-shipping."

Co-Binding 

In addition to the co-palletization, Time magazine co-binds its Life and Style supplement along with its regular issue four times per year. Entertainment Weekly will co-bind a special issue along with one of its regular issues in May.

When the changes have been completed on the Time Inc. magazines, Black estimates that 23 Time Inc. titles will be using co-mail or co-palletization for all or a portion of their print order. Black states that, "There are cost savings out there for everyone, regardless of your size or vendor. My advice to other mail owners is to dig deep into each mailing to find what portions you can better presort and drop ship right now. For the portions that can't, ask why and keep asking why until each mailing is optimized."

In addition to the changes being made by the Time Inc. titles, the printing/logistics industry is opening new co-mail facilities and adding new machines to handle a wide variety of products. Black recently visited the new R.R. Donnelley & Sons co-mail facility in York, Pennsylvania. In response to increases in customer demand, Donnelley already has expansion plans for this new facility. York complements Donnelley's existing facility in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

In March, Black will visit the ALG Worldwide Logistics facility also located in Bolingbrook. ALG is a logistics firm that provides co-mailing and drop shipping for the print industry.

Quad/Graphics has developed a multifaceted program that now includes: Multi-Mail (co-mail); Multi-Wrap (offline for poly wrapped Periodicals); Multi-Bind (co-binding); and Multi-Blend (inline combination of previously bound Periodicals with magazines that are being bound). These options provide a great deal of mail-piece design and production schedule flexibility for their clients while still creating volume that maximizes presort and drop ship efficiencies. Quebecor World Logistics continues to invest in solutions that will enable them to co-mail a greater range of product (specifically thin and poly wrapped mail pieces). By the end of 2008 they will double their capacity with new state of the art co-mailers.

Fry Communications in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania is now offering its customers onsite co-mailing, selective binding, blended mail at the mail table level, and co-production (co-binding). Fry reports that they are seeing substantial growth in the number of copies co-mailed and increasing interest from clients who previously were not interested in taking advantage of the reduced distribution costs. In addition, Fry now has customers who use them as a co-mailer but not as a printer. As Fry's pool size increases, the opportunity for savings increases as more copies move from a 3-digit sort level all the way to carrier route presort.

If the changes at Time Inc. and the printing/logistics industry are representative of more global Periodical Class change, we will most likely see a significant reduction in Postal Service costs and a corresponding improvement in cost coverage throughout 2008. Such changes will go a long way toward keeping Periodicals Class mail well within the CPI rate cap in future years.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If your company has a co-mailing or co-palletization success story that you'd like to share, please send it to jim_obrien@timeinc.com.]

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Dylan Stableford

Is This the Worst Time Cover Ever?

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/12/2008-11:25 AM

Time magazine—home to such modern self-marketing marvels as the Person of the Year franchise—has put together a self-deprecatingly fun interactive slideshow. Tapping its 85-year archive of covers, the magazine is enlisting a reader vote on the worst Time cover of all-time.

Some of them, like the one on the right, I actually like.

And while it's not going to make any ex-art directors too happy, the feature is, as they say on the Internet, "sticky."

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Dylan Stableford

If Spitzer Was a Glamour Blogger, He Would've Been Out of a Job by Now

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 03/11/2008-16:12 PM

A full day after the New York Times' shocking revelation about Eliot Spitzer's involvment in a prostitution ring, the New York governor still, somehow, remains in office. UPDATE: Not anymore.

It took less time for Glamour magazine to fire a blogger after, as they say, a majority of readers wanted to "pulverize" him. Here's our story. And here's the note:

Our ultimate goal here is to open a productive conversation about men, sex, love and dating; clearly, that can't happen when the majority of readers would like to pulverize the blogger.

Glamour's hands were clearly tied. (Need to kill some time? Peruse the 200-plus comments posted here, here and here.) But did he deserve to be fired for, as he told Radar, being a "single guy with some issues and a lot to learn. So be it. I kind of thought that's what made my blog interesting"?

By the way, Glamour says it will name its new "Man Needs a Date" man soon. I can think of one candidate ...

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Dylan Stableford

Harvard Lifestyle Magazine Featured Eliot Spitzer, Wife 'In Happier Times'

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 03/10/2008-23:28 PM

That didn't take long.

A scant two hours and 17 minutes after the New York Times broke the story that linked governor Eliot Spitzer to a prostitution ring, I got this press release from a publicist for 02138, perhaps the last (only?) magazine to feature Spitzer and his wife on its cover.

From: [REDACTED]
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 6:03 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: Eliot Spitzer & wife Silda Wall on cover of 02138 ---in happier times

In Happier Times: Eliot Spitzer and wife Silda Wall on the “Power Couples” issue of 02138, the lifestyle magazine for Harvard influentials

Photo Credit: Jake Chessum at Capsule Studio in New York

Eliot Spitzer’s shocking admission about his involvement in a prostitution ring has rocked the political arena today.

Not long ago, Spitzer and his wife Silda Wall posed for the cover of the Winter 2007 “Power Couple” issue of 02138 magazine, the lifestyle magazine for Harvard influentials. The Harvard-educated couple, selected because of their influential careers and continued commitment to maintaining a strong and lasting relationship, seemed the picture of political marital bliss. The black-and-white cover photo showed a part of Spitzer and Wall’s relationship not often depicted in the public realm.

To read the full article from the “Power Couple” issue of 02138, go to http://www.02138mag.com/magazine/article/1113.html.

For a jpeg of the Winter 2007 02138 cover with Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall, please contact me at [REDACTED] or [REDACTED].

Best,

[REDACTED]

Note: It appears Domino recently conducted a video interview and tour of the Governor's mansion with Silda. Perfect timing, that.

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Josh Gordon

McDonald's Reaffirms My Faith in Print Advertising

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 03/10/2008-18:55 PM

You gotta love it! Here is a print ad for McDonald's Big 'n' Juicy Burger that uses almost no ad copy and a lot of paper to communicate how their bigger hamburgers need bigger napkins to handle them. The double-page spread was printed on napkin paper and ran in Sweden's Metro newspaper to promote the idea.

Is paper-based ad messaging dead? I don't think so!

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Dylan Stableford

'Help! Grandpa's Looking at My September Vogue Again!'

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 03/10/2008-16:50 PM

CBS' schtick-tastic Andy Rooney (yes, he's still on the air), the curmudgeoniest of curmudgeons, closed last night's 60 Minutes (yes, it's still on the air) broadcast with an odd rant about the effectiveness of advertising in high-end women's fashion magazines. And, here's a shocker: Andy Rooney doesn't understand the appeal of couture fashion spreads nor the ad pages that run opposite them.

The segment ("Andy Rooney's Eye for Fashion") could've been called "Help, Grandpa Took My September Vogue Again!"

What's that? You missed it? Not to worry, the video was dutifully posted online.

Quick! Someone get Mr. Rooney those audience metrics, stat!

Click here to watch the video ...

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Jandos Rothstein

Did Details Pioneer Front-of-Book Collages?

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 03/10/2008-12:49 PM

Left to right: Details, Esquire, Gourmet, body + soul

I first noticed it in Details a year or so ago—the first page of their newsbrief section ("Know + Tell")—traditionally the home of the most newsworthy, best or meatiest short item—had been torn down and replaced with something else: a page of bite-sized tidbits.

I don’t know if Details pioneered this approach (does anyone?) but it has very decidedly become a trend—several magazines are doing variations on this collage-like way of opening the section, in essence starting with an amuse-bouche (or seven) before the appetizers to come.

Details’ overstuffed page is still the best I’ve seen. Loaded with spare, hard-hitting language, and serious ideas, it averages more and better items than others I’ve found. It’s probably best described as a graphic Harper’s Index. Details occasionally uses a little line art on the page, but it is generally an exercise in pure typographical design—unusual and a breath of fresh air in a big newsstand book.

Esquire relies on a limited color pallet and the work of a single illustrator to hold its page together, and Gourmet’s functions more like a cover design, carving nooks and crannies in the space around a central image for type placement. Of the four here, body + soul’s stock art, sea sick colors, and vapid theme make for the weakest. They’re very proud of it though—it occupies the first page editorial page in the book.

For close-ups, click here ....

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

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Josh Gordon

Why Does Your Site Exist?

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 03/10/2008-12:38 PM

Why does your site exist?

On a sales call, how do you answer this question? Many media reps jump into a canned pitch about the power of their print-originated brand franchise and how their Web site extends the franchise online.

Baloney.

Media buyers, are driven by "What's in it for me?" and the best print brand does not guarantee online results.

The online world is results and measurement driven. You have to explain the functional benefit behind your online media first. Then go on to explain how this function can generate measurable results. Start with an explanation of what your Web site or online media DOES for it's visitors.

A great post on "Online Metrics Insider" lays out a guide for categorizing the functional benefit of a Web site for people who measure Web performance. They need this as much as well do. If you can't functionally define a Web visitor benefit you cannot evaluate a Web site's result, nor can you explain the advertising benefit of that site to a media buyer.

From the post:

Your Web site exists for a purpose, perhaps multiple purposes, such as:

  • Providing information or data. Many sites entice people to visit for access to valuable, differentiated information or data. Traffic is then monetized primarily through site advertising. Many internal and external analytics packages will tell you where visitors come from and what they do onsite, which, when combined with demographic information, can be used to qualify a specific audience to an advertiser.
  • Generating leads. A content asset is placed on a site and gated using a form. People fill out the form and download the asset. The information captured in the form is stored and used by the company that generated the leads or profitably sold to another company.
  • Selling products. The typical ecommerce model involves acquiring customers via some method or offer, providing a product catalog or landing page, and creating a strong call to action and funnel that persuades people to purchase a product.
  • Connecting people. The explosion of social networking sites where people connect to other people, interact with each other, and use widgets, apps, and data services, is a modern phenomenon in which many of us participate.

Click here to read the entire post ...

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Matt Kinsman

An Early Death Knell for User Generated Content

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 03/07/2008-13:25 PM

Every year there's a new savior for magazine publishers. Last year it was video. The funny thing is, while many more publishers are doing video today (and some are even making money on it), the buzz has faded a bit. That's because enough publishers are doing it that they now realize video does require investment, it does require staff, and it does not usher in a wave of new revenue for everyone who tries it.

This year, it's all about user generated content and social media. However, a Newsweek.com article says user generated content may have peaked before it's really started. The article cites the continued inaccuracies of Wikipedia and scammers running rampant on sites such as Craigslist as reconfirming the power of the "expert." While most publishers cite the 80-20 rule for user content (80 percent of the feedback is generated by 20 percent of the users), the Newsweek article says the ratio is even more skewed, with 1 percent of Wikipedia users accounting for 50 percent of the contributions.

Yes, I'm aware of the irony of a struggling "old media" brand calling out what could be the defining media trend of the next decade, as well as limiting its examples to the shortcomings of Wikipedia and Craigslist. However, the article does represent further evidence that publishing CEOs need to stop acting like the front row at a Hannah Montana concert when it comes to the idea of user generated content and apply more critical thinking to their approach. "Some of our forums have been great while others have been failures," said Alec Dann, general manager of Hanley Wood Magazines Online, at the ABM Digital Velocity conference this week. "You have to have the staff to do it right, and a lot of b-to-b companies don't want to do that."

Ain't that the truth. One CEO-level attendee at ABM Digital Velocity said, "We're all moving to a relationship with the audience. I don't mean to say that our friends in editorial will become extinct, but ..."

Well, even if he doesn't mean that, plenty of other publishers (especially on the b-to-b side) are salivating at the prospect of eliminating that pesky editorial staff in favor of a few monitors of audience content.

Yes, social media and user-generated content are great opportunities (and I think they will be huge). Yes, editors need to redefine their approach and facilitate the two-way conversation. But user-generated content doesn't offer a quick fix or justify completely abandoning the backbone of your content strategy. User generated content is another tool for the toolbox.

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Joanna Pettas

New York’s Organic Cover

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 03/07/2008-11:03 AM

Design director Chris Dixon says the cover of New York magazine's January 21-28 double issue "evolved organically" among the art and editorial teams.

The cover itself is somewhat organic. As Face Up panelist Robert Sugar says, it "fights the visual cacophony of the newsstand." When you picture not only the bright colors and flashy headlines of the magazines surrounding it but also the busy streets of New York around the newsstand itself, the image sort of embodies the concept of the cover line-finding calm in the urban squall.

For the most part, Face Up panelists had nothing but positive things to say about the two versions of this cover. To throw a little water on the love-in—or to reiterate how great it is—take the Face Up survey (and get the chance to win an iPod shuffle while you're at it!).

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To see another pair of fraternal-twin New York covers, click here.]

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