Quote from a media reporter at lunch last week: "Every
magazine tells me great things about their Web strategy, then I go back to
check their Nielsen traffic and they're too small to be measured."
If you believe the trade magazine box scores, online traffic was a rare Q4
bright spot for magazines last week in a month of mostly bad industry news
and advertising are down, paper prices keep going up.)
The fact remains however that unless you have swimsuit models or Lindsay
Lohan, your magazine site is still sitting below 100 million (and probably 10
million) monthly page views level.
Magazine sites have grown in the past few years by executing
against the basics-unique online content updated multiple times per day, blogs,
photo galleries, video, podcasts, user-generated content, etc. At this point, though, those features are
just the price of admission. The challenge for publishers now is to take a step
up out of the magazine site ghetto into competition with the real Internet
A typically brief and unscientific survey shows reveals two
emerging trends and one time-tested winner among strategies for putting the M back
Social Networking. Fast
Company is making a notable attempt to supercharge its user profiles into a full-blown social networking site. Though not a consumer site, Variety is also trying its hand at
Blogification. Several sites are jettisoning old-fashioned
magazine navigation in favor of a stripped-down blog approach, a la Boing Boing or Gawker.
The best example of this is the new PopSci.com-but I'll be damned if I'm
going to link to those guys-so I give you ReadyMade
Recipes. Not as sexy as social networking or blogs, but a
proven strategy built on the original user generated content play. Reader's Digest's AllRecipes.com gets 30 times the page
views of rd.com. BHG.com is
also above 100 million page views. Epicurious and MarthaStewart.com are also in the
topmost tier of magazine sites.
So there you have it.
Social networks and blogs are sexy, but apparently not as sexy as a good
ratatouille. Now if only I could think of some
science-related menus for Discover.
[EDITOR‚ÄôS NOTE: The following quotes are from various sessions during Day Two of the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit. We‚Äôll add to this list throughout the day.]
"We have a society columnist who looks at the computer and says, 'Over my dead body.' And that may indeed be the situation."‚ÄĒA city and regional publisher on the struggle to change the editorial culture at his magazine.
‚ÄúThey not only save you money, they bring young, fresh ideas into an organization. They‚Äôre not cynical. They don't know it can't be done.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒMichael T. Carr, president, Greenspun Media, on hiring interns.
‚ÄúI have 85 people in open revolt at any given time.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒCarr on getting his 1,200 employees to buy into a new business idea.
‚ÄúWe spend $4,000-$5,000 per issue. But we have to do it to create an environment for these high end advertisers.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒLynne Groth, publisher, Gulfshore Life, on producing fashion pages for her magazine.
"We threw a $200,000 over-the-top party, and it cost us $10,000."‚ÄĒDana Spain-Smith, COO, DLG Media Holdings, on selling event sponsorships."You need to put fire in the belly of your writers."‚ÄĒ Don Tenant, vice president and editorial director, Infoworld and Coputerworld, on getting reporters to write daily breaking news."We look for the money shot. It may be only five seconds, but its something that just can't be told in a textual form." ‚ÄĒ Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief, Wired News "Tremendous spikes [in Web traffic] can come through and then be gone. What does that mean?"‚ÄĒHank Boye, publisher, Harvard Business Review."People are reading in completely different ways. I have a lot of designers who get it, a lot of sales people who really want to get it, and then I have a whole bunch of editors who are in total denial."‚ÄĒCraig Waller, chief marketing director, Pace Communications.
The following memos were sent by Reed Business' U.S. CEO Tad Smith and global chief Gerard van de Aast, regarding yesterday's sale announcement:
From: Smith, Tad (RBI-US)Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 11:11 PMTo: RBI-US All Employees; RBI-US RCD - Canadian EmployeesSubject: IMPORTANT BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENT FROM TAD SMITH AND ALSO ONE FROM GERARD VAN DE AASTAs many of you now know, our parent company Reed Elsevier announced this morning that it was putting Reed Business‚Äô worldwide publishing business up for sale. Reed Elsevier no longer views advertising-dependent businesses as aligned with its growth strategy. The announcement this morning neither surprises nor worries me. We have a vibrant and exciting business that is successfully making the transition from print to online across dozens of market sectors in countries all around the world. There will be a healthy appetite for our business and your many contributions as staff members. The sale process will commence immediately, but it is unclear how long it will take to complete. For my part, I am committed to leading our business as your CEO during the sale process and thereafter. In the meantime, business will continue as usual and everyone‚Äôs jobs, benefits and pay will be unaffected. Reed Elsevier also announced a restructuring program this morning. RBI-US has a 7-year history of diligent cost and headcount management actions, including some taken earlier this year. At this time, RBI-US has no plans for a large scale layoff or other special headcount reduction program beyond the extreme care we continue to exercise on headcount additions. Tad Smith, CEO, RBI-USPlease read the attached communication from Reed Business CEO Gerard van de Aast for more information. REED BUSINESS CEO UPDATE February 2008Dear Reed Business colleagues, Let me first address the question why Reed Elsevier has decided to divest Reed Business Information (RBI). RBI is a well managed, high quality business. However its strategic fit with Reed Elsevier is less clear since Reed Elsevier has decided to move away from advertising driven revenue models and focus on subscription based models. It is important to note that this says nothing about the quality and attractiveness of our business and the markets we serve. On the contrary we are a strong, well run business and our markets offer many opportunities, particularly in the online space. RBI is well positioned and I would like to share with you my view on our business and my confidence that we will continue to do well under new ownership. Let‚Äôs start by summarizing our key assets and attributes. Attractive marketsThe B2B markets that we operate in show solid, sustainable, long term growth of around 5-6% per year. Our advertising customers need to promote their brands, generate leads, create awareness and support their products and services and our readers keep themselves up to date through our print and online content. Although marketing spend and reader behaviour is shifting, in particular to online, the value proposition that we offer is as strong as ever. Leading brandsWe own many of the leading brands in our markets. The list is long and impressive with franchises like Variety, Interior Design, EDN, New Scientist, Estate Gazette, Totaljobs, Elsevier, Boerderij, Strat√©gies, Australian Doctor and so on. All our brands have a rich heritage going back in many cases over decades, but even more importantly have an exciting future as well through our online developments which are starting to have a real impact in our markets and enrich our long established brands. Financial stabilityOur business has size, scale and financial stability. RBI‚Äôs revenue in 2007 was $1,709m with adjusted operating profits of $253m, cash conversion was 109% providing a stable and attractive cash flow. Size and scale also matter allowing us to effectively manage our business and fund new developments derived from continued scale benefits and savings. RBI employs 8,164 people. Clear strategyOur strategy has been very clear and effective. It is built around protecting our core print business, driving online growth and making sure we have the best people in the business. We have complemented this with targeted acquisitions. Our strategy is very effective given our results in 2007 and prior years. We now have over $500m of online revenue which grew by 30% versus prior year. We will continue with this successful strategy going forward. The best peopleMost important of all we have great people that are very much connected with the markets we serve. Be it in editorial, sales or support functions we have great strengths and competence. We also have made great progress in understanding and executing online business models. Combined, this will continue to be the bedrock of our success. Looking aheadIn the coming period, senior management together with Reed Elsevier will focus on finding the right new ownership for the business. We all can contribute to this by staying focussed on our business and deliver the results as before. Nothing changes in the short term and we should not be sidetracked by the divestment process. Reed ExhibitionsReed Exhibitions has pursued a very successful strategy in the last few years. This strategy, which focuses on organic growth enhanced by targeted acquisitions and development of our business in high growth economies (BRIC), has proven to deliver strong growth. In 2007 results again were good with revenue growth of 12%. Going forward we will continue with this strategy and add programs for online development which will become increasingly important. Reed Elsevier will continue to invest in the business and support the strategy. There is a Q&A specifically related to our exhibition business available to answer questions that might arise. I would like to thank you for a good 2007. All businesses in Reed Business met or exceeded their targets and delivered good growth. In particular Reed Exhibitions performed strongly and in publishing we did see continued strong growth in online. Although the publishing and exhibition businesses will go their separate ways, both are well positioned. I do understand that all this might raise questions including what it means for you personally. A list of frequently asked questions is available on your local intranet site and aREna today. I also encourage you to discuss concerns with your management. Communication will be straightforward and timely. When we have new information we will share it with you. Let me close by expressing my confidence in our future and give you my commitment that I will lead us through this process.Kind regards,Gerard van de AastCEO Reed Business
[EDITOR‚ÄôS NOTE: The following quotes are from various sessions during Day One of the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit. We‚Äôll add to this list throughout the day.]
‚ÄúNo one‚Äôs reading the magazine on the Web.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒDana Spain-Smith, COO, DLG Media Holdings, on the tired practice of replicating articles online.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm trying to eradicate the word ‚Äėhope.‚Äô‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒMichael T. Carr, president, Niche Media, on motivating his sales team to succeed.
‚ÄúThe company was founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway‚ÄĒclearly, we needed to change.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒJack Griffin, president, Meredith
"I'd tell people it was for hot young women and the men who can afford them. That was the mission statement."‚ÄĒCarr on the launch of Vegas magazine."Every single company we've bought [had] underperformed badly."‚ÄĒFrank Anton, CEO, Hanley Wood, on the state of the companies acquired by Hanley Wood before being acquired.
"To grow a business, you have to take risks, and you have to fail."
‚ÄĒAnton on his business philosophy.
"Since 2000, the business-to-business media has not grown at all. Not at all." ‚ÄĒAnton, setting up an inspiring luncheon keynote.
"This sounds like heresy, but I don't think there's going to be many magazines left. It's not going to happen in my business career time, but I think it will happen." ‚ÄĒGloria Adams, senior VP audience, development, Pennwell, on her opinion of print-magazine life expectancy.
"It's not about your Web site, it's about things going on around your Web site‚ÄĒpeople linking to it, talking about you badly ..."‚ÄĒChrisitine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and emedia, Bobit Business Media
"I think at some point there will be people who don't make the cut. It's hard to make those cultural changes."‚ÄĒOldenbrook on salespeople's ability to sell e-media."If you have a Web 1.0 site, you probably need to redesign it."‚ÄĒJanet Ludwig, president, Allured Publishing
"We talk to women the way they speak to themselves."‚ÄĒTina Johnson, editor-in-chief, Women's Health, on the voice of the magazine."Oh, no. Not the p-word again."‚ÄĒChris Peacock, editor and vice president of CNNMoney.com, on the overuseof the word 'platform.'"YouTube has lowered the standard for everyone."‚ÄĒKaitlin Quistgaard, editor-in-chief, Yoga Journal, on the obstacles ofproducing high-quality video content for the Web.
MIAMI‚ÄĒDuring his morning keynote, Meredith Publishing Group president Jack Griffin explained the company's approach to selling via its M360¬ļ group. "It's a group set up to be media neutral. We're not selling a particular asset, but creating solutions for our advertising customers."
It's an approach that focuses entirely on selling integrated packages, no longer simply selling customers on a single media‚ÄĒprint display advertising, for example. It's also one that other publishers are adopting. CMP has realigned its marketing services team to be customer-facing by region, creating customized packages that rarely come straight off a menu. "We have teams focused in the customer client regions, in the sales regions if you will, working with different customers to do that integration across different platforms‚ÄĒprint, online, events, or deeper into a specific platform," says Scott Vaughan, vice president of marketing and research.
"Customers don't necessarily say to you ‚ÄėI want to advertise,'" added Elliot Kass, managing director, client content services. "They just say, ‚ÄėThis is what I'm faced with and if you can help me figure out a way to solve this problem then I'm very interested.'"
MIAMI‚ÄĒJason Binn loves a good party‚ÄĒand chances are you‚Äôve been to one. The company‚Äôs magazines throw some 300 a year, says Michael T. Carr, Binn's boss and president of Niche partner Greenspun Media. But that doesn‚Äôt mean his sales teams are invited.
Carr told a working group at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit today that Capitol File, Niche Media‚Äôs luxury D.C. glossy, recently thre a party hosted by Forest Whitaker. The magazine‚Äôs sales team, though, was not allowed in. ‚ÄúThey don‚Äôt attend the party,‚ÄĚ Carr says. ‚ÄúThey stand in the lobby‚ÄĒand stay in the lobby.‚ÄĚ The sales staffers are required to greet every attendee on their way inside, and thank them on the way out‚ÄĒa quasi-host role, he says.
The reason? Their job is to schmooze, not‚ÄĒas it often happens‚ÄĒbooze. ‚ÄúThey can give a five minute sales pitch in the lobby,‚ÄĚ he says.
Reasonable, but I‚Äôd wonder about what a policy like that does for morale. File that under ‚Äúno fun.‚ÄĚ
It used to be that talk of product placement in magazines would elicit a scary backlash from church-state fundamentalists. Not so much anymore.
In a working group devoted to marketing and brand development today at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit, many seemed to think the issue has gotten beyond whether or not it‚Äôs a church-state violation‚ÄĒit‚Äôs not longer a question of¬†do or don‚Äôt but more like when and how.
‚ÄúI think it will come. It will have to,‚ÄĚ said Kevin Hyson, executive vice president, CMO, of American Media.
‚ÄúThere may be a place for product placement,‚ÄĚ said Hank Boye, publisher of Harvard Business Review and co-moderator of the working group, but only after careful examination so that the brand and editorial reputation are not compromised.
Jeff Pedone, director of e-mail marketing at ALM Media, asked the group if the church-state issue with product placement is an internal one. ‚ÄúAre you holding onto something that your audience isn‚Äôt holding onto anymore?‚ÄĚ
Janet Ludwig, president of Allured Publishing and working group co-moderator, said a lot depends, of course, on the audience. ‚ÄúIn b-to-b, you really have to protect your credibility. It‚Äôs our lifeline.‚ÄĚ When a product appears in the midst of content, she said, ‚Äúa reader needs to know if that‚Äôs been paid for."
Meredith president Jack Griffin is tough. He showed up at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit in Miami to deliver his keynote this morning on crutches following emergency surgery on a broken leg he suffered a year ago, having lost his cellphone somewhere between LaGuardia and the Doral. And, like a seasoned prize fighter, he landed some key jabs on the state of the magazine business, through the lens of a Des Moines, Iowa publisher Griffin said was ‚Äúfounded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.‚ÄĚThe company was ‚Äúfounded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.‚ÄĚ Which looks nothing like America in 2008, particularly in its ethnic makeup. For a company that publishes ‚Äúwhite-bread‚ÄĚ magazines, he said, ‚Äúthe change has been quite provocative.‚ÄĚHow provocative? Since 2002, they've spent roughly $600 million on launches (print and Web) and acquisitions, cobbled together an nice interactive marketing business. And despite some big successes (Griffin said Better Homes and Gardens had its best year ever in 2007), it's not all grits and gravy. In November, Meredith‚Äôs stock price was at $63 per share. Yesterday's closing price? "Forty-six dollars" he said.
SEE RELATED VIDEO Q+A: Griffin at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit
Here's an idea that has been kicked around ad nauseum (see: "Magabrands," Dave Zinczenko et al) but perhaps never expressed so bluntly. According to Computerworld and Infoworld editorial director Don Tenant, the print magazine no longer should be the ‚Äúheart and soul‚ÄĚ of a brand. Instead, as his team did at IDG, publishers should think of their brand as an online media company with ancillary print and event products.‚ÄúAdvertising is shifting from print to online in droves. So, what do you do?‚ÄĚ Tenant said this morning during a session at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit. ‚ÄúContent should be going online first. Our strategy is to think of print as being a compilation of the content online.‚ÄĚLike a growing number of companies, Tenant‚Äôs group merged its print and online editorial teams four months ago. On the surface, at least, this seems to be an easy, efficient content management strategy.‚ÄúI can‚Äôt tell you how much this was a morale boost for everyone,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe should have had a plan in place all along to unite the two teams.‚ÄĚ
Programming note: FOLIO:'s editorial staff will be liveblogging this week from the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit, which kicked off this afternoon at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami, Florida.
Check our special FPS page throughout the conference for updates, posts, videos and news reports, or by clicking on our FPS tag here.
A quick e-mail exchange I had today with Reed Business Information‚Äôs vice president of corporate communications regarding a report in the England's Telegraph newspaper on 1,000 impending job cuts at the parent company:
From: Jason Fell [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 9:58 AMTo: [REDACTED]Subject: FOLIO: StoryImportance: HighGood morning Salina. I hope you had a nice weekend.
I read this story this morning about Reed Elsevier planning to cut 1,000 jobs. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/02/17/cnreed117.xml)
I‚Äôm curious: How will this impact Reed‚Äôs North American magazine business?
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience as I am working on a strict deadline.
From: [REDACTED] Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 10:18 AMTo: Jason FellSubject: RE: FOLIO: Story
We can offer no further comments until Reed Elsevier's annual results are announced on Thursday (February 21).
Jessica Helfand takes on farming magazines, from 1878 to DJ Stout‚Äôs redesign of Dairy Today, on Design Observer.