News-media gossip site Gawker caused a stir at the beginning of 2008 when owner Nick Denton sent an internal memo saying that bloggers will be compensated for traffic generated, rather than for the number of posts they make. That set off a firestorm in the blogosphere, with pundits ranging from Valleywag (which published the memo) to Publishing 2.0's Scott Karp debating whether this is part of a trend in which editorial is being valued less for legitimate content and more for flashy, gossipy pieces that drive hits. The debate also focuses on whether a lot of "hits" are necessarily preferable to the "right" kind of traffic.
Still, this isn't a phenomenon limited to new media companies like Gawker. Ziff Davis Enterprise has focused on traffic-driving for a while. "From a journalism perspective, there was a new imperative to rationalize: Grow traffic," Mike Vizard, senior vice president and editorial director of Ziff Davis Enterprise told FOLIO: last year. "Our editors are always keeping an eye on the site traffic and if a story is hot, they'll understand and have five follow-ups." For ZDE, that includes sitting down every month to develop big-idea stories that are going to drive traffic-such as The Top 100 People In IT.
Meanwhile, facing a revenue fall and a cost crunch, publishers are splitting on the value of edit. Many are re-investing in editorial, especially as they try to build up a fledgling online business. Business-to-business publisher Hoyt Publishing is starting to pay editorial sales-type money. "The equation overall has shifted," says president Peter Hoyt. "Instead of paying the salespeople big money, now we're paying the editors and have kids on the phone selling." Consumer enthusiast publisher Gearhead Communications has doubled its edit budget for the last six months and plans to keep doubling it for the foreseeable future.
However, b-to-b media consultant Paul Conley thinks U.S. editorial jobs will increasingly be farmed out overseas, and he's backed up comments made for FOLIO:'s 2008 industry predictions by Peter Goldstone, president of Hanley Wood Business Media. "I predict at least one major b-to-b publisher will outsource some or all of its editorial overseas," Goldstone says. "The most likely scenario is that one of the dozens of magazines that have launched overseas editions in Vietnam, China, India and elsewhere will ask their overseas staff to take over U.S.-focused beats. Once a publisher comes to understand that the work being done overseas is as good as what's done in the home office, it's inevitable that he'll move more work offshore."
On Friday morning Iâll be flying out of sunny Newark, New Jersey and heading to Phoenix for the Super Bowl. Well, not exactly the Super Bowl itself. As a jaded media insider, Iâll actually plant my behind in a seat out of Phoenix in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday and watch the game at home (trust me, itâs a better experience). So the truth is Iâm making the six-hour trek to sweat through Playboyâs million-dollar extravaganza known at Super Saturday Night, the best party we throw outside of Hefâs Mansion spectaculars (the Midsummer Nightâs Eve and Halloween parties in particular). Chances are most people will never get a chance to go to Hefâs biggest blow-outs, so the SSN bash is probably the closest heaven ever gets to earth for a select group of the people who know people.And what will you find when there? I donât know exactly, I havenât been to the venue. But the Playboy marketing, PR and ad sales teams have been overheating their engines for a solid month to pull this thing off, and if the past is any guide, Iâm looking at eight hours of pure adrenaline. So now comes the press-release portion of whatâs going down in the desert, which sadly wonât do it justice, and may actually make the party seem similar to what other magazines and companies are doing. But itâs not. Playboy knows parties, which is why this event, which started 10 years ago as a small, simple advertiser-sponsored event at a restaurant (the lines around the block tipped us off to the fact that we had something to exploit, and so we did) has won the best-party awards from the press and attendees for the last several years.The theme is Playboyâs Desert Oasis and Resort. Common will be the host. Hef will be there. So will our March 2008 cover stars, the Girls Next DoorâHolly, Bridget and Kendra. Theyâll all fly in on the wings of one of our principal sponsors, Jet One Jets. Weâll have huge blow-ups of the new March 2008 coverâthree of them. Why three? Itâs the three GNDâs third time on the cover, and this is the first time Playboy has produced whatâs commonly known as a split run of covers. So thereâs a collectible angle at work. Subscribers are receiving a racy version of the cover, with the girls mostly nude; military bases and Europe will see a semi-nude cover; American newsstands, naturally, will get a clothed version (all variations available for sale at Playboy.com). There will be a celebrity DJâWild âN Out host and actor Nick Cannonâsharing time with DJ Reach. There will be lots of different environmentsâdance floors, cabanas, and an Oasis Bar pouring the drinks of our sponsors (Corona Extra; Cuervo Black) and offering Playboy Cigars. There will be a giant martini glass and a life-size Femlin (itâs her 50th Anniversary, after all), a Playboy TV Lounge (with retro footage of Hef and new clips of current shows; itâs PBTVâs 25th Anniversary (weâre big on anniversaries here)). What else? A coffee shop, the Girls Next Door CafĂ©, with grilled cheese and more TVs (retro-style), a mock-gift shop with lots of freebies (our licensing groups is launching a new menâs underwear line). And at 12:30 our Playmates will change into Playboyâs new menâs boxers.Speaking of girls, weâll have 26 Playmates there, and dozens of Painted Ladies (the most beautiful local models wearing nothing but paint). The New England Patriot Cheerleaders are attending; so are the Hawaiian Tropic Girls. Believe me, based on the amount of happy, partying, scantily clad women alone, thereâs no way another party will beat ours, which is why our magazine competitors have given up on throwing parties on Saturday night, leaving Playboy to own the evening. All this for just 2,000 lucky guestsâso few tickets, that scalpers sometimes drive up the price of the rare black market tix to levels rivaling that of the actual game tickets (sometimes as high as $2,500). Weâve gotten increasingly sophisticated with our ticket production (holograms, black-light watermarks) to avoid counterfeit tickets, which is a huge problem. If someone drinks too much? No worriesâCuervo Black has set up a Safe Rides program to help everyone get home. We expect a lot of celebs to showâEntourage guys like Kevin Dillon and Alyssa Milano, Lauren Conrad, athletes like Amare Stoudamire and Keyshawn Johnson have committed early, and the already large list is sure to grow.One more thing: This is not a sausage fest. The ratio of women to men is generally 1:1, and women who attend the event have as much fun as anybody. Itâs the key to Playboyâs mainstream. A female guest can get as sexy as she wants and dress however she likes without worrying that sheâs going to catch crap for her behavior or having people snark that sheâs underdressed.One of the more comical aspects for us here is receiving calls from executives at companies who shun our business on moral grounds (there are a few of them out there; just look at some of the conservative-leaning corporations who back the kind of political initiatives that are completely opposed to Playboyâs progressive and libertarian philosophies, and youâll be able to identify the hypocrites). Not all my memories of past Super Bowls are good. In fact, I missed last yearâs party in Miami thanks to a stomach flu that hit me right after our walk-through at the Miami Heat arena. I shivered and shook under the covers all through the night, fearful that Iâd miss my early morning plane ride. I also recall a sharing a moment with Gary Cole, our photo director, in Detroit the year before. Our venue was at the Detroit City Airport Hangar. As I was leaving the walk-through with Gary, I pulled my rental car into slow-moving traffic. Some aggressive horns went off behind me; a few cars sped around me and stopped, blocking two lines. A few guys jumped out, yelling and waving their hands. They were upset. âHoly shit!â said Gary. âYouâve broken into a funeral procession.â I gave my best âWhaddya?â with my hands, a shrug, jammed into reverse, then forward, and sped off. Iâve been in my share of funeral processions in New York and had cars break it up, and itâs not a big deal. It is in Detroit, though.Other good times: Being told by Kanye West that we had a great party thanks to high ceilings and DJ Sky Nellor. Watching girls rush a VIP cabana and dance in front of it because some guys showed up from some new show Iâd never watched (turned out they were the stars of Greyâs Anatomy; the Entourage guys are similarly idolized at our events). At one point I found myself entertaining Joe Jackson, Michaelâs father, chatting up Al Sharpton and introducing them to Joan Jett. Or sitting in between Jaime Pressly and Kelly Monaco, running short of small talk, and sweating out a reason to get up and go.And Iâve gleaned one excellent piece of advice, albeit second-hand, from Hef. The Playboy crew and staff and Playmates generally all stay at one hotel. As the editor of the magazine, I donât interact with the Playmates much once theyâve appeared in the magazine, though many of our ad sales and marketing people do as they build their careers. So the Super Bowl, for me, is a reunion of sortsâI looked forward to seeing Monica Leigh and Courtney Culkin from Long Island, plus Cara Zavaleta, Pilar Lastra, Penelope Jiminez, Hiromi Oshima and Tiffany Fallon. I think I was sitting around at the hotel talking to Pilar who joked about how Hef never called her by name but always called her darlinââand other Playmates chimed in and concurred. Even though I am atrociously bad at names, I had a laugh at that, too. Of course, the night of the party when they were all in costume, I put my newly solidified friendships to the test. âHey Cara!â I said. âYou idiot, Iâm Pilar!â she told me. And as if that wasnât enough, I proceeded to screw up a few more names.So from now on, Iâm sticking with darlin'. See you in Phoenix.
Time magazine has tried and failed to get 20 to 30 percent of its clients to buy ads based on total readership rather than circulation, according to a Mediaweek story. The article reports that Time offered advertisers the choice to buy against a guaranteed, MRI-measured total readership of 19.5 million or against a rate base of 3.25 million, 19 percent smaller than in 2006, and only âa fewâ opted to buy on audience. Scenarios like this are confounding for a lot of people. âIt doesnât make sense for an advertiser to buy based on how many copies are printed but rather on how many are seen and what is the action as a result of that,â said John Griffin, president of National Geographic Societyâs magazine group and newly inaugurated MPA chairman, at a recent MPA breakfast. âWe should have some kind of measurement that better reflects the goals of the advertiser. Publishers are arguing that paid circ isnât that important and advertisers are arguing that it is. It should be reversed.â Sure, it should be. But as Griffin said at the breakfast, it is advertisersânot publishersâwho will ultimately make the shift happen (or not). And, judging by this, most advertisers arenât ready for the somewhat ambiguous world of audience metrics. According to the Mediaweek story, some saw the offer as a way to shift conversation away from circulationâa lot of magazines have âa better audience story than a circulation story,â said Barry Lowenthal, president, The Media Kitchen. Some just didnât see making the change as a priority, while many took issue with the nature of reader-reported MRI data. Maybe publishers, instead of asking why advertisers are passing on this option, should ask themselves why they wouldnât.
In early January, shapingyouth.org, a blog on marketing to children, complained to mass retailer Target about a new ad campaign that depicted a woman positioned on a target pattern with the bullâs-eye seemingly targeting her crotch.
What gives, Target? A subliminal sexual message? A lapse into bad taste? Publicity through controversy? Or, did their art director, so wrapped up in the "snow angel" theme, miss the obvious innuendo?
Mistakes happen, but Target's response to the criticism was a showstopper that enraged the blogosphere.
In an e-mail response published in the News York Times, Target replied, âUnfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets.â
âThis practice,â the public relations person added, âis in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest,â as Target refers to its shoppers.
The Times covered the response: âWord of the exchange quickly spread and the blogosphere did not appreciate the slight. âTarget doesnât participate in new media channels?â asked the Web site for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. Target âdismisses bloggersâ commented the blog for Parents for Ethical Marketing. âAhem! So bloggers donât count!â Ms. Jussel chimed in on ShapingYouth."
How long the issue will rage in the blogosphere is hard to say. But a lot of people who held a fine opinion of Target think less so because Target did not offer a simple response to a blogger.
On your next call, if you have a blog product to sell: remind your client that while blogs often deliver small numbers, the readers can be extremely influential and able to quickly muster armies of like minded individuals that can do great harm. As Target may now be learning, ignore blogs at your peril.
Iâve been reluctant to write about Janet Froelich for fear of coming off like a freshman painting student conceding some small admiration for the work of Picasso. Her art direction of the New York Times magazine is legendary, as well as a continuous source of inspiration to the publishing design community. So, I wonât blubber on much.
Nevertheless, I thought Sundayâs cover package was spectacular. Using a relatively restrictive vocabulary of well-worn iconography (maps, globes) She and photo illustrator Kevin Van Aelst push the language in all kinds of unexpected and innovative ways to talk about waning U.S. influence. There are a couple of other stunning spreads in the issue as well. First, the opener and a subsequent spreadâŠ
Style section, with blurry photograph by Julian Schnabel ...
... and a gentle typographical homage to art deco.
The MPA has a terrific booklet that compares the "engagement" qualities of magazines against other media. In a variety of comparisons magazines do extremely well. For me the most sales call friendly parts came on page 14 in the section entitled, "Qualitative dimensions of engagement". Research shows the ads that run in magazines are seen by readers as offering value, not an intrusion.
Use it on a sales call: First off, download the 35 page PDF at the link below. On the call, the trick is to shift the conversation. When many advertisers/marketers talk about engagement they are referring to measurable engagements such reader click throughs, contest entries, getting readers to contribute content or become involved in some way. This great resource from the MPA helps you shift the dialog from this "mechanical" view of engagement into a psychological one where the relationship between magazine and reader take center stage.
You don't have to explain all this on a call. Just explain the magazine engagement story. The story that says, unlike many other media that provide more functionality along along with a lot of distractions (third chart posted below), magazines engage your customers minds and bring the ad message along in a positive way. Very powerful stuff! Download the entire survey here.
Once upon a time (maybe 24-36 months ago), publishers struggled with how to integrate online advertising sales with their existing print efforts.Â Hire a new sales person who knew his or her way around the Internets?Â Retain an outside rep firm with a set of relationships in the online agency world?Â Train your print reps to sell the site?Two to three years later, most publishers have a team of in-house sales reps that can sell integrated packages.Â Why is this so?
Â 1. Online sales know-how has to be one of your core strengths. You'd be foolish to outsource it.
2. There are no more online-only sales people because there are no more print-only sales people. Your average 28 year-old sales person consumes a ton of online media and wants to sell your brand's entire package. Asking them to sell only magazine ads is a non-starter.3. Every RFP that comes in asks for an integrated proposal and, at this point, we're happy to provide one. We can provide print, online, video, events, whatever. You want ideas? Big-time publishers can deliver video of Beyonce caressing your product online, polybagged and on national TV.
2. There are no more online-only sales people because there are no more print-only sales people. Your average 28 year-old sales person consumes a ton of online media and wants to sell your brand's entire package. Asking them to sell only magazine ads is a non-starter.
3. Every RFP that comes in asks for an integrated proposal and, at this point, we're happy to provide one. We can provide print, online, video, events, whatever. You want ideas? Big-time publishers can deliver video of Beyonce caressing your product online, polybagged and on national TV.
At DISCOVER, we'd have to replace Beyonce with a sexy theoretical physicist, but you get my point.I will even argue that publishers are ahead of advertising buyers in this respect.Â Looking through our top 100 advertisers, 80-90% of the accounts have print and online media buying at the same agency.Â When you go the meetings, though, you often see the two teams separately, the print buyer is still looking for online as a value-add, and the online buyer works on another floor or another city.So, get with it, media buyers.Â When a single planning team is evaluating the combo print-online-event-TV proposal (and paying for each of those elements), that's when advertising will truly be integrated.
This post by FOLIO: editor Dylan Stableford on Glam Media and its CEO Samir Arora makes two insights into e-media M&A: "If traditional publishers continue to miss the site network strategy, as Arora says, I'd expect that line of âapproachers' to start looking like the runway at JFK, probably sooner than later. And when it does, it'll be a fun exercise in valuation."
Arora says he's already getting a significant amount of interest from tire-kickers and the supposition that the crowd of curious buyers will soon resemble a packed runway is dead on. Media bankers DeSilva + Phillips have already labeled 2007 as the "year of the digital niche acquisition," and this year is shaping up to be more of the same.
What's more, Arora is actually generating revenues. "Our internal goal has been to drive the revenue growth rate faster than any other media company on the Internet--traditional or nontraditional," Arora told me in our original interview.
Whether or not Glam's revenues are developing at a scale or speed buyers are looking for, that model is something both potential strategic and financial buyers will no doubt appreciate, given the smokey back room approach to early-stage e-media valuations.
With the credit markets as tight as they are these days, buyers may not be as willing to pay whatever it takes to win a bid. And in a deal for a property that has proven financials, a bidder pool would likely expand to include even the more conservative buyers who normally shy away from early-stage Internet companies that have no measurables to pin a valuation on beyond site traffic, demographics, an executive team still in their 20s, and a great idea.
Since the conversation on this topic was interesting, I thought it would be appropriate to add some more information and answer where I stand on the question. After all, I asked the question in my previous blog post, I didn't answer it.
First, my opening comments as [GQ writer and Deadspin editor] Will Leitch and I sat down for the interview. (These come courtesy of Will in an email to me about this subject):
WL: Okay. I want to start off actually, this is going to be just a big Q&A, pretty much straight up and everything. So I want to start ...MC: This is just for GQ now.WL: Just for GQ, not for Deadspin. No Deadspin stuff, and no ... yeah, I have the journalist hat on. And I have the journalist hat on at Deadspin, too, but anyway, let's ... another debate for another time.MC: We won't call that journalism.WL: Another debate for another time.
So I made it clear that I wanted no association with his blog at all.
Does his writing a piece about me with a link back to the very item that he knew I wanted nothing to do with constitute a lack of ethics? I think so. It certainly is a major f*ck you.
Does making the following comment ("Cuban was not amused and spent most of the interview accusing Deadspin of being the Inside Edition of sports. So that was fun") diminish the integrity of the interview itself? Probably not, but to some readers of Valleywag and GQ, it could. Unethical? Probably not. Stupid business? Definitely.
For the record, I certainly didn't spend most of the interview talking about his blog, but I certainly had fun at his expense from time to time and I never said it was off the record. Although, again, this was a GQ interview. Set up and arranged with the magazine with no consideration on my part as to who would do the piece until Will showed up.
Which leads to my conclusion about all of this.
It's my fault. I was stupid to think that the guy who runs Deadspin could stop being the guy who runs Deadspin. I should have asked for GQ to send someone else. Better yet, I should have stuck to my rules and only do interviews via email.
[EDITORâS NOTE: There's been a lively debate regarding this issue on Mark Cuban's blog. Check out and join the debate here, or in the comments section below.]
Evaluating the winners (the New York Times, Gawkerâyes, Gawker) and losers (Bonnie Fuller).
Heath Ledgerâs death this week rocked New York, Hollywood (most of which seemed to be at Sundance) and the rest of the country, as well as Australia, where the actor was born. It rocked the celebrity magazine world too, working editors and production staffs into a deadline frenzy to beat the rush at the newsstand. People magazine was able to close with a Ledger cover while most of its newsstand competitors, which close Monday, did not; Entertainment Weekly, which closes on Tuesdays, managed to produce a Heath Ledger cover, too.
As Ad Age's Nat Ives pointed out, the later close is going to benefit People in âthe relentless checkout-lane war against Us Weekly, Star, OK, In Touch and Life & Style.â Undoubtedly true, but is checkout domination all these magazine publishers care about?
Maybe itâs because I identify more with Heath Ledger than other celebrities (he was 28, liked to party and altered his facial hair frequently). Maybe itâs because Iâve never bought a copy of People. But talk of a checkout-lane war in the wake of a death like this feels a bit tacky.
Particularly when the news of Ledgerâs death was exhaustivelyâthoroughly and well, by the wayâreported in real-time on the Web, more so than cable news coverage. (Donât get me started about this guy. I mean, please.) Radar appeared to be the first to post the news; the New York Times' City Room blog delivered continuous updates; and Gawkerâwhich has the reputation of being tad insensitive in times like theseâposted perhaps the most eerily poignant video of the scene, replete with natural audio (you ever hear a crowded New York street this quiet?) of the removal of the body.
And what does this say about magazine Web sites? Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of Star magazine, chose to blog about Ledgerâs death. Not for Star magazine, mind youâfor the Huffington Post. And a wildly speculative post at that:
None of his gifts, neither talent nor family, appears to have been enough to combat the demons that apparently led Heath to take the pills that could have ended his young life.Heath, perhaps if you had just re-watched your old film you would have been inspired to stay with us and to have "changed your stars."For more coverage of Heath's life and tragic death, go to Starmagazine.com.
None of his gifts, neither talent nor family, appears to have been enough to combat the demons that apparently led Heath to take the pills that could have ended his young life.
Heath, perhaps if you had just re-watched your old film you would have been inspired to stay with us and to have "changed your stars."
For more coverage of Heath's life and tragic death, go to Starmagazine.com.
Bonnie, perhaps you should've considered if anyone cared what your Netflix queue looks like. Or waited, like everyone else, for an autopsy. And maybe a fact or two, while you're at it.
Speaking of tacky, look at the âtagsâ used by HuffPo for their Heath coverage:
Thatâs right. Theyâre tagging their stories with misspelled variationsâand rumored causes of deathâon purpose in order to boost their traffic with people who type âKeith Ledgerâ into search engines.
A couple months ago I agreed to do an interview with a major national magazine that I enjoy and respect. I rarely do face-to-face interviews because I have significant trust issues with how an interview can be reflected in a story.
I try to stick exclusively to email for all my interviews. In this case I made an exception because I had developed a good relationship with the magazine.
The interview process was unexceptional. Meaning that it went well. The writer and I got along and I thought it was a fun interview to do.
The article came out last week and I liked it. No problems at all.
Then the person who interviewed me, who is also a blogger, decided to blog about our interview. The blog ran on a site that he is associated with, but is not affiliated at all with the magazine the interview was for. He never asked, nor told me that our interview would be blogged about. While I respect the magazine, I am not a fan of the site he works for, or of its affiliated site that the blog ran on. A point I let him know. I would not have done the interview had I known he would blog about it for this site.
As it turns out, he did not clear the blog with the magazine either.
So he traveled on their dime to do an interview for their magazine and then used the interview to generate a blog for his site from a subject that was not expecting to be blogged about.Ethical or not?[EDITORâS NOTE: There's been a lively debate regarding this issue on Mark Cuban's blog. Check out and join the debate here, or in the comments section below. And see Mark's answer to the question here.]
Hereâs to taking customer satisfaction to the extreme.Each year, the Menâs Journal advertising staff participates in what it calls the âDare Your Repâ campaign, an initiative to help engage their clients and to promote the magazineâs May âAdventureâ issue. So what awaited the magazineâs eager sales staff this year?
Firewalking? No. Winter surfing off Montauk? Nah. Taking more than 40 percent of clientsâ votes was swimming with sharks. Of course.
So, last week, 15 advertising reps donned wetsuits, hopped into a tank at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, and got up-close-and personal with several varieties of sharks. Even publisher Will Schenck got in the tank.
Swimming with sharks is apparently just another notch on the belt for the Menâs Journal ad staff. Last year they ate from a menu of tasty delectables such as honey-glazed spiced tarantulas, herbed cream cheese with glazed scorpion, filo dough pastry cups with prickly pear cactus jelly and roasted ants.
Anything for a sale.