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Jim Elliott

In Sales, Plan for Change

Jim Elliott Sales and Marketing - 12/13/2012-13:53 PM

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  He could have been describing today’s publishing landscape. We work with many publishers, and are continually reminded of the importance of sales planning. There is no final answer:  The situation is fluid and plans must be updated, revised and, sometimes, jettisoned.

There are more ways for a publisher to generate revenues today than ever before. There is much more for salespeople to learn and remember, and far more ways to go wrong in areas only tangentially related to traditional publishing. It is unclear which will be the winning strategies as magazine brands extend beyond the printed page to websites, mobile media, events and social media communities. What is clear is that salespeople are responsible for learning, forecasting and planning in new areas.

Because my company’s responsibility is to turn publishers’ plans into revenues, we find out very quickly what works. Every one of our salespeople creates an annual plan for every sales territory; we have found that rapid, monthly course corrections and revisions to plans are essential.

As we talk with publishers, we frequently see a pattern of issues like these:

• Slow, methodical annual planning with quarterly reviews, in our view, is ineffective. Reviews must be accelerated.
• Many publishing organizations lack any real experience in identifying appropriate partners and then in executing a relationship with those new partners.
• Hiring one-dimensional salespeople who do not have the proper skills to adapt to a multimedia environment puts magazines at a disadvantage.
• Failing to recognize that just because people may be comfortable with digital technology does not necessarily translate to the ability to sell that digital technology. They may not have the skill set to sell anything.
• The real—and troubling—rise of technologically-driven processes like Real-Time Auction advertising models commoditizes and diminishes the role of publishers and traditional agencies by replacing considered opinion with algorithms.
• Failing to properly train salespeople in all new product offerings means they often do not try to sell the products, which results in lost business.
• Failing to provide adequate sales and demonstration tools (including mobile tools for mobile products) and proper collateral can reduce the impact of investments in new products.

Many problems can be traced to the cost-cutting measures in the face of the recession and uncertainty due to the very turbulent times in which consumer and b-to-b magazines have found themselves. As Warren Buffett so aptly says, "Capital outlays at a business can be skipped, of course, in any given month, just as a human can skip a day or even a week of eating. But if the skipping becomes routine and is not made up, the body weakens and eventually dies."

In my opinion, leadership must come from the top. Just as salespeople need to be trained in the nuances of new media platforms, or at least platforms new to them, so does senior management. Too often, top managers running publishing companies don't have enough experience in understanding the nuances and the differences that exist between different media and how they can be packaged together. I think this is a big issue today.

Placing publishing executives into the media department of an agency for a week would be the best training. That experience would bring incredible insights to top managers, not only regarding the differences in various media, but also in understanding the way ad agency media buyers really purchase media. Because this solution is impractical for most executives, the next best thing is for them to go on fact-finding tours at agencies with the objective of learning. Selling will come later, based on understanding the buyers’ needs. 

There is no end in sight for new media platforms, and disruptive innovation is the rule. The only sure thing is that failure to stay current will have negative results.  From here on out, we all must keep on learning.

James G. Elliott is president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc., an independent advertising sales firm. He can be reached at j.elliott@jamesgelliott.com.

 

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Michael Rondon

Is the USPS Getting Into the Magazine Newsstand Business?

Michael Rondon Sales and Marketing - 12/11/2012-12:38 PM

The U.S. Postal Service appears to be gearing up for an entrance into the magazine retail market, according to meeting notes from the Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) quarterly meetings over the past year. Traditional newsstand sales have been discussed, as well as digital options via USPS.com and mobile devices.

A summary of the group's most recent November gathering--first mentioned this weekend on the blog Dead Tree Edition--notes: "The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on USPS.com." And later adds: "The USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions."

These notes come on the heels of an August meeting where Kelly Sigmon, USPS VP of Channel Access, gave an address entitled "Magazines at USPS Retail" and indicated the Postal Service "is open to a test in 25-50 locations."

Similar mentions--overwhelmingly positive--have appeared in meeting notes since February.

The response from publishers seems to be less enthusiastic though.

Slides from a product development presentation given at the meeting available on the MTAC website hint at trepidation, saying: "Implementation and economic challenges limiting interest with Publishers."

Several related parties, including Sigmon, declined interview requests, and, after multiple denials the project existed, a USPS spokesperson admitted the program had not progressed beyond "the idea phase."

Another industry source confirmed that Synapse, a large-scale magazine distributor with ties to major publishers including Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and Meredith, had been involved in the project but was unsure of where it stood at the moment. Synapse also declined comment.

Right now, it seems clear the USPS wants in.

It's just up to publishers to open the door.

Michael Rondon is an associate editor for FOLIO: Magazine. You can reach him at mrondon@accessintel.com.  and follow him on Twitter @Mike_Rondon.

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Michael Rondon

LinkedIn Co-Founder Connects Social Media With Live Events

Michael Rondon Sales and Marketing - 12/06/2012-15:41 PM

 

Media companies, and especially those in the b-to-b space, are increasingly reliant on events as a vital way to diversify a portfolio. Yet, as reported by FOLIO: today, even growth in the events sector seems to be slowing.

However, harnessing the power of social media is one way that media companies can hold the attention of customers and consumers beyond the week or month a magazine is on sale--or an event is in session. That was one takeaway provided by Eric Ly, the co-founder of LinkedIn and keynote speaker at the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday.

“We weren’t cool enough to create Facebook,” said Ly. “So we tried to create something useful instead.”

Ly, joined onstage by Rick Calvert, moderator of the address and head of New Media Expo, was speaking to a crowd of about 400 professionals as the CEO of another startup now—matchmaking provider Presdo. Ly discussed the role of social media in the face-to-face industry.

“I used to go to a lot of tech events,” he said. “People want to get together, they want to socialize and have really important business relationships and friendships come out of that experience. I would go to those events and—I don’t think I’m alone in experiencing this—you walk in and see a room full of people really not knowing who you should meet.”

“In face-to-face, and especially events, it’s really about connecting people,” he added. “That actually turns out to be really hard to do.”

Ly noted several times that he sees social as a compliment to face-to-face interaction however—not a replacement. While it can be a useful tool in matchmaking and extending relationships beyond the time and space limitations of an event, social is not an answer in itself.

“I think that face-to-face is never going to go away,” he said. “We are humans, we want to be in contact with other people, we want to develop trust—and those kinds of things are really hard to do online.”

Calvert also broached LinkedIn’s own potential as an event provider. Despite shuttering it’s proprietary events app in late-November, the social mega-site could still be poised for a head-on collision with the industry.

Admittedly theorizing, Ly suggested the move could simply have been the closing of an unsuccessful product, or perhaps, a hint that LinkedIn was going to get into the events business itself.

While that prospect may be daunting for many in the event industry, Ly doesn’t think it would work.

“There’s so much value in face-to-face interaction, it’s an industry of $200 billion,” he said. “Those kinds of abilities, skills and talents I don’t think are going to be replaced any time soon by a Silicon Valley company.”

Michael Rondon is an associate editor at FOLIO: magazine.

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Roy Beagley

To Test or Not to Test—That’s Never the Question

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 12/04/2012-14:29 PM

 

Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a test—you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.

While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the “60 cents” when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panic—but I subscribed all the same.

If you cannot test a price, test a term—$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.

“Pay in Advance” as opposed to “Bill Me Later” is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, “Bill Me” is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a “Bill Me” offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up front—even with a money-back guarantee.

Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it win—price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.

Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a “50% Off The Cover Price” offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, don’t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same result—it probably won’t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.

You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every year—year in, year out—we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, “This has to go, it is awful”—and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.

So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new control—and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?

Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.

 

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Bill Mickey

A Response to 'Subcompact Publishing'

Bill Mickey Consumer - 11/29/2012-15:48 PM

 

An essay by Craig Mod has been making the rounds lately among media watchers. It's a terrific read. Mod, a current independent writer and former Flipbook employee, touts what he's calling the Subcompact Manifesto, which places a premium on a minimalist approach to digital publishing.

His manifesto emerges out of one of the main criticisms 'traditional' publishers have received for their tablet magazines and apps: They're unwieldy, hard to use, have too many bells and whistles and take up too much room. But most importantly, they're tied to print production schedules, design and pricing. In other words, tablet editions are not exploiting the medium in the open, nimble, socially-forward way they could and/or should be.

As Mod says:

So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because it’s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).

Unfortunately—from a medium-specific user experience point of view—it’s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications.


The key here, for Mod, is the "indigenous magazine"—a product born exclusively for the mobile-digital platform, free of any print production and pricing frameworks.

He goes on to highlight The Magazine, created by Marco Arment, as a perfect example of the digitally indigenous magazine. It's short (four or five articles), it's design is breezy and open, it's file size is small, it's cheap and easy to snack on.

This all may be true, and there's probably an audience for The Magazine and future brands just like it.

But what's wrong with publishing a tablet magazine that's full of print magazine design and rich media content, that's $4.99 for a single copy and might take all night to download to Apple's Newsstand? Nothing, really, because there's room in the market for the digitally indigenous magazine and the digital magazine that's married, for good or bad, to its print namesake.

I understand that with digital comes an expectation of disruption and re-invention. And not just an expectation, but actual disruption. But it's also a world where all sorts of business models live and play.

I don't think Mod is necessarily saying all publishers need to drop their old-school, print-legacy-based digital magazines and start producing $2, 4-article, scrolling mini-apps. He does say though, that publishers are balking at producing products like these because they're not based on a familiar model and they're not likely to produce immediate and significant returns. Funnily enough, neither have the full-blown tablet magazines, for now.

What will be interesting to see is how much the subcompact model informs or influences the sedan version of digital magazines—or simply rides next to it.

 

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TJ Raphael

Study: B-to-B Marketers Lagging With Social Media

TJ Raphael B2B - 11/27/2012-15:36 PM

 

Business-to-business marketers are underutilizing social media and its potential, according to new data from Eloqua, a marketing automation company. Of 548 b-to-b marketers surveyed by Eloqua, about 40 percent say they are not yet using social media marketing. Additionally, about 25 percent of respondents say they don’t know how their company plans to use social media marketing in the future.

Although many departments may contribute to social media, respondents say that social networking platforms are most often managed by a public relations department (26 percent), followed by a variety of departments (23 percent) or a website team (11 percent). Still, about 23 percent of respondents say that social media is not under the control of any one department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 43 percent of respondents say that their company has no strategy in place for incorporating social media into demand generation. About 20 percent said a lack of tools prevent them from using social media for lead generation and another 33 percent say a lack of strategy is attributed to an unclear understanding of the value of social media.

Business-to-business companies that are using social media platforms for a variety of reasons:

  • 83 percent use social media to create awareness for their company or brand.
  • 56 percent use social media to get visitors to share messages socially, broadening reach.
  • 55 percent use social media to increase trust by accumulating social followers.
  • 32 percent use social media as an outbound marketing channel for demand generation.
  • 22 percent use social media for a better understanding of market perceptions of their own brands and or products.

In the future, b-to-b companies expect a variety of benefits from social media, with most respondents (50 percent) saying it will help to increase reach and brand awareness. About 35 percent say driving inbound leads to increase revenue will be a benefit of social media, with 28 percent saying social networking will benefit their company when it comes to measurable impact on demand or revenue.

This data reinforces the notion that b-to-b marketers still need help when it comes to the social networking space—something that content producers can assist them with. Publishers should look to expand marketing services groups to have a strong focus on social media, which will help publishers position themselves as a unique solution to a need in the marketplace.

T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

 

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Josh Gordon

Have Publishers Let Competitors Position Their Media?

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 11/20/2012-15:09 PM

Media buyers who buy the products publishers sell now divide the media they manage into three categories:

  • Earned media, largely social media where organizations "earn" exposure by posting content on services like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
  • Owned media, media a marketer owns like their company website, newsletter, or blog.
  • Paid media, third party media, which is most of what publishers sell to marketers.

But consider the emotional message these labels send.

"Owning" your own media makes marketers feel great and in control. Owning is good!

Everyone loves to "earn" free exposure on social media platforms.

But who really wants to "pay" for exposure they might be able to get for free through social media?  

Of the three media categories, only "paid media" is named for a negative characteristic.

How did this happen? These category names came into common use around 2008 when social media was being added to media budgets. With the need to contrast social media with traditional media, the social media centric thinking of the time renamed traditional media as it contrasts to social, suddenly we became "paid media." This label casts a negative implication every time it is used.

There is a fix. Publishers need to work to change the label from "paid media" to "third party media," which is more descriptive and offers a significant benefit. While earned and owned media are highly effective at reaching existing customers, third-party media is far more effective at reaching non-customers. Current customers are much more likely to visit a company website or subscribe to a company newsletter. Non-customers, less so. Current customers much more likely to participate with a company Facebook page or subscribe to a company Twitter feed. Non-customers, not so much.

Third-party media, reaches customers and non-customers alike.

But it is no secret that marketing budgets have seen a big shift in the last few years. While marketing budgets have remained flat for the past few years dollars have moved out of  third-party media (paid media), and into owned and earned media. This trend may have gone too far.  

In a study
my company did earlier earlier this year that measured the marketing effectiveness of 34 companies in a B2B market and found  that marketing was effective with an average of 55.6 percent of current customers, but only with 10.6 percent of non-customers.

There is a real case to be made for the benefits of third-party media. The more important winning new customers is for marketers, the more important third-party media becomes. I we can reposition what we sell from being "the media you have to pay for" to being "the media that best communicates with NEW customers" our media sales job will get easier. 

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Bob Cohn

Don’t Call It a Redesign

Bob Cohn emedia and Technology - 11/15/2012-12:51 PM

 

For much of the last year, my colleagues and I have been working through a redesign of the home page of our flagship site, TheAtlantic.com. From whiteboard sketches and Google docs to Dunkin’ Donuts and the occasional conference-call squabble, we completed the project thanks to the standard tools of 21st-century workplace collaboration.

What was surprising, though, is how quickly the undertaking turned from “sprucing up the home page” to “what is our mission and how should we achieve it?” Midway through the process, in fact, we sought to avoid referring to the project as a redesign at all. That seemed to trivialize it, suggesting a facelift or a fresh coat of paint. The goal, we realized, was more strategic than aesthetic.

As it should be. A lot had changed since we last revamped the home page in early 2010. Perhaps the biggest difference was the size of the audience, which grew from 3.8 million monthly unique visitors in February 2010 to 12.5 million in October 2012 (Omniture). Likewise, we have about three times more daily visits to the home page than we did back then. For all the side-door social and search referrals (which are by far the major drivers of our audience), the home page still claims between 15 and 20 percent of our daily page views. Now that it was attracting nearly 300,000 visits a day, we needed to serve those readers better.

The goals we set out to accomplish, listed below, are hardly unique to The Atlantic. But familiar growing pains are not necessarily any easier to soothe. We tried, quite deliberately, to use the design process to fix problems and improve user experience. The mission included:

• Give the home page more visual oomph. We went with a larger lead photo and lead headline, and allocated more real estate to promoting our visual features, “In Focus” (our photo section) and video. We also adopted new typefaces and a cleaner look. I may sound confused; I just said a few paragraphs ago that the mission of the project was strategic, not aesthetic. That’s true, but one strategic goal was to flex some visual muscle – to reflect the more visual nature of the site, to keep pace with other sites that publish much larger home page photos than we do even now, and to ensure the focus of the page didn’t shift too far toward ever-more sophisticated and visually emphatic ads.

• Drive readers to the interior pages of the site. Six months ago, I wrote in this space that the home page matters, “but not, perhaps, for the reasons you may think.” The argument was that the home page is critical for conveying the sensibility and values of a site, for serving as a statement of the brand. So the page mattered even if it wasn’t triggering very many clicks, at least relative to social and search. True, but why not optimize the page (and all our pages) to drive depth? With the new design, we have introduced skyboxes on all pages as well as what we call the Belt on the second screen of the home page. Now we’re promoting 18 stories on the first screen and a half, compared to 13 before. To our eyes, at least, the page doesn’t seem busier.

• Fight the tyranny of the “right rail.” The clickstream data shows that the standard right column of a page has become easy for readers to overlook. That long gutter is a line that eyeballs just don’t cross. Unhappy about giving up 40 percent of our page, we decided to reclaim that real estate as a place for compelling content. To do that effectively, we got rid of the gutter.

• Make the bottom half of the page more dynamic. In the 2010 redesign, we tried to make the top of the page look sharp. But we failed to require the same ambition of the rest of the page. One exercise we've been going through in the last year: call up a site, scroll down one or two screens, and then ask ourselves, How does that look? More and more we came to admire those sites that put real effort into the second, third, and fourth screens down. So we've tried to bring strong design to the whole page, not just to the top.

• Reflect the important role of social media. The Most Popular box tells readers what stories others are reading. Our social strip at the bottom of the page goes a bit deeper, indicating which stories are popping on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon. (We’ll be adding more services as our analytics permit.)

• Give more of our on-staff writers regular presence. Our new Writers module promotes the latest posts from a fuller range of journalists on our team.

• Create a higher-impact experience for advertisers. For both the edit and sales teams, clutter is the enemy. To cut down on the noise and give the ads more impact, we reduced the number of spots on our home page from a banner and two boxes to one box and one high-impact pushdown unit. In some circumstances, the page features only one standard ad.  At the same time, we built in flexibility to test new native promotions that will allow us to surface custom advertiser content, labeled as such.

• Promote our sister sites better. Since early 2010, we have added a new site to The Atlantic portfolio (The Atlantic Cities) and to our parent Atlantic Media Company portfolio (Quartz). With the new home page, we’re allocating space, when editorially appropriate, to teasing stories from those sites, as well as creating a footer that features top stories from all our sites at all times.
 
It’s been a week since we introduced our new home page. In the coming months, we’ll be altering article and channel landing pages to reflect the new look out front. Of course, even then we won’t be done. In a constantly changing media environment where data and reader comments are both instantaneous, you’re never done.

 

 

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TJ Raphael

Television: The Next Screen for Publishers?

TJ Raphael emedia and Technology - 11/13/2012-11:40 AM

 

By 2017, about 600 million televisions worldwide will be connected to the Internet, at least according to the Connected TV Forecasts report from Digital TV Research.

At the start of the decade there were an estimated 48 million Internet connected televisions in the United States or 45 percent of the global total. By 2017, it is expected that there will be 147 million Internet connected televisions in the U.S., which will account for 25 percent of the global total. China will have 93 million connected TVs by 2017, up from a mere 2 million at the end of 2010.

As tablets and smartphones continue to grow along with the need to diversify revenues, publishers have seen the value of extending their reach to every device available. While it is unlikely that readers will ever use their televisions to actually read content, they will likely use these newly connected devices to visit Web pages and to watch video.

The Internet can be publishers’ “side door” into television, so to speak, and many are already working hard to produce videos that are tied to print magazine brands.

At the 2012 American Magazine Conference in San Francisco this fall, for example, enthusiast publisher Source Interlink Media said it was turning its eye to video—it now has a 45-person production crew and is focusing on entertainment-based streaming content.

“YouTube has allowed us to dive into episodic content and it’s evolving to be able to provide a lot of advertising content,” said Chris Argentieri, president of Source Interlink Media. Source in the digital age will be “truly a diversified media company from a revenue standpoint,” he added.

Hearst already has its YouTube Premium Channel initiative, which includes the Hello Style and the Car and Driver Channels. Time Inc.’s This Old House is using video to power its website relaunch and has the potential to roll out about 34 years of video programming from its companion television program. TheAtlantic.com launched a video channel in August 2011 and regional title New York magazine turned a content staple, Eat Cheap, into a five-part YouTube series.

YouTube is the second largest and most used search engine on the planet, rivaling only its parent company, Google. With so many Internet connected televisions anticipated to come in the next few years, expect to see the number of users not only increase but the number of publisher-branded YouTube channels as well.

T. J. Raphael is Associate Editor of FOLIO: Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

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Josh Gordon

Are Your Media Reps Asking About Paid Search?

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 11/08/2012-14:26 PM

 

If your sales staff sells traditional media, understanding how paid search works is a big plus. Today, about half of all online ad dollars go to search, so it is important to understand where most of online money now goes.

The first step is for media reps is to ask clients how much of their ad budget goes to search. Many are surprised at how much of the marketing plan goes to a format that started in its current form only 12 years ago—2000 was the year Google first started selling advertising based on keywords.

The year search really broke out was 2008. In that year Google indexed a trillion web pages, but more importantly, acquired web analytics giant DoubleClick enabling them to, "dramatically improve the effectiveness, measurably and performance of digital media for publishers, advertisers and agencies."

Leveraging the resources of DoubleClick, Google was able to improve the metrics for advertisers and offer "more precise metrics in order to judge the effectiveness of their campaigns." With improved metrics came better documentation of the effectiveness of search and and improved sales.  
    
The year 2008 was also the year b-to-b print advertising, a medium challenged with documenting results, started to falter. Coincidence? Hard to say.

But let's look at the present. A recent study of b-to-b marketers from Marketing Sherpa showed budget allocation for paid search is now ahead of print advertising, no small feat for a medium where ads often cost between 30 cents and five dollars each. Think traditional media does not compete against search for ad dollars? Think again.
 
Do your media reps know how to position their products against paid search? It would be best if they could.

 

 

 

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TJ Raphael

Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson Leaves Wired

TJ Raphael emedia and Technology - 11/02/2012-15:48 PM

 

After an 11-year stint as Wired's top editor, Chris Anderson is stepping down. According to a memo released late Friday by Condé Nast CEO Charles Townsend, Anderson will leave the magazine, pursuing his "entrepreneurial dream." The announcement comes about 10 days after the publication announced it was increasing its rate base for the 11th consecutive year to 825,000--a bump of 3 percent or 25,000. Below is the full note from Townsend on Anderson's departure:

Today Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, announced that he will be leaving Condé Nast at the end of the year to become CEO of 3D Robotics, a company he cofounded several years ago.

“This is an opportunity for me to pursue an entrepreneurial dream,” Chris said. “I’m confident that Wired’s mission to influence and chronicle the digital revolution is stronger than ever and will continue to expand and evolve.”

Chris joined Wired as editor in chief in 2001. During his tenure, the magazine received eight National Magazine Awards, including the prestigious top prize for General Excellence in 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2010, Adweek honored  Wired as its Magazine of the Decade.  

As with every brand that challenges the current times and predicts the future, Wired will now embark on the next phase of its quest to determine “what will matter.”  Please join me in thanking Chris for his extraordinary contributions to the Wired franchise. We wish him the best of luck in his new venture and look forward to naming his successor shortly.

 

T.J. Raphael is a FOLIO: Magazine Associate Editor. Follow her on Twitter.

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Tony Silber

On the Nature of Technology Transitions

Tony Silber Consumer - 11/02/2012-15:04 PM

 

Two significant industry conferences in the last couple of weeks were dominated by the question of whether print is dead. At the American Magazine Conference two weeks ago, Ben Horowitz, co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz, said this:

“Babies born now will never read anything in print. At the same time, people in their 40s and 50s will never stop reading print. Face the reality that print will eventually go away.”

(You may recall that Mark Andreessen and some college classmates invented the browser that became Netscape in 1994.)

Similarly at the AMC, Jeffery Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC said this: “Some magazines will always remain in print. Especially those with strong design principles. However, the majority will see their print roots begin to completely break down by the end of the decade.”

(It’s worth noting that a futurist who heads “The Center for the Digital Future” would probably be fired for predicting the print business model will prevail into the future.)

In a fiery opening speech at the AMC, the new CEO of MPA, Mary Brener, said the old-line magazine industry can prevail if it has “chutzpah and balls.”

“I love magazines and I believe in magazines. I believe that magazines—on both print and digital platforms—have a bright future. I am pissed that we as an industry have allowed others to hijack our story, our narrative.  A narrative that is now dismissive of print magazines.”

But I say the whole definition of the argument—print versus digital—misses the point. It frames the question inaccurately. Of course we’re both.

Berner also said, “We are not in the printing business. We are in the content business.” That reminded me of all the times I’ve heard industry prognosticators describe the supposedly fatal error of the railroad industry early in the last century. Railroads thought they were in the railroad business, the thinking went, when they actually were in the transportation business.

Well, the truth is the railroads—with their thousands of miles of track and their expensive, highly specialized locomotives and heavy equipment—were in the railroad business. And railroads got superseded by better technologies in the form of cars and airplanes. That they didn’t transform was not their fault. It was unrealistic to think they could. This pattern has been repeated countless times in the history of enterprise.

But: Berner is right in saying the media companies are in the content business, and as such, should not be tied to a particular distribution form.

At the other conference, the ACT III Experience at Samir Husni’s Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, the keynoter, ASME’s Sid Holt, correctly said that no one really knows what the future will bring in media. Anyone who says they do is bluffing. But we do know this: Those who say print in its current form will live on, and ignores the opportunities and threats in new technologies, are playing a risky game.

There are plenty of positive statistics presented by Berner and others:

• The number of brands advertising in magazine media
has increased by 57 percent since 2009.
• Combined unduplicated magazine media audiences, 
across print and online, have increased by 4 percent.
• 91 percent of U.S. adults read magazines.
• 96 percent of adults 18-24 read magazines.
• The top driver of Web search is print magazines.

But for every stat along those lines, there are other, unclear signals:

• Magazine ad pages for the first half of 2012 are down 8.8 percent, according to PIB, following declines in consecutive prior years.
• Ad spending on magazine media is declining.
• Spending on marketers’ own Web sites is dramatically increasing.
• Technologies have emerged that connect buyers more directly to sellers, meaning the role of traditional media must evolve.

At the ACT III conference, Bob Sacks said the loss of dominance doesn’t necessarily equal death. But the truth is, sometimes it does equal death. New technologies frequently totally replace older ones. Has anyone bought a typewriter lately? Or a word processor? Horses supplied human land transportation for 6,000 years. They don’t anymore. Have you bought an LP lately? Or film for your camera?

And transitions can take a long time. Johannes Gutenberg gets credit for inventing the printing press, but the Phaistos Disk, discovered on Crete 104 years ago, is the earliest known printed document, dating to 1700 B.C., 3,100 years before Gutenberg. Why didn’t printing take hold earlier? Because the technology was not enough of an improvement on existing technologies to cause people to change.

And Nikolaus Otto built the first internal-combustion gas engine in 1866. But it wasn’t’t until the third decade of the 20th Century, nearly 70 years later, that cars became ubiquitous.

And you can bet that at annual horse-and-buggy conferences and trade shows for every one of those 70 years, prognosticators were insisting there would always be a role for the horse and buggy.

Bob Sacks is right. We’re in an era of realignment. And realignments can take a long time. In the meantime, we can better understand our customers, innovate, iterate and reinvent our businesses before someone else does for us.

 

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