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Dylan Stableford

Did ‘Pay-at-the-Pump’ Revolution Doom Magazine?

Dylan Stableford B2B - 12/12/2007-11:32 AM

Customers who become conditioned to fast-moving, customizable, immediate digital experiences, eschewing human interaction. Advertisers who want to reach them. Magazines struggling connect both. Sound familiar?

Except it’s a story that, for once, has little to do with the Web. This week, Newport Communications announced that Roadstar, a magazine that serves the trucking industry, is folding. Among the reasons: truckers—like the rest of Hyundai-driving America—are paying at the pump with credit cards, bypassing the truckstop sales clerks and thereby the kiosks where Roadstar is freely distributed.

Instead, Marty McClellan, Newport VP and Roadstar’s publisher, says the company is putting its resources behind something called “Pump Topper,” a “fuel island advertising program" that carries messages to truckers “as they are fueling,” as well as its other trucking title, Heavy Duty Trucking. And, of course, the company is developing a trucking search engine for the Web.

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Daniel Brogan

The Business of Investigative Journalism

Daniel Brogan Editorial - 12/11/2007-14:00 PM

The latest round of media layoffs has even the New York Times worrying that "Muckraking Pays, Just Not in Profit":

Investigative reporting can expose corruption, create accountability and occasionally save lives, but it will never be a business unto itself. Reporters frequently spend months on various lines of inquiry, some of which do not pan out, and even when one does, it is not the kind of coverage that draws advertisers.

With all due respect to David Carr, and at the risk of seeming like a broken record, I've got to disagree. Four years ago, I made a commitment that 5280 would do more, not less, long-form investigative journalism. Since then, we've done work that, in my humble opinion, rivals the kinds of investigations that Carr praises in his Times essay:

  • We documented the holes in a case against an Air Force Academy cadet accused of rape. When those charges were later dismissed, the cadet's father credited 5280 with saving his son from a life sentence.
  • We revealed that the Army’s flagrant abuse of its own recruits during Basic Training was driving some mentally troubled trainees to suicide.
  • We uncovered serious conflicts of interest in the system set up to protect veterans who lose their jobs when returning from Iraq.
  • We told the story of sick and dying workers at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant who are being denied health benefits, despite the government's unprecedented admission that the workers had been recklessly put in harm's way. Following our report, the workers' cases were re-opened and are now being reviewed.

All of this hasn't come cheap. To do this kind of work, we've had to more than triple our staff and increase our editorial budget by nearly $1 million per year. We've had to fight off a subpoena from the Defense Department and, in another case, sue the federal government when we discovered evidence that an order had gone out to destroy records we were seeking under a Freedom of Information Act inquiry.

But we've seen a tremendous return on our investment. And not just in the form of some very nice awards. In the last four years, 5280's paid subscriptions have grown by more than 50 percent, while our newsstand sales have grown by a similar amount. In that same time period we've more than doubled our ad revenue.

Now, I'll readily admit that our improved editorial product isn't the only reason for our growth. The magazine was already doing well, as is Denver itself, and we're blessed with a great sales and marketing team. But those very same sales reps would be the first to tell you that a great editorial product has made their jobs easier.

To be sure, 5280 is a small magazine in a relatively small city. But there's nothing about our business model that shouldn't be valid elsewhere. To sell ads, you've got to attract a worthwhile audience. To attract an audience, you've got to give them compelling content. All of which convinces me that good journalism can be good business.

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Laura Brunow Miner

JPEGs vs. TIFFs

Laura Brunow Miner Design and Production - 12/11/2007-12:16 PM

Print designers are particular about quality. Paper type, color profiles, kerning, etc.; every detail counts in creating a polished final product. But there's one detail that doesn't make the difference it should.

Generally speaking, designers use TIFFs (containers for high resolution image files) when designing with photographs because the TIFF file format maintains the full quality of the image. JPEG is a file format that was created to compress images into significantly smaller file sizes in order to make them more flexible for things like use on the Internet. The difference in file size is substantial. For example, exporting a raw file taken on my digital camera as a TIFF created a 18 MB file; as a maximum size JPEG it was 2.6 MB.

The relationship between TIFF and JPEG is similar to that of a CD and an MP3. They're both reproductions and the quality difference is so slight that it's indiscernible. I would argue that unless you are making a poster-sized enlargement, a JPEG file is perfectly suitable for offset printing, provided that you follow a few guidelines:

1. Start with a high quality image. If the image you receive from the photographer isn't high enough resolution or quality, no file type can help you.

2. Be careful with your saving. JPEGs use lossy compression, and each time it's saved with the "save as" function in Photoshop, you lose quality. A good thing to watch for is the "JPEG Options" screen which asks you which quality level you want to save at. You should minimize the occurrences of this screen, and if it does occur, save at the maximum resolution. It can be helpful to maintain the original version of the file from the photographer in case something happens to your working copy.

3. If you have added text or vector objects to an image in Photoshop, don’t use the JPEG format. TIFF and PSD files retain these objects sharply. JPEGs don’t.

4. Don't expect transparency. If you have an image with a transparent cutout, a JPEG will not work for you. Try using a PSD file (which integrates well with InDesign) or an EPS.

Following these guidelines and using JPEGs instead of TIFFs where possible can make your layout files much less cumbersome to work with on an everyday basis, and much easier to export and share as well.

Read more JPEG myths and facts here ...

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Frank Locantore

What Do Paper Price Hikes Mean for ‘Green’ Publishing?

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 12/11/2007-11:48 AM

Paper price increases are painful. What do they mean for environmental publishing considerations? The good news is that being fiscally conservative with paper expenses can also be environmentally responsible with thoughtful planning.

The simple explanation for the increases is that supply has constricted due to mill closings, mergers and acquisitions while manufacturing costs have gone up primarily due to increases in oil prices. Experts in the industry predict that the prices will stabilizing anytime in the next six to 18 months–likely 18 months.

The high paper prices provide an opportunity to assess paper use efficiency and find ways to reduce relative costs. These savings will last beyond the current market fluctuations and continue to be good for the environment.

Let this be an evolution, not a revolution, by making changes strategically over time that add financial and environmental value to the magazine. Here is how mitigating current increases also helps protect the environment:

1. Reduce the basis weight.
Lighter basis weight means more paper per hundred-weight, less fiber needed from forests, less fuel required for transportation, and less postage costs for mailing.

2. Change from freesheet to groundwood or recycled paper.
It takes 4.4 tons of wood to make one-ton of freesheet paper, and 2.2 tons of wood for groundwood paper. A switch to groundwood paper with recycled content doubles the paper yield and keeps more trees in the forest. (It takes 1.2 tons of recovered paper to make one-ton of recycled paper.)

3. Reduce the trim size.
A reduction of one-quarter or one-half inch in trim size can result in a four- to eight-percent cost savings while also reducing the amount of fiber need from forests.

4. Rethink all paper options.

Going down in paper grade in addition to basis weight and trim-size reductions will save on production costs in addition to reducing chemical use.

5. Think geographically.
Where does the virgin fiber and recovered paper come from for the magazine paper? Is the printer a few hundred miles or less from the paper mill? Strategize how to reduce the distance between these points in order to reduce costs and environmental impacts? Use the Chain of Custody document on the Magazine PAPER Project Web site to determine where all the fiber and pulp for the paper comes from. This can also help identify if fiber is sourced from areas of high conservation value. Then work with the magazine’s supply chain to identify ways to reduce transportation.

6. Partner with the supply chain and build new relationships.
Mills are working to do their best to ensure that their valued customers are able to get the paper that they need and weather these price increases. Magazines that worked with suppliers without trying to unreasonably squeeze lower prices from them when the market was down may reap some “preferred” status. Look at negotiating flatter price increases over several quarters, such as a flat five-percent increase on Jan 1 and another on June 1. If you have a good relationship with the mill and the prices don’t increase that much they will sometimes give you a rebate on the difference. Even if they don’t, knowing what price increases to expect is critical for creating and staying on budget.

In paper market conditions such as these a thoughtful and strategic approach will assist magazines production departments in weathering the storm while also being able to maintain and even increase their practices that protect the environment.

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Dylan Stableford

A Blueprint for Failure?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/10/2007-18:59 PM

Whatever your feelings are on Martha Stewart and her brand-happy offerings, it's clear that this morning's shuttering of Blueprint after just eight issues continues the recent trend of publishing companies having a short-leash on launches, and a decidedly low tolerance for failure.

If true, this unattributed quote, as reported by mediabistro.com's FishbowlNY, is also telling:

"The magazine was billed as a 'fresh, fun guide to personal style'... but staffers were told that MSLO had 'misjudged the market.'"

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Jandos Rothstein

Finding Design Ideas, And Shameless Self-Promotion, In New Annual Mag

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 12/10/2007-18:54 PM

4c is a new English-language annual from Belgium dedicated to the proposition that what’s important in life is only skin-deep. This is appropriate I suppose—the glossy, a new foray into publishing from Techni-Coat International, a manufacturer of plastic coatings knows the value of the superficial. If there is no there there in 4c—the magazine bounces from travel to fashion to industrial design to self-promotion (The first feature—and there’s no FOB to speak of—profiles the company’s vice president), at least it’s all done quite stylishly. 4c fits into the class of new magazines doggedly determined to prove the value of print by doing things with varnishes, coatings, foldouts and die cuts that cannot be simulated on the (as it happens, really incredibly filthy) screen of my computer.

If 4c knows color, and all those expensive printing techniques that I, for one, am really jealous of (though for the life of me, I can’t think how they would benefit readers of the political magazine I call home) their type handling is another matter. body copy is in Gill Sans and headlines are in various weights of Helvetica Neue, creating a bit of a clash of cultures on the page. The humanist sans, basically Garamond without the tips and ticks, and the grand old Swiss Miss just do not play well together.

Beyond the joy in surface, gloss, and the tactile (and there’s pleasure to be found here, little of which translate to jpeg), there seems little glue holding the publication together, as it flips from topic to topic, except possibly really grandiose text. (Sample: Since forever it seems, beauty has been spoken of as being skin deep, a shallow conceit, a facade. The surface, while meaningful, is hardly of importance. If anything, it remains a superficial trait. Not so to the plastic surgeons among us, the building resurfacers; ditto to those in the business of plastic coatings...)

But, as with many new glossies, 4c is meant to be seen (and touched) and not heard. And it gratifies those senses a bit more pleasurably than Antenna and some of the other empty shells launched recently.

More here ...

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For more intelligent talk on magazine design, check out Jandos' brand-new book, Designing Magazines]

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Dylan Stableford

Internal Memo: Cam Bishop Out as CEO at Ascend

Dylan Stableford B2B - 12/10/2007-16:37 PM

A change has been made at the top of Ascend Media. CEO Cam Bishop is out, Vicki Masseria, former group president of CMP Medica, is in.

The internal memo:

Roger Dusing
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 11:06 AM
To: All Ascend Team
Subject: Important Company Announcement
Importance: High

All Ascend Team,

This morning, the company is announcing that effective immediately, Vicki Masseria is assuming the role of CEO of Ascend Media. As has been previously discussed, the company continues to refine its focus in the healthcare sector. This, coupled with the increasing complexity of healthcare markets and government regulation, has defined the need for a seasoned healthcare industry media professional. Vicki brings 25 years of experience in B2B, including 23 years in the healthcare field. Most recently, Vicki served as Group President of CMPMedica USA where she was in charge of the U.S.'s fifth largest portfolio of healthcare publications as well as a large medical education business. As head of CMPMedica USA (formerly Miller Freeman), she and her team were active in both organic and acquisition growth, and completed five acquisitions and integrations since 1990. Vicki received her bachelor's degree from Ohio University, has attended graduate publishing programs at Northwestern's Kellogg School and Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, and has also served as Vice-Chair of American Business Media's (ABM) Healthcare Council. Vicki will be visiting each of Ascend's offices during the next two weeks, starting with Overland Park on Monday, December 10th. In addition, as part of this process, Cam Bishop will continue as Chairman of the company where he will work with Vicki as well as the board of directors on strategic matters through a transition period.

Roger Dusing, SPHR VP Human Resources
Ascend Media
7015 College Blvd. Ste.
600 Overland Park, KS 66211

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Josh Gordon

Without Meaningful Interaction, The Customer Will Want to Break Up!

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 12/10/2007-15:24 PM

Do the ad programs you propose promote interaction with customers? No matter what media you sell, you are now in the business of advancing your client's dialog with their customers ... unlike the couple in this clip.

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Dylan Stableford

In 45 Minutes, Two Multi-Billion Dollar Magazine Deals Surface

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 12/10/2007-14:53 PM

For the better part of 2007, the market for consumer magazine mergers and acquisitions was pretty quiet. (Maybe not as quiet as, say, the stark open country of the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, but quiet still.) As one banker noted during the American Magazine Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, in October, he was there "to play golf," because "nothing is happening here. Zilch."

But within the span of 45 minutes friday morning, a pair of billion dollar magazine deals were announced.

The first, Gemstar-TV Guide's sale to Macrovision Corporation for some $2.8 billion, was a bit of a surprise, although it shouldn't have been: the company announced in July that it was exploring a possible sale:

Gemstar-TV Guide’s six month search for a potential buyer is over. Macrovision Corporation, a Santa Clara, California-based digital software solution firm, has agreed to acquire Gemstar for $2.8 billion in cash and stock, the companies announced today.

The second, British publisher Emap's sale to Bauer, had been building for months:

Emap PLC, the publisher of magazines such as FHM and Heat, said Friday it agreed to sell its consumer media and radio units to Heinrich Bauer Verlag KG for $2.3 billion and will return most of the proceeds to shareholders.

The question is, what does this mean for the magazine M&A market? Will it grease the wheels of other companies—like American Media Inc., whose suitors include supermarket magnate and Bill Clinton brohide Ron Burkle—currently on the block? Will tempt other, perhaps reluctant magazine companies to test the M&A waters? Or will it mean absolutely nothing, save for skewing the fourth quarter M&A deal reports bankers tout and us journalists seem to love?

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Rex Hammock

The Dude Behind the List of Lists

Rex Hammock emedia and Technology - 12/10/2007-09:51 AM

I've done them. You've done them. Every magazine has done them: the year end list. Other than creating them—and claiming not to like them—I had never really given these ubiquitous lists too much thought until several years ago, when I ran across—and became totally addicted to—a Web site called Fimoculous.com that collects and organizes an annual mega-list of such lists. Since then—perhaps because we discovered we not only share the same first name, but also several mutual friends—I've gotten to know the list-guru behind Fimoculous.com, Rex Sorgatz. When not collecting year-end lists or being a weblog pop-culture maven, Sorgatz is a noted online media developer, most recently executive producer of MSNBC.com.

Over the years (he's been doing list-of-lists since 2001), Sorgatz's year-end list has become highly anticipated by the pop-culture, indie music and film community. And while the lists he aggregates are from a wide variety of sources, I've always been struck by how the majority seem to come from magazine Web sites. Recently, I e-mailed Sorgatz to ask him specifically about magazine year-end lists and to see if he had any hints for editors who compile them.

Here's our Q&A exchange:

Q: I used to dislike year-end lists -- but can't keep from reading them. Can you explain why?

A: I actually hate lists too. I find them reductive, simplistic, and cliche. But they're also elegant, consumable, and personal. I sometimes describe lists as miniature utopias -- little pictures of a reality that we wish existed. With all the crap that the culture industry creates in a single year, it comes as such a relief to actually celebrate some of it with a "Best Of" list.

Q: While you have year-end lists from a wide array of places, magazines seem a solid source. Other than being an easy-way to fill column inches, why do you think this is so?

A: Several factors are at work, but certainly the way lists deliver packets of insta-nostalgia contributes to their ubiquity in magazines. Also, nothing helps a publication define itself more than making a list of cultural objects (or sports teams, or candy) that it wants to celebrate. Like it or not, lists have become the ultimate indication of personality.

Q: What advice would you give to editors for compiling lists? Are there any tips you can pass along after reviewing thousands of them over the years?

A: Two things come to mind: 1. Go esoteric. We don't need another list of the best books of the year; however, we did need a list of the best book covers, because no one else has looked at the industry this way. 2. Add personality. Some of the best lists every year are those that are composed by celebrities. That could mean asking Stephen King or Margaret Cho for their favorite music of the year, but a better approach is probably to find micro-celebrities in your industry whose opinion people would care about.

Q: What are some of your personal favorites of lists from magazines?

A: There are too many to name, but some of this year's favorites have included New York magazine's use of multimedia to recap online video, the cross-genre quality of Sports Illustrated's Best Trades/Executive Decisions, Art Forum's annual use of specialists to recount music and film, and because I think lists are ultimately forms of prediction, The Futurist's Top Ten Forecasts. Oh, and I suppose Mr. Skin's annual Top 20 Nude Scenes, to remind me what I missed this year.

The end of the year isn't here yet though, so there's still a lot of room for surprise.

Q: What is the list you most look forward to each year?

A: The word-related ones intrigue me the most. Yahoo, Ask, and Google always target the zeitgeist by visualizing the most-searched terms on the Internet. There's an elegant, mathematical quality to the lists that seem to get at some sort of greater collective memory.

Add to that the dictionary lists that come along this time of the year. The OED, for instance, chose locavore at its "Word of the Year." Other contenders included tase, mumblecore, and bacn, none of which my spellchecker yet recognizes, which illustrates how of-the-moment lists can be.

Q: Do you have a favorite list of all time?

A: The Bill of Rights. It totally trumped The Ten Commandments.

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Dylan Stableford

Rolling Stone’s Weird Week

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/07/2007-18:29 PM

As you know, it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. And as far as magazine chatter goes, it's seemingly been a long week for Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner.

Let's start here: the magazine published its seemingly four-hundredth 40th anniversary issue with something called "Indie Rock Universe," a nine-page spread-sponsored by cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds-that drew the ire of indie rock bands and those who monitor Big Tobacco (think Pacino in The Insider) for using cartoons in what they claim is an advertorial. R.J. Reynolds claims the cartoons were part of Rolling Stone's editorial and had nothing to do with them. Eight states filed suit against the company, and so far, Rolling Stone has been mum on the issue.

Then, of course, there was Britney.

America's careening pop star was reportedly in negotiations with Rolling Stone to appear on an upcoming cover for the magazine, only to back out of the deal. The reason? Last year, fellow pop star and former Backstreet Boy Nick Lachey allegedly shot a cover for Rolling Stone, only to appear on Wenner Media-owned Us Weekly instead. Spears wanted a guarantee from Wenner, but Rolling Stone apparently refused. ("It was going to be a good platform for her music to be taken seriously because it had been so long. But she refused to get screwed by Wenner," an unnamed source told Page Six. Spears has since contacted Blender magazine to appear on its cover, according to Page Six.

But the news out of Rolling Stone this week hasn't been all bad. The magazine published what should be an odds-on National Magazine Award favorite: "How America Lost the War on Drugs," a 15,000-word piece by Ben Wallace-Wells about the administration's failure to curb the war before the war in Iraq. Calling it the "smartest drug story of the year," Slate's venerable, sometimes-ornery media critic Jack Shafer wrote, "If I were maximum dictator, I would force every newspaper editor, every magazine editor, and every television producer in the land to read [it]."

Of course it wasn't about music, but that's another discussion entirely.

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David Nussbaum

‘Print is Dead’ vs. ‘I’m Not Dead Yet’

David Nussbaum B2B - 12/07/2007-18:03 PM

RELATED FOLIO: VIDEO: Is Print Dead?

I’m not sure if it’s because more of my time these days is spent meeting with media management, investigating possible acquisition opportunities, or simply doing more research. But it seems that there is a growing debate in our industry.

I’d call it the print is dead vs. “I’m not dead yet” (Monty Python reference) crowd.

The print is dead group (Steve Ballmer, who famously said that in 10 years all media will be digital, serves as the group’s unofficial chairman) has strong revenue growth on its side, demographic shifts, and focused metrics to prove its argument. “I’m not dead yet,” knows that magazines/books/newspapers still are the preferred media for the human eye, the airplane, and also for “brand building.”

For the Web to continue its growth, it will need to add the element of “surprise and delight” to its success as a search tool, research tool, news tool and social aggregation.

For print to reverse recent trends, there has to be more focus on core strengths such as community (yes, print offers a clear community of interest), graphics and ease of use, and the ability to tell us what we didn’t know we needed to know.

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