When I was kicking around the Manhattan in the 1990s, I was stupefied by some of the attitudes of the folks doing the hiring. For example, let's say I had an interview with the trade magazine Recliner Retailer Monthly.* The editor-in-chief or whoever was interviewing me would be concerned that I didn't have enough "recliner editorial experience" but was impressed by my freelance articles for Armchair Enthusiast* and Couch Aficionado.* I would do my best at convincing the interviewer that as a generalist, I could easily adapt to whatever subject I was dealing with. However, the mechanics of the ins and outs of a magazine were the same.
This attitude was not as prevalent in the world of not-for-profit or association publishing. After a two-year stint with a medical association working on its monthly and quarterly medical journals, I was deemed A-okay to be the associate editor for another publication at a trade association. In this case, the executive director had the foresight to know that there weren't that many people in the market with association experience, despite the fact that my experience wasn't exactly the same, topic-wise. Yet he knew that I could adapt to the environment within a not-for-profit a bit easier than someone from a strictly trade or even consumer background. (P.S. I got the associate editor job and became the magazine's editor eight months later.)
This is all to say that the efforts of the generalist should be praised, not buried. The first article I ever published in my professional careerâwhile still in collegeâwas with Marching Bands & Corps.-how's that for a specialty publication? I wrote another article for them before the magazine went belly up, but those first pieces (along with articles in Delta SKY, Alabama Alumni magazine, and Convenience Store People) got me interviews when I landed in New York City in 1990. In fact, I had more interviews my first month in the Big Apple than I did my entire life up to that point.
When I was hiring recently at Southern Breeze, the candidate at the top of my list had similar experience with another regional publication. She interviewed well and did great on the editorial tests (see my previous post, "Hiringâand FeedingâCompetent Editors"). Guess what? She quit after four days because it wasn't EXACTLY what she had in mind even though I vetted all the interviewees better than Congress does with a Supreme Court nominee. But it worked out for the better because she did not exactly function well under pressure, a must-have ability as we juggle 40+ annual publications here!
So for those of you paying attention, I did not take my own advice, but live and learn.
In 2001, I became the managing editor of a trade publication published by one of the big New York trade companies. The EIC was smart, sharp as a tack, funny, and knew her industry backwards and forwards. Almost her entire work experience, however, had been at this one trade publicationâan internship in college, hired as editorial assistant upon graduation, then progressed to associate editor, managing editor, executive editor and, finally, editor-in-chief. This rise took place over 15+ years or so and there was no denying she was one of the experts in her field.
Then, guess what happened? Exactly: The company folded the magazine after almost 30 years in print. Three editors were out of work. (By the way, the companyâwhich had openings throughoutâmade NO effort to place us at other magazines. Some gratitude considering we received a Jesse H. Neal Award for Outstanding Business Journalism the previous year. But I'm not bitter ... much.) I went on to work as managing editor with a website that is now a highly-revered monthly business magazine before moving back to the trade realm as the ME of two monthly design magazines. My former EIC is now a consultant, and from what I understand, doing pretty well.
The point is that since I had a varied and sundry background, I was never out of work in the magazine world. Others whose experience was concentrated in a single industry more or less left publishing completely. Is it survival of the fittest? Not necessarily. But it helps if you have clips/experience from as many different fields as possible. Plus, you get the chance to learn and prove yourself time and time again and believe me, that is a very good thing no matter how old you are!
* All magazine titles are made up. If they exist, I apologize ... and am very surprised.
When youâre a magazine like Parade, you donât tend to scoop anybody. Unless the interview you did with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in November, slated for a January cover, becomes chillingly prescient when she is assassinated in a suicide attack more than a week before the article is scheduled to be published.
As FOLIO: reported, the magazineâs decision to immediately post the interview on Parade.com paid off in record-breaking traffic for the site. The writer, Gail Sheehy, appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Larry King Live, CNN's The Situation Room, the CBS Early Show and ABC Radio to talk about the interview.
The print version, which arrived on Americaâs doorsteps this weekend, made no mention of the assassinationâreferring to Bhutto as âAmericaâs best hope against Al-Qaedaââand has subsequently drawn criticism. One FOLIO: commenter wrote:
Any journalistic outlet that publishes in newspapers ONCE PER WEEK would have made every effort to change the story to reflect the assassination. To allow those copies into print was tasteless and lazy, regardless of whether it went to print or not.
I wonât pretend to know what any journalistic outlet that publishes in newspapers âONCE PER WEEKâ would do or not do. But I do know that if I were the publisher I wouldâve demanded the production team either create a sticker to be placed on the issue explaining my decision to publish, or pull it out entirely.
And, call it the Jamie Lynn Spears rule, but I wouldâve also done little in the way of publicizing the âcoupââwho watches the Early Show anyway?âand certainly wouldnât have put out a press release touting a âbeyond the graveâ interview.UPDATE: Publisher Randy Siegel told the Associated Press that the only
option other than to run the outdated article would have been asking
newspapers not to distribute the magazine at all. "We decided that this
was an important interview to share with the American people," he said.
Will 2008 be the year CDs disappear like vinyl, cassettes and 8 track tapes (ugh)? It is inevitable. With MP3 players getting smaller and cheaper, there is no real reason for CDâs to exist. Yes, I know some people still like CDs. Some people still like vinyl. Some people wear Lederhosen but it doesnât mean they will come back into fashion anytime soon. Technology rarely returns to its roots; it evolves, gets cheaper, faster and more malleable. For audiophiles, there will still be FLAC files and other technology to keep the integrity of the sound.We still put CDs in our magazines (Relix, Global Rhythm, Metal Edge). Readers love them and itâs a great way for us to share the music we write about. I still play CDs but I prefer to download them to my iPod. I have 8,000 songs in my iPod. Try carrying 8,000 CDs around town. We also need a new shopping experience for music. Discovering new music alone at home is kind of depressing. Music is meant to be shared. Thatâs why concerts are held in venues and not over the Web. I want to meet people that share my passion for music and can turn me on to new bands.Imagine a world where you go to a music store, head over to the section you like (rock, jazz, classical, etc) and instead of standing in an aisle flipping through CDs, you can sit on a nice comfy couch and sip a latte with others who share your musical interest. There will be an expert host to tell you about new music coming out and recommend albums or songs. If you want to find things yourself you can scroll through a list of titles and listen to tracks on headphones. When you decide what you want you can either download it to a memory stick or directly into your iPod. The store will keep your titles on file should your MP3 player get lost.
This is the future, a combination of Amoeba Records and Starbucks. I would l spend all my free time there. When it happens look for me in the jamband sectionâI will be the one wearing Lederhosen.[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out our video Q+A with Steve here ...]
The emergence of the âpay-what-you-wantâ subscription offerânow known affectionately as the Radiohead modelâraises an interesting question: Will people pay for something they can get for free?The answer, time and time again, seems to be an overwhelming and resounding âNo.â Early online content providers tried the âtippingâ modelâasking readers to support them so they could maintain the sites and continue to provide free material. Iâm not certain of the exact number of sites that succeeded with this model, but I think âzeroâ is a fairly safe bet.
Magazines canât be looking for how to get consumers to pay more for their content; thereâs simply too much competition and free content. That would be simply asking people to buy the proverbial cow.
Radioheadâs moderately successful tip model (based on assumed numbers) was only so because of the diehard fan base dedicated to the band and its music. As a sheer numbers game, Radiohead only needed a small percentage of its millions of fans to offset those that didnât pay.
(As an aside, I love how the term âThe Radiohead Modelâ has become so commonly used in relating new business notionsâIâm looking forward to when weâre all discussing the âHuey Lewis & The News Business Paradigm.â)
In addition, the idea of tipping is simply not a reliable source of income for the publishing industry, especially when done anonymously. We all tip waiters and the occasional barista at Starbucks, but thatâs because theyâre right in front of us. Moving forward, success for the publishing industry will come to those seeking non-traditional revenue streamsânot from those looking how to get more money from their readers.
For magazine editors covering politics, itâs been Huck-O-bamania since the candidatesâ surprising Iowa Caucus wins last week. Newsweek chose Obama as its cover subject this week. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham explains why:
A word about the decision to put Obama on our cover. Weekly magazines like ours have traditionally worried about looking stale or out of sync if the candidate we are featuring loses a different primary early in the week we publish. We suffered from that perennial concern until Thursday night. Then, when Obama's victoryâ 8 points over John Edwards, and 9 over Hillary Clintonâbecame clear, so did the cover decision. Barack Obama has made not only news but history.In an election to choose a successor to an unpopular incumbent at an hour of danger, an African-American candidate for president convincingly won a state that is virtually all white; a 46-year-old first-term senator defeated two more seasoned national politicians; an insurgent is roiling the stately party establishment Bill Clinton built as the first two-term Democratic president since FDR. No matter what happens going forward, in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond, the Obama winâa vote for a viable candidate of color in a nation in which the issue of race has been called simply "the American dilemma"âis a new chapter in our long national story.
Check out the video of Meachamâs explanation here âŠ
We closed up Germanica week at Designing Magazines with a look at a 1965 Der Spiegel which has a design suspiciously similar to the look Time sported through the earlier half of the last decade.
Linear layout throughoutâwith one story flowing into the next, diminutive Futura headlines, and identically unwavering three-column grids, as in these spreads from 1965 (Der) and 1964 (Time). And of course, both magazines use a cheerful red frame on their covers, a device that remains constant to this day.I guess I shouldn't say it's suspiciousâI really don't know who's cribbing whom, if anyone. To be fair, there were only four or five typefaces before 1974, so occasional overlap was inevitable. And, as both were letterpressed news magazines, form is following function and all that in both cases. Still, the two pubs seem remarkably close.
This does raise the question, however of how close the current versions of Der S and Time areânot much, since Timeâs celebrated redesign a while back. But Spiegel doesnât look much different than Time looked in the mid-90sâalthough DS doesnât use Timeâs signature Franklin #2 for headlines, they use heads in a similar way, and the font they do employ has a similar presence on the page.
If Der Spiegel's next redesign is all clean, austere and stripped downâweâll know for sure something is up with these two. Though I doubt that Time would ever run that monospaced typewriter font DS uses on this coverâa particularly sour note on an otherwise merely uninspired photo illustration cover. In contrast Time's contemporary covers are often brilliant pieces of spare visual haiku.
[Editor's note: For more intelligent design talk, buy Jandos' new book.]
Back when I was younger and even more attractive than I am today, I was a soldier. And like other soldiers, I learned a set of skills that are sometimes difficult to transfer to the civilian world. I, for example, am a pretty good fighter with a bayonet. But my clients in the B2B world seldom have the need to employ me for my skills with edged weapons.On the other hand, back in infantry training at Fort Benning, I learned to dig a fighting hole. And I think that will prove a valuable skill-at least in the metaphorical sense-in 2008.A fighting hole, sometimes called a fox hole, is exactly what it sounds like. It's a hole in the ground from which a soldier fights. But the key to a fighting hole is that it is a defensive position. It's the place where a soldier lives, fights and struggles to hold the line. Although it is possible to advance from a fighting hole, it is more of a place to resist an onslaught than to plan an attack. And I've decided that it's time for b-to-b editors and publishers to build some fighting holes.As the year draws to an end, I find myself worrying more and more about what next year will bring for our industry. As I mentioned a few days ago, "I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing."Since I wrote that piece, I've spoken to a few more b-to-b folks. And nothing I'm hearing suggests that I'm wrong to be nervous.So if I may continue this metaphor, let me say this, and let me say it my best drill sergeant voice: "Shut your damn mouths. Grab your goddamn entrenching tool and dig a goddamn hole!"When the new year begins, I'll post some of my thoughts on what a B2B fighting hole looks like. In the meantime, it's worth noting that some of the smarter folks in the industry are offering their suggestions on how to weather the coming dark times.First, David Shaw says now is NOT the time to panic or overreact.Second, Scott Karp suggests that now IS the time to go for broke in online ad sales.Third, in an article in FOLIO: magazine, 1105 Media's Neal Vitale says it's time to rethink staffing and accept that "you might find that you need more resources devoted to online content development."More here ...
Not surprisingly, our annual roundup of media predictions has generated a ton of traffic for our little Web site here. What is surprising is that it did so without the benefit of the FOLIO: editorial staff weighing in on 2008. So, before we send the piece off to the Smithsonian for archival purposes, I figured we should round 'em up here:NAME: Matt KinsmanTITLE: Managing editor, FOLIO:2008 PREDICTION: I think publishing companies in 2008 and 2009 will face a real talent pool crisis. Those companies that ignore new media training will be behind the curve, while those employees that have developed a new media skillset (and more importantly, a strategic understanding of new media) will say "enough" to product closures, lay-offs and pay cuts, and start jumping ship not only from their companies but the magazine industry in general.
NAME: Bill MickeyTITLE: Senior editor, FOLIO:2008 PREDICTION: Six of 'em ...1. Site engagement metricsâtime spent and session lengthsâwill play a larger role with more publishers in the online sales process as advertisers begin to understand that page view and unique visitor metrics are not the only window into an online userâs soul.2. At least one overly leveraged publisher will get squeezed this year, resulting in a rapid crumbling of a rapidly-constructed platform company.3. Publishers will begin to worry less about âextending the brandâ and instead launch new brands to capture new audiences.4. Value-add will, once and for all, be shed from a publisherâs vocabulary, if only out of necessity. Nothing is free, everything has a price.5. There will be some dramatic and broad e-media strategy shifts as publishers become more comfortable with their audienceâs online content habits. 6. There will be a noticeable rise in smaller, strategic, bolt-on dealsâespecially in the e-media sectorâfrom large and small companies alike.
NAME: Dan TrombettoTITLE: Art director, FOLIO:2008 PREDICTION: 2008 will be the year that the few remaining Quark users finally see the light and come over to the world of InDesign. We will see one of the most controversial covers of all times hit the newsstandsâone that makes each and every one of us question reality as we (think we) know it. Also, FOLIO: magazine will feature NO purple on it's covers (but a pink/black color combo will be used liberally).
NAME: Dylan StablefordTITLE: Senior editor, digital, FOLIO:2008 PREDICTION: Here goes, bros:
1. Radiohead launches a magazine, and subsequently struggles to build subscription and advertising revenue with its failed pay-what-you-want model. Thom Yorke quits as editor.2. Revenues for Graydon Carter'sÂ Waverly Inn surpass those of Vanity Fair.3. A magazine launches a really cool, expensive online product that makes absolutely no money or business sense, but is written about, breathlessly and incessantly. It then folds.4. Samir Husni shaves off the moustache, quietly. HeÂ then grows it back, and counts it as a launch.Â 5. I finally snag a dream lunch date with Martha Stewart. I pick up the check.6. The American Magazine Conference is held in October in San Francisco. Pool-gazing editors complain. The MPA apologizes, and schedules 2009 for Cancun.7. FOLIO:'s rotating cast of bloggers becomes the Huffington Post of the magazine industry.Â As editor, IÂ developÂ misplaced accent.
I must be on some list or in some business databases. As the president of a small company, there are some weeks when I get three or four calls a day from salespeople trying to sell me HR services, healthcare plans, consulting services, etc. ... This induces cruelty to telemarketers, which I have been known to practice. Itâs very annoying and I donât feel good about myself afterwards.Increasingly, I find myself chanting some variation of the mighty McGraw-Hill advertisement known as the âMan in the Chair,â perhaps the greatest ad for business-to-business advertising ever created. "I donât know your company. I donât know what your company stands for. I donât know you." Until ... "Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?âNow, I do buy HR services. I have a healthcare broker, a 401K advisor, a bank, all of these things. I would love to learn about alternate vendors. But I donât want to be bothered or harassed by a stranger on the telephone. I read Inc. magazine and New York Enterprise Report (great magazine â full of tips). And I read the ads. I rip the ads out and put them in folders. I refer to them and I will contact YOU when I am ready to switch.This little story illustrates the potential of print advertising versus the hideous âlead generation,â currently the rage in the IT market. I am not a lead, donât call me. Advertise to me and I will call you when I am ready to buy.[image: credit]
This week, FOLIO: reported that Cygnus co-CEOs Carr Davis and Tony O'Brien plan to restore of some salaries that were slashed by 7.5 percent by means of a "bonus" to be paid mid-January. The bonus, they say, represents about 70 percent of the initial reduction absorbed by many employees in October. However, only salaried employees who do not receive commission, incentive payments or other bonuses will be eligible for this "restoration."
Based on the comments we've received since posting the story, there seems to be a discrepancy between the Cygnus executive team and the effected employees about how many people will in fact benefit from this initiative. When asked exactly how many employees will benefit from the "bonus restoration," Cygnus spokesperson Kathy Scott couldn't provide an exact number, but claimed it to be a "huge percentage."
It appears some Cygnus employees disagree. See their comments here.
At the 2007 FOLIO: show, I met Bryan Monroe, the editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines. His name, though, I already knew as the National Association of Black Journalists president, or, more to the point, the guy who held Viacom and NBCâs feet to the fire over the Imus/Rutgersâ women/ânappy-headed âhosâ debacle. Since Imusâ recent return to the airwaves, I thought posting the video interview above now seemed prescient.
The current conventional wisdom states that people won't pay for content on-line. Even the Wall Street Journal, once cited as the model for premium content, appears poised to trade subscriber revenue for more advertising impressions.
The conventional wisdom is wrong, though, when it comes to online diet and fitness programs.
Look at Carmichael Training (promoted via Chris Carmichael's columns in Outside), Rodale's magazine-related fitness plans (including the Men's Health Personal Trainer and Prevention's Flat Belly Diet) and Waterfront Media's stable of branded sites (including South Beach Diet, Andrew Weil and Dr. Laura Berman).
What do these sites have in common?
The last point is the key to getting people to pay, linking the online models to the personal trainers, health newsletters, self-help books, and diet programs that generate billions of dollars offline.
On the flip side, the danger is that the content is increasingly generic or commoditized, dragging these models down to the same place that online magazine and newspaper content is today-free.
The New Year, though, is a time for optimism. So put down that donut, pull on your running shoes, and offer your online customers a branded program that they will want to pay for.