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Steve Bernstein

Relix Publisher: Death of CDs ‘Inevitable’

Steve Bernstein emedia and Technology - 01/07/2008-15:52 PM

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 CD’s to exist. Yes, I know some people still like CDs. Some people still like vinyl. Some people wear Lederhosen but it doesn’t 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 it’s 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. That’s 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 section—I will be the one wearing Lederhosen.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out our video Q+A with Steve here ...]

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Ed James

Pay What You Want to Read This Post

Ed James Sales and Marketing - 01/07/2008-15:12 PM

The emergence of the “pay-what-you-want” subscription offer—now known affectionately as the Radiohead model—raises 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 “No.” Early online content providers tried the “tipping” model—asking readers to support them so they could maintain the sites and continue to provide free material. I’m not certain of the exact number of sites that succeeded with this model, but I think “zero” is a fairly safe bet.

Magazines can’t be looking for how to get consumers to pay more for their content; there’s simply too much competition and free content. That would be simply asking people to buy the proverbial cow.

Radiohead’s 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 didn’t pay.

(As an aside, I love how the term “The Radiohead Model” has become so commonly used in relating new business notions—I’m looking forward to when we’re all discussing the “Huey Lewis & The News Business Paradigm.”)

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 that’s because they’re right in front of us. Moving forward, success for the publishing industry will come to those seeking non-traditional revenue streams—not from those looking how to get more money from their readers.

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Dylan Stableford

Why Newsweek Chose Obama

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 01/07/2008-14:54 PM

For magazine editors covering politics, it’s been Huck-O-bamania since the candidates’ 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 victory— 8 points over John Edwards, and 9 over Hillary Clinton—became 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 win—a vote for a viable candidate of color in a nation in which the issue of race has been called simply "the American dilemma"—is a new chapter in our long national story.

Check out the video of Meacham’s explanation here

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Jandos Rothstein

Time and Der Spiegel: Suspiciously Similar?

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 01/07/2008-10:46 AM

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 throughout—with 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 suspicious—I 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 are—not much, since Time’s celebrated redesign a while back. But Spiegel doesn’t look much different than Time looked in the mid-90s—although DS doesn’t use Time’s 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 down—we’ll 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 cover—a 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.]

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Paul Conley

Digging a Fighting Hole

Paul Conley B2B - 01/07/2008-10:41 AM

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 ...

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Dylan Stableford

FOLIO: Editors Weigh In on 2008

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 01/04/2008-17:49 PM

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 Kinsman
TITLE: 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 Mickey
TITLE: Senior editor, FOLIO:
2008 PREDICTION: Six of 'em ...

1. Site engagement metrics—time spent and session lengths—will 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 user’s 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 “extending the brand” and instead launch new brands to capture new audiences.
4. Value-add will, once and for all, be shed from a publisher’s 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 audience’s online content habits.
6. There will be a noticeable rise in smaller, strategic, bolt-on deals—especially in the e-media sector—from large and small companies alike.

NAME: Dan Trombetto
TITLE: 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 newsstands—one 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 Stableford
TITLE: 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's 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. He then grows it back, and counts it as a launch. 
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. As editor, I develop misplaced accent.

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Ted Bahr

'Why Don’t You Just Advertise to Me?'

Ted Bahr Sales and Marketing - 01/04/2008-16:31 PM

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. It’s very annoying and I don’t feel good about myself afterwards.

Increasingly, I find myself chanting some variation of the mighty McGraw-Hill advertisement known as the “Man in the Chair,” perhaps the greatest ad for business-to-business advertising ever created. "I don’t know your company. I don’t know what your company stands for. I don’t know you." Until ... "Now, what was it you wanted to sell me?”

Now, 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 don’t want to be bothered or harassed by a stranger on the telephone. I read Inc. magazine and New York Enterprise Report (great magazine – 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 “lead generation,” currently the rage in the IT market. I am not a lead, don’t call me. Advertise to me and I will call you when I am ready to buy.

[image: credit]

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Jason Fell

Cygnus Employees Respond to ‘Bonuses’

Jason Fell B2B - 01/04/2008-16:04 PM

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.

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Dylan Stableford

Bryan Monroe Sounds Off on Imus’ Return

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 01/03/2008-15:12 PM


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 NBC’s feet to the fire over the Imus/Rutgers’ women/”nappy-headed ‘hos” debacle. Since Imus’ recent return to the airwaves, I thought posting the video interview above now seemed prescient.

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Henry Donahue

New Year’s Resolution: Start Diet, Fitness Site

Henry Donahue emedia and Technology - 01/02/2008-09:30 AM

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?

  • Consumers pay $5-40 per month to interact with mostly automated online calendars and e-mails, "personalized" via a series of Web-based questionnaires.
  • The plans promise a direct personal benefit within 3-6 months (e.g. lose 20 pounds, cycle your first "century," get Dave Zinczenko's abs).
  • The program comes from a trusted magazine or celebrity brand.
  • The brand association tells the consumer that the plan is somehow unique and/or better than similar free information elsewhere on the Web.

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.

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Bill Mickey

2008: What the Bankers Think

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 12/21/2007-15:22 PM

If you haven't stopped by our massive (and growing) list of magazine predictions for 2008, do so. In the meantime, for those of you who are more financially inclined, I've pulled out the banker predictions and compiled them here.

Interestingly—predictably?—there's a mix of optimism and wariness for the year ahead. On the one hand, we're coming off an amazing run of M&A action fueled by the deep pockets of private equity. On the other, we're still smarting a bit form last summer's credit crunch and staring at a possible recession in 2008, which may stop the overly-leveraged dead in their tracks.

Here are the banker predictions. And click here to see the full, industry-wide list.

NAME: Reed Phillips
TITLE: Managing partner, desilva + phillips
2008 PREDICTION: Last year, I said I'd be watching with great interest the possible sale or break-up of the Tribune Company. Now, I think it is safe to predict that the company will be sold any day now. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Less than an hour after Reed sent this over, prediction #1 came true.] My prediction for 2008 is that by year-end valuations for newspapers, specifically, and print media, in general, will start to rebound.

NAME: Chris Shannon
TITLE: Managing director, Berkery Noyes
2008 PREDICTION: On the consumer side, M&A will be as busy as it was last year, as far as what's in the funnel. Strategic buyers will make a comeback and play larger role in 2008. Everyone out there that's either buying or selling it has to have a digital component. Next on the priority list for buyers is a mobile component. If you have a magazine to sell, the ones that have a Web site and even just the beginnings of a mobile product definitely have an advantage.

NAME: Larry Grimes
TITLE: President, W.B. Grimes & Company
2008 PREDICTION: More private equity firms will look to exit magazine publishing in 2008 but may find buyers slim to come by. Many will find their assets have depreciated substantially over the past 18 months, in large part due to mismanagement. The groups will recognize that the tuck-in acquisitions they have been avoiding for a couple years really do make sense and will start pursuing those smaller strategic deals as a way to boost both top and bottom line growth. Many of the publishers who have an eye on digital acquisitions will find the pickings are very slim and will realize growing digitally from within is their best approach. Video will become an increasingly important element of publishers' online strategy and especially for their advertisers. Online directories will continue their metamorphosis from simple listings to interactive and will include product offerings. Deal flow will be slow until the banks start lending again.

NAME: Scott Peters
TITLE: Managing Director, The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc.
2008 PREDICTION: Media M&A in the middle market will remain active and will equal the transaction volume of 2007. However, overall transaction value will decline as the debt-heavy, mega deals get sidelined as the credit markets continue to work through challenging issues.

NAME: Thomas Kemp
TITLE: Managing director, Veronis Suhler Stevenson
2008 PREDICTIONS:
1. The conversion from print advertising in magazines to online will accelerate in a softening economy in most, but not all markets.
2. We will see some highly leveraged transactions of the past couple of years experience extremely challenging times, what the bankers called distressed credits. Think Ziff Davis type experiences.
3. Financially backed media businesses that become distressed will replace their CEO's. Some big name CEO's will get fired in 2008.
4. Several b-to-b media companies that have adopted successful on-line strategies and cultures will thrive as eMedia achieves scale of revenue and profit.
5. Focused, high quality, leading magazines will continue to grow and buck the trend of the digital revolution.
6. M&A market will continue to be strong for quality assets, particularly for the middle market properties, $50 - 100 million, although transaction multiples will come back to earth as a result of tighter credit markets.
7. The media world will not come to an end as we know it. That is, Google will is not the evil empire of the media industry.

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Mark Newman

Hiring—and Feeding—Competent Editors

Mark Newman Editorial - 12/21/2007-10:09 AM

Aside from Southern Breeze magazine, my company also publishes several travel guides loaded with beautiful color photography and editorial, not to mention a plethora of newspaper and magazine inserts (most with editorial). As you can imagine, there's always something for an editorial staff to do!

All these projects are tackled by me and my assistant editor and editorial assistant. In the past I often turned to my stable of gifted freelancers, but this year the majority of the writing has been done in-house. The difference? My staff.

Last year I only had one staffer whose experience included weekly newspapers and an internship at a mediocre local magazine. On paper, her experience was ideal. Reality was a different story. Rather than regale you with tales of her sour attitude, arrogance ("I didn't get a journalism degree for this!"), and ineptitude, I'll cut to the chase: she resigned a week before she was to be fired, thankfully.

When it came time to hire new employees, I found that I had an embarrassment of riches. From newspaper veterans in Louisiana to trade magazine editors in New Jersey to college seniors from all over the Southeast, my cup runneth over. This was a big change from the last time I hired which was in Manhattan in 1999 where one kid got a job for just showing up! This was at the height of the dot-com boom and we all know how that worked out!

I was determined to hire people who had a desire to prove themselves without the know-it-all attitude that comes after working a mere two years in the real world (I was there too, so I know of what I speak).

The first step, of course, was the interview while the second, more arduous step was an editing test. It took the applicants over two hours to complete and Catherine, my art director, called me a sadist after she saw it. I admit that I'm glad I never had to take this test but I was determined to get the right people for the job.

My new and improved staff now consists of an editorial assistant who began six months ago as an intern and an assistant editor with a spanking new M.A. in English. They both aced the editing test while, surprisingly, the candidates who did the worst were those who had been working in newspapers for a number of years, which proves experience isn't everything.

Since my new staffers have made my life easier, I am doing my best to reciprocate. Although I cannot fully control their salaries, I can control their work environment, especially since we all share the same office. It's not as cramped as you may think. Luckily my years as managing editor with a commercial buildings magazine came in handy and I repurposed the office myself, creating three separate work areas that allow for easy communication, but also for a modicum of privacy.

Aside from the physical work environment, I have established a trusting boss/employee dialogue in order to help them learn things about the magazine world; I share knowledge not just about the best way to conduct an interview or proper style, but also on the intricacies of the work world that the rest of us have become so accustomed to: office politics, etiquette, career growth, etc. I am trying to be the type of boss I would like to have; it's a variation on the "golden rule" we were all taught as kids: do unto others... Let's face it, all too often the mantra in the office is more akin to "kill or be killed" and not just in those Devil Wears Prada extremes.

Don't get me wrong: it's not all Valentines. When I close our office door, they know they're in for a "good talking to." So far, those incidents have been rare (I can only think of one off the top of my head), but they know I am serious and that if said mistakes are made again, there will be consequences. This also helps me communicate exactly what I expect from them and how seriously I take our mission.

Also, once a month we all go out to an "editorial meeting" which is simply a lunch at a local restaurant where they are free to discuss anything at all with me without any fear of reprisals. The lunch comes out of my own pocket but it is an investment I am more than willing to make. When the right staff comes along, you need to do all you can to keep them happy. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's just being able to talk to them and treat them fairly. And honestly sometimes it's just a round of margaritas at El Toro!

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