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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'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.'"

More here ...

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]

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

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.

More here ...

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?

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 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, 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

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.

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.

David Nussbaum

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

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


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.

Dylan Stableford

ASME's Response to Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 12/07/2007-17:43 PM

A pair of stories FOLIO: reported on this week–the federal suit brought against cigarette-maker R.J. Reynolds over an alleged "advertorial" that contained cartoons, and a Harper's Bazaar cover that contained 258 sponsored Swarovski crystals–required comment from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the arm of the Magazine Publishers of America that issues members guidelines on such foggy areas as magazine ethics.

Here's ASME's response:

From: Kahan, Marlene
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 5:52 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: rolling stone, harper's bazaar


I want to take a look at a copy of Harper’s Bazaar before I comment.

On the Rolling Stone question:

We don’t approve of sponsored edit in general, only in specific cases (special sections, etc). Our guidelines say advertisers may sponsor certain special editorial sections, as long as the edit doesn’t endorse the advertiser’s product, and the advertising and editorial pages are clearly distinguishable.

Marlene Kahan
Executive Director
American Society of Magazine Editors

Ted Bahr

Do Marketers Want ROI or Just CYA?

Ted Bahr Sales and Marketing - 12/07/2007-17:23 PM

This entry is for PWLA (people who like acronyms). Many marketers (at least in tech, when I am) chant "R-O-I, R-O-I, R-O-I" whenever a salesperson is present. And woe to the salesperson that wants to talk about PRINT! They claim to need Return On Investment, and of course the only way to provide that is with online marketing (measuring clicks, click-thru percentage and lead generation). Marketers want a Silver Bullet–something that turns their art into a science. They think they’ve found it. Until you start asking questions.

Remember good-ole Bingo cards? Oh, I meant “Reader Service Cards." How did we handle claims that another magazine outpulled ours? You broke them down with questions. What is the quality of the leads? How closely do they track results? If someone calls in six months later, do they link that back to the Bingo lead? In 90 percent of the cases, the marketers did not track leads adequately.

Same is true today with online marketing–at least with smaller or medium-sized companies. They don’t track whether the clicks became leads. Or later, sales. Their salespeople only follow-up on a lead once. The leads don’t get followed up on at all. Nowadays, many marketers simply have a number of leads they must generate per quarter. Period. If those leads don’t turn into sales, well, that’s the sales team’s fault. So, many times, when they tell you they want ROI all they really want you is CYA (Cover Your Ass). You should call them on it. And when you do, you can introduce another acronym to them that will also open the door for you to sell them badly needed print advertising. It’s ROMO, and we’ll talk more about that in the next post.

Matt Kinsman

Job Hunting, Online-Style

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/06/2007-17:20 PM

Even the most technology-challenged journalist has at least a perfunctory Facebook or LinkedIn profile (my wife, who is eight years younger than me was shocked I had a Facebook account before her).

But knowing how to leverage these services is the key to avoiding becoming part of the digital white noise. Brad Kenney, associate editor at IndustryWeek and the new president of ASBPE's Cleveland chapter, is trying to spread journalistic online competencies through the association (read his blog at Kenney advises that social network profiles should be treated almost like your company's Web site-make it relevant for search terms and keep it updated. "It's like coding a Web site," Kenney says. "Not only will that force you to think about your strengths but it will let you be searchable."

In his November/December president's letter, ASBPE head and BNA Tax & Accounting senior state tax law editor Steven Roll writes about his LinkedIn experience. "LinkedIn is searchable, so I included the words ‘state tax,' which relates to what I write about," says Roll. "Two weeks later, a recruiter from a big-four accounting firm called to see if I'd like to write about state issues for them. She wouldn't reveal her sources but I'm convinced she found my profile on LinkedIn."

It cuts both ways-not only should potential employers be considering your online presence, you should evaluate theirs, including LinkedIn and Facebook profiles of would-be managers. "You can tell about the quality of their site and if they've done any coding," says Kenney. "Do they have knowledge of how things should look on a Web site? Are they blog-enabled, do they have 21st-Century tools for disseminating information? Do they have bookmarking services? Not only is that important to me as a journalist but a strong Web presence bodes well for future revenue and in turn, long-term employment."

Jason Fell

Essence Scores Imus Coup

Jason Fell Editorial - 12/06/2007-16:12 PM

Don Imus returned to the airwaves this week—the first time since being dismissed in April over racially-charged on-air comments he made about the Rutgers woman's basketball team—with a pair of female comedians, both African American. Essence magazine news editor Tatsha Robertson scored a bit of a coup with one of them, 33-year-old Karith Foster, and posted the Q+A on the Essence Web site. In it, Foster responds to claims that she "sold out" by joining him on the air.

Kudos to Essence for staying on top of this, and kudos for not holding it for the print magazine.