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Henry Donahue

Amazon's Kindle: Magazine Killer?

Henry Donahue emedia and Technology - 11/29/2007-12:05 PM

First off, I have not seen the new Amazon Kindle in person. (Note to self: send nasty note to Discover tech editor after finishing this blog entry.) From the pictures, though, the thing looks like a fantastically expensive Speak & Spell.

The reviews from tech geeks, however, have been generally positive, and the first run sold out on Amazon in five days.

So what does this mean for ink and paper purveyors? The classic print magazine argument goes something like this:

Magazines provide the best venue for long-form journalism. Reading the magazine version of The New Yorker on the train tonight is going to be a lot more pleasurable than reading a bunch of articles printed out on copy paper.

Ink on paper also works better for beautiful photography. The collective weight of the fall fashion magazines shows that advertisers clearly agree.

Finally, magazines are more portable than even the lightest laptop. Anyone who has used a laptop on their actual lap can attest that it quickly gets uncomfortable.

The Kindle points out the shakiness of the first and third legs of the proverbial stool. The Kindle is lightweight, easy on the eyes and presumably doesn't burn your lap. The wireless connection provides access to scores of books or magazines, anywhere, at any time.

Sure it's $400, but you have to believe that a $99 version with color photos will be on Amazon by Christmas 2009. With the way ink and paper prices have been going, that might not be a bad thing.

Dylan Stableford

Give Karl Rove a Blog

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 11/29/2007-10:49 AM

As part of its pre-election push, Newsweek recently announced the addition of ex-White House senior advisor Karl Rove as a columnist, his glossy appointment coming a day after the magazine named Markos Moulitsas, founder of the popular liberal politics blog and tradeshow Daily Kos. Good move by editor Jon Meacham: a right-wing pundit to balance Markos' lefty politics. But why waste two outspoken personalities on the print magazine?

Here's an idea: Give ‘em both Newsweek-branded blogs and have them face off before, during and after debates and conventions, allowing readers to join the conversation via comments. (Some media people still consider "comments" to be a risky wasteland of the delusional and the deluted, but I guarantee lightly-monitored comment-thread can frame such a debate in a much more civilized way than, say, cable.)

John J. Palumbo

You Get What You Pay For

John J. Palumbo City and Regionals - 11/28/2007-15:43 PM

I have often said that anyone with basic Mac skills and the ability to pay a printer thinks they can be a player in the magazine publishing business these days. Most city & regional publications are having their markets diluted with freely distributed, rack-in-the-drugstore-vestibule publications. To a certain extent we are the victim's of our own success. Robust growth of the regional magazine business has resulted on healthy looking books in many markets and frequently forays into the bridal and shelter book markets by local publishers. Hence "the entrepreneurs" have been lured by the apparent riches they see in the four-color glossy pages of regionals.

Adding to the woes of reputable publishers is the fact that many of these neophyte entrepreneurs routinely and glaringly ignore all the MPA rules regarding editorial integrity on their pages. Our sales folks are routinely queried by advertisers conditioned by these publications- looking for free editorial ink as a thank you for their advertising commitments. The fact that these publications are four color glossies seems to lure some of the less knowledgeable local advertisers like a moth to a flame.

Emmis Communications has taken a leadership role in the city and regional publishing business by commissioning multiple studies in the markets where they own magazines to determine the "recallability" of these free rack and forced distribution publications. In every case the "other" non-audited publications are not even on the radar screen when it comes to recall and effectiveness of content-both advertising and editorial-in swaying the recipients buying habits.

The first question all of us need to ask advertisers when confronted with this merging completion is "Do you really know who is looking at your ad?"

Second one: "Do you think they are really spending time looking at it?"

Kate Tomlinson

Publishing in the (Long) Shadow of New York

Kate Tomlinson City and Regionals - 11/27/2007-18:22 PM

The publishing world may seem gloomy in Magazine Central, but out here in what many New York print types view as the hinterland, I'm thankful to be a regional magazine publisher. For one thing, people still do read magazines, especially the ones that cover topics they have a passion for and -- laugh if you will -- our readers have a passion for all things Jersey. I think Dan Brogan, my fellow regional publisher from Denver (5280), gave the best explanation of the strength of our category when he called city and regionals enthusiast magazines for a particular place. Our readers really do want to know where to go, where to eat, and, let me not forget, who the best doctors are.

Our pink sheet is clean, but I am thankful that our advertisers don't read pink sheets. Yes, they look at the first page, and I am hearing more about "accountability," but the tempests at ABC that increasingly pit advertisers and agencies against publishers haven't crossed the Hudson Ocean (err, I mean River).

I hear a lot about national advertisers moving their advertising from print to the web and other new media, but I am thankful that our advertisers haven't joined the stampede-yet. They are experimenting with new media, but haven't allowed themselves to forget that it's all about results rather than following the fashions, which is good for print. Judging from some of the comments I heard at the City and Regional Magazine Association conference in September, local advertisers in some areas are starting to shift dollars to the web, but we have some time to craft our own web strategies to take advantage of the transition.

Operating a business in the New York Metro has its downsides-and that's a rant for another day-but there are some things to be thankful for, such as the incredible talent pool that Magazine Central represents. About half our staff members have gotten their training at one of the large, national magazines in our backyard.

Publishing a magazine outside NYC gives me much to be thankful for, and, if anyone can come up with a way for a magazine to make serious money on the Web, I'll be grateful for many Thanksgivings to come.

Dylan Stableford

Playboy’s Search for America’s Sexiest Sportscaster Hits Rock-Bottom

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/27/2007-10:56 AM

Playboy magazine is hosting its second "America's Sexiest Sportscaster" poll, which closes today. A typically chauvinistic move setting women's journalism back 15 years. (Sports Illustrated, for some reason, called it "the season's second most-discussed poll.") The whole thing makes about as much sense as Miss Landmine 2008 (a real competition-seriously).

That said, I guarantee most of the nominees spent Thanksgiving lobbying their families to vote.

The winner, by the way, will be announced November 28.

Dylan Stableford

Worst Anniversary Party Ever? Atlantic Monthly Celebrates 150th in New York

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 11/27/2007-10:30 AM

The Atlantic Monthly celebrated its 150th anniversary with a party in New York earlier this month. It picked the scholarly Kimmel Center at New York University as the venue. The venue had a stage. Instead of, say, using the stage for a panel or discussion, it served for the bulk of the evening as an awkward VIP area, where the important guests like Arianna Huffington, Moby and Mayor Bloomberg partied while 600 or so readers (a.k.a N.I.P.s) were forced to watch. It’s admirable that David Bradley and a magazine like the Atlantic would want to include its readers. But not like this, man. Give everyone access, find another venue or throw two parties—one for the V.I.P.s and one for the rest of the dregs.

Gawker has the damning video …

Dylan Stableford

Why Does Burkle Want American Media?

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 11/27/2007-09:51 AM

Slate's Mickey Kaus has a nice extrapolation on what's behind Ron Burkle's pursuit of American Media Inc.:

Soon he'll presumably have the power to kill any scandalous story in the Enquirer or Star that might hurt his friends (the Clintons). And he'll have the power to run the stories that will hurt his enemies. And for those who might help the Clintons now (by, say, splitting the anti-Hillary vote) but hurt them later--well, he'll be able to choose the timing of any further exposes. ... Look at it from the point of view of the aptly-named David Pecker, head of AMI: If you assume Burkle wants AMI's publications in order to gain political influence, when is the time at which Burkle would pay the maximum price? Right before the campaign starts in earnest. In fact, you might pinpoint Pecker's maximum leverage as coming a couple of months before the Iowa caucuses.

More here ...

Frank Locantore

Beware ‘Carbon Neutral’ Paper Claims

Frank Locantore Consumer - 11/25/2007-13:09 PM

I don't believe in "carbon neutrality."

It is not a helpful concept-some would argue it is deceptive-and there is no clear or agreed upon definition. Publishers who want to be environmentally responsible stewards should view claims of "carbon neutral" paper with suspicion. Such paper most likely doesn't offer any environmental benefit and can be a marketing risk.

A recent report from the Sustainable Forest Product Industry (SFPI) working group makes the claim that "carbon neutrality" can be achieved by burning tree parts, or "biomass," to generate energy for paper mills. SFPI acknowledges that burning trees releases carbon into the atmosphere, but through convoluted logic argue that this is OK, because the trees sucked up the carbon from the atmosphere in the first place. Tree burning merely "recycles" the carbon, SFPI happily concludes.

This is not CO2 neutral. In fact, tree burning is double whammy for the environment: not only does the tree stop absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, it now contributes carbon to the atmosphere. Perhaps burning trees for energy produces fewer CO2 emissions when compared to the burning of fossil fuels. But "fewer" is not the same as "neutral." In the best case "carbon neutral" may mean more efficient energy production. In the worst case it is just an exercise in semantics.

The reality behind the semantic is that tree burning emits a greenhouse gas, CO2, into our atmosphere.

So beware of paper suppliers who pitch "carbon neutral" paper. Using this paper would be an environmental and marketing mistake since such paper would not protect the environment nor communities and may endanger the publication's image and marketability.

Read Larry Light's CMO Strategy piece and view the three-minute video of Seventh Generation's president Jeffrey Hollender in Advertising Age that encourages companies to adopt sustainable practices but also warning them about participating in hollow marketing claims.

Here are the companies that are part of the SFPI working group that produced this report:

Grupo Portucel Soporcel
International Paper
Metsäliitto Group
Nippon Paper Group
Norske Skog
Oji Paper
SCG Paper
Suzano Papel e Celulose
Stora Enso

I told you my bias in my very first blog. What might be bias of these pulp and paper manufacturers?

For more on the Magazine PAPER Project, click here.

Frank Locantore

Green Paper for People and Planet

Frank Locantore Consumer - 11/25/2007-12:58 PM

Are you a magazine publisher that uses environmentally and socially-responsible paper, or you would like to learn how?

Here's why you should read this blog:

  1. There are opportunities for magazines to gain rewards and recognition for their environmental publishing practices through awards like the Aveda Environmental Awards (deadline Nov 30, 2007, click here for the application).
  1. There are special bookstore promotions at Barnes and Noble and Hastings Books and this month, January and April 2008, and
  1. There will be information about topical environmental issues relevant to magazine publishing, helpful tools and resources, and the opportunity to engage in dialogue on this blog about your questions and concerns.
  1. Since this blog is about "Green" publishing practices for magazines and since I work for the non profit, Co-op America directing our Magazine PAPER Project, it probably will not surprise anyone to learn that I have a bias.

So to honor full disclosure, I believe:

  1. That making paper is like magic and those that disagree probably have not visited a paper mill.
  1. That paper is an essential product for the well-being of communities and cultures by providing a medium for expanding knowledge and hygiene.
  1. That as population grows worldwide, it would be hard to avoid using more paper.
  1. That manufacturing paper with the greatest degree of care is essential so that we don't harm communities, human health, or the environment.
  1. That in an ideal world, the manufacturing of paper could actually be a force for healing environmental problems;
  2. That the key pillars of reaching this vision include: use reduction, maximized recycled content use, credible forest certification, clean production processes, and consideration of social impacts.
  1. That the best manner in which to work towards this vision is through a multi-stakeholder environment that includes the paper industry, governments, end-users, merchants, businesses, and NGOs; and
  1. That responsible environmental stewardship is good for business.

I am fortunate to share many of these beliefs with colleagues that also work in the non-profit world for responsible paper use. In 2002 we all came together and authored A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry: Striving For Environmental and Social Sustainability, and then started a network of non profits working on these issues called the Environmental Paper Network (EPN).

And, I'll promise that this blog will be a forum for respectful discussion. We may not agree always - or even often - but, we should always be talking to each other because the problems and impacts on our society are too great for us not to work together.

Look for my post tomorrow on why magazine publishers should be wary of "carbon-neutral" claims.

For more on the Magazine PAPER Project, click here.

Jandos Rothstein

Review: Esopus

Jandos Rothstein - 11/21/2007-12:15 PM

The arrival of a new Esopus is always cause for celebration. The current issue, which arrived on my doorstep on a recent afternoon, is no exception. What makes this magazine so remarkable?

Esopus uses-really uses-the tools of mass-production printing to create a publication that is a carefully orchestrated experience: a delight for mind, eyes and fingers. Subscribing to Esopus is a bit like receiving a quarterly artist's book with pockets, pullouts, changes in paper quality, gloss and translucency. These methods don't seem tacked-on, but are integral to the way the magazine tells stories-which are only occasionally traditional columnar narratives. Words and jpegs do not do the results justice.

Not everything in Esopus is brilliant (an inevitable artifact of an experimental and chance-taking approach), but it's never boring or predictable. From children's elaborate pictures of war scenes, to a look at beauty and social pressure through magazine covers, to the sense of artifact on every page, the magazine at once feels personal and topical. Editor Tod Lippy talks eloquently about what it takes to put an issue in AIGA's Fresh Dialogue 7.

Jandos Rothstein

Review: @issue: The Journal of Business and Design

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 11/21/2007-12:08 PM

I've long felt that non-profit organizations and private industry should work together more diligently to produce decent swag for graphic designers. A template for successful products that might emerge from such public/private partnerships is @issue: The Journal of Business and Design, which is written and designed by The Corporate Design Foundation and printed on paper donated by Sappi.

@issue is by no means a great magazine-I don't miss it between the random issues I pick up at paper shows and ADC events, (and I haven't bothered to subscribe to the free publication) but I always enjoy the unusually-tall glossy when one comes my way. CDF's outlook on design, (which includes forays into product, packaging, branding and furniture) is refreshing and different from most of the designer magazines I read regularly. If the content is refreshing, the design is another matter.

In the old days, the inside format was positively retro. Perhaps this was due to CDF's twin focuses on industrial and graphic design; or perhaps because the publication is half-magazine, half-brochure, but early on it had the vibe of a late-model International School marketing piece. With ruled off and tinted boxes, a simple two-column structure throughout, grid-trumps-all placement choices, and diminutive point-sizes for heads and decks and rubrification for emphasis, it's easy to imagine they cribbed the look of a 1974 Knoll catalog when they did the initial design.

I caught @issue for the first time in almost six years last week, and was surprised by what had and what hadn't changed visually. The color scheme, rules and boxes, along with the sales-piece quality are all the same, but the historically-appropriate Franklin Black Condensed signature sans has been replaced by the humanistic yet post-modern Meta, which is now used almost exclusively. The grid (which is still given god-like reverence) is slightly updated, but the color and overall aesthetic is much the same. The combination almost but doesn't quite work.

The wispy heads in the new version make pages feel more open but at the expense of a textured and varied reading experience. I love Meta, but at light weights and small sizes it doesn't have the pop on the page that the Franklin did. And, the font feels stylistically out-of-place in what is otherwise a strictly modernist design. (I know, the cover never quite went with the inside.) While there would be nothing wrong with redesigning the magazine the current incantation of the design feels half-done.

Jandos Rothstein

Brass Tacky

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 11/21/2007-12:00 PM

NPR's Marketplace did an intriguing piece on Brass magazine recently. Their report made the magazine sound like a sophisticated and sincere version of Young Money, which I wrote about a while back. (I had used the example of YM to look at how fuzzy editorial goals can result in a design that's equally unfocused.) My post inspired spirited debate, so I wanted to take a look at Brass for a bit of contrast. While Marketplace was very positive about the magazine, they were more interested in the success of the business than its editorial or design virtues.

Brass features have a one-page opener.

Actually, Brass is a bit better written than YM, but it too has a design that's all over the map, including the feature above which looks like a brochure for a overpriced and pretentious nightclub. Brass pages rely on goopy Photoshop and typographic gimmicks rather than a focused and appropriate design voice, and the weak images often have only a tenuous connection to articles. Like YM, Brass anneals its message of frugality and financial responsibility with the fantasy lifestyles of the rich, young and famous. Of course, part of the problem with both magazines may be that the personal finances of the young, unsung, and impoverished is just too boring a topic to build an exciting magazine out of. How desirable is a hard, realistic look at cash when your problem is you don't have any of it?