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. Itâ€™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 partiesâ€”one for the V.I.P.s and one for the rest of the dregs.
Gawker has the damning video â€¦
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 ...
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:
AracruzGrupo Portucel SoporcelInternational PaperMeadWestvacoMetsÃ¤liitto GroupMondiNippon Paper GroupNorske SkogOji PaperSappiSCG PaperSuzano Papel e CeluloseStora EnsoWeyerhaeuser
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.
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:
So to honor full disclosure, I believe:
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.
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.
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.
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?
How would you organize a theoretical magazine for hospital administrators? They are probably baffled by the Dick and Jane simplicity of ordinary magazine and newspaper structure.
I'm thinking there would need to be a separate numbering system for the tops and bottoms of pages; a supplement that could only be accessed when the main book is turned to page 43; and probably interwoven articles that one could read by following a color-coded text. But what mere designer has a mind, um, "scientific" enough to design it? The only option might be to hire an MD to DD.
Airport signage, on the other hand, seems to translate quite well to the editorial environment, as New York demonstrated the other week. I haven't flown in or out of the city in years, but New York turns what is essentially a service journalism piece into an engaging and entertaining package with captivating information graphics, tables and fascinating but trivial factoids.
The photography is nothing special, but it still seems vibrant because of context. This works particularly well on the opening spread where the lead art serves as both illustration and infographic: backed-up planes are listed by how late they were to their destinations the day the photo was taken.
The translation of airport signage to page architecture is an obvious move, but New York handles it with enough aplomb that the conceit does not become boring or repetitive-even through dubious sidebars about decent airport meals.
So it is with media. An October released study from The Nielsen Company revealed that, worldwide, the most trusted media is also the one most losing ground with advertisers, newspapers.
The two least trusted media are the ones with blue sky ad sales predictions, online banner ads, and ads on mobile phones. According to the study:
"...while new platforms like the Internet are beginning to catch up with older media in terms of ad revenues, traditional advertising channels continue to retain the public's trust. Ads in newspapers rank second worldwide among all media categories, at 63 percent overall, while television, magazines and radio each ranked above 50 percent."
The study also contains fun information on which media are trusted most/least in different countries.
Use it on a sales call: Often it is hard to shore up the "traditional media" part of an integrated media package. Start by asking your advertiser how important "trust" is in their selling process. Tell them that through an integrated package of traditional media and new media they get the best of both worlds-the functionality of the new media, and the credibility of traditional media. Then show them the study.Â
Read about the study on the Nielsen website.
After I sold 101communications to 1105 Media, I began teaching a class at the USC Annenberg School of Communication. It's a graduate class in the management and communications program.Â The focus of the class is the impact of the Internet on traditional media businesses.
The class is filled with twentysomethings. Most of them have worked for a few years in advertising, publishing, or some form of media, and now they've returned to get a graduate degree.Â Most want to work in the publishing or entertainment business. But they don't much read print products.
On the first night of class, I told the students that we were studying "news, information and entertainment."Â So what sources do you have for those, I asked.Â Under "news," after 10 answers no one had mentioned a magazine or a newspaper.Â It was all web sites.Â Under "information", again only digital products-like Google Scholar--were mentioned; no books, even. And when I asked about sources of entertainment, no one ever mentioned actually physically going to a movie-instead they talked about celebrity Web sites, Netflix, Slingboxes, DVDs.
If you are in the print magazine business, these are your future readers.Â Or not.
In 2005, search guru John Battelle was credited with sound bite critique of digital magazines describing them as "fish with feet," merely a transitional product for the digitally challenged who need extra help migrating from paper to the Web.
If Battelle was right, digital magazines should be fading away and gone in a few years. Also, his concern about the long term could become an objection raised by clients blocking your next digital magazine media sale.
While digital magazines have detractors they are now enjoying huge growth:
Digital publisher NXTbook Media reported a 254 percent increase in sales and a 359 percent rise in traffic to its digital magazines over the year before. This August, digital magazine publisher Zinio announced the launch of 65 new digital releases.
Sorry Mr. Battelle, but growth is robust.
In addition, almost all current media could be viewed as "fish with feet." In fact, going through some kind of tech transition focusing on delivery is typical these days:
â–ª In two years, the current analogue standard of television is mandated to shut down and be replaced with a digital system as per order of the US Federal Communications Commission.
â–ª Five years from now radio may morph into a medium with as many time shifted listeners as live.
â–ª Just now, there isÂ a technology fight in cable TV where IPTV technology (like FiOS from Verizon) is being deployed to compete with the current generation of cable delivery.
â–ª The current Internet you are reading this blog on will one day be replaced with Internet2 technology now in beta at Universities.
If digital magazines are evolutionary products they are in very good company.
Today, Digital Magazines are robust and growing. To those detractors that suggest that they are irrelevant because they may yet evolve, remind them in today's media world evolution is a sign of viability, not weakness.
FOLIO: has asked me to blog occasionally for their newly designed, recently launched Web site. I was both flattered and flummoxed since I haven't had to deal with deadlines, or word counts since my days as a journalist way back when our businesses were called trade magazines and trade shows, rather than b-to-b media, the event business and content factories.
So my first question was, what would you like me to write about?
I have a passion for all things "e." I love new technology, but I'm not really an expert. I've been in the magazine business in one shape or another since college, writing, editing, selling and publishing.
But there are many others who are currently fighting that good fight. I've run a number of major trade shows, like PC Expo, Internet World, Variety Merchandise, Natural Products Expo. But again, there are many people more qualified to blog on the in-person business than I am.
FOLIO: suggested I discuss the M&A business since I am now in partnership with one of the most respected, and most successful private equity firms in the business, ABRY Partners. And although I am clearly now involved in the acquisition and investment business (at least until we make our first platform deal), I thought I'd save some thoughts on that path for a future blog.
So today, I'm going to touch on a topic near and dear to me: management of creative, energetic, and passionate people. The people who make the media landscape so interesting and an exciting career.
I've always thought that Starbucks got it right. If senior management spent it's time recognizing that their most important constituency is not their customer base, not their shareholders, but their employees, there would be more successful businesses where people actually liked to work.
Focus on your staff. Recognize that each individual is crucial and should be treated in a unique and personally designed way. Make the environment one where risks can safely be taken, where energy and extra effort is rewarded, and find many ways to compliment and congratulate. Communicate, over-communicate, and communicate again with your team. Respond quickly to their issues, questions, problems. You don't always have to say yes, but you do have to react quickly and be clear in why you might be saying no.
Management is easy. Remember that your people will always give you 95%. It's great managers who can lift the spirits of their staff so that they get that additional five percent.