This year's ABM Top Management meeting featured some of the best content I've heard at the annual event (which I've been going to on and off since the late Nineties), thanks in large part to the refreshing openness of many of the speakers, particularly ABM chairman and Hanley Wood CEO Frank Anton and Hanley Wood Business Media president Peter Goldstone, who not only acknowledged the challenges they are facing in developing multimedia platforms but also offered detail on how they are addressing those challenges. Anton made the point that going digital won't be a cheap and easy fix and that publishers need to take the offensive. "Since 9/11, this is an industry that's played defense," Anton said, noting Hanley Wood has invested $2 million in personnel and another $5 million in Cap Ex for its online ramp-up.
However, ABM has featured an increasing number of vendors as speakers during both its Spring and Top Management meetings (at least 10 vendors appeared on panels this week). On one hand that makes sense-video and online events are new territory for most of the publishers in attendance and who better than the vendor to explain how they work? However, few of the vendors cited specific examples of how they're working with publishers or appeared on the same stage with their publishing clients. One session titled "Expanding Your Event Offerings Digitally" featured three vendors (John Grosshandler of eComXpo, Guy Piekarz of Unisfair and consultant Gogi Gupta), some of which also exhibited at the show, and just one publisher in Vincent Polito of Reed Exhibitions.
Google was on hand to deliver its "We come in peace" speech to b-to-b publishers, touting services such as AdSense video units, where partners can upload content to YouTube in an effort of "hypersyndication." "Users want your content but don't necessarily want to go to your site to get it," advised Google manager of publisher solutions Gavin Bishop. Publishers remained skeptical. "The guy from Google gave the same speech the guy from VerticalNet gave five years ago," quipped Randall-Reilly Publishing president and CEO Mike Reilly. "'They're going to take our business' but they can't take it because they don't have our relationships."
It's always the behind-the-scenes meetings and deals that are the real appeal of these types of association events but the sessions are a big part of it. Vendor content is useful and welcomed but not if it comes across as advertising. "I can appreciate them needing [to have vendors speak]," one publisher told me. "It's tough trying to pull off an event like this. But it's tough to find time to attend events like this and I want to know what publishers like me are doing."
You can't say Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner is a big fan of digital media. The CEO of Wenner Media, which also publishes US Weekly and Men's Journal, recently told BusinessWeek's Jon Fine "we never lost tons of money chasing down ridiculous online ideas." Nevertheless, Wenner has finally chased down what many publishers have been tinkering with for the last few years: digital editions. The last in a three-edition 40th anniversary series is available in its 213-page entirety as a digital edition, developed by Olive Software and sponsored by LG.
The free digital edition is accessed via a prominent "current issue" link on Rollingstone.com. There is no login step and users can access the content directly. The full text is available and some bands and songs within the copy are linked to Rhapsody, a two-year-old membership-based music service started by RealNetworks, which also powers Rolling Stone's Web site via a licensing agreement.
The digital edition follows closely behind the recent release of the firstÂ 40 years ofÂ Rolling Stone as a digital archive available in a DVD boxed set produced by Bondi Digital.
When he took over as MPA chairman in 2005, Hachette Filipacchi CEO Jack Kliger's first movewas to call for the magazine industry and its advertisers to pursue a new way of measuring and evaluating magazines. "Circulation-based metrics are irrelevant to proving advertising effectiveness," Kliger said at the time. "There is too much focus on ratebase rather than distribution. Every other medium deals with audience, we deal with circulation. Why should a magazine advertiser care if a magazine is paid or non-paid?"This week, at the end of his two-year tenure as MPA chairman, Kliger reiterated the call for new metrics. Not doing so, he said, "shortchanges the value proposition to the advertiser."But while both publishers and advertisers nod their heads in adamant agreement that new metrics are needed, the lack of support for new metrics begs the question of whether they really want them. Advertisers and agencies for the most part seem more concerned with pushing publishers on price. Why support data that justifies a rate increase? In the recent Folio: Consumer CEO Survey , several respondents said advertisers focusing on low CPMs rather than the quality of integrated packages frustrated them. "There is a failure on the part of advertisers to accept solutions versus driving for low CPMs," said one consumer-publishing executive. On the publisher side, many remain leery about methodologies that could show specific issues as poor performers. Some early efforts in new metrics have foundered. Last year, McPheters & Co. dropped Readership.com, it's attempt at collecting issue-specific data, after it only took in about half of the $5 million it needed to support fielding the service. In June 2007, MRI released its first Issue Specific Readership Study, which offers syndicated research showing total audience estimates and demographics for individual issues of magazines. However, the study seems to have been greeted with little industry-wide fanfare.Other efforts are underway. MRI and Nielsen Online have teamed on a service to track unduplicated audiences of publications and their Web sites. McPheters & Co. is conducting a study to gauge the effectiveness of public-place copies. But new metrics won't gain any support unless advertisers are able to accept that they may need to start giving magazines more credit than mass media whipping boy, and publishers will need to admit that not every issue is a slam dunk, and will have to start planning and pricing accordingly.
Moderating a panel of tech media publishers and bloggers yesterday at the Future of Business Media conference in New York, Hammock Publishing CEO and blogger Rex Hammock asked panelist Bob Carrigan (IDG CEO) outright if IDG was indeed quietly planning to relaunch The Industry Standard, the once high-flying magazine that covered, and famously mirrored, the stratospheric highs and crushing lows of the Internet economy circa 1998-2001. After some demurring, Carrigan said that yes, the brand would relaunch in a "blog format" online in December, confirming what some observant individuals have been wondering for the last couple months. Introduced in 1998, The Industry Standard rocketed to an amazing 7,558 advertising pages in 2000 only to fall victim less than a year later to the equally dramatic dot-com crash. The magazine folded in late summer 2001 after negotiations between publisher Standard Media and majority owner IDG fell through-and, some industry observers felt, one too many rooftop parties. Final issues of the magazine barely scraped 90 pages and had the dubious distinction of being number-one in decline in ad pages and revenues. But the brand lived on. Carrigan noted at the FOBM conference that the archives have remained popular and a staff has been quietly working on a social media-based platform for the relaunch. There will be bloggers and "substantial input from the community," says Carrigan. For now, there's a sign-up box inviting users to a relaunch notification.
When Steve Madden, of Rodale's Cycling Group, asked the question, "Why don't more people think bicycling is great," he and his team did a little brainstorming and came up with the BikeTown project. Rodale handed out 50 bicycles free to residents of Portland, Maine for three months and told them to, well, ride them.
What were the results? Not surprisingly the participants lost weight-a combined 750 pounds to be exact. The BikeTown project has expanded over 48 states, handing out 3,000 bikes to about 15,000 riders. So far, the project has generated 154 million media impressions, Madden said, and $6.3 million.
"The results were nothing less than spectacular," Madden said. "People lost weight, families reconnected. And six million in revenue? That's not so bad either, right?"
While Dan Rather didn't address his $70 million lawsuit against CBS while moderating a discussion at the 2007 American Magazine Conference, the former newsman didn't disappoint those who wanted to hear his so-called Ratherisms (if anyone is truly a brand at AMC, it would be Rather) live and in-person. Some of his best:
"If you had to bet your trailer money, who wins the nominations?""I'd bet the ranch on the New Yorkers.""Not a single vote has been cast anywhere-right now it is guesswork.""If I was te-totally me-morally forced to choose ...""[Mitt Romney] is an undervalued stock.""Tall, good-looking men sometimes do well in elections.""My crystal ball is permanently in the shop.""What you least expect often occurs.""Overnight is a long time; a week is forever.""February 5, unless there's a cataclysmic event-that's the ballgame.""For all the double-doming, the coverage may not amount to much."
Brian Farnham, speaking at the American Magazine Conference Monday, said he had one goal in mind when putting together the 2007 sex issue, his second as editor: Cancelled subscriptions.
"If you do a sex issue and no one cancels, you're probably not doing your job," Farnham said.
Farnham said after no one cancelled their subscriptions after publishing the first sex issue of 18-month tenure at TONY, he wanted five this time around.
"I'm happy to report we vastly exceeded my goal."
When Pilar Guzman, editor of year-old Cookie, first tested the magazine's cover prototypes-high-end photo shoots with model moms and model kids in model situations-she realized the magazine had "totally underestimated the reader."
"The focus groups could tell who the fake-y models and kids," Guzman says. "A mom knows, a mom knows that moment-a 22-year-old model who doesn't have a kid doesn't really know how to hold a child."
Despite burning a bridge with the shoot's equally high-end photographer (Guzman never used the cover) Guzman says the test forever changed the magazine launch's cover strategy. "We now use real moms and their kids."
Best line from day one of the 2007 American Magazine Conference, taking place at the ridiculously posh Boca Raton Resort & Club, courtesy of Adverting Age editor Jonah Bloom:"For the journalists in us, we like when you pick a place to moor our yachts ... I have the slip next to Keith Kelly this year."
The big question for the 500 or so magazine executives gathering at Boca Raton's cavernously posh resort and club this week for the 2007 American Magazine Conference is simply this: What the hell is a "magabrand"? And is it really a revolution? The conference's thematic title-"Magabrand Revolution"-seems to be both a nod to magazine publishers leveraging their brands across multiple platforms (Web, TV, radio, rock club et al) and the personal journey of the Men's Health editor and AMC chairman Dave Zinczenko from self-described fat kid to editor to Today show TV personality to tabloid-fodder to a multi-platform brand himself. (Zinczenko could be overheard saying as much at the resort's hotel bar late Saturday, going as far as calling ex-White House press secretary Tony Snow, the conference's odd choice of opening keynote speaker, as a "megabrand"-albeit a retired one.)
As Zinczenko explains in his chairman's letter, the so-called revolution is the "art and science of combining a strong magazine voice with the power of digital media to reach downloaders, listeners and viewers in ways that were unavailable, or even unimaginable, five years ago."
But is the magazine as brand a "revolutionary" idea, or even new? No, but believe it or not, there are magazine publishers out there that have yet to grasp the concept of "beyond print"-last year's AMC theme-and plenty more who've done little else than talk about it. Besides, magazine conference's need themes, and at this point, anything without the word "digital" in it is probably a good idea.
As we were sifting through the stacks of magazines we have collected here at Folio:, we came across the October and November issues of Shape. Placing them side-by-side we couldn't help but notice how strangely similar the covers are.Both bathing suit-clad subjects (singer Sheryl Crow, October; actor Heather Graham, November) appear standing in water with the sun setting behind them. The color schemes are nearly the same. The cover lines look similar. The list goes on.A Shape spokesperson says Crow and Graham were photographed in different locations, although at practically the same time of day. Shape creative director Dimity Jones declined to comment other than to call the similarities a "coincidence."Jones and her team didn't realize the similarities before sending these issues to print? A coincidence? You be the judge.
As I have been known to criticize magazine publishers who do little more than lip service to being "green" (see: â€˜Green' Issues Fail to Convert Magazines to Recycled Paper) it's nice to see a major magazine going beyond the "green issue" rhetoric and actually committing to something that will have an immediate impact. Starting next month, Everyday with Rachael Ray, whose ad revenue skyrocketed some 500 percent this year, will print its issues on 85 percent recycled paper. Additionally, the Reader's Digest-owned magazine is switching mills to one closer to its printer. The explanation from RD:
"The new mill (outside of Chicago) is 160 miles from the printer (Quad, in Lomira, Wisconsin) compared with the old mill that was 1,060 miles awayâ€”that's a savings of 900 miles one way. So that reduces emissions. Contrast that with some magazine papers that are trucked across the country or imported from Europe. Also, the mill is working with the printer on a closed loop system, so when they deliver the "Rachael Ray" paper the same truck would then be loaded up with the printed waste and shipped back to the mill. The press waste from the printing of Rachael Ray will go back into the actual paper being produced for a future issue. Makes sense, but understand that this is not the typical process in the industry."
Make no mistake: swapping paper mills is not cheap. But I'd bet the goodwill associated with this moveâ€”if Ms. Ray follows through on her promiseâ€”will generate additional long-term revenue to offset the upfront costs.(Or, at the very least, offset the damage done by those Dunkin Donuts commercials.)