I've been scratching my head for some time over American Business Media's practice of charging speakers whom they invite to speak at their events. Working for a company that produces dozens of events a year, we recognize that speakers are taking time from their schedules to speak at our events. And we wouldn't be able to have high-caliber events without high-caliber speakers. We do not charge our speakers.
I've questioned people at ABM on this practice in the past and their attitude has been, hey, it is what it is. But I wondered, does anyone else think this is odd, especially for an organization that is supported by companies that pay very high dues (our company's annual dues to the ABM are in the five-figures, and larger companies may pay over $100k a year in ABM dues). At ABM's spring meeting, the organization reports its financials, and based on the last few reports, it's doing quite well financially.
ABM CEO Gordon Hughes says asking speakers to pay is about keeping the association on a sound financial footing. "We're a non-profit, whereas our members are for-profit," he told me. "We're just trying to cover our costs. What's more, he says, "Most people never question this. This is just the way we do it."
I think American Business Media events are worth paying for. I've attended them for years. But frankly, I bristle when I'm told I have to pay, even though I'm a speaker. So, is this just me being petty, or does anyone else think that charging speakers is odd? Well, we asked around and we got an earful from ABM members and non-members. Here's what they had to say:
We'd love to hear your take on this. Please post a comment below.
Despite a driving rain, nearly 500 people made it to mid-town Manhattan's Guastavino's Thursday night for BusinessWeek's "What's Next?" party, celebrating the magazine's first redesign in four years. The magazine's new, sharper look debuted in the October 22 issue which hit newsstands today.The evening began quietly with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and those who attended brushed elbows with the likes of Nixon-era secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and CosmoGIRL! founding editor Atoosa Rubenstein.Vaulted company aside, the festivities got under way a little more than an hour in when a tap dancing, cell phone texting, laptop toting ensemble of 20-something age performers took the red BusinessWeek stage. The performance made obvious the coming together of young and old, a concept BusinessWeek hopes is just as clear in its redesign. The big surprise of the night was when BusinessWeek president Keith Fox and editor Steve Adler introduced record producer Clive Davis. In keeping with the evening's "What's Next" theme, Davis in turn introduced I Nine, a band he says is the "next big thing."Overall, the party was a classy, hipÂ way to formally announce the redesign BusinessWeek hopes will launch it into the 21st century.Â
... and it's not just the sounds of Ace of Base wafting from the cube of our online editor. In recent weeks, we've heard CMP describe a new Web site as "investigating the future of the Internet." Nielsen Business Media debuted an online resource center for small businesses that it claims "is like no other"-except it is kind of similar to a site attempted by Hammock Publishing several years ago, notes our own Dylan Stableford.
More and more, we're starting to hear the big proclamations that accompanied the early moves of Web 1.0. Part of it is the confidence publishers have gained as they learn from their online experiments and their mistakes. Part of it is that we also seem to be on the verge of a major shift, in which the business is prepared to start doing things different. After declaring unequivocally at the recent Folio: Show that it's social media, not video that we will all be talking about at this time next year, Fortune executive editor Josh Quittner followed up by saying "What's going on now is very similar to what we saw when Netscape came on the scene and the Web was being built out. We're at another one of those fundamental shifts."
What we can't afford is the blind optimism that helped doom Web 1.0. And fortunately, it appears as though most publishers realize that. The key for CMP's Internet Evolution for the site's architect Stephen Saunders is balancing what continues to work with a traditional journalistic format with Web 2.0. "I don't believe in pendulum publishing, where on one hand you say, â€˜We're a business-to-business publisher and everything has to be written by us' and then Web 2.0 comes along and now everyone goes in the other direction so they're not going to publish anything, the users will publish all the content," he says. "That's reminiscent of what happened in the 1990s."
And we all know what happened after that.
Spin magazine founder Robert Guccione, Jr. on stepping down from his post as Discover Media CEO and assuming instead the role of chairman: "I'm an entrepreneur, and sometimes we don't always move up, or down, or sideways-we just move."In a phone conversation with Folio:, Guccione dismissed what he called "rumors" that his stepping down as CEO was initiated by a philosophical fall-out between him and his investors. "There has been gossip, and it all has been exaggerated," he says. "Sure, there have been arguments. You don't work with people for years and not fight. But, this move was completely amicable."Discover Media CFO Henry Donahue replaces Guccione as CEO and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company. Guccione-son of Penthouse founder and owner Bob Guccione, Sr.-initiated the purchase of Discover magazine from Disney Publishing Worldwide two years ago, having partnered with private equity firms Sandler Captial Management and WallerSutton 2000, LP. In 1985, Guccione founded alternative music magazine Spin. He sold it to the owners of Vibe magazine in 1997 for more than $40 million.So, why accept a position with less active responsibility? "I'd like to explore other projects," Guccione says. "I'm an entrepreneur. I get that itch."
Slate magazine columnist Ron Rosenbaum recently ripped into an Esquire cover profile of Angelina Jolie, calling it the "worst celebrity profile ever written." Rosenbaum devoted 2,300-words to thrashing its author, Tom Junod, without actually naming him, it should be noted, directly. ("Sure, it uses the death of thousands on 9/11 as a rationale for running a picture of a half-naked Angelina Jolie. But look, if we can't exploit 9/11 when we need to add a little gravitas to that silver sheet between Angelina's thighs, the terrorists win, right?").
Rosenbaum has now written the epilogue-ripping into GQ for killing a Hillary Clinton profile after the Clinton camp threatened to revoke access to Bill-arguing that magazines have abandoned a practice that could save the celebrity profile: the writearound. Rosenbaum suggests that the write-around-a "story done about a person without that person's cooperation, and thus, in contemporary terms, without the usual perks one gets in exchange for the fawning profile"-is looked at as a cop-out.
One magazine editor who clearly doesn't see it as a cop-out: Adam Moss. New York magazine has made it a habit of running at least one investigative write-around per issue, usually more.
Check the recent "Bill Clinton, First Lady," cover story by Jennifer Senior focused on "how a Clinton II White House might work." Operative word there: might. The piece sources former Clinton administration officials and current staffers, public speeches and appearances on Oprah. Speculative, investigative and totally engaging, moreso than the usual "fawning" that comes along with access. Another recent issue included a piece by Will Leitch about Alex Rodriguez's future in New York. The Yankees declined to talk to New York, as did Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent. But New York ran the piece anyway, and-given the Yankees' early exit from the American League playoffs-is as timely a "profile" as any. Another, "Watching Matt Drudge" about the famously reclusive Drudgereport.com founder by Phillip Weiss, stirred the blog-o-dome like a chainsaw.
Magazine mergers and acquisitions may be slowing down, but not for Andy Goodenough. The newly-installed president of Summit Business Media, told us recently that he has at least three deals in the works and expects to complete at least one by the end of the year.
NOTE: Look for our exclusive video interview with Goodenough in November.
First they get a You Tube account. Now the New Yorker is throwing hip-hop dance parties at Hiro and hosting discussions with the writing team behind Knocked Up and Superbad. Such was the scene at the fifth annual New Yorker Festival, bidding to become the most eclectic literary festival anywhere, over the weekend. For starters, a reportfrom the Sasha Frere-Jones-hosted dance party Saturday:
It's really unlikely that Sasha Frere-Jones meant to distress the large number of old people who found themselves, befuddlingly, at Hiro Ballroom on Friday night for his New Yorker Dance Party (part of the New Yorker Festival). Sadly, Frere-Jones's lack of malice is probably scarce consolation to retiree Richard from the Upper West Side, a loyal New Yorker reader. Richard, who admitted his unfamiliarity with the stylings of guest Hollertronix D.J. Diplo, bought tickets to the party because all the New Yorker Festival panel discussions were sold out. No, he wasn't having any fun. "And do you know how much they're charging for this?" He gestured with his Grey Goose Festini. "Ten dollars!"
Then there was the sold-out talk with Seth Rogen-Judd Apatow-two guys responsible for introducing the phrase "I'll be like the Iron Chef of pounding vag" to the American public-being "fÃªted as though they were E.B. White and James Thurber":
The appearance of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen was the New Yorker's final event, the title bout, the sold-out feature presentation, a fact that Rogen and Apatow, somewhat justifiably, found hilarious. During the Q&A period at the end, Apatow said, "It would be so cool if Philip Roth walked to the mike right now." To which Rogen added, "And said, â€˜Why are you here?'"
Raving eclecticism and crude material aside, I'm guessing the New Yorker's event not only generates a ton of revenue (figures won't be available until the end of the week, according to a spokesperson for the magazine) but generates handfuls of new subscribers. And, if nothing else, music heads now associate thumping hip-hop with the 82-year-old New Yorker-an unquantifiable metric.
When the news broke late last week that Cygnus Business Media had announced to employees through an internal memo that their salaries will be cut by 7.5 percent, and that hourly workers will be put on a 37-hour workweek at least through the end of the year, one of our first thoughts was what the early- to mid-career staffers there would do: Grin and bear it, or quit?
It remains to be seen how things at Cygnus will shake out. In the meantime, we informally polled a small handful of assistant/associate-level magazine types throughout the industry to see how they'd react if faced with a mandatory salary reduction. Not surprisingly, every respondent indicated that they would find the situation offensive.
"I'm passionate about what I do and willingly work 12-hour days with no overtime, so I'm already sacrificing a lot," an associate editor at a national women's magazine tells Folio:. "I can definitely see something like this turning me into a disgruntled worker for sure."
Other respondents indicated that their confidence in their magazine/company would be shaken. "Unless guarantees were made to compensate for my pay cut, I would really question my future within the company as well as the direction and stability of the company itself," an editorial assistant at another national women's magazine says. Those guarantees could include compensation through work benefits such as extra vacation days. She'd also want access to her company's annual fiscal plan and to receive notice of when her salary would be restored, she says.
The Cygnus memo indicated also that senior company managers will see a pay cut. Although the memo didn't say exactly how much, the cut is reportedly 25 percent. So, would sharing the burden with senior management ease some of our respondents' worries? "I'd still have the same concerns about the health and stability of the company, but at least the execs also are taking the hit-and are showing commitment to get through the difficult time without laying off employees," an associate editor at a national sports magazine says.
Would taking a pay cut be enough to make employees start looking for a new job? "I'd consider a job change," a production coordinator for a magazine group in Connecticut says. "If the company is cutting my salary now, who says they won't cut it again?"
"I would definitely explore outside job opportunities," the editorial assistant says. "It would be difficult to continue feeling motivated. More importantly, I believe it's important to find an employer that assumes responsibility for its financial missteps and does not place that responsibility on the shoulders of its employees."
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Maybe those seemingly incessant anniversary issues aren't such a bad idea after all. The Atlantic Monthly says its 150th anniversary November issue contains more than 80 pages of adverting-or roughly 20 more ad pages than it normally carries-and a custom gatefold cover "requested specifically by an advertiser." And in a fit of Web 2.0-dom, the magazine is also inviting readers to contribute 200-word essays online for inclusion in a future Atlantic issue. The self-gloating editor'snote, however, is tough to take:
"Unlike other publications, The Atlantic wasn't created to track a particular identity found on a map-Hollywood's glamour, New York's sophistication, Washington's power, Silicon Valley's imagination.Â It wasn't yoked from birth to a particular industry or technology, like the automobile or the computer. The Atlantic was created in Boston by writers who saw themselves as the country's intellectual leaders, and so its scope from the start was national, if rather theoretical."
Then again, if you've made it 150 years in magazine publishing, you're allowed to be little cocky.
Hearst, continuing to execute its aggressive digital strategy, has officially launched its Cosmopolitan mobile site-as Folio: reported back in August-with all the expected bells and whistles, including something called a Dude Decoder, the "ultimate body language guide to find out what he's really thinking," as well as a fake calls service that "calls your cell phone and provides you with excuses to get out of a bad date."
Goofy, "men suck" gimmicks aside, mobile executives at major magazine companies like Hearst-and minor ones, too-say mobile sites like Cosmo's are a "real business."
Here's a quote from Olivier Griot, Hachette's managing director, mobile, who was hired away from Hearst in 2006 to build out Hachette's digital offerings, found in Folio:'s October issue: "We see it as aggregating an audience on the phone the same way we aggregate an audience for our Web sites. We're essentially selling impressions."
And, according to, well, everyone, there are a lot of impressions out there:
There are 233 million people in America who have mobile phones, or 76 percent of the population, according to the International Association for Wireless Telecommunications. Thirty-three million are regular mobile Internet users and 30 percent (roughly 70 million) have used their phones to access the Internet, all part of the $127 billion mobile industry. According to the Strategy Analytics report, "Global Cellular Data Forecast 2007-2011," global cellular data users are expected to grow from 1.8 billion in 2007 to close to 2.5 billion in 2011. Consumer spending on mobile "infotainment," the report says, is expected to double between 2007 and 2011 to $64 billion. And Nokia predicts the number of mobile phone users will top three billion worldwide by 2009.
That sound you hear is your publisher's mouth salivating.
Fresh off its partnership with Nintendo to revive the 19-year-old Nintendo Power, Future US, niche publisher of music and gaming magazines, has announced it is reviving-or "exhuming," as pseudo-rival Game Pro called it-Playstation magazine.
The move comes a year after Ziff Davis ceased production on the custom magazine. The new official Playstation will be published 13 times per year.
With Playstation, Future US now publishes all official of the official video game console magazines in America: Official Xbox Magazine, PlayStation: The Official Magazine and Nintendo Power.