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Tony Silber

The Role of Print for the Online Obsessed

Tony Silber emedia and Technology - 09/18/2007-02:00 AM

Paradoxically, the magazine industry is obsessed with online media. Advertisers are flooding the online channels, with some publishers telling me they can't create e-media channels fast enough to sell.

Even in my market, where we cover the magazine industry, the growth of advertising online is so significant that it will rival the size of the monthly print magazine in the not-too-distant-future.

That obsession, then, is not all that surprising. In fact, I have in the past predicted that print-weeklies on the b-to-b side are dinosaurs. Especially in the IT space, there is a lot of evidence to support this. Overall advertising spending in the big IT weeklies has declined dramatically-fallen off a cliff-in the last several years. Some of them are barely hanging on.

So why is it that over the last couple of days I'm rethinking this area anew? Several reasons. First, I've never been an online true believer. I've never concluded (unlike many others) that print media is in an inexorable decline and has in some served markets become an impediment, not part of the solution.

Second, I've had some really interesting conversations recently on exactly this topic. First, Ted Bahr of BZ Media and I had a conversation about print at the U.S. Open this month, and while he noted the decline of the IT weeklies, he also said that his audience-both advertisers and readers-like his print magazine for software developers.

Maybe even more interestingly, he noted that his an all other magazines he knows of don't have any falloff in print subscriptions-direct-request is not declining, renewals are not falling off, nor are they more costly to acquire. (Things are a bit different on the consumer side, but not all that different.)

So there is no decline in reader interest in print, even as advertisers seemingly begin to write it off.

Then I had a conversation with IDG's Bob Carrigan the other day where he emphatically stated that the solution to the decline in advertising in print weeklies is not to reduce the frequency. He said the nature of buying in the weeklies is such that a reduction in frequency would essentially mean one-quarter of the spend, because the marketers would not end up bulking up on a single monthly, say. So print, even in decline, somehow stays vital.

And then today in a Folio: and CM Webinar on lead generation, I heard the case made in a compelling way to integrate print into lead generation in a way that is very different from the old bingo card approach and much closer to the online lead-generation methods. This is big, in my opinion, because when you tie print to online media, the sum is far better than the individual parts.

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Dylan Stableford

Times Kills TimesSelect: What It Means for Magazines

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/18/2007-02:00 AM

The New York Times today announced that it will drop its paid online subscription program, TimesSelect, effectively admitting its two-year attempt to charge its Web site users to access premium content and archives had failed.

TimesSelect, which charged $49.95 per year ($7.95 a month) for access to its columnists and the newspaper's archives, drew an estimated 227,000 paid subscribers and $10 million in annual revenue. Beginning at midnight, the newspaper will open up access to its entire site to readers. So what

changed?Many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, NYTimes.com traffic sees roughly 13 million unique visitors each month, and could explode without a wall, according to industry observers. The crumbling of the Times subscription modelleaves the Wall Street Journal as only major newspaper in the country to charge for access to most of its Web site, generating $65 million in revenue, according to the Times.

So what does this mean for magazine publishers? Consumer Reports, one of the few remaining magazines to charge for access to its site, is nearing three million paid subscribers to its Web site. (Most subscriptions cost $26/year.)

But for most consumer magazines, the free model dominates the industry. Why? Because it comes down to readers - which is why magazine industry consultant Bob Sacks likes the Times move.

"They are thinking long term and this move will continue to protect and promote the Times brand, and at the same time cultivate new readership," Sacks wrote in an e-mail. "After all sustained loyal readership is the bedrock of any publishing empire, be it large or small. If you don't have readers, exactly what do you have?"

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Dylan Stableford

What's The Status On That Jane Pratt-Gwen Stefani Magazine?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/17/2007-02:00 AM

JANE PRATT: Tell me about the new record.
MICHAEL STIPE:  There's two of them. We're putting out our first live record, which comes out in mid-October. Our first ever live release, it's a DVD so it's a feature length film that was shot 2 years ago. That comes out in October, and I am going over to Europe to do press for that. But then I'm working on the new album that comes out in March probably.  And ... the band, it's been a really tough ten years for us.  We at times, we're not communicating on the level that we should have been and we were trying to keep a real brave face publicly, and kind of hold through it, but I have to say I think we finally found a place of communication. We're talking to each other, we've written a bunch of great songs, we've recorded 14, I've written 14,  I've got another 4 songs to present to the guys next week when we go back in the studio and one of those is really going to surprise them.  I can't wait to see them.

As far as her rumored magazine project with Gwen Stefani, well, Pratt didn't return an e-mail seeking comment. But she recently gave Time Out New York something of a non-confirmation confirmation:

TONY: That is so Jane. Do you miss print?
Jane Pratt: No, but I can't talk about it.
TONY: Because you're starting a new magazine with Gwen Stefani?
Pratt: I'm not allowed to say! You can speculate if you want. I feel like I am working in print now.

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Bill Mickey

The Economist: $1 Million Chicago Marketing Push

Bill Mickey Sales and Marketing - 09/17/2007-02:00 AM

Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune reports that The Economist is beginning a $1 million marketing push to boost readership in Chicago. It's part of a multi-city campaign that also includes Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Baltimore and Austin, Texas. Chicago's slice of the pie? 25,000 of the 700,000 U.S. copies, reports Rosenthal.

Be ready to dig in, however. This is no magazine for the time-sensitive. Editor-in-chief John Micklethwait wants you to work for your new global perspective: "You turn on your television anywhere now, you get so much pap that what I think people want is substance. We're going to make them think. There's no great theme behind it. We just follow the things we think are interesting. ... It is a part of the market that not everybody is in. But we've found the top of the market is bigger than other people thought."

The pap he refers to? "We have sadly undercovered Britney Spears," says Micklethwait.  

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Matt Kinsman

Is Print Technology Replacing Production Knowledge?

Matt Kinsman Design and Production - 09/13/2007-02:00 AM

There's a pretty vocal segment of the publishing industry that says production technology has advanced to the point where problems such as color consistency, fonts and high res/low res shouldn't exist. Time Inc. maintains they don't experience any of the common problems associated with file management. Influential production consultant Bo Sacks has previously written, "Quality control has been reduced to a logarithmic equation. You can take the subjective out of the press. It not only can be done, it already has been done. Wake up and move on to more important issues."

Still, while the technological advancement is acknowledged, problems continue to exist with standards and human implementation of the technology. And perhaps an even bigger problem is the erosion of actual production knowledge, according to Biagio Lubrano, quality control manager at Conde Nast. While printers are being squeezed on costs by publishers, Lubrano contends that many are using new technology as an excuse to replace personnel-often the same personnel that knew how to rectify problems that a machine couldn't. "[The technology] has been oversold," says Lubrano. "The technology lets things go to the last minute, and that's creating more room for mistakes. There have been so many cuts that you're down to the raw mechanics of a specific task. The good knowledge of the task is gone. All the old craftsman are gone. Schools are putting out Web designers not page designers. Printers are buying technology to eliminate people. There's no training programs and printers are not teaching the basics. Technology will replace the knowledge and the loser is the customer."

Agree? Disagree? Lubrano will be one of the featured speakers at the Folio: Show on a panel called "The Road to Print Manufacturing Predictability" on Monday, Sept. 24, at 10:15am.

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Dylan Stableford

Forbes Cuts Helicopters, Yachts from Budget

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/12/2007-02:00 AM

Here's some news every publisher in America can relate to:

[Forbes,] the family controlled publishing company that last year sold a big minority stake - reputed to be as much as 40 percent for $300 million - has now sold off its two corporate helicopters. The flying machines include a Bell JetRanger, a nifty little four-seater that used to be perched atop the Forbes yacht the Highlander, and a larger Apache-type chopper used for long-range commuting by the corporate brass and guests.

"Forbes did sell the two 20-year-old aircraft," a spokeswoman confirmed. "We are planning on buying a new Bell JetRanger for the Highlander as soon as the boat heads south this winter."

This news comes on the heels of last week's devastating revelation that the annual twilight cruise for media and Forbes staffers around New York harbor aboard the family's yacht would be cut from this year's budget.

Shame.

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Dylan Stableford

FHM: More Trouble with Topless Teens

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 09/11/2007-02:00 AM

Bad timing. EMap, the U.K.-based publisher of FHM, is reportedly having no trouble attracting suitors for its on-the-block company -- it's the topless teens that are posing a problem. According to a report in the Media Guardian, FHM has come under fire from England's Press Complaints Commission after the magazine published a topless photo of a 14-year-old girl without her consent.

The photograph appeared in FHM's April 2007 issue as part of a gallery of mobile phone snapshots. FHM said it receives roughly 1,200 photos of women either topless or wearing lingerie for publication each week, adding that it was "extremely surprised" to learn that the girl was 14 "as she certainly appeared to be older." According to the commission, FHM "should have been much quicker to [recognize] the damage that publication would have caused the girl, and offered to publish an apology or take other steps to remedy the situation to the satisfaction of the complainant. Failure to respond in a swift and proportionate manner aggravated what was a significant breach of the code."

The magazine offered an apology and vowed not to republish the image.

This is not the first time the FHM brand has had trouble handling teen girls. The now-shuttered U.S. version of the magazine ran into trouble with liquor advertisers when it decided to put Brooke Hogan -- the Hulkster's underage daughter -- on its November 2005 cover. That same year, New York's Hudson News censored five consecutive months of FHM displays for what it deemed were inappropriate covers.

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Tony Silber

Crossing the Line With Ads and Edit is Like a Small Knife Cut: One May Not Hurt, But If You Keep Doing It…

Tony Silber Editorial - 09/10/2007-02:00 AM

There was a time in the summer of 2006 when Folio: ran an article about ABC's new rules for Verified Circulation, and, because of a last-minute change in the map, an ABC ad fell right next to the ABC story. It was my responsibility to catch the unfortunate juxtaposition, and I didn't.

Then in Circulation Management last year, we ran a story about fulfillment services from outsource providers. A couple of months before that, I had lunch with the president of one of the fulfillment companies, who asked me to use him as a source-where appropriate. No pressure, no questionable suggestions of quid pro quo. Fine. So I passed that info on to the edit team, and said use him where appropriate and without any consideration of advertising.

Of course, the best intentions sometimes go awry, and again because of a map change (and the ad side not following closely enough what was happening on the edit pages) we ended up running a photo of the guy on an edit page across from his ad. Not good, and I heard about it from the company's competition.

I bring these anecdotes up simply to point out that this stuff happens inadvertently sometimes, but even then-as I tell our editors-even then, perceptions get formed and reputations get damaged, sometimes permanently.

You have to be both clean and buttoned up.

Which is why it disturbs me when I see others in our market do this so blatantly and so consistently. You can only make so many inadvertent mistakes. You can only give so many mulligans. When you see ads for products followed by stories whose headlines explicitly reference the exact name of the product in the ad, that's bad. When you see photos of suppliers appearing in stories built to please suppliers (not readers)-and those photos are next to the supplier's ad-and this happens consistently, that's bad. When stories fill the book issue after issue that are "ad traps," not valuable information for the reader, that's bad. When the owner of the cover-2 ad spread also has an editorial column on the back page, that's bad. And all this is widespread not just in my market but throughout b-to-b. (Consumer magazines are also frequent ad-edit ethics violators as well, so my intention is not to accuse just one sector here. B-to-b happens to be the subject of this post, that's all.)

Back to my market. I don't like to throw stones. And I'm obviously biased, as a competitor. And even though those kinds of shenanigans work in my favor in the competitive sense, I can tell you it makes me mad as anything as a reader that I'm treated in a disrespectful manner.

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Jason Fell

Industry Standard: The Return?

Jason Fell Consumer - 09/07/2007-02:00 AM

As we scoured the Internet this week for news about the unfortunate shuttering of Time Inc.'s Business 2.0, we came across a blog post recalling the similar demise of tech mag the Industry Standard six years ago.

In the post, Eric Savitz-a former Standard writer-indicates that the magazine for a time attempted to maintain an online presence after the print version died and points readers to the thestandard.com. All that's there is a dark grey logo on a black screen, and the words: "coming back..." (It's almost like when you go to your favorite restaurant for dinner and you find the doors are locked and the lights are out. In the window, there's a sign that says the restaurant is closed temporarily for renovations. It never reopens.)

But what if the Industry Standard were to relaunch solely online? And why not? Magazines are launching only online without an established brand. That'd be one leg up for the Standard.

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Bill Mickey

U.S. News and World Report Now in “Best Of” Business

Bill Mickey Consumer - 09/07/2007-02:00 AM

Keith Kelly at The New York Post reports that news mag U.S. News and World Report will be increasing its frequency of ‘Best Of' issues-stretching, for example, ‘Best Hospitals' to ‘Best Kids Hospitals' for the September 3 issue.

Kelly notes that a source concedes the magazine is "effectively tossing in the towel on any plan to try to compete with Time and Newsweek on news."

U.S. News president Bill Holiber told Folio: basically the same thing two years ago when it announced a strategic shift away from print to focus more on its Web business, essentially letting Time and Newsweek fight over the mass newsweekly market themselves:

"At times it may come across as being not the most exciting product, but it's a very well-thought-out, information-driven product. As we move in this direction, I think you'll see more information on the page. I think Time and Newsweek are battling it out, trying to be all things to all people. They want to be big-very, very big. We've found there's a certain type of consumer we attract, and that's who we're focusing on: "Give me the facts, I'll decide."

And, after all, that might not be such a bad thing, and maybe Time and Newsweek should consider competing with U.S. News as it embarks on its new content mission, since the newsweeklies are constantly fending off the ‘news-as-commodity' specter. Kelly reports that the magazine will be publishing product-oriented ‘Best of' issues; a ‘Best Cars' issue is in the works. "We'll probably look at consumer products," editor Brian Kelly told the other Kelly. Look out Consumer Reports.

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Dylan Stableford

Sadistic/Cool: Consumer Reports Launches Online Crash Test Videos

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 09/05/2007-02:00 AM

File under sadistically cool: Consumer Reports has partnered with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to launch a section of its Web site devoted to crash test videos. Searchable footage of some 200 vehicles tested at the iInstitute's Ruckersville, Virginia testing center can be found at consumerreports.org/crashtest, and the magazine has plans to add more as more vehicles are crash-tested.

Consumer Reports, by the way, is closing in on 3,000,000 paid online subscriptions. As in, people pay money to research what they're about to lose money on.

Luckily for us, the crash footage is free to non-subscribers.

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Dylan Stableford

Tina Brown Headed to Magazine Editors Hall of Fame

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 09/04/2007-02:00 AM

Like Barry Bonds' eventual spot in Cooperstown, Tina Brown's induction to the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame was inevitable, making today's announcement by the American Society of Magazine Editors a forgone conclusion. The induction has fueled speculation that Brown -- the former editor of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and short-lived Talk and author of the bestselling Diana Chronicles -- may be quietly mulling a return to the magazine industry, something she has denied.

What was a surprise, though, was the concurrent announcement of Jack Kliger, Hachette's president and current MPA chairman, as the recipient of the Henry Johnson Fisher Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Kliger has been around for three decades, but his recent history at Hachette has been decidedly uneven, marked by the abrupt shuttering of popular teen title ElleGirl and scandal/failure of the controversial import Shock -- one of the blackest eyes on the industry in recent memory.

Brown and Kliger will be feted in January in New York.

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