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.
Here's a magazine event that is scandal-proof and UAB-free: the Australian version of Cosmopolitan attempted to set a Guiness World Record last week by gatheringover 1,000 bikini-clad babes-1,010 to be exact-on Australia's Bondi Beach.The magazine advertisements recruited the beauties in Cosmopolitan printadvertisements and a micro-site, 30 Days of Fashion and Beauty.
The girls, of course, spelled out "C-O-S-M-O."
As Folio: previously reported, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post launched the latest glossy iteration of Page Six late last month as a Sunday insertion with guns aimed at the hated Gray Lady's New York Times Magazine. What we didn't report: the tabloid's marketing push. The Post has thoroughly (if annoyingly) blanketed subway cars and Metro North trains with display advertising, like the placard above, playing the obvious alliterative "sex" theme. They're even running an ad on local New York television stations.No word (yet) on how Six is selling. Stay tuned.
I took the headline above directly from Paul Conley's September 30 blog entry about the severe cost-cutting measures undertaken late last week by Cygnus Business Media.
Those cuts -- made in response to projected revenue shortfalls -- included salary cuts through the end of the year for all employees, plus a reduced workweek for hourly employees, and, according to a couple of e-mails I got over the weekend, some unsubstantiated and probably exaggerated additional steps. In his post, Paul outlined all the details, and pointed out how unfair it is to enforce a pay cut on employees because management made mistakes.
Think about it: The senior management of this 80-title company forecasts its year-end inaccurately. Then executive management accepts it. Then it turns out to be wrong. So why does every associate editor and production assistant then have a pay cut forced down their throats?
Not fair. Some of these people can't afford a 7.5 percent pay cut, especially to cover the mistakes of others.
The whole thing is made somewhat more egregious because, according to sources I have within the company, business-unit leaders were pressured to accept aggressive budget targets from the executive management -- co CEOs Carr Davis and Tony O'Brien -- or face their implicit displeasure.
And now, a company that recently brought in executives with pretentious titles like "Chief Growth Officer" and "Vice President of Innovation," is finding that the growth is not only not there, but that projections are so off-the-mark that everyone has to take a pay cut or the company will be unable to meet its bank obligations.
To me, this all comes back to O'Brien and Davis, who by all accounts were successful and innovative small-company executives before they came to Cygnus a bit more than a year ago. The pair launched FDCH e-Media, a company that specialized in document distribution, b-to-b partnerships and online news delivery, in 1993, and came to the attention of Cygnus owner ABRY Partners because of their background in online content distribution. But FDCH e-Media was a lot smaller than Cygnus, a $120 million company with 80 trade magazines that generate 70 percent of the company's revenue. It may be that Davis and O'Brien are in the impossible position of managing a legacy print media company undergoing rapid change in a highly challenged print-media environment.
If so, it would not be the first time that executives from outside b-to-b media struggled. Think Marc Teren at Cahners seven years ago, or Tom Rogers at Primedia around the same time. As one industry observer said a couple of days ago:
"This cost-cutting move is indicative that contrary to the beliefs and hopes of financial owners, hiring new CEO(s) from outside the industry is not usually the panacea envisioned by the financial guys. There are rarely magic bullets that resolve systemic challenges to a business or industry. I feel sorry for the executives who are making these decisions and the employees who must endure the consequences."
From the Folio: Show, Day Three: In a well-attended (20 or so people) and excellent presentation on the structure of building an M&A transaction, the conversation turned to "add-backs," the kinds of items a seller will tell the prospective buyer that he can discount on the expense side because they won't be there after the sale. It's often things like club memberships, cars, or if the owner is paying himself an unusually high salary, some portion of that. Naturally, the seller wants to throw in as many add-backs as possible, because taking out costs means profits are higher, and higher profits (or EBITDA) means a higher transaction price. But sometimes the chase of a higher selling price causes the seller to get over-zealous. Clay Hall, CEO of Aspire Media and moderator of the session, told the story of one such case, where the seller included two full pages of add-backs. Hall described his exasperated response: "You've invented a new accounting term," he says he told the seller. "Profits before expenses!"
The Economist puffs into the print-is-dead smoke-screen with a story noting that consumer magazines â€˜have problems.' And you'll never guess the culprit: The Internet. Apparently people are â€˜spending more time' there and an â€˜even greater share of advertising spending' is moving online. How much? We don't know, the writer doesn't provide any metrics.
Worse: â€˜Magazine units are mostly a drag on growth for their parents.' How much of a drag? Still don't know. But apparently they're a drag on at least two parents-maybe, and possibly more-because Time Warner is fending off rumors of a Time Inc. divestment and â€˜people in the industry' are saying it may also sell IPC Media, its British subsidiary, and that â€˜publishers reckon' Bertlesmann may sell Gruner + Jahr next year.
That the divisions might be sold someday (isn't everything basically for sale anyway?) and they may indeed be a drag on the bottom line is all relative, and certainly not a reflection of the overall market. Time Warner and Bertlesmann are massive media conglomerates with unique financial pressures and don't represent the consumer magazine industry as a whole. Neither does Emap, which the writer determines might not sell because it's possible no one will pay good prices, which will only add to the industry's â€˜gloom.'
But then, andÂ I never thought I'dÂ ever write this in a sentence,Â here the writer is hoisted on his or her petard, as they say. If Time Inc. is ever sold, buyers will line up around the block, and even Emap's magazine division is reportedly seeing interest from a healthy mix of private equity and strategic buyers. Why? Because in the right context magazines are still an excellent business to be in.
An odd moment happened Sunday at the Folio: Show during a pre-conference session. Doug Harbrecht, director, new media, for Kiplinger's, effectively dissed the viability digital magazines. "They're doing nothing for us," Harbrecht said. "They're static ... I think people are realizing that they just don't want their content that way.
(Consider, of course, that Harbrecht also admitted that one of the most common refrains heard outside the office is "Oh, my Grandfather used to read Kiplinger's.")
A few minutes later, an energetic team from Nxtbook, one of the show's sponsors, gave its sales pitch to the same room about how digital is growing, vibrant and why people "just do want their content that way."
Nxtbook's Marcum Grimm, citing industry research, said digital magazines will make up 30 percent in 15 years. Within 25 years, they will represent 75 percent, Grimm said, adding: "Zing!"