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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keith Kelly at The New York Post reports that news mag U.S. News and World Report will be increasing its frequency of âBest Of' issues-stretching, for example, âBest Hospitals' to âBest 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 ânews-as-commodity' specter. Kelly reports that the magazine will be publishing product-oriented âBest of' issues; a âBest Cars' issue is in the works. "We'll probably look at consumer products," editor Brian Kelly told the other Kelly. Look out Consumer Reports.
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.
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.
Sports Illustrated recently hired a pair of senior writers with newspaper pedigrees - the New York Times' Damon Hack and Jim Trotter of the San Diego Union Tribune - away from their respective papers. (Both were African-American, notes Journal-isms' Richard Prince, tripling the total of black senior writers on staff.)
But SI group managing editor Terry McDonnel faces stiff talent recruitment competition from ESPN, where its multiplatform cache is too splashy to pass up. Take, for instance, the explanation given by columnist J.A. Adande, who McDonnel tried to lure after Adande took a buyout from Los Angeles Times: "I wouldn't say I 'turned down' Sports Illustrated because I'm not sure it ever came to a formal offer. Yes, Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Terry McDonnel called me when h found out I was leaving the Times. I was flattered that SI would think of me, and McDonnel had some intriguing ideas for what I could do for them. But I couldn't continue to appear on Around the Horn in that scenario."
With the news out of Hollywood concerning the shocking apparent suicide attempt by A-list actor and partyboy Owen Wilson, the crass touting of "Exclusive!" news about Wilson and promotion of subject experts (Radar's editors are available for comment!) -- and the eschewing of his family's pleas for privacy -- were to be expected. (Us Weekly doesn't exist in a sphere, after all.) What was unexpected, though, was Elle magazine's rather classy decision to kill a Q+A with Wilson it had conducted weeks before the actor's alleged binge-y overdose.
WWD reportsthat the piece slated for its December Hollywood issue was killed by editor Roberta Myers: "Obviously the circumstances have changed significantly," she said.
No one would ever describe me as an environmentalist. I have a deep appreciation for the beauty and tranquility of the Rhode Island coastal community in which I grew up and would love to see it preserved for generations to come. But I also think the noise and the garbage and the graffiti is a small, but important, part of what makes New York the greatest city in the world and I really wouldnât want to see that change either.
That said, I think the Magazine Publishers of America has the right idea in mind with the recycling campaign it launched earlier this week. The campaign is simple and straightforward. It doesnât preach doom and gloom. All it does is remind readers that they can toss their magazines into the bins with the rest of their recyclables.
Currently, only about 20 percent of magazines are recycled. Some of that may be due to the fact that people donât realize magazines are recyclable, says MPA CEO Nina Link. She may be right. I had no idea magazines were recyclable and Iâve always tossed them in the trash. Thatâll soon change, however.
In addition to its recycling campaign, MPA is also encouraging its members to use more certified paper in their publications. Certified paper is paper harvested responsibly and in an effort to keep the worldâs forests healthy.
By placing one of the two logos MPA has designed for its recycling campaign and using more certified paper (for more information on certified paper and certificate programs visit magazine.org and click on the environmental section), publishers, in very small ways, can do their part to help combat very big problems such as global warming and air pollution.
For the second year in a row, Vanity Fairâs Hollywood issue features a photo shoot that includes naked woman and fully-clothed men. This yearâs March issue is for a story on The Sopranos, breathlessly hyped on the cover as the âbest show in TV history.â UmmâŠhyperbole, anyone?
On the fully-dressed Tony Sopranoâs lap is a nude woman, her face turned away from the camera. On Tonyâs left is one of the other male characters, also fully dressed.
Last yearâs Hollywood issue featured Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley nude on the cover with the issueâs guest creative director, Tom Ford, who was fully clothed. Rachel McAdams was also supposed to be on the cover, but she declined to appear nude. Anyway, that issue generated a lot of attention for its approach, most of it negative, so itâs surprising that Graydon Carter decided to reprise the approach this year.
Thereâs always been a sort of sleazy, misogynistic side of Hollywood cultureâitâs a worldview and itâs very distinct and it pervades the movie business at a certain level. It seems to me that in the last several years Vanity Fair has to an increasing extent become about that aspect of Hollywood rather than the sometimes-transcendent art that the industry also creates.
Maybe itâs just me, but I used to look to Vanity Fair for great reporting and stories that offered new and valuable perspective. I used to view Graydon Carter as one of the great journalists of his timeâhe created Spy and he made Vanity Fair a profitable business where even Tina Brown did not. Now Vanity Fair is too often about shameless movie-star puffery. And I have a hard time getting beyond its dirty-old-man covers.