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Bill Mickey

Online Revenue At What Cost?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/29/2007-03:00 AM

Fellow b-to-b magazine blogger, Paul Conley, emailed me a note about his latest post. It seems Ziff Davis’s eWeek has begun using IntelliTXT’s keyword linking technology in its Web site editorial. I’ve written about this before, as has Conley, who this time suggests that pressures stemming from owner Willis Stein’s efforts to sell Ziff Davis have resulted in a revenue-at-all-costs Web site strategy:

Ziff Davis has had a dismal performance of late in print. But online revenue has risen. And that has given investment bank Lehman Brothers, which is advising Ziff Davis on a sale, something to push. And when you have a private equity company and an investment bank both intent on boosting online revenue in the short term to help drive the sale of the company, you’re going to wind up with some embarrassing behavior.

I don’t know what the magazine’s motivation is, beyond “monetizing” their editorial in a rather overt manner, but, as I’ve said before, it absolutely detracts from editorial integrity. But here’s another spin that you might find interesting: After a cursory look at the ways eWeek is using the linking technology, I found a review on Softek’s Storage Manager 2.5. The word “Storage” is hyperlinked to an IntelliTXT pop-up ad for Sun’s Solaris 10 operating system (in subsequent refreshes the link did not show up). Likewise, in a breaking news story about IBM’s purchase of Softek Storage Solutions, the words “Storage Solutions” link to a pop-up for HP’s DL 380 G5 server. As a publisher, I don’t think I’d want one vendor’s name linked to a pop-up ad for a competing vendor’s product.

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Time Inc. Frenzy Ends?

Marrecca Fiore Consumer - 01/26/2007-03:00 AM

So the excitement is finally over. Maybe. Between its layoffs and the sale of 18 of its magazines, Time Inc. has had no shortage of headlines over the past few months. Whether the company is done laying off remains to be seen, but at least the question of who will buy the magazines from its Time4Media and Parenting groups has been answered. And the sale of the publications to Bonnier Magazine Group and their merger with World Publications is good news for Time Inc. and for the magazines it's shedding.

For one, it gives Time Inc. executives the opportunity to focus their full attention on repositioning the company for multimedia growth. Time CEO Ann Moore has had to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure in the past few months from the media, from her employees and most of all from Time Warner executives who have been pressuring her for the better part of a year to boost profitability in the company’s publishing segment.

As for Time4Media and the Parenting groups, they have a home with a new magazine company – and a growing company at that - that plans to leave them in New York and leave the employees – at least the non-executive employees – in place. World Publications also will give magazines like Field & Stream, Parenting, and the Transworld publications an opportunity to grow that they didn’t have at Time Inc. As one M&A source put it, “If you have Surf magazine and Field & Stream competing with People magazine for online resources, who do you think is going to get them?”

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Linda Zebian

On Working With Competitors

Linda Zebian Sales and Marketing - 01/24/2007-03:00 AM

Talk to any smart magazine marketer, and they will tell you that working with competitors is one of their top marketing methods. They trade subscriber lists with competitive magazines and even buy booths at competitor’s industry events. Most magazine marketers understand the value of working with the other industry powerhouses, whether they have a directly competitive magazine or not. Being a part of an industry means having relationships with all associations, organizations and vendors, and if you are confident enough about your product, you won’t feel threatened by a little healthy competition.

According to the latest installment of Folio: Publishing Technology, Reed Business Information has launched a new vertical b-to-b search portal. Though the portal, called Zibb.com, was originally designed to drive traffic to Reed’s Web properties, it has become an open platform for all publishers, including direct competitors, to participate in for free.

Publishers who continue to operate without working with competitors need a reality check. Reed has it right. With the loads of free information available on the Internet, especially in the b-to-b space, it’s all about getting the information to readers in the most efficient way possible, and the way to do that, is through a solid search function online.

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Matt Kinsman

Open Source Options For CMS

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 01/23/2007-03:00 AM

The online software options can be dizzying for publishers who are just beginning to take their sites to the next level. Amanda Hickman, a media and nonprofit specialist, offers her advice on open source software.

* I love Drupal and WordPress but probably only because I know them better than some of their peers. I know folks who work with Joomla and Plone are just as content. WordPress is (or can be if you let it) dead simple, lightweight, blogging software. Joomla, Plone and Drupal are much more comprehensive content management systems.

* http://cmsmatrix.org is a great resource for evaluating content management systems, proprietary and GPL alike.

* http//opensourcecms.com only rates free and open source content management software. They will let you test-drive a handful of PHP/MySQL driven content management systems but you’ll miss some really solid open source options if you use them as your only source, including Bricolage and Plone.

* Bricolage (http://bricolage.cc) is great for periodicals, as are some of the tools from the Center for Advanced Media, Prague (http://www.campware.org/)

* The NGO-in-a-Box series includes an AV Box (http://ngoinbox.org/boxes/audovideo), which has reviews and links for an extensive list of free and open source audio and video software

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Bill Mickey

You Know You’Re Old When…

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 01/22/2007-03:00 AM

Interesting blog commentary and reporting out there recently involving Gawker Media and Weblogs, Inc. -- networks started by Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis that share a famous rivalry. The upshot? How both of these early movers in blog network business models are suffering old-media growing pains. It’s an art-imitating-life moment.

Valleywag, a Gawker Media blog, is reporting that AOL, which bought Calacanis’ Weblogs Inc. in 2005 as the first major blog M&A transaction for an estimated $25 million, is shutting down a collection of its smaller blog sites to focus attention on bigger revenue bread-winners like Engadget, Autoblog and Joystiq. Calacanis points out in a comment reply to the Valleywag post that “Niche blogs are great, but when you're running a scale business like AOL is you're better off focusing on your HUGE winners like Autoblog, Engadget, Joystiq, etc.” Sound familiar?

As for Denton’s Gawker Media, its namesake blog recently shuffled top editors as outgoing Chris Mohney will end his six-month tenure to be replaced by a returning Choire Sicha, who ran the site three years ago. In a Wall Street Journal Online story, Denton points out that, in some ways, his growing new media company is very much like an old media company. “Gawker Media is increasingly like a mainstream media company, where writers are reassigned, or leave the company, stay in the orbit and return, later.”

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On Franchise Issues

Marrecca Fiore Audience Development - 01/19/2007-03:00 AM

An analysis of publishers’ statements filed with Audit Bureau of Circulations revealed that while some franchise issues, like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, are wildly popular with consumers, others are not.

But that shouldn’t de-value the importance of special magazine issues. There’s a great many people who each year look forward to People magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People list, as well as Forbes annual Investment Guide. Instead, magazines should look for ways to tweak their formula to meet the needs of the consumer.

Or, even better, publishers should do what Forbes is doing, making its annual lists of Billionaires, Most Powerful Celebrities, Top Companies to Work For, etc., a true multimedia experience. Forbes realizes that there are a lot of people out there that just will not pay for news anymore. So rather than trying to beat them, they’ve joined them.

Whenever a special issue of Forbes comes out, it’s one of the top stories of the day highlighted by the search engine Yahoo. From the Yahoo story, readers can link to Forbes Web site where they can find even more articles and information on the special information contained in that franchise issue. And Forbes doesn’t just offer little teasers on its Web site of the articles featured in the print version of the franchise issue. Instead, it gives readers full magazine articles and original Web content that can either complement or be read in place of the magazine.

And the effort is working because even when the franchise issue doesn’t fly off the shelf, hits to Forbes’ Web site increase greatly during the week that the issue hits the stands. Using those metrics, Forbes can probably, if it hasn’t started to already, begin charging advertisers a premium to advertise on its site during peak traffic weeks such as those when its franchise issues come out. More...

Linda Zebian

Building Your Back-End Web Staff

Linda Zebian emedia and Technology - 01/17/2007-03:00 AM

I’m writing a story for the February issue on the division of online labor. I’ve chatted with some companies who are really taking care of back-end Web responsibilities the right way—Time Inc., New York Magazine, Advanstar. I have a feeling though, that most publishers, especially smaller ones, are doing it wrong.

Staffing your technology department can be pricey. Computer guys don’t get paid peanuts. For example, an XML coder can charge $45 to $65 an hour to code content for various digital uses. But it’s important for publishing company owners to face the reality that they are going to have to spend the money on hiring the right people to run their Web sites and e-media properties. That means building a department that is devoted entirely to creating digital products, that works directly with editorial, sales, marketing and circ.

Don’t misconstrue the concept, either: IT and e-media are not one in the same. You don’t want the guy that sets up your voicemail to design your Web site, it’s just not a smart business move. At the bare minimum, publishers should invest in at least one strong e-media manager. That person may cost a pretty penny, but they will be well worth it. From there he or she can train college grads and give them the skills they need to drive your Web properties to their maximum capacity.

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Matt Kinsman

The New Edit Formula: “Volume And Velocity”

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 01/16/2007-03:00 AM

OK, so maybe it’s not so new, but have you noticed in the last year or so how the pace has changed? I don’t care if you write for a monthly or even a quarterly magazine—online all the deadlines are daily.

My first job was as an editor of a bi-weekly print newsletter (a nearly defunct business model these days). Most of the editors were recent colleges graduates, working on their own weekly or bi-weekly newsletters. However, the company did offer a daily e-mail newsletter—cutting edge back then—called “Media Daily” written by two editors who were there well before 9 and long after 5. We soft print editors would shake our heads in awe at the pace.

That seems almost laughable today, when putting out a daily newsletter is just part of the package and a 10-hour workday seems like early dismissal. Last January, the CNNMoney.com site redesigned to incorporate exclusive online content from Fortune, Money, Business 2.0 and Fortune Small Business. A team of 35 journalists focuses solely on creating content and today the site publishes nearly 100 stories per day, more than triple the number it posted a year ago, according to executive editor and vice president Chris Peacock. “The formula is volume and velocity,” says Peacock. “This is obviously a challenge for smaller publishers but it’s not insurmountable.” Peacock cites Business 2.0 which has a “small staff” [small at least by Fortune standards] in which every staffer, including editor Josh Quittner, writes a blog and posts at least two items per day.

The push for “community content” is also changing the editor’s role. IDG Entertainment’s GamePro.com re-launched last spring with an emphasis on community—and user submissions have swelled from an average of 155 user submissions per day to 2,650 per day, according to marketing director Simon Tonner. “You have to be in touch with these users all the time,” says Tonner. “You may come in the morning and think you have four stories to write but you might open up the forums and see if there’s a topic being discussed that completely changes your focus. You have to have that flexibility, and that might be a completely different work environment than what you’re used to do.”

But ultimately, volume doesn’t necessarily equal quality. The role of the editor online isn’t just to keep the content assembly line moving but maintaining quality control. “With the volume of content going online and the rush to publish, an online editor needs to be fluent with the software skills but needs to be a good copy editor as well,” says Wyatt Kash, editorial director at Government Computer News.

How are you managing the editorial workflow online?

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Bill Mickey

The Many Lives Of Content

Bill Mickey Editorial - 01/15/2007-03:00 AM

I’m writing a story for the February issue on writer’s contracts and how magazine editors are setting them up in light of online’s growing influence. Contracts, and how the magazine’s – or Web site’s – use of content plays out are an interesting reflection of where the industry is pursuing their product opportunities – or should be. The models are varied – some publishers have retained separate online content producers, while others combine print and online editorial production teams. Consider MacWorld, which test-drives some if its content online before it makes it into the print title. (Kind of like what I’m doing here, to a lesser degree, for a story that’s scheduled for February.)

But it’s more than that. ”You can’t even say online,” says Erik Sherman, freelance writer and chair, American Society of Journalists and Authors contracts committee. “How about television? How about radio? What happens if your story gets turned into a movie, which gets turned into a Broadway musical? How about book rights?”

The New York Times on Sunday pointed out how magazines are serializing their office life as reality TV fodder, and content is regularly being turned into Webcast material. How this is all represented in a contract is getting increasingly complicated. But as publishers navigate the rights issues, the progressive ones are thinking beyond first publication and all electronic to what they think the content will ultimately be used for and representing that in their agreements with the content creator.

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Teen Vogue Finds Success With Readers And Advertisers

Marrecca Fiore Consumer - 01/12/2007-03:00 AM

Whatever the right formula is for attracting and keeping a fickle teenage audience, Teen Vogue seems to have found it. At a time when teenagers are turning to the Web for most of their news and information, Teen Vogue continues to find success with both readers and advertisers.

According to the latest Publishers Information Bureau statistics, Teen Vogue increased ad revenues in 2006 by 31.1 percent to just under $101.83 million, up from $77.67 million in 2005. Pages-in-book for the teen title increased 22.3 percent to 1,223.44, from 1,000.36 in 2005.

The publication, which turns four in February, also increased its rate base in October of last year from 850,000 to 900,000 – its third rate base increase since its launch. And its total paid and verified circulation has climbed from 850,000 in 2005 to just under a million.

But other teen titles have struggled. Teen People and ElleGirl folded their print publications last year, but maintain a Web presence. Cosmogirl, which has a lower market share than Teen Vogue, enjoyed growth last year in its ad revenues, up 12.2 percent to just under $81.1 million, but its pages in book grew by just 3 percent to 794.33 from 771.36.

Seventeen, the oldest of the teen bunch, saw its pages in book dip 3.7 percent last year to 936.65 from 972.30 in 2005. Its revenues grew just 2.5 percent to $101.87 million from $99.3 million in 2005.

Whether Teen Vogue continues to be successful remains to be seen. One thing's for sure though. While other teen magazines focus a lot of attention on celebrities and/or sex, much to the disappointment of parents, Teen Vogue focuses almost entirely on fashion and that could be the key to its success. Maybe. More...

Linda Zebian

On The Magazine-Cable Network Partnership

Linda Zebian Consumer - 01/11/2007-03:00 AM

Being the reality-TV junkie I am, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of cable TV programs that have partnerships with consumer magazines. Networks like Bravo, which teams up with Cooking Light and Conde Nast’s ELLE for hit reality shows “Top Chef” and “Project Runway,” generate unprecedented PR for the magazines that are featured on the programs.

“The Hills,” an MTV reality spin-off of the hugely popular “Laguna Beach,” follows the life of main “character” Lauren Conrad as she interns at Teen Vogue in Los Angeles. And the network’s latest reality installment, which debuted last Sunday, “I’m From Rolling Stone,” has Yann Wenner’s face on overdrive across numerous ads and promotions.

Using successful (though sometimes cheesy) reality TV as a branding outlet to reach consumers is genius. These cable networks allow the marketers at these publications to reach their demographic from an entirely different angle and there is no better way to build buzz and credibility around a brand. Bravo! More...

Tony Silber

Why The Consumer Electronics Show Has Meaning For Magazines

Tony Silber Sales and Marketing - 01/11/2007-03:00 AM

Just got back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Normally, I’d say that the CES event is a bit far afield for Folio: Magazine, what with all the booths offering iPod aftermarket products and so on.

But Aspire Media’s Clay Hall, a magazine-industry CEO with vision, convened a group of enthusiast and b-to-b publishers to discuss exactly what the CES represents for our future as print publishers.

I have to tell you: The show itself was totally overwhelming. Both of two convention centers were packed with exhibits. It’s really several shows in one. Everything from geeky computer technology to plastic gadgets to camera gear was represented. There were toys, and ubiquitous cell-phone items. They offered TV on cell phones, TV on computers. Computers on cell phones. And on and on.

Vegas was, of course, Vegas. I like the place and I don’t even gamble.

But the real value was a rich two days of discussions of the future of magazine publishing in the face of the electronic tide. The participants were fabulous, starting with Ken Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media. Ken offered an eye-opening overview of electronic paper, which Hearst has invested in heavily and which is already gaining commercial traction in books and newspapers. For Bronfin, it’s only a matter of a couple of years before e-paper is a significant force in magazines. Compare it to digital music—and how it revolutionized the music industry, he says.

Other participants were Terry Snow, CEO of World Publications, Michela O’Connor Abrams, president and publisher of Dwell, Mark Edmiston, Managing Director of AdMedia Partners, Don Nicholas, Managing Director of The Mequoda Group, Don Peschke, CEO of August Home Publishing, Dan Wiesner, CEO of Wiesner Publishing and Steve Lalibeerte, president of iProduction, a St. Paul, Minnesota, e-publishing solutions provider.

In an all-star cast, Peschke stood out. August Home Publishing, a largely reader-driven company, stands out for its success in generating reader revenue, for brand extensions, for moving into e-media and for how Peschke, who started the Des Moines, Iowa-based company in 1978, approaches management and leadership. “The role of a manager is not to supervise other people,” Peschke says on the company’s Web site. “It’s to help other people, including our customers, be successful.”

Look for more from Peschke and the rest of the participants in a special roundtable in the March issue of Folio:.

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