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Bill Mickey

Get 'Em While They're Hot

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 01/08/2007-03:00 AM

Private equity investors are chomping at the bit for more M&A action in 2007 after making headlines in 2006 as the new media M&A rainmakers. Indeed, private equity players are making a splash across many markets, not just magazines and media. Even as small to mid-sized companies are bought out and rolled up into operating platforms, large public companies are taking advantage of the active market to go private – to find relief from Sarbanes-Oxley, among other motivators.

But even as the reporting continues to examine private equity’s boom, there’s a building undercurrent of speculation on when the good times will end. At ABM’s Top Management Meeting in Chicago last November, bankers were marveling out one side of their mouths at private equity’s rise over the last 12 months while wondering out the other side when economic conditions would put the breaks on the whole thing. For now, no one is willing to get too specific. The stars have aligned: publishers have generally built up their event divisions, whether organically or via acquisition, and have moved aggressively into e-media with nary a glass of Kool-Aid in sight. And there’s a hungry pack of buyers ready to get going.

And e-media this year will be a critical dealmaking factor as all of 2006’s must-have features, services and products coalesce into practical (or not) business elements. As if to underscore buyer eagerness and, possibly, the sense that all good things will someday come to an end, the DeSilva + Phillips 2007 M&A Report puts it this way: “In 2006, media executives were still worried that getting it wrong would be more harmful than not acting at all. Yet if there was ever a case of pent-up demand – and a growing recognition that now is the time to act decisively – look at your watch. It’s time.”

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Monetizing The Web In The New Year

Marrecca Fiore emedia and Technology - 01/05/2007-03:00 AM

A Folio: and Readex survey conducted last year showed that print remains the dominant revenue stream for publishers. That’s in spite of the fact that print advertising is declining and both readers and advertisers are flocking to the Web. Much of the problem stems not from a lack of investment in online media, but from a lack of understanding on the part of publishers on how to monetize their Web properties.

The issue is two-fold. For one, setting print advertising rates is second nature in the publishing industry and is often done using a rate base or by using paid or controlled circulation models. But setting advertising rates online is more difficult and publishers often find themselves with the quandary of whether to set rates according to Web traffic or impressions, or according demographics or how much time users actually spend on their sites.

The second issue is a lack of space and creativity in the online ad realm. Publishers need to move beyond the banner ad and the often-ineffective interstitial and find other, more creative ways to allow advertisers to market their products and services. This could be remedied as simply as adding more video, audio, sponsorship and social networking offerings to Web sites. But publishers must also think outside the box to offer advertisers more diverse ways to reach to consumers.

VNU Business Media this week launched a job portal that will combine the resources of its entertainment, advertising and media trade publications on a single Web site. The hope, said VNU eMedia group sales director Jeff Green, is that the portal will allow VNU to take a large bite out of the $50 million employers in the aforementioned three industries spend annually to advertise jobs on major and niche job sites. Because the three different industries often look for employees with similar skill sets, VNU believes they’ll have an advantage over their competition by offering a one-stop shop for people working in advertising, entertainment and/or media jobs. And who knows, they just might.

The time has come to not only put in place a quantifiable method for setting ad rates online, but to also look for new and creative ways to make money online. Two-thousand-seven should be the year to monetize the Web.

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Linda Zebian

Seventeen Replaces Atoosa

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

Seventeen has finally found someone to replace Atoosa Rubenstein, the former editor in chief of the Hearst teen mag who quit in November to launch her own teen-centered Web business, write a book and start a consultancy specializing in the youth market. After several months and plenty of gossip surrounding the search for a replacement, CosmoGirl executive editor Ann Shoket has been selected to assume the role of filling Rubenstein’s shoes.

Although Rubenstein received a lot of flack during her three years as editor for her Today Show-MTV-talking head-My Space enthusiast-Spice Girl image, I think Shoket should strive to be like her predecessor. As the editor of Seventeen magazine, it is Shoket’s job to be a role model for her readers, and get herself out there as much as possible to build the brand. Rubenstein became the face of the publication, putting herself on every media outlet to reach her target audience. Isn’t that what consumer magazine editor’s strive to do every day? More...

Matt Kinsman

Adding Up The Brand

Matt Kinsman Sales and Marketing - 01/02/2007-03:00 AM

Do publishing brands these days seem a little confusing? Maybe it’s because of all the consolidation in the marketplace and the need to start fresh. Maybe it’s because of the rise in e-publishing and the need to convey a sense of “new media.”

Numbers are big with publishing brands today. From 1105 Media (formerly 101 Communications) to 8020 Publishing, publishers are opting for a number as part of or even in place of a name. We’re no different: the magazine we originally launched to compete with Folio: was called M10 Report and our company name is Red 7 Media.

What’s the significance of your brand? Many city and regional magazines have taken their telephone area codes as their names, (such as 417 in Missouri). That makes sense, and has an immediate, recognizable significance for their audience. But does 1105 really grab your attention? When we started M10, the first question we always heard was, “What’s M10?” In a weird way it actually helped, because it started a conversation about who we were and how we were different from Folio:. But don’t think we weren’t relieved after we bought Folio: and could stop having that same conversation over and over.

After Wasserstein bought out Primedia Business for $385 million in August 2005, the company embarked on a self-described “intense,” months-long decision process for a company name before deciding on “Prism Business Media.” In an e-mail to employees, Primedia Business CEO John French said of the name, “It needs to be Memorable…Unique…Sustainable…Positive…Protectable as a trademark. Prism—like transmitting or reflecting light, like a ray of light passing through a prism. Prism is a reflection of what we represent within the organization and the industry. . .Carry it positively to the marketplace and avoid the inclination to say ‘why didn’t we name this or that.’”

Of course, in December 2006, shortly after Prism’s purchase of Penton Media, Prism switched its name to Penton. “If you think about it, Prism is a newly established brand with a brand new name and Penton has been around,” Reed Phillips, managing partner at M&A broker DeSilva & Phillips, told Folio at the time. “For that reason, it made sense to go with that name. Prism doesn’t really have any strong recognition yet in the marketplace.”

CEOs and owners fret long and hard over their company names but ultimately it’s their products that establish the brand, not the cute corporate name.

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Linda Zebian

Launching A Digital-Only Magazine

Linda Zebian emedia and Technology - 12/27/2006-03:00 AM

A new magazine has hit the women’s lifestyle market but this one is exclusively digital. VivMag is a digital magazine led by former editor in chief of Shape, Anne Russel. It’s one thing if an established magazine decides to offer a digital edition, or decides to stop print production but keep a Web site like Elle Girl and Teen People, but launching a new magazine in a strictly digital format could be risky.

Regardless of how good this digital magazine is (I tried to download it to check it out, but after a number attempts were blocked by my computer, I gave up), they might want to tread lightly. Digital magazines are now more than ever being labeled as ancillary and complementary products to print. At the recent Digital Magazine Conference, a number of magazine publishers were skeptical regarding the lack of return on their digital magazine investments.

Digital magazines are a hybrid media—taking the best aspects of print and the Web and joining them together to create an online magazine experience. For established brands, going digital is another investment in the brand, but for a new magazine like this, I wonder if finding an interested audience and equally as interested advertisers might become an issue. More...

A Not So Shocking Week

Marrecca Fiore Consumer - 12/22/2006-03:00 AM

Another week has passed and another magazine has closed, more people in publishing lost their jobs, and Time magazine was criticized for an idea it was all too proud of.

Shock shuts

Hachette-Filipacchi’s attempt to bring a gory photojournalistic magazine to the newsstands failed. Not a big surprise. The graphic-heavy, text-light publication is much more appealing to “screenagers” and very early 20-somethings than to the “older” print-reading set, which is why Hachette will keep the effort going online via its ShockU Web site and scrap the print publication. The effort serves as another reminder that young people want their news and entertainment for free …

Merry Christmas from Time Inc. and VNU

Time Inc. rounded up 27 workers from its consumer marketing division this week like a herd of cattle and told them they were no longer needed. This is second December in row Time Inc. has said happy holidays with a layoff (last year it laid off 105 workers in mid-December), as the struggling company repositions itself for the digital age …

Meanwhile, VNU said this week it will cut 4,000 jobs over the next few months as its new management team positions the company for growth.

While no one would argue that both Time Inc. and VNU need to cut costs and refocus their missions, Ann and Dave could have at least waited for the New Year to lower the boom on their employees …

Disapproval strikes Time magazine's “You” cover

Time magazine caught a lot of flack this week from journalists and bloggers for its selection of “You” as the person of the year. Did Time take the easy way out in not selecting an actual person for the annual honor? Probably. But the idea is not totally misguided, if not also a little self-serving. After all, there wasn’t a journalist in the world this year that wasn’t a little unnerved by the uprising of so-called citizen journalism.

But just as Andy Warhol famously predicted that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, he also made the often misused quote to describe the fickle nature of the entertainment-starved public. Translation: Citizen journalism is hot for now, but whether it’s hot for good remains to be seen … More...

Tony Silber

The Path Of A Printer

Tony Silber Design and Production - 12/21/2006-03:00 AM

So yesterday, Perry Judd’s was sold. That makes one more in a wave of printer mergers for 2006. It follows the merger of United Litho and Dartmouth Printing into Sheridan Magazine Services (they had been owned by Sheridan already—this merger marks the creation of a unified marketing brand. And in November, Donnelley acquired Banta.

This is the continuation of a wave of consolidation that has been occurring for years among printers, but I think it’s worth noting the passing of what was once a dominant company. When I started working at Folio: in the early nineties, Judd’s Printing was a dominant player. Based in Virginia, it had an image of being a stable player, a trustworthy straight shooter that was going to be there when its clients needed it to be. Its top sales executive, Howard Sullivan, was the perfect personification of this image—gracious, commanding, a person with quiet authority.

But Judd’s was on the back cover of every issue of Folio: in those days and probably well before that. They had an anchor position and spoke to the market with a compelling, simple, consistent message month after month.

When Perry Printing bought Judd’s in 1997, that changed. And eventually, the merged Perry-Judd’s became a non-entity in this space. I can’t remember the last time Perry-Judd’s did any advertising. It may be that Perry Judd’s continues to be a great printer for its existing customers, and it may be that the company did a lot of innovating. But it frankly was not engaged in the magazine industry. They didn’t attend shows—Folio:’s or others. It didn’t exhibit. It didn’t run ad schedules. It became invisible.

I wonder how much that particular marketing strategy had to do with this week’s announcement. I’ve blogged about this topic before, but thought this was worth noting.

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Linda Zebian

Custom Pubs: Where The Money Is

Linda Zebian Consumer - 12/20/2006-03:00 AM

The Custom Publishing Council earlier this week announced that custom publishing spending increased by more than 18 percent in 2006. This year was the fifth consecutive year that this area of publishing experienced growth.

The study, which was done along with Publications Management, reported custom publishing spending now accounts for 24 percent of the total amount companies allocate for marketing, advertising and communications. Thirty-nine percent of the companies surveyed said they planned to increase their custom publishing spending in 2007, while 48 percent plan on maintaining spending.

There is no doubt that custom publishing has become a huge money maker in the publishing industry. Brands are looking to make personal connections with their customer through the power of printed materials, as well as e-publications. Custom publishing budgets allocated for e-publications has risen 35.5 percent since first measured in 2001, according to the study.

Why is it that the marketers at these companies look to custom publishing so much? Custom publishers are experts in design, sales, writing and production. It’s a no-brainer for these corporations to outsource to publishing industry experts, spending less than they would on an in-house staff while keeping all the hassles of publication production out of their hair. As long as new companies and organizations develop, and new products, services and programs are introduced, custom publishing will continue to grow.

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Matt Kinsman

Doing It...Just Because

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/19/2006-03:00 AM

Who has a clearly defined Web strategy? Who has a dartboard approach, where you’re taking a stab at any promising new revenue stream in hopes that it will pay off?

Most publishers would probably admit to the dartboard approach. Part of that is because, as everyone likes to say, “No one knows where this is going.” Experimentation is relatively cheap, and if something doesn’t work, it can be gone the next day. “The beauty of the digital world is that if something works, great,” said John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, at the Digital Magazine Forum earlier this month. “If not, you can just take it right down.”

The problem with the dartboard approach is that it stretches already overstretched magazine staffs even farther. Yes, everybody needs to be working online, from editorial to ad sales to marketing. That’s not even an argument any more. But is what you’re doing online serving a specific purpose or are you there just because your competitor is too? If you have a blog, what’s the purpose? If you’re doing a Webinar, have you triple-checked the system before you go live? If you’re offering channels, have you worked out a pricing structure that makes sense for you as a publisher, after you’ve paid off the writers and designers who create the channel?

Unless you’ve been fleeced by a Web design firm that doesn’t understand your market, getting almost any kind of Web functionality should be extremely affordable, if not free. Publishers like to say, "It cost us nothing but man hours.” True, but are those man hours being used wisely? “Integrated” is not a synonym for “online-only.” The same staff is still producing magazines and events, and creating direct mail or maintaining the server. It’s true that we’re all still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t but have a rationale before going online.

Fortunately, as more and more Web products begin to pay off, we’ll all be wiser, as well as wealthier. “On thing a profitable business model let’s you do is choose what’s important and what’s not,” says Alec Dann, general manager of magazines online at Hanley Wood. “The early days of the Internet were anarchy.”

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Bill Mickey

Too Radical?

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 12/18/2006-03:00 AM

Chris Anderson, Wired editor, Long Tail author and Folio: cover subject, blogged about his ideas on ‘radical transparency’ in magazine publishing: “If the key word is ‘participation’, how could we encourage that to the fullest? If trust comes come from transparency, how might we open the entire process?”

Anderson takes the ideas of reader participation and transparent, ‘open source’ journalism to the wall, setting up a scenario where, among other ideas, writers expose their stories during the development stage and readers get to help – with downside comments, too. For example:

2) Show what we're working on. We already have internal wikis that are common scratch pads for teams working on projects. And most writers have their own thread-gathering processes, often online. Why no open them to all? Who knows, perhaps other people will have good ideas, too.

Upside: Tap the wisdom of crowds

Risk: Tip off competitors (although I'd argue that this would just as likely freeze them; after all the prior art would be obvious to all); Risks "scooping ourselves", robbing the final product of freshness.

3) “Process as Content”*. Why not share the reporting as it happens, uploading the text of each interview as soon as you can get it processed by your flat-world transcription service in India? (This may sound ridiculous, but it’s exactly what wire services such as the AP have long done--they update their stories with each new fragment of information). After you’ve woven together enough of the threads to have a semi-coherent draft, why not ask your readers to help edit it? (We did it here, and it worked great). And while you’re at it, let them write the headlines and subheads, not just for the site but also the punchier ones for the RSS feed and the one that has to work with the art for the magazine.

Upside: Open participation can make stories better--better researched, better thought through and deeper. It also can crowdsource some of the work of the copy desk and editors. And once the story is done and published, the participants have a sense of collective ownership that encourages them to spread the word.

Risk: Curating the process can quickly hit diminishing returns. Writers end up feeling like a cruise director, constantly trying to get people to participate. And all the other risks of the item above.

When you’re brainstorming, it’s always best for someone to present scenarios in one extreme or another – it’s one way of meeting in the middle. But it’s been interesting to see industry reactions. Some agree with Anderson, for different reasons. Others aren’t so sure.

I guess I’m in the second camp. I’m all for finding ways to ratchet up reader and user participation wherever possible. Any way a magazine can get its readers to further absorb the brand and content into their daily lives is essential.

Yet I can’t get my head around opening up content that’s historically been created by a magazine’s editors to public participation for fear of two risks that Anderson already cites, but I find fatal:

1. There’s no way I’d want my story ideas and sources exposed to the competition. Something Business 2.0’s editor, Josh Quittner, is drooling over at the expense of Wired.

2. If I, as a reader, participate in the creation of a story, whether by contributing ideas, sources or simply tweaking subheads, I’ll be burnt out on it by the time the story is finished. The novelty of participating is one thing, but what happens to the informational value of the story once it’s finally done if you’ve already been exposed to every creative nuance?

Some of this is ideal for certain areas of online content creation, something Quittner points out. Yet, Anderson proposes his ideas for the whole operation – print and Web. More...

Matt Kinsman

Staffing Up For "Web 2.0"

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/13/2006-03:00 AM

At the recent American Business Media Top Management meeting, Government Computer News editorial director Wyatt Kash gave his “wish list” on what new positions he’d like to see to help accelerate revenue growth online. As we push further into the so-called “Web 2.0,” it’s becoming apparent that not only are the duties of traditional jobs such as editorial and sale changing, but there’s a growing need for entirely new types of positions to manage online products.

We’ve listed Kash’s wish list below, along with some follow-up comments on how he sees those positions fitting in.

What new types of online jobs would help you?

Wyatt Kash’s Wish List:
Online Graphic Designer: “We publish pictures and charts in print but a variety of graphic material can’t be posted online.”

Multimedia Asset Manager: “You don’t see that position much now but we do see it coming. We’re getting more digital files—video, audio, PDFs—that don’t currently have an easy place to live. Our content management system is pretty much limited to text stories. We all waste a lot of hours trying to find things we know we have but aren’t easily found in the database.”

Metrics Analyst: “As publishers we have all these measurement tools but we don’t have an individual—almost like a good financial manager—keeping track of numbers and presenting them back to the staff so we can make better business decisions. We’re ignoring the full extent of people in our store. We need this for editors, not just the ad sales side. My sense is we’re leaving new products on the table because we aren’t seeing how it can be used.”

Community Editor: “A year from now, we’ll need more expertise on what to do with Web 2.0, such as forums and collaborations. It’s interesting what the Web is doing to get readers to contribute. We need someone with an editorial and marketing head to manage that because with volume we have to crank out, no one editor can do it. It’s an interesting hybrid and we don’t want to see our loyalty further fragmented by all these collaboration groups in the market.”

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Linda Zebian

On The Value Of Events

Linda Zebian Sales and Marketing - 12/13/2006-03:00 AM

This month, FOLIO: launched a new print newsletter called Magazine Event Strategies. Currently, about half (53 %) of FOLIO: subscribers work for organizations that produced at least one event in the last 12 months. The category is the second most-anticipated area of growth behind e-media, according a FOLIO: and Readex Research survey. MES offers tips on cost cutting, effective launch event tactics and behind the scenes looks into some of the most successful (and not so successful) conferences, tradeshows, parties and virtual events programs out there.

Kerry Smith, the president and CEO of Red 7 Media, has been working on the idea for this newsletter for a while now—inspired by his experience publishing Event Marketer and FOLIO: magazines—and he chose me to manage the details and assist him in getting it off the ground.

After working on the 16-page, ad-free newsletter, I too have a better understanding of the impact of live events. Kerry is passionate about the topic for a reason: Readers want more than just a page to read and a Web site to search. Face-to-face contact is what they yearn for and, beyond the pages of FOLIO:, there are no fully dedicated resources available to magazine event marketers looking for strategies on how to run their events better. Beyond that, magazine events can be huge revenue streams for publishers if they are executed correctly and tactfully. More...

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