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Tony Silber

Circ Day La: Role Model For A Successful Regional

Tony Silber Audience Development - 10/06/2006-02:00 AM

I only spent part of the day yesterday at the Western Fulfillment Management Association’s Circ Day LA, but it was clear that there was a buzz and vitality in the room. Held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the event attracted about 175 circulators, other publishing professionals and about 15 supplier companies mostly from California. But to me there seemed to be a sense of camaraderie at the event that demonstrates the strength of regional events. (Actually, 175 attendees also demonstrates the strength of this particular event—that’s a good turnout.)

As someone about to put on the 2006 Folio: Show in two weeks—by far the largest single magazine-industry event as measured by attendees and exhibitors—I also recognize the value of smaller, intimate regional events. Done well, in the manner of the CRMA, or the Magazine Association of the Southeast, these events provide professional development, networking and esprit de corps for large and especially smaller players in a particular section of the country.

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Tony Silber

A Blogger Departs...And Another Emerges

Tony Silber emedia and Technology - 10/06/2006-02:00 AM

Cruising the magazine-industry blogs the last several days and came across some interesting things, as I always do.

Paul Conley wrote a terrific item on e-media ethics on October 3, riffing off a recent Folio: magazine article, but also updating a recurrent theme on his blog. In the past he has covered this topic extensively, including September 25, August 23, , and November 15, 2005.

It wasn’t so much as the fact that he referred to a story of ours. Conley—more than ASBPE or ASME, in my opinion, has been really working the ethics issue, taking offenders to task and laying out a reasoned, and unwavering direction for those grappling with what is acceptable and what is not online.

Meanwhile, a b-to-b blogger of significance, David Shaw, appears to have gone dark. His blog at B-Or-Not-to-B is gone after sitting dormant for a month and a half after a post about Penton Media in mid-August. I e-mailed David a while back, and there was no response. If he’s stopped blogging, he’ll be missed. David is one of the astute observers of this industry.

Meanwhile, I like what I see from American Business Media’s Sara Sheadel on ABM’s Mediapace blog. I think she’s posted only three times, but each combines insight, wit, a clear, clean writing style and a point of view. Plus one of her posts had video. Nice work to Sara at Mediapace.

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Tony Silber

Engaging With The Brand: A New Paradigm

Tony Silber emedia and Technology - 10/06/2006-02:00 AM

I was really happy yesterday when I wrote a story about Bob Sacks’ speech at the Western Fulfillment Management Associations Circ Day LA. I wrote it seated at the table before and during Sacks’ speech. I hope I didn’t offend my tablemates, but then Sacks told me Walter Winchell (the famous 20th century gossip columnist) would not have been worried about offending his tablemates. And then, thanks to the magic of wireless Internet access, I e-mailed it back to the office and out it went, less than an hour later, as part of yesterday’s Folio: Alert. Later that day, Brad Stauffer, a prominent Los Angeles-based publishing figure, e-mailed me saying how cool it was to see that story turned around so quickly.

Actually, four people yesterday told me that when they get our newsletter, they open it immediately: They never wait. Rich Murphy from BPA said the “Folio: Alert is like candy: "Tastes great!” He and others said they like that they always get fresh, insider-y news that gives them an edge in their businesses. Of course, that’s all music to my ears, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I think it is fascinating how people are engaging with the Folio: brand differently. The newsletter and increasingly, the Web site, is the front door. It’s where people go first. Then they read the magazine. There’s a shift going on from print to e-media, and we’re feeling it right here at Folio:. The challenge is to change as our readers’ information habits change. As Bob Sacks said yesterday, “Print is not as dominant as it was. Now it has rivals.”

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Bill Mickey

New Mag For Meredith [Al]Readymade

Bill Mickey Consumer - 10/05/2006-02:00 AM

Meredith, a company with deep enough pockets to launch their own title, has foregone that route in favor of acquiring ReadyMade, a do-it-yourself lifestyle magazine for the nesting-friendly 25-39 set.

As a target for a company like Meredith, ReadyMade’s circ is comparatively small. Meredith’s titles are generally around the 1 million range and up – though some are closer to what ReadyMade’s will soon be. Meredith publishing group president Jack Griffin says they’ll shortly bump the circ to 200,000.

The deal – described to me by a source as an "earn-out situation with an initial payment and a rather large back end" – is interesting to me for two reasons: It plays into an idea that’s gaining traction that larger publishers may be scaling back costly launches; and it’s a classic strategic play. I have nothing against the financial guys, but this was kind of refreshing to see. Private equity money has been all over the place lately. And sure, why build when you can buy? Especially when a title like ReadyMade comes complete with a robust Web site with an active community base, and a younger demograhic that Meredith has specifically expressed interest in.

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Matt Kinsman

A Sense Of Entitlement

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 09/28/2006-02:00 AM

Today I received an unusual e-mail from a former Folio: freelancer.
Earlier this year, we had discussed the possibility of working with him
on a semi-regular basis. We elected not to. He began working for the
competition. No problem.

Until I received this e-mail today
(nearly 9 months later) claiming we owed him $2,000 resulting from that
conversation. He’d be happy to do an article for us, he wrote, but
either way, we owed him.

I gawked at the screen. I laughed. Then I got angry.

Nearly
nine months after a conversation that went nowhere, he had the brass to
contact us, demanding payment for work that never happened. We all
agree there was no printed contract, yet he claims there was a verbal
consensus (there wasn’t). He claimed we barred him from contacting our
competitors for work (we didn’t). When he started writing for the
competition shortly after our initial meeting, he never heard a peep
from us.

This freelancer then triumphantly accused us of
stealing a story idea he had submitted on editors becoming publishers.
Never mind that the story we
ran was a column submitted by a former editor who became a publisher.
Never mind that we had already done a separate story on editors
becoming publishers nearly a year before.

Demanding
payment for work completed is natural. Demanding payment for something
never assigned nor agreed upon is mind-boggling. Previously, a
different freelancer had amazed me by continually asking for more work
while in the process of blowing the deadline on his current assignment.
Now that seems almost reasonable by comparison.

I respect
freelancers. A good one is a true asset and we’ve worked with many. As
staff editors, it’s our responsibility to clearly outline what we want
and provide the freelancer with contacts and additional resources to
make his or her job easier.

But, freelancers, don’t jack me
up. Deliver what I’ve asked for, not what you think is good enough. And
when I haven’t asked you to do anything, don’t try to invent your own
assignments.

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Tony Silber

Feedback On Our Private Equity Feature

Tony Silber M and A and Finance - 09/28/2006-02:00 AM

I think we struck a chord with our August-issue report on how private-equity is changing the magazine industry. I’ve gotten a bunch of correspondence on the package, including at least a couple of letters to the editor that we published in September. And I’ve received a bunch of more incidental comments as well, including one that pointed out that a deal we described as an early home run was better described as a bloop single.

But positive or negative, it seems to me that the piece found an audience at all levels: Among the rank and file, which suffers the anxiety of M&A, and the layoffs when they occur, among the bankers who transact the deals, and among the CEOs who execute them. And there is no question the market is Hot.

And speaking of those CEOs, a thought occurred to me that I left out of the editors note for that August issue: When you as an executive sign up to work with private equity -- such as Bob Krakoff at VNU or Paul Mackler at Cygnus -- the CEO, even as the high-profile frontman, even as someone who gets wealthy if things go right, remains an employee, serving at the pleasure of the PE firm.

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Tony Silber

Digital Workflow Challenges: The View From The Spectrum Conference

Tony Silber Design and Production - 09/28/2006-02:00 AM

Notes from the Spectrum Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where IdeAlliance

convenes print-production executives each year from agencies, vendors and publishers to work through production challenges:

First thought: Even through the digital workflow promised at its inception eight or nine years ago to be faster, less-expensive, more flexible, it never promised to solve the problem of standards for advertising, and sure enough, it’s still a big problem. What’s happened is the bugs and glitches from the film-production process have morphed into the bugs and glitches of digital production.

In many instances, the problems are the same, just caused by new processes. That’s ironic. The challenges are universal: Whether a small boutique agency or Draft FCB, a small printer or R.R. Donnelley, a regional publisher or Time Inc., the problems come down to poor color reproduction, proofing, odd cases of logos dropping out and more.

Hearst’s Jerry D’Elia had it right in a session on liability when he said, “One of the greatest frustrations I have is when people say the file was ‘technically okay,’ but something happened in the RIP.’ No one is responsible, and I’m stuck with a makegood.”

Nan Gelhard, ad manager for Summit Racing and a moderator of one of the panels, said that “the hurdles to workflow are human ones,” but I think that’s only partly true. Training is important, but the larger hurdle is this: Overcoming the hodgepodge of ever-changing, narrowly applicable standards that create a cacophony in the market.

As long as there is no ironclad standard overseen by an organization like IdeAlliance, applicable throughout the supply chain, you’ll have fonts bitmapping and logos inexplicably dropping off an ad. More...

Bill Mickey

How Much Life Left In Life?

Bill Mickey Consumer - 09/26/2006-02:00 AM
Why, if Keith Kelly is correct in his reporting that it’s losing $35 million per year, is Life magazine still around? As shareholder and bottom-line pressures mount for Time Warner’s magazine division, Anne Moore’s Time Inc., which resurrected the magazine in 2004 as a startlingly thin newspaper insert, has been slicing off huge pieces of itself for the past 9 months. With the latest announcement that 18 titles in the enthusiast group Time4 Media are up for sale, another 560 jobs will be added to the 500 that have already been cut. Yet, as Skip Zimbalist, current CEO of enthusiast publisher Active Interest Media and likely bidder on some of the Time4 titles, noted, “If you look at most of the magazines they are number one or number two in their special interest area – they’re very strong magazines in their fields.”

Life, published weekly to 12 million circ through 70 papers, is a distant fourth behind Parade, USA Weekend and New York Times Magazine. The magazine has earned $84 million in PIB revenue through August.

By contrast, Time Inc. couldn’t shut down Officepirates.com fast enough, which couldn’t have been losing anywhere near $35 million.

As Moore focuses on proven money-makers like the Golf properties and the other mass-market titles, it won’t come as much of a surprise if Life is soon put on the block or shut down, again.

Not that the magazine necessarily deserves to be shut down or sold off, but why continue to support Life as you lop off a $300 million group of market leaders?

Someone explain the priorities here.

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Linda Zebian

On The Pr/Edit Relationship

Linda Zebian Editorial - 09/22/2006-02:00 AM

Tension between writers and PR pros has always existed. PR people love us until we push them for information or make a mistake, and editors ignore PR people until we need them to do something for us. Some words of advice from someone who has experience on both sides of the fence:

PR People: Have patience with your editorial comrades. Most of us are under a lot of pressure and sometimes we simply don't have the time to respond to your e-mail. We understand that you are just doing your jobs­­­—but know that we are looking for what's fresh and buzz-worthy. We don't want to cover something that's been published by everyone else. Although it may not always seem like it, most of us do appreciate all that you do for us. Without you, a lot more of our time would be wasted scrambling to find information. I'd like to thank the many publishing PR people who help me on a daily basis, including all those at The Rosen Group, Four-Corners and so many in-house communication managers.

Editors: Be nice to PR people, and be honest with them. If you're not interested in what they are trying to sell you, take a minute to explain to them what you are looking for, instead of ignoring them or hanging up the phone (you know who you are). Plus, you never know when you're going to need a PR person to turn something around for you when you've got 20 minutes until deadline, and a strong relationship will help get the job done.

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The Internet: A Blessing And A Curse

Marrecca Fiore emedia and Technology - 09/20/2006-02:00 AM

Having started my journalism career more than 10 years ago, I often wonder how I gathered information for my articles before the wide-spread use of the Internet. (In my first reporting job, I used a word processing program and had no Internet access at work).

Now fully acclimated to the Web, with top-notch, computer-assisted reporting skills (well, sort of), my first reporting job remains a mystery. How did I look up phone numbers? Find experts? Research topics? The Internet is great for all of that, but it has its drawbacks, as well.

Instantaneous, real-time news, often seen as blessing in the Internet age can be curse, as well. While it offers our audience news as it happens, it also sometimes frazzles the editors and reporters that try to keep up with what’s going in their respective industries and on their respective beats without getting beat by the competition.

Recently, someone tipped off Folio: that printing company, Banta quietly submitted an SEC filing last week announcing the closure of five plants, the elimination of more than 500 jobs, and that it would pay its shareholders a $16 per share special dividend that it would borrow money to pay for.

Great story, we thought when we found out on Tuesday of this week. I quickly found the document, wrote the story and (sigh) saved it for Thursday’s Folio: Alert.

Not a good idea. Stamford, Connecticut-based Cenveo today renewed the unsolicited takeover bid it made for Banta in August and criticized Banta’s SEC filing in a letter made public and sent to various media outlets.

We got scooped on our own scoop. Lesson learned, point taken. In the Internet age, research is easy, breaking news is hard and saving stories is unwise. More...

Bill Mickey

On The Value Of Web Portals

Bill Mickey emedia and Technology - 09/19/2006-02:00 AM
In the October issue of Folio:, we’ll be running a story on magazine publishers developing destination sites that corral multiple titles under a new online brand. For the story, we take a peek at two sites, however there are plenty of examples out there, both b-to-b and consumer.

We’ve touched on this subject before. It’s easy to fault publishers for finally jumping on a bandwagon that made the rounds many years ago when ‘portal’ became yet another hyped concept. Yet it’s a strategy that’s both a leap of faith and one that I think makes a lot of sense—especially for publishers who’ve mined a niche for every possible opportunity.

It’s a strategic leap because you’re essentially taking two or more brands you’ve spent years, even decades, developing separately and subordinating them behind a new brand. As a destination, the new site inherently hogs the brand emphasis. There’s an opportunity for a great brand debate here—whether to continue to highlight niches of niches or bring them together under one, overarching brand.

But the potential of such sites seems significant. You’re not only consolidating content, you’re consolidating the audience—at once reaching critical mass in both scope and reach, elevating brands that were divided and endlessly niche-ified. Readers can still get their core needs met within each brand’s section of the portal but, importantly, can also graze in the areas where niches overlap. It’s a marriage of the broad and focused.

Content is broken out of brand silos and advertisers are given efficient and varied access to the entire span of the audience. Publishers can harness a greater exponent of their community in a shared arena.

Jeff Jarvis recently riffed on the popular what-if scenario that Time Inc. is next on Time Warner’s chopping block (they’re already selling most of Time4, a group of titles that are generally one or two in their markets). The thinking is that the Time Inc. magazines are a drag on performance and they got burned with their portal attempt called Pathfinder back in the day.

Though more recent efforts have been made with the destination concept: CNNMoney.com collects Fortune, Money, Business 2.0 and Fortune Small Business under one umbrella. And Time4, by the way, just days prior to the announcement that the bulk of the group would be sold, announced the launch of SkiNet, a destination site backed up by Ski, Skiing and Warren Miller Entertainment. All three are now for sale. Too little, too late, for Time Inc. perhaps.

And what’s to stop a non-magazine competitor from recognizing this same opportunity and developing a market-spanning site, stealing the thunder—and audience—from an established, and, increasingly, ‘traditional,’ media company? For Jarvis, this may have already happened for some:

The strength of these brands is that they had—note the tense—a headstart. They could have used their promotional clout and reputations to enable these communities to form around them. But they didn’t. Too late? Maybe.

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Are Advertisers Paying Too Little To Advertise Online?

Marrecca Fiore Sales and Marketing - 09/19/2006-02:00 AM

If the studies are right, and readers and advertisers really are abandoning print for the Web, then why aren’t more publishers charging a premium for online ad space?

It would be interesting to see how many advertisers would continue to gravitate online, if the price they paid to advertise was more in-line with what they pay to advertise in print publications. Thoughts?

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