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Mobile News: A Dish Best Served Free

Marrecca Fiore emedia and Technology - 10/20/2006-02:00 AM

Mobile publishing is huge right now. And why wouldn’t it be. With approximately 1.6 million Internet-enabled cell phones in circulation in the U.S. alone, publishers would be crazy not to post their articles and other content on mobile platforms.

But mobile versions of news and articles are best offered for free. Publisher Hachette Filipacchi figured that out and launched or is in the process of launching mobile sites for five of its magazines, including Elle, Shock and Car and Driver, that will be completely advertiser supported. Businessweek and Runner’s World are other publications that recently announced an advertiser-supported mobile endeavor to be offered free to consumers. But for those publishers still charging monthly subscriptions for mobile magazines, here’s why that content needs to be free.

Decades after the first mobile phone was introduced, users finally are being offered plans that allow them plenty of talk time for reasonable monthly fees. That said, phone companies have found ways to nickel and dime us. Monthly Internet charges of $15 a month are the norm, as is a $5 a month unlimited text messaging usage fee, and then there’s the $1.99 a month some will spend for a ringtone, another $1.99 a month for a call tone, $1.99 for a screensaver, a $10 a month fee for unlimited picture downloads … you get the idea.

The nickel and dime-ing leaves little left-over, especially for teens with limited budgets, to pay for magazine articles that more than likely can be read for free on the Internet. Still, there’s lots of money to be made by publishers in the mobile sphere. For one, they can offer their own screensavers, wallpapers, picture downloads and ringtones for nominal fees, and many are. And, as far as news articles and text messaging alerts go, there are plenty of advertisers willing to sponsor such content enabling publishers to offer it for FREE.

Laura Marriott, the executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association, recently told Folio: Publishing Technology that marketers are spending upwards of $78 million a year on mobile advertising and that dollar amount is likely to grow in the years to come.

Similarly, Tom Burgess, CEO of Third Screen Media, an ad network devoted to the mobile medium, told Media Post earlier this year that mobile phones are more inherently personal than any other medium and conducive to effective ad targeting. And personalization, targeted marketing and interactive marketing are all key to successful mobile advertising, says Marriott, and publishers willing to work with marketers to achieve the targeted interaction they seek will more than likely reap the benefits of those ad dollars into the future.

Linda Zebian

Radar's Resilience

Linda Zebian Consumer - 10/18/2006-02:00 AM

Radar magazine has announced it will re-launch in February. We are all aware this is the publication’s third attempt to launch and the scrutiny and skepticism has already begun to stir around the industry.

Regardless of its boomeranging trajectory, launching and folding in the same year, there has got to be a reason this magazine keeps coming back.

Perhaps we should applaud the magazine’s buoyancy, or perhaps they should just give it up. I fear the magazine will struggle as it returns to a market that is over-tapped, especially considering competition from other Web sites and gossip blogs, where everyone and their uncle is writing and commenting on what is happening in pop culture. On top of that, the brand has to reestablish itself and offer something new because obviously whatever they were doing before wasn’t quite working.

I wonder, does it deserve to come back? How many times is too many? And, most importantly, has it lost its credibility? More...

Tony Silber

When Pr People Do Their Organizations A Disservice

Tony Silber Editorial - 10/13/2006-02:00 AM
I should have been tipped off when the assistant kept e-mailing me. A few months ago, a very professional and pleasant woman e-mailed me about lunch with a corporate communications chief at one of the big New York consumer-magazine companies.

As it turned out, the communications person had to reschedule once and I needed to reschedule once, and the assistant did a great job of being the intermediary.

I don’t have a huge ego, but all along, I was kind of feeling that the contact should have been direct. Why did we need an intermediary? I call CEOs directly every day. In the public-relations business, it’s all about a one-to-one relationship, right? And I’m the editor and publisher of the magazine, after all.

So anyway, we schedule the lunch for this afternoon. After passing through the Midtown Manhattan office-building security, I went to a very nice private dining room. Where I waited. I waited 10 minutes. Then the corporate communications chief and a PR assistant came in and greeted me. Very pleasant.

But: They had no idea who I was, really. They were not familiar with Folio:. They didn’t know our mission. They didn’t know our circulation. They didn’t know at least one of the senior executives in their own company.

The lunch was great, but the conversation was awkward. "Do you cover what’s going on in digital," one of them asked me. About 45 minutes in, I started picking up the conversational cues that the meeting was over. I obliged. Fine by me.

The corporate communications chief and the PR assistant then left without shaking my hand or showing me the way out. I was left standing in the room. Clueless? Rude?

Hmmm. I thought these meetings were about establishing relationships.


On Being An Editor

Marrecca Fiore Editorial - 10/09/2006-02:00 AM

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to hear and see John Skipper, executive vice president of content at ESPN, speak at MPA’s “Breakfast with a Leader” last Friday at the University Club in New York.

Skipper was invited to speak about how he’s learned to effectively create and place content throughout all of ESPN’s platforms, which include television, radio, publishing, mobile and, even T-shirts, to name a few.

What was great about the breakfast is not just what Skipper talked about, but how he presented it. Skipper’s one of those rare people who is as entertaining as he is intelligent. He’s what my husband would call a “real cool dude.” To put it simply, he’s a real funny and personable guy and knows how to use his sense of humor to keep the crowd focused and draw them into what he’s speaking about.

One statement Skipper made particularly resonated with me. Speaking about his experience in the magazine industry, Skipper said this, “My experience with magazines has served me well. I get to work on things I know nothing about. I don’t think I had ever been on the Internet and I was hired to be in charge of it.”

Those few sentences speak volumes. People are always saying it’s an exciting time in publishing right now because of the new media evolution that’s taking place. But it’s actually an exciting time for people who work in publishing, especially on the editorial side. Because the digital media evolution means that we’re no longer just writers, reporters or editors.

I interviewed a woman named Kristin Campbell back in August for our Folio: Publishing Technology e-newsletter. As the editor of, she’s a great example of being more than just an editor because, in addition to writing and editing copy daily on her company’s Web site, she also shoots and edits videos, takes pictures, and anchors and writes a daily newscast.

That’s what’s so exciting about publishing right now. We’re no longer just editors. We’re Web site and e-newsletter designers. We’re videographers, photographers, bloggers and whatever it is that you call someone who creates content for mobile devices. To some, that might be overwhelming. And it might be looked at with dread and the feeling that it is just that much more we have to add to our already busy days.

But to the rest of us, it’s a journey. It’s the chance to do a million different things. Is there a chance that some of us will over extend ourselves in our zeal to do everything and be everything? Yes (I’ve been guilty of as much).

As journalists, most of us have always had the opportunity to write about things we know nothing about. Today, we have an opportunity to work on things that we know nothing about. What could be more exciting than that? More...

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 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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