Min wrote about John Suhlerâ€™s retirement last week. Other than that, and some mentions in the financial-industry media, his retirement didnâ€™t make much news. To me, thatâ€™s an oversight, because John Suhler is certainly one of a dozen or so major figures in the magazine industry in the last 40 years. That group includes people like Bill Ziff, who founded two major magazine companies; both had brands that live on today. It includes people like Peter Diamandis, who in the eighties bought CBS Magazines for $650 million and flipped it to Hachette less than a year later for a $100 million in profit. It includes iconic editors like Helen Gurley Brown and Tina Brown. And IDGâ€™s Pat McGovern.For a bunch of reasons, John Suhler belongs in that group. Suhler and his partner, John Veronis, created the category of boutique media investment firm in 1981, with the launch of VS&A, a brokerage firm specializing in the magazine industry. It was VS&A that managed the $3.2 billion sale of the TV Guide to News Corp. in 1988. More recently, TV Guide sold for $1.And it was VS&A (later renamed VSS when a third partner, Jeffrey Stevenson, was added) that led the way for a host of other firms, including JEGI, DeSilva+Phillips, Berkery, Noyes, and others that operate in the media-industry space. More than that, Suhler and his partners anticipated the private-equity boom in the magazine industry. VS&A began private-equity investment funds in the mid-eighties. By the mid-nineties, with the acquisition of Ziff Davis by Forstmann Little, the private-equity boom was onâ€”a boom that with its spectacular successes and equally remarkable flameouts has transformed the industry.But Suhlerâ€™s major impact might have come before even those milestones. Early in his career, he was a circulator, and because his father was also a magazine circulator, Suhler says, â€śThe dinner table was a circulation bootcamp. I wasnâ€™t bathed in football,â€ť he says. â€śI was bathed in the language and the people and the activities of large-circulation magazines.â€ťSuhler took that education and transformed an industry. He pioneered an analytic approach to circulation, developing mathematical models to figure out costs and volumes necessary to maintain ratebases, solicit new subs, estimate renewals, factor in cancellations, payups and all of the many moving parts associated with paid circulation. Suhlerâ€™s work on circulation modeling predated the famous Lighthouse Model. He had a hand in developing the game-changing Kobak Model. And in his mid-twenties, as publisher of Psychology Today, Suhler used those analytic skillsâ€” And marketing planning and creative subscription offers like, â€śtry a subscription for no cost, but if you like the magazine, we will bill you at our best introductory offerâ€ťâ€”to push that magazine to an unlikely circulation of 900,000. By 2004, VSS got out of the brokerage business and became a pure investment firm. And hereâ€™s another numeric measurement of Suhlerâ€™s success. In 32 years, VSS created four private-equity funds, two mezzanine funds, with about $3 billion in committed capital and invested in a total of about 70 operating companies with a combined enterprise value of $14 billion. Not a bad career.
I love Google. I believe it to be one of the greatest American businesses ever launched. For the last dozen years, I have been a partner as well as competitor to Google. I have seen firsthand the incredible breadth of engineering talent and resources they bring to the market. As a publisher, I was a long-time customer of syndicated Google search advertising as well as embedded, contextual text advertising.Google is brilliant at serving and monetizing text advertising. Whether done on the search result page or via contextual mapping to page level content into a dedicated module, these are solutions that no publisher can directly offer. These are solutions based on mapping scale of advertisers to scale of potential keywords, something no individual publisher can possibly replicate. The money generated from these placements is incremental and does not compete with the publishersâ€™ own direct efforts to sell a similar product.Display is a different ballgame. A premium publisherâ€™s core business is in selling a high-value display placement into their curated environment at a premium price. While programmatic buying is surely challenging the value of this model, it still represents a significant market with hundreds of top-tier brand marketers placing value on the age-old premise of the right ad delivered to the right individual in the right environment.Googleâ€™s core display product undercuts this model in damaging ways. Google will serve what its algorithm perceives to be the best possible ad at that given moment. It does not discern the appropriateness of the ad content itself or the economics involved. This often defaults to the lowest common denominator served into a premium display positionâ€”a text ad, from a direct response marketer, sold for less than 10 percent of what the publishersâ€™ direct sales force is trying (and succeeding ) to get for that same inventory.This is particularly damaging in emerging areas like mobile. Because most premium publishers donâ€™t sell their mobile inventory yet, you often see Google text ads appearing in prime display mobile real estate. Because many of these publishers are using DFP as their first party ad server, Google wisely makes it very easy for them to automate their Adsense backfill.Here is the prime example. This is a screen shot of The New York Times mobile home page from a few months back. The NYT has not sold this position so it defaults to a backfill solution from Google. This is what served:
Now Iâ€™m an old digital guy and still view the home page of the NYT as a very premium buy. I see top 50 brands paying top dollar to get that position. Google has done a great service to the Counseling Anxiety in Miami advertiser. I wonder if they even know they owned the homepage of the NYT. For the NYT, this is a horrible result. Never mind the poor quality of the ad content and how that sullies the environment for the reader; Iâ€™m not sure how their sales team can go to market selling the exclusivity of the placement to their top-brand advertising partners when this is whatâ€™s running there.So what can you do if youâ€™re a premium publisher with lots of unsold inventory?1. Put the right resources in place to sell it yourself, and in the way it needs to be soldâ€”as a high-value, high-impact display unit.2. Work with specialist networks that focus on premium inventory and premium brands.3. If youâ€™re going to backfill, do it via an SSP (Pubmatic, Rubicon, or even AdMeld, which Google owns), where more competition for the inventory should produce better ads and better economics.4. If youâ€™re going to just run Google ads, then have somebody at the switch watching to make sure there are minimum standards of ad content quality and yield.Donâ€™t get me wrong; Google is a great and critical partner to the publisher and would be the first to point out they give the publisher control to manage their inventory. The reality is that most publishers donâ€™t have the resources to do this, so they default to something that in the long run undermines their business.Â Â Â Be smart. Protect the premium value of your brand and inventory.Â
FOLIO:'s MediaNext event concluded today in New York. With about 1,000 in attendance the show examined all the ways publishers are evolving into true multiplatform media companies. With keynotes from LinkedIn's Dan Roth, Business Insider's Henry Blodget, Vox Media's James Bankoff and Meredith's Tom Harty, as well as four tracks dedicated to the various strategic channels publishers are leveraging, event content sat right at the intersection of where "traditional" meets digital.
Al DiGuido, president of Optimus Publishing, kicked off the Magazine Media Core Skills track with a lesson he learned at his first job as a 13-year-old store clerk in Brooklyn. DiGuidoâ€™s storeâ€”surrounded by larger, cheaper competitorsâ€”would put a Tootsie Roll in the bag of each customer. Donning an apron and doling out candy, DiGuido reminded publishers to offer a unique selling proposition.Â â€śLegacy media has not been aggressive enough in modifying value proposition,â€ť he argued.
Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, presented an optimistic view of the industry, despite its tendency toward the negativeâ€”â€śNobody talks as much as we do about our own demise,â€ť he says. Husni ran through the more than 800 magazine launches of the past year, stopping to highlight several of the more amusing. His point was larger though. Though many were alarmed print been passed by other forms of media, that doesnâ€™t mean it will go away. Print ad revenues bypassed radio in 1935; television bypassed radio in 1955â€”after playing third-fiddle for more than a half-century, radio is still relevant.
In sales and marketing, Stephen Acunto, account manager with Hearst Menâ€™s Group, and Jackie Ghedine, associate publisher with Ad Age, echoed the comments of Beth Tomkiw, EVP and chief creative officer at what is now TMG/McMurry. Content marketing, they agree, will emerge as a go-to marketing solution in 2013.
During the Data, Sales & Audience Monetization track, a heavy emphasis was placed on building a highly engaged community of readers, followers, fans and customers to reach business objectives that support generating revenue and capturing valuable insights.
From paid online content models, to generating revenue from Twitter engagement, the track aimed to deliver specific takeaways to help professionals leverage their key asset: their audience.
One particularly interesting session was lead by Steve Ennen, president and chief intelligence officer for SocialStrategy1. He contented that magazines are the stagecoaches from yesteryearâ€”an outdated vehicle for spreading information. Ennen argued that publishers must rethink and restructure their businesses at every level. Distribution is no longer about the mailman, he said, but about network effects, sharing, and the fluid channels of social media.
â€śSocial media is so powerful it topples governments,â€ť said Ennen. â€śWhy would you think it couldn't help your media company?â€ť
The opportunity, he said, is a proliferation of revenue channels and readers, empowering publishers in ways they still cannot imagine.
In the session "Integrated Sales in a Three-Screen Era" in the Media Mashup track, Elena Sukacheva, The Economist's vice president of strategy and client solutions, noted that her team primarily drives the creative process of building an integrated package. "Agencies give us big ideas, they don't care what it is. They just want us to make it big and unique," she said.
Accordingly, the team leverages all of The Economist's brand platforms. A recent campaign for BMW, for example, included print, digital, video and live eventsâ€”as well as a partnership with Bon AppĂ©tit.
Later in that session, Cygnus Business Media's senior vice president of business development Blair Johnson described the company's new Engagement Report, which leverages detailed analytics to measure the exposure and consumption of each of a client's messaging elements. The company then carefully trains the sales team to present the report to the client in an effort to help them better steer the campaign to the client's actual goals. "At the very least, the Engagement report is getting our sales people in the door," said Johnson.
One session in the Content and Brand Marketing track featured Betsy Frank and Barry Martin, who are â€śresearch and insights officersâ€ť with Time Inc. Their jobs are to figure out how Time Inc. editors can relate better to readers. Explaining one recent research project in which they used biometrics, they took a group of Digital Natives (people under 30 who presumably were born into a digital world) and another group of Digital Immigrants (people over 30 who had to get used to it), gave them glasses with video cameras built in and recorded every type of media they used during their non-working hours.
As a consequence of their research, Frank and Martinâ€™s best advice to Time Inc.â€™s editors about how to engage their Native readers? â€śMake it quick, make it easy and make it emotional.â€ť
It may not be the advice their Immigrant editors want to hear, but itâ€™s what theyâ€™re going to have to do if they want to keep their publications alive.
Two publishing executives noted that their events programs generate substantial revenue, serve their readers in a way that print and digital publishing canâ€™t, and extend and reinforce their brands.
In the conference session titled â€śConferences, Meet-ups, Mixers and Summits,â€ť The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Steve Clemons and Computerworld Vice President and Publisher John Amato agreed that the wide variety of events they hold are all profitable.
â€śIn fact, it generates more revenue than anything else we do,â€ť Clemons said, â€śincluding the magazine.â€ť
For specific keynote session coverage, visit:
â€˘ MediaNext Show: Thriving in the Age of Transformationâ€˘ MediaNext: LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth Sharesâ€˘ MediaNext: From Upstart to Powerhouseâ€˘ MediaNext: Scaling Quality Journalism
Add the USPS to the list of unfinished business left by the now-adjourned 112th Congress. As it muddled its way through negotiating terms for avoiding the fiscal cliff, the legislation the Postal Service was looking for fell by the wayside, prompting Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to voice his disappointment in an official statement. Even with hearings, lobbying from ABM and MPA and a raft of restructuring initiatives done over the last two years, the USPS is still in major crisis mode. And any major operational or pricing changes going forward could have a significant impact on publishers.Â
Ranks have been reduced by 60,000 carriersÂ and 70 facilities have been consolidated, but the USPS is still losing massive amounts of money, to the tune of $25 million per day. And it's already defaulted on its $11.1 billion Treasury payments and has no money left to borrow. "As we look to the coming year, we are on an unsustainable financial path," warns Donahoe. "We will be discussing with our Board of Governors a range of accelerated cost-cutting and revenue generating measures designed to provide us some financial breathing room."For the full statement, click here.
In what's become an annual tradition from Hearst Magazines president David Carey, a post-holiday letter to employees highlights some of the company's successes in the last year and points to new initiatives for 2013.While there were definitely highlights for the company, Carey noted the days of consistent performance across brands are over. This is a nod to a recognition that while the external media landscape continues to fracture, so goes the internal performance of brandsâ€”strategies that used to work consistently across the platform are now maddeningly hard to predict from one brand to another. "While in the past our businesses tended to move in unisonâ€”collectively, up or offâ€”I believe that the variability and volatility of performance is here to stay, which puts a greater emphasis on the impressive can-do spirit and creativity of our teams," says Carey in the letter.Nevertheless, Carey is continuing his push for entrepreneurial thinking within the company, noting international, digital and commerce-oriented growth initiatives. By the end of the year, for example, Cosmopolitan's partnership with jcpenney was producing $1 million in weekly sales. Also notable is Carey's claim that Hearst Magazines now has the highest number of paid monthly digital subscriptions across tablet devices in the industryâ€”at nearly 800,000. The subscriptions are generating profits and 80 percent of the subscribers are new to the file. Here's the letter in full: Dear Colleagues,Â Happy 2013! Welcome back after what I hope was a wonderful holiday break for each of you. If you were minding business at the office last week, I trust you also found it a peaceful place to be.Â As we begin a new year, I want to take stock of our companyâ€™s accomplishments in the last year and look forward to whatâ€™s on tap for the coming one.Â We have been thrilled by consumer response to the new print products we introduced, led most notably in the U.S. by HGTV Magazine and, globally, by 10 new Hearst international editions, including Esquire in Singapore and Colombia and Harperâ€™s BAZAAR in Poland. Weâ€™re also enthused by the pace at which our content is ricocheting around an increasingly mobile world. At the end of 2011, we had 39 million monthly page views on mobile devices; by the end of 2012 that number had grown to 186 million.Â But no question, 2012 will not be remembered as mellow in either media or meteorology.Â Many of our businesses soared and produced record results. Others faced challenges, and the teams behind these brands have put in place fresh thinking for 2013. While in the past our businesses tended to move in unisonâ€”collectively, up or offâ€”I believe that the variability and volatility of performance is here to stay, which puts a greater emphasis on the impressive can-do spirit and creativity of our teams.Â Whether you were doing business in sunshine or in storm, so many of you pushed aheadâ€”continuing the enormously imaginative work of expanding our companyâ€™s reach and influence. I want to thank all the teams that make Hearst Magazines great.Â The barometer of our 2012 performance marked important developments. Our core print brands were honored with a raft of prestigious awards: three National Magazine Awards, total domination of Advertising Ageâ€™s A-List, including Magazine of the Year Marie Claire and Publisher of the Year Nancy Berger Cardone, numerous Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards, and an Adweek Hot List nod for HGTV Magazine.Â More of our greatest brand hits last year:Â â€˘ ELLE had very strong growth in its first full year of Hearst ownership, gaining market share and becoming our second-largest business in the U.S.Â â€˘ HGTV Magazine, created in partnership with Scripps Networks, ended its first year with nearly 700,000 paid subscribers, producing average monthly newsstand sales of more than 250,000 and strong reception from advertisers. This year, the title will move to 10 issues annually.Â â€˘ Harperâ€™s BAZAAR had a perfectly executed redesign that has been a hit with readers and advertisers, and Good Housekeeping introduced a new look and feel in its January issue, a front-to-back revamp driven by extensive consumer research and testing. Now under way: a dramatic restyling of Road & Track and a new direction for Redbook.Â â€˘ Marie Claireâ€™s powerhouse publishing team delivered the most revenue ever in the magazineâ€™s 18-year U.S. history.Â â€˘ Already the No. 1 epicurean magazine on the newsstand, Food Network Magazine had a sales jump of 18 percent last year and earned the top spot for ad pages in its category. Projected FNM circulation for 2013: 1.55 million.Â In keeping with our UNBOUND positioning, we made impressive gains in digital media. By the end of the year, we counted nearly 800,000 monthly digital subscriptions in the U.S. across iPads, NOOKs, Kindle Fires and Android devicesâ€”the highest in the industry. Those subscriptions are now generating profits after 24 months of investment. And how exciting to see how this business is developing organically: More than 80 percent of our digital subscribers are new to our files, and their engagement levels meet or exceed the high levels we see from our print products.Â We achieved important digital milestones all across the company:Â â€˘ The number of unique monthly visitors to our websites grew by more than 30 percent. Our brands have driven an explosion in social engagement with their audiences; Hearst has 7.7 million Facebook fans, 4.7 million Twitter followers and 5.5 million Pinterest followers, including the No. 1 brand on Pinterest, Harperâ€™s BAZAAR.Â â€˘ Cosmopolitan doubled the size of its digital edit team in December, with the goal of reaching 20 million monthly unique visitors. The magazine also used a multi-pronged social media strategy engineered by iCrossing to welcome new editor in chief Joanna Coles: 18 million tweets announcing Joannaâ€™s move were sent in just a few hours. (The brand is also active on the TV front: Watch for Cosmo as a star of a new Mark Burnett series debuting in February.)Â â€˘ Jumpstart, a key asset from our LagadĂ¨re acquisition, had the most profitable year in its history. Jumpstart grew to become the No. 3 website for auto shoppers, with more than 9.5 million monthly unique visitors.Â â€˘ Innovation flows in all directions in our halls: Hearstâ€™s popular foodie destination Delish.com introduced a print special that was sold with the November editions of six titles at Wal-Mart, producing a 22 percent lift in single-copy sales.Â We welcomed new faces last year and, in some cases, rearranged places. Chief Technology Officer Phil Wiser, who joined Hearst Corporation last January, quickly became a key resource for our technology teams. In addition to Joanna at Cosmo, we named three new editors in chief: Susan Spencer at Womanâ€™s Day, Larry Webster at Road & Track and Anne Fulenwider at Marie Claire. We were also pleased to welcome Carine Roitfeld as global fashion director of BAZAAR, who, in an industry first, will create fashion editorial that will run in all 26 international editions of the magazine at the same time. This high-profile creative initiative with Carine is among my favorite rule-breakers of 2012 and paves the way for more global content sharing.Â Benchmarking industry leadership took a number of creative forms at Hearst in 2012:Â â€˘Â We created the Hearst Design Group by consolidating the editorial staffs of ELLE DECOR, House Beautiful and Veranda under Newell Turnerâ€™s leadership, bringing a streamlined, nimble, European publishing model to the U.S.Â â€˘ Again, in the spirit of not holding onto established orthodoxies, we changed the business models of some titles, including Womanâ€™s Day and Veranda, shifts that have dramatically improved bottom-line performance.Â â€˘ You will see more brand extensions this year based on last yearâ€™s success; Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Delish and ELLE Accessories will all increase their frequency in 2013.Â â€˘ From its genesis as a column in Good Housekeeping, 7 Years Younger is now a book and a website with extensive social media presenceâ€”and the launch has been a collaborative effort across our company.Â Always looking for new ways to connect with our readers, Hearst developed fresh, effective commerce initiatives last year, including ShopBAZAAR.com and the House Beautiful Marketplace, a partnership with HSN.Â After a year of close collaboration, the Cosmopolitan Collection debuted in September in 700 jcpenney stores nationwide. At yearâ€™s end, consumer sales were running more than $1 million per week. (Operating as entrepreneurs entails taking chances: Our 2011 partnerships CLAD and Gifting Grace were discontinued. There will be some swings and some missesâ€”we learn and move forward.)Â As you know, Hearst is the largest publisher of monthly magazines around the world, with 284 of our 304 editions outside the U.S. Iâ€™m pleased to report that in 2012 our international business grew by more than 50 percent. European shortfalls resulting from the ongoing turbulence in the economy were offset by the strength of earnings from our businesses in Russia and Asiaâ€”China, in particular, where ELLE has seen so much success that it moved to a semi-monthly publishing schedule.Â Our other lines of business also made bold inroads in new areas. Hearst Integrated Media had its biggest year ever in 2012, selling more than 30 custom programs.Â We welcomed new leaders, in the U.S., the U.K. and Latin America, to boost iCrossingâ€™s digital marketing leadership. In 2012, iCrossing won two out of every three pitches and signed 30 new accountsâ€”with its average deal size now 250 percent larger than two years ago. iCrossingâ€™s fourth quarter revenues were the highest in its history.Â CDS Global celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012 and successfully focused on transforming its technology to offer new digital and e-commerce services and diversify its business across industries. CDS Global is a key part of the magazine industryâ€™s tablet media infrastructure and at the same time is building business beyond mediaâ€”it ended 2012 with nearly 20 percent of its revenue from non-magazine clients.Â One thing thatâ€™s distinctive about Hearst is how important partnerships are to driving our growth, a key strategy established long ago by our CEO, Frank A. Bennack, Jr. Weâ€™re fortunate to operate joint ventures with many of the worldâ€™s leading corporations. (These ventures not only generate earnings, but also bring great talentâ€”our just-named Hearst president, Steve Swartz, originally came to the company via a joint venture with Dow Jones). Because of our reputation of being such a good partner, we regularly receive inbound concepts from media companies looking to jointly create new products with Hearst. (So donâ€™t be surprised if we test yet another new magazine by yearâ€™s end!)Â Finally, a sad note and a heartfelt tribute: Helen Gurley Brown, the Hearst magazine editor who first made Cosmopolitan famous and single women proud to be smart and sexy, died on August 13 at the age of 90. She led Cosmo for more than three decades, leaving an indelible, personal imprint on several generations of womenâ€”and their men. Helenâ€™s re-creation of Cosmopolitan produced profits that were quickly reinvested into a diversified set of businesses that helped build the modern Hearst Corporation.Â Which brings me to 2013: Every member of the team has the chance to make a Helen Gurley Brownâ€“level contribution, one that can have a long-lasting, positive impact on our company and colleagues.Â Many are hard at work on achieving exactly that.Â Esquire Editor in Chief David Granger and Publishing Director Jack Essig will soon announce a bold new partnershipâ€”an initiative that will dramatically expand the Esquire franchise. The brand also has big plans in the works to celebrate its 80th anniversary this year.Â Our consumer marketing colleagues are collectively rethinking how we bring our titles to market by striking new partnerships with retailersâ€”as they cast aside the â€śsame old wayâ€ť of doing businessâ€”and building world-class digital marketing capabilities.Â The companyâ€™s digital leadership team is working on plans to â€śfuture-proofâ€ť our digital business models for a world where more than 50 percent of our traffic will be on small screens, and our readers will demand fresh, high-quality content from our brands around the clock.Â The team at Hearst Magazines International is readying another dozen launches in 2013, from France to Australia.Â And thereâ€™s so much more.Â Iâ€™m also pleased to announce that in 2013 we will put greater emphasis on the training and development of our team. In the last few weeks weâ€™ve had the good fortune to welcome to Hearst Tower inspirational executives like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and HSN CEO Mindy Grossman to talk about how they are managing change at their companies. In 2013, we will significantly step up these programs and our exposure to some of the business worldâ€™s smartest minds. We will also invest more in digital training of all kinds.Â Regardless of the headlines, change in GDP or cyclical trends, our teams are pushing ahead to create a successful 2013. This is the spirit that has put Hearst at the forefront of the industry.Â Like you, I get a lot of e-mail newsletters. A few months ago, one contained an especially insightful passage that succinctly sums up the opportunities for our company and industry:Â If one thing is clear, itâ€™s that over the next 20 years the shortest distance from A to B is going to be anything but a straight line. To survive, much less to thrive, will require being both clever and smart. Clever means a willingness to try new thingsâ€”be scrappy and make bold bets, even if they may not pay off. Smart means keeping your eyes on the year-2032 prizeâ€”be ready to cut off the experiments that arenâ€™t working and cultivate your willingness to let go of the legacy as the time comes.Â I am so proud of all the talented and smart men and women at Hearst who work to empower, educate and encourage our readers, advertisers and partners. In picas and pixels, you are simply the best, through all kinds of weather. And I know you are not aloneâ€”supported by family and friends who encourage you to do your best work and reach for the stars.Â Thank you, again. I wish you a new year filled with personal and professional success and happiness.Â Sincerely,Â David CareyPresidentHearst Magazines@CareyAtHearst
After an acquisition, some staff turnover is expected. But when that acquisition also means moving the brand halfway across the country, you'd better be ready to do some significant rebuilding of personnel. This rings especially true when a magazine relocates from, say, New York to Wisconsinâ€”as happened with Discover magazine after Waukesha-based Kalmbach bought it. Privately-owned Kalmbach, an enthusiast, craft and hobbyist publisher with titles such as Astronomy, Model Railroader and Cabin Life, among others, picked up Discover two years ago from private equity backers WallerSutton and Sandler Capital Management. At the time, Discover had revenues of about $14 million. Less than a year later, Kalmbach outsourced the sales operation to James G. Elliott, Co., a partnership that's still in place. Which left the edit team (production and back office operations were already set up in Waukesha) still in New York. In August this year the company finally announced that it was closing the editorial offices and moving operations to Wisconsin. At the time, about 20 edit and design staff were faced with the decision on whether to move. All opted outâ€”except former editor-in-chief Corey S. Powell, who was with the brand for 15 years and will continue as editor-at-large and columnist, and executive editor Pamela Weintraub, who remains in a consultative role. Today, Discover announced a completely rebuilt edit and design team. The magazine has hired 13 new staff members.The magazine's new editor-in-chief is Stephen George, who was last with Reader's Digest at the Greendale, Wisconsin branch as its executive editor in the book and special publication group. Former managing editor of Kalmbach's Trains magazine will take the same title at Discover. From there, two senior editors, a photo editor, four associate editors, a senior graphic designer, staff writer, editorial assistant and copy editor have also come on board. Still open is a design director spot, says vice president-editorial and publisher Kevin Keefe.
NEW YORKâ€”At MPA Digitalâ€™s Social Media Summit Thursday, Ethan Grey, vice president of digital with the association, revealed results from its latest study slated to be released in January.
The data, which was conducted with Gfk MRI and surveyed 796 adults aged 18-plus who owned a tablet, shows that in general, tablet owners prefer to buy yearly subscriptions to digital magazines. About 56 percent of respondents prefer to purchase a one-year subscription, 31 percent prefer to buy monthly subscriptions, 11 percent normally buy half-year subscriptions and just 2 percent prefer multi-year subscriptions.
When asked about the type of digital magazine content they prefer, more than halfâ€”55 percentâ€”say they read current and back issues. The remaining 45 percent prefer to only read the most current issues.
â€śThis is an avenue for increased dollars in revenue for magazines,â€ť Grey said.
Additionally, respondents find the price of digital magazines to be fairly reasonableâ€”about 49 percent said they â€śagree somewhatâ€ť that pricing of digital magazines is fair.
When it comes to bundling, 34 percent of respondents â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that they are only interested in a digital subscription if it comes with a free print subscription. The second highest group of respondentsâ€”30 percentâ€”â€śsomewhat disagreeâ€ť when asked if they are only interested in a digital subscription if it comes with a free print subscription.
Many respondents (44 percent) say they â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that the automatic downloading of their magazine subscriptions is convenient. About 36 percent â€śstrongly agree.â€ť
When it comes to loading times, 59 percent say they â€śsomewhat agreeâ€ť that the time it takes to download a magazine app is reasonable, with 27 percent saying they â€śstrongly agree.â€ť
The all-you-can-eat magazine model of Next Issue Media, said Grey, could become more popular, at least based on this data: 27 percent of respondents â€śstrongly agreeâ€ť when asked if they like having the ability to pay a flat subscription fee for a large library of magazines. About 46 percent â€śsomewhat agree.â€ť
When rating five digital newsstands, respondents thought most highly of Apple, with 90.8 percent saying the Apple Newsstand is excellent or good. When it comes to a browsing experience for new titles, Apple tied with Barnes & Nobleâ€™s Nook at 81 percent.
More information on digital magazine reader preferences will be released this January by the MPA.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, â€śIn preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.â€ťÂ He could have been describing todayâ€™s publishing landscape. We work with many publishers, and are continually reminded of the importance of sales planning. There is no final answer:Â The situation is fluid and plans must be updated, revised and, sometimes, jettisoned.
There are more ways for a publisher to generate revenues today than ever before. There is much more for salespeople to learn and remember, and far more ways to go wrong in areas only tangentially related to traditional publishing. It is unclear which will be the winning strategies as magazine brands extend beyond the printed page to websites, mobile media, events and social media communities. What is clear is that salespeople are responsible for learning, forecasting and planning in new areas.
Because my companyâ€™s responsibility is to turn publishersâ€™ plans into revenues, we find out very quickly what works. Every one of our salespeople creates an annual plan for every sales territory; we have found that rapid, monthly course corrections and revisions to plans are essential.
As we talk with publishers, we frequently see a pattern of issues like these:
â€˘ Slow, methodical annual planning with quarterly reviews, in our view, is ineffective. Reviews must be accelerated.â€˘ Many publishing organizations lack any real experience in identifying appropriate partners and then in executing a relationship with those new partners.â€˘ Hiring one-dimensional salespeople who do not have the proper skills to adapt to a multimedia environment puts magazines at a disadvantage.â€˘ Failing to recognize that just because people may be comfortable with digital technology does not necessarily translate to the ability to sell that digital technology. They may not have the skill set to sell anything.â€˘ The realâ€”and troublingâ€”rise of technologically-driven processes like Real-Time Auction advertising models commoditizes and diminishes the role of publishers and traditional agencies by replacing considered opinion with algorithms.â€˘ Failing to properly train salespeople in all new product offerings means they often do not try to sell the products, which results in lost business.â€˘ Failing to provide adequate sales and demonstration tools (including mobile tools for mobile products) and proper collateral can reduce the impact of investments in new products.
Many problems can be traced to the cost-cutting measures in the face of the recession and uncertainty due to the very turbulent times in which consumer and b-to-b magazines have found themselves. As Warren Buffett so aptly says, "Capital outlays at a business can be skipped, of course, in any given month, just as a human can skip a day or even a week of eating. But if the skipping becomes routine and is not made up, the body weakens and eventually dies."
In my opinion, leadership must come from the top. Just as salespeople need to be trained in the nuances of new media platforms, or at least platforms new to them, so does senior management. Too often, top managers running publishing companies don't have enough experience in understanding the nuances and the differences that exist between different media and how they can be packaged together. I think this is a big issue today.
Placing publishing executives into the media department of an agency for a week would be the best training. That experience would bring incredible insights to top managers, not only regarding the differences in various media, but also in understanding the way ad agency media buyers really purchase media. Because this solution is impractical for most executives, the next best thing is for them to go on fact-finding tours at agencies with the objective of learning. Selling will come later, based on understanding the buyersâ€™ needs.Â
There is no end in sight for new media platforms, and disruptive innovation is the rule. The only sure thing is that failure to stay current will have negative results.Â From here on out, we all must keep on learning.
James G. Elliott is president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc., an independent advertising sales firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Postal Service appears to be gearing up for an entrance into the magazine retail market, according to meeting notes from theÂ Mailers' Technical Advisory CommitteeÂ (MTAC) quarterly meetings over the past year. Traditional newsstand sales have been discussed, as well as digital options via USPS.com and mobile devices.
A summary of the group's most recent November gathering--first mentionedÂ this weekend on the blog Dead Tree Edition--notes: "The USPS is moving forward on a plan to offer magazine subscriptions for sale on USPS.com." And later adds: "The USPS and mailers are developing a plan to have posters in retail sites with QR codes and other ways of linking to magazine subscriptions."
These notes come on the heels of anÂ August meetingÂ where Kelly Sigmon, USPS VP of Channel Access, gave an address entitled "Magazines at USPS Retail" and indicated the Postal Service "is open to a test in 25-50 locations."
SimilarÂ mentions--overwhelmingly positive--have appeared in meeting notes since February.
The response from publishers seems to be less enthusiastic though.
Slides from aÂ product development presentationÂ given at the meeting available on the MTAC website hint at trepidation, saying: "Implementation and economic challenges limiting interest with Publishers."
Several related parties, including Sigmon, declined interview requests, and, after multiple denials the project existed, a USPS spokesperson admitted the program had not progressed beyond "the idea phase."
Another industry source confirmed thatÂ Synapse, a large-scale magazine distributor with ties to major publishers including Hearst, Time, Conde Nast and Meredith, had been involved in the project but was unsure of where it stood at the moment. Synapse also declined comment.
Right now, it seems clear the USPS wants in.
It's just up to publishers to open the door.
Michael Rondon is an associate editor for FOLIO: Magazine. You can reach him at email@example.com.Â and follow him on Twitter @Mike_Rondon.
Media companies, and especially those in the b-to-b space, are increasingly reliant on events as a vital way to diversify a portfolio. Yet, as reported by FOLIO: today, even growth in the events sector seems to be slowing.
However, harnessing the power of social media is one way that media companies can hold the attention of customers and consumers beyond the week or month a magazine is on sale--or an event is in session. That was one takeaway provided by Eric Ly, the co-founder of LinkedIn and keynote speaker at the International Association of Exhibitions and Eventsâ€™ annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday.
â€śWe werenâ€™t cool enough to create Facebook,â€ť said Ly. â€śSo we tried to create something useful instead.â€ť
Ly, joined onstage by Rick Calvert, moderator of the address and head of New Media Expo, was speaking to a crowd of about 400 professionals as the CEO of another startup nowâ€”matchmaking provider Presdo. Ly discussed the role of social media in the face-to-face industry.
â€śI used to go to a lot of tech events,â€ť he said. â€śPeople want to get together, they want to socialize and have really important business relationships and friendships come out of that experience. I would go to those events andâ€”I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone in experiencing thisâ€”you walk in and see a room full of people really not knowing who you should meet.â€ť
â€śIn face-to-face, and especially events, itâ€™s really about connecting people,â€ť he added. â€śThat actually turns out to be really hard to do.â€ť
Ly noted several times that he sees social as a compliment to face-to-face interaction howeverâ€”not a replacement. While it can be a useful tool in matchmaking and extending relationships beyond the time and space limitations of an event, social is not an answer in itself.
â€śI think that face-to-face is never going to go away,â€ť he said. â€śWe are humans, we want to be in contact with other people, we want to develop trustâ€”and those kinds of things are really hard to do online.â€ť
Calvert also broached LinkedInâ€™s own potential as an event provider. Despite shuttering itâ€™s proprietary events app in late-November, the social mega-site could still be poised for a head-on collision with the industry.
Admittedly theorizing, Ly suggested the move could simply have been the closing of an unsuccessful product, or perhaps, a hint that LinkedIn was going to get into the events business itself.
While that prospect may be daunting for many in the event industry, Ly doesnâ€™t think it would work.
â€śThereâ€™s so much value in face-to-face interaction, itâ€™s an industry of $200 billion,â€ť he said. â€śThose kinds of abilities, skills and talents I donâ€™t think are going to be replaced any time soon by a Silicon Valley company.â€ť
Michael Rondon is an associate editor at FOLIO: magazine.
Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a testâ€”you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.
While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the â€ś60 centsâ€ť when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panicâ€”but I subscribed all the same.
If you cannot test a price, test a termâ€”$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.
â€śPay in Advanceâ€ť as opposed to â€śBill Me Laterâ€ť is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, â€śBill Meâ€ť is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a â€śBill Meâ€ť offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up frontâ€”even with a money-back guarantee.
Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it winâ€”price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.
Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a â€ś50% Off The Cover Priceâ€ť offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, donâ€™t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same resultâ€”it probably wonâ€™t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.
You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every yearâ€”year in, year outâ€”we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, â€śThis has to go, it is awfulâ€ťâ€”and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new controlâ€”and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?
Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.
An essay by Craig Mod has been making the rounds lately among media watchers. It's a terrific read. Mod, a current independent writer and former Flipbook employee, touts what he's calling the Subcompact Manifesto, which places a premium on a minimalist approach to digital publishing. His manifesto emerges out of one of the main criticisms 'traditional' publishers have received for their tablet magazines and apps: They're unwieldy, hard to use, have too many bells and whistles and take up too much room. But most importantly, they're tied to print production schedules, design and pricing. In other words, tablet editions are not exploiting the medium in the open, nimble, socially-forward way they could and/or should be.As Mod says: So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because itâ€™s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).Unfortunatelyâ€”from a medium-specific user experience point of viewâ€”itâ€™s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications.The key here, for Mod, is the "indigenous magazine"â€”a product born exclusively for the mobile-digital platform, free of any print production and pricing frameworks. He goes on to highlight The Magazine, created by Marco Arment, as a perfect example of the digitally indigenous magazine. It's short (four or five articles), it's design is breezy and open, it's file size is small, it's cheap and easy to snack on.This all may be true, and there's probably an audience for The Magazine and future brands just like it. But what's wrong with publishing a tablet magazine that's full of print magazine design and rich media content, that's $4.99 for a single copy and might take all night to download to Apple's Newsstand? Nothing, really, because there's room in the market for the digitally indigenous magazine and the digital magazine that's married, for good or bad, to its print namesake. I understand that with digital comes an expectation of disruption and re-invention. And not just an expectation, but actual disruption. But it's also a world where all sorts of business models live and play.I don't think Mod is necessarily saying all publishers need to drop their old-school, print-legacy-based digital magazines and start producing $2, 4-article, scrolling mini-apps. He does say though, that publishers are balking at producing products like these because they're not based on a familiar model and they're not likely to produce immediate and significant returns. Funnily enough, neither have the full-blown tablet magazines, for now. What will be interesting to see is how much the subcompact model informs or influences the sedan version of digital magazinesâ€”or simply rides next to it.