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Baird Davis

When Will the Newsstand Canary Croak?

Baird Davis Sales and Marketing - 02/14/2013-14:33 PM

 

For the last five years publishers have been digging ever deeper in the newsstand coal mine, seemingly blind to the dangers that lie below. The canary hasn’t croaked, but it’s clearly breathing harder.

Publishers, naively waiting for good news from the top of the mineshaft, keep bemoaning the reasons for this calamitous bit of bad sales luck.

The recent newsstand sales figures for the second half of last year from AAM were indeed grim. It has been reported that the decline in unit sales was 8.2 percent from the year previous. But a more measured review, one that includes the sales of titles that reported sales a year ago but are no longer being published, shows that performance was measurably worse.

See Also: AAM: Newsstand a Drag On Circ as Digital Rises

It reveals that unit sales were down 9.3 percent and revenue off 8.2 percent. But even these numbers don’t fully demonstrate the level of performance.

Because of a reporting date anomaly nearly all the weekly frequency publications reported sales for 27 issues. However, they are being compared to 26 issues from the previous period. If the extra issue for the top 11 weekly publications is excluded from the calculations the unit sales decline would have been 10.2 percent. This, perhaps, represents a truer picture of newsstand sales performance in the second half of last year.

 


[Click image for larger version.]

 

Well, as they say, stuff happens. If that were only the case an isolated ten percent decline wouldn’t be so worrisome. But let’s not forget this performance closely mirrors what has been happening on the newsstand for the last five years:

Unit Sales: Down 44.9 percent, 11.2 percent annually
Revenue: Down 38.0 percent, 9.1 percent annually
Total Paid Circ: Down 14.9 percent from 277.6 to 236.1 million
Single Copy Circ: Down 44.7 percent from 48.8 million to 27.0 million
Single Copy Circ as a Percent of Total Circ: Down from 17.7 to 11.8 percent

Has it ever been clearer that the newsstand canary is in extreme danger of croaking?

What’s my point in stretching this analogy? I believe publishers, to some great extent, remain in denial concerning the depth and seriousness of this precipitous decline. Let’s be realistic here. In the last five years there has been a sea change in technology and how people consume media. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman indicated, in speaking about all businesses, 9/11 and the Great Recession have disguised the effect of these changes.

The business of magazine publishing is being seriously altered. Management emphasis has shifted to cope with the changes of an increasingly digital world. One manifestation of these changes is the rapid ascendency of replica circ. Its use nearly tripled in the last year—from 2.8 million circ to about 7.6 million circ, an increase of about 4.8 million. This increase, interestingly enough, compares pretty closely to the 3.6 million decrease in newsstand circ for the same period. It’s now a good bet that replica circ is cannibalizing newsstand sales.

Nothing can be done to halt the advance of these technological and consumer involvement changes to the magazine business. But what publishers can do, if they really want to preserve the newsstand channel, is to concentrate their efforts on cooperatively working with its wholesaling and retailing partners to fix the inherent inefficiencies of channel operations.

But time is of the essence. The canary’s breath is running short.

 

Baird Davis is a senior consultant with Circulation Specialists.

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Bill Mickey

Adding Video to Your Sales Pitch

Bill Mickey Sales and Marketing - 02/12/2013-14:09 PM

 

Bonnier's Popular Science is taking the venerable sell sheet one step further by including a video of the magazine's editor-in-chief Jacob Ward describing the upcoming issue's content highlights, marrying that with the magazine's pertinent demos. The sales team uses the video as an email enticement or brings it on a live sales call to add a dash of editorial celebrity when Ward himself can't come along.

The idea came to Michael Gallic, associate publisher, marketing, the technology group, as Ward was taping his customary video introduction for the magazine's tablet version. Why not just ask Ward to hang around for another five or ten minutes to create a 90-second highlight reel of the upcoming issue? The first video sell sheet was created at the end of last year for the January/February issue.

"We're always looking for new ways to help the reps to get to the advertisers," says Gallic. "The standard way is the issue sell sheet—a PDF which gives an overview and relevant statistics, but in the video you're hearing about the content live from the editor and you can see the stats pop up. He's an engaging, personable guy who brings the editorial to life. Who better to hear what the issue is about than the editor himself?"

While they may not actually win the sale, anecdotally Gallic says the videos have been useful hooks to get the brand noticed. "The face-to-face calls are more difficult to get, but these video sell sheets are not only helping getting the call but getting the call back."

The team uses Adobe's After Effects to edit the videos, and Gallic adds that, with a slightly different content spin, they're morphing into a useful consumer marketing tool as well—particularly as a newsstand driver. "We'll run them on the website to drive people to newsstand. They're taking on a life of their own," he says.

Here's a video of Ward highlighting the upcoming May issue:

 

 

 

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Bill Mickey

The FOLIO: 100: A Call for Nominees

Bill Mickey Consumer - 02/07/2013-14:13 PM

 

 

The nomination period for the FOLIO: 100 is now officially open!

Yes, you read that right—we're expanding the magazine industry's best-known and most prestigious list of innovators, entrepreneurial thinkers and disrupters from 40 to 100. The more the merrier.

Starting now you can help shape the list by nominating a colleague—either at your company or at another one—that has made a meaningful, quantifiable impact on a specific product, group, company or even the market at large.

"Quantifiable impact" is the key phrase—this isn't a popularity contest, anyone from inside the org chart can make this list, just be ready to back up your nomination with some solid supporting info, which you can do here.

Remember, not every FOLIO: 100 list-maker is a top executive—innovation and constructive change often comes from the front lines and the trenches, let's be sure those folks get their due, too—from editors to publishers to sales, audience development, design, production and digital. All across consumer, b-to-b, regional, enthusiast and association publishing—big and small.

And now with the expanded list, we can include an even more diverse range of deserving go-getters.

Click here to fill out our easy nomination form. Nominations are due by March 4.

Here's last year's FOLIO: 40 to get you inspired.

We'll announce the 2013 FOLIO: 100 in April. Submit your nominations now and good luck!

 

 

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Greg Levitt

For Publishers, Social Media Trumps Search

Greg Levitt Audience Development - 02/05/2013-11:34 AM

 

Online publishers of all stripes have invested heavily in search to drive reader acquisition. With a market size approaching $3B in 2013, the SEO industry has thrived on the data feedback loops created by analyzing the keywords that users enter into search engines before arriving at their sites or competitive sites. Yet despite continued growth in user search activity and increasingly sophisticated keyword analysis tools, 2013 is shaping up to be the first year that social media eclipses search as the leading source of referral traffic to publishers. How could this be?

Two parallel trends are driving this sea change. The first is Google’s recent shift to encrypt search keywords for a significant segment of search referrals. This move—followed by corresponding browser updates in 2012 by Firefox, Safari on iOS, and now Chrome to use Google SSL search by default—means that up to 39 percent of keyword data has vanished from publisher analytics systems. Less keyword data means fewer content insights, and fewer content insights means lower ROI from SEO. As publishers recognize lower yields from their search strategies, many will moderate their investment in this channel leading to reductions in search referral traffic.

The second trend is the torrid growth of user-powered content sharing on Facebook and Twitter that has turned a trickle of social media traffic to publisher sites into a flood. It’s worth noting that social traffic is not a new phenomenon—consumers have been sharing web content and URLs with friends and colleagues via email since the first Mosaic browser was released in 1993. What has changed is the way that social media sites structure and amplify a person’s network connections. The New Yorker article URL that was emailed to 10 friends back in 2005 would today be posted to 500 friends on Facebook and 1,000 Twitter followers. And as the Likes, Shares, and Retweets pile up, the reach and traffic impacts get magnified.

For example, The Atlantic recently reported statistics that measured social sources as 18 percent of total referral traffic across a basket of premium publisher sites. Search represented 22 percent of referral traffic. For an increasing number of publications, including The Atlantic, social traffic already far exceeds search in importance. As the quantity of search keyword data continues to decline—and as the quality of social analytics continues to improve—it’s not hard to imagine a tipping point occurring in 2013 where much of the time and resources currently spent against SEO will transition over to optimizing social channels.

A major wildcard impacting the relative importance of social traffic versus search is the steady growth in mobile content consumption. Specifically: Will mobile devices expand the overall amount of sharing and search behavior, or simply cannibalize existing desktop behavior? comScore’s November 2012 Search Query Report showed volumes declining by over 6 percent versus October 2011 on desktops. While growth in mobile search volumes offset those declines, the trend is clear: Consumers are substituting desktop queries with mobile queries. On the other hand, social network usage on mobile devices continues to explode, even as desktop-based usage also increases.  According to a recent study by Nielsen, time spent on social media increased by 68 percent YOY on mobile devices versus a 24 percent increase on desktops.

What can publishers do to tap into this trend? With social media on track to surpass search, 2013 is shaping up as a pivotal year when social networks leapfrog search algorithms as a more important source of user traffic. Publishers have an opportunity to gain insight into what content is being shared the most, as well as what types of articles drive the most referral traffic, in order to continue to grow their readership and engagement levels.

 

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Robert Newman

Are You a Cover Junkie?

Robert Newman Design and Production - 01/31/2013-10:49 AM

 

Days before last week’s debut of The New Republic’s redesign, its new cover was posted and circulating around the web. The buzz was on, and people were tweeting and commenting on it before the magazine itself was even available for viewing. Today, every editor and art director thinks about creating a magazine cover that can go viral, that will work at multiple sizes on a wide variety of displays and platforms and create hype. Along with this, websites like Coverjunkie, NASCAPAS, and others are now providing a visual forum for magazine covers from all over the world to be displayed and distributed.

The Coverjunkie site just celebrated its second anniversary. It was launched in late 2010, the brainchild of Dutch art director Jaap Biemans [pictured below], who has done cover designs for the weekly Intermediair and the glossy, Vanity Fair-like Hollands Diep, before moving over to art direct Volkskrant Magazine, the weekly magazine supplement of a large Dutch newspaper (it’s basically The New York Times Magazine of the Netherlands). Biemans recognized early on that for many publications, the days of covers getting “heat” on the newsstand were a thing of the past. To date he’s posted over 11,500 covers, and Coverjunkie has become a daily must-destination for magazine art directors around the world.

Biemans interned at a design firm in NYC in the late 90s, and that New York experience has informed his design and editorial sensibilities. And while Coverjunkie has a definite global reach, he has a big soft spot for very American style-magazine cover design, as well as for the funky, gonzo-style designs of altweekly newspapers like The Village Voice.

What sets Coverjunkie apart from other cover sites is both the quantity of posts, and the fact that it’s well-organized and highly searchable. Biemans collects covers by publication, theme (9/11, split-run, premier issues), and art director, and he also publishes complete credit information, a rarity. His tastes are very egalitarian; there’s a healthy mix of consumer, mass market, enthusiast, trade, city and regional, and altweekly covers, with selections from Italy, England, Germany, Russian, and of course, The Netherlands. He also has a strong social media presence on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, which helps spread the Coverjunkie cover selects fast and far.

Coverjunkie is a one-person labor of love for Biemans, but it’s a project that is helping to redefine the essence of how magazines design and promote their covers. In a recent interview, Biemans gave the lowdown on how he puts the site together, and what makes a good Coverjunkie cover.

Why did you start Coverjunkie?

Biemans: I wanted to celebrate creativity in magazine design, to spread the love for ace cover design. And it was also a response to the “print is dead” statement, which I think is a lot of rubbish! I think a cover is more than just about selling itself, it’s also a reflection of our visual culture. On Coverjunkie you can see this reflection from all around the world, as well as from different decades.

How do you find the covers you post?

Biemans: I browse the good old newsstand and look online and on Twitter. Right now I get 10-15 covers a day by email, some good, some bad. The best thing about Coverjunkie is that some mags send me hard copies. I love that; it gives me a fab feeling. 



How do you select what goes on Coverjunkie?

Biemans: Posting everything would be impossible; I get too many covers sent to me. I post the most creative ones, the remarkable ones, the covers that stand out. The hardest part about Coverjunkie is editing the covers and then telling art directors that their covers are not creative enough, and that I can’t post them. I try to email everyone to explain. I hate disappointing people because I know they’re trying to create sweet stuff. But again, I have to be rigorous; when there are weak covers on the website it loses its strength. 



What makes a good magazine cover?

Biemans: It’s the creativity that counts. My motto on the site is “covers that smack you in the face or that you want to lick!” I think the ace cover contains news, a vibe, and creativity. Most of the covers have only two out of three of these ingredients. But when it carries three out of three you have an epic one. For many magazines, newsstand used to be the big indicator, but it's increasingly not that important, at least not in the U.S. I think a cover these days is more about making a statement instead of selling. It’s about creating a vibe that the reader likes (or maybe dislikes). A magazine cover is part of a brand, a very important part because it has a soul and it can give feeling and depth to a brand.

What magazines do you think consistently do the most interesting or memorable covers?



Biemans: I definitely prefer magazines that use a different approach with each cover, who use their cover design to make a statement or to spark and surprise their readers. I like The New Yorker when they put newsy items on their covers. And I think The New York Times Magazine and New York rock it hard. Bloomberg Businessweek, they’re crazy, and what I like about them is that creative director Richard Turley and his team take charge and are very brave. I love all the altweeklies from the U.S., like SF Weekly and San Antonio Current! They don’t have big budgets but they create extraordinary stuff. There’s Spanish Metropoli, Texas Monthly, Vice, IL from Italy, Wired from the U.S., UK and Italy, Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin from Germany….

What advice do you have for editors, art directors and others to create great magazine covers?




Biemans: Three things: guts, guts, and guts. Mix that with talented designers with soul and a fab editor to create the best headlines. I’m a strong believer that creativity brings great pleasure to readers, whether it’s on an iPad, website, magazine or even cellphone. I don’t care as long as it’s well-designed and made with soul.
 

 

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Bill Mickey

Moving from 'Magazines' to 'Media'

Bill Mickey Consumer - 01/29/2013-16:18 PM

 

Any company that's grown up targeting the magazine business the past few decades has no doubt had to come to terms with the new media landscape, particularly if its name is directly tied to print media.

Heck, we're mulling through this now with FOLIO:, which is still "The Magazine for Magazine Management."

The main associations that serve the industry have already rebranded, as did ABC recently.

MagazineRadar, a data service that has helped magazine publishers know more about brands and the people that buy them, got caught in the same dilemma. It's just rebranded itself as MediaRadar. Not a particularly big stretch, but it's definitely symbolic of the changes happening all around us.

As an example, the company has been tracking just over one million brands that are buying online ads and in the process of doing so has uncovered some interesting patterns in how those digital buys overlap, or don't overlap, print.

"The number-one discovery was the size of the online ad market is much larger than we understood," says co-founder Todd Krizelman. "If we just look on the consumer side of MPA titles, out of the people who buy MPA magazines, only a third of those are showing up on [the brand's] website. We're 20 years into the web and only one-third are buying on the same set of websites."

Surprisingly, there appears to be very little overlap, or integrated sales, going on.

In the third quarter of 2012, for example, MediaRadar found that about 9,000 brands advertised in the MPA-member consumer magazines it tracks. There were 12,000 brands that advertised on those titles' websites. But only 3,000 were integrated buys—leaving about 9,000 advertisers that were only buying digital with those brands.

There are some brands that have done particularly well through integrated buys, but that discrepancy is one reason digital-only publishers have done as well as they have, says Krizelman. "One of the reasons they've been successful is not that they've stolen clients, but exploited the knowledge that there's thousands of advertisers that buy only online."

 


 

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Roy Beagley

Telemarketing: A Splendid Circulation Source

Roy Beagley Audience Development - 01/24/2013-16:12 PM

 

Talking to your customers is always a good thing, and at the moment telemarketing seems to work very well for many publishers—but be careful as you can overstay your welcome.
 
Avoid the temptation to ask your customers everything in one go. This will confuse some, annoy others and may result in an order not being completed. This is true for both paid and controlled publications, but for different reasons. If someone is receiving a magazine free of charge it is reasonable to elicit some information from him or her; this is the reason they are getting the magazine free, after all.
 
However, if you ask too many questions it may result in a firm but call-ending hang up. Ask the subscriber if you can send a follow up email with some more questions that it would be useful “for us to know, so that we can serve you better.” If they say yes, the telemarketing company can probably send the email out straight away.
 
If the person you are calling has paid for a subscription, be careful when asking for information. Many subscribers feel paying for a subscription also pays for their privacy. However, people are also very flattered when you seek their advice or opinion, so how you phrase your question can be the difference between getting the information you want and the aforementioned call-ending hang-up. Flattery is almost always a good thing.
 
When choosing a telemarketing company, take time to review the references you got from them. Talk to people in the industry to see if they have an opinion. The company you choose is going to represent you in a one-to-one conversation with either your subscribers or prospects—this will reflect on your company so choose wisely.
 
There are very few methods of promotion where we have direct interaction with our customers or prospects. Telemarketing is one, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression—do not let price be the only factor that dictates your decision. There will always be at least one caller who complains, that is normal. If you are conducting a large program, probably more than one complaint will be received. Calmly call the account manager at the telemarketing company, have them review the call with you and make a decision together on how to resolve any issues.
 
If you are prospecting for new orders, review the results the telemarketing company sends each day and after a few days of calling, prioritize the calling so that you can get the maximum number of orders for the least amount of money—especially if paying by the hour. Ensure you key each list correctly and that you do measure like for like. Comparing a list that has a 30 percent conversion with 5,000 names called cannot really be compared to a list that has a 10 percent conversion but only 1,000 names called. Many a bad decision has been made on too little information.
 
For many years, telemarketing was considered the “bad boy” of circulation. Nobody really wanted it on his or her Publisher’s Statement. Now, just like black coffee, eggs, chocolate and red wine—all in moderation, course—telemarketing has a good reputation and can be a splendid source of circulation and revenue for publishers.


 
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 consumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.

 

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Samir Husni

All Good Print Magazines Go to Digital Heaven…Or Do They?

Samir Husni Consumer - 01/22/2013-17:10 PM

 

When a publication decides its earthly existence as a print life form is no longer a viable option and instead takes on a digital-only presence, is it really a heaven-sent opportunity or is it actually a gentle nudge by the minions of magazine hell to push it into its final resting place? If your print product isn’t connecting with an audience, is it really going to flourish among a billion more nondescript URLs or a million other apps?

Think about it, please. And take a look at a few lost souls while you’re at it.

Flashback 2006


When Teen People closed its print magazine in 2006, it decided to make digital confetti out of the pages and toss the remnants on the print product’s grave in celebration. With a still healthy circulation of 1.5 million in the second half of 2005, Teen People displaced about 50 employees—with the promise of finding them spots within the company—and, according to Ann Moore and John Huey, set about to “invest in the brand through Teenpeople.com, which shows promise and growth.”

Flash Forward 2013

The only presence that remains of Teenpeople.com today is at the home of the magazine’s parents: PeopleMagazine.com. Apparently, when living on its own didn’t quite pan out, mommy and daddy allowed their child to come home.

Too bad some of the other print magazines that went digital-only didn’t have parents quite so affluent.

Going digital-only screams salvation to some print products that are battling low ad pages and declining circulation, but the question remains: If you’re not selling ads in your ink-on-paper magazine, what in the world makes you think you’re going to make gazillions of dollars on the web?

Even with automated ad sales systems, consumer magazine sites aren’t garnering all that much from their digital counterparts.

Flashback 2009

Gourmet in print became another headstone in the “Ink-on-Paper Cemetery,” when Condè Nast killed it in 2009. Just the previous year, Gourmet had had a circulation of around one million, but its ad pages had dropped. And the magazine wasn’t doing as well as its sister magazine, Bon Appétit, which was also owned by Condè Nast. But it would soon be reborn as an app for iPad called Gourmet Live.

Flash Forward 2013

Gourmet Live is officially done, as far as any new content is concerned. According to a spokesperson for Condè Nast, the app itself will remain intact, but it won’t be updated. However, Gourmet.com will continue to be updated as the main platform of the brand.

Where have we heard that before?

Flashback 2011

American Media, Inc. (AMI), a leading publisher of celebrity magazines, announced the launch of Reality Weekly, the first magazine devoted only to Reality TV shows and its new mega-stars. Included in the hype around this blockbuster idea was the companion website for folks who just couldn’t get enough of the inside info that must surely abound on television shows such as these.

The launch was fan-fared with the fact that the magazine would sell at all the mass merchant locations: Wal-Mart, Kroger, Dollar General, Kmart, A&P and Rite-Aid and would be priced a mere $1.79 (“Less Money, More Fun”). Really.

“I’m proud to introduce a magazine that gives readers the news they want about television’s most popular genre. Print remains one of our most effective mediums, which is why Reality Weekly will be a showcase launch of 2012,” said David J. Pecker, AMI’s Chairman, President and CEO, at the time.

Flash Forward 2013

Before 2012 was over, the magazine folded. The website hasn’t been updated since July 2012. However, that same month AMI folded the magazine, it announced that it was naming Joe Bilman as its first chief digital officer and set the lofty goal (at the time Mr. Bilman was hired) of building its digital revenue to $50 million. Accordingly, AMI resolved to try Reality Weekly as a free tablet app that summer.

They followed that with a big splashy ad that screamed at the consumer: “Reality Weekly…We’re Going Digital.”

But where are they now?

The magazines mentioned here are not the only ones. What about Elle Girl, Cosmo Girl? Digital brands such as PC Mag and Sporting News, while still breathing that oh-so thin digital air, are mere shadows of their former print selves.

When you lose contact with the people who matter, your customers, and treat them as numbers instead of members of this community of experiences you have created for them, you’re going to lose them, whether the neighborhood is print or digital.

And what about Newsweek?

As the New York Times put it so eloquently: From the start, it was an unwieldy melding of two newsrooms: a legacy print magazine, Newsweek, combined with an irreverent digital news site, The Daily Beast.

Now the 79-year-old, once highly-respected news magazine must co-exist next to an entity called “The Daily Beast,” its new significant other.

The sacred vow that some publications make with their new life partner, digital, is usually a last-ditch effort to save a customer and product bond that was broken many times earlier. When you have a brand so highly known in print and you suddenly jerk that trusted and cherished product out from under your customers’ feet, why do you bemoan your fate when, one day, you have to take that digital shingle down for good?

Right now, Newsweek is looking for digital heaven, as others are. Let’s just hope the abyss that lies before them doesn’t lead to purgatory instead.

The Moral of the Story?

At the end of the day if we don’t we create a community where we make our customers feel like members instead of just numbers after a dollar sign, we won’t have anything to publish in print or digital—no long-lasting relationship, anyway, merely a one-night stand.

The minute you lose your connectivity with your customers (readers, users, viewers, listeners, whatever you call them), you’re in trouble. And if you fail to connect with them time and time again, even going to that digital heaven online can’t save you. Cut your losses, let your magazine die in peace and don’t torture it anymore.

Stop being in the game of numbers and change to a game of members instead.

 

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Tony Silber

Reflecting on John Suhler’s Impact

Tony Silber Consumer - 01/17/2013-16:40 PM

 

Min wrote about John Suhler’s retirement last week. Other than that, and some mentions in the financial-industry media, his retirement didn’t make much news. To me, that’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 IDG’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 on—a boom that with its spectacular successes and equally remarkable flameouts has transformed the industry.

But Suhler’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, “The dinner table was a circulation bootcamp. I wasn’t bathed in football,” he says. “I was bathed in the language and the people and the activities of large-circulation magazines.”

Suhler 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. Suhler’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 skills— And marketing planning and creative subscription offers like, “try a subscription for no cost, but if you like the magazine, we will bill you at our best introductory offer”—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 here’s another numeric measurement of Suhler’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.

 

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Jason Young

Where Google Misses the Mark for Premium Publishers

Jason Young emedia and Technology - 01/15/2013-15:32 PM

 

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 publishers’ own direct efforts to sell a similar product.

Display is a different ballgame. A premium publisher’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.

Google’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 position—a text ad, from a direct response marketer, sold for less than 10 percent of what the publishers’ 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 don’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 I’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; I’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 what’s running there.

So what can you do if you’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 sold—as a high-value, high-impact display unit.
2. Work with specialist networks that focus on premium inventory and premium brands.
3. If you’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 you’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.

Don’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 don’t have the resources to do this, so they default to something that in the long run undermines their business.   

Be smart. Protect the premium value of your brand and inventory. 

 

 

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Michael Rondon

MediaNext Wrap-Up

Michael Rondon Consumer - 01/10/2013-14:03 PM

 

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. DiGuido’s store—surrounded by larger, cheaper competitors—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.  “Legacy media has not been aggressive enough in modifying value proposition,” 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 negative—“Nobody talks as much as we do about our own demise,” 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 doesn’t mean it will go away. Print ad revenues bypassed radio in 1935; television bypassed radio in 1955—after playing third-fiddle for more than a half-century, radio is still relevant.

In sales and marketing, Stephen Acunto, account manager with Hearst Men’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 yesteryear—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.

“Social media is so powerful it topples governments,” said Ennen. “Why would you think it couldn't help your media company?”

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 events—as well as a partnership with Bon Appétit.

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 “research and insights officers” 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 Martin’s best advice to Time Inc.’s editors about how to engage their Native readers? “Make it quick, make it easy and make it emotional.”

It may not be the advice their Immigrant editors want to hear, but it’s what they’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 can’t, and extend and reinforce their brands.

In the conference session titled “Conferences, Meet-ups, Mixers and Summits,” 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.

“In fact, it generates more revenue than anything else we do,” Clemons said, “including the magazine.”

For specific keynote session coverage, visit:

• MediaNext Show: Thriving in the Age of Transformation
• MediaNext: LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth Shares
• MediaNext: From Upstart to Powerhouse
• MediaNext: Scaling Quality Journalism

 

 

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Bill Mickey

Congress Leaves USPS Hanging

Bill Mickey Audience Development - 01/03/2013-16:09 PM

 

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. 

Ranks have been reduced by 60,000 carriers  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.

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