Connect with FOLIO:
         

ADVERTISEMENT




Dylan Stableford

Gawker Media Trims Three Blogs from Portfolio

Dylan Stableford M and A and Finance - 04/14/2008-13:51 PM

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton (and FOLIO: 40 alum) has always thought of his snarky blog network as something of a Condé Nast of the blogosphere. Now, after months of speculation, Denton has trimmed three titles from his portfolio—selling his music blog, Idolator, to Buzznet (which recently purchased Idolator's chief rival, Stereogum), travel blog Gridskipper to Curbed (the real estate blog network—helmed by former Gawker managing editor Lockhart Steele—in which Gawker Media is an investor) and Washington, D.C.-based Wonkette to managing editor Ken Layne.

Denton's e-mail to staffers:

I'm amazed we've managed to keep a lid on this news; that, given your naturally gossipy natures, must be a first! We're spinning off three sites: Idolator, Gridskipper and-this one may be a surprise-Wonkette. There were indeed some rumors about Maura Johnston's music blog late last year; they were true of course. For reasons that I'll explain below, both it and our travel and politics sites have better commercial futures outside Gawker than within. (Excuse the corporate lingo: some of it is unavoidable.) But, first, the facts, which will be hitting the wires later this morning, or as soon as you leak this email. Go ahead!

* IDOLATOR is going to Buzznet, a music-focused web and social network. Buzznet recently acquired Idolator's chief rival, Stereogum, and received a big investment from Universal Music Group.

* GRIDSKIPPER isn't going far: it's being taken over by Curbed, the network founded by Lockhart Steele, in which Gawker Media is a shareholder.

* WONKETTE is being spun off to the managing editor, Ken Layne, former founder of one of the web's very first news sites, Tabloid.net. The title will become part of the Blogads network of political sites, which includes Daily Kos, among others.

Why these three sites? To be blunt: they each had their editorial successes; but someone else will have better luck selling the advertising than we did.

Music audiences are fragmented across genres; Maura's Idolator gave Stereogum a good run, but a group with a whole array of music sites will command more attention from record labels than we could. In the case of Gridskipper, our urban travel guide, we could never match Curbed in attention to city-specific content and advertising. As for Wonkette: political advertisers are a strange breed; they don't come through the same agencies our sales people deal with.

I'm relieved we've found pretty decent homes for the three sites, and most of their writers, but we're gutted to lose them. Idolator's Pop Critic's Poll was a tremendous coup-and Patric's bleeding-heart logo for the site was one of my favorites. Gridskipper is so far the most sophisticated travel blog: it entirely deserved its inclusion in Time's list of the 50 coolest websites.

And Wonkette is one of the brands with which the company is most associated; people will be shocked that we would ever part with it. The political site has won an array of Bloggies and other awards; it introduced the word ass-fucking into the dictionary of political abuse; the founding editor's slippers are even on display in the new media museum in Washington, DC. And Ken and his team have brought a new liveliness to the site this election season—validated by the record traffic of the last three months.

So why not wait, at least till the election? Well, since the end of last year, we've been expecting a downturn. Scratch that: since the middle of 2006, when we sold off Screenhead, shuttered Sploid and declared we were "hunkering down", we've been waiting for the internet bubble to burst. No, really, this time. And, even if not, better safe than sorry; and better too early than too late.

Everybody says that the internet is special; that advertising is still moving away from print and TV; and Gawker sites are still growing in traffic by about 90% a year, way faster than the web as a whole. But it would be naive to think that we can merely power through an advertising recession. We need to concentrate our energies, and the time of Chris Batty's sales group, on the sites with the greatest potential for audience and advertising.

The dozen sites that remain represent some 97% or our 228m pageviews per month, and an even higher proportion of our growth and advertising revenue. (Key facts are below, in case anyone asks.) We'll be able to devote more attention to breakouts such as Jezebel and io9, as well as established titles such as Gizmodo and Kotaku, which are becoming utterly dominant in their domains. And, then, once this recession is done with, and we come up from the bunker to survey the internet wasteland around us, we can decide on what new territories we want to colonize.

Both Noah and I are around to answer any questions. On email, IM, or phone. I'm [redacted] and Noah is on [redacted].

Regards

Nick

—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—-—

GAWKER MEDIA KEY FACTS
* A dozen sites, Gizmodo first launched in August 2002, most recent, io9, in January 2008
* Gawker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Deadspin, Defamer, Jezebel, Valleywag, io9, Consumerist, Fleshbot
* A record 18 "Bloggie" nominations in 2008, way more than any other blog collective (one of those was for Idolator)
* Audience of 29.7m unique visitors a month for the whole network, up 82% at annualized rate (http://www.quantcast.com/p-d4P3FpSypJrlA)
* Each individual site has at least 1m uniques or, in the case of io9, soon will
* Pageviews of 227m in March — 219m if you take out the three sites being spun out — up 89% on a year earlier (Sitemeter)
* For those who measure these things, Gawker is the web's leading independent blog group

More...
Jandos Rothstein

Missbehave's Eureka Moment

Jandos Rothstein Design and Production - 04/14/2008-11:46 AM

I wasn’t there at the eureka moment that spawned Missbehave, but I imagine it went something like this:

Editor: “We need something different ... something like a magazine, but not like a magazine ... something bold, yet decisive ... wild, frilly and feminine, yet sturdy and down to earth with machismo and swagger ... a design that speaks Indo-European with an outrageous fake French accent ... [art director begins to look uncomfortable, time passes] ... something sweet, yet sharp….soft, yet dangerous…crunchy, but with a hot molten center…..[more time passes, art director begins flipping absently through a copy of the Village Voice] ... something grassy, with good legs, yet impudent and saucy ... [more time passes] ... something ... oh, I don’t know, WSY?”

Art Director [By now feeling hostile, yet caught off guard, never imagining that editor would ever stop talking stares at the random Voice page in front of her hoping for something—anything—to say. She points to a club ad—one of those single column jobs, in which every band name is as big as possible (in the case of a one-col, about 24 pt) set in a different wacky display font and set off with a smattering of rules and booger-sized pub shots]: “See this? see this?” she says. “Let’s take this ad and extend the concept to an entire magazine!”

The crazy thing is, it all kinda works. The type is such a delicate and sophisticated balance of the preposterous—a mash up of multiple eras and tastes pulled off with aplomb. More than that, the mix seems appropriate for this relatively new magazine. It would be misleading to call Missbehave a gender-bender, nevertheless the grrl-power title walks the line between Maxim’s swagger and Cosmo’s sexual sincerity a little more convincingly than most gender-focused magazines.

m

Missbehave’s models are less kempt, more ordinary, and more overtly sexual than the models that grace the pages of most women’s titles. Cover model Amber Heard’s hair is mussed, and her clothing is more revealing than flattering. On the inside, she poses, legs splayed on a beach ball. Generally, the magazine exhibits a disarming comfort with nooky that’s anything but Ken-and-Barbiesque. References include a fashion spread with furries (see Dan Savage if you don’t get the reference); and hook ups and extra-marital dalliances seem assumed rather than pondered. Yes, women’s magazines have plenty of bedroom advice and a bit of blue fiction, but it’s hard to imagine Cosmo running something like “DILF hunter.” Lede Graf: “Hugh Laurie, you’re 48 and you have needs. You live in L.A. your kids and wife do not. I don’t need a dry erase board, a bajillion years of medical school, and the Socratic method to suss out what you, my Dr House DILF (Dad I’d Like to Fuck) are afflicted with.”

Missbehave

In Missbehave, the editorial posturing can occasionally get to be a bit much—a quality it shares with men’s titles. Under the headline “How to be a Trophy Wife” is a stream-of-conciousness that begins: “Don’t pick at it! The scabs only last for four days, unless you pick at it. Stop. And even if the Restlyane bruise looks like you got a beer can heel-kicked into your nasolabials, you should never put Dermablend on your face. Unless you’re a local newscaster. Can I tell you something? Get your fingers out of my Cobb salad! No, really, ever since I swam with dolphins off of Lompoc, I find my twins—Valeska and Bentley—to be suppressive persons. They’re 8 now and it’s obvious they’re not so spiritual. We sent them to Outward Bound. We hope they catch autism. They’d be good at science.”

You know, I was hoping there’d be something I could use there. I’d actually like to be a trophy wife, but not if it means having to slog through this blather.

Missbehave

But some of the other writing, at least when you get through the off-putting ledes, is quite a bit better. There isn’t the editorial assumption that the reader is seeking self-improvement (or the appearance thereof). which seems to drive many women’s magazines, and that makes Missbehave both surprising and unusual. If there’s bluster there’s also a tone of self-confidence that the titles that orbit around fashion (people better dressed than you) beauty (people better looking than you) and celebrity (people richer and more talented than you) by necessity lack. Not that there’s none of that stuff here, it’s just kept to a tasteless minimum. It’ll be interesting to see how this title evolves.

Missbehave

A feature celebrates indulgence, although apparently the most indulgent thing they can think of is Taco Bell:

Missbehave

First spread of long fashion layout:

Missbehave

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]

More...
Dylan Stableford

Penton Memo to Employees: Hiring, Salary Freeze

Dylan Stableford - 04/14/2008-11:14 AM

SEE RELATED STORY: Penton Media Announces Hiring, Salary Freeze, Company-Wide Revenue Reforecasting

This memo, obtained by FOLIO:, was sent Friday by CEO John French to Penton staffers:

To All Penton Employees:

Recently, we've enjoyed success in certain areas of the company. Specifically, Penton's Exhibitions Group is off to a strong start to the year highlighted by the success of the Expo West event (one of New Hope's tradeshows covering the healthy products industry) in Anaheim, CA that drew record crowds and posted record financial results.

Registered Rep, in the Financial Services Group had a record first quarter. Many of our information data products are off to a strong start to the year as well. However, we are experiencing financial challenges in many other areas of the company. I'm writing today to discuss the challenges we will be facing together in the months ahead and the steps we will be taking as a company to address them.

Over the last several weeks, I have been meeting with our senior managers to review their revenue projections for the remainder of the year. Based on our forecasts, we project considerable revenue challenges for the balance of the year.

We are by no means alone in this situation. Many media companies, and many of our customers across a wide variety of sectors, have been affected by the recessionary economy. Virtually every one of our peers in the media industry has taken action to reduce their operating costs.

Penton is a strong company and we will be taking aggressive steps to address this revenue shortfall and protect our market positions. I have asked for a complete reforecast from all of our product managers, including a restated revenue forecast and a projected expense forecast for the remainder of 2008. We expect to complete this process by the end of April. Once we have completed our companywide review, I'll report back to you on our findings.

While the decline in revenue is problematic, it is only part of the story. This year we are facing significant increases in some of our largest, fixed operating expenses including the cost of postage and the cost of paper. The increases in these expenses coupled with the revenue decline have forced us to closely examine all of our operating costs.

As a result, we will be instituting the following company-wide policies:

• Hiring Freeze: Effective immediately, we are putting a hold on all hiring activity at Penton. This applies to all hires (full time and part time), regardless of where they are in the hiring process. The only exceptions to this will be key hires including those in the New Media Group, as these activities are critical to our revenue growth plans for both the near and long-term future; hiring in the Buyer's Guide Group in Overland Park, as we are relocating this function from Cleveland; hiring for the Helpdesk to replace the Unysis contract; which represents a significant cost savings to the organization; and hiring a new Chief Financial Officer, as this position is critical to the financial leadership of the organization.

• Salary Freeze: We will maintain salaries at their current levels at Penton. I know many of you were anticipating a salary increase in April. Our priority at this point, however, is to take every action we can now to minimize staff reductions in the future. Until we see indications of bottom-line improvement, we will freeze salaries for all employees.

• Cost Savings Initiative: In conjunction with the analysis conducted by the product managers on their respective businesses, I'm also asking each of you for your ideas on ways we can reduce our expenses.

Our greatest resource remains our people and I?m confident that many of you have insights into making our business more cost-effective.

Please direct your ideas to Eric Jacobson, SVP of Administration. Eric will consolidate this list and present it to me and other members of the Executive team for discussion. Eric may be reached at REDACTED@penton.com or XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Like many of you, I have personally experienced the difficulties of working through previous economic downturns. During times like these, we all need to focus on those issues we can control: finding new ways to work more effectively and efficiently; becoming even more creative in our thinking; and staying even closer to our industries and our customers.

I realize measures like the ones mentioned above are not popular and that many employees will be disappointed. However, you should know that I do not take these decisions lightly. My objective is to proactively take the steps necessary now to address our growing expenses in an effort to curtail the need to make more drastic moves in the future.

Thank you for your continued contributions to our company. Clearly, we will be going through some difficult times in the weeks and months ahead. However, Penton is a strong organization, and on balance, our future looks bright. As we move along in the process, I will send around periodic updates of our progress.

Please find posted to the Pulse http://thepulse.penton.com a short video and a set of frequently asked questions regarding these issues.

John

More...
Tony Silber

Ziff and Nielsen: The Backstory

Tony Silber B2B - 04/14/2008-09:06 AM

Two of the major b-to-b news stories this week—the restructuring at Ziff Davis Enterprise and the massive downsizing at Nielsen Co.—have interesting back stories.

When Steve Weitzner was named CEO of Ziff Davis Enterprise in January, he announced a major restructuring within days. The move surprised observers, but included no downsizing. The downsizing came this week.

But the cuts may have been foreshadowed last month when Insight Venture Partners—the company that carved out and acquired for $160 million a portion of Ziff Davis Media last June—took on a second private-equity partner. The new co-owner of ZDE was Bessemer Venture Partners, which put $20 million into the company in a move characterized as providing funding for acquisitions.

That may not be the case. Private-equity firms, says one industry source, are highly reluctant to dilute their equity position, and would only choose to do so in the event that they needed to-presumably because performance goals were not being hit.

This is, of course, pretty much pure speculation, but equity is the most expensive form of capital, and it's more likely that the BVP investment is a sign of turbulence than it's a bullish greenlight for acquisitions.

Regarding the Nielsen downsizing, one observer told me that it looks like standard General Electric practice. Of course, Nielsen CEO David Calhoun comes from GE. "It's the old GE playbook," the observer said. "They get handed their marching orders. Grow revenue in the high single digits and EBITDA by 15 percent. No questions asked."

More...
Josh Gordon

Magazines Top Source of Readership Trust

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 04/14/2008-08:41 AM

According to a study by MediaVest, magazines are more trusted than online for content in the three areas of entertainment, food/cooking, and fashion/beauty. But online is more trusted for health/wellness information.

Here are the five key findings of the study:

1. Print is more trusted than online in every category but Health/Wellness. Readers find print more trustworthy than online by a margin of 24 percentage points for Fashion/Beauty, 7 points for Food/Cooking, and 5 points for Entertainment.

2. Readers find online more Health/Wellness more trustworthy online than in print by a margin of 3 points.Despite the abundance of online content, few see online replacing print, with just 12% of respondents strongly believing that a publisher’s website could easily replace the printed magazine within the next 5 years.

3. Titles fail to deliver value online. 79% of dual magazine/online users agree that the online site should provide something new & different from the magazine. However, only 44% strongly believe that the publishers' sites are actually offering something unique.

4. Low duplication between print and online. Hovering between 1% and 6% for all categories but entertainment, where for certain titles, duplication reaches 10% at most.

5. Fashion/Beauty relies most faithfully on the printed publication, as it focuses on general trends. People are seven times more likely to go to the print publication for this category.

Read more here ... 

More...
Dylan Stableford

Weitzner Explains Cuts, Restructuring Logic

Dylan Stableford B2B - 04/11/2008-12:51 PM

Yesterday, FOLIO: reported on the lastest restructuring at Ziff Davis Enterprise. For those ZDE "completists" out there, here's the full e-mail exchange I had with CEO Steve Weitzner:

From: Dylan Stableford
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 1:46 PM
To: Steve Weitzner
Subject: folio: inquiry

Hi Steve:

I’m told ZDE is beginning its restructuring. Can you confirm:

How many jobs were affected?
Who was promoted?
Are there more job cuts coming?
What is the next step?

I’m on a tight deadline, so please get back to me as soon as possible.

Thanks!

Dylan


From: Steve Weitzner
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 1:53 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

Dylan I will be back to you in just a few minutes. Was in the middle of something.


From: Steve Weitzner
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:09 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

> How many jobs were affected?
We’re not commenting on the number of jobs affected but the changes we are making will be less extreme than some recent layoffs in the media industry. I am truly concerned with the loss of even one job and I wish this action were unnecessary. However, there are a number of changes to our structure that are fundamental to our continued success.

> Who was promoted?
Larry Walsh was promoted to VP and Group Publisher of our channel products. Kirk Laughlin was promoted to Managing Director of our Live Events Business. In addition, we announced that Mike Azzara has joined the company as SVP of product management for our online network and print brands. And Kevin Neary has joined as EVP and CFO.

> Are there more job cuts coming?
There are no additional cuts planned at this time.

>What is the next step?
We will have additional announcements coming up shortly regarding our expanded focus on online and user-driven content as well as improvements to our sales and client services operations.


From: Dylan Stableford
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:13 PM
To: Steve Weitzner
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

Thanks Steve. Keep us in the loop regarding anything upcoming.

One more question – how many people are employed at ZDE?


From: Steve Weitzner
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:18 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

Approximately 200.


From: Dylan Stableford
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:20 PM
To: Steve Weitzner
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

Thanks. Last question, I promise – would you consider this the second round of the planned restructuring. Or first?


From: Steve Weitzner
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 2:39 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: RE: folio: inquiry

Dylan, I wouldn’t call it a planned restructuring. There aren’t any rounds. When I first joined we made a number of changes in roles and responsibilities to more seamlessly integrate our operations across product lines, but without changing the number of positions in the company. The changes this week are the result of greater insight into how we can streamline our operations and better align our resources to meet the needs of our audience and our customers.

More...
Paul Conley

A Tough Year at Nielsen

Paul Conley B2B - 04/11/2008-12:39 PM

Bad news in the world of b-to-b journalism. Nielsen Business Media, formerly known as VNU, has laid off a number of editorial staffers. FOLIO: magazine says it's "not immediately clear how many employees have been let go." FishbowlNY says between 40 and 50 jobs have been eliminated and cites an anonymous tipster who claims "most cuts (are) coming from the company's digital and conference arms."

It's been a tough year and a half at Nielsen. In that time the company has gone through a reorganization and name change, an ethics scandal and an earlier round of layoffs. And my heart goes out to the folks who lost their jobs today. I know what that's like. I've been laid off in the past. It's a truly awful feeling.

But the truth is that all of us in b-to-b are vulnerable now. And all of us need to be prepared for the possibility of job loss.

Several months I wrote on this blog that I was worried that 2008 would prove to be an awful year for our industry. And every week seems to bring news that indicates I'm right to be nervous.

Many of the major players in b-to-b publishing are leveraged to the hilt. And they seem to have bet the house on being able to find extraordinary amounts of new revenue in the online world. But since so many b-to-b editors still don't get Web journalism, many b-to-b Web sites remain laughably bad. And as the economy slows down, I just can't imagine that people will line up to spend money on crappy Web sites.

Even the very best Web sites in b-to-b are in trouble this year. Over and over again I hear from people who are struggling with demands from senior management for levels of growth that simply cannot happen. The ugly truth is that when the economy slows, you can't expect an every-growing number of people to to line up to spend an ever-increasing amount of money on any Web site—no matter how gorgeous, well-written, and filled with multimedia it may be.

I hope I turn out to be wrong about this. But I don't think today's layoffs will be the last we'll see in 2008. I'm worried that things are bad. I'm worried that they're getting worse. And as I said just last week, because so many B2B publishers are "privately held, we just don't know how ugly the balance sheets may be."

Note: Although Nielsen Co., the parent of Nielsen Business Media, is privately held, much of its finances are reported publicly. And things ain't pretty at Nielsen. Several days ago the company announced it would buy IAG Research for $225 million. To finance that purchase, Nielsen said it would sell $220 million in bonds. Or, in layman's terms, the company will borrow $220 million. But that new debt comes on top of some $8.47 billion in existing debt—and that has the credit agencies shaking their heads.

Even prior to word that Nielsen would return to the bond market to borrow again, Moody's had rated Nielsen's last round of debt Caa1—some seven levels below investment grade! That's about as junk-like as a junk bond can be.

More...
Matt Kinsman

Four Tips for Understanding Article Economics

Matt Kinsman - 04/10/2008-15:21 PM

Santa Monica-based Demand Media is one of those dot.coms traditional publishers should be paying close attention to. The network of more than 60 general and special interest sites such as eHow.com and Cracked.com draws more than 60 million unique visitors per month by leveraging user-generated content including articles and video (according to a Forbes article, Demand Media has paid out more than $20,000 to one contributor at ExpertVillage.com).

It's a model that's working. Demand Media generates about $150 million, is profitable and there is talk of prepping for an IPO in 2009. But the biggest takeaway for traditional publishers isn't so much how Demand has been able to leverage user-generated content as a viable business model but the way the company has developed algorithms that predict how content will perform in terms of driving traffic.

Before we get too far into this, no, they aren't sharing the secret sauce (partly for obvious proprietary concerns but also because partnering with traditional publishers is an easy meal ticket). But co-founder Shawn Colo does offer some general tips for publishers on how to take stock of their content. "You have to follow logic of ‘it's a search-driven world,'" adds Colo. "Editorial quality has nothing to do with findability but it has everything to do with keeping the audience engaged."

1. Can your editors write a killer headline? Great. Now make sure they can write it for the search engines too. "Our staff editors spend a lot of time working on titling and making sure articles are optimized for search," says Colo. "For video, editors might go back in and edit the metadata to make sure they're optimized for search as well."

2. Collect and analyze as much data as you can, including keyword pricing. "You've got to have a lot of data to really prioritize which articles work well," says Colo. "It's a combination of a lot of things we as a company have built, a lot of what we've done on the registrar side, look at key word prices as a metric of how to determine value."

3. Give content the chance to mature. In today's "go-go" Web atmosphere, constant updates are mandatory. But does that reduce the chance of people seeing it? "We worked with a publisher who had an editorial calendar that they refreshed weekly," says Colo. "But they were changing articles just as they were reaching their maturity from a search perspective. Just as they hit maximum earning potential, they were taken off the site."

4. Context, not content is king, and that's true for social media as well. "Now that you have a community tab, that doesn't mean you have a community," says Colo. "You want to make sure people can comment within articles and you need to show profiles in a contextual way, not just have them off in this dark community corner."

 

More...
Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: Vogue’s Lebron and Gisele

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 04/09/2008-13:10 PM



Vogue’s latest cover—featuring basketball star Lebron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen—was notable for a number of reasons. For starters, it was just the third time a man had appeared on a Vogue cover (George Clooney and Richard Gere being the other two) and the first African-American male to do so. But the magazine quickly came under fire for what bloggers and other media critics saw as perpetuating the ugly stereotype of a black man as the “wild, savage, white-woman-obsessed beast,” as Gawker Media blog Jezebel put it. (One even suggested that those supporting the cover do a Google image search for “King Kong” for a comparison.)

Below, FOLIO:’s roving panel of designers weigh in on the controversial cover.

NAME: Stephanie Faucher
TITLE: Design director, Computerworld
CRITIQUE: My first reaction to this cover when I saw it at the grocery store was that the two images were so oddly paired. Giselle's exuberant face and posture is just so unnatural next to Lebron's manly roar. She almost looks like a cutout. I honestly didn't think "King Kong," I just thought "strange." But since having read the various reviews and looked at the comparison photos, the resemblance to King Kong is uncanny. I can't help but wonder if Vogue didn't intend to spark a controversy over the stereotypical nature of this image. After all, what better way to sell magazines than to run a controversial cover?

NAME: Kelly McMurray
TITLE: Creative director, 2communique
CRITIQUE: I heard there was controversy over this cover and went to the newsstand to check it out. I was looking for a controversial headline or a photo inspired by an iconic film still. What I see is an athlete in an aggressive stance. In my opinion this is a case of the people/media blowing something out of proportion and giving more attention to something than it merits.

NAME: C. Winslow Taft, Jr.
TITLE: Senior art director, mental_floss magazine
CRITIQUE: I don't feel qualified to comment on what many contend to be the controversial aspects of this cover. However, taking all of that out of the picture and simply looking at it as a cover, I don't think this is one of Vogue's most creative or enticing covers. I'm eagerly awaiting some amount of Brodovitch or Henry Wolf to show itself again on the cover of these magazines that show so much experimentation in their ideas for upcoming clothing trends.

NAME: Jennifer Perez
TITLE: Art director, Perez Dezign
CRITIQUE: Doesn't every cover perpetuate stereotypes? The weirdest thing about this cover is how bad Gisele looks.

NAME: Tim O'Brien
TITLE: Freelance illustrator, Rolling Stone
CRITIQUE: I'm critiquing this cover AFTER the media began speculation about whether or not it's a racially insensitive cover. I have to think that this is a case of a cover where all who had a hand in it getting published; photographer to designer to editor all thought only of this as a fun, dynamic image. Should designers carry around a special filter to question whether a cover or image is going to be interpreted as being viewed as inappropriate? I think so. Once the issue is raised, whether or not it is based on the designer's real intent, it's all that is remembered. Often cited as Time darkening a photo of O.J. Simpson, Matt Mahurin years ago did with an illustration what he does to ANYTHING he illustrates—he created a sense of depth and murkiness that make his illustrations so unique. The contrast from that image next to Newsweek running the same source image made it look like Time decided to darken O.J.—this is ludicrous of course and since that cover, I feel these kinds of blind spots are not so common. Vogue is always a type nightmare. I wonder if people actually choose to buy it based on any promised headline on the cover? I think people who buy this magazine would do so even if they had fewer headlines and allowed their cover image to have more impact. As for the image itself, I agree that the most remarkable thing here his how this isn't a good shot of Giselle and her neck is quite wide. I keep imagining that shoot and how they had to look 'fun' and make all kinds of runs at being active.

NAME: Dan Trombetto
TITLE: Art director, FOLIO:
CRITIQUE: The racial/stereotype issues aside, I simply do not like the shot here. It feels awkward to me—like Gisele is toppling over, almost as if she is tripping over Lebron's size 15 left sneaker. It also feels like the cover lines aren't playing so well with the image. Feels a little congested.

What do you think? Leave your own critiques in the comments section below ...

More...
Bill Mickey

Welcome to the ABM Spin Zone

Bill Mickey B2B - 04/09/2008-10:34 AM

Much like Bobby McFerrin's chirpy ode to blissful ignorance, ABM recently attempted to put a happy spin on its analysis of its own BIN report.

Essentially, both print ad revenue and pages ended 2007 down—not by a lot, 2 percent for revenue and 3.35 percent for pages, but down. And this after a flat 2006 in revenue and a slight decline in pages.

Now these kinds of things can be looked at from any number of angles. And no one, especially an association representing an entire industry, wants to be the bearer of bad news, much less voluntarily even touch a doomy outlook. For example, ABM notes that 13 of the 21 categories tracked showed increases in respective revenues. Fair enough. But then their analysis of the report takes it one step too far.

The computing, software, telecom category has been a freefall for the last three years, declining almost 30 percent in revenues since 2005—17.59 percent alone in 2007, according to the BIN reports.

Yet here's what ABM had to say in its analysis of the 2007 report entitled "Business-to-Business Media Experiences a Robust 2007":

"In fact, ignoring the ‘Computing, Software, Telecomm' category would result in an overall 0% change over 2006."

I love that! So why not just keep going with the other two top declining categories, business, advertising & marketing (-10.7 percent) and travel, business conventions & meetings (-6.95 percent)? I bet ignoring those as well would rocket 2007 to "robust" indeed.

More...
Joanna Pettas

For Appealing Magazine Cover Subjects, Try People, Not Objects

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 04/08/2008-16:16 PM

It can be harder than one might think to find an out-of-the-box cover for Face Up each month. This is especially true in b-to-b, since it’s not as simple as scanning the newsstand for a stand-out.

That’s why I was so excited to come across Functional Ingredients’ March issue, which looked to me like a young boy running on glass—but in jean shorts, like he was on recess at school. A person in every day life rather than an athlete running in an event, something we see all the time on the newsstand.

Turns out this annual issue usually features ingredients on its covers. Humans hardly ever make the cut. So the magazine went even further out on a limb and agreed to put their work to the test, offering the cover up for critique by FOLIO:’s Face Up panel of designers.

Overall, response was positive with some constructive criticism sprinkled in.

Now your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Offer your input on this cover by taking the Face Up survey (and a chance to win an iPod shuffle).

2. Offer up your magazine’s amazing, under-the-radar cover by emailing me at jpettas@red7media.com.

More...
Paul Conley

Some Holes Cannot Be Climbed Out Of

Paul Conley B2B - 04/08/2008-13:09 PM

Just days ago I urged journalism teachers to force students to learn about business and finance. In particular, I want students to understand debt financing, which has put a stranglehold on many publications.

My hope is that by understanding the murderously difficult environment in which many publishers operate, students will made better decisions about their career path.

To that end, I offer a reading assignment.

Reuters has published a lengthy and well-reasoned article showing that it will be damn near impossible for Sam Zell to avoid a default at the Tribune Co., which is groaning beneath $4 billion of debt and some tough-to-meet debt covenants. You can check out the article here. Students who take the CliffNotes approach to study can get everything they need from PaidContent's take.

Those of us in b-to-b should avoid the urge to feel smug about the nightmare that is newspaper finance. In our end of the industry, things are likely just as bad. But since so many of our major players are privately held, we just don't know how ugly the balance sheets may be.

And as I've said before, I'm worried.

Read more here ...

More...



CONNECT WITH FOLIO: NOW
         


CAREER CENTER dots icon