Friday, August 10, 2007

How to stay employed in today's publishing industry.

Keep Your Skills Sharp and Your Eyes Open
How to stay employed in today's publishing industry.
By Bob Sacks
Publishing Executive Magazine§ion=Unknown&swd=bob%20sacks

Do any of today's executives really understand tomorrow's publishing universe? And, do they truly understand tomorrow's publishing employee?

These are some brutal questions this industry must face. They are on everyone's mind. I know this because I have always received letters asking about the state of the publishing industry and its various employment positions. Yet now, there is a much greater urgency. Now, I receive dozens of letters each week with the same common denominator: How can I stay employed? Or, should I continue to seek employment in publishing?

Here is a sampling of some thoughts bouncing around inside my head: What kind of leadership should we seek today? Will we recognize publishing 10 years from now? Will the jobs and responsibilities then be the same as those we have today? Is the recent CMP Media news (among others) of folding printed products and sizable layoffs an aberration or a foretelling? If it's a foretelling, what is one to do about it? And the bottom-line question is: Should publishing personnel seek new careers?


We are at the end of phase one of the second publishing revolution. The first revolution was the advent of movable type and paper being available for the first time, at the same time. The second revolution started in the 1970s with the change from letterpress to offset printing. At this time, everything was growing, including the necessary workforce to render the quality products we now were capable of producing. These new steps included phototypesetting, color scanning and, into the early 1990s, the new desktop production workflows. This was great for the industry, as my good friend Dr. Joe Webb recently pointed out, because each step required uniquely skilled labor and produced a charge-back to the client.

Now, we are leaving the early stages of this already decades-long second publishing revolution. The Internet and its companion technologies have eliminated many of the multiple stops in the publishing cycle and opened up vast areas of less-expensive systems and methods for distributing our content.

The sophistication of information distribution is improving exponentially. Our former clients and advertisers are embracing emerging new channels and following consumer trends at lightning speeds. Everyone is seeking a one-to-one relationship, which is very difficult-but not impossible-for a dead-tree publisher. The deeper the niche of your product, the greater the appearance of a one-to-one relationship.

So what does all that mean to you and your job? Is there any stability on the horizon? The answer is "yes" for some . . . and "no" for others. If you are in the right place at the right time and you have the proven skill set, there are plenty of years of productivity left for you. But you must stay ahead of the technological curve.

Remember that the way we distribute information is rapidly changing. It's a fact that digital distribution will increasingly be the medium of choice as time goes on. To stay employed, you must be an able part of that change. There will always be a need for all the functions we perform today, such as editorial, art and design, production, distribution and sales. But nothing will be as it used to be. We all will need to be retrained and re-acclimated to the multitasking world of print/digital publishing.

What should we do? Keep your eyes open and be ready to jump ship at any time, for any legitimate new position, be it in this industry or another. Let's face an industry fact: Most employers have little loyalty to you, so, within reason, why should you extend an abundance of loyalty to them? Those days are long past. You must continue to be an excellent worker and valued employee, but changing jobs when the opportunity presents itself is mandatory under favorable conditions.

Stay as informed as possible, and make yourself as indispensable to management as possible. Understand all areas of the business, new and old. Understand and work with all the other departments. Make them think that without you, the magazine would never get out. That is what I have always done. It's a bit of a shell game, but you wouldn't believe how much it helps. PE

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.

Magazine business paid slave wages, Cuomo says

BoSacks Speaks Out: Every few years stories like the one below rise to the surface to remind us of our absolute desperation to keep up our rate base. Circ numbers at any price, yep . . . that's the motto.

It is despicable. Publishers will claim that that they had no idea who was pedaling their product or indeed that anything wrong was going on. Isn't that kind of statement telling enough?

P L E A S E! Who are you kidding? Smoke and mirrors, that is all. One more nail into the coffin of accountability. This damn insistence on deception annoys the hell out of me.

It's very late and I have a big road trip tomorrow morning, but I reserve the right in the next couple of days for a full fledged circulation rant. It is long over due.

"Deception is a cruel act... It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul."

Donna A. Favors (Member of the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Institute, 1955)

Magazine business paid slave wages, Cuomo says


The ads hook young recruits with the promise of free travel across the nation and the chance to earn hundreds of dollars a week, plus a $500 signing bonus - just for peddling magazines.

But that promising jobs pitch from Jaguar Sales is simply a fraud, according to a lawsuit filed against the company yesterday by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

The suit, filed in Dutchess County Court, alleges that Jaguar Sales exploited young workers by having them work long hours as door-to-door salespeople with no guarantee of earning money.

"They quickly discovered that every promise made to them was a sham," said Cuomo.

Based in Gig Harbor, Wash., Jaguar hires young people to sell subscriptions for mags like Rolling Stone, GQ and Shape.

"I thought this would be the perfect summer job for me," said Alexandria Brooks, a recent high school graduate from Mississippi. "I had never seen the country, my parents were okay with it and $400 to $750 a week is a lot of money for me."

The lawsuit, which seeks to bar the company from operating in New York and to have its salespeople receive unpaid commissions, accuses the company of deceptive labor practices.

Brooks, 18, quit last month after a six-week stint that took her to Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York. She charges that she never received the promised $500 bonus and the only money she ever got was $20 a day for meals and expenses. "I was like, this isn't the job for me," Brooks said.

A spokesman for Jaguar could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Do Print Buyers Lie?

Do Print Buyers Lie?
BY Suzanne Morgan

For years, the number one complaint that I heard from printers about print buyers is "all they care about is price." The pervasiveness of that comment surprised me because in the extensive work that I've done with major print buyers over the years, a printer having the lowest price is rarely the biggest factor in supplier selection. This made me suspect that perhaps print buyers aren't always honest with their printers about why they weren't awarded a project. That prompted the following survey:

In a Print Buyers Quick Poll of 82 top print buyers, buyers were asked "How often, if ever, do you tell a printer that they lost the job due to price as an easy answer, as opposed to the real reason why they weren't awarded the job?" Respondents stated the following:

· 2% of print buyers said: "often"
· 57% of print buyers said: "sometimes"
· 41% of print buyers said: "never"

Almost 6 out of 10 buyers sometimes use the reason "your price is too high" as an easy answer instead of the real reason why the printer wasn't awarded the job. There are myriad reasons why a buyer might tell this untruth - they don't like the sales rep, they don't trust the printer can do what they say they can do, company politics are forcing the buyer to give the job to someone else, etc.

One print buyer said he used this tactic "darn infrequently, but sometimes it's just plain easier than going into the detailed reasons of why I chose one printer over another. I know it's a 'cop out', but if the printer in question is one that I don't necessarily feel comfortable with, I use this excuse as wiggle room."

Another print buyer concurs: "We judge our printers on pricing, capabilities, knowledge/experience and gut instinct. I have a hard time telling a salesman, 'your pitch is slimy.' I'd rather tell him his pricing is off."

Still many print buyers would agree that honestly is the best policy. One buyer says "If the job is not awarded due to price than normally it is a service issue. . .and I try to tactfully communicate these types of issues to give the vendor an opportunity to address them in the future."

In any case, one of the problems with this untruth is that printers often have the impression that print media buyers are just looking for the cheapest price. Given the results of this poll, this may not be the case.

Internet Ad Spending Set To Overtake All Other Media By 2011:

Internet Ad Spending Set To Overtake All Other Media By 2011: VSS
by Laurie Petersen

SPENDING ON INTERNET ADVERTISING WILL reach $61.98 billion, and will surpass newspapers to become the nation's leading ad medium in 2011, projects private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson in its 21st Communications Industry Forecast released today.
"We are in the midst of a major shift in the media landscape that is being fueled by changes in technology, end-user behaviors and the response by brand marketers and communications companies," says James Rutherford, executive vice president and managing director at VSS.

At the same time, the consumer migration to digital media--which require less time investment than traditional media counterparts (think 3-minute YouTube clips versus 30-minute TV shows)--has spawned a year-over-year decline in the amount of time consumers spent with media, VSS researchers say. The tally came in at 3,530 hours in 2006, a per-capita decrease of 0.5%. It's the first time since 1997, researchers say, that such a behavior has occurred.

Consumers are also migrating away from ad-supported media and spending more time with media they support, according to the VSS Forecast. Consumers spent an average of 1,631 hours in 2006 with consumer-supported media, such as the Internet and video games--a gain of 19.8% compared to 2001. Time spent with ad-supported media, such as broadcast television and newspapers, has fallen 6.3% since 2001 to 1,899 hours per person.

"We expect these shifts to continue over the next five years," Rutherford adds," as time and place-shifting accelerate while consumers and businesses utilize more digital media alternatives, strengthening the new media pull model at the expense of the traditional media push model."

Total communications spending for 2006 increased 6.8% to a record $885.2 billion and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% from 2001 to 2006 outpaced the nominal GDP, the VSS Forecast reports.

According to the VSS Forecast, which was prepared in part using proprietary data from PQ Media's Alternate Media Outlook:

Ad spending on pure-play Internet sites reached $15.1 billion for 2006, and is projected to hit $34.78 billion in 2011, for a CAGR of 18.2%.
Growth of 25.79% is projected for ad spending on traditional media-based Internet sites, which hit $8.585 billion in 2006, and is projected to reach $27.2 billion in 2011.
National Internet advertising, which includes search, display, sponsorships, etc., is projected to remain the dominant dollar-generator with $38.897 billion forecast for 2011, representing an 18.2% CAGR from 2006-2011.
Blog, podcast and RSS advertising is projected to reach $1.138 billion by 2011, registering the fastest growth rate at a 70.9% CAGR forecast from 2006-2011.

Media Consumers Finally Saying, `Enough Already!'

Media Consumers Finally Saying, `Enough Already!'
Begin Cutting Claims On Time
Courant Staff Writer,0,5863770.story

Americans' appetite for time in front of the computer, iPod or television may finally be on the wane, after almost a decade during which our media consumption grew steadily.

Consumers spent slightly less time with media - including both traditional and digital offerings, in print and onscreen - in 2006, compared with 2005. It was the first decline since 1997, private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson reported Tuesday.

We now log an average of 9.7 hours each day consuming media. Some experts say we're at the saturation point.

"There's only so much time available to add more kinds of media," University of Hartford communications Professor Jack Banks said. "At some point, something's gotta give."

That something is likely to be traditional, ad-supported media like broadcast television and printed newspapers, which the report found are enjoying less attention from consumers as emerging media take up more of their time.

The 3,530 hours that the average consumer spent with media in 2006 - a whopping 40 percent of all hours, including sleep time - represented a 0.5 percent drop from 2005. Over the previous decade, media usage typically increased 1 percent to 3 percent a year, said Leo Kivijarv, vice president for research at PQ Media, which produced the report with VSS.

The term media was widely defined, including TV, newspapers, movies, books, music and video games, not to mention the wide world of the Internet.

Much of the previous decade's growth in media consumption stemmed from new technologies that generated new excitement. Kivijarv said. For example, consumers replacing VCRs with DVD players tended to spend more time with the new devices.

The slowdown in media consumption in 2006 represents a saturation point, Kivijarv said, but that doesn't mean Americans are waning in their hunger for the offerings on the vast media menu. Rather, he suggested, "on-demand" digital technologies allow consumers to be more efficient. Instead of leafing through several sections of a newspaper, readers are able to call up the two or three articles of interest to them, almost immediately on a newspaper's website, he said.

"Somebody goes online, they're very specific for what they're looking for," he said.

In a landscape as broad as American media, there could be plenty of room for growth in some areas even as others are saturated. For example, we could be unable to digest more active, leisure-time media at home, but have time available for more at the office, said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University.

The VSS report notes that media use at businesses and government offices - for legitimate work purposes - increased by about 3 percent in 2006, to an average 260 hours per employee. With a 40-hour week totaling 2,000 hours a year, that represents room for growth.

Then there is the matter of procrastination at work, as computers bring a festival of time-wasting opportunities that expand as old-line media jump online, Thompson said. Now that TV networks have started to offer their programming online, you can spend a very long lunch hour catching up on the latest episode of "Grey's Anatomy."

Last year, Thompson said, "was a big year for being able to watch TV at work and get away with it. You could never have dragged a portable TV set into your cubicle."

Young people are "probably at 100 percent media saturation, even counting sleeping," he said. Multitasking intersperses media consumption with the rest of life, and portable technology makes it possible to bring those habits anywhere, he said.

The report draws a sharp distinction between media that are mostly paid for by advertisers, such as broadcast TV and print journalism, and subscriber-funded media, including cable TV, video games and some websites. The first group, the heart of traditional mass media, is declining. The latter group is growing.

Advertisers have already followed audiences into new media, and that trend will gain speed. By 2011, the VSS report estimates, the Internet will surpass newspapers as the largest medium for advertising.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New York Times to ax premium online content, rival says

New York Times to ax premium online content, rival says
Posted by Caroline McCarthy
Note: This story was updated at 6:00 a.m. PDT to include a correction from a New York Times representative regarding TimesSelect subscriber figures cited by the New York Post.

Citing anonymous sources, the New York Post has reported that rival Manhattan paper The New York Times is planning to do away with TimesSelect, the subscription-only content on its Web site. According to the article by Holly M. Sanders, the main obstacle at the moment is reconfiguring the site's software.

A Times representative told CNET that the company isn't releasing any statement beyond: "We continue to evaluate the best approach for" The representative did point out, however, that the Post had made an error: Sanders' article said that the number of TimesSelect subscribers had fallen from 224,000 in April to slightly over 221,000 in June. According to the Times, TimesSelect subscriber numbers have actually risen from 220,090 in April to 224,580 in June.

The demise of TimesSelect, which has been in operation since 2005 and puts archived content as well as popular opinion pieces behind a subscription wall, has been rumored for some time among New York media circles. Adding fuel to the fire is News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch. When speaking about his decision to purchase Wall Street Journal company Dow Jones, he suggested that the Journal might free up its own premium content.

New-media pundits have typically been very critical of TimesSelect, considering it a disadvantage for the legendary publication to be locking up so much content, particularly opinion pieces by well-known writers. "By cutting stars like Tom Friedman and Frank Rich off from the rest of the Internet," Peter Kafka of the Silicon Alley Insider commented in July, "the Times has diminished its (and their) influence--and helped create room for upstarts like The Huffington Post to step in."

Currently, TimesSelect subscribers pay $7.95 per month, or $49.95 per year, for access to op-ed columnists, archives dating back to 1851, extra multimedia features, and occasional access to the Sunday paper's articles before they are made available for free or in print.

Time Spent With Media Falters, Digital Spawns Shorter Attention Spans

Time Spent With Media Falters, Digital Spawns Shorter Attention Spans
by Joe Mandese

THE RAPID SHIFT OF CONSUMERS toward digital media options for news, information and entertainment is producing an unintended consequence for all of the industry's stakeholders--especially advertisers: It's reducing the amount of time people spend with media. For the first time in recent memory, the amount of time consumers spend with media has declined, according to the 2007 edition of an influential industry report, which forewarns that the efficiency of using digital media is the primary factor.
The average American consumer spent 3,530 hours with media in 2006--down 0.5% from 2005, according to the just-released estimates from the 21st edition of Veronis Suhler Stevenson's Communications Industry Forecast. That drop follows a period of decelerating growth that the VSS report attributes to the increased efficiency of utilizing digital media--especially online and mobile technologies--which tend to be less time-consuming that traditional media counterparts.

"For example, consumers typically watch broadcast or cable television at least 30 minutes per session, while they spend as little as five to seven minutes viewing consumer-generated video," the report concludes.

"We all knew that there was only 24 hours in the day, and even with multitasking there would be a point where people maxed out," says James Rutherfurd, executive vice president and managing director at VSS, who oversees the report in conjunction with consultants PQ Media. "It has just come a little faster than we thought because of the efficiency of digital media."

Rutherfurd says he was "pretty surprised" by the dip in time spent with media in 2006, and that 2007 looks to be "basically flat" as well despite increased multitasking among media.

In fact, the total consumer time usage masks even more profound shifts taking place across various forms of media, some like online and "institutional" media, that continue to grow in total hours and share of total time spent with media.

For example, Rutherfurd points out that 2006 was the first year that "pure play" Internet usage was at "parity" with newspapers, which he says is a harbinger of things to come.

"Just to pick on the poor old newspaper industry, they're at parity in 2006 and then in 2007, the Internet takes over," he says. In fact, the VSS report also projects that those time trends are contributing to a profound shift in the economics of the industry, and that by 2011, the Internet will surpass newspapers as the No. 1 ad medium (see related story in today's MediaDailyNews).

The decline in total time spent with media also appears to exacerbate an ongoing shift away from time spent with ad-supported media. In 2006, the share of consumer time spent with media that have "significant advertising support" dropped to 53.8%, its lowest point since VSS began tracking such information. The share of time spent with "media supported predominately by consumers" rose to 46.2%, and VSS projects such media will become the dominant source sometime after 2011.

The VSS data also suggests that America is becoming a less literate society--at least it is becoming less so in terms of printed literary matter.

The percentage of time Americans spend with print media fell to 11.9% of total media usage in 2006--down from 13.1% in 2001, the base year of the current tracking study. By 2011, VSS predicts, print media will fall to 10.6% of all media usage.

"Pure-play digital media," online and mobile media content that is unique to those platforms, meanwhile, is the fastest-growing source of consumer media time--accounting for 5.3% of total media usage in 2006, up from 3.7% in 2001.

Broadcast and out-of-home media continue to be the most pervasive source of consumer media time, and VSS calls reports that consumers are "abandoning" television an "exaggeration." However, profound shifts are taking place within the medium, and the amount of time spent with broadcast TV is eroding.

Another surprising area of growing usage is among so-called "institutional" media such as business-to-business media or industrial sources of business information. Usage of such institutional media increased 3.2% in 2006, reaching 260 hours per worker per year. That calculation does not include time spent utilizing consumer media while at work, according to Leo Kivijarv, vice president-research at research and consulting firm PQ Media, which helps VSS compile its report. However, both Kivijarv and VSS' Rutherfurd said the lines between business and consumer use of media at work are beginning to blur and that future editions of the report will likely seek to break it out.

Among the key drivers in the increasing use of institutional media, "was the integration of advanced online and digital platforms into daily business workflow," reads the report."

Above all, Murdoch is a businessman

Above all, Murdoch is a businessman
Commentary: He's acquiring Web strength greater than that of rival CNBC
By Jon Friedman, MarketWatch{904608CD-B8D4-42AA-AE68-BF9688243E01}&siteid=nbc

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- If you follow media news at all, by now you know by rote that journalists think News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, whose company agreed to buy Dow Jones & Co. for $5.6 billion last week, is a marauder, evil genius, meddler, peddler to lowbrows and in the most offensive management crime of all, an opportunist.
All of those things may be true. Now let's get serious: Before anything else, Murdoch sees himself as a businessman. Who says so? Dow Jones uote data
Chief Executive Rich Zannino does.

Zannino made that point one morning last week. Sporting a blue shirt but no necktie, he stood in the center of the ninth floor newsroom at Dow Jones headquarters and spent an hour answering employees' questions about the future of The Wall Street Journal.

I'll tell you where I've stood on this deal from day one: Murdoch is acquiring Dow Jones primarily as a way to provide respected content for his new cable-television venture, the Fox Business Network. If he has long harbored the desire to buy the Journal to inflict his personal and political views on unsuspecting readers, that would be a secondary goal (if at all).
At the Dow Jones meeting, nerves were running so high that I'm not sure staffers weighed Zannino's words at the moment. He sought to assure them that Murdoch's top priority had nothing to do with editing their copy or setting agendas for the news division.

At one point, Zannino said, neatly summarizing Murdoch's operating philosophy: "If it doesn't make business sense, it won't get done."

In the aftermath of the negotiations, it's unpopular to portray Murdoch as anything but a villain. Readers who love The Wall Street Journal and its vaunted pursuit of excellence are appalled that Murdoch will soon have an opportunity to put his stamp on their beloved paper.

It's easy to see why. The media suffocated us with endless anecdotes about Murdoch's meddling, his pursuit of profits over fair and balanced reporting, his reluctance to criticize his business allies and his eagerness to dumb down properties to make them more commercially appealing around the world.
I suspect that Murdoch will want to use the Journal as a missile to top the New York Times New York Times Company at home. I'd look for Murdoch to unleash a two-pronged attack on these fantastic brand names.

By aligning with himself with Dow Jones, Murdoch seems to be gaining instant credibility in the United States -- something that has escaped him during his stewardship of the New York Post and Fox News, his most prominent American assets.
In the emotional aftermath of the negotiations, it's unpopular to portray Rupert Murdoch as anything but a villain.
Some observers see the New York Times Co.'s International Herald Tribune as being vulnerable to a rival that can offer comparable content and deliver it in unique ways on the Internet. In the United States, readers cherish the Gray Lady's predictable style. But overseas, readers probably would welcome some pizzazz.

Privately, many Fox News executives make no secret of their contempt for CNBC, regarding it as everything from dull and Wall Street-centric to patronizing and out of touch with ordinary investors.

CNBC, for its part, is hoping to attract young viewers with Dylan Ratigan's "Fast Money MBA Challenge," which will air over four consecutive Wednesday nights in August. Jim Cramer's back-to-school tours also have generated enthusiasm.

CNBC insiders fret that they are most vulnerable to News Corp.

on the Web.
You know what? They're right.
CNBC could afford to coast on the Web for a long time. It can't any longer; CNBC's Web operations look to be overmatched by Murdoch's assets.
News Corp. will soon have, which carries all of the Journal's content and has 983,000 paying subscribers. Dow Jones also owns MarketWatch (the publisher of this column), a free site that offers real-time news stories and commentaries, among other resources.

Skeptics keep on blathering speculation that Murdoch will do this and that with the Journal. Me? I'm interested in following the battle of News Corp. and CNBC on the Web.
That's going to be the battleground.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wholesalers are not Dying, They are Committing Suicide . . .Take 3

Wholesalers are not Dying, They are Committing Suicide . . .Take 3

By Samir Hisni
This is week three after my blog on the future of wholesalers and magazine distribution in general was published. The reactions and comments did not stop yet and the complete lack of interest in trying to find a real solution for a major problem in our industry still amazes me. The publishers are only willing to talk "off the record" and in e-mails "not for publications." The wholesalers are in a defend mode, big times; those who were "stunned" by my blog did not expect those opinions from me, and those who questioned my knowledge "with all due respect" such as the president of a wholesaler company who wrote Bob Sacks on stating,

"I am a wholesaler and through my family has been since 1917. I take huge exception to the comments on our learned title counter Dr Husni. With all due respect what does he know of wholesale economics. I am sure that since 1995 every publisher worth his salt has looked at better ways to get to market. The long and the short of it is that the current method is the best."

(On a side note, I love the fact that I am referred to as the "learned title counter." All my research and studies have been boiled down to title counting . . .)

The other two major silent watchers in this major debate that sooner or later will affect the entire magazine business (especially when wholesalers start owning magazines as in the case of the Source Interlink, one of the four major wholesalers in the country now), are the National Distributors (whose future role is being highly questioned by both magazine publishers and wholesalers) and the magazine industry leading associations who do not seem to see the impact of the major changes taking place in the single copy sales today.

As for the reactions to my comments, John Harrington, published the following in this week's edition of The New Single Copy.

"For the last few weeks, the issue of magazine retail pricing has been a subject of The New Single Copy. Last week, University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni was quoted as saying, "They [magazine wholesalers] need to force other publishers to lower the single copy prices of other magazines to be equal or close to that of [their] subscription prices." That inspired the following response from Brian O'Leary, a principal of Magellan Media Consulting Partners: "I say this pointedly, Husni's argument that wholesalers should pressure publishers to price newsstand copies at subscription rates is both naïve and economically disastrous. It's naive because publishers have shown very little willingness to use anything other than the 'publisher next door' as a benchmark for price. Whether or not the source could be helpful, wholesalers are the last place publishers would go for advice on pricing. "It's economically disastrous because subs already lose money at prevailing prices. Capell's survey data in [The New Single Copy, 7/30/07] tells the tale: on average, direct-mail subs lose $10.28 an order. This reflects both the poor economics of obtaining new subs from this source as well as the miserably low per-copy prices most publishers charge to gain a subscription. There is virtually no way that monthly subscriptions sold for $1 a copy can make money for a publisher in any way other than advertising. Pushing single-copy prices to that price isn't going to help, even at an unobtainable 100% sell-through. At $1 a copy, the expenses associated with printing, distribution, marketing and selling these copies eat all of the margin, and more."

With all due respect to Mr. O'Leary, I know at $1 a copy the magazine publisher cannot make any money, thus when I argue that magazines should reduce their newsstand prices to that of subscriptions, it does not mean to sell it at $1 a copy. But rather if you are willing to charge $2.95 for the single copy price, then charge $2.50 for the subscription price per issue. No 90% discount from the cover price, but 20% at most. Mr. O'Leary is right, publishers lose money selling subscriptions at $1, $.50 and .$35 a copy. Yet, if you look at magazines like People and The Economist, I doubt that they are losing money selling subscriptions at almost $2.00 a copy (and that's much more than my 20% discount from the single copy price I am advocating).

In short, I feel that if wholesalers have the right to tell the low priced magazines that they are not going to distribute them anymore unless they change their prices to over $2.49, they should practice that same right by telling publishers who sell their subscription copies for $.50 and their newsstand copies for $4.95 that they are not going to distribute their magazines too. In addition, what about the publishers who use the newsstands to showcase (mainly for advertisers' sake) their 5% or less from their total circulation on the newsstands, while spending all their efforts on the 95% subscription copies. I know that we need to stop the single copy magazine sales abuse, but I also continue to believe that the approach the wholesalers are taking now is still not the right one.

I am sure there will more to come on this subject matter and I, once again, encourage you to comment on line, in public and without starting your e-mail with "Samir, you are right, but this respond is not for publication." Please get engaged in the conversation. Hit that comment link below and let me know what you think?

NY Times to Move to Smaller, More Standard Format

NY Times to Move to Smaller, More Standard Format

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Times is moving to a smaller format starting Monday, cutting 1.5 inches from its width and moving to what is becoming a newspaper industry standard of 12 inches.

The change, which the company originally announced a year ago, will result in cost savings of about $10 million per year, spokeswoman Diane McNulty said.

Several other major newspapers have already adopted the 12-inch format, including The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Co., which went to the new size at the beginning of the year; The Washington Post; and the Los Angeles Times, published by Tribune Co.

The change at The New York Times was originally expected to occur in mid-2008, but McNulty said the company was able to get its presses reconfigured sooner than anticipated.

The look of the paper will remain essentially the same, she said, though the headlines will become slightly smaller. The news columns will also become slightly narrower.

The change will result in the space for news being reduced by about 10 percent, but the paper will make up for about half of that decline by adding extra pages. Additional pages may also be added from time to time to accommodate major news stories, she said.

Going to the smaller, more standard size will also allow the paper to sell ad space that more closely conforms with the sizes used in other papers, McNulty said. Ads had needed to be resized to fit in the Times' pages.

Newspaper publishers are looking for various ways to save money. Advertising revenues have been slumping across the newspaper industry amid shifting reader habits, declining circulation and a migration of readers and advertising dollars to the Internet.

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

It is only a matter of time until nearly all advertisements around the world are digital.

Or so says David W. Kenny, the chairman and chief executive of Digitas, the advertising agency in Boston that was acquired by the

Publicis Groupe for $1.3 billion six months ago.
Now Mr. Kenny is reshaping the digital advertising strategy for the entire Publicis worldwide conglomerate, which includes agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and the Starcom MediaVest Group and the global accounts of companies like

Procter & Gamble, American Express, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.
The plan is to build a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads. Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms, the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cellphone or - eventually - a television.

More simply put, the goal is to transform advertising from mass messages and 30-second commercials that people chat about around the water cooler into personalized messages for each potential customer.

"Our intention with Digitas and Publicis is to build the global platform that everybody uses to match data with advertising messages," Mr. Kenny said. "There is a massive transformation happening in the way consumers live and the data we have about them, but very few companies have stepped up to it yet."

Publicis announced last Tuesday an important step in its digital plan: the acquisition of the Communication Central Group, a digital agency in China founded in 1995, for an undisclosed amount. The agency, to be called Digitas Greater China, will give Publicis a foothold in the Chinese advertising market, which analysts within Publicis estimate is growing at about 20 percent a year, much faster than global growth in the market, which hovers around 5 percent a year.

"There's a chance to invest right now in China, India, Russia and Brazil, which will pay off big over the next five years," Mr. Kenny said. "These economies are going to boom, and ads there are going to go directly to mobile and directly to the Internet."

Beyond the growth potential, Publicis executives see these economies as important sources of low-cost labor for a Digitas subsidiary called Prodigious, a digital production unit that works with all agencies in the Publicis Groupe. Prodigious already uses workers in Costa Rica and Ukraine to produce copious footage for companies like G.M.

Greater production capacity is needed, Mr. Kenny says, to make enough clips to be able to move away from mass advertising to personalized ads. He estimates that in the United States, some companies are already running about 4,000 versions of an ad for a single brand, whereas 10 years ago they might have run three to five versions. And he predicts that the number of iterations will grow as technology improves.

The Publicis digital plan can be viewed as a reaction to the changes in how consumers live, but it is also a response to competition among

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Publicis is trying to carve out a niche as a middleman between those online giants and the consumer brand companies that buy advertising. The role is not unlike the way agencies have long connected advertisers to offline media like television networks, newspapers and magazines.
"How do we see Google, Yahoo and Microsoft? It's important to see that our industry is changing and the borders are blurring, so it's clear the three of those companies will have a huge share of revenues which will come from advertising," said Maurice Lévy, chairman and chief executive of the Publicis Groupe.

"But they will have to make a choice between being a medium or being an ad agency, and I believe that their interest will be to be a medium," he added. "We will partner with them as we do partner with

CBS, ABC, Time Warner or any other media group."
Mr. Lévy's view of the dominant Internet portals diverges from that of other advertising executives. Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the

WPP Group, another ad agency conglomerate, has publicly called Google a "frenemy" and has recently acquired 24/7 Real Media, an advertising network that positions his company to compete more directly with Google and other online portals.
Mr. Lévy, who has a penchant for grand ambitions, says he does not plan to compete with Google - rather, he wants Google to need Publicis.

He is widely credited with the transformation of Publicis from a small French ad company into one of the world's largest advertising holding companies, competing with the WPP Group, Omnicom and the

Interpublic Group. Now his stated goal is to stir up the digital sea before he retires in 2010.
By Mr. Lévy's account, the Publicis purchase of Digitas was the deal that set in motion a string of online acquisitions, as companies like Google, Microsoft and the WPP Group spent billions to buy the online advertising companies DoubleClick,

aQuantive and 24/7 Real Media, respectively. Just last month, AOL purchased the behavioral ad network Tacoda.
"We took the initiative, and it has triggered a frenzy of acquisition in the industry," Mr. Lévy said. "It's something that can be checked by the date. It's quite clear we triggered it."

Digitas, like many digital agencies, started out as a direct marketing firm, reaching consumers mainly through the United States Postal Service. As the Internet emerged, Digitas developed a platform it calls Dashboards to break online ads into their components and figure out which pieces work for which audiences.

Digitas uses data from companies like Google and Yahoo and customer data from each advertiser to develop proprietary models about which ads should be shown the first time someone sees an ad, the second time, after a purchase is made, and so on. The ads vary, depending on a customer's age, location and past exposure to the ads.

Digitas executives say that consumers end up with a better experience - even a service - if the ads they are shown are relevant and new.

"We now know how many times they've seen this ad, so stop annoying them," said Mark Beeching, executive vice president and worldwide chief creative officer of Digitas. "The more you can standardize and automate in terms of making different versions, hallelujah. That money should be spent creating more content."

Along with automation, low-cost workers abroad will help create more versions of ads. The Publicis Groupe's new employees in China, gained through the CCG deal, are paid well by Chinese standards, said Neil Runcieman, former chief executive of CCG and now chief executive of Digitas Greater China.

Mr. Kenny said that Digitas constantly struggles to find enough employees with the technical expertise to use complex data to slice and dice ads for companies like General Motors and Procter & Gamble. As Digitas invests in countries like China and India, he said, the Publicis Groupe will benefit from the global talent pool - and perhaps create more demand for advertising in those countries.

"There's this rising tide of advertising in emerging economies," Mr. Kenny said. "But we can also help it rise by sending jobs there."■

Sunday, August 05, 2007

CIRC OBSERVER: 7 Wonders of the Circulation World

CIRC OBSERVER: 7 Wonders of the Circulation World

By Karlene Lukovitz

Even the most diehard publishing industry wonk must occasionally break down and admit that the same core constellation of issues has been besetting circulation decade after decade.

Pondering this while considering topics for this column, I happened upon an article about the Swiss adventurer who's decided to officially update the "Seven Wonders of the World" on an annual basis by polling millions of people around the globe.

Then it hit me: Isn't it about time that we officially codified the "wonders" - meaning implacable conundrums - of the magazine circulation world? While such an undertaking certainly won't resolve anything, having a primer on these enduring mysteries might shave some time off the learning curve for industry newcomers.

In that spirit, I'm volunteering my best shot at the "7 Wonders of Circulation," and inviting any and all to critique this draft, add or subtract, and generally show that you're willing to engage in the interactive community-building dynamic that we're all supposed to be integrating into our businesses. (Post your votes and comments now by clicking here!)

These 7 Wonders are posed as questions, and I've taken a stab at providing the "short answers" to each. Obviously, space doesn't permit for long, nuanced answers (and no one reads long Internet articles, in any case). They say that such provocative tactics build audience interaction, so feel free to take umbrage.

Wonder #1: Why do magazines guarantee circulation rate bases, when virtually all other media are sold on audience data?
Short answers: Because the original Commandments included an 11th that decreed "Thou Shalt Not Be Allowed to Attain Maximum Circulation Profitability." Also, when it comes to metrics, media buyers are great believers in "eating one's cake and having it, too" (see #2).

Wonder #2: Why are magazines chosen for media plans based on syndicated audience numbers, while ad buys are negotiated on rate bases/circulation statements?
Short answers: According to several influential media-buying executives recently quoted in MediaWeek, the self-reported nature of syndicated audience numbers makes them suspect for magazine buying purposes (but presumably OK for buying television, and for magazine planning purposes). Also, what would print media buyers do with their time if they weren't trolling through circulation statements to uncover "unacceptable" circulation practices. . . like choosing not to report certain sampling copies that are being distributed at no cost to the advertiser, and might generate some new subscribers (as well as deliver bonus audience exposure for advertisers)?

Wonder #3: Why don't more magazines reduce their rate bases?
Short answers: See #1. Bottom line: Media buyers say they want targeted, engaged readers, but base what they're actually willing to pay on circulation size.

Circulation Wonder #4: Why won't people pay more for magazine subscriptions?
Short answers: Because they've been under the impression for 40 years that magazine publishers are philanthropic enterprises, and they're slow to catch on that we really do want more money. Also, we can't push too hard. (See #s 1 and 3.)

Circulation Wonder #5: Why would a magazine offer numerous, different subscription prices at any given time?
Short answers: See #s 1 and 4. Also, some people apparently don't have time to go on the Internet and find those rogue (or authorized) offers for 12 issues at $7.99, and someone has to pay for these killer postal increases.

Circulation Wonder #6: Why do magazines need to replace so many subscribers each year?
Short answers: Following the same logic as in #5, we are convinced that the short-term revenue benefits of managing to get some loyal subscribers to pay more than newcomers outweigh the long-term downside of defying the principals of customer relationship-building. (Yes, competition from the Internet has exacerbated the renewals challenge, but the Internet didn't create it.)

Circulation Wonder #7: Why does it still take four to six weeks to deliver the first issue of a magazine subscription?
Short answers: Subscribers aren't willing to pay more for subscriptions (see #4), and publishers' margins are thin enough without paying more for frills like expedited fulfillment.

Circulation Wonder #8 (bonus question): Why are single-copy unit sales stagnant?
Short answers: Trick question. There are no short answers. But low subscription prices, in-store competition from a growing number of aggressive marketers in other product categories, competition from other media for consumers' time and dollars, an outmoded and counterproductive returns system, and declining literacy are good places to start.

Karlene Lukovitz is president of KL MediaLink LLC, a consultancy specializing in communications and brand extension strategies for media companies, and an independent business journalist. Her background includes serving as editor-in-chief of CM for 10 years, and in executive editorial positions for Folio: and other leading business publications covering the media industry.

Crowd Control

Crowd Control
By William Powers, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.

Look out, world -- here comes citizen journalism. If you watched the recent CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate, you know what I'm talking about. Instead of professional journalists, real people craft the news, from asking the questions to shooting the videos to writing the stories.

Rather than the opponents they are made out to be, citizen journalists and mainstreamers look more and more like symbiotic partners.

Everyone's buzzing about it, and who am I to doubt everyone? In the ideology of this cultural moment, the crowd is the ultimate source of wisdom. And citizen journalism is all about the crowd.

Here's how it works: Next time you see news happening -- say, a jumbo jetliner crashes in your neighborhood, or you overhear a presidential candidate plotting dirty campaign tricks -- race to your keyboard and tap out a story. Throw in an image snapped with your mobile phone, upload it all to the Net, and -- voila! -- you're a journalist. Who needs the pros?

This week came word that a Vancouver, B.C.-based citizen-journalism service called has received $10.6 million in new financing. That may look puny next to the $5 billion that Rupert Murdoch is paying for Dow Jones, but in the relatively new world of "crowd-powered media," which is how NowPublic describes itself, $10.6 million is big potatoes.

NowPublic is not just any start-up. It claims to be the largest citizen-journalism service in the world, with more than 100,000 "contributing reporters." Earlier this year, it formed a news-gathering partnership with the Associated Press. Time magazine named it one of the 50 best websites of 2007, explaining: "Nowhere are the merits of citizen journalism more apparent than at NowPublic. At this 'participatory news network' ... anyone can write a story, or upload images, audio, or video. Whatever gets the most votes from the reading masses -- the site gets about 1 million unique visitors per month -- ends up as the lead story."

If you believe the crowd, this is where the core task of journalism, reporting the latest news, is headed. "Newspapers have lost control of breaking news," Leonard Brody, the CEO of NowPublic, said recently at the World Newspaper Congress in South Africa. This week he told the Agence France-Presse news service, "I promise you, in 18 months NowPublic will be, by reach, the largest news agency in the world."

To get a feel for what kind of news this crowd-powered juggernaut will be breaking, I joined NowPublic this week. I visited the site repeatedly over a few days when there were plenty of major stories to cover. The war in Iraq. Murdoch taking over The Wall Street Journal. The longest-serving Republican U.S. senator, Ted Stevens of Alaska, under federal investigation.

Yet more often than not, the top news on the NowPublic front page was about transportation mishaps. "A Passenger Dead at Caracas Metro Crash" was the lead story for much of one day. The next morning, it was a fatal one-car crash outside Boston. That afternoon, the lead was a bridge near Sacramento that collapsed on a truck, pinning the driver.

Evidently, the vast discerning crowd that is about to revolutionize journalism sometimes believes that smallish train and road accidents are the biggest news on the planet. The Murdoch/Dow Jones story did make the front-page rotation, and there were non-accident stories, including Typhoon Usagi, at the top on subsequent days. Other NowPublic fare included first-person travelogues, baby pictures, and frequent news-of-the-weird items.

Curiously, NowPublic's reports often draw heavily on the newspapers and other mainstream outlets that the CEO says no longer have much sway. In its early coverage of the Minnesota bridge-collapse story, a true transportation disaster, NowPublic relied partly on reports by CNN, Fox and the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.

Indeed, rather than the opponents they are made out to be, citizen journalists and mainstreamers look more and more like symbiotic partners. As the BBC showed a few years ago when it used citizen journalists brilliantly to cover the London subway bombings, and as the mesmerizing CNN/YouTube debate confirmed, crowd-powered news is most effective and useful when it has been filtered and selected by more-experienced journalists.

Crowds aren't wise all by themselves -- they need editing, too.

-- William Powers is a columnist for National Journal magazine, where "Off Message" appears.

Trouble over bridged waters

BoSacks Speaks Out: I'm sending this article out for the understated power that the author bequeaths to both the press and the public. I think it is a very interesting premise and I agree with the potential power for both the people, and the media at large, to actually get things done, that need to be done. Of course, this only on a theoretical basis. But what the heck.

"When science finally locates the center of the universe, some people will be surprised to learn they're not it."
Bernard Bailey

Trouble over bridged waters
One of the biggest, most obvious stories not being covered by the media is the dangerous disintegration of the nation's aging infrastructure.

The frightening steam-pipe burst in New York City and the shocking collapse of an eight-lane bridge over the Mississippi are not isolated, idiosyncratic failures.

They are proof that heavy traffic, the movement of the earth, metal fatigue, inadequate design, substandard materials, poor construction practices and, quite simply, old age will combine over the years to weaken the infrastructure we take for granted in modern life.

As reported, sadly after the fact, the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis was deemed "structurally deficient" in the "National Bridge Inventory" maintained by the Federal Highway Administration.

Newspaper editors looking for compelling local stories and broadcasters seeking to redeploy the money they save by grounding their helicopters could start by buying for less than $200 a copy of the list of 709,742 bridges from Investigative Reporters and Editors. (If you ask nicely, you probably can get a copy for free from your local highway authority.)

To add a bit of graphic pizzazz to the story, you can plot the list of failing bridges in your town on one of the slick, new, free mapping technologies available from Google, Microsoft and others.

For journalists eager to add crowdsourcing to their repertoire, this is a golden opportunity. They can deputize their readers, viewers and listeners to gather images and descriptions of cracking concrete, sagging powerlines and gaping sinkholes.

Staffers can follow up on these reports by identifying the responsible authorities and putting the problem - and the name, phone number and email address of the official - in the newspaper or on the air. The San Francisco Chronicle has had enormous success with a feature it calls ChronicleWatch, though some identified issues admittedly remain unattended two years after the fact.

There's no reason to stop at bridges. The nation is filled with enough leaking pipes and crumbling roads to generate significant and riveting stories for years to come.