Thursday, September 06, 2007

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Jobs, Mags, and and the Future

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Jobs, Mags, and and the Future

Re: Update
Bob, Once again I find myself unemployed. I got laid off yesterday from XXX XXX Media. The impact of high paper and postage costs and reduced ad revenue is real and hitting home in a big way.

I was totally caught off guard. I'll be 46 in Sept. My only hope is that I can reinvent myself in another industry other than print or publishing. I've been in this business since I was 16 years old. This is my second layoff in 17 months for similar reasons. They want a professional to come in to straighten out the business, but once things are back on track, are handed over to the bean counters to manage. There is no loyalty, no long term view and no regard for the production staff. Production has become a "cost center" and a "dumping ground". The thought process that we will just hire anyone off the street to get it done and if the production staff or supplier screws up, we will just get another, one prevails. When I started in this business, we were craftsmen, now we are overhead.

I've got ink in my veins, but the passion has faded. One door closes, another one opens.

Please keep the newsletters coming.
(Submitted by a Former Senior Production Director and long time BoSacks reader)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Media Buyers, Mags, and Football
Digital doom and gloom. Analyst, pundits and vested interests all insist on it. Meanwhile they are probably shorting the New York Times Company and Washington Post while even the Oracle of Omaha says the print business is challenging. Thing is, margins are margins and if you are a profitable print venue, with North of a 40% ad content (many are closer to 50% ads or even for many fashion books 70% ads!), you are making tidy sums indeed. Harder to do with constant USPS increases, paper price creep upwards and distribution hurdles let alone printer consolidation giving you fewer option.

Print that has an online tie in seems to be the ticket. Not some cheap online webpage like the often dismal reader service cards in the back of the trade pubs, but real vibrant streaming video, links to related blogs and ties to advertiser product demonstrations. Not hard sell- inform and offer a good product and the world will beat a path to your door or am I paraphrasing WR Hearst here and totally sounding dated?

All the same, an audience that trusts your content is the best asset.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: Ask Yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well do you, punk?
Bob, I'm sure you can guess my response to this. No, I don't fell lucky. Having just lost my 2nd job in the last two years due to cost cutting measures, the painting on the wall is quite clear that the middle management production professionals are a dying breed. My prediction: Publishers will continue to publish, mostly electronically. Those publications that can support itself in print will be sent directly to the printer, who in turn will manage everything from files, ads, paper and distribution. Writers, editors and graphic artists will be able to work more from home, thus eliminating the need for brick and mortar office buildings, further cutting overhead costs. If paper and postage costs continue to rise at double digit rates and ad dollars continue to stay stagnant, we may see this evolution quicker than a decade. It's now survival of the fittest.
(Submitted by a Man on the Street)

Living in the past you accomplish nothing, living in the future, you can only dream, ask me what I did today and I might give you direction.

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: Ask Yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well do you, punk?
I see print on paper never leaving our hands! And someday, some young kid getting out of school will come up with a bright idea to publish his ideas on paper and send it in the mail thinking this is novel idea. Hopefully, what is old is new!

Excuse me while I get up to turn my record over to the "B" side.
(Submitted by an Unknown)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: Ask Yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well do you, punk?
You ask, how long I intend to keep working? Those plans changed when the early 21st Century stock market crash hit. Today, my retirement plans consist of hoping they let me keep working long enough to drop dead at my desk. And maybe, if I am really lucky, it will happen on a business trip. Then my wife will get two times the face value of my company life insurance. There's always hope.
(Submitted by a Printer)

Re: BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Time, Newsweek, and Staying Employed, Circ
Good stuff. The printing rep. response is so true. After 40 years in the paper business, I can only remember a handful of printing rep's who knew their company's capabilities. We would get requests for paper quotations from the uninformed printing rep's and ask ourselves, do these folks know who they are working for, because nothing fit their company? If they did get unlucky and get a job, we would end up sending the paper to a printer they farmed the job out to do the work and they would lose their you know what.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

Re: Filling Landfills with New Books
In "Filling Landfills with New Books," blogger Sylvia Day complains that hundreds of books are thrown away at the end of a book publishers' conference called the Romantic Times Convention. Naturally, I was shocked to hear that unwanted reading material was being discarded (as any magazine publisher would be). I decided to check out the conference at . After seeing the kinds of titles under discussion, all I can say is, "Keep tossing!"
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Filling Landfills with New Books
Good Lord--this is a problem that seemingly intelligent people can't solve? If that's the case, thenf orget about solving global warming.

How about this: The conference planner calls local libraries or senior centers before the event, and gets them to send a small truck to the hotel loading dock at the end of the show. Or, at the grassroots level, four attendes can share a cab to the nearest public or high school library, or senior center, or foster home, or hospital, on the last day of the show. They use their wheelie suitcases to bring along as many books as they can. They ask the cab to wait five minutes, and then they bring the books inside and give them to the librarian. They got back to the hotel, pack their clothes, and go home.
(Submitted by senior Editor)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Your Ad Here
Wow that's an interesting story too bad I drive old cars. I tell you who should take on that approach....NASA. The space program never has enough cash to get things built quick enough. Let's get some free parts for the new space shuttles and slap the company's logo on the side of them. We could have a base on the moon by now if we took that approach and would probably have better equipment as well.
(Submitted by a Senior Paper Manager)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Your Ad Here
Believe it or not, this concept is not new. In 1976, my father was paid to drive his VW Beetle, painted green and silver and plastered with Kool cigarette decals, to and from work in downtown Chicago. My parents have never smoked, but they sure appreciated the extra income. . . . the Surgeon General's warning was also affixed to the car! Next to the rear passenger side window, in fact.

The advertising company would only paint Beetles. You had to leave your car with them for one day, and you didn't know which of five products you were going to get. In addition to Kool cigarettes, there was some brand of shampoo that would have had our car covered in pink and orange flower decals.
(Submitted by a Global Procurement & Manager)

RE: Men's Magazines turn the Page on their Adolescence
Interesting. Any way you cut it, my husband is all man. He reminds me of a cross between Jack Bauer and Jesse James (of Sandra Bullock marriage, but maybe the outlaw, too!). He also has a penchant for nice things (cigars, John Lobb shoes, Kiton shirts, pocket squares, and cars). He's 35 years old and thinks Men's Vogue is hands down the best magazine published for men today.
(Submitted by an Editor in Chief)

RE: The Worst PR Debacle in History
Bob, I've been lucky enough to visit China several times on magazine production business, including Hong Kong six times, Beijing twice, and Shenyang once. (Shenyang is a city of more than 7 million, but most Americans have never heard of it.) The working conditions, pollution, and production of poisonous or dangerous products is as described in this article. The responsibility, however, is joint - both the Chinese businessman, who comes from an entirely non-Western culture, operates without the "ethical" boundaries that most of us adhere to, as part of his busines DNA. Equally to blame is the purchasing agent from WalMart, or any other large buyer of off-shore produced goods, who insists only on lowest price, without regard to environmental or societal consequences. The Chinese supplier will do ANYTHING to reduce the cost of his goods, in the hopes of making the sale. It is the responsibility of the buyer to review the conditions under which goods being sold by his firm are manufactured. Unfortunately, today's Wall Street culture of money is everything is too often used as an excuse to not address these real, and serious issues. I'd love to see some news articles about what the TRUE cost of Chinese manufactured goods are - factoring in pollution, environment, and child labor, to start. Making things in the USA might not seem so expensive.
(Submitted by a Senior Production Director)

And now, grim words from The Reaper

And now, grim words from The Reaper
He's a magazine insider--no names, please
By Diego Vasquez

The golden era of magazines is over, as the recent chill in ad pages and large number of high-profile closures can attest, so why not have a little fun with it? That's the idea behind the blog, the snarky site launched nearly two years ago to predict what publications would be put down next. Thus far this year, the site has correctly forecast the deaths of Jane, Stuff and Premiere, and it has a hall of fame dedicated to the best shuttered magazines over recent decades, including Fame, which closed in 1990, and Revolution, which went under six years ago. The site is run by The Reaper, who won't give his real name but claims years of experience in magazines and lots of contacts feeding him gossip. The most recent magazine to appear in The Reaper's sights is the long-struggling Business 2.0. Just yesterday Time Inc. announced it was folding the title, after months of speculation. The Reaper talks to Media Life about reading the signs of an impending death, who's going next, and why it might be pricey Condé Nast launch Portfolio.

How did the site start?

You know how they say the suicide rates are highest during the holidays? A number of things were happening at the same time in December 2005.

It was the time of Time Inc.'s first round of massive layoffs. Some very high-level executives were telling me of bleak prospects for their own properties. Private equity companies were setting their sites on stumbling publishing ventures. The flow of ad dollars out of magazine publishing was really picking up steam, while the Magazine Publishers of America was continuing to stumble getting into a fighting stance (not that it would have mattered).

The train was leaving the station, so the Reaper was born to take note of this passing of an era.

How do you peg the magazines most likely to expire?

Some magazines are such obvious "Dead Men Walking" that somebody has to say something. I do my research and speak to others in the business.

Additionally, I get a steady flow of emails from people inside the magazine publishers themselves, and a few from subscription agents who tip me off when somebody has pulled their business.

What are the tell-tale signs that a magazine is about to go under?

There are definitely warning signs that the road has gotten rocky, whether it's corporate abandonment, constantly changing editorial directions in an attempt to get anything going, key executives not being replaced, betting too heavily on newsstand sales, abnormally high turnover, or putting out a magazine that readers neither need nor want.

How often are you right?

Looking back, it seems I've had a pretty good number of correct predictions. There are others that are still hanging around for some reason, some rather mysteriously, but time is always on The Reaper's side.

Which magazines look particularly vulnerable to death right now?

Tango, Hollywood Life, Radar, TV Guide, Sound & Vision, Kiplinger's Personal Finance and, in the long run (meaning two years), Portfolio.

Tango and Hollywood Life have tiny circulations with minimal advertiser support. Tango cut back its frequency last year to quarterly. There are no signs of health in either publication, so they must have sugar daddies or inherited millions or somehow they are barely staying up through levitation.

Radar is a special and admirable publication that is just plain cursed with the wrong investors every time it comes back to life. Investors need to have a great team and a truly intelligent veteran in charge with a very clear and seasoned direction of what to do.

Compare either of Radar's last two investors to the people who just bought Dennis Publishing. It's like night and day.

TV Guide has dwindling circulation and buzz, and is just becoming an antiquated concept, much like Premiere magazine was. Between TiVo, DVRs, the web, and cable guide channels, the audience is getting older and smaller for TV Guide.

Sound & Vision covers an area where all the new developments have failed (SACD, DVD audio), and all you need to know is online. The best editors have left. Does one really need a long-term magazine subscription to find out about new great speakers and plasma TVs? You buy these things once.

Personal finance is one of the toughest categories to be in during the internet age. Kiplinger's not only is the No. 3 title, which is not a great place to be in these days, but they fired their whole sales staff and replaced them with sales rep agencies. They have the oldest audience, and it's getting smaller and smaller. Kiplinger's is becoming less and less essential. And they have no real digital strategy in place, which the other two titles (Money, SmartMoney) do.

Why Portfolio?

Portfolio is a larger, more expensive version of Cargo. Nobody asked for it, but Condé Nast believes advertisers will. Readers have not demanded a new business magazine at a time when magazines are already in trouble and there've been too many of them.

Condé Nast does not have it in its DNA to do anything humbly. I think Portfolio is a curiosity piece and once the bloom is off the rose, the newsstand sales will eventually tell the tale.

Like Cargo, Portfolio will not catch on with readers in the long run. Advertisers will eventually detect that there is no reader commitment or desire, and it will eventually fold.

Which magazine's demise this year most surprised you?

None of them. None at all.

All the titles that have passed so far closed for very good reasons cited by myself well before their closing: Jane Pratt leaving Jane, FHM throwing caution to the wind and going way, way down-market in desperation, Stuff being the odd man out at Dennis Publishing.

Which magazine that should have been killed off years ago is still thriving?

Spin. Although I am not quite sure I'd call them "thriving." It's more like keeping their head barely above water.

Spin was a great brand that lost its way and the sizzle of that brand. It primarily represented one thing, alternative and grunge rock, and once that passed, the title slowly became a relic.

Even though it exists now, it's still very much an outdated brand with not much clout. I don't know how they will thrive with record companies moving their budgets online.

Which magazine category is most vulnerable this year?

Shelter, and also parenting.

For shelter, the housing boom is over, and ad pages are down significantly.

For parenting, mothers are finding all their information online. There's no shortage of web sites and message boards devoted to this topic. Younger mothers are not replacing the older mothers who have outgrown the titles.

Have there been more or fewer deaths than usual this year?

I feel like the anti-Samir Husni. The year is not over yet, but we're still moving at a steady pace. There are major titles, both big and small, that have taken my boat ride, and I don't see that ending anytime soon.

Diego Vasquez is a staff writer for Media Life.

Bonnier Set to Launch Science Illustrated

Bonnier Set to Launch Science Illustrated
By Joanna Pettas

In the current magazine climate, any launch is notable-even if it's a translation of an existing Danish science magazine. Bonnier Corporation is set to launch Science Illustrated, a new bi-monthly title, in December. The publication is modeled after the largest magazine in Scandinavia, which is published by Bonnier and shares the same name in translation.

Science Illustrated will be published with help from Popular Science, also a Bonnier title, and the two titles will share resources, PopSci publisher Gregg Hano tells Folio: Alert. "We will basically be putting it out with Popular Science's existing staff," Hano says. "We are hiring a translator/editor because the magazine is currently in Danish, but editorial, consumer marketing, production, manufacturing, and advertising will all be through us."
The two magazines will differentiate from one another in terms of content and audience, Hano says. "Popular Science will remain true to its 'Future-is-now' roots," focusing on the latest technology, gadgets, and products of now and the near-future, while Science Illustrated will focus on four basic pillars: nature, technology, culture, and medicine. Also, while Popular Science has a male readership of 85 percent, Science Illustrated will be "more dual-audience, gender-neutral, and family-oriented."

The Science Illustrated venture comes at a time when print launches are becoming less and less frequent, but it coincides with Chairman Jonas Bonnier's long-term vision for Bonnier Corp. "For more than 40 years, we have tried to establish a position in the U.S. magazine market," he told Folio: in April. "And we will keep on trying to do this for the coming 40 years. For anyone who wants a strong presence in the international magazine market, publishing in English is essential."

Business 2.0's Facebook Group Reacts to Magazine's Death
By Dylan Stableford

When rumors swirled in July that Time Inc.'s struggling Business 2.0 was on put on the publishing equivalent of life support, subscribers on Facebook sprang into action, forming a "I read Business 2.0 - and I want to keep reading!" group on the social networking site. In two days, the group had 700 members. In two weeks, the group had over 2,000 members, including Web 2.0 luminaries like Craiglist's Craig Newmark -- and Business 2.0's editor Josh Quittner. It currently has 2,339 members.

But all of that cyber-sweat came crashing down earlier this week, when Time Inc. announced it would fold Business 2.0 into Fortune rather than sell to rival Fast Company owner Joe Mansueto. Here's a sampling of the Facebook group's reaction:

Given what a general mess Time Warner/AOL is, I'm not surprised they're letting a good title die. This is no way to reassure investors or readers.

What a bummer. So where are we going for our content after October? I see people are being moved to Fortune magazine, but I hardly think that's where I'm going to find quality content a la business 2.0.

That's what they get for naming Jason Calacanis as one of the 50 most important people.
I think a mix of Wired and Fast Company will have to do for now.

In a post entitled "Why this Facebook group failed," Alex Hammer, owner of Media 2.0, said he tried to "put together a group to purchase this fine publication."

Unfortunately, being frank, it was more interested in updating the number of members in this Facebook group than bringing together the key industry figures in the group to rescue the magazine. I realize that Time nixed offers, perhaps for competitive reasons, but the financers, insiders and industry heavyweights to pull together to make this publication survive - perhaps online are right in this group (as well as outside). 600,000 subscribers thrown away. That's not chump change.

Colin Carmichael, the group's founder, wrote: "Well folks, it's been an interesting couple months watching this all unfold. I think we can claim responsibility for the October issue and the extra time for folks at B2 to figure out plan B, so not all was in vain."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Free Agent: Hesitation Is for Has-Beens

Free Agent: Hesitation Is for Has-Beens
by Lisa Seward

Five months into my new gig, I've figured out something it would have been nice to know before hanging out my shingle: I'm a lousy consultant. Oh, it's not that I don't network with the best of them. I'm actually finding that part of the job not nearly as loathsome as I always feared. (Open plug for LinkedIn: It helps considerably.) And I'm told I give good deck, so mark off "PowerPoint Princess" on the Basic Consultant Qualifications checklist. Meetings at coffee shops? Check. Listening skills? Working on those. (Hey, at least I'm honest.)

Nope, I'm flunking Consulting 101 because I actually have the nerve (or naïveté) to expect clients to take action on the suggestions they pay me to provide - preferably yesterday. Unlike many consultants, I'm not happy if my recommendations just sit on someone's desk. They are developed to inspire new ways of working and thinking, and my innate impatience causes me to break into hives if I sense anything less than outright urgency behind my clients' desire to act now.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently as I've worked to help clients jump into the murky land of "change management" with me. Over time, I have come to see that this tendency not to leap immediately into re-invention isn't something to be frustrated by, but rather is a sign of these clients' intelligence and respect for the magnitude of the job ahead of them. After all, we're living through nothing less than a Copernican shift in the media and marketing landscape, and it can't be addressed through minor process or structural evolutions - or even revolutions. It's bigger than that. We're talking about profound redefinitions of the most basic elements of our business: how we think, how we work together, who "we" even is, who calls the shots, how our jobs are defined, what our product is and how we make money. Easy, right? No wonder people aren't always dying to dive right in!

But while the hesitation is understandable, it's not acceptable if you want to come out of this period as a leader rather than a has-been. If you want to succeed in advertising today, you simply can't allow fear to keep you from changing. Feel it, yes, but succumb to it? Not an option. At best, sticking with what's always worked will put you at a competitive disadvantage when other companies are hawking their newer, more original and more effective ideas. At worst, it makes you a dinosaur.

Maybe you've read one of several recent write-ups on Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' turnaround over the past couple of years from a great creative yet highly traditional TV shop to a nimble, digital-centric agency that's winning awards (and gazillions in new business) through innovative, Web-based solutions. As the story goes, the partners had an epiphany about the need to change, so they announced to the creative department that the future of the agency lay in new media, and suggested that anyone who didn't want to be part of that future should work elsewhere. (Sure, a bit easier when you're considered one of the best places any creative type could work in this country, but still, you have to admire the cheek of it.) Fast-forward two years and they have made a huge transformation look almost easy.

Do you believe those partners didn't feel fear and doubt or face times during those two years when they realized they had no idea what they were doing? I would guess they encountered plenty of all this. Yet they forged ahead anyway, motivated by their certainty that the alternative - sticking with their TV heritage - was a path to a painful end marked by increasing irrelevance and decreasing business success.

There's no secret, and really nothing more to it than this: Have a clear vision about what is right for your company, take action, then take some more. Bit by bit, you'll find you are living your future. It's that simple - and, yes, that hard. Find outside guidance if you need it to get moving (especially to identify that whole "vision" thing), but not if it will just slow you down. Do whatever you must to resist the tendency to overthink. Waiting for the perfect plan or to have every question answered is just a recipe for continued mastery of yesterday.

It's not that you won't be afraid. Any smart person would be, facing what we're all facing. Let yourself feel the fear ... then change anyway.

Lisa Seward is the founder of Mod Communications, a strategic and media consultancy.

Bauer Upping Most Low-Cost Weeklies' Cover Prices

Bauer Upping Most Low-Cost Weeklies' Cover Prices
Lucia Moses

Bauer Publishing, which built its business on the low newsstand cover price model, will raise prices on most of its 11 titles, the company confirmed.

In Touch and Life & Style weeklies, which sell more than 2 million copies on the newsstand at a price of $1.99, will go up to $2.99. On the women's service front, First for Women will go to $2.49 from $1.99; and Woman's World to $1.79 from $1.49. Teen titles J-14 and M will go to $3.99 from $2.99. Soaps in Depth will go to $3.99 from $3.50. The increases will take effect at the end of October and early November.

The moves come as major wholesalers have been pressuring Bauer and other low-cost magazine publishers to raise their cover prices in an effort to improve their profits. A recent study by Harrington Associates found wholesalers lose money on magazines priced under $2.49 (wholesalers get a percent of the cover price of each magazine they sell, a disincentive for them to carry low-priced magazines).

Relatedly, three wholesalers have made sharp distribution cuts in the past year with an emphasis on low-priced titles, which have proliferated in recent years. A source at a major wholesaler said that in addition to raising prices, Bauer agreed to appease wholesalers by selling its magazines at a higher discount.

"I think they realized wholesalers weren't getting enough out of their margins to cover their costs," the source said of Bauer. "In our view, they've come a long way in terms of making their products more viable."

Hubert Boehle, president, CEO, Bauer, in his first interview on the cuts, said discounts have been adjusted in some cases, although he contested the notion that low-priced titles are unprofitable for wholesalers. Asked if wholesaler pressure played a role in the pricing increase moves, he said, "The wholesalers obviously are happier with high prices, and we are working with the wholesalers to see that our sales remain at the same level and both sides will be in a strong position."

Predicting a price increase's impact on newsstand sales is difficult, but observers have pointed out that Bauer has built its business on low cover prices and relies heavily on circulation revenue. "No one knows what will happen to their sales, but they'll still be a low cover price title [publisher,]" the wholesaler source said. Observers also will be watching to see if other $1.99-and-under titles, which include Meredith Corp.'s Family Circle and Hearst Magazines' Quick & Simple, will follow Bauer's lead in raising their prices.

Boehle said he doesn't expect newsstand sales of Bauer's titles to fall off following the increases, noting that, especially in the case of the celebrity weeklies, Bauer's will still be priced significantly below their rivals.

Northern & Shell's celeb weekly OK! went to $2.99 from $1.99 earlier this year, and Time Inc.'s People will go up to $3.99 from $3.49 this month. Wenner Media's Us Weekly and American Media Inc.'s Star are priced at $3.49.

Boehle also noted that Bauer teen title Twist had a recent price increase, with no impact on newsstand sales. Twist went to $3.99 in October/November 2006, from $2.99.

"If you look at our pricing history, we've held our prices for a long time while other publications have gone up, the most recent example being People," he said. "All are in very good shape editorially, and we offer a great value to consumers. And since there has been a general increase in pricin

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Media Buyers, Mags, and Football

BoSacks Speaks Out:

Everybody in this list knows that I am a proponent of a strong digital future of reading by the masses. As each year goes by, more and more of the reading public will be gathering their news, their information and their thoughts from a digital screen of one sort or another, and with the advent of a workable e-paper solution, that process will accelerate ten fold. Digital distribution is cheap, and paper distribution can only become more expensive.

A generation has grown up within the digital distribution sphere. Yet, today there is still a very strong place for printed magazines. This will change over time, in fact, it is changing now, and with the success of WiFi connected e-paper on the visible horizon it will surely be as great a watershed moment in reading history as Guttenberg's movable type.

There are two reasons I am bringing this up, one is the article below, and the other is because it is football season. What difference does that make? Well, it's like this. I have purchased not one, not two, but three different fantasy football magazines this year. I have purchased them at an exorbitantly high price for a newsprint magazine with extremely dated editorial material. But to a niche reader like myself, I must have them. They are so out of date that some players highly touted in the magazines are no longer playing in the NFL. Still I flip through the pages seeking wisdom and insights into my publicly admitted addiction to Football. I am sure that the same idiocy is endured by other niche readers in there own little pools of interest. Perhaps, you are a boater, a model builder, a knitter, or some other craft. If you are, you know what I am talking about. The passion of reading tied to the passion of a very special interest.

That all being said, someday soon there will come a workable e-paper solution that is near as cheap as dead trees and is always up-to-date. At that moment in time, my addiction will shift to the new model of information distribution, and I will no longer be reading about football guys who are no longer in the NFL.

I will still be reading words, but those words will no longer be out of date. That is, of course, unless I want to read one of the great classics, which are old words that I choose to read because they are good words, put in the proper order and have stood the test of time. And even then the great classics will be read on a screen of one sort or another. It's the ideas in the words that count and not the method of delivery.

Do you think differently? Do you agree? Tell me about it.


Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.

Bill Shankly, In Sunday Times (UK) Oct. 4 1981

Buyers see tougher go for older media
Survey: They see a continuing erosion for print
By Lisa Snedeker

Here are three words that have already dramatically reshaped American media and promise to do a lot more reshaping:

"Digital, digital, digital."

And for media buyers those three words sum up the state of media and its prospects looking ahead to fall 2007, according to a Media Life reader survey that was posted over the long holiday weekend.

Buyers believe traditional media will continue to suffer against the internet and other forms of digital media, and they are particularly pessimistic about newspapers and magazines as they attempt to confront the erosion of readers and advertisers brought on by the web.

More than three fourths of readers see an acceleration in the decline of newspaper circulation.

The question: Do you think the current slide in newspaper circulation will slow down by the end of the year or accelerate?

Nearly half, 45 percent, agreed with this statement: "It's bound to accelerate, especially now that some papers are trimming back on marginal circulation in outlying regions."

Another 31 percent agreed with this statement: "Actually, the slide will moderate for the coming year or so but then really speed up as more readers go online for their local news."

Just 22 percent believe the slides will continue but at a slower pace than in some recent reporting periods, in which declines averaged just over 2 percent. And a mere 2.3 percent think the slides will stop.

In magazines, which have seen a string of closures, buyers were asked to identify those most at risk. Nearly a third, 29.4 percent, picked the teen category as most likely to see another title folding.

Second, at 17.5 percent, came the celebrity category, which many believe to be overcrowded. Just behind was the women's category, at 15.1 percent, and business/personal finance at 10.3 percent.

Of the two titles believed to be at risk, Business 2.0 and Radar, Business 2.0 leads in the minds of media buyers, at 11.1 percent versus 7.1 percent for Radar.

Most media buyers think magazines have done a poor job of coming up with creative ways to insulate themselves from the ravages of the internet, and by a large margin.

The question: Generally speaking, how good a job have magazines done in insulating themselves from further losses of readers and advertising to the internet?

Just 11 percent agreed with the statement: "Many have done a lot to integrate their online and print editions, which is key."

But 49 percent agreed with this statement: "Not nearly the job one might have expected, considering their vulnerability. They're still chasing ad pages to the exclusion of everything else."

Another 32 percent agreed with this statement: "Not much and for good reason. There's just not that much they can do to fend off the inevitable. Ad dollars are going to move online regardless."

And 8 percent agreed with this statement: "A terrible job. The industry is in deep trouble, and we are going to see a lot of titles suddenly closing."

But buyers' concerns go well beyond print. They're also pessimistic about broadcast TV this coming season, largely because of the flush of unscripted shows, whose numbers are equal to scripted dramas in primetime.

Readers were asked how the emphasis on reality will affect ratings.

Just 9 percent felt ratings would rise. And another 27 percent felt they would remain about the same, or dip slightly, agreeing with the statement: "People who watch network TV will watch whatever's put in front of them, and reality works as well as comedy, if not better."

The remaining 64 percent thought ratings would suffer, agreeing with the statement: "This is not about putting on shows that pull in viewers but about saving production dollars. The networks, particularly NBC, are shooting themselves in the foot to save a few dollars, and it will cost them dearly in the ratings this fall."

Buyers believe by a wide margin that broadcast will continue to lose viewers to cable, with 71 percent agreeing with the statement: "Yes. With one of baseball's league championship series moving to TBS and the continued success of ESPN's 'Monday Night Football,' cable could have a record fall."

Just 29 percent think broadcast will halt the slide, agreeing with the statement: "I think there are a number of compelling broadcast shows that will keep viewers engaged, while cable networks save their best shows for summer."

Further, most believe the networks will see the top shows continue their decline from last spring, with 69 percent agreeing with the statement: "This is a notable trend that I see continuing for some time. While it's not time to panic, it's certainly something to keep an eye on."

Fewer than a third, 31 percent, think last spring's slide will not continue, believing ratings will bounce back with the new season.

Buyers believe ABC has the best fall schedule, at 52 percent, followed by CBS at 18 percent and Fox at 17 percent. They believe MyNetworkTV has the worst lineup, at 32 percent, with NBC just behind at 26 percent.

Among other findings: Two thirds believe Don Imus will return to radio by Christmas and 46 percent believe Rupert Murdoch bought Dow Jones to bolster his soon-to-launch cable business news channel, rather than being motivated by ego (26 percent) or an intense desire to challenge The New York Times (28 percent.)

As for pegging the emerging trends that media buyers and planners should stay abreast of this fall, one reader summed it all up with this observation: "The internet is making everyone face changes in print and broadcasting."

"Buyers should be aware of the increase in online advertising, video on demand and interactive television spots," wrote another.

Here are some of the other predictions:

--"Viewers watching the new season episodes online will be a big trend."

--"More and more television shows are going online, it's only a matter of time before one of the big four puts a series exclusively online. Maybe NBC will test it out with its younger 'My Name Is Earl' or 'The Office' viewers, but buyers must beware of this happening and it will happen soon."

--"The big trend will be the increase in TiVo households and ability to skip ads becoming more widespread and all that entails. Also the increasing preponderance of digital options of all shapes, sizes and types."