Thursday, October 11, 2007
Why Hearst has reason to thank the global Cosmopolitan woman
By Joshua Chaffin
Every two years, editors from the 58 foreign editions of Cosmopolitan magazine descend on Hearst Corporation's Manhattan headquarters for a global summit. And each time, George Green notices that the Cosmo girls from around the world seem to be growing ever more alike.
"If you walk down the street here on Eighth Avenue or in Beijing or Singapore, women look the same. They're wearing the same jeans, they're listening to the same music," says Mr Green, chief executive of Hearst Magazines International. "They don't want to be American but they want to be more like their American sister than ever before."
For nearly two decades, Mr Green has ridden that trend as he has spread Cosmopolitan and other Hearst magazines - including Esquire and Good Housekeeping - around the globe. The company now boasts nearly 200 foreign editions. This year, they are expected to post double-digit growth and account for about a third of the Hearst magazine group's profits - up from about 10 per cent five years ago.
That contribution is particularly welcome at a time when consumer magazines are under pressure in the US. They are facing new challenges for readers and advertisers from the internet. With about 90 per cent of their sales coming through subscriptions, they are also suffering higher postage costs.
"The international business is better than ever," Mr Green says, pointing to places such as eastern Europe and Asia, where growing economies are giving consumers new appetites for luxury items.
As it seeks to expand its global footprint, Hearst is looking at a more developed market: the UK. It has bid £700m ($1.43bn) for the consumer magazine group at Emap, which includes such titles as Heat and FHM.
The deal would bolster Hearst's wholly owned subsidiary, The National Magazine Company, which publishes Cosmo and 18 other titles in the UK. It would also bring the company full circle. The privately held publishing group first ventured outside the US in 1910 when founder William Randolph Hearst bought Nash and Pall Mall.
When Mr Green took the helm of the newly established international division in 1989, he focused primarily on licensing Hearst's famous brands rather than outright acquisitions. The strategy, he says, was more akin to extending an already successful magazine than the risky business of launching new titles.
Along the way, Mr Green has chosen to give an extraordinary amount of autonomy to editors in places such as China and Kazakhstan - allowing them to determine whether the word "orgasm" can appear on their covers and other sensitivities - rather than sending in US editors to oversee them. "I don't have anyone anywhere and I don't have any intention of changing that," Mr Green says.
The more important task for Hearst has been finding the right local partner. One unhappy experience came in Turkey in the mid-1990s when Hearst bought a one-third stake in a newspaper and magazine publisher. "It was making a lot of money," Mr Green recalls. Unfortunately, the Turkish partners also owned a bank, which failed after the financial crisis in the late 1990s. The government stepped in, seizing the bank, and the publishing group along with it.
The pain of that venture, though, has been offset by Hearst's success in places such as Russia, where it contributed $75,000 to a Cosmopolitan joint venture in 1994. In spite of the lean times following the country's debt default in 1998, it now generates more than $100m a year in revenue, and has provided a launching pad into markets such as Ukraine and Georgia.
"It's gut," Mr Green said of his talent for choosing foreign partners. "I think your gut is the accumulation of all the experience you've had in your life."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
"Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor."
OK, the quote above is a bit of a reach, but I liked its double meaning, and it covers the topic below nicely. Although the article is mostly about music and the copyrights that are under attack, so too is the written word under attack. Who owns published content? At what point does "it" belong to the public domain? These are issues that we will be fencing with for some time to come. A digital world make for nice and easy access to damn near everything.
File-Sharing Students Fight Copyright Constraints
By RACHEL AVIV
When Zachary McCune, a student at Brown, received an e-mail message from the university telling him he might have broken the law by downloading copyrighted songs, his eyes glazed over the warning and he quickly forgot about it. "I already knew what they'd say about file-sharing," he said. "It's become a campus cliché."
But the next day, he realized the message had an attachment from the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that is coordinating legal efforts by record companies to crack down on Internet piracy. The attachment told Mr. McCune he faced a lawsuit with potential fines of $750 to $150,000 for every illegally downloaded song.
"I was stunned by the extremity of the punishment for taking songs I could have bought for a few cents," he said. "It seemed grossly out of proportion."
Twelve Brown students received these letters; Mr. McCune ended up paying $3,000 to settle the claim. But the experience made him interested in changing intellectual property regulations. Last spring he co-founded Brown's chapter of Students for Free Culture, a national organization sprouting up on college campuses that advocates loosening the restrictions of copyright law so that information - from software to music to research to art - can be freely shared.
"The technology has outpaced the law," said Mr. McCune, who is now a sophomore.
Established at Swarthmore College in 2004, the group has chapters at more than 35 universities across the country. "We will listen to free music, look at free art, watch free film and read free books," reads its manifesto, posted on its Web site, freeculture.org. "We refuse to accept a future of digital feudalism."
Members assert that the Internet has made it necessary to rethink copyright law, and they talk about the group's goals with something like the reverence that earlier generations displayed in talking about social or racial equality.
"People wonder why college students aren't rallying more around the Iraq war," Mr. McCune said. "If there were a draft, we probably would be. Students are so quick to fight for this cause because we're the ones bearing the burden."
Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the popular technology blog Boing Boing, said the recording industry lawsuits were not "scaring students away from file-sharing, but scaring them into political consciousness." Last year, Mr. Doctorow was an adviser to the Students for Free Culture chapter at the University of Southern California while teaching a course on the history of copyright law.
Opposition to the music industry and its efforts to protect copyrights often dominates discussions on campuses. Chapters have organized demonstrations in front of major record stores and held "iPod liberation" parties where students have downloaded software together that makes it possible to swap songs.
Many chapters have held forums to discuss legal decisions and developments in copyright, frequently debating what it means to "steal" something as amorphous as a digital file.
But in recent months, the group has made a point of branching out beyond music copyrights. At its first national conference, held at Harvard in May and attended by more than 130 people, speakers gave presentations on topics like enhancing Internet access in impoverished countries, and loosening patent regulations for pharmaceutical drugs.
"File-sharing may have brought these issues to public consciousness, but it's not our only inspiration," said Elizabeth Stark, founder of Harvard's Free Culture group.
Some chapters have rallied around the Federal Research Public Access Act, a bill that would make it mandatory for government-financed research to be published in online journals, free to the public.
The movement is not without its critics. Early on, Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, said the group should pick more consequential problems to rally around than access to music.
"Part of what's so tricky about this movement is trying to pry apart access to entertainment from some of the more serious issues, like access to medicine," he said. "The movement does itself a disservice by blending all the issues together."
There are student dissenters, too. At Brown, David Harrington, a senior who did not join the new chapter, said he sometimes felt like the "grumpiest, curmudgeonliest old man in the conversation" for understanding the position of the recording industry.
"I'm a musician, so I'm thinking, how are these artists going to earn a living?" he said. "The technology makes stealing so easy that it's hard to tell whether this debate is about ethics or just convenience."
Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the recording industry group, said he had never heard of Students for Free Culture. But he said his group did not plan to let up on its efforts to protect music copyrights.
"Some say illegal downloading couldn't possibly hurt successful artists, which may very well be true," he said. "But we rely on a few successful artists to compensate for all the new, risky ones who don't recoup what's invested in them."
The movement has its roots in an incident at Swarthmore, when two sophomores posted online internal e-mail messages from Diebold Election Systems, which makes electronic voting machines. The company ordered the students to remove the documents, asserting that the messages were its own intellectual property, and threatening a lawsuit. Instead, the students won a lawsuit against Diebold for abusing copyright law.
Propelled by their victory, the students started the group, which they named after the 2004 book "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School. The book applies principles from the so-called free software movement - the idea that computer users should have the liberty to copy, distribute and modify software as they wish - to all aspects of culture. Too many copyright restrictions, Mr. Lessig argued, dampen creativity.
"Copyright should be a boring subject, but more and more people are realizing how big this is," said Cameron Parkins, 21, a member of Students for Free Culture at the University of Southern California. "You mention the name Lawrence Lessig to the right people, and they'll just go bananas."
Before beginning their meetings, the members of New York University's chapter place a copy of "Free Culture" at the center of their conference table.
"I wouldn't say it's a bible, but we do often reference it," said Fred Benenson, 23, president of the group and a master's student in N.Y.U.'s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His group has held lectures, protests and an art exhibition, with all work licensed under Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that allows authors to change copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved" or "No Rights Reserved."
There are around 15 regular members in N.Y.U.'s chapter, Mr. Benenson said, and the mailing list includes more than 600 people. He said he and others were working on composing a list of the top 10 universities with the most restrictive policies for licensing scholarly research, software and student work.
"Students want to know which universities are going to take away their freedom on the Internet," he said. "The academy is meant to be this wonderful, separate part of the world that exists for the sharing and reusing of culture."
The Newsstand Cauldron Boils
By Baird Davis
The cloak of pessimism hangs heavy in the magazine newsstand trade. As the newsstand business tries to confront the problems poised by its archaic infrastructure, it more and more takes on the appearance of an industry at odds with itself.
Despite its problems, industry sales remained stable in the first half of 2007, which is more a testament to the enduring appeal of magazines, than to enlightened marketing practices. Unit sales of 455 million were up marginally (.2 percent) and retail revenue grew to $1.561 billion-a modest rise of 1.5 percent.
Although the sales were stable, product preference changes continued to reshape the face of the business. But most interestingly, in the year 2007 the industry has been witness to a more aggressive wholesaler community. In this article we'll discuss the product preference changes and more fully dissect the significance of wholesaler initiated changes.
Celebrity Titles Dominate Product Preferences
The sales of People, the market bellwether, dipped 6.1 percent, but this did not impede the continuing sales rise in the celebrity category. The sales revenue of In Touch (+14.6 percent), Life & Style (+9.4 percent) and the British upstart, Ok! Weekly, more than made up for the relatively modest sales declines of People, US and Star.
Overall the sales in the six title category exhibited a dramatic increase-unit sales up 8.3 percent and revenue climbing 7.5 percent. The combined revenue of the six titles was $418 million-or, to put it another way, these six titles by themselves account for an astonishing 27 percent of all money spent on audited publications at the newsstand.
The dynamic performance of the celebrity titles doesn't leave much room for other titles to prosper. Therefore, it was not surprising that the unit sales of the other 545 audited publications sold at the newsstand dropped 3.1 percent and their revenue declined .5 percent. Particularly hard hit was Marie Claire (down 19.9 percent). The sales of this title have fallen steadily-down 41 percent from their peak three years ago.
Entertainment Weekly is another casualty of the celebrity onslaught. Its sales in the first half of 2007 were down 21 percent and off 56 percent from their 2002 peak. In the traditional women's field, Redbook (down 13 percent), Reader's Digest (down 12 percent) and Woman's Day (down 10 percent) also appear to be victims of the product preference changes.
The one women's category that wasn't tarnished in the first half of 2007 by the celebrity titles was the fashion group. The three major titles in this category (Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar) all reported sales increases. As a group, their sales revenue was up a combined 14 percent, with Elle's 24 percent increase leading the way.
The Food, Teen and Laddie Categories
The food, teen and laddie categories do not seemingly have much in common. But their sales performance provides an object lesson in category sales dynamics and the significance of being a category sales leader.
Food-In the last year, the food category has been invigorated by the introduction of two well received new publications-Everyday with Rachael Ray and Cooking with Paula Deen. The Rachael Ray title, after a dramatic debut in the first half of last year, has continued to grow. A frequency increase and a higher cover price have not slowed its momentum: sales revenue grew a robust 42 percent in thefirst half of this year. Its newsstand revenue now exceeds Martha Stewart Living.
Cooking with Paula Deen has also shown dramatic results since its debut in the last half of 2006. Its sales revenue of $4.4 million placed it 51st among checkout titles (see attached chart). It appears as if these two titles have expanded the newsstand sales in the food category. But the sales success of titles new to a category nearly always carries some adverse effect for those publications presently populating the category. The titles most notably affected were Bon Appetite (down nearly 13 percent) and Cooking Light (down 12 percent).
Teen-The teen category provides a different lesson in intra-category dynamics. The sales of the seven major teen publications (Seventeen, Cosmo Girl, J-14, M, Twist, Teen Vogue, and a resurrected Teen) all experienced increased sales. In the aggregate, their sales were up over 14 percent in the first half of this year.
However as a category, their sales, compared to the year previous period, were down 3 percent. How could that be? The demise of Teen People (last published in first half 2006, with sales of over $5 million for the period) left a huge hole to fill. All the teen titles prospered as result of Teen People's demise, yet their large increase was not enough to fully offset the loss of this title.
Laddie-The magnificent "Laddie" era appears to be coming to an end. And what a brilliant run it was. Five years ago, in the first half of 2002, Maxim, Stuff and FHM accounted for over 10 million units sold and more than $42 million in revenue. During this period, Maxim's sales peaked at a nearly inconceivable 870,000 copies per issue.
At the time, these titles re-energized the dormant men's publication field and reshaped the look of many of its peripheral competitors-GQ, Esquire and Details. But the closing of FHM in the first half of the year and the apparent shuttering of Stuff leaves only the giant Maxim standing in this once proud category.
But Maxim remains a powerful brand. Its survival is a testament to the importance of "winning" (within category) at the newsstand. Usually within a category, no. 2 and no. 3 titles in newsstand sales can survive, but in this case only Maxim lives to fight another day.
Food, Teen or Laddie, it doesn't matter-publishing battles are fought on a category by category basis. The results of those newsstand battles usually determine the ultimate winners and losers.
Checkout Sales Up, Mainline Sales Down
Continuing a trend that began four years ago, checkout sales grew in the first half of 2007, with revenue up 3.6 percent; while mainline sales declined (2.4 percent). The overwhelming success of the celebrity titles has enabled checkout sales to grow, despite the declines of many women's service publications.
By way of contrast, mainline sales since 2004 have been declining at an annual revenue rate of about 3 percent. The mainline sales drop is largely a result of the sales decline of male oriented titles. We discussed the sales fall of laddie titles, but other leading male titles have also declined.
Particularity significant has been the sales reversal in the gaming category. Official Playstation Magazine, which was one of the top ten male oriented newsstand sales leaders a year ago, is no longer being published and the sales of the other leading game titles, including Official Xbox Magazine, have fallen rather sharply from their 2004 highs.
Pricing and Industry Revenue Could All Dramatically Change
The average price of copies sold in the first half of 2007 rose 1.5 percent to $3.43. This breaks a two year trend of flat average sales prices. But this modest increase will seem very shallow when compared to the potential pricing and revenue affect caused by Bauer's announced intent to raise the cover prices on all its audited publications in the fourth quarter of this year.
The affect, most notably for its women's service and celebrity titles-First for Women, Women's World, In Touch and Life & Style-could potentially raise Bauer's average sales price from $1.94 to $2.62, an increase of 35 percent. The prospective impact of these changes is far reaching, because of Bauer's enormous share of the newsstand market.
In the first half of this year Bauer sold 111 million units (see attached chart), producing retail revenue of $215 million. These changes (assuming a 15 percent unit sales decline and 35 percent average price increase) could, hypothetically, lower Bauer's six month unit sales to 94 million, but increase its revenue to about $247 million.
The net result of Bauer's cover price increases, further assuming Bauer's unit sales decline would be fully offset by sales of other publications, would be to increase industry revenue about 5 percent. This would amount to a very sizable annual industry revenue boost of $160 to $170 million.
The hypothetical unit sales and revenue scenario outlined above is probably a best case situation. However, it highlights the enormous potential industry significance of Bauer's unprecedented price increase decision.
Battle at Top of the Newsstand Sales Pyramid
Six publishers-Time Inc, Bauer, American Media, Hearst, Wenner, and Conde Nast-dominate the newsstand scene. Their combined sales represent 60 percent of the audited consumer magazine market. These six publishing companies are fiercely contesting with one another for newsstand buyers.
But at the top of the sales pyramid, it's not simply a publisher battle. In essence, it's a battle that pits the National Distributors against one another. Time Warner Retail, Comag (owned by Hearst and Conde Nast), Curtis, Kable and marketing and merchandising service provider Distribution Services, Inc (owned by American Media) are actively involved in helping shape the industry to their own needs.
Each has a slightly different vision of how the newsstand should operate. Their divergent interests often make it difficult for them to agree on reform strategy. Unfortunately, among national distributors, self interest typically rules.
Wholesaler Initiated Change
Wholesalers, lacking industry leadership from publishers and national distributors, have started taking matters into their own hands. The wholesaler community has begun to fill the market reform vacuum with much more aggressive (albeit self motivated) action. Let's review what wholesalers have done in the last year or so.
1. Unilaterally Reduced The Number of Copies Distributed-Two of the largest wholesaler groups, Anderson News and News Group, have made unilateral decisions that have taken as many as 140 million copies out of distribution. Wholesalers have reported (confirmed by most national distributors) a four to five percentage point improvement in efficiency without any appreciable loss in sales.
2. Combined Distribution Operations-Anderson News and the News Group have formed a separate company, Prologix, to handle distribution for both companies in selected high traffic locations. By most accounts the results, after a shaky start, indicate that performance at these distribution centers has greatly improved. This has produced operational costs, without seriously impairing the level of service.
3. Formed Wholesaler Industry Group-Anderson News, News Group and Hudson News formed a group (Magnet) to share information and other things of mutual interest. Their combined influence, especially as a purveyor of information, is now being felt across the industry.
4. Influenced Publisher Cover Pricing Decisions-Wholesalers, reportedly, helped persuade Bauer to increase the cover prices on all its titles. These changes will take effect in the fourth quarter of this year and undoubtedly will have a profound industry effect.
5. Increased the Number of Scan Based Trading (SBT) Agreements-Wholesalers, in an attempt to satisfy retailer requirements, have recently been aggressive in expanding the scale of their SBT agreements. It's believed that SBT agreements currently represent about 25 percent of wholesaler sales. The percentage is expected to go much higher in the next few years.
6. Tightening Their Relations with Retailers-Wholesalers, by offering SBT, more in-store merchandising service, tightly controlling "authorized" lists and managing more promotion programs are forming tighter bonds with their retailers. This, in turn, has made it more difficult for publishers and national distributors to exert influence with retailers.
Balancing the Newsstand Playing Field
In the "post-consolidation" period, the surviving wholesalers were forced to the financial brink. But in the absence of unified publisher and national distributor effort, they are now fighting back. Many of their initiatives appear to have improved industry services. However, for publishers and national distributors there is a real danger in allowing wholesalers, often in conjunction with retailers, to act in such an independent manner.
In order to balance the newsstand playing field, national distributors and publishers must step up to the plate, not individually, but in a unified manner. If they don't, they risk not playing a significant role in what now appears to be a burgeoning wholesaler-led industry reform movement.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
BoSacks Speaks Out: New Bo-Rule. Anyone who refuses to write for the web better be thinking of retirement real soon. I will admit that I am a proponent and believer in a digital future. I can see, it, taste it and believe that it is on the near verge of dominance as an information provider. Why would anyone refuse to write for the web as well as print?
I'm sure I'm missing something here, and I request that those writers on this list can please fill me in on the logic. So far as I can tell we writers, use words to communicate. Why should I care how those words are read? So long as they are, in fact, at the end of the day, read by the public at large. Is there some sort of dead tree elitism going on here? Are my words less important then your words because mine are printed on ether? I think not. It's the thinking and the words that matter not the substrate. Digits or atoms they both support the written word.
Bottom line: If you don't follow the money, you are doing your career and your family an injustice.
Of course, it is very important to be sober when you take an exam. Many worthwhile careers in the street- cleansing, fruit-picking and subway-guitar-playing industries have been founded on a lack of understanding of this simple fact.
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
BY Stephanie D. Smith
Though Guild-protected employees at Time Inc. now have the option of whether or not to write for the Web thanks to their new contract, that doesn't mean the pressure to be part of the company's digital focus has dissipated. Referencing the terms of the new contract, Time Inc. editor in chief John Huey sent a memo to Fortune and Time staffers on Tuesday informing them that "Guild-covered employees of Time Inc. are not required to contribute to the Web sites as part of their jobs; and will not suffer any negative impact as a result of not contributing." However, the disclaimer came after saying that Time Inc.'s best employees have managed to multitask. "As we are all aware, Time Inc.'s Web sites have become a critical part of the company's plans for the future....Many of our best journalists are writing stories and covering beats for the magazine and the dot-com simultaneously, and, your managing editors and I strongly encourage each of you to consider how you can best contribute to Fortune and Time to ensure their success."
In other words: If you want to be one of the company's "best journalists," you better write for both.
So do staffers feel the pressure to ramp up productivity now? Not really. Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer, Time managing editor Richard Stengel and just about every magazine editor in the industry has agreed that print, online and, for that matter, television and radio are all necessary to a magazine's growth. "No one says you have to go on CNBC. But management likes it when you do," explained one writer.
Even the Guild acknowledges that having employees write for both is a good thing, but their discontent came when top editors sent memos requiring print employees to do so, since Guild coverage did not extend to the Web previously. Huey's concession is part of a settlement between the company and the Guild on the matter. The contract, which expires in 2010, was approved Friday by a vote of 105-14. - Stephanie D. Smith
Canadian Magazines Blog
News, views and reviews of the Canadian magazine industry.
Google's valuation: is this the new reality?
That whooshing you heard was the cold chill running down the necks of traditional publishers, as Google's stock market value surpassed that of the Big 3 traditional media companies. A story in MediaDaily News says:
If there were any doubts that we were back into a new, digital media economy, they were laid to rest Monday when the price of Google's shares topped $600 for the first time, giving it a price to earnings multiple of 49.54, and a market capitalization greater than the three biggest traditional media companies - Time Warner, Walt Disney Co., and News Corp. - combined.
In fact, Google's value is 3.6 times that of all the publicly traded ad agencies on Wall Street.
The relative valuations of the new and traditional media companies are more than just symbolic. They signal investor confidence that allow companies to leverage their share value in stock-based acquisitions that can help companies grow even bigger and more dominant over time. And if Google's high price/earnings multiple seems bubblish, it wasn't apparent to experts on Wall Street.
I cut down trees, I love my job...
From the other end of the magazine supply chain comes news that the guys who cut down the trees love their jobs.
Canadian Forest Industries magazine is a trade title that serves the logging industry coast to coast and its website gives an advanced peek at a survey of loggers that will be published in its Nov/Dec issue.
1,500 loggers were questioned by PREfoRT, an industry consortium of forest industry players, from mills and gear suppliers to bankers and insurers, and a couple of things emerged:
Loggers are unbelievably satisfied with their choice of profession, despite tough times. The majority may not be willing to hand the business over to the next generation, but when it comes to their daily job, satisfaction levels are in the high 90s. They love being challenged, they love the independence, machinery, working as part of a team, etc... As Luc LeBel of PREfoRT says , "they love everything about logging."
Almost 60% of spouses do the books or more for the [logging] contractors. Aside from subsidizing the business, this also means spouses are often key players when it comes to tracking costs and returns, and should be involved in any attempts to improve overall business management or performance.
CFI, published by Annex Printing and Publishing Inc. and based in Baie d'Urfe, Quebec, started out 127 years ago as Canada Lumberman and now, with its French language counterpart,Opérations Forestières reaches over 18,000 logging contractors, logging companies and individuals involved in the day-to-day business of logging.
By William Powers, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
As you may have noticed, a lot of serious news is breaking out these days, much of it international: Burma, Blackwater, Iran, Putin, North Korea, Darfur, and so on. Each week, the Project for Excellence in Journalism surveys the fare offered by a broad array of news organizations -- newspapers, network TV, cable, online, and radio -- and produces an index showing which stories were the most covered. Last week, the top story was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to New York, followed by 2) the 2008 campaign, 3) the Myanmar protests, 4) the General Motors labor deal, and 5) events in Iraq (4 and 5 were tied). Important subjects all, by any definition.
Of course, the mere fact that a story was covered doesn't guarantee it was covered well. Discussing the Iran story, PEJ's Mark Jurkowitz wrote: "Most of the coverage focused more on the controversy over the university visit and the outlandish things the Iranian president said than on anything else. There was considerably less coverage of the general situation between the U.S. and Iran."
And the weekly news mix isn't always so weighty. The previous week, the No. 1 story was the Las Vegas arrest of O.J. Simpson, which recalled the proto-feeding frenzy of more than a decade ago, over a story that many viewed as the beginning of the end for serious news. As Jurkowitz put it, "The sense of deja vu was eerie."
Still, overall what's amazing is how little effect the original O.J. story and its spawn -- Anna Nicole Smith being the latest -- have had on the serious business of serious news. Journalism was supposed to be in tatters after O.J., mainstream reporters doomed to spend the rest of their lives looking for the next white Bronco. Remember? Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1995, under the headline "The Simpson Legacy," the late David Shaw rued what O.J. seemed to have done to the news business: "When the tabloids clasped the Simpson story to their heaving journalistic bosoms, the mainstream media suddenly found themselves panting alongside."
This fear of a vast media sellout lives on today, although the specifics of the nightmare have changed. Instead of O.J., the dreadful obsessions are named Britney and Paris. Newsrooms are cutting budgets, foreign bureaus have been shut down, and, well, everything journalistic appears to be going south. It's easy for journalists to fall into this way of thinking; I do it myself sometimes, right here. But, at bottom, I don't think it's true.
One day this week, the morning after Britney Spears had lost custody of her children in court, I went through the newspapers to see who was playing up that story at the expense of serious news. Not The New York Times (page A20). Not The Washington Post (Style section). USA Today had a Britney teaser and photo on the front page in the left column, pointing to inside coverage, but its biggest headline was "Report on Blackwater: U.S. Did Little to Restrict Guards."
In fact, if you were away from the Net -- where any number of celebrity news sites were all over the Spears story -- the place to go to see the tabloid news that day was, yup, the tabloids. Both the New York Post and the New York Daily News led with Britney, and since they're tabs, who could blame them? "UNFITNEY!" exulted the Daily News, handily defeating the Post's uninspired "BRIT LOSES KIDS."
On Google News later the same morning, heavy foreign news, including Blackwater and Burma, was so dominant that when an '08 campaign story broke, it felt like a lightweight intrusion, the kind of thing that might banner The Drudge Report. Indeed, I clicked over to Drudge and there it was: "QUEEN OF THE QUARTER: HILLARY CRUSHES OBAMA IN SURPRISE FUNDRAISING SURGE."
I asked Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, if it's true that serious news is alive and well. He said it's all about where you look: "The infotainment and tabloid culture still exists in 2007.... But the reality is, stories like Britney, Anna Nicole, and even to some extent O.J. are cable and morning news fascinations much more than the media overall."
The sky hasn't fallen -- yet.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Bosacks Readers Speaks Out: On Magazines, Ads, Digital, and Google
Re: Americans have Skewed View of Ad Industry
Advertising, marketing, PR, et al have become ubiquitous and excessively intrusive. So, an unfavorable opinion on the part of the people on the receiving end of their constant barrage is unsurprising. But in the larger context of the popular culture, it would be more surprising to hear an American voice a positive opinion about any aspect of any business.
The entertainment industry is dominated, somehow that word is not strong enough, by a socialist mindset. In the products they produce, business people are evil, venal, unfeeling exploiters of innocent people and the sacred environment. The good guys are hesitant soldiers (grunts only, not officers), free spirited teachers, crusading politicians, maverick lawyers, and muckraking journalists. You will note, the common thread among the anointed is taxpayer money. Either these people dine at the public trough or they pal around with those who do.
In real life, it is the free market and commerce rather than government and it allies that are responsible for American freedom and prosperity. The image most Americans conjure when the subject arises is not really a businessman. He just plays one on TV.
(Submitted by a Printer)
Re: French Newspaper to Debut Electronic Newspaper
This is just a toe hold for the future. As the hardware gets better, people will finally accept the digital path as the best and easiest way to read and be informed. Anything less, will just be less. When is the last time you unrolled a scroll?
(Submitted by a Publisher)
Re: All Digital, All Commerce, All The Time
I don't actually agree. Its not that the digital era will be devoid of altruistic or journalistic pursuits, but rather that consumers want all content from all sources available all the time, for free. Once publishers get hip to that they can end the hand wringing and get on with the business of monetization, its still about content, it just doesn't have to be your (google).
(Submitted by a Industry supplier) Sent via BlackBerry
Re: AM, FM Radio Predicted to End in 15 Years
Sure and the world will stop spinning too! And when it does, I will put another coin in the juke box.
(Submitted by an Unknown)
Re: AM, FM Radio Predicted to End in 15 Years
Its a very aggressive prediction that free radio will end in fifteen years, but I think it is possible. With greater distribution if WiFi signals across the county, it is easy to see that it COULD happen. As soon as I got satellite radio I stopped listening to terrestrial free AM?FM. Too much junk on the old style radio. (Submitted by a Publisher)
Re: Media Remix
Bo, this goes along with what P&G said several years ago that "there is no such thing as mass media anymore and new approaches have to be found to connect with customers on a more direct basis" . . .
(Submitted by a Paper Person)
REThe Magazine Marketplace in Flux-How Can PR Benefit
Mr. Magazine may know magazines but, doesn't know sports. I can't see why he is so stuck in the paper world. Sure it does and will have a place in the next media circus. But I am sure that the printed produce will be a sideshow event and not in the big tent.
(Submitted by a Publisher)
REThe Magazine Marketplace in Flux-How Can PR Benefit
When sporting events see small crowds, you don't hear the managers bemoaning the death of a sport;
HUH? WHAT'S HAPPENED TO NHL HOCKEY? PRO BOWLING USED TO GET A TV AUDIENCE OF 11 MILLION IN THE 1970S FOR ITS LIVE TELECAST. WHERE IS IT NOW? WHAT ABOUT U.S. SOCCER? BOXING? SURE YOU DO. THESE SPORTS ALL HAVE TROUBLE GETTING ADVERTISING SPONSORSHIP THE WAY THEY USED TO AND OFTEN HAVE TO FUND THEIR BROADCASTS ON THEIR OWN AND SELL THEIR OWN ADVERTISING, RATHER THAN SELL THE BROADCAST RIGHTS THE WAY THE NFL, MLB, AND NBA DO.
when stocks prices fall, you don't hear CEOs complaining that money is no longer a viable product;
WHAT ABOUT INFLATION? EXCHANGE RATES? SURE THEY DO.
but for some reason a drop in new magazine launches makes our industry think our days are numbered.
IF IT BECOMES A PERSISTENT ISSUE, THEN IT WILL
(Submitted by an Industry Consultant)
Re: Don't give Google double the power
Bob: Despite my appetite for the good things that Google seems to be doing for me as an internet user, (gmail, Picasa), an article like this can be a little chilling. Seems like many really big, really useful companies have ideas about total domination of their industry. GM, Firestone, Microsoft come to mind in a flash. What happens when you're the only show in town? How limited is your imagination?
My attitude began to turn when the internet security suite installed on my computer began to flash warnings of SPYWARE whenever I'd open my gmail account. I have queried Google with no response. I have also notified the maker of my internet security software. Is there such a thing as a Benign Big Brother?
Google's ad scheme is based on their software reading my emails, then tailoring advertising to the text it read. Right now, the ads are unobtrusive, and often cogent to the substance of my note.
Now, factor in an administration that wants to know what we read in libraries, and has no compunctions about Geneva Conventions or our own Constitution. Would it take a special genius to combine the capabilities of Google's email reader programming with, say, any of the several government agencies that feel as though they need to know more about what we citizens are saying among ourselves?
It wasn't all that long ago that a major news story had to do with AT&T being co-opted by our government guardians. Why not Google, too?
(Submitted by a Publisher)
On writing well . . . Great advice from Peter Jacobi
Peter Jacobi is a household name when in comes to magazine editing and writing. The professor emeritus at The University of Indiana is probably more famous than the former basketball coach Bobby Knight (well, at least in the magazine circles). I had the pleasure to meet Professor Jacobi in person for the first time at the first children's magazine editors retreat at Boyds Mill home of the founders of Highlights for Children magazine. We both spoke at the retreat. He talked about writing and I talked about publishing. What follows is Professor Jacobi's advice regarding successful writing:
To be a successful writer your article must have:
1. The invitation: the lead or the initial tease; it should even hook the reluctant reader
2. The thesis: telling the reader what the article is all about, sort of an early summary. Perhaps a response to the readers expectations.
3. Purpose: the why it is for me "piece of writing." It is an extended explanation of the purpose of the piece. The purpose must be made evident (another sales pitch).
4. Direction: you must have a sense of clear direction. Every point along the "verbal highway" must set the course. . . a crystal clear viewable course . . . you must write with a compass.
5. Propulsion: a sense of motion, going forward. Your writing must have actual movement with pulse and progress.
6. Memory: pleasure of reading should be followed by a sense of recalling. Good writing should give me "something to remember."
In short, Professor Jacobi said, "the best writing supplies the ties that bind." And no matter what, read your article load" . . . yes, Jacobi said, "read it loud and see if it tells a story and keeps you connected." Great advice from the master himself.
Think Category First, Brand Second
You Can't Survive If Your Entire Environment Disappears
By Al Ries
A brand is the tip of an iceberg. How big and how deep the iceberg is will determine how powerful the brand is. The iceberg is the category. If it melts, the brand will melt too.
Take Kodak, for example. Just eight years ago, Interbrand ranked Kodak as the 16th most valuable brand in the world, worth $14.8 billion.
Every year since, the Kodak brand has fallen in both rank and value. This year, Interbrand ranked Kodak No. 82, worth just $3.9 billion.
What's a Kodak? It's the world's best film-photography brand. Unfortunately for Kodak, the film-photography iceberg is melting as the world turns digital.
Brand stands for 'trust'
Years ago I was discussing the situation with a Kodak marketing manager. It was no secret then that digital photography was starting to replace film. You're going to have to launch a second brand, I said. Not so, the marketing manager replied. The Kodak brand stands for more than just film. It stands for "trust."
Trust Kodak for film photography. Trust Kodak for digital photography. That seems to make sense. Furthermore, Kodak invented the digital camera and introduced the first model, the Kodak DCS, in 1991.
Sense doesn't matter in marketing. The Kodak name was the tip of the film-photography iceberg. And so far no brand, including Kodak, has managed to climb to the top of the digital-photography iceberg. As a matter of fact, all the digital camera products (Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Casio, Samsung, Panasonic, etc.) are line extensions from other icebergs.
Nobody is thinking category. Everybody is thinking brand. "How do we take advantage of our well-known brand to carve out a piece of this new iceberg?"
The Eastman Kodak Co. has been devastated by its brand-oriented approach. Compare the past with the present. In the last six years of the 20th century (1995 to 2000) the company had sales of $87.3 billion and net profits after taxes of $6.7 billion, or a 7.7% net profit margin. In the first six years of the 21st century (2001 to 2006), Eastman Kodak had sales of $80.4 billion and managed to lose $296 million. (No wonder the stock market has lost its trust in the Kodak brand.)
Dominate a category
The objective of a marketing program is not to build a brand, but to dominate a category. Red Bull dominates the energy-drink category. Starbucks dominates the high-end coffee category. Google dominates the search category. Does it surprise you that these relatively recent brand successes were started by entrepreneurs, not by established companies?
It shouldn't. Big companies are busy burnishing their brands while entrepreneurs are looking for ways to dominate new categories.
Brands are important, but they have value only to the extent they stand for categories.
Take Coca-Cola, the world's most valuable brand, according to Interbrand. But the value of the Coca-Cola brand has been steadily falling. It was worth $83.8 billion in 1999. Today it's worth only $65.3 billion. Why is the value of the Coke brand falling? Because the cola category is losing its share of the soft-drink market. A brand is only valuable to the extent it stands for a category.
The Marlboro brand, according to Interbrand, is worth $21.3 billion. As smoking continues to decline, someday the brand is going to be essentially worthless. (Maybe the nicotine-flavored chewing gum category will make the Marlboro brand worth a few dollars.)
As a category iceberg melts, so does its brand melt too. As the minicomputer disappeared, so did the value of the Digital Equipment brand. As the word processor disappeared, so did the value of the Wang brand. As instant photography slowly disappears, so does the value of the Polaroid brand.
Most companies are so brand-oriented their first thought is, "How do I save my brand?" So Digital Equipment launched a line of personal computers with the Digital name, as did Wang with the Wang name. And Polaroid launched a raft of new products including conventional cameras and film, printers, scanners, medical imaging systems, security systems, videotapes, etc. With the Polaroid name, of course.
All for naught
All for naught. Polaroid went bankrupt in 2001 and through a series of transactions wound up in the hands of the Petters Group in 2005. That year, when the new chairman was asked what would Polaroid be like in the year 2010, he replied, "It's a consumer electronics leader known for really cool products that offer quality and value."
There's no iceberg out there in the consumer ocean named "cool products that offer quality and value." So expect Polaroid's second reincarnation to be no more successful than its first one.
There are two types of icebergs. The first type is narrow and deep. The second type is broad and shallow. While the second type might offer greater sales potential, the first type offers greater profit potential and greater brand stability. Brands that are narrow and deep are almost invulnerable to competitive attacks. Furthermore, they usually are incredibly profitable. Think Rolex in expensive watches, for example. But there are many other brands that fit this description:
Hellmann's in mayonnaise
Campbell's in canned soup
Heinz in ketchup
Orville Redenbacher in popcorn
Tabasco in pepper sauce
Gatorade in sports drinks.
Visa in credit cards
Someday your brand's iceberg might start to melt. So what. You can always look around for a new iceberg to dominate.
With a new brand name, of course.
~ ~ ~
Al Ries is the author or co-author of 11 books on marketing. He and his daughter Laura run the Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries. Websites: Ries.com & RiesReport.com.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Time Inc. Eyes New Ad Apps, Including On-Page Video
BY Lucia Moses
The Oct. 4 issue of Wenner Media's Rolling Stone sports an impossible-to-miss lenticular ad for the Fox TV network, featuring characters from the net's Sunday-night lineup whooping it up on a roller-coaster ride, their images changing as the reader tilts the ad. Meanwhile, an eye-popping ad for NBC's new series Bionic Woman that appeared in Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly went one further, with the heroine's mechanically enhanced winker lighting up as readers turned the page.
Those executions may be just the beginning of a creative and technological revolution in print ads. As marketers look for more ways to capture the attention of media-saturated consumers, publishers are exploring much more intricate ad units, up to and including ads that feature video.
A media buyer and another industry source confirmed that Time Inc., a sponsor of the MIT Media Lab, is working on technology and has looked at prototypes that would put moving pictures on a page.
Dawn Bridges, Time Inc. spokeswoman, wouldn't comment on specific initiatives. "We're looking at a lot of different possibilities in a number of different areas of technology, but nothing that's imminent," she said.
Mike Maguire, CEO of Structural Graphics, a maker of high-impact ads, has shown Time Inc. and other major publishers a prototype his company created with E Ink, an electronic paper display company, that would produce an animated, black-and-white image using pixels and a coin-sized battery.
Maguire, who sees such ads as well-suited for demonstrating a new product or change in logo, believes the concept is one to two years away from execution. Ads showing full-color video may not be far behind, he added.
There's certainly an appetite for such advanced ad concepts, especially at entertainment companies looking to make a splash.
"Marketers will ask for virtually everything and say, 'Can you do this?'" said Pete Haeffner, publisher of Gemstar-TV Guide's TV Guide. A print campaign touting the return this season of ABC hit Grey's Anatomy had TV Guide subscribers getting magazines polybagged with hospital gowns.
NBC Universal has executed a number of ads that pop up, light up or emit sounds. John Miller, NBC Universal marketing chief, likes the units for the buzz they generate-high cost and long lead times notwithstanding.
In addition to those negatives, production and transportation issues are a hurdle for tech-driven ads. To limit costs, marketers including NBCU typically limit them to the top few media markets.
Although eye-catching, some question the interruptive nature of such ads.
"You have to ask yourself, what are you in magazines for?" said Scott Kruse, senior vp, director of print services at MediaCom. "The sell of magazines is that they are an opt-in, and consumers have a certain expectation of a magazine and the overall look and feel-and the big, loud ads some consumers might have issue with. It all comes down to the execution."
Innovative as the technologically advanced executions are, some maintain that print messages don't have to be multisensory to break through.
"Impactful units are being looked at more and more because of what they add to the marketing message," Haeffner said. But, he added, "an impact ad might not be any more effective than a contextually relevant ad."
Anderson News Move Puts SBT in the Spotlight
By John Harrington
At the end of September, Anderson News, one of the four large wholesalers that represent an estimated 90% of magazine sales, notified national distributors that it was taking large deductions from their payments. The deductions represented the volume of the magazine inventory in retail chains they service which were now doing business with Anderson on a scan-based-trading (SBT) basis. The total amount of the deduction, spread proportionately by market share to each national distributor, was estimated to be between $35 million and $40 million. Early last week, in one fashion or another, each of the national distributors advised their client publishers that they might have to cease shipping products to Anderson immediately, unless payments were received. By the end of the week, the national distributors told clients that shipments would continue. At the same time, they indicated that discussions with Anderson were still going on, and did not sat that the payment issues were resolved. Although executives were very guarded in their comments, there was a general sense that the situation and the issues involved are extremely serious and have implications well beyond Anderson News.
SBT Reaching Critical Mass. The apparent crisis in the magazine distribution channel was provoked by the rapidly increasing level of SBT relationships between chain retailers and wholesalers. A survey of major wholesalers indicates that more than 25% of their business is now being conducted through SBT, and most of the wholesalers think that share will rise substantially in the next year to 18 months. For Anderson, who's largest retail customer is Wal-Mart, a leader in SBT development, the share may be as high as 40%. A key element of SBT is that a retailer no longer carries magazine inventory on its books, and therefore is not billed for deliveries from the wholesaler. Instead, the retailer pays for a magazine when it is scanned and sold at checkout. Consequently, at the beginning of an SBT contract, the retailer shifts the value of the inventory back to the wholesaler. Wholesalers report that, in a large store, that cost can easily be $20,000. For a chain of 100 stores, that can be a $2 million change in a wholesaler's cash flow. To some degree, the impact is lessened by negotiated improvements in payment schedules from the retailer to the wholesaler.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, operates over 3,000 stores in the United States, the majority of them huge supercenters. Five magazine wholesalers service Wal-Mart, but Anderson has by far the largest share. In notifying national distributors of its action, Anderson signaled it thought the cost of the inventory should go back to the manufacturer, in this case the publisher. Anderson reportedly cited the instance of the card manufacturer, American Greetings, who has several SBT relationships with retailers and took back the inventory cost. However, a major difference is that American Greetings has a direct sales and financial relationship with chain retailers, whereas magazine publishers are several steps removed from retailers, first by a national distributor, then by a wholesaler. At each of those levels, contractual terms govern payments as well as marketing obligations. National distributors say their contracts would prevent them from passing inventory costs back to publishers, even if they agreed to accept the cost from the wholesalers. The situation was further complicated in that any acceptance by national distributors of Anderson's initiative would mean the same terms would apply to other wholesalers as well.
SBT Related Issues. The rapidly increasing incidence of wholesaler-retailer SBT relationships will force the entire magazine distribution channel to address several key issues. In addition to the ownership of the inventory, the responsibility of the shrink must be determined. Shrink refers to more than just magazine copies stolen by customers or employees, but includes shipping discrepancies, accounting problems, and barcode quality control matters. Most SBT contracts require minimally acceptable levels of shrink, usually under two percent, but there remains the question of who absorbs the two percent and the determination of whose responsibility it is.
Previously existing SBT programs in other industries are different from the magazine experience in two significant ways. Like the American Greetings example, they are agreements directly between a manufacturer and a retailer. The negotiations are simplified. There are no middlemen. In magazine distribution, there are two, national distributors and wholesalers. Secondly, successful SBT experiences have been based on producing benefits for the retailer and the manufacturer, mainly by increasing sales through rapid replenishment. In magazine SBT, the retailer benefits by the elimination of inventory and by being relieved of most of the responsibility for shrink. The wholesaler cannot expect replenishment to increase sales when 60% or more of everything delivered is already being returned. Additionally, the multi-level nature of the distribution channel increases the complexity of making SBT work effectively for all parties concerned.
Industry Approach Needed.For a variety of reasons, among them intense competition, SBT appears to be on its way to being the primary means of doing business between retailers and magazine wholesalers. Many in the business think it is likely to bring fundamental changes, particularly to the economic model of the distribution channel. The situation between Anderson and national distributors appears to be on its way to a resolution. However, there clearly are needs for industry-wide agreements about dealing with changes (perhaps even disruptions) that SBT will force the channel to face.
BoSacks Speaks Out: How Long?
You can draw your own parallels, as I have clearly drawn mine. Print will be around for a long time, but who will be the dominant information provider. The answer may be as simple as this, how do we listen to the most music? with CD's or MP3's. Which is on the upswing and which is in a downward spiral? Oh yes, And which format is your career depending upon? For how long?
We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.
R. D. Laing
,Embrace digital or die EMI told
By Juliette Garside
The new owner of EMI, Britain's largest music group, has warned that the industry will not survive if it continues to rely on CD sales alone.
Radiohead generation believes music is free
Guy Hands, the financier whose private equity group, Terra Firma, bought EMI in August, told staff in a confidential e-mail last week that the industry had been too slow to embrace the digital revolution.
Hands' letter was in response to the decision by Radiohead, one of the biggest bands nurtured by EMI but now out of contract with the label, to release their latest album via the internet and at a price decided by fans.
In the e-mail, sent to staff on Friday, Hands described Radiohead's action as "a wake-up call which we should all welcome and respond to with creativity and energy".
"The recorded music industry... has for too long been dependent on how many CDs can be sold," he wrote. "Rather than embracing digitalisation and the opportunities it brings for promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, the industry has stuck its head in the sand."
Many record label bosses believe it is the duty of successful bands to stick with the companies that nurtured them so that their earnings can subsidise new talent. However, bands complain that too much of their money is used to subsidise lavish lifestyles for label bosses.
Hands is understood to have been surprised at the size of salaries paid to second-tier executives. On Friday he warned that unless there was a major cultural change, more established bands could follow Radiohead's lead, choosing to cut the label out of the loop and distribute their music directly to consumers.
EMI's biggest names include Robbie Williams, Joss Stone and David Bowie, all of whom are established enough to adopt the Radiohead model. With bands' revenues from playing concerts and festivals overtaking their income from CD sales, the decision to break free has become less risky.
"Why should they subsidise their label's new talent roster - or for that matter their record company's excessive expenditures and advances?" asks Hands.
Radiohead's decision came in the same week that indy -legends The Charlatans decided to give away their new album over the web, also without help from a record label. Tim Burgess, the Charlatans' lead signer, told The Sunday Telegraph: "I want the people to own the music and the artists to own the copyright. Why let a record company get in the way of the music?"
Hands suggests moving away from the model of paying large advances - Robbie Williams signed an £80m deal with EMI in 2002 - in exchange for the label's right to keep the majority of the takings from new releases. Instead, labels could simply subsidise the making of an album or the beginning of a tour in exchange for a share in the profits - or losses.
Hands is understood to have been impressed by the inventiveness of EMI's music publishing division, which owns the copyright to songs, in making money from new sources. It has licensed lyrics to be printed on jeans and posters and music videos to be played on YouTube.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Adults Teaching Kids About Advertising? It Should Be Vice Versa
NYC's Marketing-Focused High School Could Struggle to Cover the Basics When the Basics Keep Changing
By Simon Dumenco
Can you teach "Throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks"?
Last week's announcement that a New York high school that focuses on "advertising and media studies" is set to open as soon as September 2008 has me thinking that maybe we need to update the old saying that so cruelly disparages educators:
Big man on campus: Rick Boyko, head of VCU's AdCenter, will advise creation of 'Ad High.'
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. In regard to Ad High, it's more along the lines of, those who can't figure out what the hell is happening to their profession hope that maybe, just maybe, something of it, somehow, is still clear enough that it can actually be taught.
As my colleague Rupal Parekh reported in these pages, "An advisory board led by Rick Boyko, formerly chief creative officer of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather North America and now director of Virginia Commonwealth University's AdCenter, will advise on the new school's curricula." AdCenter, of course, is a top-rated ad school (Ad Age's sibling publication Creativity, in fact, puts it atop the heap, outranking the Art Center College of Design, the Creative Circus, the Miami Ad School and the Portfolio Center) and Boyko's done a great job running it.
So yeah, I'm all for professional, systematic training in a collegiate setting. (AdCenter's Creative Brand Management track covers, over four semesters, everything from "Quantitative and Qualitative Research" to "Building Brands in International Cultures.") But keep in mind that New York City's boutique-ish themed high schools (Ad High would have only about 400 students) still have to do what the massive, traditional, unthemed high schools do -- teach basic math, lit, science, etc. -- so the theme-specific curriculum is necessarily Theme Lite. Which is scary when you think about it. Seriously, has there ever been a worse time to try to codify and impart the basic tenets central to the ad/media business? Just as the wheels are coming off the wagon we're gonna pretend we can teach kids how to drive?
At least at New York's Automotive High School (yes, it exists), the basics of the internal combustion engine have stayed pretty constant over the years, despite the nonstop turmoil in the automotive industry. But in the ad and media universe, we've been forced to entirely take apart the engine and set it up on blocks. And even the pros and old-timers -- especially the pros and old-timers -- have no idea how to put it back together again.
Even scarier is the fact that the advertising and media businesses are being blown apart by the students -- the intended recipients of our pearls of wisdom -- themselves. To beat the metaphor into the ground, it's as if we're trying to teach engine building to a crowd that's pretty much lost interest not only in cars, but in traditional streets, highways and road signs, not to mention toll booths.
When I consider the media lifestyle of the average high-school student -- which involves the ever-increasing rejection of professionally produced, ad-supported media in favor of à-la-carte/DIY/social-networking content, along with exceedingly elastic notions of authorship and intellectual-property rights -- it occurs to me that maybe a bunch of teens should band together and open an ad/media school themselves. For adults. Let the kids teach the grown-ups exactly how they're exploding our business models. I bet plenty of 40-something and 50-something industry vets would pony up serious cash for tuition.
That probably won't happen, so for now I just want to suggest that the New York City Department of Education give serious consideration to including one essential class in the Ad High curriculum:
In which students are taught to run for their lives from Google! (Either that or try to get a job there.)
Time Inc. Print Reporters Won't be Forced to do Online Work
BY Stephanie D. Smith
SEPARATE TASKS: Does The Newspaper Guild's proposed new contract with Time Inc. run counter to the new world order where journalists have to write for both print and the Web? It appears it might. The two parties last week reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract that includes guaranteed annual pay raises, and changes to severance packages and other benefits to Guild-protected employees. One of the additions is a stipulation that prevents management from demanding that print reporters must write for the Web. The magazines under Guild protection include People, Time, Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Sports Illustrated and Money.
The contract clause comes after Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer and Time managing editor Richard Stengel sent memos to their staffs this summer that said print reporters were required to write for the Web; Stengel wrote at the time that performance evaluations of every Time writer, correspondent and reporter would include Web contributions. Though most reporters these days write for both print and online, The Guild, which does not protect dot-com employees, took issue with Serwer and Stengel's demands.
As part of a settlement between Time Inc. and The Guild on the issue, the new contract says Time Inc. will ensure Web site work will be voluntary for Guild-covered employees, and "there will no negative impact on any employee for not volunteering to do Web site work." It also says the company will "grant Guild coverage to any Web site employee who 'routinely or regularly' performs 'any work or services for any entity covered by the contract,'" and will cover magazine employees who are transferred to the Web sites. Finally, the contract says, "Time Inc. will issue a new memo that supersedes the previous two memos."
Meaning that, if the contract is approved - which The Guild has recommended the latest version to be - Serwer and Stengel's earlier demands would be moot, while reporters should be checking their in-boxes for updated letters from management.
It's never going to be the way it was, and sure as hell, it's not going to be the way it is.
- Bob Sacks
The Magazine Marketplace in Flux-How Can PR Benefit (and Help)?
By Samir A. Husni, Ph.D.; Chair, Department of Journalism, The University of Mississippi
When sporting events see small crowds, you don't hear the managers bemoaning the death of a sport; when stocks prices fall, you don't hear CEOs complaining that money is no longer a viable product; but for some reason a drop in new magazine launches makes our industry think our days are numbered.
The numbers this year are lackluster at best, but there is no reason to think this is the first step down a slippery slope to the death of the magazine industry. Just as many other industries experience every few years, we are seeing nothing more than a market correction. I said a few years back that we would see something like this during 2007 and 2008 with a rebound to normal form in 2009.
This year, through the first six months of the year, the numbers were significantly lower than last year's numbers. In fact, this is the first year that I can remember the numbers dropping by more than 38% from the previous year's numbers. With 342 new launches through the end of June 2007, this number is well behind the 555 new launches that 2006 saw by the same point last year. Magazines published with a four times frequency or higher totaled 125 or 37% of the total magazines launched in 2007. Last year, the total number of magazines with four times frequency or more during the same period of time was 163 or 29% of the total magazines launched in the first half of 2006. This year also witnessed a drop in the total number of specials and annuals. A total of 188 specials and 19 annuals were born in the first half of 2007 compared with 2006's 251 specials and 28 annuals. The July numbers looked just as slim with only 36 new launches during the month, a decrease from the 52 titles launched during July of 2006.
These numbers show no sign of improving over the remainder of the year, but this drop shouldn't mean panic for the publishing world. Reading though the state of the magazine industry may seem alarming at first but keep in mind that while the numbers may show a significant change from the past few years of record launches we still have more magazines alive and kicking on the newsstands today than ever before in our industry.
The number of launches will ebb and flow and it serves to remind us that change is a constant in this industry and we have to remember that the only way we can remain relevant in a constantly advancing world is to take note of the change and adapt to it as it comes.
In the case of public relations professionals, this means a change in the way PR has been done and a movement toward what the rest of the industry is slowly waking up to: The problem in our industry is with the message, not the medium.
When the average person on the street thinks of "public relations," he or she probably gets images in mind of mass press releases and email blasts to multiple outlets with the entire audience in mind, not the individual. For some time this has been a true representation of how PR has worked-but the numbers I mention above tell us that we have to change that perception and if not the perception, then most definitely the practice.
Over 15,000 magazines are presented to the general public each month on newsstands and in their mail boxes for their choosing. Many of these magazines share similar content and even design. Since the advent of desktop publishing in the 1980s and the increasingly easy means by which anyone can start a magazine, new titles have popped up in record numbers and are starting to see an increase in lifespan on the newsstand. With all the titles out there, the need for individual magazines to specialize and differentiate themselves from other titles is paramount to survival.
Because of this, the old way of blanket press releases cannot work anymore. Where one person could write a press release and blast email it to hundreds of outlets, it is now time to become more individual in the way we disseminate information. We must tailor these press releases to specific audiences and for specific publications.
With budget constraints becoming more and more of an issue to publishers, freelance writers are becoming a more necessary part of the magazine budget. Therefore, press releases specifically tailored for a magazine become a cost efficient way to provide content to readers, while maintaining a feel of title-specific material.
Simply put, before writing a press release or pitch, we need to go back to a pure, basic common sense approach to public relations. Remember to think of your audience, think of the magazine's audience and keep in mind that you are the matchmaker, putting the two together.
And above all, best of luck.
Dr. Samir Husni, a.k.a. "Mr. Magazine," has presented seminars on trends in American magazines and media to everyone from the Hachette Filipacchi Magazines to the American Press Institute. Chair of the Journalism Department at the University of Mississippi, he's considered "the country's leading magazine expert," according to Forbes ASAP.