Thursday, January 17, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: The Passion of Steve Jobs

BoSacks Speaks Out: The Passion of Steve Jobs
I am sending out this article specifically because of the following statement by Steve Jobs:
"It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore," he said. "Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."

That is such a damning statement, and it goes beyond the fact that people don't read. Here is an industry titan who has the skill set to develop a "reader" that could/would/should be successful but won't because "people don't read". Fact or fiction this industry giant won't spend the energy and resources to attack and improve the technology because it doesn't make business sense. He may be right and he may be wrong, but I find it a statement of supreme consequence.

"Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?"
- Steve Jobs

The Passion of Steve Jobs
By John Markoff

Even more than when he's performing on stage, Steven P. Jobs's passion for personal computing comes through when he talks about the years he spent cajoling his designers to build what he presented today as the world's "thinnest" computer.

Along with David Pogue, the Times technology columnist, I spent a half-hour with Mr. Jobs after he introduced the MacBook Air this morning at the Macworld Expo. And as is frequently the case with Apple products, he pronounced the three-pound aluminum-clad portable to be one of the best things his company has ever designed.

"I'm going to be the first one in line to buy one of these," he said. "I've been lusting after this."

The company's design team went through roughly 100 design prototypes to find the right form, he said. Both he and his lead designer, Jonathan Ive, were not certain that they would be able to fit the computer into the package that they came up with.

Earlier, during his keynote presentation, Mr. Jobs went to great lengths to extol the engineering effort that had gone into reducing the size of the basic computer to fit inside the computer, which tapers in thickness from .76 inch down to .16 inch. The circuit board is about the length of a pencil, he said, and he brought Intel's chief executive, Paul S. Otellini, on stage to congratulate him for his company's work in significantly shrinking the packaging of the Core 2 Duo microprocessor that the MacBook Air is based on.

Still, the machine is a reversal of field for Mr. Jobs, who in the past has insisted that less-than-full-featured laptops are undesirable. Today Mr. Jobs was unwilling to compare the MacBook Air to the original Dynabook vision, a portable prototype idea first conceived of by the computer scientist Alan Kay. He would go no further than asserting that this is the most elegant computer the company has created, right down to the four rubber footpads that support it.

Some of the competitors' machines are so flimsy, he said, they require a fifth or even sixth pad to keep from sagging.

Mr. Jobs can be like that when he assesses the competition.

Today he had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.

"It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore," he said. "Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."

He was equally skeptical about Google's decision to develop smartphone software. Google bought a small start-up called Android several years ago, and a team of developers is now putting the finishing touches on an open-source smartphone operating system designed to rival both the iPhone and Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.

"Having created a phone, it's a lot harder than it looks," he said. "We'll see how good their software is and we'll see how consumers like it and how quickly it is adopted." In seeking not to get locked out of the mobile phone world, "I actually think Google has achieved their goal without Android, and I now think Android hurts them more than it helps them. It's just going to divide them and people who want to be their partners."

One of the remarkable qualities that Mr. Jobs has is his ability to continue looking forward and not focus on the past. For its Apple TV set-top box, "Take Two" is a great example of the computer impresario's ability to recast an anemic first effort with great fanfare. Apple not only cut the price of the box from $299 to $229, it entirely revamped the user interface to a simple text display that is stark even by Mr. Jobs's Spartan aesthetic.

The message now is that when it comes to television, the solution is "all about movies." That can be seen in the movie icons that now fill the screen of the Apple TV display, allowing viewers to choose and rent titles to download.

The model will not extend to cable television, he insisted. "We're not going to go there with the cable cards," he said, referring to the relatively open cable industry connectors that are gradually allowing companies like TiVo to replace the standard set-top box. "That whole industry, their go-to-market strategy is pretty loopy, and it's fractured," he said. "Our model is like DVD."

Mr. Jobs saved his greatest compliment today for his former archrival Bill Gates, who has now largely retired will retire from Microsoft this summer.

"Bill's retiring from Microsoft is a big deal," he said. "It's a significant event, and I think he should be honored for the contributions he's made."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping Print Afloat

Keeping Print Afloat
By Marie Griffin
B-to-b publishers have gotten used to the idea of advertising dollars migrating to the Web, but none wants to see vast sums of money moving out of print. As the economy becomes less certain, though, b-to-b publishers are aware that advertisers could make sudden shifts in strategy and budgets.

"Online will take care of itself," said Alan Robinson, group publisher of Reed Business Information's EDN. "We can hardly keep up with the demand. When you're talking about print, though, you have to ask yourself how it's going to survive."
There's no foolproof way to prevent a rush of revenue out of print, but some publishers are being more proactive than others, making sure their sales and marketing teams are consistently reinforcing print's value within the advertising mix.

Robinson and his team are using two strategies to keep Reed Business' electronics flagship, EDN, viable in print. First, they invest in content that lends itself well to the print medium. Second, they provide advertisers with research to prove it matters.

"Our approach really calls for print execution," he said. "EDN is written by electronics engineers. The editorial is in-depth and solutions-oriented, and it delves into the complex issues engineers must design around today. This type of information is hard to absorb on the Web."

EDN's research backs up the common wisdom that businesspeople use print early in the buying cycle. "Our team is going around with the readership study to explain to buyers that key decisions are being made early in the design process. That's when engineers turn to peers and trade journals," Robinson said.

At e.Republic, Exec VP Don Pearson and his team don't try to protect their print advertising. Instead, they build print components into integrated, multimedia programs.

"In this day and age, there really is a glut of information on the Web," Pearson said. "If you want to drive traffic to your online assets, either on your own site or on our site, you still need to grab people's attention. An e-newsletter is one tactic, but print is another element."

For e.Republic's 3-year-old Digital Communities quarterly publication, Web site and events, Pearson created a set of tiered, multimedia sponsorship packages at three different spending levels. All include print, online, live events and custom publishing. "The print ads are not closing the program, but advertisers are going for the comprehensive value proposition that is designed to produce results," he said.

Gary Rubin, chief publishing and e-media officer at the Society for Human Resource Management, uses words like luxurious and pleasurable to describe the experience he wants readers to get from HR Magazine, and he insists this direction makes good business sense.

Although some advertisers are pulling away from print to buy more online advertising, "I still have a $10 million-plus magazine, and it's a good, profitable business," Rubin said.

"I'm creating this luxurious reading environment-with thought-provoking stories, pull-out quotes, great photographs and illustrations-so that the magazine has a larger, more engaged audience," he explained. "And advertisers follow readers."

Like Robinson, Rubin makes sure to back up his beliefs with hard evidence. "We commission a third-party readership study every two years," he said. "By almost a four-to-one ratio, people prefer reading our magazine as compared to the next largest competitor."


Co-manufacturing Takes Shape
By Mark J. Miller
Production executives are in a constant search for ways to save money. In recent years, the sharing of different parts of the production and distribution chain with other publishers and other titles has helped ease the financial burden. First, there was co-palletization and co-mailing. Then there was co-binding, and now co-manufacturing has entered the publishing world's lexicon.

The term has been bandied about for nearly a year by printing and magazine manufacturing executives, and the concept can take a variety of forms. One saved Reed Business Information $15,000 in three months during a test the company ran on 24 of its titles.

Reed moved some of its monthlies to Fry Communications where it already had several of its titles printed. The idea was to build a large enough mass to make creating an internal mailing pool of just Reed publications cost-effective.

Reed standardized the paper and trim size for all 24 titles. Then, to be as efficient as possible, it loaded all the titles into a single print line to run basically one right on top of another.

"We wanted to take a look at what would happen if we printed our monthlies there at the same time and created co-print pools essentially," said Paula Gordon, Reed's director of manufacturing. The company's test ran from September to the end of December.

Each week, Reed created different test pools. Tuesdays and Thursdays are big print days for its monthlies, so production executives would constantly be looking at how many titles it could close on those days in order to be part of that week's mailing group.

Gordon said Reed locked out publications that failed to close on schedule. "We would just automatically knock some out that didn't adhere to the schedule," she said. "We're keeping close track of what we're actually saving with the books we pool and what we could have saved if those other titles had closed on time."

Noting Reed's savings in the first three months of the test, Gordon said, "In 2008, more magazines will be included, and we're thinking of co-binding some of those titles and then co-mailing. So we're taking it to the next `co-level.' "

Gordon added that it would have been easier to start with weeklies, but the titles were too spread out in terms of geography.

"As postage goes up and paper goes up, more and more money-saving partnerships will occur between publishers and printers," she said. "Big, little-it doesn't matter; we all want to save money."

Alan D. Snyder, prepress operations manager at Fry, said most experiments like this come directly out of specific money-saving conversations with clients and trying to find ways to maximize their spending with the printer. "Publishers used to have a lot of say in what they printed on, and that power is tightening up, I'm sure," he said. "They can't be liberal about their sizes, and texture and that sort of thing [anymore]."

Among the services that Fry offers is selective co-binding, in which titles run simultaneously on the press and the printer selectively binds different titles in different ways. This saves a publisher money in make-ready costs.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Quebecor, Publishing Success, and Car Parts

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Quebecor, Publishing Success, and Car Parts

Re: BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Quebecor, Magazines, and Steve Florio
Boman, I've been in this industry for 35 years. Like you I have seen a lot of ink poured onto billions of pages. The continued consolidation of the industry from all sides and all suppliers bodes ill for our continued success. There are so many aspects of our ability to make a profit that are under attack that I despair of ever breathing correctly again.

It's the paper problem. Paper makers have a right to make a profit too don't they? It's the printer problem. Shouldn't printers be able to make a fair profit? It's the advertisers. Shouldn't they be able to maximize their dollar investment and get accountability for money spent? It's the generational reading trends. Still an unknown but sizable problem for the printed page.

The Quebecor situation is just one item of hundreds that is putting continued pressure on a fragile industry at a unique moment in time. How do we continue under such diverse unfriendly conditions? For my part I don't blame anyone or any part of the industry. It seems to just be what they call a perfect storm.
Submitted by a Senior Multi-Title Publisher)

Re: BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Quebecor, Magazines, and Steve Florio
Bo: As someone who has worked for both printing and publishing companies over the last 34 years, I feel obligated to chime in on the current hype about Quebecor World. Quebecor World has provided publishers and catalogers with a valuable service for a long time, they have kept the cost of printing competitive. IF RRD, Quad and other large printers had their way, our costs would be significantly higher. To rationalize where Quebecor World is today, we have to take history into account. First lets realize that the US plants started as WA Krueger, then became Ringier America and then World Color before becoming Quebecor World. Lets talk about the fact that the previous owners were interested in making money by any means and did not keep up with technology or invest in their infrastructure. Lets face it, by the time Quebecor purchased World Color, the plants and equipment were becoming obsolete and were in desperate need capital expenditures and improvements. Lets think about the determination and faith that it took to consolidate plants and purchase a huge amount of equipment to bring them up to today's quality and efficiency levels. They accomplished this in a remarkably short period of time and while there were specific problems along the road they have reached the pinnacle only to have the financial bridge for the cost of modernization collapse. Lets also ask if the current financial situation might be different if not for the tremendous problems caused by the sub-prime mortgage segment. As one who prints with Quebecor World, RRD, Quad and several other printers, I do not look forward to the demise of Quebecor World and especially if another major printer becomes the owner. I hope that the financial turmoil can be overcome for all of our sake. Lets hope that printing doesn't follow what's happening in the paper industry with mega-mergers and consolidations.
(Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out - 3 Concepts for Every Publisher's Success
I'd suggest three other points:

1. Content isn't important; creating something that interests an audience is. When you drain the blood out of the activity and leave it as a set of numbers, it's going to fail.

2. Having targets isn't important; you want an audience that really wants to hear what you have to say.

3. Long term profitability and innovation may not go out of style, but they are meaningless when they aren't an organic part of pleasing the customer. Profitability is a byproduct of pleasing customers and running a business smartly.
(Submitted by an Industry Writer)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out - 3 Concepts for Every Publisher's Success
Bo, Simpler words couldn't tell the story! A sound business model and a template for success applies no matter what we're talking about. You can only "push" so much information - it's the end-users' desired "pull" that sustains that publishing entity. You've got to have them engaged, once you do and you continue to fuel that engine, then it's perpetual . . .
Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

Re: Print is Dead: Long Live Print
It's the first time I have read something we can all agree on, right Bo? Just give it a little time and what is old will be new again. And that goes for print and pretty glossy pictures.
Submitted by a paper Supplier)

Re: For magazines, New Year of Challenges
Bo, Don't you love challenges?
Sounds like a motivational seminar from the 60"s.
Submitted by a senior paper person)

Re: For magazines, New Year of Challenges

Here is a shortened view of the top three challenges for 2008
1. Paper
2. Advertising
3. Postal
Pretty much in that order in my opinion.
(Submitted by a Senior Paper Person)

RE: MPA Magazine 'Readers' Are Now Called 'Users' - Gen Y Loves Luxury Paper
Why not just call them the audience? It works for all the types of media,
and calling them users creates the wrong emphasis on the specific
technology, and not the unifying concept of communications.
Submitted by a Writer)

RE; you see this in FOLIO?
I was idling around the newsstand at lunch and was surprised to see the December issue of Hemmings Motor News sitting there, weighing in at 696 pages. Hemmings is basically an antique car and car parts directory. Looking for an antenna for that 1964 Corvair? Find it in Hemmings.

The curious thing is why the print publication is still thick as a phone book. If ever there was a publication to become disintermediated by the Internet, this is it. Hemmings is a place where you go to find things you are looking for, not for random discovery. And, in fact, it has a robust Web site, claiming to be the "world's most comprehensive and informative web site of its kind, featuring over 30,000 searchable cars-for-sale ads, 10,000 Car Club listings," etc.

Maybe it's because car collectors are old and don't use the internet. Nope, we know that all age groups are active users of the Web. Maybe the Hemmings brand is so strong that they can REQUIRE classified advertisers to use print if they want to advertise online. Not so-you can advertise online exclusively. I just don't get it. Why is their print edition so robust? Any ideas?
Submitted by a Senior Publishing Executive)