Sunday, April 29, 2007

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Celebrity Titles

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
Winston Churchill (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister during World War II. 1874-1965)

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Celebrity Titles

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles

Honestly Bob, you need to get a grip.
Adults are reading less, because they are working more. We no longer work a 40-hr week but rather 60- 80 hrs. And when we get home—it’s time to spend with kids, lovers, etc. And those readers that once read books during commutes now have fun little trios that allow them to start working before arriving to the office.

Celebrity titles selling better on newsstands: Well, I’m sure that this has something to do with the fact that Wal-mart places celebrity mags in checkout lines and only celebrity magazines. And even though consumers believe they are spending less time in self-checkout lines, I’m sure the stats would surprise us all. Or, if you want to restrict this conversation to the big cities—when was the last time you stopped by a newsstand for coffee? Find the right magazine and sell it through the right chain—such as Travel and Leisure sold through Starbucks—that’s a nice pairing.

Calm down, Bob—the industry just needs a crash course in Freakanomics and then we could construct a battle plan.
(Submitted by a Publishing Data Manager)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
There are good reasons to be wary when discussing studies, particularly when communicated by the media. The NEA study doesn't say that reading has declined 10%. It says that "literary reading" has declined. The study defines literary reading as novels, short stories, plays, and poetry. It doesn't include philosophy, essays, history, narrative non-fiction, or other types of writing that one might consider literary. According to that definition, magazines by and large don't exist. Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold"? Doesn't exist. E.B. White's Talk of the Town pieces? They don't exist. Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief? Doesn't exist.
(Submitted by a Writer)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
Agreed, the widespread focus on celebrity titles suggests the focus on beauty instead of substance that’s prevalent in this society. It’s the gradual dumbing down of the American empire.
(Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
Bo, You talk about celebrity magazines. What a joke. These folks are just reporting the garbage that the other media has conjured up. Britney Spears was a fabricated thing set up by the media folks to do what, sell her talent? no, she had no talent. What she did have was exploitive parents who allowed the media to use her as a symbol for the young women and parents who bought into the hype. . .
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
for the record it is not about how many you sell these days but how profitable n/stand is.
One - does n/stand number continue to help fill-in the rate base.?
Two- if you take 100,000 out of the draw at $.50 x 50 weeks=$2,500,000 in saving, + increase cost per copy - so some drop off in sales looks bad but $.50- 1.00 more a copy viola you make more money.
(Submitted by a Senior Director of Mfg and Dst)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
Bo, I have been a reader of yours for over twelve years and in that time you have proven to be an accurate and consistent visionary and industry pundit. You pushed CTP and PDF before anyone else had even heard to them. I have always found your no nonsense publishing insights practical, pragmatic and above all else delightfully honest.

But now I see that I must add another accolade to your repertoire . . . that of mind reader.
I have been fuming lately over the very subject you just vented on. I am a multi-title publisher with what I think are quality books with an excellent editorial package.
We have a respectable performance on the newsstand, but I am as horrified as you are that the celebrity titles have such a giant and disproportionate share of the market. And a market when viewed in total that seems to be in real trouble. As always thanks for the consistency the amazing prolific continuity.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
I too get discouraged at the popularity of titles that provide information with no value to society, or even to one’s personal life. What a waste of precious time to read such things, I think.

But what does encourage me--based on what I see in the market and also what I myself feel when browsing the giant newsstand in NYC’s Penn Station (where I often deliberately miss my train home)--is that the niche enthusiast and hobby publications seem to be doing a fine job, and are staying healthy, even with audience numbers that aren’t remotely near that of the titles we hear about when our business is highlighted in the consumer media.

When it comes to titles like Motorcyclist; Boating; Ski; Digital Camera; Guitar Player; Fine Gardening; Golf; Backpacker; and all of the other hundreds of laser- focused titles I snoop through, it is so clear to me that they always succeed at sparking the imagination and transporting the reader to a relaxed yet excited state of mind, all while teaching them something related to a discipline, and creating community too.

Put another way: Holding a stitched bundle of laminated paper can be a transforming experience. How amazing is that?

We all know that the Web is all about letting people find their desired niches quickly and easily, so being a generalist title, in print or in electrons, is only going to be harder with each passing day. But that’s no reason for any of us to despair. Niches are more interesting— to many consumers, and to me as a media professional. That makes niche businesses eminently viable in the long run, and it makes me feel good about our business, regardless of the popularity of celebrity titles and the relative lack of interest in other generalist titles.
(Submitted by an Editorial Director)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
Bob, The root cause is more alarming. Less than 70% of 9th graders graduate from high school. We have a bigger problem than novels, short stories, plays, etc. If you need the exact state-by-state for an upcoming “rant,” let me know, and I’m sure I can find the source information for you . . .
(Submitted by a publisher and printer)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles

Here's the deal- NOBODY HAS ANY TIME TO READ ANYMORE. USA Today figured that out in 1982 or circa 12 BI (Before Internet). It's even truer today.

Now that everyone is "wired in" all of the time via cell phones and other mobile communication devices- work never goes away, school never goes away, friends never go away and family never goes away. Let's be honest, sometimes we want to be alone with our thoughts (or perhaps to read leisure material) but almost everyone (including me) is afraid to unplug for fear of missing something "important". Downtime in a car was taken away by the advent of cell phones. Downtime on a commuter train was replaced by working on the laptop and then the wireless PDA. Downtime on weekends and even vacation disappeared long ago. Soon, that last bastion of escape, the airplane, will allow wireless communication during flight making your iPod essential travel gear lest you want to listen to Mr. or Ms. Big Shot do all their "very big and important" deals all the way from Point A to Point B.

Add this to the fact that today's parents are obsessively involved with their children and that more families are trying to balance 2 careers and their kids social, sports and educational calendars and I've got to ask, are we really wondering why nobody reads "literature" anymore?

As for the celebrity titles- I would bet my house that less than half of the people who purchase these magazines actually read them. They are designed to consume photos and captions in less than 30 minutes. I have watched my daughter go through 3 weekly titles in less than ½ hour. We're not exactly talking about The New Yorker or Vanity Fair here. These publishers are the PT Barnums of our time. They're just giving the masses what they want.

I've got to go now. American Idol is about to start.
(Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

RE: BoSacks Speaks Out: On Celebrity Titles
In large part, we’re back to the government schools again with this problem. Our industry is a creature of our culture and our culture is headed down the crapper. Kids can’t read, never learn a love of reading. This is especially true for the boys who the lady teachers put on Ritalin because they won’t act like girls. But take heart! At least they learn to put condoms on bananas and are protected from the effects of second hand prayer.

None of this gets better – not culturally, not morally, not intellectually, not economically, not anything – until we close the government schools and let kids be schooled by people who have their educational development in mind rather than their political indoctrination.
(Submitted by a Printer)

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