Sunday, January 13, 2008

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

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)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Quebecor, Magazines, and Steve Florio

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Quebecor, Magazines, and Steve Florio

Re: How Many Magazines Debuted This Year?
Whoa! Prof. Husni says that 7,200 consumer magazines are a "sign of health"? Whose health? The paper and printing trades, maybe. His own, surely, if he makes a living teaching about and consulting with periodical publishers. But to take this bloat as a sign of the health of the magazine business in general is like pointing to a 400-pound man and saying, "Wow-imagine all the food he eats! Wonderful!"

Markets that were once legitimately served by a handful of magazines are now staggering under 20 or 30 or more titles (never mind what's on-line). More and more of our creativity and dollars have to go to fighting for market share instead of what we were good at originally. Competition is healthy, but when the pie has to be sliced this fine, where's the health? At some point too much choice becomes onerous and wasteful. Take our 400-pounder, put him on a diet and send him to the gym.
(Submitted by a Publisher, COO)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Quebecor Financial Fortunes Dwindling
Whatever happens to Quebecor, the Merced facility is unlikely to close its doors. Industry trends combined with local environmental regulations and taxation levels in the People's Republic of California ensure that there will never be another large printing facility built in that state. RRD's Torrance and Quebecor's Merced provide cost effective access to the most populous state in the union and, as such, have tremendous value. In the future, the sign might say Cenveo or Donnelley or Quad but that sign will stand in front of a productive and profitable Merced printing plant.
(Submitted by a Printer)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Quebecor Financial Fortunes Dwindling
Bo: You can forget RRD acquiring Quebecor, they still house too much junk for equipment that RRD does not want. They have their own problems getting rid of junk they took ownership of during the acquisitions of Banta and Perry Judd's.

Everybody seems to forget Pierre Peledeau who led Quebecor into the stupid proposition of paying 33% premium for World Color years ago. KKR, the investment group from New York, that put World Color together, owned 25=30% of the stock and were the main reason they were on the market as "all or nothing". Several printers tried to cherry pick the good pikes of World Color prior to the purchase by Peledeau. He wanted bragging rights to be named the "largest printer in the World". He achieved that goal, but all the junk he picked up with the buyout ultimately buried him, as we see today. Peledeau never cleaned up the inefficient plants, because he was afraid of the negative sales numbers he would have to give up as it related to Wall Street. Sad story, but let's put the blame on the right person.
(Submitted by a Senior Paper Person)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Quebecor Financial Fortunes Dwindling
I too have had a great experience and history with the Merced plant. The people there over the years that provided more than just service, but critical saves on a regular basis, ensuring that our weekly mag hit the newsstands on time every time was quite an accomplishment.

The plant's nearness to Yosemite was always a nice travel addition, if mostly only in though as the best laid plans only materialized once for me.

I remember coming back after spending hot summer days there and not being able to look at Italian food or tomato sauce for the smell I couldn't get out of my head for the food processing plant that shares the valley.

I wish the good people of Merced the best in this new year and new age. As for Quebecor World, well . . .
Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

re: What the Reader Wants
"We must lead readers, not be led by them. Really great journalism must do more than merely give people what they want. There has to be room for the unexpected, for stories the public has no idea it wants until it sees them. . .The reader is a paradox. . .The reader, ladies and gentlemen, is not king; actually he is a nice hypocrite. . .Editors are an endangered species, but only a good and professional editorial team can decide what is news and what is humbug. "

These are the smartest things I heard from someone in our business in all of 2007, and these comments should be posted in editorial offices everywhere.

Readers have jobs and busy lives. So our job is to present them a panorama that they would otherwise never find and observe on their own.

If you give readers only what they think they want, they will soon go somewhere else. Those who are bewildered by that notion are not smart enough to be in this business.
Submitted by a Senior Editor)

RE: Publishers Investing Millions
Just wanted to wish you a happy holiday, and to let you know how much I enjoy reading the newsletter. Yesterday, I was reading an article in Folio about how online revenue for publishers is not yet at the mature stage where it is actually covering costs, and I wondered-are we making the same mistake some printers/publishers made a century ago?

If you were starting a print magazine now, you wouldn't go out and buy a press and all the software and staff to run it, and you probably wouldn't start your own distribution company either. So why do most publishers create their own web site platforms, investing millions in hardware, software, programmers and IT staff? Why do they want to own the printing press?
Shouldn't we be able to supply content-just as we give a PDF page to the printer-to a web vendor with the expertise, capital equipment, and staff to turn it into a great web site? That would allow us to concentrate on supplying information (and selling advertising), instead of re-inventing the wheel to figure out how to get it into the form our audience wants. The vendor would bear the cost of upgrading to new technology every few years, and in return the publisher would pay ongoing fees. This would also allow a publisher to shop around to get the best price and service, since it would be in the vendor's best interest to be able to use standardized content, whether it's PDF, HTML, XML, or whatever comes next.

I'm sure that this has been addressed by others in the industry, and it may be that the vendors aren't out there yet who can supply this service cost-efficiently and adequately. If not, I would have to guess that it will come sooner or later.
Submitted by a Vice President Manufacturing)

Re: Fast Forward: Up In Smoke
Your choice in articles has really sparked something for me of late - Thanks!
I love Chris Anderson's writing, and yes, text has become a way of life for me - personally and professionally. I can reach family at work, in school (hopefully not during class periods!) and we can update for critical day's activities. At work I can text my meeting Facilitator with important updates or insights without having to cross the room and whisper in his ear...
God love the effective use of technology - and so do I!
Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

Re: Fast Forward: Up In Smoke
Holy cow, I was thinking exactly the same thing about texting just this morning, as I have maintained a conversation over the past 2 weeks via text with my German-born friend who went home to Stuttgart for Christmas. It's good because the recipient can respond at his or her convenience, and it's much less expensive than calling too.

I used to hate texting because I figured I could simply call someone and exchange info in seconds as opposed to texting repeatedly. But besides having flexibility as to when we can respond to each other, my friends and I have developed a shorthand vocabulary, and it is amazing how much you can get across in three lines on a cell phone.
I still hate seeing kids who never look up in public because they are so busy texting, but it's not the communication channel's fault--it's how people use it.
Submitted by a Senior Editor)

Re: Magazine Executive Florio Dies
Hi Bob: Such sad news.
I served with Steve on the MPA BOD. He was always a presence: Fun, focused and a fervent believer in his products. Last time I spent some time with him was in FL after he had his first heart attack. I had just retired from Rodale and he was contemplating the same from Conde. "So how to you spend your day? Give me your schedule?" He was so concerned that he could ever (perish the thought) be bored.
Hope he finds his Rest.
PS: of the things I'm thankful for in 2007 is the magnificent job you do in keeping the connections connected.
(Submitted by a Senior Publisher)

Re: Magazine Executive Florio Dies
Steve Florio hired me 20 years ago to represent The New Yorker in Italy even though I had never sold advertising space anywhere let alone in Italy in Italian. Now everyone speaks English here but then the Italians did not. I think he hired me because I read The New Yorker but he never would say. He was the best sales person I have ever seen and in the early days of The New Yorker when things weren't really going so well he could convince the entire staff that it was. He had weekly meetings with the sales assistants to teach them about publishing and advertising and he did it with enthusiasm.

One day we were in the Galleria in Milano before going to a luncheon he was giving for the advertising community and he suggested going to see a Donatello sculpture which he liked in the Cathedral. I was the art major and not he so I was sure he was wrong but there it was. We were early and no matter how hard I tried to be earlier than Steve he was always there first and waiting. Promptness is the courtesy of kings and he definitely was. A perfect gentleman at all times.

Tina Brown was quoted today about how much fun he was. When he, Lynn Heiler and I would be in the elevator leaving a call in Milano that had gone well we would have to wait to get in the elevator where we could laugh. When he hired Tina Brown then we could really laugh as the Italians were thrilled. My job was never again as much fun as when he was there.
(Submitted by an Industry Representative)