Thursday, March 27, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: The Push for a 'Greener' Industry

The Push for a 'Greener' Industry
I have to say that Barnes & Noble's magazine op has been transformed in the last couple of years. At my store at any rate, opened only three or four years ago, they finally figured out that we were throwing away 1,000 mags a week and it is much more rational now. And instead of tearing the covers off and sending the excess mags to landfill, all the chain's leftovers are recycled now.
(Submitted by a 67-year-old wage slave, er, retired author)

The Push for a 'Greener' Industry

Bob, For what it's worth, and there is still no justification for the inefficiency at newsstand, but virtually 100% of unsold copies, returns, are recycled. Most of it ends up in newsprint.
. . . It is just a fact that magazine wholesalers have one of their few profit streams in selling magazine waste to recyclers, so they collect it all. In the SBT study . . . one of wholesalers' concerns about not having to process returns, as a long term result of SBT, was about losing the waste sales. Most indicated they would probably continue to pick up the returns from retailers even if they didn't have to process them at the warehouse.
(Submitted by an Industry Distribution Specialist)

The Push for a 'Greener' Industry
Same stuff as the Sierra Club who claims to be green, only problem is, their mass direct mail programs are not exactly green.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

The Push for a 'Greener' Industry
As an environmentalist . . . , it pains me to say that the Evil Empire (Time) "gets it" when it comes to the environmental impact of paper and that the environmental groups generally do not get it. Using recycled fiber in magazine paper does not save trees, it just diverts that fiber from other (often more efficient) uses. In environmental parlance, it has no "additionality". Using post-consumer recycled fiber back in the 1970s meant something because it was important to create more of a market for that fiber. But now there is plenty of demand for post-consumer fiber -- more than can be fulfilled -- so creating more demand for it does nothing for the
environment. Time Inc's Refkin is correct to focus on the real issues -- increasing the supply of recycled fiber, using sustainable forestry, and reducing the carbon footprint of the energy-intensive paper industry.

By the way, as wasteful as our industry's newsstand practices are, they generally are not causing landfills to fill up. The recycling rate for newsstand returns has always been high, which is why environmental groups have focused on encouraging the use of post-consumer fiber. Also, I don't think Myllykoski claims that all of the recycled content in the paper from its Alsip mill is post-consumer because it uses waste from printing plants and newsstand returns. Given the generally poor quality of post-consumer fiber in the US, using high-quality pre-consumer waste to make coated paper probably makes more environmental sense than relying solely on post-consumer waste. And as for claims that recycled fiber has a lower carbon footprint, two mills that make coated paper with recycled fiber could not tell me their carbon footprint and the third had a relatively high footprint. What matters more than type of fiber are the mill's sources of on-site energy and purchased electricity.
(Submitted by a Senior Director of Manufacturing)

Re: Bosacks Video
you sir, are a voice of reason . . . the sony is a model t . . . and yes it is . . . too bad u didn't have a kindle with you which is the tucker of e-book readers
(Submitted by an Industry Pundit)

Re: Vive Les Dead Trees
Bo,It has gotten hackneyed and self-serving of would-be environmentalists to continously refer paper based reading material as "dead trees" or "tree killing" for that matter. Such people need to get the message that trees are a renewable resource (and regrown as such -- and I am not talking about old growth forests, a related, but different argument), like corn and other vegetable matter. Do these same individuals refer to their shoes as "dead animals", their shirts as "murdered cotton", their next broccoli and mushroom side dish as "terminated vegetables", their next espresso as "whacked beans" or the next sashimi platter as "offed fish"? The context of such arguments is critical of often ignored. Paper companies, printers and publishers are not the bad guys per se --- many of them do their jobs green-consciously and well, with an enviromental awareness and commitment that goes beyond mere sloganeering.
(Submitted by a printer and proud of it)

Re: Vive Les Dead Trees
Bo- Maybe French publishers are doing something novel - like producing a product for the reader. I'm not a Francophile and my knowledge of the language is a notch above non-existent, but when I see a copy of Le Figaro or Le Monde I can't help but think that the reader is very much in the editor's (and publisher's) mind. When I unfolded the Sunday copy of my local Long Island newspaper the flyers and inserts that fell to the floor, or came between me and the editorial were enough to make me throw up my arms in frustration. I applaud the ad staff, but after fliiping through 10 (or was it 12?) full page ads to get to the next page of news it wasn't applause I wanted to give the publisher. Maybe that's why I now read the Sunday issue only. And our magazine brothers and sisters are no better. Did you ever count the number of ad pages before the table of contents? Or, when you're trying to find that article continuation on page 132, the number of pages that are not numbered?

Don't get me wrong. Without ad sales the publishing industry would only be a shadow of itself and I wouldn't have a job. But let's put things in perspective. If want to stem the loss of readers shouldn't we pay a little more attention to the reader? We talk a lot about wanting things to be more user friendly. Let's remember who the ultimate user of newspapers and magazines is. It's sure not the advertiser.
(Submitted by a Marketing Executive)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle

BoSacks Speaks Out; My good friend Peter Meirs of Time Inc fame has created a short video that I think is really worth viewing. He was the chair of an excellent group discussion on digital magazines at the Publishing Executive trade show last week. Every time Peter and I get together in the same room, there is a wonderful time warp of sorts and our conversations careen towards that semi-accurate future of our business. I know that together we have conceptualized many reading devises that are 25 years or more on the horizon. When we do this, I know we are not wrong, we are just not right yet.

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.
H. G. Wells (1866 - 1946)

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Mag Industry Successes, Kindles, Ziff and more

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle
and i would tell you that the magazine publishers don't want digital magazines to work. i really suspect they have no clue what to do with them since they don't get paid to make them work . . . but the kindle tells another wonderful story: linux works and works well, and great things can be built with it . . . i took windows off my two notebooks and i don't crash and i don't lose wireless signals.
(Submitted by an industry researcher and daily morning IM pal of BoSacks)

Re: Book lovers have emotional bond with paper
bob, this is absurd . . . i have always loved magazines, books and newspapers, now, i love my kindle . . . what a great way to buy and read books, especially if you are a 2 or more books per week reader, as i am.
i have no doubt that some years from now, most people will be doing most of their reading on egizmos . . . regards
(Submited by a Publisher)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle
you sir, are a voice of reason . . . the sony is a model t . . . and yes it is . . . . too bad u didn't have a kindle with you which is the tucker of e-book readers.
(Submitted by an industry pundit and writer)

RE: Book lovers have emotional bond with paper
Bo - I could not get into the show this week to hear your talk but hope that you would have talked about the Amazon Kindle - perhaps outfitted in full body armor. I have used the Kindle for a few months and it has become a must carry along. It has not 'replaced' the paper book nor do I feel it will ever do so. The Kindle is not all that useful on the beach (sand would not be a good thing). It is not yet readable in the dark (I cannot believe they did not find a way to offer even a light extension since the technology offers no backlighting). The graphs and photos do not work well at all. The wireless access is surprisingly fast and versatile and the bookmark, dictionary, notes and other features are quite intuitive (which is good since I hate reading directions). Most of all as with any first generation application it will be refined, they will get it better the second time around and likely the third time will be the charm. It is here to stay. Embrace it folks. It's not the end, it's only the beginning.
(Submitted by a longtime print and now marketing application guy)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle
I like mine as well, cool, but the back lighting real big disappointment, mags a total bust.
(Submitted by a Senior Director of Manufacturing)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Review of the Kindle
Bo, I saw you at the show last week and was very impressed. Your three lectures were the best of all the meetings that I attended. But for me it was more the sum of the parts. Your keynote, then the Bo-epaper dissection and predictions and followed by your key trends of the industry, blended for me into a terrific forecast of where I need to apply my energy as a publisher and career focused family man. Many thanks for the very rational approach to a confusing business forecast. I guess I'm trying to say that you grounded me, and I need that.
(Submitted by a multi-title Publisher)

Re: Mag Industry Inches, With Some Success, Toward Efficiency
This is fascinating, and I've anticipated it for well over a decade.
If only the distros would buy all the copies -- like any rational business -- instead of the
consignment shellgame -- they would make it their business to get sell through up. Same should go for the stores.

I've been selling a significant portion of my niche titles NO RETURNS (at 75% off cover) for a decade. Some of the larger niche distributors (notably, XXXXXX) now request no returns contracts with all their vendors. (I was the first to suggest it to them, by the way.) These distributors that buy "no returns" from me keep the copy count really, really tight, but their sell through is great. I get a steady source of income in a timely fashion and they get a really excellent discount. Win-win-win.

Oh, and why should I, the publisher, pay for shrink? It's utterly beyond my ability to
control. If someone steals a box of cookies at Safeway, does Safeway tell the cookie company "too bad, it didn't scan?" Or if someone breaks a box of eggs, does Safeway tell the egg farmer -- "too bad, you should have made the eggs harder to break?"

BTW, I think if we are to be faced with shrink and SBT then we should get *paid* net 30 days from when the issue scans. Live by the scan, die by the scan, indeed.

P.S. I would dearly LOVE the big chains and distros to regulate for 50% sell through. It's
been my goal for years; I have tiny niche titles and I need to actually make *money* on newsstand.
(Submitted by a multi-title Publisher)

RE: ziff davis media files for bankruptcy
Do you know if the big creditors are printers? At first I thought it was strange that they were going to write off so much in return for the big majority stake in common stock. On reflection, it started sounding like someone pretty desperately needed those publications to keep printing, and that might well describe major printers who would be hard pressed to see that much business suddenly drop off the revenue side, which would smack their own stock prices.
(Submitted by a Writer)

RE Why do good magazines die
Bob: Greatly enjoyed your column which I read in a place I never bring my laptop.

My business depends in part on digital information and the web but I am
certain the flight from print is folly. Smart people will be making money
from print for as long as people can read - the written word is the basis of
our civilization and print is still the one of the best technologies for
disseminating and preserving the written word.

My motto in this business has always been, "first figure out what you want
to say, then figure out how to make it pay." The trouble with a lot of
corporate information businesses is that the decision makers really don't
care about the products. Editorially driven information enterprises are the
kind I love.

I just signed up for your newsletter. My interest in paper and pulp is due
to my involvement in a timber magazine, not as a potential buyer of paper.
(Submitted by an Unknown)

RE; Does the next generation read?
Finally I have a few moments to respond to your question of October, 2007 "Does the Next Generation Actually Read?" which you posed in Publishing Executive.

The one word answer is "Yes".

However they do not read useless words which still fill the gaps between ads and pretend to be of importance.

They want the information they need and they do not care whether it comes to them in leather bound, gold leaf, low acid content volume, which they physically have to access somewhere or visually in pictures or abbreviated in an IM. They can't waste their time with what the publishing industry habitually tries to pass off as important knowledge.

Their generation has to absorb about 10 times the knowledge we did and they have to do it in much shorter time. I like to compare our knowledge transfer industry (schools) as the most inefficient time spent in our lives. It is as if we tried to eat all we will need for the rest of our lives in the first 20 years. It does not work. They can no longer spend 20 years to learn all that we will need to know for the rest of our lives. Most of what the next generation will have to know has not even been invented yet. They will need access to knowledge instantly, whenever, and wherever they are.

I have just begun the 32nd year of publishing Futurific Leading Indicators. Part of the reason our very small circulation is reaching a new high every month is our formula for reporting news by:
eliminating all the unnecessary words to get the story across.
we also skip all self-serving, promotional verbiage that helps to fill news pages.
we make sure to eliminate all dead-on-arrival news items. These are items that are done with and have no impact of the future.
we do not promote any creed, politics or products.
we do not entertain, distract or create hype of any sort.

After this filtering we are left with bare facts that are organized in a logical format which continues and refines the picture we are presenting, month after month.

For these 32 years, our only agenda has been, and continues to be, to accurately forecast the future. It can be done . . . and somebody had to do it.

Hope this answers your question.

Keep asking why.
Yours for a better future,
(Submitted by a President)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out; Time, Newsweek, Teens and Google U

BoSacks Readers Speak Out; Time, Newsweek, Teens and Google U

Subject: Re: Time Vs. Newsweek: Battle Of The Print Dinosaurs
Bob: To paraphrase Montaigne, whether poring over TIME or N/W on the bathroom throne, or reading all the Oscar Gossip online, we are still sitting on our ass. The author reminds me of the spoiled creatures who write reviews of new vehicles for car magazines, wondering why the manufacturers offer limited GPS options, or could find only 6 more horsepower than last year.

Didn't TIME deliberately pare their circ base to contain costs and get more right with ABC? I can't imagine that they would have lost so much more readership proportionately to N/W in an even race on level ground. As logical references go, it is non sequitur.

Yes, I read more news online, and eschew gossip as best I can, but I haven't cancelled my subs to newsweeklies. They offer perspective, and insight, maybe because they have to be good and be right between the event and the print deadlines. 3.2 million readers are counting on it and paying for the privilege.
(Submitted by a self-diagnosed dinosaur, retired)

Re: Time Vs. Newsweek: Battle Of The Print Dinosaurs
Not in a million years will I pick up a print copy of these two magazines, but I'm in love with!!!!
(Submitted by an Online Production Manager

Re: Time Vs. Newsweek: Battle Of The Print Dinosaurs
Bo- I'm not sure if my attitude is tainted as a publisher or not. I used to love both titles. I would read both on a regular basis. Now I find I almost never read either. Why is that? The internet? I couldn't really say. I continue have great respect for both houses, but my addiction and their usefulness or my lifestyle/needs have changed.
(Submitted by a multi-title Publisher)

Re: BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Snakes, Music, Publishing and Reading

This is a sad commentary about how the printing business has turned into the "business" of printing. Many of the big printers today--except for the one that sprouted out of the cornfields in the Midwest--are run by MBA suits who don't know anything about it. To them, a magazine or catalog is just another widget to be counted and counted, and they push and push, to produce more and more, with less and less. At the end of the day, they are only concerned with showing a profit since that is what will ultimately feather their pockets. So in order to achieve that, they shut down plants, lay off employees, and in the process, they have destroyed the business. With that goal achieved, the MBA suit walks away with a multi-million dollar bonus in his pocket. "What a world, what a world."
Submitted by a Senior Production person)

The inside baseball character of replies to replies can get tedious, I know. So this will probably remain between you and me, and that's fine. While Senior Production Person makes some valid observations, I believe he misses the point and wanted to run my POV by you.

Yes, MBA's and similarly soulless types pocketing obscene amounts of money is an offensive reality. But it is the nature of American business, not just the American printing business. Change it if you can and more power to you. But Wall Street might be a more fruitful starting point than Printer's Row.

As to the continual push to print more and more for less and less, my fellow reader puts the arse before the torse. Could it be that the amount of money that Senior Production Persons will pay their printer might have something to do with this state of affairs? And perhaps the overall nature of the marketplace? "Mmmmm, could be." (Bugs Bunny - American cartoon rabbit and personal role model). Ben Franklin, patron saint of American printers, got it only 2/3's right when he enumerated the things in life that are certain. Actually, there are three: death, taxes, and lower printing prices. There is less, and the customers want more. So, we do more with less.

As for the outrage over the fact that, "at the end of the day, they are only concerned with showing a profit," well, duh! The same is true for the beginning of the day, noontime, and the commute both ways. The first condition necessary to doing a good job is having a job. Whether you are a CEO, a production person, or a pocket feeder, that means contributing more than you are paid. That means making a profit. Call it feathering your nest or feeding your family. Either way, there is nothing shameful in it. In business, it is a moral obligation. That obligation can be met humanely or inhumanly but that is a question of execution and personal responsibility. The goal itself remains honorable.
Submitted by a Printer)

Re: U.S. teens stumped by history Survey
There's absolutely no question that the liberal arts, including history, are essential to every student's education. But this story suffers from serious flaws.

First it offers no points of comparison. Do today's teenagers know less history and literature than teenagers did ten years ago? Do today's teenagers know less history and literature than people in their 40s or 50s?

Second, the survey methodology certainly influenced the results. Who among us is willing to focus carefully when answering 33 multiple choice history questions in a random phone call from a stranger?

Finally, which of the results indicates "stunning ignorance?"

-Half of the respondents knew the dates of the Civil War.
-Three quarters knew when Columbus sailed.
-Three quarters correctly identified Adolf Hitler.
-40 percent were familiar with Ellison's "The Invisible Man."
-Half were familiar with Job.
-80 percent were familiar with "To Kill a Mockingbird."
-Virtually all identified Martin Luther King from his famous speech.

Would we expect any random group of American adults to score much better?

This story is cut from a well-worn mold . In a few months we'll hear how ignorant American students are about geography. Then another group with an axe to grind will find another subject in which American teenagers are woefully underinformed. Common Core, the organization behind the survey, owes their extremely important cause less sensational and more serious treatment. And we're as "stunningly ignorant" as the kids we're snickering at if we swallow this stuff without thinking about it first.
Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Google U
"It is quaint that people speak of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It IS education." - G. K. Chesterton
In his Google U essay, Jeff Jarvis (the creator and original Managing Editor of Entertainment Weekly, whose early version of that title was hipper and more insightful though perhaps less commercial than the magazine's current iconic incarnation) has discovered home schooling. Welcome aboard!

As the failure of the model enforced by the government schools and the culture at large becomes more obvious to more people the collapse of that model becomes more and more of a likelihood; a consummation devoutly to be wished. I'll take Mr. Jarvis' comments as a positive sign, especially considering his track record for getting in front of cultural trends.

The educational system as it currently exists does not, cannot, and will never provide actual education. According to the model of its founder, John Dewey, it provides indoctrination for the production of usable, lead-able citizens. According to the wishes of the teacher's unions, which appear to be modeled on the coal miners, it provides gainful employment for life for anyone willing to keep paying their dues and pass along whatever drivel is put in front of them. According to the pleasure of academics and administrators, it provides a cocoon safely insulated from the demands of the real world and protects their phoney baloney jobs. For politicians, it provides another means of access to taxpayer dollars and a power base built on spending those dollars. But education? Sorry, wrong number. . . .
Submitted by a Printer)

Re: In men's magazines, a question of size
Bob; With the seemingly perpetual increases in paper and postal costs, the next major "universal" trim-size reduction (from the current 10.5" short-cutoff) will be the aptly named "handbag" size. Unfortunately, there is not currently a "natural" press-cutoff within the U.S. web-offset world to deliver this product efficiently. I know this because we looked at producing such a product. It is my understanding that the current U.S. titles -- produced at the handbag trim size -- are printed on short-cutoff presses. The oversized sigs (i.e., at 10.5" + trim) are sent to the bindery...where the book is trimmed to the smaller 9" trim size. This is a huge -- and expensive -- inefficiency/waste. For my project, which was ultimately tabled, the other option was to look at a rotogravure scheme. Alas, the relatively small print order did not justify this.

It is my prediction that the handbag trim size will become a viable option -- and viable press platform -- in the not too-distant future. This will occur when one (or more) of the major magazine publishers "challenges" one (or more) of the "Big 3" -- RRDonnelley, Quad Graphics and Quebecor (?) World -- to convert a significant portion of their press platform to a 9" trim-size press exchange for a very robust portion of their titles/print order. Only a large -- and committed -- publisher volume would justify the significant investment that this would represent to any one of the printing Big 3. Could another candidate (e.g., Brown Printing), beyond the Big 3, emerge to seize some of this "new" trim size volume? Maybe...but less likely. And one of the Big 3 already has its hands full with financial challenges.
Submitted by a Dirctor of Operations)