Friday, May 16, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Brands, Trends, and Truth

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Brands, Trends, and Truth

Re: "The New Next: Brands That Bond"
Bob, I can't imagine being able to describe my magazine outside of the context of its brand image.

I would expect my magazine to be leading or at least facilitating as many important conversations as possible in the particular niche we cover. In fact, because we are not offering a product to our readers that is, similar to that of our advertisers and other industry suppliers, it is even more central to brand identity for a magazine to be out in front of people, talking and listening and prodding everyone involved or interested in the niche to do the same. Doing this also dredges up tons of fodder for future articles we can present to the entire readership, not just the in-person crowd you get.

And besides offering copies of recent issues for people who do not subscribe to or purchase it, we can also hand out items or products from partnering firms--products that help the readers do whatever it is they do that prods them to read the magazine. We can put our logo in a subtle spot as well.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Youth Speaks: If u dk what this is, gl
This would be more impactful if the writer knew that "LOL" meant "laugh out loud" and not "lots of laughs". I just uttered the same groan not used since my dad said "hep cat" in front of my friends many years ago.
(Submitted by an Industry Provider)

RE: 5 Key Future Magazine Trends and 8 Ways to Prepare for Them
Bob, You are RIGHT ON!
There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, I can see it.
(Submitted by a Director of Mfg and Dst)

RE: 5 Key Future Magazine Trends and 8 Ways to Prepare for Them
FYI, your editorial "Printed Magazines Will Follow the Path of the Plastic Record" is hanging on my home office wall. Some guys have girlie calendars, I have Bo Sacks.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: What is Happening in our Industry?
What inspiring words Bob, especially after reading the doom and gloom stories of another QuebecorWorld plant closing/layoffs and other industry layoffs. I still love what I do and I am still kept busy with my client's print and digital needs. I've reinvented myself to some extent, but it is still ink on paper or bytes on a cd and getting it into readers hands on time. Thanks for the great words Bob.
(Submitted By a senior Publishing Consultant)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: What is Happening in our Industry?
Bo that was amazing. Really uplifting stuff. The best part of your newsletter is the unexpected. You have always told it like it is. That would be the good news, the bad news and technology we need to know of to stay employed. You are my hero. I've been reading you since my first job in the industry . . . some fifteen years ago. The job seemed less stressful and easier then. Thanks.
(Submitted by a Production Manager)

RE: Retouching

Hey Bo, I know this is a little late but . . .
As you know covers of EVERY mag are retouched . . . aside from making models look perfect, in the "Home" category we also add sky to images retouch out cords, electrical sockets, make winter shots into summer by removing snow and adding bushes, landscaping etc . . . All shots of a the same room are made to look the same no matter what time of day the various shots was taken.
When I used to do allot of work for the Conde Nast mags thru AGT (remember them), the covers were worked for hours to get rid of lines, wrinkles, facial hair etc. We did a spread on Linda Evans that was shot very soft to help with her wrinkles, then we had to take them down even more . . . I can't imagine a room full of "Art Directors" that would ever agree to giving up retouching and letting the images stand on their own . . .
(Submitted by a printer)

Re: Hanley Wood Moving Toward Becoming a 'Web-First Company'
A sad day for us all! Soon there will be one mill, one printer and one magazine. And tons of crap on the web that can never find an audience that it knows or really understands.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: The Important Truth Behind the IDG Story
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
Oscar Wilde
Wrong on both counts. The first because truth is pure by definition. The second because of the common tendency to confuse something simple with something easy. Because something is simple does not mean it is easy. Truth is simple. It is rarely easy.
(Submitted by a Printer)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Mag Subs, Circ and other Publishing Lore

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Mag Subs, Circ and other Publishing Lore

RE: Want to read those magazines? Read the fine print first
"Newsub Magazine Services, a Salt Lake City firm" . . . is a subsidiary of Synapse Group, located in Stamford, CT . . . which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of (drumroll)
TIME, Inc.

Once upon a time, long-long ago, in the la-la-land galaxy known as SW Connecticut . . . . there was an idealistic young Jedi newly enlisted into the SynapseArmy. She was swayed, mesmerized, enthralled by the pronouncements and musings of the Fearless Leader.

Fearless told his assembled throng "Together we will change the world, starting by changing the way magazines are marketed and sold. Behind my curtain lies a patented consumer-friendly subscription model. EVERYBODY WINS! Yaaay for us! But especially for me 'cause I'm gonna get rich!"

Soon the recruits learned what was really behind the curtain at Synapse. Every month the offers became a little less lucrative, and a little more misleading. 'Disclosure' was painstakingly worded to fake-out more consumers yet pass muster with the beleaguered staff attorney. All this was served up with a free lunch to make it go down easier.

Seems the Ivy Leaguers and Ivy-wannabees in charge had succumbed to the same disease that afflicts their classmates on Wall Street . . . GREED! The bank 'marketers' and publisher 'partners'? All cheering them on!

The consumer? Screwed.

After a failed IPO, a sellout by Fearless to the Evil Empire was the only thing left to do. They got Time guys running the joint now, but the website still drips with mental superiority. Yeeeccch.

As Steve Miller once said "go on, take the money and
run". And that's what they did.
(Submitted as requested by a Publishing "Nobody")

Re: Want to read those magazines? Read the fine print first
We have a simple rule: we don't use agencies, agents, or allow our magazines to be used as promotional kickers. In fact, we don't even do "buy 1 get 1" holiday gifts anymore, the people who responded to the cheapie offers turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. The sort of garbage discussed in the article debases the entire industry.
(Submitted by a Multi-Title Publisher)

Re: Newsweeklies Under Constant Pressure
Oh please, this again?
Haven't we been talking about the demise of the newsweeklies since the '80's?
Also interesting that the article does not talk about The Economist. I believe that their last ABC report showed single copy sales up around 10%. And their sales are double what they were in 1999.

Could it be that Time, Newsweek and US News are having trouble because they aren't relevant? Could the relativity issue be more to the fact that those three magazines aren't well designed for today's market? Could it be that Time and Newsweek can't make up their minds if they are celebrity rags or news mags and US News can't reach a page count where the purchase of the magazine at the newsstand would justify the expense?

Could it be that The Economist is doing well because it is well written, has thoughtful articles, has a bite, an edge, a point of view, and is thick enought to justify the cash you have to lay out to buy it?

Isn't Rule #1 of magazine publishing would be to create something that your readers want?
(Submitted by an Unknown Professional)

Re: Are Always-Connected Consumers Really Virtual Crackheads?
I don't mean to sound like one of those homeless people who go around muttering all the time, but the source of your history trivia seems to be a little off-base.

People of all classes, not just the upper classes, read American magazines throughout the 19th century. In the second half of the century, magazines targeting the modestly-educated had much larger circulations than magazines targeting the better-educated. And as for "looking toward Europe," many of the country's best magazines, like The Atlantic Monthly, The Dial, and the North American Review were dedicated to promoting American literature.

Press capacity was never much of a limiting factor in 19th-century magazine publishing. In 1849, Hoe introduced a press capable of 20,000 single-sided impressions per hour. By 1879 Bullock was selling a perfecting press yielding 28,000 folded 8-page signatures per hour. Well before 1880, some magazine publishers were producing press runs in the hundreds of thousands every week. . . . and some newspapers produced larger runs every day.

The Postal Act of 19879 was definitely a landmark event, but the Post Office had been carrying magazines unlimited distances at declining rates for decades prior. The evolution of 2nd class mail began long before 1879, and besides, single copy sales represented a significant portion of total magazine distribution in the 19th century.

The revolutionary price decreases of McClure's and Munsey's came in 1893, not 1883, and credit should also go to J. B. Walker, who priced Cosmopolitan at 12.5 cents. What made the decreases significant was that advertising sales made up for losses in production and circulation. This business model has been copied by other media so many times since that it's become commonplace. But the model wouldn't have succeeded if it weren't for the growing need of newly-emerging brand advertisers to reach a large national audience. The emergence of national brands (made possible by advances in mass production) and of middle-class magazines with large circulations (driven by the price decreases) coincided to mutual benefit. You can date the rise of brand-oriented American popular culture to 1893.

Finally, I'm no expert on Horatio Alger, but I'm pretty sure that Street and Smith, not Munsey, published the vast majority of his stories.

Because I'm a full-blown crank and not some garden-variety amateur, I'll be happy to send the full details on this stuff if you like. The factors that enabled the growth of magazine publishing in the 19th century are fascinating, and (naturally) hold lessons for publishers today. I'll also stop chewing your ear on all this if you tell me to shut up.

PS. The obituary that William Allen White wrote for Munsey is too good not to repeat:

"Frank Munsey contributed to the journalism of his day the talent of a meat packer, the morals of a money-changer and the manners of an undertaker. He and his kind have about succeeded in transforming a once-noble profession into an 8 per cent security. May he rest in trust."
(Submitted by a Publisher and official BoSacks Cub Reporter)

Monday, May 5, 2008

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Printing as a Premium Format

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Printing as a Premium Format

Re: It's Web 3.0, and Someone Else's Content Is King
Um, Bo, pardon me if I am getting this wrong, but it sounds very much like a dog chasing its own tail. Who is actually going to be writing the stories everyone is aggregating?

In my market, there's dozens of "free" sites, rife with bad grammar, egregious spelling, and obvious errors of fact. Not to mention copy that would never, EVER grace my titles. Yes, I've seen some ads migrate over there, but, just like paid search, I expect to see them back again as the channels clog with trolls, moles, and wannabe writers that don't know their head from an ampersand. Call me arrogant, or simply follow the money: free content almost always sucks. How many "cute kitty" pictures can we actually stomach?
How long before the masses move on to the next circus?

Me, I'm looking forward to being able to deliver my content electronically via an open-source reader that doesn't greedily demand 85% of the retail price. (Amazon Kindle, anyone?) Until then, I'll stay paid, small-but-profitable, and happy.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Magazines Face Curbs to Photo Airbrushing
Hey Bo, Maybe it's a little late for a comment on this but- Retouching has been going on for as long as I have been in the business (over 30 years) before it was done in the sink or the darkroom (dot etching for the kids at home), then Cromacom CEPS systems & now we use photoshop. All of the models were (and still are) retouched to smooth wrinkles, blemishes, whiten eyes & teeth, re-style hair, enhance eye color, reduce unsightly bulges, facial hair yada, yada yada. This also goes for interiors (and exteriors) of houses in the " home " mags. Curtains are fixed, outlets removed, walls squared up, houses under construction finished etc.
If the general public thinks that these models actually look anything like their printed counterparts, I've got some swamp land in Florida that they may be interested in . . .
PS Keep up the good work
(Submitted by a printer)

RE: The State of Digital Magazine Delivery, 2008
I'm amazed that so many digital magazine companies are still competing in this market space. With the exception of some double digit paid circ at US News & World Report, Playboy and Seventeen the impact of digital magazine facsimiles on consumers is near zero. While suppliers claim 2,700 digital titles I have yet to have a conversation with a person outside of magazine publishing who has ever subscribed to or even looked at a digital edition. If 2,700 trees fall in the forest and no one hears them fall do they make a sound? I can't speak to B2B success with digital versions (and I know there has been some) but after many tests with digital facsimiles my company primarily sees their value as a tactical tool for sampling or displaying archived content. That isn't to say that the idea of digital magazines is bad one. There are some highly interactive digital magazines designed for the screen that are attracting consumers and advertisers. These editions have merit but so does the web. Perhaps the digital magazine of the future is, in fact, a website.
(Submitted by a Senior Magazine Manager)

RE: The State of Digital Magazine Delivery, 2008
Bo, I see this as a great work in progress. The subscribers to my digital editions are small by percentages but growing everyday. I think in just a few short years, the tide will turn and the bulk of my business will be web/digital editions. The market forces are driving my company that way, and I see no other alternative. Do I expect paper and postage to suddenly go back to the 1990s. No! What I do expect is constant manufacturing and distribution increases. For those of my readership that still want paper and are willing to pay for it, I'm sure I will still have those editions. But for the other readership, there is another more frugal course of action.
(Submitted by a publisher)

Re: Want to read those magazines? Read the fine print first
We have a simple rule: we don't use agencies, agents, or allow our magazines to be used as promotional kickers. In fact, we don't even do "buy 1 get 1" holiday gifts anymore, the people who responded to the cheapie offers turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. The sort of garbage discussed in the article debases the entire industry.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Finally something for you magazine people out there to think about.
Posted BY Michael Turro
From the BLOG

While I hate to sound like chicken little - and though the print is dead meme is way overplayed - I had to post this quote from Steve Frye. In a sidebar in the current issue of Publishing Executive titled The State of the Printing Industry Frye drops this bomb:

I think we need to change our philosophy of what a magazine is. We are no longer a cheap means of dispensing information, and that's what we were until the Internet came along. Now we are an inefficient and expensive means of distributing information. . . . We need to reinvent ourselves as a luxury item that people want and are willing to pay for. And until we change our own image of who we are, we're going to find out that our vendors are gong to change it for us. Because, right now, postage is a premium. Paper is a premium. Soon printing will be a premium. How long can we buy at a premium and sell at a discount? We can't.

Damn straight. I've been singing this song for a while now and it's refreshing to finally see these kinds of blunt words in the pages of an old school cheerleader like Publishing Executive (I couldn't find them on the PubExec site that's why there is no link for the quote - had to transcribe it myself).

Hopefully this marks a turning point in the direction of not only Publishing Executive's reporting, but in the reporting of all the media that cover the magazine and printing industry. Hopefully they'll awaken from the coma that has produced little more than a sleepy rhetoric of change management and stir the pot a bit. They need to give publishers a sense of urgency. They need to stop rewriting and regurgitating vendor press releases and start doing some hard, studied thinking.

Ultimately - when you get right down to it - the road ahead is uncharted and there isn't a vendor alive today that has anything close to a solution for the kinds of questions we face. To answer those questions we need journalists, not marketing contacts.