Thursday, May 8, 2008

Circ Numbers: Talking Quantity...and "Quality"

Circ Numbers: Talking Quantity...and "Quality"
How fast can you paddle?
Posted by Ken Doctor

That's the unabated message of today's ABC FAS FAX circulation numbers being reported. They cover the six-month period, through March 31. Overall, the water keeps rising: 3.5% down daily, and 4.5% down Sunday. Those are in line with what we've now seen for more than three years. The waves aren't subsiding, but rising a bit more. Worse, there's not much relief in sight.

As paper-specific reports filter in, we can expect to see more explanations that "we didn't want the circulation anyway."

That's the heavily discounted circulation, next-to-freebie stuff that many dailies have used to prop up numbers for years. Of course, there's some truth to the statement, but it raises a couple of problems:

---As an explanation, it's getting a bit long in the tooth. When circ began to go substantially south more than three years ago, publishers offered the "cutback to quality circ" argument and said they'd cycle through that within a year or so. In Year Four, it seems like less compelling a reason. Just how much how low-quality circ is out there, anyway, or is the definition of it a rolling phenomenon?

---Selling audience to advertisers is in major change, and in that change, newspapers take on new risk. For instance, in Editor and Publisher this a.m., Jim Moroney, publisher of the Dallas Morning News is quoted as saying "We are trying to get out of the churn business." The Morning News is pulling back on its discounted copies. The paper cut one discounted category -- more than 25% but less than 50% paid -- by 75% daily and 80% on Sunday. What did the cut mean? Massive loss with daily circulation down 10.5% to 368,313 and Sunday down 7.6% to 520,215. Metro dailies' market position has long been offering the mass market better than anyone else. Now as household penetration dives toward 40% of households in many metro areas, that mass argument is harder to make. True, newspapers are making more of a niche argument, but niche is a game that internet marketers are having an easier time winning than those who peddle poor non-interactive browsable paper. In the transition from mass to niche, more ad dollars are put at risk to competitors from Google to Spotrunner.

They aren't many winners out of the numbers released today, but you can almost feel the grin of Rupert Murdoch.

His nemesis, the Times, saw a bottom drop out and his Wall Street Journal showed a .35% gain. The Times Sunday number -- down 9.26% or 150,000 copies -- to 1,476,400 is particularly scary. (It was down 3.85% daily.) The Times attributed two-thirds of the Sunday decline to "the elimination of bonus days" and the familiar "third-party bulk." Last year, it took a gutsy price increase to its readers -- and has been showing positive circulation revenue growth, an oddity in the industry. These circ numbers are the first since last year's increase. If they continue to trend significantly down, the make-the-high-demo-niche-audience-pay-more-for-quality strategy -- one watched by the industry -- will be seen as a loser.

I can't help but wonder about the contribution of Times Select's termination here. As it ended, the Times counted about 470,000 paying customers who received Times Select for "free," as long as they were print subscribers. That called to attention the print/web connection. Take it away, and you give readers pause -- do I really need to take that non-green pile of paper when it's all unambiguously free?

Looking at today's numbers, we see a couple of other intriguing trends:
---Optimistic Buyers of Big-City Metros Beware: Both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Minneapolis Star Tribune -- both bought within the last couple of years -- were down significantly. The Strib: 5% daily, 7% Sunday and The Inqy: 5% daily and 6% Sunday. New owners had counseled optimism that new approaches -- marketing forward -- could turn around those papers.
---Flat is the New Growth: The Strib's competition, the Pioneer Press (my alma mater), was essentially flat. Its fellow MediaNews property -- the Mercury News -- somehow managed to gain 1.7% despite its turmoil, newsprint and staff cutbacks. (Other gainers, here.)
---Seattle's About the Only Place Circ Was Up: Starbucks down; news reading up? Particularly dreary, bone-tingling winter?

Today's news, combined with the spiraling downward trends in print ad revenues, only means more misery. With new layoffs announced in Raleigh, we may see the buyouts/layoffs of 2007 simply as prologue. I think what we're seeing, unannounced, is the radical restructuring of the newspaper industry. The drip, drip, drip of change is now becoming a torrent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The New Next: The Brands that Bond

BoSacks Speaks Out: This article has nothing directly to do with magazines, unless you buy into the theory that magazines are about branding.
I am forwarding this along because I just liked the ideas and the imagery and I have filed the concepts away in my brain for future application.

"Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals."

Abraham Lincoln quotes (American 16th US President (1861-65)

The New Next: The Brands that Bond
by Tiffany Kenyon

Last year we saw the explosion of online social networks into the mainstream and beyond. Suddenly it wasn't just our early adopters that we were talking to via clever digital activities. But just for a change, let's consider real-world communities.

There is something to be said for the value of face-to-face conversations with people. It's not as easy as it may sound. Taking the time to find and meaningfully interact with groups of the right people requires subtlety and, often, odd working hours. Brands have to resist the temptation to overwhelm captive audiences with their messaging. There is also the challenge of measuring the returns on investment, especially when that investment amounts to a meaningful conversation with a mere handful of people. Am I selling it to you?

There's ample reason to make the effort, especially when targeting specific interest groups - fitness freaks or mothers, or mothers who are fitness freaks. In Argentina we've found a few big brands reaping the rewards of targeting existing communities and giving them useful ways to be involved with the brand.

>> Running the Club
How would you feel if your friendly local running club suddenly got sponsorship from a major sporting brand? Exploited? Not here. One Saturday my coach handed out Puma hoodies to his 40 or so amateur exercise enthusiasts. Two weeks later a Puma representative casually popped by at the end of training to tell us about the brand. There was no liveried vehicle, no obligation to use the equipment, just an explanation - and it was a Saturday. That's dedication. It was also very smart.

Our group shares the parks with other groups of runners that I'd assumed from their gear to be elite training units. Turns out they were just fellow amateur runners, color-coordinated thanks to the well-targeted largesse of other brands like Reebok, Fila and Adidas. We quickly defined ourselves and one another as the outfits ("Hey, Reebok, we've got the overpass today"). These running groups work out along the parks that line the main road out of the city. To the onlooker in traffic, they're a brand in action.

>> Oh la Ala
Ala is Unilever's second-tier washing powder in Argentina, but, much like a sudsy Gordon Gekko, it uses a "Dirt is Good" platform in its campaign. In 2007 Ala hosted a conference on the importance of play in a healthy childhood. It was part of a global study commissioned by Unilever, but the delivery of the conference seemed far from brand-motivated. Interested mothers crowded the auditorium, and the take-home packs included not sachets of Ala (they saved those for women in areas who really need it), but information on independent programs dedicated to healthy, educational activities for kids. Ala is by far the leader in detergent sales in Argentina.

>> Mimo Graph
After decades of bad government, it's not surprising that people are ready to trust brands over institutions. Mimo & Co is an upmarket children's clothing chain. It has built it's image from it's humble foundations 40 years ago through constant dialogue with parents. In recent years it has appeared at the annual Argentine Polo Open where it provides an outdoor children's nursery, complete with activities. Child care is not taken lightly in Argentina, yet stylish couples happily leave their little ones to the care of minders vetted only by the fashion label. What greater symbol of trust in a brand could you need?

Written by Tiffany Kenyon, curated by Paul Woolmington, of Naked Communications. ( and

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Relationship between Editors and Freelance Writers

The Relationship between Editors and Freelance Writers
Post by Joe Pulizzi

I received an email from a freelance writer last week who wanted a little more detail on how custom publishers/custom publishing editors work with freelance writers (and any specific advice). Although it's a little off our focus here, it's still a great topic. So, I asked my friend and colleague Tom Peric', who has been chief editor of a number of custom publications, to respond. Tom's information is below.

I decided NOT to split this article up, even though it is rather long. As you'll see from Tom's article, freelance writer between traditional assignments are custom assignments are pretty much the same. Personally, the major difference with custom over traditional is that sometimes to need to follow Tom's advice with multiple contacts - the editorial director or chief editor, the account director and the account manager. Each deserves their own treatment. There is no question that there is tons of opportunity for freelancers in custom publishing/media . . . but you definitely have to WANT it.

Thanks Tom for the submission. . . . I hope you all enjoy! - JP

The Writing Life: Editors and Writers

Writing types often ask me about the relationship between editors and freelance writers. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can sympathize with both groups when they gripe about the other party. In particular, freelance writers want to know how to get the attention of editors for an article and to keep that interest for future assignments. Editors don't share the same mold. Editors' approaches to how they deal with freelancers are as varied as the choices of apples at the supermarket. Here are some tips that might help you close the gap with your less successful editors.

Remain The Same. If an editor is accepting your work and seems keen to keep giving you assignments, then you probably have the "right" kind of approach. After all, they keep feeding you work. Here, the cliché is apt: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." You have apparently developed a system that works for you, so keep doing what you have been doing with this batch.

Background and Relationships. Cracking into the pack of writers used by a reliable editor can be very difficult even when you've shown, via clips or references, that you're a pro. Editors don't like taking chances, probably because they have been disappointed in the past. Hence a reluctance. Yes, ironically, they must always be on the lookout for new talent. Yes, your clips are good, but how do they know that a superb editor didn't slave over your effort to make it good? Suggest to the editor that you might want to take an article, not for the next issue but several issues down the road. This way, you're offering the editor a way to deal with your work (kill the story) if he or she doesn't feel your work doesn't pass the test.

Know The Game. There's nothing more compelling to an editor than when you clearly demonstrate you are familiar with the publication. Unfortunately, this is a time-consuming process, and it's why most PR people fail miserably when they pitch editors. I would hope that you check out the edit calendar BEFORE you pitch the editor. I am stunned at the number of PR people and writers who never bother to look at this. Knowing what an editor is looking for and when he or she needs it is winning half of the assignment game.

What's The Value? Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand dictates the market for freelancers. There are tons of freelancers out there. (I didn't say they were good, just that they're out there.) Everyone wants to write and thinks they can write. So, how valuable are freelancers? Valuable if they deliver. That means they meet deadlines, the copy is tight and bright, they follow the assignment sheet, they keep you abreast of developments, especially problems, and they contact you early - not the day before - when a sticky point develops. One of my freelancers should probably get more money from me. I don't want to lose him, but there's something called a budget. So I pay him within one week (or less) when he turns in the assignment. And I have only sent one assignment back for a minor touch-up in about five years. Any follow-up, I do. What I'm doing is keeping his workload to a minimum and paying faster than anyone in the freelance universe. He loves working with me, and I enjoy working with him. I'm also appalled that the freelance market doesn't pay any better today (per word) than it did 25 years ago. Supply and demand. There will always be more supply than demand - and the wages reflect that reality.

Problem Editors. What should you do with problem editors who don't you use you or, if they do, make it hard getting new assignments? Use the direct, polite approach. Ask them what is the best way to get more assignments. Try this: "Janice, I enjoyed the article I did for you and would like to a few more on a regular basis. Is there anything I can do that would increase this likelihood? Do I need to pitch you differently or approach my stories from a special perspective?" Again, I'm always amazed when people don't ask the person to whom they're selling (and you ARE selling them your writing and reporting skills) how to do it. I would be sure to ask the editor how they want to be pitched and even WHEN they want pitches. While I own my own PR firm in Cherry Hill, N.J., I also serve as the editor of two national trade publications. Sometimes I have people genuflecting to me so that I accept their article or expert as a source. Other times, I'm on bended knee to an editor saying, "please please," accept my client's article or idea. It's a very unusual situation but one that gives me an inside view of BOTH worlds that very few people have. When pitching me, I say the same thing over and over again: Write a working headline and two to three short graphs on the ideas. You MUST answer the two most basic questions on EVERY pitch. Why should I (and the reader) care? Why should I care now? If you can't answer that, you're going to fall short. If you ask each editor how they want pitches and you do it precisely as they requested, you will increase your acceptance rate. When the handful of people who really follow my guidelines send me a pitch, it's amazing how many get an assignment. ASK!

Make It Personal. Whenever possible, try to meet the editor for lunch and a face-to-face. I understand you can't fly across the country for a $500 assignment. But if the editor is within striking distance, up to three hours, I say go for it. How do you decide? Simple. How important is the editor and publication to you? If it's only $1,000 per year, it might not be worth it. But if it's worth $5,000 and you think it's possible to boost that figure to $15,000, make that luncheon appointment today. Meet with EVERY editor at least once a year, and twice is better. In this Internet age, becoming a real person as opposed to a disembodied spirit via e-mail can make all the difference in the world. When you see a particularly relevant idea for an editor, even if it is not something you want to write about, pass it on to the editor with a brief note. Stay in front of the editor in a low-key, but regular way.

Beyond E-Mail. E-mail is great. But most of us forget about e-mails almost immediately, NO MATTER how valuable. Unless we tag it or pull it into an appropriate folder, WE FORGET ABOUT IT. Follow up EVERY e-mail intro to an editor with a hard copy by snail mail. The snail mail will presumably include your background, plus an article or two. Be sure to use a good color printer for what you send. Mention in the e-mail that you'll send hard copy. Why? Try this: "Janice, because e-mail getting through is always suspect, I'm also sending along a copy of this e-mail in a snail mail packet." Now it might sit on the desk for months, but the editor will almost surely have to "touch" it again. And they just might say, "Oh, yeah, I meant to . . ." Old e-mails? Don't we almost always forget about them? Snail mail is still real mail.

What Am I Doing Wrong? What are you doing wrong with the editors who don't use or call upon you with regularity? Again, just ask. The problem is most editors will never level with you. Whether it's political correctness, politeness or avoiding a decidedly uncomfortable conversation, I've never known an editor to say, "I just don't like your writing style." However, I once had an editor compare me to another top gun freelancer and, frankly, he favored the other guy. He was also honest about why. That conversation had a profound effect on me. I had another editor who had issues about one aspect of how I handled the language. The results of the conversation also had a dramatic effect on how I wrote subsequently. In short, when you obtain the information that warrants change, do so. But there will always be some things (editors) that you can't control, change or receive information from that permits you to take a different direction. "Forget about it," as Al Pacino said. You'll sleep better at night. Just go on to the next editor.

The Best Time. Keep abreast of changes in the marketplace. There is NEVER a better time to approach an editor than when he or she starts on the job. They often start with a partially clean slate. What better time than now to approach them before they create their own stable of writers and become reluctant to add more? One source I use, among many, is Partyline. It is a weekly report on staff and editorial changes at many media outlets. Tell Betty I sent you. A bit expensive for some freelancers (about $167 for an online version) but worth it. Visit

Tom Peric' is a leading speaker on getting publicity and president of Galileo Communications Inc. He is the author of Wacky Days: How to Get Millions of $$$ in Free Publicity.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gains and Pains for Journalism

BoSacks Speaks Out; This is not a magazine article, but there are so many excellent random thoughts about information distribution, adjusting to the new age of journalism, and other assorted notions that I had to send it out to you.

Including this observation;
. . . we are not at the end of the process.
What has happened so far can be compared to the mild tremors felt before an earthquake.

I concur. What our industry, the magazine industry has gone through, and is still going through, is just the tail end of the very beginning. Technology is advancing faster than anyone can keep pace. Our jobs are being redefined on an annual basis. There is no one who reads this newsletter who is doing the same thing they did 5 years ago.

Net gains and pains for journalism

Most journalists now need more than just fast shorthand
The writing is on the wall for journalism and journalists says regular columnist Bill Thompson.
I've just finished marking the essays my students at City University have to do as part of the course in online journalism that I teach.
They've done some good work, especially the assignment where I get them to argue that the BBC should be forced to close down its online service because the licence fee is really only there to pay for television.

They also seem to have realised that anyone who wants to break into professional journalism needs to have some sort of online presence beyond a Facebook profile, as it's the first thing an editor will look for when they apply for a job, so there are a few new blogs and online publications out there that might not otherwise have appeared.

While City, like every other British journalism department, has realised that you have to teach people how to build websites, write copy that works online and use network resources for your research, I get to do the interesting bit about how the internet is changing the world in which journalists operate.
So we talk about citizen journalism, the way readers have become the "former audience", how the commercial model which made newspapers possible is being challenged by Google and Craigslist, and the need for any professional journalist to have multimedia skills.

It's been a stimulating class, not least because the different perspectives brought by Ahmet from Turkey, Mahmoud from Saudi Arabia and Lian from China challenge the western viewpoint I inevitably bring to these discussions, and partly because Anouk, Hazel and Lisa are always willing to dive in and disagree loudly with whatever I've just said.

The scale of the changes in the practice of journalism and the economic models of the companies that support and sustain journalism is starting to become apparent
Bill Thompson
I've been teaching the course for ten years now, but I've never actually managed to teach the same class twice because things change so rapidly that the revolutionary insights I bring to the one class became standard practice by the time a new academic year rolls around.

We've seen blogging turn from a curious habit of the self-obsessed into a defining use of the internet for all forms of communication, watched citizen journalism rise and become partly absorbed into the mainstream, and seen news feeds, aggregators and personal recommendations on social network sites replace the front pages of major news providers as the way people find out about breaking news.

The Guardian has gone from a newspaper with a nice website to an online information source that also publishes a dead tree edition, while the BBC's Royal Charter now puts the internet on an equal level with TV and radio -whatever my students may argue about the matter.

Radio is undergoing its own reinvention as downloads and podcasts overcome old geographical and time-based constraints to allow any one of the net's billion or so users to get any show from any station whenever and wherever they like.
The reinvention of television proceeds apace as services like the iPlayer and 4OD hasten the end of the broadcast model and move us to an "any screen, any time, any place" model of programme distribution.

And new services like Twitter have started to offer alternative ways of getting the news, in the form of short updates about breaking news or links to longer pieces.

Radio reporting has come a long way since its early days
As I write this I'm also keeping an eye on the British Press Awards because they are being fed live to Twitter by the organisers. I'm also debating them with my Twitter friends, the online equivalent of watching the match in the pub, with the subtle distinction that I'm in Florida at the moment.

But we are not at the end of the process.
What has happened so far can be compared to the mild tremors felt before an earthquake.

Most of the news we read, watch and listen to is still produced by people employed to do so; most online news comes from companies that have a presence in the offline media world; and while user contributions are solicited and broadcast, they are still complementary to the material provided by the professionals.

The scale of the changes in the practice of journalism and the economic models of the companies that support and sustain journalism is starting to become apparent in the predictions made by some of the key observers, and some of them surprise even me.
For example, at Media Re:public, a major conference on the future of what they call "participatory media" in Los Angeles organised by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Solana Larsen surprised the audience by predicting that one result of the internet revolution is that there will be no foreign correspondents in five years time.

Solana is one of the managing editors of Global Voices, a site that offers easy access to many of the world's bloggers and tries to "aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online". She is also, I have to point out, a former student of mine and a dear friend.

Twitter has become a fast feed of news and events for many
And she is right. The idea of the "foreign correspondent", sent off to a strange land to report on the activities of the "natives" for the benefit of those who require their strange customs to be interpreted and sanitised is a relic of a pre-network age.

As the internet spreads there are more and more places where we can simply ask those who are living through the events what they think of them and seek insights and analysis from those who know the people and the places involved.

It's an argument that Sameer Padania makes in "Reflecting the Real World 2", a report commissioned by the One World Trust to look at how the media portray the developing world, but of course it applies to every part of the world and not just countries outside the West.

This change will ripple through the newsgathering departments of every major media company, and it may not be welcomed everywhere, but it is one of those big changes that is obvious once it is pointed out to you.

And there are many more to come in the next few years, as the network works its magic on the business of journalism.

Bill Thompson is an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Magazines face curbs to photo airbrushing

Magazines face curbs to photo airbrushing
By Amanda Andrews

Madonna's bulging biceps have gone missing from her portrait in the latest edition of Vanity Fair, and Keira Knightley's bust is decidedly bigger in a poster promoting the film King Arthur than in earlier publicity pictures.

However, magazines are now facing curbs on the extent they can airbrush pictures of celebrities amid concern that it encourages young girls to ignore the health risks of trying to attain a waif-like figure.

Magazine editors have agreed to meet with their trade association to agree a code of practice for the use of airbrushed photographs. Among those expected to attend are Alexandra Shulman of Vogue, Lorraine Candy of Elle, and Kay Goddard of Hello! Representatives of leading publishing houses and the fashion council will also attend.

The summit, for which a date has yet to be agreed, is in response to an inquiry by Baroness Kingsmill last year, which concluded that airbrushing could "perpetuate an unachievable aesthetic".

The introduction of a code of practice was a key recommendation of Baroness Kingsmill's Model Health Inquiry.

Kerry Neilson, the PPA's director of legal and public affairs, said: "Using digital technology to adjust images is a technique widely used across all media from promotional material to films to the web."

Ms Neilsen added: "The BFC said that digital adjustment was outside of their remit, but believed it formed part of 'the wider issue of model health'. As this is a complex issue and there is no pre-determined consensus across the industry, we are currently canvassing views."

Young women are being bombarded with images of perfection across mediums, from magazines to television to the internet. It emerged last week that a website called Miss Bimbo was encouraging girls as young as nine to embrace plastic surgery and extreme dieting in the quest for the perfect figure. The website was quickly condemned by healthcare professionals and parents.

Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of eating disorders charity, Beat, said: "I think a message should be placed by an airbrushed picture saying that it has been digitally enhanced. However, it would make a big difference if airbrushing to make supermodels look slimmer was just not allowed at all."

The first real criticisms of airbrushing came in 2003 when Kate Winslet, famous for defending the appearance of fuller-figured women, appeared waif-like on the cover of GQ in 2003. The magazine's editor was forced to admit that the images had been "digitally altered."

Ms Winslet's enhanced picture in GQ came as a particular surprise, as the image accompanied an article where she questioned the attitudes of woman who equate beauty and sex appeal with being thin.

"So why is it that women think in order to be adored they have to be thin? I just don't understand that way of thinking... I'm certainly not a sex symbol who doesn't eat," Ms Winslet said.

According to sources at the time, Ms Winslet approved the original photos, but was not consulted about the digital changes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Best- and Worst-Sellers (1) At "Esquire" And "GQ," It's Where The Girls Are--And The Men Aren't.

Best- and Worst-Sellers (1) At "Esquire" And "GQ," It's Where The Girls Are--And The Men Aren't.
MIN - Media Industry News
We would doubt that Esquire editor-in-chief (since June 1997) David Granger and his Gentlemen's Quarterly counterpart (since June 2003) Jim Nelson were surprised by last year's newsstand results, where attraction to beautiful women continued a male homo sapien tradition dating back to the Garden of Eden. Angelina Jolie (July 2007) was the "woman Esquire loved" and Esquire readers love, as proven by her being the Hearst monthly's best-seller. (November 2007 Sexiest Woman Alive Charlize Theron doubtlessly sold very well, too.) And, at GQ, readers "took a close look" at best-seller Jessica Biel (July), who was Esquire's 2005 Sexiest..., and runner-up Jessica Alba (June).
Showcasing beauteous and smart women is great p.r. for both magazines. That sexagenarian Robert DeNiro sold worst for GQ (January) and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was Esquire's poorest (August) is not bad p.r. As respected and honored as DeNiro is, he is old for GQ's circa 30-year-old audience, and Edwards not getting the "votes" of Esquire buyers was subsequently reflected in the early-2008 primaries, which resulted in his dropping out.
"W's" Beckham/Posh "Corner Kick," But Ugly Betty Gets Low Ratings.
That David Beckham and wife Victoria ("Posh Spice") wowed W newsstand buyers last August was the result of perfect timing by editorial director Patrick McCarthy, because the cover broke just as "Becks" was making his U.S. soccer debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Five years ago, Posh was the better known of the two--as proved by Beckham being Men's Journal's worst-selling cover in 2003--because the British "music invasion" was and is far more successful than that of soccer.
America Ferrara is, per the May W cover line, Hot because of the success of Ugly Betty. But the series name is a newsstand turnoff, as shown here and in Entertainment Weekly's March 16, 2007 worst-seller (min, March 10, 2008). There, Ferrara was in character, and though beautiful (her real character) in W, perhaps it will be difficult for her to shake the UB typecast. Her new bilingual movie, Under the Same Moon, may shake things up for the better.
"National Geographic's" Maya And Its Not-So-Thundering Herd.
All of the globalization notwithstanding, Americans have looked more inward sincethe end of the Cold War. We may not know that the president of Mexico is Felipe Calderon, but thanks to NG, we know that now there is a fascination with the Maya, the civilization in Mexico/Central America that was enlightened as the Ancient Greeks until it was nearly eradicated by Spanish conquest and disease (mainly smallpox) in the 1500s. August issue is part of the Chris Johns-edited NG's 2008 National Magazine Award large-circulation (2 million-plus) General Excellence nomination (go to MINONLINE.COM) in advance of the May 1 presentation. If so, NG, would repeat from 2007.
Elephants are popular, as the Horton Hears a Who success can attest, so it was a mild surprise that the March NG's Defending a Forgotten Herd sold worst. Perhaps Forgotten was the turnoff, because most of us have an affinity for elephants, be it Horton or seeing pachyderms in the circus or the zoo.
"Vanity Fair's" Africa Is King, But Dreamgirls Got A Newsstand Thumbs Down.
When and if Graydon Carter pens an autobiography about his spectacular career, the VF editor-in-chief (since August 1992) could justifiably call the Bono-guest-edited July 2007 Africa issue his finest moment at the magazine. Yes, being the first to showcase the newborn Suri Cruise (October 2006), the post-Brad Pitt Jennifer Aniston (October 2005), Watergate Deep Throat Mark Felt (July 2005), and all of the Hollywood issue covers were great triumphs, but they were expected to sell well. Africa, on the other hand, with the AIDS epidemic and the Darfur massacre dominating the news, is far from sexy. But Carter and his staff made it so by commissioning Annie Leibovitz to shoot 20 covers (including Barack Obama and Muhammad Ali shown here) and showing all aspects of what used to the "dark continent." Result was that Africa outsold Hollywood (March 2007) to be VF's best-seller.
That Dreamgirls was VF's 2007 worst-seller could be blamed on J-A-N-U-A-R-Y, because the movie musical was a hit and Jennifer Hudson (not on the Beyoncé/Eddie Murphy/Jamie Foxx cover) won the 2006 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. The holiday season typically depresses VF sales: January 2006's Naomi Watts (King Kong) was worst, and we shall see how the more formidable Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy/Knocked Up, etc.) fares this year.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Excerpts of pieces up for National Magazine Awards

A poet's hope: to be,
like some valley cheese,
local, but prized elsewhere.
W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973), Collected Poems

Thoughts from the pages of New York
Excerpts of pieces up for National Magazine Awards

By Diego Vasquez

New York magazine last year took home five National Magazine Awards from seven nominations, winning for design, general excellence among titles with circulations between 250,000 and 500,000, interactive feature, magazine section and profile writing. The title this year was nominated for nine awards, second behind only The New Yorker's 12 nominations and a record for New York. Besides once again being nominated for general excellence, which it has won the past two years, New York is up for design, photography, photo portfolio, feature writing, leisure interests, columns and commentary, reviews and criticism and personal service online. Today begins Media Life's yearly series on the year's NMA nominees with excerpts of passages from a few of the New York pieces that earned nominations.

Feature Writing
One of New York's nods this year was for feature writing for Vanessa Grigoriadis' story titled "Everybody Sucks," about the popular media-themed web site Gawker. The story was originally published on Oct. 15, 2007. Here's an excerpt:

Nearly five years ago, in December 2002, Gawker made its debut under the leadership of Nick Denton, the complicated owner of the blog network Gawker Media, and Elizabeth Spiers, a 25-year-old banker turned blogger who was fragile in person but displayed a streak of dark cunning on the page. They didn't exactly invent the blog, but the tone they used for Gawker became the most important stylistic influence on the emerging field of blogging and has turned into the de facto voice of blogs today. Under Spiers's aegis, Gawker was a fun inside look at the media fishbowl by a woman who was, indeed, "snarky" but also seemed to genuinely enjoy both journalism and journalists-Spiers was a gawker at them-and took delight in putting out a sort of industry fanzine or yearbook, for which she was rewarded with fawning newspaper articles casting her as the new Dorothy Parker. Ironically enough, Spiers craved a job at a magazine. She soon left for a position here, at New York Magazine; two subsequent Gawker editors, Jesse Oxfeld and Jessica Coen, have followed in the past year.

To be enticed, as these writers were, by the credentials extended by an old-media publication is a source of hilarity at the Gawker offices, where, beneath a veneer of self-deprecation, the core belief is that bloggers are cutting-edge journalists-the new "anti-media." No other form has lent itself so perfectly to capturing the current ethos of young New York, which is overwhelmingly tipped toward anger, envy, and resentment at those who control the culture and apartments.

Leisure Interests
Another of New York's nominations for writing was in the Leisure Interests category, for "Cartography," which is described as a complete road map to New York street food. Here's an excerpt from a piece titled "The Kebab Man of 42nd and Eighth":

Today, Elnagar, an Egyptian-American who emigrated to New York eleven years ago, is at the garage by 10:10, exchanging salaam aleikums with other vendors. The garage, the gutted ground floor of a brownstone that's home to a half-dozen carts, is run by a fellow Egyptian named Abdullah. Abdullah charges $200 a month per cart, and Hakim owns two (he operates one; a partner mans the other). The garage is more than a place to keep carts safe. In back, there's a makeshift wholesale shop where cart men can stock up on their wares before heading out to the streets. A freezer chest is filled with hot dogs, and shelves are piled high with Admiration mustard and Trappey's Louisiana hot sauce. There's also a giant shower booth where carts get hosed down. Abdullah's cousin, Mohammed, lounges at the shop's entrance with a prehistoric calculator and handwritten ledger in which he records the vendors' tabs.

Elnagar operates a stretch version of the basic hot-dog cart, with the dogs de-emphasized in favor of the kebabs. It's eight-and-a-half feet long, close to the maximum allowable size, and includes a hot-water tank for hot dogs, a cooler for ice and soda, a dry shelf for pretzels, and a twelve-by-twelve-inch charcoal grill. It takes two Sabrett umbrellas (WE'RE ON A ROLL!) to cover it. Its front and sides advertise, in peeling letters, SHISH KEBAB-HOT SAUSAGE-BOILED HOT DOG-GRILLED HOT DOG-PRETZEL-KNISH-COLD SODA-WATER-SNAPPLE. Mounted over the grill and facing inward, where only Elnagar can see it, is a price list: "Hot Dog $2," "Hot Sasg $2," and so on. Elnagar wrote it, but he doesn't abide by it. Sometimes he charges $1.25 for a hot dog, sometimes $1.50. "Some people are regulars," he explains.

Elnagar stocks the hot-dog tank with a dozen or so Sabrett franks, enough to get started. The rest he stores in the cooler. Then he glops mustard from a gallon jar into a squeeze bottle, refills his salt and pepper shakers, and drains vinegar from a sauerkraut bag into the hot-dog water. Does that improve the flavor? Prolong shelf life? Elnagar shrugs. He's never thought about it. "Everyone does that," he says.

Columns and Commentary
New York was also nominated in the Columns and Commentary category for Kurt Andersen's column "The Imperial City." Here's an excerpt from his Jan. 1, 2007, entry titled "American Roulette":

A month ago, I was ragging on CNN for presenting Lou Dobbs's hour of pissed-off populism as if it were a traditional nightly news show, and I still think it has a serious truth-in-packaging problem. But (like Dickens's Mr. Gradgrind, with his epiphany about the poor in "Hard Times") I now get Dobbs's and his followers' anger and disgust about the ongoing breaches of the social contract, an American economic system that seems more and more rigged in favor of the extremely fortunate.

I know capitalism is all about creative destruction, that the pain of globalization must be endured and flexible labor markets are good; inequality is endemic; life is uncertain and unfair, sure, yeah, of course. We're all Reaganites now-or at least no longer socialists by instinct. But during the past two decades we've not only let economic uncertainty and unfairness grow to grotesque extremes, we've also inured ourselves to the spectacle. As America has become a lot more like Pottersville than Bedford Falls, those of us closer to the top of the heap have shrugged and moved on.

The asymmetry between the Goldman boss's compensation and that of his average employee-85 times as big-is virtually Ben-and-Jerry's-like these days: An average CEO now gets paid several hundred times the salary of his average worker, a gap that's an order of magnitude larger than it was in the seventies. In Japan, the ratio is just 11-to-1, and in Britain 22-to-1.

This is not the America in which we grew up.

Diego Vasquez is a staff writer for Media Life.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Google outlines proposal for 'Wi-Fi on steroids'

BoSacks Speaks Out: If Google has its way the internet and WiFi connections will have a monumental leap in productivity. This jump in delivery speeds should be considered an asset to publishers too. The possibilities are endless with speeds of gigabits per second.
It becomes clearer each day that the technology we have come to know is progressing faster than prognosticators can prognosticate.

We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.

R. D. Laing
Google outlines proposal for 'Wi-Fi on steroids'

Google on Monday said it has a plan to have American consumers from Manhattan to rural North Dakota surfing the Web on handheld gadgets at gigabits-per-second speeds by the 2009 holiday season.

The company, joined by other heavyweights like Microsoft and Dell, has long been lobbying for the Federal Communications Commission to free up unused broadcast TV channels known as "white spaces" for unlicensed use by personal devices. That portion of the TV band is highly prized because it can propagate long distances and through obstacles.

It also possesses the bandwidth to support vastly faster data rates than today's standard Internet service offerings--"Wi-Fi on steroids" or "Wi-Fi 2.0," as Richard Whitt, Google's telecommunications counsel, put it in a Monday morning conference call.

In a renewed effort to get the FCC on board with the idea, Google filed a six-page letter late on Friday that attempts to erase lingering concerns from TV broadcasters and microphone manufacturers about harmful interference caused by the entry of new devices.

"We're doing this because we want everybody to be satisfied with this process," Whitt said. "We think it's the right time to put these ideas in the record and see where they go."

Google isn't interested in becoming a wireless service provider or building a network of its own, Whitt said. It does, however, envision the white spaces as a "unique opportunity to provide ubiquitous wireless access for all Americans" and a prime spot for use of mobile handsets running its open-source Android platform. Google hopes to start rolling out Android devices, which are being developed in conjunction with a 34-company consortium, as soon as summer or fall of this year, Whitt said.

Even if the FCC signs off, the offerings wouldn't be immediate. The spectrum won't be ready for use until at least February 2009, when over-the-air broadcasters are required to vacate that band as part of the congressionally mandated shift to all-digital television.

The FCC also isn't expected to issue any rules for use of the spectrum for another several months, Whitt said. Agency engineers are still testing early-stage devices submitted by Microsoft and Phillips for interference issues.

Avoiding interference
In hopes of nudging that process in its favor, Google's new filing describes a multipronged approach aimed at avoiding interference. Building upon suggestions made in a filing by Motorola last fall, it said any new unlicensed TV white-spaces devices would be blocked from transmitting signals unless they had received a sort of "permission to transmit" message. Wireless microphones could also be outfitted with "inexpensive" beacons that would send out a signal to white-spaces devices that says " don't come here," by Whitt's description.

In addition, Google proposes setting up a "safe harbor," between channels 37 and 39, where unlicensed white-space devices would not be allowed to operate, but wireless microphones and other licensed devices would. It also urges the FCC not to discount the promise of "spectrum-sensing" technologies, which, for example, are supported by 802.11a-based Wi-Fi to protect military radars from interference.

Google also offered to provide no-cost "technical support" to third parties hoping to use the white spaces, should they be opened up.

Even if the regulators ultimately approve use of the white spaces, "no product will come to market unless the FCC can verify that the device does not interfere with TV or wireless microphone signals," Whitt said.

Representatives from the National Association of Broadcasters and wireless microphone manufacturers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Google's renewed white-spaces push comes just days after the FCC ended an auction of the remaining portion of the 700MHz broadcast TV spectrum that's being vacated for the digital switch next year. The company had been active in the event, lobbying beforehand for "open-access" conditions allowing consumers to attach whatever devices or run whatever applications they please.

The search giant had committed to bidding $4.6 billion for the "open-access" spectrum block, but last week, the FCC announced that it was Verizon Wireless, not Google, that had won those licenses.

Whitt said he couldn't say the proposal had nothing to do with the auction results, but because of FCC rules, he isn't able to comment further on Google's involvement in the auction until the end of next week.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Publishers Need to Have Consumers Pay

Publishers Need to Have Consumers Pay
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

The news business is more troubled than it was a year ago, but at least the problems it faces are different from what many observers had predicted, according to the annual State of the News Media report released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Mainstream media as a whole, the report found, isn't losing its audience. It just doesn't know how to get its new online customers - or anyone else who is reading what they're producing through online aggregators - to pay. The top 10 online news sites in 2007 were either big-media operations - such as the New York Times or ABC News - or online aggregators such as Yahoo News or Google News, whose content is largely produced by traditional media outlets.

So while there may be more readers out there for big media, there is less advertising, leading many print operations to cut staff as a way to reduce costs - the latest being 157 Media News employees in the Bay Area being let go over the past few weeks.

"The fact is that the audience still sees a lot of value in reporting about public life," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the initiative. "What (media companies) need to do is figure out how to make money doing that.

"It would be a lot harder if the audience didn't like the product, but they do. It's much easier to fix problems on the business side," he said.

Many of those early solutions are coming from the editorial side of the newsroom, he said. Faced with the prospect of their own extinction, some journalists are doing something that their predecessors never had to: coming up with an innovative idea - and figuring out how the company can make money doing it.

"People used to think that the people on the business side would save journalism, but it's turning out to be the other way around in a lot of cases," Rosenstiel said. While mainstream print reporters are learning how to shoot video and photos, many publishers told him that they wished their advertising departments were as adept at creating online video ads.

Rosenstiel said most analysts figure it will take the media 10 years now to right its business model. And how deep into that decade of despair is the media: "Oh, it's still early," he said.

The report, which analyzes many sectors of the media - from newspapers, magazines, TV and radio news to ethnic media and online providers - said "increasingly, it appears the biggest problem facing traditional media has less to do with where people get information than how to pay for it - the emerging reality that advertising isn't migrating online with the consumer."

So while newspaper circulation dropped 2.5 percent nationally, according to the report, online viewership of newspaper Web sites increased 3.7 percent. But the online ad revenue for most newspaper Web sites is usually only about 7 percent of the news outlets total income.

Still, the news for newspaper companies stinks, as many key indicators are dropping. In addition to the circulation drop, advertising revenue dipped 7 percent and stock prices of newspaper companies have plunged 42 percent since 2005.

It has long been thought that the rise of the Internet would continue to "democratize" media, splintering the mass media audience across the vast array of information sources on the Internet. But, the report found, even with millions of new sources of information, "more people now consume what old-media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before."

While the number of citizen journalism Web sites may be booming, "their economic model isn't any better than mainstream media's," Rosenstiel said. Plus, many are adopting the gatekeeper role of the mainstream outlets they long disdained.

"It was thought that people could just post any story they wanted to on a citizen media site," he said. "But a lot of them are only allowing comments to be posted."

Even though ratings for local and network evening shows dropped, the TV news business largely enjoyed good financial news because, Rosenstiel said, their advertising sources have remained strong. While the audience for the three nightly network news broadcasts dropped 5 percent in 2007, the prime-time audience at the three cable news outlets grew 9 percent. Revenue is up 21 percent at Fox News, 7 percent at CNN and 10 percent at MSNBC.

Ethnic media also experienced growth, with ad revenue for Hispanic papers up 13 percent from 2005 to 2006.

And the report tossed this bone to print wretches everywhere: "Despite all this, those who remain in the newsroom, particularly in print, evince a stubborn optimism - a sense of mission to prove what they consider a calling still has resonance, and in time will find financial footing."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Weathering a Stormy Paper Market Forecast

Weathering a Stormy Paper Market Forecast
By Alex Brown
What's behind the market's drastic changes, what to expect next, and how you can deal with higher prices and tight supply.

There's no sugarcoating it:
The paper market is bleak for buyers. The problems lie in both price and availability, and the forecast for 2008 has almost no bright spots. So, several questions have emerged: How did we get here? What can you do to cope with this new reality? What trends may affect paper purchasing this year and beyond?

First, it's easy to be puzzled by how the paper market changed so abruptly and intensely. Paper buyers have seen the dark clouds massing over the mills for years, but little has come of it. Why is it actually raining now?

In the last five years, we've seen several mill closures. Tembec and UPM closed mills, and other mills shut down individual machines. The net effect was a drop of at least 20 percent of North American coated-paper capacity. As the first of these closures occurred, paper availability might have tightened a bit, but there always seemed to be another ready source of supply.

Now the industry has finally carried its capacity reduction to a point that supply is constrained both here and in Europe. It moved in what looked like baby steps, but, in the end, a real distance was crossed. Depending on the specific stock, demand is now very close to or in excess of supply.

Let us consider the paper industry's perspective for a moment. If you've watched the market through several cycles, you've probably noticed that the mills seem to have forgotten a little section of "Economics 101"-namely, commodities prices can rise when demand exceeds supply. So why, you might have wondered, didn't mills limit capacity sooner?

We'll leave out some of the variables, but there are two key reasons why shutting down machines hasn't been a shortcut to profitability. First, the enormous capital costs of papermaking mean mills become profitable only when capacity utilization is extremely high. Roughly speaking, a mill might start turning a profit when it's producing about 95 percent or more of all the paper it could possibly make. Notice the limited upside, as well as the long, brutal road to profitability. The gap between losing money and making money is very, very narrow.

The second reason mills tend not to adjust capacity tightly to demand is that there are two levels of competition for the U.S.-paper dollar. Domestic mills battle each other, and then they balance foreign paper sources with all the extra complications of currency exchange.

For the last several decades, whenever demand edged sharply above U.S. capacity, European and Canadian mills were a handy safety valve. Asian and South American sources have also entered the mix. For much of this time, the dollar's currency strength has made exporters keen to court the large market in this country.

However, we've all but lost this safety valve against supply/demand tension now that the exchange rate with both the euro and the Canadian dollar is so poor. A Finnish mill would very much prefer to sell paper to Germans, in euros, than to Americans.

Then again, what exactly is a "Finnish mill" these days? The paper industry is consolidating into international entities. But that doesn't provide any relief under our current conditions. In fact, the consolidation is not merely a compression of sources, but a new style of ownership.

Five paper companies-NewPage (which has acquired Stora Enso North America), Verso, Catalyst, Pine Bluff and West Linn-are now owned by private-equity concerns. Add up the volume these mills represent, and you'll find that private equity controls 62 percent of the coated groundwood market in North America, and 57 percent of the coated freesheet.

These companies play by new management rules. They want return on investment, they want it promptly, and, presumably, they want to sell the underlying assets as soon as they're sufficiently buffed up to make the sale worthwhile.

To some degree, even paper buyers could benefit from the new management style. Perhaps an industry that's struggled for so long to scratch toward decent margins can and should be shaken up. But it's fair to say that the new trends in management, which may spill over to other, publicly traded mills, are not designed to ease the buyer's sufferings. If a price increase can be supported, a price increase will be made.

So that's how we got here: reduced supply, the falling dollar and private-equity ownership. These conditions justified price increases, and mills have shown the fortitude to demand them.

Are the mills happy yet? Not really. Despite the 2007 round of price hikes, increases in the direct costs of papermaking have munched up much of the revenue. Fuel oil, which affects both papermaking and shipping, is the main villain, but raw materials' prices have also been increasing. In short, if the market can support further price increases, they're on the way. Look for bumps in April and, perhaps, July.

What's the Buyer To Do?
The paper buyer is left without many tactics. In broad terms, the only force that can mitigate the current paper price increases is a drop in demand still greater than the so-so to negative growth we've been seeing in the magazine and catalog markets. So, this is good news/bad news time: If your pages and counts drop still more, maybe the mills will ease off, but then your pages and counts will have dropped. If you're growing or holding your own, it may be difficult to get paper, but you'll be growing. If a lot of us are growing, prices are going to keep rising.

Let's break out the emergency flotation devices, then. To fight the impact of price increases, you can reduce basis weight, trim size, paper grade or, of course, pages and copies.

Cutting basis weight will work just fine, provided your new weight is available. Because we're struggling with both price increases and supply shortages, check the practicality of your new spec before announcing to the publisher that changing from 38 pound to 35 pound saves 8 percent. Be sure that the mill makes the weight you want, as plenty of them have basis-weight preferences.

A trim-size cut means the art staff and ad-traffic team must update templates and revise the specs in media kits. There's some work and cost to be considered right there, and it's only worth spending if you have your printer's cooperation. Switching to short cutoff presses, for example, only works if there is capacity. Publications that use a wide, 9-inch luxury format can make the change by ordering a new roll width, but if that distinctive trim size is key to audience and advertiser appeal, consider this carefully.

Changing paper grade can save a great deal, as long as it doesn't require throwing the baby out with the bath water by harming your publication's stature. If you're already on a #5 grade, the next train leaving the station is supercalendared stock. This paper performs quite differently, and you'll need your printer's commitment to make it work. Brace yourself for an increase in ink costs, as the more porous surface absorbs more. Finally, any grade change may cause you supply problems when adjusting your allocation.

Despite the caveats, all three of these adjustments can be smart techniques for controlling costs today. Make sure they suit your product and your audience, and get your printer and paper supplier to help carry them to fruition.

The other key concern is guarding your ongoing paper supply. It's safe to say that mills have taken on a go-ahead-make-my-day demeanor-if you fight too hard for better prices and terms, the mill doesn't mind an excuse to cut your allocation. Tread cautiously.

As business practices become increasingly hard-nosed, it's almost quaint to imagine that business relationships still matter. Private-equity owners are ready to be just as cutthroat as you are, so good, old relationships don't count for as much as they used to. But with the magnitude of supply cuts now and in the immediate future, a good connection with a mill or broker is one of the few shelters in this storm. You might even want to pick up the tab for lunch.

Looking Ahead
The dollar is almost certainly going to continue its swoon, so don't look for much help from Europe. Asia, however, appears to be another matter. The currency problem is just as nasty against the yuan, but China and Indonesia have shown a strong interest in cracking our mighty market.
Will shipping Chinese paper across an ocean and half a continent fix things? Not so fast. The price of pulp is higher in Asia, where fiber sources include imported pulp. Asian mills began introducing their wares at startlingly low prices, but have steadily edged upward and no longer look like a bargain. The currency exchange problem and the threat of a future tariff all suggest that Asian papers will not radically alter our paper landscape.

Our ace in the hole, it's sad to say, is a continued drop in demand that forces mills to choose between cutting still more capacity and selling at prices more favorable to buyers. Needless to say, a drop in demand comes along with lots of other depressing baggage, including the sight of publishers falling by the wayside. But those who remain strong may be able to reap benefits. In other words, the publishing market may experience its own shakeout, courtesy of rising paper prices-and let's not forget the hike in distribution costs that completes the one-two punch.

The major question is not how much mills may raise prices, but how gradually. If private-equity thinking leads the way, we may see a steep curve upward, sharp enough to kick some buyers out of the market, or constrain growth. The resulting drop in demand could kick right back at the mills. If mills take it slowly, they might end up with both profits and customers.

Prepare for more increases this year, inventory your specifications to see if you can change what you buy, and pay attention to your supplier relationships to keep the paper flowing. These are challenging times, but smart paper buyers will survive them.

Alex Brown is a consultant to magazine publishers specializing in manufacturing and magazine management. She founded her consulting company, Printmark, in 1984, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Study: Cell Phone Passes Land Line As Hardest To Give Up

Study: Cell Phone Passes Land Line As Hardest To Give Up
by Mark Walsh

NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF AMERICANS HAVE used mobile devices for things other than talking, according to a new study on mobile data usage by the Pew Internet Project.

The Pew report found that 58% of U.S. adults have used cell phones or PDAs for text-messaging, taking a picture, looking for directions or surfing the Web. A full 62% have either used a mobile data service or logged onto the Internet via a laptop away from home or work or via a handheld device.

Text-messaging and taking a photo were easily the most popular non-voice activities, with 58% of mobile users doing both at least once. Playing a game (27%), sending e-mail (19%) and accessing the Web for news, weather and other information (19%), rounded out the top five.

But on a typical day, only 31% used mobile devices for text messaging, and 15% to take a picture.

The study released today marks the first time the Pew organization has examined mobile data access. It also showed for the first time that the cell phone would be the hardest communications technology for people to give up. More than half (51%) said it would be very hard to give up their cell phone, compared to only 38% in 2002.
"Even in 2006, the landline phone was still the most difficult device for people to do without," said John Horrigan, associate director of research for the Pew Internet Project. Underscoring the premium placed on mobility, the cellphone now also trumps the Internet, TV, e-mail and the BlackBerry or a wireless e-mail device.

Not surprisingly, the Pew study found that young people and Hispanics are among the most active mobile data users. On a typical day, more than half of English-speaking Hispanics do something on their cellphones other than talking. The emergence of Hispanics and African-Americans as early mobile adopters stands in contrast to the early days of the desktop Internet, noted Horrigan.

"When the Internet was first entering mass culture, users were mostly white men," he said. "But for this new type of access to data and information we're seeing a different adoption pattern than during the desktop dial up days."

Horrigan attributes the change to cell phones being relatively inexpensive and easy to use compared to PCs a decade ago.

Similarly, 60% of people under 30 use their cell phones to text-message on an average day. About the same percentage in that age group also send or receive e-mail daily. "Text-messaging by and large seems to complement e-mail use rather than substitute for it," Horrigan said. "If someone's an active texter, they're also likely to be an active e-mailer."

Ethnic minorities and young users also lead the way in connecting to the Internet on a laptop or device while away from home or work. Accessing the Web on the go was done by 65% of Hispanics, 54% of African-Americans and 70% of users under 30.

Even the 19% overall that access the Web via mobile device was higher than Horrigan expected, however. "I was a little bit surprised at how high those levels were for people generally since (wireless) networks for the most part still aren't that fast for accessing the Internet."

The Pew December 2007 study was based on a survey of 2,054 Americans 18 and over, including 500 respondents contacted on their cell phones.

In a separate study, comScore released findings on Tuesday showing that the number of computers who access the Internet through high-speed mobile connections had more than tripled to 2.1 million in 2007. While only 1% of the U.S. Internet population goes online via mobile broadband, the technology is poised for major growth in the next few years, according to Serge Matta, senior vice president of comScore. Mark Walsh can be reached at

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Meredith President: We Don't Hire Editors Anymore

Meredith President: ‘We Don’t Hire Editors Anymore’
Dylan Stableford

MIAMI—The period of “discontinuous change” and upheaval in the magazine industry has forced virtually every magazine publisher to tear up its playbook, Meredith publishing president Jack Griffin says. And perhaps, with the exception of technology magazines, no publisher has been forced to tear it up faster than Meredith.

“The 'Leave it to Beaver' America is an ancient relic,” Griffin said during his keynote presentation at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit here Thursday.

Griffin, on crutches and hobbled by a recent emergency surgery to repair a broken leg, said the change American consumer demographics—specifically, the spike in Internet usage and the emerging “white minority”—forced the Des Moines-based publisher to evaluate all aspects of its publishing business.

Meredith, Griffin said, was “founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.” For a company that publishes “white-bread” magazines, he said, “the change has been quite provocative.”

As a result, the company invested in its interactive and integrated marketing businesses—spending roughly $600 million since 2002 on launches, acquisitions and building out its existing Web sites, Griffin said, as well as redefining its editorial hiring approach. “We don’t hire editors anymore,” he said. “We hire content strategists.”

Griffin pointed out that one of the company’s signature brands, Better Homes and Gardens, had its best year ever in 2007. “In the age of splintering, there are ways to revitalize a big, important brand.”

But change doesn’t guarantee success. Ad pages are off eight percent so far this year, Griffin said, adding that in November, Meredith’s stock price was at $63 per share. It closed yesterday at $46.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In an Era of Downsizing, Big Books Stand Out

In an Era of Downsizing, Big Books Stand Out
Martha Stewart Latest to Launch Oversize Title to Lure Luxury Advertisers
By Nat Ives

NEW YORK ( -- Last week, we learned that consumer confidence has hit a low, that employers last month cut jobs for the first time in more than four years, that retailers just suffered the worst January on record, that wage growth has slowed and that the Fed's inflation fears were growing. In the media sector, we absorbed depressing financial results from newspaper companies and learned that revenue was essentially flat again last year at Time Inc., the country's best-known magazine publisher.

Magazines like W showcase beautiful photography from high-end advertisers.
You might think that would be enough to make publishers bring back Budget Living magazine, but Martha Stewart has the opposite idea. A prototype concept for a title targeting those in the luxe life envisions the magazine taking on the outsize look-at-me format of W magazine.

But media buyers said it could work -- and augur more to come.

"In most circumstances, high-end advertisers are kind of recession-proof," said Steve Lanzano, exec VP-general manager at MPG. "Secondly, big luxury advertisers want to maintain premium-ness. Big, beautiful photography and pictures allow them to attain the premium pricing."

A spokeswoman for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia wouldn't say much about any big luxe ideas. "We have ideas about all kinds of market segments, including this one and several others," she said. She declined to elaborate.

But publishers increasingly are enthusiastic. Martha's big-and-rich book, should it survive development and reach launch, will share tactics not just with W but also the recently arrived Trump magazine -- whose first shamelessly oversize, 12-inch-by-10-inch cover teased "The Most Refined Superyacht Right Now."

When New York magazine introduced New York Look, a highly visual and polished title devoted to high fashion, last November, it made the spinoff about 15% bigger in size. Affluent homes are already served with big coffee-table periodicals such as Elite Traveler, Cigar Aficionado, Ocean Drive and Palm Beach Cottages & Gardens.

The inverse strategy is just as clearly tactical: Consider Everyday Food, Stewart's digest-size, basic-staple recipe title that's easy for everyday people to carry around. Its readers' household income, according to Mediamark Research's fall report, reached almost $52,822. Cigar Aficionado households, on the other hand, claimed $97,811.

So the concept at Martha Stewart is less innovative than it is jarring amid this economic gloom and, more importantly, part of a growing split in print. Publishers under all kinds of pressure, not least their rising digital competitors, increasingly are setting tough priorities. The result is a widening divide between utility players such as newspapers and lavish showcases like luxury magazines.

Shrinking papers
Newspapers from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on down, for example, have reduced their size, figuring that neither news nor advertisers relied particularly on large pages. In December 2006, the WSJ showed video of focus-group members enjoying the smaller format's portability; the paper itself enjoys savings of about $18 million a year.

But magazines that want to seduce rarified marketers have to tack the other way. "I don't think you could overstate the importance of the standout size of W. ... If you've spent a lot of money on a wildly talented photographer and spent even more time figuring out exactly what the unique DNA is of your luxury brand so that you can charge $2,500 for a handbag, you then want to showcase the beautiful creative," said Nina Lawrence, VP-publisher of W, part of Condé Nast.

Gucci, for one, seems to like the venue: It ran 30 ad pages in the February issue of W, including a triple gatefold on the flip cover.

Pinning down the actual ad rates commanded by different magazines is always difficult, while identifying how each attribute factors into those rates is probably impossible. That said, comparing W and Vogue's openly quoted rates is suggestive: W publicly quotes rates more than 50% higher per paying reader than Vogue does its much larger audience.

'Larger canvas'

When New York magazine last November unveiled New York Look, it made the spinoff about 15% bigger. New York's decision to give Look a bigger format was partly about distinguishing it from the original New York, according to Editor in Chief Adam Moss. But, he added: "The main purpose in making Look bigger was to just give a larger canvas for what was almost entirely a visual magazine," he said.

Affluent homes are already served with big coffee-table periodicals such as Ocean Drive.

A broader appreciation for magazines' look and feel is growing, Mr. Moss said. "More and more people want to have a magazine they like to hold, and to thumb through and to enjoy as an object as well as a tool," he said. "One thing that magazines can do a whole lot better than the web can do is be something to hold onto. People are generally also just more visually sophisticated."

Not every big format, of course, means rich readers: Rolling Stone and ESPN the Magazine run more ads for Ford than Versace. But combining that extra size with heavy paper stock, thick gloss and expensive visuals tends to produces something that neither folds for the subway -- as if -- nor goes quietly into the recycle bin.

"Is it a smaller audience?" said Eric Blankfein, senior VP and channel insights director at Horizon Media. "Absolutely. Is there a market for it? Yes. Realistically, the fact that so much is invested on the production end gives it a shelf life and makes it valuable."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why You Can (and Can't) Learn From Obama

BoSacks Speaks Out: This article talks about marketing, branding and the power of slogans. Can you describe your publication effectively in one meaningful slogan? How about one word?

"Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon: instead of principles, slogans: and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas"
- Eric Bentley

Why You Can (and Can't) Learn From Obama
Change Isn't Always the Best Prescription
By Al Ries
The race for the Democratic presidential nomination once again demonstrates the power of one of the most fundamental concepts in marketing: owning a word in the mind.

Hillary Clinton launched her campaign by focusing on "experience." Not a bad idea, because it is a word that differentiated her from her chief rival, Barack Obama.

While Clinton was clever, Obama was brilliant. He focused on the word "change," a concept that matched the mood of the majority of the American public, yearning for change after seven years of Republican rule.
Barack Obama's theme: "Change we can believe in."

Almost immediately, Hillary Clinton realized her mistake and jumped on the change bandwagon. Her new theme: "Countdown to change."

It's too late. Obama has pre-empted the change idea. A typical example is the cover of the Jan. 14 issue of Newsweek with a picture of Barack Obama and the words "Our time for change has come."
Now, Clinton looks like a follower instead of a leader.

Then there was John Edwards. What word did John Edwards own in the mind? I don't know, do you? That's why he didn't have a chance.

If you want to run for office, if you want to launch a new brand, if you want to jump-start your business career, the first question to ask yourself begins: "What word do I want to own in the minds of my prospects..."
That would be an easy question to answer, except for the last part, which ends "...a word that nobody else owns?"
In the world of marketing, many major brands owe their success to the principle of owning a word. What I find almost impossible to understand, however, is the disconnect between a brand's advertising and the word the brand owns in the mind.

Toyota is thought by many to be the most reliable car you can buy -- yet the theme of Toyota's advertising is "Moving forward." Coca-Cola is widely known as the authentic cola ("the real thing") and all other brands are mere imitations -- but the theme of Coke's advertising is "The Coke side of life." Budweiser supposedly reigns as the "King of Beers" -- but the theme of Bud's advertising is "The great American lager." (What's the difference between a lager and a pilsner? I don't know, do you?)

What keeps brands such as Toyota, Coca-Cola and Budweiser on top of their categories is that the ideas behind them are firmly implanted in the mind.
When a consumer sees advertising for Coca-Cola, for example, it triggers up memories of what's already in the mind. "Oh, yes. That's the real thing." It's hard to put a new idea in the mind that doesn't connect with the one that's already there.

It's been many years since FedEx ran advertising with the theme "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." Yet for most people, that's the one idea connected with the brand.

What is FedEx's new advertising slogan? How many people know it is "Relax. It's FedEx"? Not too many, in my opinion.

Have you read the new book written by the former president of Starbucks titled "It's Not About the Coffee"?

It's not about the coffee? No wonder the chain extended into breakfast sandwiches, a move recently overturned by Howard Schultz, the company's chairman.

Most marketing people would probably agree that advertising slogans are useless because they're not memorable and consumers can't connect them with individual brands. How many of the following slogans can you connect with brands?

"Engineered beautifully"
"The power of dreams"
"Think about it"

In a recent year, these five brands spent $2.1 billion on advertising. Yet most people probably can't connect the brand names to the slogans. Answers: (1) Acura (2) Chrysler (3) Honda (4) Hyundai (5) Saturn.

It's gotten so bad that many advertisers have given up. Why bother, goes the thinking, when consumers won't remember our slogan anyway. Let's just run great individual advertisements.

That's a mistake. A great slogan not only connects with consumers, it can help keep everybody in the organization focused. Some great slogans.

"The ultimate driving machine"
"A diamond is forever."
"Italy's No. 1 pasta"
"The first vacuum that doesn't lose suction"
"Melts in your mouth. Not in your hand."

I'm sure it's not necessary, but here are the answers: (1) BMW (2) De Beers (3) Barilla (4) Dyson (5) M&Ms.

When picking a slogan, marketing people often make three fundamental mistakes.

1. Developing a slogan in isolation.
A slogan doesn't exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is part of an advertisement, a brochure, a press release, a website, etc. That's why you shouldn't judge a slogan apart from the rest of the message.
Instead of developing dozens of possible slogans and then picking the best one, a good marketing person would first develop a "pattern" advertisement that reads like the strategy of the brand. Then figure out the best sum-up concept to put at the bottom of the ad. That concept should be slogan.

Some of the best slogans are those that are intrinsically locked into the name of the brand.

"Use it or lose it" for Rogaine.
"Roaches check in, but they don't check out" for Roach Motel.
"How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S."
"With a name like Smucker's, it's got to be good."
"Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man."

2. Trying to develop an exciting or emotional slogan.

A good slogan is like the punch line of a good joke. The punch line alone is never funny. Nor is a good slogan necessarily exciting all by itself.

Take a joke with the punch line "Professional courtesy." In itself that's not an interesting or funny line until you hear the preceding sentence: "Why don't sharks bite lawyers?"

Or Henny Youngman's famous joke with the punch line "please" and the set-up line "Take my wife ..."
Or "Marlboro Country." It's only a powerful slogan when it's combined with the cowboy visuals.
Or the "King of Beers." It's only a powerful slogan when it's combined with the Clydesdale horses and the old-fashioned beer wagon.

3. Thinking in years instead of decades.

The three most important rules of advertising used to be: Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

Today, we seem to have forgotten these rules. Today, it seems like the three most important rules of advertising are: Creativity. Novelty. Gimmickry.
Some of the most successful advertising programs have been the ones that have run for decades, not years.
This year the Marlboro cowboy is 55 years old. It took 25 years of cowboy consistency before Marlboro passed Winston to become the No. 1-selling cigarette in the U.S. Today, Marlboro is so far ahead of the No. 2 brand that few people have any idea of its name (Newport.)

Suppose some new marketing manager had arrived and said, "I'm tired of cowboys. Why can't we use football players?"

Change is a powerful idea for Barack Obama, but it can be devastating to an advertising program.
~ ~ ~
In addition to his monthly column, Al Ries and his daughter and partner Laura Ries host a weekly video report on their website:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Print Magazines Quietly Testing Barcodes for Mobile Phones

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is an interesting but cumbersome solution. If it is an answer at all it is going to be very short lived. Think of the iPhone touch screen. Now think of a flexible touch screen at any size that the reader wants or wishes it to be. That is clearly the answer. Extremely flexible, portable, easy to read, low power consumption, WiFi touch screens.
"Publishing and democracy are cumbersome, slow and inefficient, but in due time, the voice of the people will be heard and their latent wisdom will prevail"
Unknown quote reworked by BoSacks\

Print Magazines Quietly Testing Barcodes for Mobile Phones
Billboard, Car and Driver, Wired first in U.S. to experiment.
By Joanna Pettas

Magazine publishers love to talk about their mobile initiatives, but asking users to type even the most basic URLs into their phones has proven to be a challenge. Now, some are offering an alternative: cellphone-readable barcodes.

Billboard, Wired and Car and Driver have been the first American magazines to test publishing the barcodes in their pages.

Billboard was the first in October when it ran two ads for Sprint-a cover-wrapped ad with a bar code linking to the Billboard Top 10 list and a two-page ad with codes linking to music downloads and artist information via Sprint's deck. Wired ran a barcoded Sprint ad in December.

Car and Driver published more than 400 barcodes in its annual Buyer's Guide in late December. Each car in the guide had a corresponding barcode linking to a microsite with pictures, reviews and a link to the full road test, says Olivier Griot, managing director, mobile, at Car and Driver parent company Hachette Filipacchi.

All three have partnered with mobile marketing solutions company Scanbuy. Users download Scanbuy's free software-compatible with 130 different camera phone models-and then use the camera feature as a scanning device, directly linking from the barcodes to the magazines' WAP (wireless access protocol) sites.

At this point, the magazines pay nothing to Scanbuy, according to the company's CEO Jonathan Bulkeley. In the next phase, Bulkeley says the pay structure will likely be a cost-per-click model.

Right now, the goal at Hachette is to educate and build an audience of mobile readers-all of which is "indirectly monetized," says Griot, as users are bounced to the ad-supported WAP sites. The next step is to open the opportunity up for advertisers to link to their sites and for the company to include barcodes in other Hachette titles magazines.

Griot says all signals are positive in this test phase-a "healthy number" of readers have downloaded the Scanbuy software, and the WAP site has seen "quite a bit of return usage," as users scan multiple bar codes in the guide.

"The magazine is portable, and the cell phone is too," says Griot. "[The platform] helps readers navigate seamlessly between the two."

Bulkeley, naturally, thinks barcodes could be ubiquitous with magazines-and everything else-within the next three-to-five years, appearing in "every magazine ad," revealing a reader's demographics-even his or her location. "It brings advertisers back to print," says Bulkeley. "It makes it measurable. If it becomes ubiquitous, it will change the magazine business forever and, in my opinion, it needs to change." For example, Bulkeley says a reader could scan a pair of shoes in Vogue magazine, find out which retailers in a five mile radius carry the shoes and even pay for them, all via cellphone.

"We think of it today as a communication device. It will become a content access and transaction device," he says.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Eye on Media: Popular Science Mag Is Back To The Future

BoSacks Speaks Out: Popular Science Magazine is one of my oldest reading friends. Even before I understood half of what I was looking at in this magazine it held my interest with pictures of futuristic gadgets and assorted improvements in everyday utensils. The following article is about how a 135 year old title is restructuring and growing with the times.

"Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone."
Albert Einstein (German born American Physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. 1879-1955)

Eye on Digital Media: Popsci.Com Is Back To The Future
Associating the word relaunch with the 135-year-old bible of science nerd-ism, Popular Science brings up fond images of homemade toy rockets and chemistry kits. And the unveiling of the new POPSCI.COM has an inspired do-it-yourself feel. It looks a bit like a well-designed Web blog (Engadget comes to mind) with a long scroll of images and science/gadget news items. It pulls in some spare parts from social networking, in the form of user profiles, comments and article ratings. And it layers onto this some Web 2.0 AJAX wizardry, with various tabbed views into the news well and navigation via tags. It looks to me like a bit of magazine design, a patch of blog, and a little Digg fuel put together for takeoff.

Rather than a patchwork rocket using Mom's pots and pans, however, the revamped POPSCI.COM does a good job of blending some of the lessons learned from Web 2.0. It reaches out into the blogosphere, gadget, and DIY sites that provide up to a third of its traffic. And the active communities in the forum and the PopSci Predictions Exchange (a virtual stock exchange of tech predictions) get pulled together by the new user profiles. With a significantly younger online demo (32 years-old) than its print counterpart (44 years-old), PopSci management is hoping to double the site's 1 million visitor audience in the next year with these changes.

"We are trying to reach out more into that community with lots of tech features that will get picked up in dig and elsewhere," says PopSci digital content director Megan Miller, who is leader of the three-person editorial team. Miller is in daily contact with the world of DIY and such gadget blogs as INSTRUCTABLES.COM, Engadget, and even O'Reilly Media's Make magazine site.

And POPSCI.COM is also taking a page from successful communities by validating the user. The personal profiles save and share articles; they also and gain standing among their peers. "One of the things that makes Digg popular is that it makes every user a potential expert," says Miller. "Popular users gain a following. We are hoping to get the same sort of thing--leaders emerging in the community."

On the ad side, digital sales manager Andrew Maiorana listened to the advertisers and their requests for proposals. They wanted to put advertising placements above the fold and better targeting.

PopSci execs are leveraging article tagging for the ad model. Advertisers can now buy against keywords in or associated with content, much as they do on Google's AdSense. Because PopSci works across a number of categories, it has no endemic ad segment. This lets automakers or telecom handset makers target the content that their slice of the PopSci audience would be most likely to read.


The Industry Standard Returns
A 7-year respite from a dramatic fall from grace results in a Web-only relaunch.
By Bill Mickey
After seven years, The Industry Standard is back. Following months of rumors and thinly-veiled hints from parent IDG, the former "Bible" of the Internet economy has officially relaunched today as a Web-only publication. The site's content is largely built from short contributions from a contingent of journalists and bloggers as well as a prediction market feature that uses community input to forecast event outcomes in the online economy market.
In 2000, the magazine's heyday, The Industry Standard raked in about 7,500 pages of advertising. Now, expectations for the site are much more modest as the launch team of five staffers takes a wait-and-see approach to its success. Nevertheless, the brand has managed impressive resilience after essentially remaining dormant following a spectacular fall from grace. The magazine folded in late summer 2001 after negotiations between publisher Standard Media and majority owner IDG fell through-and, some industry observers felt, one too many rooftop parties. Final issues of the magazine barely scraped 90 pages and had the dubious distinction of being number-one in decline in ad pages and revenues.

Fast-forward six years and it seems the brand has remained near and dear to the hearts of Internet professionals. "We were happily amazed at how much recognition and brand equity there still was," says vice president and general manager Derek Butcher, who was formally Infoworld's CTO. "We talked to a wide group of people and a branding agency. There will probably be some fallout due to the emotional history of it all, but the new Standard is ultimately going to come town to the proof in the pudding-we have to deliver, we can't rest on the brand."

The site has been in development over the past year and has already been through a private beta test. Today's launch triggers a public beta, an important step, says Butcher, since the "editorial collective" model is a new one for IDG, which is now the sole owner of The Industry Standard after purchasing its assets in bankruptcy court.

Content will be less news and more analysis--contributions from around 50 journalists and bloggers will be short, 300 to 500-word stories covering the same online economy market as the brand's print heritage.

The prediction market feature, however, is where the real community functionality comes into play. After registering with the site, users get 100,000 "Industry Standard Dollars" to wager for or against a particular industry event. In the private beta, for example, testers bet on whether Microsoft would eventually buy Yahoo. The more users bet in favor of a prediction the more its market price goes up, the more that bet against it, the more its price goes down. "The price represents the market's consensus of the probability of that event occurring," says Butcher.

Not just a novel community feature, the market predictor also has a business function. Butcher plans to package the metrics with user demographics and sell the information into the financial and media channels. The site currently has an exclusive deal with IDG's research group IDC for the IT channel.

The site's second revenue stream comes from traditional display ads-Intel is exclusive launch sponsor for the first three months.

Butcher declined to elaborate on the site's development budget beyond describing it as a "typical skunk-works" operation that should break even fairly quickly. "We managed to keep costs very low. Even with very low traffic numbers, we'll break even because of the sponsorships and the research deals," he says, adding that after a year anything below 500,000 monthly page views would be considered "disappointing."