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."