Publishing News You Can Use

  • Printers Can Still Thrive: Thoughts from a Survivor

    By Linda Ruth 
    With the print supply chain in disarray and publishers running into paper shortages, printing delays, and added fees, the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and I—met with Dave Pilcher, Senior Vice President at Freeport Press, to talk about what can be done.
    Samir: Welcome, Dave. Tell us about the printing business.
    David: For Freeport Press, times are surprisingly good in spite of everything. Like printers everywhere, we're dealing with ongoing shortages of people and paper. On the client-side, though, our sales are up… nearly 20% this fiscal year. We have challenges; paper is hard to get, people are hard to get -- but there's a lot of demand for print services.
    Joe: Are these publishers coming to you because they are new in the business, or do they want to find a new printer?
    David: The need for paper is driving them. Publishers are calling 10, 20 printers looking for a home where they can get paper. It's tight for everyone, but to some degree, it comes down to your relationships — with your customers and your paper companies. The printers that will survive will have the best connections — with the mills and their customers. Besides paper, labor is an additional differentiator, as it is in all industries today. Freeport has a solid capacity to manufacture print products with our current team, but we are looking for more talent to grow. 
    Bo: What's your sweet spot?
    David: For periodicals, the market is moving to lower frequency, more special-interest content, and higher quality; that's exactly what we're configured for.
    Bo: So many publications are stopping printing; you've seen the news from Meredith. Is the silver lining that it will make paper more available to the publishers still printing?
    David: Publishers like Meredith, who purchase their paper directly, have more flexibility regarding how much to print and where. If the printer purchases the paper, most publishers don't have that kind of control. In my opinion, demand for paper will continue to be high, and supply strained into 2024.
    Samir: New launches have declined this year. Are new launches coming to you?
    David: We've had a few new launches, not many. Where will you get your paper if you're a new, high-quality launch? Realistically the industry can't allocate to all of them.
    Samir: How do you answer people who say, if print is not dying, how come we don't have paper?
    David: The market has changed so much. We've met with the mills; they have staggering statistics of what is happening—strikes, shipping delays, you name it. Print is not dying, but it is changing, and publishers face new challenges. Periodical postage is going up 8.5% this summer, and you've got dramatic increases in costs for trucking, paper, and labor, yet publishers are afraid to raise their ad rates. And with so many parts, if there is a problem with one, it's a problem for the whole. 
    Joe: Early on in the pandemic, Bo predicted it would hasten changes that were already happening, speed them up by as much as five to ten years. Did this happen in the print and paper industry?
    David: Any industry will struggle if the supply chain is broken. Today there is plenty of potential but simply not enough supply. The magazine model was already broken when they started giving away subscriptions. You see where that leads. 
    Today's opportunity is for the high-quality, audience-focused, niche publications whose content is focused around a community and often has a membership component. 
    Samir: Knowing what you know, your family still invested a lot of money in new presses.
    David: We've invested in a new warehouse addition, some new equipment, and our people. We're the right-sized printer. The big, multiple-location printers have more paper issues, people issues, and supply chain issues. We're large enough to get the attention of the mills, we employ over 200 people, and we have enough equipment to help mid-sized and bigger publishers. So we're in a good space. And we're careful — we don't over-commit. We could run seven days a week, but we want to build our staffing first to handle increased demand. 
    Samir: Have we seen the end of the mergers and acquisitions?
    David: There is not a tremendous need to prospect for new customers now. If you have paper, customers will come to you. So printers don't need to buy a plant to obtain a competitor's customer base anymore. The only reason to buy out another printer might be for their paper allocation. 
    Samir: We seem to be getting more catalogs and flyers by mail again.
    David: We've grown exponentially in catalogs. At the high end, where you are purchasing a premium product, do you want just a link to a site? If you're spending the money and buying quality, you want a catalog. Otherwise, you can buy your product on Amazon. Catalogers use many channels – websites, apps, social media – all things digital. But putting something in someone's mailbox, there's a direct ROI. That print catalog creates sales and produces revenue. 
    Samir: I just finished a book about magazines from 1900 to 2020. In the early part of the last century, you had a lot of individual entrepreneurs who didn't give a hoot about the business side. Now the major publishers are led by the numbers. Do you still find passion-driven projects?
    David: Publishers are passionate about their message. We've said repeatedly, "It's not just a job; it's their livelihood." But publishers are asking themselves: how is the message format relevant to what I'm trying to communicate? Many are trying to grow their audiences online, but it can result in lost opportunities and lost communication. The print piece offers a durable human interaction that goes beyond another click, another screen. 
    Bo: After being locked in their houses on screen all day, people are finding buying a book to be an off-screen adventure.
    David: Ultimately, you must be good at business, but creative and passionate people will always rise to the top.
    Bo: You are a survivor and I'm happy to hear that.


    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 22, 2022
    (0) Comments

  • The Pandemic Roundtable: A conversation with James G. Elliott president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc. a National Ad Sales Firm

    The Pandemic Roundtable, is still ongoing and meeting with industry leaders on your behalf. The roundtable comprising Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, and Linda Ruth met with James G. Elliott who is president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc. a National Ad Sales Firm started in 1984 with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The Elliott Co. is one of the largest independent advertising sales firms for association, trade and consumer magazine media in the United States. The following is our conversation:
    Jim, please give us some of your background, how you got to the point that you're at now, and then we'll start looking back at the pandemic, and then looking forward at what will, hopefully, be a much brighter future for all of us in the publishing business.
    There are two companies that I own. One is the James G. Elliott Co., Inc., which is the ad sales company. It sells advertising with a sales force located in NY, Chicago, and LA.
    The other company, Ads&IDEAS, is an advertising consulting company with its own list of clients. It also produces a newsletter—Ads&IDEAS.
    So, the day after the pandemic was formally declared, what were some of the immediate effects?
    Well, Joe, in very short order, advertisers began to cancel digital buys because of the quick turn-around; it took a bit longer for print. As in past recessions, digital and broadcast went first and print later. And historically, when things got better, shorter lead-time media recovered quicker.
    So, as you look forward, a lot of things have changed. Most of your work has been with large magazine companies and those large magazine companies are dwindling. What's the plan to sell advertising, considering that the majority of magazines arriving to the newsstands or to the marketplace these days are much, much smaller magazines?




    Luckily, because we work with large organizations, many had already pivoted to various digital products. And, incidentally, not all our customers are legacy magazine companies.
    So, you're talking about direct to consumer?  
    It could also be direct to business. My wife works in B2B publishing; they're seeing a lot of their former advertisers cutting back their advertising spend and just developing their own marketing plans that they execute themselves.
    That's right. And all these folks—whether it be B2B, association, or consumer marketers—want to offset some of the cost. And, of course, one way to do that is via advertising or sponsorship.
    Would you care to address programmatic?
    Yes, the race to the bottom? Publishers may welcome the incremental revenue, but it comes with a big cost. Sometimes that cost is loss of direct business. This is not insignificant. It also creates issues of brand safety for advertisers, and it often results in advertising that is inappropriate to the editorial content. And then there is the issue of fraud…and emerging third-party restrictions.
    But let's not discount the fraud.
    JIM ELLIOTT—Yes, absolutely, Bo. That’s huge.
    Now to a new subject, we do an ongoing study of media planning and buying at ad agencies. We just released our fourth study, in conjunction with SRDS and Readex Research. It shows what is going on in the media departments, which—no surprise—have experienced significant cutbacks. And probably on the creative side also. Much of the creative product lately is pretty poor, in my opinion.
    Yes, right? Uninspired!
    I think you're going to see a resurgence of creativity from agencies; it is the way for them to survive. Creative for programmatic advertising isn’t the way forward. That is why some publishers have decided to create brand studio efforts.



    I'm not as optimistic as you are that there is a bottom, because of greed—there's so much money being made in programmatic. And it's hard to imagine that tree drying up.
    And the advertisers themselves who don't value direct sales versus programmatic think, “Well, I'm getting this and it's so much more affordable!” But who is really seeing your ad? During the pandemic, The Old Farmer’s Almanac got something like 20 million page views a month—it went through the roof. We would prefer to sell directly to the advertisers, but so many of them buy programmatically. They say, “It's more affordable.” It's just unbelievable.
    Jim, how do you answer the folks that say, “With the amount of data companies have, why do they need a third-party to reach their customers? A company like Ralph Lauren or Toyota can reach me dynamically and may give me offers and give me things? Why do they need to advertise since they know more about me than the publication, the magazine, or the website knows about me”?
    I would answer that Toyota has been publishing a magazine, or did heretofore, for a long time. A price message alone does not sell Toyota; you need brand advertising. An Internet price ad doesn't do that work for you. And you need to find new customers outside of Toyota’s list. Magazines have always been a way to explain and differentiate one product from the next. You have long body copy and pictures in a compatible reading environment.
    I say all the time that ads in magazines are not an eyesore; they belong to the brand. They are part of the real estate. Online, ads that have nothing to do with what I'm reading will pop up.
    Beyond that, to go back to your original question, Samir, wouldn't part of it also just be a question of expertise? Don’t you want an agency to reach beyond what you can do on your own?
    When I started my career at Ogilvy & Mather, we went through rigorous training—something missing today. At that time, they drummed into us that a brand needs to use multiple media because each medium works differently. So, we would sit with the creatives and strategize. How did broadcast work with print in a holistic way? We created advertising appropriate for each medium but within a messaging overview. Today, I see online advertising, particularly programmatically generated, as price advertising.



    How do you respond to the people that tell you, “Oh, we love digital because we can actually have the data, we can document the data, but in print, who knows”?
    Well, I’ll refer right back to what Bo Sacks said 15 minutes ago about fraud. Do we really think Twitter is the only organization with fake account metrics? Ad Tech doesn’t deliver trustworthy measurements—they just don't. Checking everything for accuracy would be expensive; they don't have to hire staff to do this. And, by the way, there has been much written about the meaningfulness and usefulness of the data collected.
    Jim, why do you believe in the effectiveness of a print newsletter in this digital age?
    I can't tell you how many people have called me over the years who have a print copy of Ads&IDEAS. And the reason is, I'm one of the few people spending the money to print it and mail it.  We also have a digital version you can download from our website but, you know what? People read the print version.
    Direct Mail works.
    Yes, they read it. Somebody called me recently who said they’ve had the newsletter on their bulletin board for a year and a half and that they wanted to call and finally did, so I think it works just fine. Print is interesting.
    What is the job to be done here? For me, it is to have digital and print publishers call me.
    I remember, so clearly, something that occurred when I was a guest of Dr. Samir Husni at Ole Miss. When I was looking around the school, I saw all these kids with their newspaper, The Mississippian, in one hand, and they’ve got their Mac computers, and their iPhones with earbuds. And they're doing this all at the same time. None of these young adults were sitting there saying, “Geez, I hate newspapers or magazines”—they were just flowing through the media and their devices.



    That's very funny. It's a great observation. I was just at the Niche Publishing Conference, and I can’t tell you how many people were handwriting notes. It was striking.
    Bo Sacks said—and I think he was wrong only in his timing—that we were entering the Golden Age of publishing. But, Bo, I think you are going to be right soon. I think you're going to see a change now, regardless of platform.
    And 25 years ago, I phrased it this way, “We're in the information distribution business, formerly known as publishing.”
    I call the stuff on digital now, “telezines.” We have magazines, which are ink on paper, and telezines, which are online and digital.
    So, Jim, we're both optimistic about the future of ad agencies and media distribution, right?
    Yes, I think that agencies will have to make a change here but will do so. And I think distribution is an issue, but it will resolve. I'm optimistic about that.
    But my main problem is this—and let me know if you agree or disagree—is that you are putting your information at the mercy of something you don't own, on something you have no control over.
    This observation goes to the job to be done. Much of what is in print and online isn’t worth saving. And regarding the argument that you don’t own the data, you never did. You owned a reproduction of the data.
    I own, in theory, over 200 audiobooks. But that could just dissolve in a minute. If Audible goes out of business, changes its paradigm, or gets sold, the consumer can get screwed. And it has happened.
    So, are you suggesting, Jim, that—for example—if I decided to download an NFT version, say of a National Geographic premiere issue, that it becomes my premiere issue, as opposed to buying the SIP that's sitting on the newsstand?
    I think we may see more of this, and maybe it's in the limited edition, right? But you're right. I think this is something to keep your eyes on.
    So, getting back to your observation offline about the War and what that’s doing to our youth, I think they are also realizing the value of trust and where they get their information from. That's a big step, a positive step.
    I think that's really important. You're still going to have the folks for whom Twitter is the only thing they look at or other social media. But I think that, hopefully, there'll be a larger percentage of people who really try to research different sources before they decide who to believe.
    There was this theory—for a while it seemed—that we need to get rid of the gatekeepers. But if you want to establish trust, don't you then need to really have gatekeepers who clearly have trust, experience, and expertise?
    Yes, you do. And we have one sitting right here—his name is Bo Sacks. When he publishes something, he doesn't just take any article at all. He, basically, collects information from various sources that I trust when I read it, because he knows the people that he's taken the information from.
    What I say about trust to everyone is that you've got to earn trust. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is 231 years old and has been continuously published. The reason why people trust us is because we, first of all, went print, Samir—millions of copies in print. And the other thing is the amount of work that goes into, not just creating the content, but into the fact checking. It's a thing—the credibility and the trust, it doesn't come easily. You can't buy it; you have to earn it. Longevity can breed trust.



    Not only that, but that's also why I've been preaching to whoever's willing to listen—we have to bring editors back. All these new chiefs that we've created in the last 10-15 years is garbage—Chief Revenue Officer, Chief-Chief—we need people who are actual editors, not just chiefs.
    Fact-checkers, copy editors, editors, writers, and if you have a website, it's incumbent upon you to have that fact-checked as well like you do a magazine. You have to because that's part of the whole trust and brand issue. Yes, we have to.
    You need to include one other thing in there, and I'm not going to get political here, but you need to include real—I stress that word real—journalists back into the medium. Real ones, not talking heads.
    It’s the same thing people talked about with William Randolph Hearst and Pulitzer. Journalism was never this pure thing, but in most cases, people were still able to find some journalistic outlets. As my professor in Missouri told us on the very first day of class, when a journalist gives his or her opinion, he or she is no longer a journalist.
    I had the honor, early on, of representing the National Review and the New Republic at the same time. One was conservative and the other was fairly liberal. We would have collective meetings, talking about advertising ideas, and everybody involved was respectful. It was remarkably collegial, considering they were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. The reason, I think, was that they respected their trade as journalists first.
    Well, this was great, Jim.
    Yes, thank you so much.
    Thank you very much. Hopefully, we'll see you again soon in real life, which would be good.
    That would be great.


    Posted June 09, 2022
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Why Are Book/Magazine Sales Slipping in Big Cities?

    Re: Why Are Book Sales Slipping in Big Cities?
    B&N shuttering some of their larger format stores here in Chicago is a big part of the loss of sales in Chicago for magazines. Within the urban core, it could also be the increase in the cost of housing and everything else. Yes, that’s happening in smaller markets, but probably not to the extent that it is in larger cities.
    (Submitted by Anonymous)
    Re: Why Are Book Sales Slipping in Big Cities?
    Regarding the PW piece about book sales in big cities, I think the article omits some factors that may also be important to the story; the analysis is not subtle enough.
    I really think that you have to delve deeper into the data to really understand what’s happening. Sure, we all know that in really big cities like NYC that office workers haven’t fully gone back to the office (or if they ever will), so of course you’d expect bookstores in Manhattan to show weakness, and that until fairly recently tourist traffic has been far below 2019 levels—but what about bookstores in the residential boroughs? What about suburban ones? Are they counted as part of the “big cities” or are they broken out separately? In magazine sales I’ve seen stronger numbers coming from suburban stores for the past two-plus years, and weakness in many of our big-city markets, and that is almost entirely pandemic-related. For me it’s not about NYC vs. DFW, it’s NYC vs. Westchester. 
    The biggest factor I think this piece does not seem to factor in is inflation. In magazine sales I’m seeing softness in 2022 that, were to chart it on a graph with the average price per gallon of gas each week would likely show strong correlation. I have to think that books are fairly impacted by it too—maybe people will visit a bookstore and, instead of buying two or three books they stick to just one (if you’re a big reader like me of course you will sacrifice other things for books—you won’t give up book buying entirely). Ironically, gas inflation is less of a factor in big cities where people are less auto-dependent, and more of a factor in places like sprawling Atlanta and DFW. 
    Also, regarding book sales specifically: Donald Trump is no longer our president—he lost, fair and square. When he lived at the White House there was so much energy poured by authors and publishers into books about him, his corruption, the death of democracy, and so on, that they were riding a wave that, pandemic or not, could not continue in 2021 and 2022. (Likewise, the George Floyd-related boom in books about race could only be sustained when left-leaning white people cared enough to buy them.) Now, he’s still around, still noisy, and democracy is still in danger (and would be even without him, as the GOP has gone full authoritarian, a process that has taken 50 years but is now largely complete, save people like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney), so perhaps there will be a book boom in the period between this year’s midterm elections and the presidential one in 2024. The decline in adult book buying has been partly masked by increases in kids’ books; hopefully that trend will continue. We’ve certainly seen strength in magazines aimed at kids, all through the worst part of the pandemic and continuing today, when the still-going pandemic is somewhat less of a concern. 
    All of that said, there is still some merit in the idea that places like Atlanta and DFW (and Denver and Phoenix and other sunbelt cities) are enjoying population growth that was probably accelerated by the pandemic and the rise of Zoom. That crime is up (if not up to 1990s levels, thankfully), that homelessness is up (far past 1990s levels, unfortunately) and that housing prices are way, way, way up in big cities (good for those of us who own our homes, bad for young people and people of color of all ages)—these are also factors supporting the idea that a demographic shift is underway. Young people will always flock to big cities, but the middle-aged and older people tend to leave them for life-stage reasons—and it’s middle-aged and older people who buy the most books. 
    I don’t think there’s a very strong correlation between magazines and books. There are too many other factors causing magazines to decline, factors that are irrelevant to book sales trends. Yes, we see fewer sales in the densest cities, sales that were dependent on people buying magazines to read on their lunch hour or on the bus or subway ride home, but we still reasonably decent sales in those places. What would not sell in dense urban locations are kids’ magazines, which are strong sellers these days in suburban locations. So if there’s weakness in magazine sales in big-city stores, part of it is due to the lack of kids living in those places. Also what does not sell as well in places with high percentages of renters (e.g., big cities): shelter. This category is booming—but only in the suburbs. Likewise for cooking magazines—fewer frequent restaurant-goers in the suburbs compared to childless big city couples and singles who rarely cook. I guess what I’m saying is that right now certain magazine subject matter is selling well in certain places because of who they attract as readers—and it’s the same scenario in Atlanta (urban Midtown vs. Cobb County) and New York (NYC, particularly Manhattan, vs. NY/NJ/CT suburbs). Ditto for Seattle, Washington DC, Chicago, you name it.
    (Submitted by Anonymous)
    RE: The Long-Challenged Saga Of Celebrity Print Magazines
    I was doing a little research on “top magazines” and ran into a rather alarming phenomenon that I was not expecting. All the grocery stores here (Washington DC Metro Area) no longer have mainlines !!! (Giant, Safeway)….
    Now I will say, the checkouts were well merchandised i.e. all the kids/teen titles were together, the celebrity titles together. But I was shocked to go to 2-3 stores…large stores….and find no mainline.
    Wondering if others in the industry are seeing this nationally?
    (Submitted by a Director, Print Operations)
    Re: Apple's privacy changes are expected to wipe almost $16 billion from Meta, YouTube, Snap, and Twitter's revenues this year
    I'm feeling pretty good about my apple phone right about now. And no I don't feel sorry for those who can no longer track my every move. It's not like targeted ads were terribly useful from my point of view. (Stuff I already bought, or ads for stuff I would never buy. (not my age, sex, interest, etc.) I rarely post to social media anything that really says anything since it tells them too much about me.
    (Submitted by a Sr. Business Analyst)
    Posted June 07, 2022
    (0) Comments

  • Publisher’s Roundtable: Conversation with Bonnie Kintzer, the President and CEO of TMB

    What happens when you cross a venerable magazine company with a dynamic social and streaming video company? If you’re TMB (Trusted Media Brands), the answer is: energy, synergy, and growth.
    The Pandemic Roundtable, still meeting two years in and comprising Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, and me, met with Bonnie Kintzer, the President and CEO of TMB, to find out what these interesting times look like to her.
    TMB, formerly known as the Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (RDA), is a global, multi-platform media company. TMB’s portfolio of community-based lifestyle brands includes Reader's Digest, Taste of Home, The Family Handyman, Birds & Blooms, and others. In 2021 TMB acquired Jukin Media, a rapidly growing, award-winning streaming and social video company; the acquisition brought Jukin’s new media brands FailArmy, The Pet Collective, People Are Awesome, and Poke My Heart, among others, to the TMB portfolio. In all, following the acquisition, TMB boasts 250+ million social media followers, 100+ million monthly website visits, 700+ million streaming TV minutes watched per month, and an audience of 27+ million print readers.
    Samir: Tell us about the changes you’ve been part of, from RDA to TMB to now.
    Bonnie: The acquisition of Jukin gave us a combination of two strong companies with complementary skills. And it’s amazing. People are energized by working together because they each gain from the strengths of the other. For example, we combined the data teams right away, and it’s providing new and exciting opportunities for all the employees—the print people are learning digital, the video people the discipline of print publishing.
    Samir: Many companies are moving from print to focus on digital. TMB is growing with both. What do you know more than other companies about the synergy of digital and print?
    Bonnie: We’ve always been a consumer-driven company. These are two companies that were always about the audience. If that’s your true north, you have a lot of opportunity, if you’re always thinking about what’s best for the consumer.
    Bo: Are your products on TikTok?
    Bonnie: Yes, Taste of Home, Family Handyman, and others have great TikTok videos!
    Sherin: Can you tell us about your video work?
    Bonnie: We have people watching videos 24 hours a day looking for ones that will resonate with our audience. It’s very community driven, we find and select what people are most interested in watching.
    Joe: Did you acquire this video experience to build up your print brands?
    Bonnie: We knew we had to get bigger. A small to medium sized company is going to face difficulties in the current environment. When we met Jukin it was love at first sight. Our current focus is on growth and investment, and the energy and excitement in what we can build together.
    Samir: Is there a downside?
    Bonnie: It’s intense! Waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night intense. We’re making a lot of bets, there is a lot to coordinate. I’ve got an incredible management team, there’s a lot of talent, a lot of focus, and we need to ruthlessly prioritize. We can’t do everything well at once, we have to choose.
    Joe: What new content does Jukin bring, and what can TMB do to develop it?
    Bonnie: The Pet Collective alone has tremendous potential for growth via websites, newsletters, and subscriptions. We are creating a ton of new and original content for our streaming channels with 2 new shows launching on the FailArmy channel this month, Your Pranks our Show and Theory of Awesome.
    Joe: What did you find did well in the pandemic?
    Bonnie: Subscriptions did great for us, as they did everywhere. And many of our brands were especially appreciated—Taste of Home, Birds and Blooms, people were at home and our content really served these people.
    Joe: Has the growth rate held up?
    Bonnie: It’s inevitably slowed, people are not cooking, for example, as much as they were the past couple of years; but we’re still up from pre-pandemic.
    Samir: I’ve counted 54 magazines that are older than 100 years. To what do you attribute this longevity? Can you think of any other brands in media that have lasted that long?
    Bonnie: I look at Reader’s Digest as the fabric of America. It’s a multi-generational brand so people stick with it from generation to generation. There isn’t a lot out there like it. Reader’s Digest readers were always a community. Readers are eager to learn, they are civic minded, they enjoy laughing. In a stressed-out world it offers even more of a benefit, and it has never strayed from what it is. It’s a compendium of some of the best articles in the country, ones that make you feel better about the world. We celebrate life, and help people enjoy theirs. Adding video to that allows us to be a community-driven media company.
    Sherin: It’s the same with the Old Farmer’s Almanac. It’s about the good news, the wholesome and useful. That’s what people are paying attention to. People are tired, and positivity goes a long way.
    Bo: That’s Bernie Mann’s secret in Our State magazine—nothing but uplifting.
    Joe: People are going to want to plant gardens and look at birds and cook and eat. Your topics are in that sense evergreen.
    Sherin: Has your readership demographic changed, maybe getting younger?
    Bonnie: Our digital content is read by millennials. The magazine tracks with magazine subscribers overall, people in their fifties who are getting magazines delivered to their home.
    Samir: People over fifty is half the country.
    Sherin: And they have disposable income.
    Samir: What’s the plan going forward? Is the integration of the two companies going to impact every brand you have?
    Bonnie: Our focus now is using the video clips for Readers Digest and Family Handyman. We’ll expand out from there, but at the moment we’re keeping a disciplined focus.
    Samir: Why are you succeeding where others before you have failed?
    Bonnie: I understand the industry; I’m a good listener; and I’m not afraid to change my plan if I learn something new.
    Joe: Do you see the industry consolidation as a potential threat?
    Bonnie: Bo had a great column about the consolidation that spoke a lot of truths. We’re not calling ourselves magazine companies; we’re media companies. Our magazines are important and loved, but we need to be where the consumer is and run healthy magazines. The way to run a business is to focus on what makes sense to our audience. We test our products, we keep our authenticity. We’re the only ones left in the direct-to-consumer book business, and it’s doing really well. This is a happy surprise to me.
    Bo: Are you experiencing struggles with the supply chain?
    Bonnie: We had some weird shipment stuff early on, some oddities, but we haven’t had paper issues like so many others have.
    Bo: Ingram is warning that prices are going to rise, probably dramatically.
    Bonnie: Rising costs are a challenge on the magazine side, less so on the book side.
    Bo: I think you could say about the entire industry: if you play it smart, there’s lots of room for growth.
    Joe: What opportunities do you see coming up?
    Bonnie: For us it’s media offered directly to viewers via the internet. It gives us bigger, better offerings to the advertising community. This is where we’re expecting our growth.
    Joe: Do you see opportunities for print?
    Bonnie:  I don’t.
    Joe: What do you think is holding print back?
    Bonnie:  The cost structure. We can’t raise prices to make up for it without losing audience. The balance between price and circulation is challenging and leading to the decline of print.
    Joe: What overall roadblocks do you foresee?
    Bonnie:  Competition. Everyone wants to be in media. The power of the platforms is extraordinary. And inflation will be a challenge.
    Bo: Are you scouring your archives and repurposing the classics?
    Bonnie:  In print, not so much. We’re creating new content and editing other people’s work from other sources; but evergreen is really important digitally, for the long tail. 
    Bo: We’re in at least our second digital generation, people who have grown up their entire lives in a digital world. Their perspective is different.
    Bonnie: Our online and print audiences are totally different from one another. This will continue to evolve. If you look at this generation and how they absorb information it is video and pictorial. It’s a very real thing, and as media companies, we need to meet them there.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 03, 2022
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Thoughts on Dotdash Meredith and the “Data Industrial Complex”

    I've been getting many industry reactions from my subscribers about the Dotdash Meredith news of shutting down venerable and, to my eye, successful print publications. We are talking about taking out of service 9.1 million print editions. I try to make it a habit of not criticizing another person’s business plan unless hired to do so. And I won’t here. Dotdash has a plan, and it doesn’t matter what we think about it.
    They are the owners of the titles and can damn well do as they please. As I’ve said many times in these pages, nostalgia is a terrible business plan. And the closing of large circulation magazines is nothing new but rather historic.
    Here are just a few comments I have received on the subject:
    “After reading the stunning announcement from Meredith today, I was chilled to the bone. It’s a never-ending avalanche of bad news for print…“
    “I find this both inevitable, scary and disheartening.”
    “This is what happens when you hire a plumber to do electrical work. The subtleties of the different disciplines do not mix well. Dotdash is all about “clicks” and knows nothing about print, nor do they wish to.”
    “Killing the leading Hispanic magazine should give you a clue to where things are heading… no more scared cows anymore, just cash cows… keep on milking them until they die from starvation…”
    For Dotdash, a member of the Bo-named “Data Industrial Complex”
    (DIC), it is just business as usual with no appreciation of history or the impact their business moves might mean to the rest of the "off-line" industry of publishers. The closure of 9.1 million magazines is part of a diminishing publishing infrastructure.
    Advertisers continue to spend less on print publications; printers continue to print fewer magazine pages; staff is hard to find and keep; prices for ink, paper and distribution continue to climb. Trucks run on fuel and the shipping costs are rising rapidly too.
    Speaking of distribution, did you know that Walmart is decreasing its display space for magazines and that is of course not helping with the sales of magazines.
    My friend James Hewes, CEO, FIPP said the following recently in an interview:
    “From a business point of view, we’re in the middle of an interesting transition. The number of publishers that you can find these days who are prepared to say that they are “magazine publishers”, you could count on the finger of one hand. It is not a business that people want to be seen to be in. Now, the big secret, of course, is that they all still make a large proportion of their revenue and enormous proportion of their profits from their print business, even the ones that are digitally successful. So there is this kind of – almost a duality – in the industry, which is being pulled between two different poles. On the one hand, the print business is still so fundamentally important to the current financial status of the business. But from both an investor point of view and for the futureproofing of the business, the publishers know that they need to have a digital hat on… they need to have digital investments and show digital growth.”
    From James observation we go to Neil Vogel, the chief executive of Dotdash Meredith who wrote:
    “We have said from the beginning, buying Meredith was about buying brands, not magazines or websites,”…
    …“It is not news to anyone that there has been a pronounced shift in readership and advertising from print to digital, and as a result, for a few important brands, print is no longer serving the brand’s core purpose.”
    On the other hand, Vogel said the company plans to invest in its 19 remaining print magazines — which include People, Better Homes & Gardens and Southern Living — by enhancing paper quality and trimming sizes. Dotdash Meredith also plans to invest $80 million in 2022 in content across all brands.
    Vogel said the company has more than 100 open jobs in editorial, engineering, product, design, and e-commerce, some of which it hopes to fill with people whose roles have been eliminated.
    Vogel said during a November 5th IAC earnings call, "We're not the guys that are going to change the secular advertising decline on print.”
    From the New York Times:
    “The end of the print editions follows a now familiar industry trend: Many magazine companies are looking for ways to cut costs as the circulation of physical copies continues to drop and competition for advertising dollars becomes more fierce. Shape, a women’s fitness magazine owned by Meredith, stopped print editions at the end of last year. In September, the U.S. print version of Marie Claire, owned by the British publisher Future Media, was shuttered. Hearst discontinued regular print editions of O, The Oprah Magazine, in 2020.”
    And let’s not forget last week’s announcement that Cosmo USA is downing its frequency. In 2019, there were 12 issues, now it’s down to 8 issues. Each issue is now a themed “collection” issue. The issues will be numbered and not have a date.
    Where do we go from here? Answer, nowhere but onward. Magazines will continue to rise and fall as they always have done. They will be more expensive to produce and distribute, that is a given. Magazine circulations will continue to get smaller and more deeply into niches.  The smaller the niche, the better the chance for survival in an industry in flux. It is specialization that is important, readers want something that they cannot find elsewhere. Indeed, so long as you consistently produce “editorial excellence” in you chosen niche, your magazine can do well.
    We are indeed living through truly extraordinary times with the plagues, innovative technology, and unexpected business curves growing at unprecedented rates.
    I remain optimistic about the power of the publishing industry to perform and grow.
    The pandemic has proved if nothing else the power and value of quality journalism and the importance of trusted media. As we move further into 2022 with all the changes still ahead of us, remember our purpose. We have the power to make our customers laugh, cry, or become more knowledgeable on any and every subject and on any substrate. At the end of our efforts, we hope our work is appreciated, valued, and fairly paid for.
    If your company stays with print as the main product, you too can have your share of the billions of dollars that are still left in the field. 
    The trick will be to stay smart, agile and very demanding – demanding of your staff and co-workers – as only the very best can and will survive. It doesn't matter what the trends of the overall industry are to individual companies so long as you can continuously produce unsurpassed editorial excellence in your particular niche.
    What happens to Conde, Hearst and Dotdash Meredith and how they run their companies is almost irrelevant to most magazine publishers. They have their business plans, and you have yours. I say almost irrelevant because every magazine taken out of the supply chain makes it harder for the natural order of distribution cycles to work correctly. Oddly enough, volume is a key component to efficiency. The less weight/volume we ship the harder is it is for the small, medium and mini-large publishers to maintain a shrinking distribution channel.
    Our publishing nation will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are still unexpected and as yet, unexplored.
    Posted February 13, 2022
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  • The True History of Diversity in Magazine Publishing with Mr. Magazine

    By Linda Ruth


    “When you look at a newsstand today, you see more people of color represented on the covers than ever before,” Samir says. “What does that mean to this moment in publishing?”

    In honor of Black History Month, the Pandemic Publishing Roundtable—Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and I—have gathered to hear Samir tell us about the history of diversity in magazine publishing.
    Samir has been observing the gestures of inclusiveness made of late by some of the biggest mainstream magazine publishers, and meeting with boards of the magazines to discuss it. “Is it possible that we’re looking at an over-correction?” he asks. “Is it possible that we’re doing this, not because it’s what is relevant to our audience, but for other, less serious reasons? That is what some of the publishers I’ve been speaking to are asking.”
    Joe: I would argue that a lot of what we see is just a course correction from past lack of inclusivity. Vogue, Esquire, GQ—those have never called themselves specifically magazines for white people. They were never looking to make that kind of statement; and yet, a whole portion of their potential readership was underrepresented.”
    Samir: And how are the readers going to take it? Will we see a drop in subscribers and newsstand sales?
    Joe: Nowadays newsstand’s such a minor part of the circulation puzzle that no one really cares. With subscriptions, time will tell.
    Samir: Publishers tell me that because of high cover prices, magazines are less an impulse buy. People come to the newsstand with the intention of buying a particular publication; hence, the cover is less important.
    Joe: And they’re wrong. When people are going to spend their money on something, they want it to look good. It only makes sense to put the best foot forward to pick up marginal sales.
    Samir: So by creating covers with greater diversity, are publishers undermining their sales over time?
    Linda: Part of putting people of color on the cover is that it gets people more used to seeing them as members of the whole. It changes the way people perceive one another, and seeing people as less marginalized has the effect of making them less marginalized.
    Samir: So then I would ask: why did it take so long? Why is it something we’re just seeing now?
    Bo: We’re all about imagery. That image of George Floyd, of a white guy killing a black man with his knee on his neck, exposed all we need to know.
    Sherin: As did the image of Ahmaud Arbery.
    Bo: It was a wakeup call, and the media has responded to it.
    Sherin: I think it also had something to do with our Black president.
    Samir: That is all true as far as it goes. But genuine diversity has existed in magazines for decades, as I am going to show you. Let’s start with Jet magazine. Jet was published by the Johnson Publishing Company from 1951to 2014, sixty-three years. People will tell you there has never been a white person on the cover, but I will tell you that isn’t true. I have spent this week searching for answers, and this is what I have discovered.

    The first cover with a white person was Feb 21, 1952, only four months after the launch. Over the years there were covers of interracial marriages, and I believe John Johnson wanted to normalize this. In November of 1952, Adlai Stevenson appeared on the cover. In 1953 you have an issue showcasing cowboy fashion. It shows Roy Rogers with a little boy named Michael Jackson. Wait, I thought, how is that possible—Michael Jackson was born in 1956! Well, this was a different Michael Jackson.

    With few exceptions, there was always a Black person with the white. The first time ever a white woman was alone on cover was September 1953, for a feature about white entertainers in “negro” clubs. Jessie Young was a white woman who made her fortune and success dancing in Black nightclubs. Ten years later, in December of 1963, JFK was featured. Other than that, there were four issues with only white folks on the cover, and they were all politicians—1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972.
    Going back to February’s British Vogue, with their nine Black models; you hear people saying, finally we have diversity. That’s why it’s so important for us to dig into the past—this is real diversity. It was important, it was relevant to the audience; those politicians were the movers and shakers of the civil rights movement.  
    Linda: The models on the February British Vogue are likewise relevant because they showcase beauty and style.  
    Samir: Look through the back issues of Highlights for Children. You’ll see they have always had that diversity on their covers and in their pages.
    Joe: It’s incredible what John Johnson accomplished. His publishing building was a big landmark in Chicago.
    Samir: I will tell you the story of how he was able to rent that. As his magazines grew he needed more space, but at that time it was next to impossible for a Black man to rent space on Michigan Avenue. He met with the realtors, accompanied by his white lawyer, while he was disguised as a janitor.
    John Johnson was ahead of his time.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted February 09, 2022
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  • Mr. Magazine: Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media

    A Rollicking Ride Down Memory Lane
    “How many people will be comparing websites fifty years from now?” Samir asks. “Will they be saying, look what Politico in February of 2022, compared to Slate? It isn’t going to happen.”
    It’s a privilege to meet bi-weekly with my magazine-loving friends, the Pandemic Publishing Roundtable—Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, and, of course, Mr. Magazine himself, Samir Husni. Samir recently retired from teaching after 37 years, but his alter-ego, Mr. Magazine, is thriving, and having none of the “print is dead” punditry.
    “So much of the history of pop culture has been captured in these decades of magazines,” he tells us. “Going through this history—I’m a kid in a candy store. Every time I find something new.”
    Today Samir is going to walk us through some of the highlights of his collection, beginning with Reader’s Digest, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
    Samir: Reader’s Digest officially launched in February 1922. Not many people know what came before that. Dewitt Wallace served, and was injured, in World War 1. While he was recuperating, his friends brought him magazines to pass the time. At that time, New York City alone had 22 newspapers. Wallace thought, people just don’t have the time to keep up with the sheer volume of media. Why don’t I put together the important points, to save people time while getting the most valuable and enduring information.
    He created his preview issue of Reader’s Digest in January 1920. And then he took it to every publisher in New York and every one of them told him, this will never work. So he went home and put the magazine in a drawer.
    A few months later a friend introduced him to Lila Bell Acheson. They married in 1921. It was Lila Bell who said, forget about the publishers. You and I will do this. And they did. Lila Bell borrowed $500 to launch their publication. The first issue was 62 pages. Every article was one page, front and back; every page could be torn and saved as an entire article. And so, Reader’s Digest became the largest magazine in US history, with 80 million copies in circulation.
    Sherin: This was in how many countries?
    Samir: At one point it had 35 editions in 29 languages. Its history is woven into the history of other publications, the history of magazine publishing. Remember Fact magazine? In the mid-1960’w Ralph Ginzberg published Fact magazine, and spent 20 pages ripping Reader’s Digest apart. He called it anti-black, anti-Semitic, a mouthpiece for the John Birch society.
    Joe: Back in the ‘60s, calling someone a John Bircher was a big insult.
    Samir: Fact did the same thing with Time magazine, which will also soon be celebrating its 100th Anniversary. And—you can’t make this up—when Time was launched, as a time-saver for people too busy for media, it was called Facts.
    So back then, there was another magazine, published by Gardner Cowle, named Look. His wife, Fleur—Gardner was her third husband—was working on Look, and in 1949, while she was doing that, she launched another magazine for people in a hurry, and she called it Quick. It was the first pocket-sized news magazine. She got the idea from Daily Word. The format was 4” by 6”.
    Joe: So it would be competing with Time and Newsweek.
    Samir: But it was very different. It only cost 10 cents, and it could fit in your pocket. After one year it was selling 850,000 copies.
    Joe: How did newsweeklies work then—was it printed in various parts of the country?
    Samir: It was printed in Chicago. They partnered with a news program on ABC, they had posters in many stores with a token for a dollar off your subscription. Then they teamed up with NBC and started doing spots on Sunday mornings with Quick editors. And, way back in 1950, they were doing something that to many people was, and is, unheard of—advertising on the cover. There was a cover tag advertising Curtis Candy. Or special Arrow (shirt) edition. Or a cover might say, “Don’t Miss Page One.” And when you turned to page one it would be an ad of a local pharmacy, split out by regional editions.
    Joe (laughing): And then all the copies went to Pittsburgh.
    Samir: In 1952, Fleur decided to add 32 extra pages just for New York with all the TV programs. They promoted it on the cover and went on to break out the TV guide to different regional versions.
    Sherin: Did they have different covers?
    Samir: They all had the same cover advertising the regional listings, exactly like Walter Annenberg would do when he launched TV Guide in April of 1953.
    Sherin: He ripped her off?
    Samir: He bought all the regional TV listings from Cowles Media. Quick closed soon after; June 1, 1953 was the last issue. 1.3 million people bought and read it. But despite its huge readership, the revenues weren’t enough to defray expenses. They merged it into Look.
    Sherin: What did Fleur do then?
    Samir: On June 8 a new magazine came out called Tempo. It was from the staff from Quick. Quick’s last issue was the week before--they didn’t miss a beat! But then, three months later, on Sep 30, 1953, a new issue of Quick was published—with Walter Annenberg as editor and publisher.  
    Sherin: But Quick merged with Look
    Samir: And then they sold the rights to Annenberg. He was able to publish it for 6 months as a picture/news magazine in a larger format. How did Fleur and Annenberg know each other? It’s a mystery I haven’t solved. We do know that Fleur was at the 73rd birthday party of Walter’s wife, Leonore.
    By 1955 we have 72 pocket sized magazines in the country. Five of them were for African Americans. Someone else bought and published Quick from 1955, focusing on content like miracle cures for arthritis and cancer. They folded. And Quick came back AGAIN in 1959.
    Sherin: Looking more like a sophisticate.
    Samir: It folded again, came back again in 1960, as a mix of sophisticate and politics.
    Joe: A precursor to Hustler.
    Samir: They billed it as the original newspaper magazine. It was NEVER a newspaper magazine. All those incarnations—it’s a fun story.
    Sherin: When did Quick finally die?
    Samir: 1965
    Sherin: So from 1949 to 1965 under different formats, different publishers, different editorial focuses. What did Fleur do after Quick?
    Samir: She launched what is one of the most creative, beautiful magazines ever published--Flair magazine. Every issue used the resources of printing and paper with diecuts, different sized paper throughout, colors, and art.
    Sherin: How long did it last?
    Samir: One year. Feb 1950. There’s a preview issue from 1949, 5000 copies were printed, and every copy was numbered. It was a work of art.
    Joe: Why did it only last one year?
    Samir: It was so expensive to produce. Every issue has diecuts, half pages, small tags with their own page numbers. She was using print in all the most creative ways. In the last issue she wrote that she just couldn’t affort to continue, due to the foreign situation, rising costs, and paper shortages. It cost 50 cents on the newsstand. This magazine meant so much to Fleur, she wanted her obituary to be Flair and nothing else. She WAS Flair.
    Joe: Amazing history.
    Samir: There is so much people don’t know about the role magazines play in the history of our country. We need someone to cherish these historical artifacts, someone to preserve it.
    And that is why I will launch Magazine Media Center: preserving the past, present and future of magazine media.
    And I invite the members of the Roundtable to be on the board
    Linda Ruth
    Posted February 03, 2022
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  • Media Carrier Provides Opportunities for Print and Digital Publishers

    Gabrielle Sarmiento is constantly looking for new opportunities for publishers.
    Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, and I—the ongoing Publishing Pandemic Roundtable, which has been meeting regularly for almost two years—had the privilege of hosting her at a recent Roundtable.
    Gabi, as she is called, is the VP of Sales and Marketing for News Inflight and Media Carrier. Media Carrier GmbH, a Germany-based company, provides customized portfolios of digital publications to the tourism and hospitality industry. Through News Inflight, the company also distributes print magazines to airport lounges.
    Joe: Tell us about your company.
    Gabi: Media Carrier was founded in 2011 and is one of the leading B2B supplier’s of digital publications and through our comprehensive network are represented in all major markets worldwide. We are working with 25 airlines, such as American Airline, the Lufthansa Group, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic to name a few, 5200 high end hotels; plus private airports, cruise ships, trains, and limousine services. Through us, these companies are able to offer to their customers and guests customized selections from 2000 titles, from 59 countries around the world, in 39 languages. And we’re constantly looking to open up new opportunities for publishers; for example, we’re beginning to work with clinics and hospitals.
    Bo: How does Media Carrier connect to the reading product?
    Gabi: Our digital product can be used with any web-enabled device without installing an app, registering, or providing personal data to access the publications and it can easily be integrated into the booking confirmation, app, newsletters, on-board IFE or airport lounges. For example, you are in one of the AA Admiral lounges you can activate your Media Box code, given to you at checking to download any publication you desire onto your own devices for immediate reading or for later use. Each of our clients have their own way to give access to the publications, we design everything around them since it becomes their product to give to their passengers or guests.
    Samir: You work with both print and digital publications. What challenges do you find that are similar? What differences do you see?
    Gabi: In the travel segment, the challenge of one is the opportunity of the other. With the exception of Delta--who want their customers to have everything they want--none of the other carriers are focusing on print anymore. For most of the carriers, the focus has moved wholly to digital. But Delta conducted a survey and found out that more than most enjoy print, so they continue to offer print copies in their Sky Clubs. The program is very successful; there are no leftover copies of any titles that participate.
     Linda: And since both print and digital copies are auditable, I work with publishers to whom the impact on their circulation is welcome.
    Gabi: Yes, and it’s not only the copies for circulation, it’s the locations. You’re being downloaded in all core markets worldwide, Europe, the USA, Russia, the Gulf States and Asia which gives great impact to the circulation. One of our premier client’s is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with all of their 25 properties around the globe, which is very appealing to advertisers.
    Linda: It also can be a source of subscription circulation for the publisher.
    Samir: Because many of the magazines coming on market are circ-driven, they’ll need a way to monetize this service.
    Gabi: We encourage publishers to include life subscription links to drive new digital and print subscribers by placing targeted offers with an automatic click through to their fulfillment houses to create an additional revenue stream. For a creative publisher, there are many opportunities. You can tell the reader what is in the magazine before downloading with a video clip or convey an advertiser’s message, an event, a personal note or a survey--there are all sorts of things you can do to get the attention of the reader and convert that into revenue.
    Joe: What is the cost to the publisher?
    Gabi: We have different plans, but the initial set up comprises a free trial period. The banners, the video clips, and other add-ons are fee-based.
    Joe: There is no charge to the consumer? It’s a free download for that issue?
    Gabi: That’s correct, a free download limited to the specific time and place. And for some airlines, in first and business class, there may be a different mix—a pay factor after several downloads. Our platform is easy to use, you gain access to the Media Box through a code, link etc. and open the library, click on magazines or newspapers, click on the category and look for the publication you want; or you can browse the carousel to discover new titles you haven’t seen before.
    Samir: What titles are in high demand?
    Gabi: Downloads tend to track what is selling on the newsstand; and of course, for this demographic, the high end and business categories are very strong.
    Bo: You mentioned that you use the airlines entertainment system to offer the publications. How does it work when go into the hospitals?
    Gabi: At the hospital you would access the platform through their internet via your digital devices- phone, iPad, etc. You sign into the hospital wifi and it will appear on that link.
    Bo: The hospitals program could work well for everyone. It’s a captive audience.
    Gabi: That’s right. The reader doesn’t have to touch a print magazine that others might have handled; and patients want to do something other than watch tv. We have already introduced this program to fifteen clinics in Germany.
    Joe: What do the analytics show: downloads, time with publication, click-throughs?
    Gabi: Our reports show title, category, client name, country, location, the timestamp, and download amount.
    Joe: To participate, does a publisher provide a pdf?
    Bo: So the same pdf I send to printer I send to you?
    Gabi: Yes, that’s the fantastic part—you don’t need to re-learn anything. We give you a secure ftp site with your login info and you provide us with the pdf and your production schedule. This enables us to follow up, if a publisher forgets to upload an issue, we’ll let them know.
    Linda: Yes, I’ve seen that happen.
    Samir: Have you seen the program where a company provided ipads to hotel rooms for their downloads?
    Gabi: I have, and it doesn’t work well. It’s too much for the hotels to take care of especially now. With our program, travelers use their own devices. The program is tied to the hotel Wifi; the reader can download the publications and read them on their own leisure.
    Samir: Magazines are the only positive medium we have. We’re bombarded with bad news from every other platform out there. But when you pick up a magazine, you can lose yourself.
    Gabi: I don’t think print will ever go away; we all love the feeling of holding a magazine and turning the pages. I am blessed with a granddaughter now and I am buying her kids magazine subscriptions right and left. But we also have to remember that the world is constantly changing and digital provides a quick and easy way of getting our favorite reads and it is eco-friendly!
    Joe: How were you affected by the pandemic?
    Gabi: Everything came to a standstill in March of 2020; to stay sustainable we had to create new ways of content sharing. Some of our clients sent offers to their premiere customers, the first and business class reward members, to download publications at home; this created a great brand loyalty towards our airline clients.
    Bo: That was a smart move. It offers a service to the readers, it keeps the platform fresh in their minds, and it provides a PR benefit to airlines.
    Joe: Let’s look forward. What does 2022 and 2023 look like for your company?
    Gabi: We want to continue to tap into new industries that could benefit from our platform. We know there are health benefits from reading, and that will be a basis for growing into new sectors.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted January 26, 2022
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: I Salute You

    BoSacks Speaks Out: I Salute You
    What an amazing few years we have just been through. Plague be damned, we have all had ups and downs, moments of great stress, and hopefully many moments of beauty and harmony.
    Writer Hamilton Wright Mabie once said, "New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights."
    But even though "there is no pause in the march of the universe", this and every yearend brings us a chance to reflect. What did we get right this year? How many formerly impossible things did we actually figure out and do? What do we wish we could do again? And what do we see for ourselves moving into the next year until it's time for reflection yet again as sol returns to its starting place?
    The Holiday season and the New Year is an opportunity to consider the events of the past year and to approach the year ahead with deliberate intent and personal choices. Some goals we keep, and others slowly evaporate away till next year.
    It's hard to grapple with the idea that we are headed into Year 3 of the pandemic, with yet another surge in cases hitting our weary hospital systems and first responders. I'm hoping that the new variant will not lead to lockdowns again. Fortunately, we have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we and the industry we work in, is resilient and creative in time of need.
    In 2021, we continued to deal with an on-going pandemic, we developed new vaccines, swore in a new president and as a member of the media industry we charged forward with our mission to inform, entertain, and teach the reading public.


    On January 7, 2021, I wrote the following:
    "BoSacks Speaks Out: Friends, I want to take just a minute under these bizarre and horrible moments in U.S. history to applaud the fearless journalism that was on demonstration for the past 24 hours. We, the media, cover our stories wherever they take us – war zones, poverty zones, plague zones, small town halls, and today into the U.S. Capitol under siege. This is what we do. We teach, we entertain, and perhaps most importantly, we follow the news wherever it leads to inform our readers. Today like all days we see journalists running into the fray and the danger and not away from it. That is a noble tradition and a fearless one. I am proud to be a member of the journalism industry."
    I salute you all. To those of us who survived, we are indeed stronger on so many levels. We have reinvented everything that could be analyzed and made more efficient. We learned that we could work remotely and still thrive. It also seems that we have proved that many of our large offices are quaint vestiges of the past and in many cases, irrelevant to a successful media product.
    Perhaps one of the most important things we learned is that readers are willing to pay for quality journalism. I wonder what took us so long to make that conclusion?




    We learned that the traditional methodologies and business plans that were in place were mostly a dream based on a previous interpretation of reality.
    In March of 2020, I couldn't have predicted the speed and grace of the publishing communities' adaptions and redeployments almost overnight and on the fly. The time machine we entered two years ago accelerated whatever was happening before into new possibilities that under pre-covid processes would have taken years to develop.
    Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    I am more bullish on the industry than ever before, as it clearly grows and morphs into something new at an on-going and accelerated rate. More people read, collect, and share distributed media information than ever before. There is more revenue being made in media beyond the wildest dreams of our publishing ancestors. So, "So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor."
    In my professional life as a publisher, I have for over twenty-nine years expressed a yearend message of review, hope, and promise to my readers. I encourage you to "Explore. Dream. Discover."
    History has proven that plagues like Covid come and then they go, that business downturns appear when least expected and retreat just the same, that the winter is cold only to be followed by the beauty and charm of a warm summer's day.
    But the most enduring cycle throughout history is our love of family and friends. Love is more than a word; it is a shared transcendental experience. It imparts an equal measure of mutual vulnerability and great strength. Like superheroes, I believe that love is our secret power, and with it, we sustain ourselves with the love of family and friends.
    The following message was first sent in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional yearend expression of hope and reflection. I have been sharing this poem with my newsletter readership for three decades. Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding and hope. The plague has intensified my sense of the poem.



    Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you.
    Most of us work so hard that sometimes we forget the real reasons for our energetic pursuits. In the end, it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real long-lasting meaning.
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
    I wish you joy and love at home and, at the very least, stability in the workplace. I send to you the additional hope that all is well wherever you may roam.
    Best wishes and happy holidays to all.
    Bob and Carol Sacks
    There is nothing I can give which you
    have not; but there is much that, while I
    Can not give, you can take.
    No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
    Find rest in it today.
    Take happiness.
    No peace lies in the future, which is not somewhere hidden
    in this present instant.
    Take Peace
    The sometime gloom of the world is but a shadow;
    Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
    Take joy
    And so, at this holiday time, I greet you,
    With the prayer that for you, now and forever
    The days break with peace,
    and all shadows flee from your path.
    Fra Giovanni
    A salutation written to a friend in 1513



    Posted December 23, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Mag Covers, Tracking, Journalists and More

    Re: Why do we still care about magazine covers?
    Perhaps the reason that there is a discussion about what, exactly, a magazine is, is that we've decided that covers don't matter as much as they once did. As a result, we've lost our identity.
    While maybe 50 years ago we wanted the the magazine's cover to stick out on the newsstand, it was back then, and is today, the actual way you identify the magazine to the public.
    It's your, to use the modern term that all the kids use, brand. So why would you not care about it?
    I have a few problems with this article. The first is that it appears that single copy sales have never been a factor in the circulation of New York Magazine. As far back as 2007, single copy sales for New York Magazine were only 5% of the overall circulation (Yes, I have actual receipts for this). As a point of fact, since 2007, overall circulation for the magazine has declined -39% and newsstand circulation (keep in mind, it was only 5%) declined 92%. That sounds astoundingly bad until you realize how small the numbers were as a part of the whole. That doesn't deny the collapse of the newsstand market, but you should show some context or understand what you're talking about before you make grand conclusive statements.
    Does that mean that you don't care about the newsstand cover as much? Well, if you're New York Magazine and your latest audit report shows that newsstand was less than 1% of your overall sales, maybe you don't. If you're another magazine where your newsstand sales are a lot more than that, well, maybe you should. It would kind of depend on your circulation, wouldn't it?
    Either way, the conclusion is that yes, you may no longer be designing a cover solely for newsstand sales (Although I would argue that most publishers haven't been doing that for a very, very long time), but you should be putting your best effort into a cover because it's how you identify your brand.
    PS: I would kind of love it if non-magazine people would maybe try to learn something about the magazine business before they try to write about it.
    (Submitted by Anonymous)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Attention, Shoppers: Audio Inventory In Groceries And Drugstores Is Now Addressable
    The question is, when they switch on your location services, did they do it when you downloaded the coupon and did they make sure that you were aware that they were switching on your location services so they could track you on your "out of home inventory" purchasing "experiences"?
    The cynic in me says, "Well of course not!"
    On a personal note, the business speak in this article had me of two minds. On the one hand, I wanted to laugh at it's ridiculousness, on the other, it makes me want to shudder to think that is how modern American business now looks at the people they rely on to be both customers and workers.
    (Submitted by Anonymous)
    RE: Journalists Fear 'Fake News' Harms Their Profession - But Unsure How To Combat
    Journalists, especially younger ones from what I’ve seen, are doing a lot more to harm their profession than “fake news.” Objectivity? It doesn’t exist in an absolute sense. But you can step out of your own views and try to understand different perspectives without the assumption that your own inclinations are, of course, right and should be dominant.
    (Submitted by writer)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Covid-19 Skeptics, Publisher Sue Sen. Elizabeth Warren
    Back in TimeWarner Corporate Marketing days we used to operate as a “self-governing body”, and rags like The Enquirer and Star were known to be so over the top unbelievable that it was entertaining. Think The Onion satire, only low-brow, probably conspiracy theory bs. How did that become “news”!?
    I think it all traces back to Ronnie eliminating truth in reporting standards and a pimple like Fox festered and spewed decades worth of lies and misinformation as to desensitize and fog good portions of this Country.
    We need to hold the News to a higher standard NOW.
    (Signed, a concerned citizen)
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: The True Nature Of Magazines...
    I agree with your points as much as I understand his points. I would add that bookazines may be more habit forming than Samir indicates. The Time ones on famous people or science always grab my attention and require will power to walk away. (I tend to habitually spend my discretionary dollars on books by my favorite Sci-Fi & Fantasy authors.)
    ( Submitted by a Sr. Business Analyst.)
    Re: Direct-to-consumer brands are shifting to old-school marketing tactics
    Hey Bob - Below has happened and happening and contributing to the paper shortage. Digital marketing has become more expensive as well, marketers have gone back to print in many cases.
    Problem with that is getting paper or press time. We are in a place in the paper world that has never been seen. It is madness and even that is not an accurate description and getting worse. Q1 2022 will be catastrophic for many customers, worst yet.
    (Submitted by a Paper Salesperson)
    Re: Subscribed Institute, NYC: Key subscription growth takeaways
    First of all, thank you for publishing your newsletter. I look forward to it everyday, and recommend it to anyone in the publishing or media industry that is not aware of it.
    I am normally not one to comment on articles like this, and to be honest, I have been on the sales side of the equation working with and for some very talented Circulation Consultants and executives in the Publishing Industry.
    When I ready this article regarding key subscription growth takeaways, I was life “looking at customer growth and the full lifecycle vs. short term acquisition and churn” is a new idea, I am pretty sure this idea was Circulation 101 30 years ago.
    But heck, what do I know. I just thought it was funny that this Subscribed Institute was presenting this as new news
    (Submitted by a Humble Sales Guy)
    Re: Marketing to Gen Alpha
    This made me snort! The oldest of these kids is *just* 11, and is unlikely to even have a social media account yet. My Gen Alpha baby is purely concerned with yelling at me because I've put her down for a nap, so no idea what these global marketing giants hope to gain by 'socially listening' to her (unless they want earache).
    I think we can forget how quickly things change for these kids. I have no doubt by the time they're old enough to care, memes will be super lame and the world will have moved far past what any of these clever marketers can assert that they're interested in.
    (Submitted by a Publisher)
    Re: COMMENTARY Reflections On The Death Of Hershel Sarbin, Industry Icon, Boss And Mentor
    What a man and what a loss. He was the most intellectually vital human. A brilliant creative leader and a compassionate person that nurtured young talent, created new media models and contributed to the world with energetic charitable endeavors. He was a giant in my life. He was my mentor. My sage . And my good friend. I would talk with him multiple times each year and he would have a new idea always. He lived life to the fullest with his brain his heart and body.  He change the world for the better each day  I will miss him terribly
    (Submitted by a Publisher)
    Re: FTC Commissioner Advocates ‘Data Minimization’ In Advertising
    The phrase that stands out to me is, "nor do they have any bargaining power in the relationship" you either have the choice of saying yes I agree or you don't use the product. My printer for example asks me to agree to the terms of use with every upgrade. If I say no I wouldn't get the upgrade and would likely lose the functionality of being able to print from the printer I own.
    (Submitted by a Sr. Business Analyst.)
    Re: A Night at the Press
    Thanks for posting this! It brought back fond memories when I was a VP at a major publisher and followed the distribution of one of our titles, Pro Football Weekly, an "evaluator" of Sunday's games, each issue provides insight to next week's games. We had a sales problem, we were very inefficient so I wanted to "follow the copies". My day began at the Editorial offices at 2 PM Sunday afternoon where the editorial team watched each game until the last game ending Midnight when edit closed and sent to the printer, a major Chicago daily newspaper. At 4 AM I watched printed copies come off press and ship to magazine wholesalers across the U.S. and Canada. The entire process worked EXCEPT for large wholesalers that were unable to get the magazines into the weekly billing and distribution tie lines. Like small wholesalers the larger agencies picked up or had copies delivered from the airport in the early morning but they were delivered to stores the next Tuesday making the copies useless.Sales were very soft, the "news" was old. Smaller, more flexible wholesalers picked up copies at their local airport and delivered copies the next day. Sales were strong, efficient and profitable. Watching an issue go from editorial to press to delivery was an exhilarating experience, and the failure of some systems was prescient of what was to become the new normal.
    (Submitted by a newsstand Consultant) 
    Posted November 16, 2021
    (0) Comments

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