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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: NME's demise shows pressure on consumer magazines

    BoSacks Speaks Out: NME's demise shows pressure on consumer magazines

    Today I'm headed to Berlin, Germany to attend one of my favorite publishing events, FIPP's Digital Innovators Summit which starts Monday, March 19th. It is a wonderful cross-planet collection of modernizers and theorists making sense and profit from the still evolving phenomenon we once called publishing.

    This article about UK's NME's demise suggests various pressures on consumer magazines. The article reminds me of some things I've said before. There once was a time when there were rules and an established pecking order. If you were in TV, Radio or Print, you knew the process and the possibilities of your profession. Each method of communication had pluses and minuses, boundaries and well-trodden logical pathways to reach the consumer and make a profit in the process. One might also say there was once relative business stability.

    I've also noted before that what makes the current state of affairs so different is the evaporation of boundaries, rules and stability. There is little distinction between publishing, TV and radio because they are all streamed. Print or off-line media is obviously not streamed, and that is its problem. It is stuck in an old-style world of rules and boundaries while connected, digitized communications are completely free range. For many the nostalgic rules of print are deemed a blessing and satisfying in their permanency. But the old rules also limit print's value most importantly to the vagaries of young, inexperienced media buyers. We have proof that print is still a good buy, but in aggregate they buy less of it each year. Nevertheless, there are plenty of print sectors doing quite well. (CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted April 06, 2018
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  • BoSacks on AMMC 2018: MPA Steps Up Game, WPP Chief Dodges Ad Fraud Question

    BoSacks on AMMC 2018: MPA Steps Up Game, WPP Chief Dodges Ad Fraud Question

    Once again the largest players in the magazine media industry gathered for the annual plumage display. Everybody is excited to be there including me. I annually and happily re-meet so many old friends accumulated through a lifetime in the industry that it is a joy to be there among my comrades. We share old war stories and new thoughts of the current conditions of our media empires. 

    Linda Thomas Brooks, President and Chief Executive Officer of the MPA, opened the event with a thoughtful message she received once directly from the Dalai Lama. It was as mystical and as far reaching with simplicity as you might expect. "Keep working on it." You see, at first you go: what? And then the simple complexity settles in. Yes, no matter what it is that's going on, just keep working on it till you find an answer. Linda's application of that for the industry was, "there is no one answer," just keep working on it. And how right she is. 

    There was a time in the magazine industry when almost every publisher large and small worked from extremely similar business plans. We were all in the highly definable, easily explained, magazine publishing business. Now-a-days I'll bet there are no two business plans alike. The complexities and unlimited diversity of information delivery platforms in the magazine media business makes every business exploration for revenue uniquely different. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 13, 2018
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The Secret Sauce for Magazines

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The Secret Sauce for Magazines

    John Palumbo makes a passionate discussion here for newsstand placement and retail problems in City and Regional Magazines. But I want say, it's not the darkest hour for all magazines in the genre. Take Our State Magazine, which celebrates life in North Carolina. To the best of my knowledge it is thriving and perhaps more so than any other regional magazine I am aware of. Why, you may ask?

    A few months ago, I had lunch with my friend Bernie Mann, the publisher of Our State Magazine and asked what was, as Warren Buffett calls it, his Secret Sauce?  (For the record Bernie and I meet twice a year out of mutual respect and idea sharing. We both drive two hours to meet in the middle for lunch. It is always worth it.) 

    So, what is Bernie's Secret Sauce? He says, "The reader." Bernie says you have to love, cherish and respect the intelligence of the reader and never do anything that makes the reader 'work' to enjoy the magazine.  He goes on the describe what he means.  "No belly bands, no stickers on the cover, no stories continued in the back of the magazine, no ads disguised as stories with the word "advertisement" or "Promotion" in 2 point type. 

    Bernie says part of the Secret Sauce of his success is the idea that the advertising has to be bought not sold. He interestingly goes on to point out that in his opinion, "The model of ad agencies buying advertising in magazines is broken," as agencies are more interested in making money from digital. Bernie's answer is to go directly to the client. 

    If you want a role model for the City and Regional Magazine arena, I strongly suggest you check out Our State Magazine. To the best of my knowledge they are never under 250 pages per month and often much more.  You want success? This is it

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted February 13, 2018
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  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Time Inc. Can't be Saved by Nostalgia

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Time Inc. Can't be Saved by Nostalgia

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Odd things happen at odd and sometimes inconvenient times.  For me, although this newsletter always gets out no matter what, sometimes when breaking news happens, there are days that are more convenient than others. 

    This week I am in Houston visiting a family member in hospice, so since the Time Inc. story broke, I have not had the luxury to read all the prognosticators’ prognostications about the meaning of Life (pun Intended) as I usually would have. So, if what I am about to briefly say has been said by others, well that just means two of us had similar observations. 

    There seem to be many publishing professionals stressing and wringing their hands at the sale of Time Inc. to Meredith.

    First, let me say that few businesses can be successfully run on the fumes of nostalgia. We all loved the old Time Inc. for what it was and what we thought it could have become. Now both the “what” and the “could” are in the past and have been for some time. The magazine industry is thriving and reinventing itself in the here and the now. For many reasons Time Inc. currently is not reflective of where we as an industry are going, but only where we have been.

    I applaud the multitude of digital moves made by Time Inc. of late, and had they been spun off as totally independent projects many or all could have flourished and still might.  Mostly there is too much historic baggage and too many legacy mistakes, and so we have the sale of the decade. But magazine giants have always risen to peaks and eventually evaporated in corporate smoke, usually with a whimper not a bang.  TV Guide comes to mind as do Curtis publishing and many more.  Giants in their day, now distant industrial memories.

    When I worked for McCall’s magazine in the 1980s, Time Inc. was a Co-owner. Those were the great years when Time was the undisputed leader of the entire magazine industry in all respects.  When is the last time that could be said of Time Inc.? I miss the industry leadership and their profound, always on-going experimentation in the magazine business and the supreme search for the efficiency of the product.  Time Inc. deserves its place in the halls of media Olympus, but like Zeus and the gang, they are but rumblings of distant nostalgic thunder, fond to think about but forever gone. 

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 29, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Where will you and your media business be in five years?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Where will you and your media business be in five years?

    For the record I'm on many blogs, threads and various news chains. One of them a few days ago asked a typical but still important question. Where will ebooks be in five years?  That, of course, started me pondering several things about the magazine media business. Where were we five years ago and where are we now? And is that perspective an accurate forecaster for the next five years or ten for that matter? 

    In five years - Ok, shoot me if it is ten - most successful publishing businesses and technologies will morph almost beyond recognition from our traditional heritages with the exception of the one technology that won't be changing any time soon, and that is that words have to be read on one substrate or another. 

    Let me start with this: in five years, or yes perhaps ten, the media universe will have continued its trajectory away from organic substrates. I ask all the other pundits claiming an affection for print: what will stop the current trends?  Nothing really. But I agree with these same pundits that print will always have a special place for some of those who are willing to pay for it. Those printed products that do remain in five or ten years, will be very profitable. Those special interest niche magazines and digitally printed focused publications will have great longevity. As I have said many times, the print survivors will be considered as a luxury item and not an inexpensive commodity product.  CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Is this the End of an Era for the Magazine Industry?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Is this the End of an Era for the Magazine Industry?

    BoSacks Speaks Out:  I know the author of What does the departure of four top editors say about the future of magazines, Cable Neuhaus. The two of us had dinner a few years ago in New York City, where we exchanged ideas. He is smart, experienced and has great perspective, much of it from longevity on the publishing playing field. He writes a great heartfelt missive here about the magazine business. He says: 

    "In short, magazines have been my love and my livelihood nearly all my adult life. It affords me zero pleasure to observe their slow, steady decline. I cherish them, but I cannot look you in the eye and pretend that those of us who make and joyously consume magazines are not an abysmally small club these days." 

    My friend Cable and too many others mistake a change in dominance for death. Loss of dominance is not equivalent to death-it just feels that way.  I believe that there are ever-present super opportunities here today and an on-going era of great publishing expansion.  That would be the expansion of the media world, delivered by multiple methods to various devices, only one of which is paper. Here is where the disconnect comes from. In the old days - and what guys like Cable and I remember - the traditional publisher owned and controlled his own medium. Whether it was printed paper or on the airwaves, the traditional revenue stream was paid for by the advertiser. The advertiser needed that rare and hard to achieve platform of a large readership that traditional publishers provided.   This relationship, which used to pay for everything, has been totally and brutally disrupted. It will, of course, never return to the way it was. Fine, it's about time we got over it. 

    The truth is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of publishers doing great these days. Admittedly not all, but Darwin allows for this in his publishing handbook. Those that adapt to the business conditions at hand have a great chance of survival, while those who can't adapt retire from the jungle. (Click here for the full article)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: High-end digital publishers discover a new platform: print

    BoSacks Speaks Out: High-end digital publishers discover a new platform: print

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "There are no facts, only interpretations."  That comes mighty close to our understanding of the magazine industry today, at least when it comes to the various reports we constantly read on the subject. How many headlines have you seen that report that "Print is dead" or "Print is alive" or "Print is vibrant" and back to "Print is obsolete"? These types of headlines appear relentlessly every day. It's enough to make a grown man cry, and indeed some do.

    So, what does it mean? Can both concepts, death and vibrancy be correct?  The obvious answer is yes. It's all a matter of perspective. Falling back on another famous yet underappreciated quote from the prophet George Carlin, "Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be."  

    And there you have it. The expectations and the glass that hold the print industry need to be adjusted to a smaller container to fit the current conditions we work in. Based on all relevant data that glass needs to be at least half the size it was ten years ago, as we print, mail and engage in half the advertising we once owned and cherished.  I offer this perspective because the only way to keep your sanity is to question the things that we have long taken for granted. (Click here for the full article)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: This Walmart rapid delivery story at first glance has nothing to do with the publishing industry, but I will

    BoSacks Speaks Out: This Walmart rapid delivery story at first glance has nothing to do with the publishing industry, but I will

    Speed of delivery is becoming one of the paramount barometers to business success. How is your speed of delivery? How long does it take you to fulfill a subscription? Is it 6 or 8 weeks? Just writing that business cycle-time frame in the 21st century is embarrassing.

    Every year, as an industry, not only do newsstand sales drop but so do subscriptions. In this age of Amazon and Walmart and the legendarily accepted two-day delivery cycle nothing says antique when making a sale like, "I'll get it to you in month or maybe two."  There was once a time that this was an acceptable business practice. It was a time of the Sears Catalog and the horse and buggy. It was a simple time when no knew how to, nor needed to, accelerate a business proposition.

    Why do we print publishers continue such an aged process? In some cases, it is a tool for rate base adjustment. For others it is the cheapest - no, I mean the most cost-effective - path of delivery. There are several titles that I know of that ship their subscriptions instantly upon receipt. In my discussions with them they are successful with this approach, they deem it a worthwhile investment and their readers are respectful of the speedy delivery. (Click here for the Full article)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted November 20, 2017
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On Charlottesville, Nazis, Trump, Hate and Love

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On Charlottesville, Nazis, Trump, Hate and Love

    It's not what we do in times of peace and tranquility that defines us, it is what we do in times of crisis that makes history and explains us to ourselves and our posterity.

    I usually try to avoid politics in these pages, which some have told me they find odd and out of character for an old outspoken hippy who was a twice elected politician and former publisher of several underground/over-ground political publications. 

    As most of you know I live in Charlottesville, Va. I am an immigrant coming south to live a little over five years ago from upstate New York. I have lived in many places both urban and rural. Charlottesville suits Carol and me, and we love living here.  It is a thoughtful, lovely community rich in multiculturalism, arts, music, history and natural beauty.  I enjoy living here more than anywhere else I have lived. 

    Yesterday that peace was temporally blown-up. We were invaded by self-proclaimed Nazis. They came here to disrupt a peaceful community and do as much harm as they could. They came with hate, helmets, shields and weapons. They came to "kill" our unity and ended up killing one of our citizens and grievously wounding dozens of others. 

    They succeeded in their mission far beyond their expectations. How so? They were endorsed by the President of the United States as co-equals. The Nazis were grossly and intentionally conflated with the peaceful defenders of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all by an ignoramus. I could go into writing pages of my outrage for the infant-king we are now saddled with. I could dissect his every infantile move of the last two years leading up to the recent, but sadly not the last, disgrace.  But I won't. 

    I write this rant to try to reconcile and understand my own feelings and share my disgust. It didn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way. Hate is obviously historic. Was there ever a time when it wasn't present somewhere, in some place or another? It is a sad reminder that with all the progress humanity has made in the last millennium we still have pockets of venom. (For the Complete Article Click Here)

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted August 13, 2017
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  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out: An Honest Look at the Industry, Time Inc, High Times, & More

    BoSacks Readers Speak Out: An Honest Look at the Industry, Time Inc, High Times, & More

    Re: An Honest Look at State of the Magazine Industry - Summer 2017

    Many thanks for sending David Pilcher's interesting article, "An Honest Look at [the] State of the Magazine Industry."  If nothing else, the article demonstrates how difficult it is to get definitive information on the number of titles launched, folded, or running in a given year. Different sources provide different numbers, and the differences can be pretty big. For example, Mediafinder (one of the sources of data in the article) believes there are more than twice as many magazines published in the U.S. as Statista (another source). Quite a margin of error!  But more to the point, a really "honest" article about the state of the magazine industry would discuss the number of magazine pages being printed in a given year, to reflect trends in both ad volume and circulation.  Considering that Pilcher is writing for a printer's blog, the quantity of pages printed would seem like a much more pertinent metric than the number of titles published. Of course, the definition of "magazine" is at the heart of all of this anyway. And in any case, the state of the magazine industry can't be genuinely relevant to more than a handful of people.  The trends in our individual businesses matter a lot.  The trends in other markets or in other media?  Not so much.  CLICK HERE FOR THE  FULL ARTICLE

    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted August 08, 2017
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