BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Rate Base, NS Distributors, Mag Circ and more

By Bob Sacks on February 22, 2014

Re: Hearst Is Staking Its Future on an Editor Turned CEO After a record $10 billion year

Bo - I'm in awe of Hearst for their openness and resulting success! Time Inc could learn a lot from their model, though I sadly doubt it. The only thing Time Inc has in common with Hearst are the talented people that left Time to go to Hearst...

(Submitted by a Former Time Inc Employee)  



Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: PULP FICTION? The Candid Conversation about Rate Base

Bob:  I have worried for years that if everyone got a handle on their rate base and printed magazines closer to the actual sell through, that us "paper guys" would be out of business even faster than we are seeing.  I hope, from my side of the fence, that they continue to do the stupid things they have been doing. 

(Submitted by a paper salesperson)


Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: PULP FICTION? The Candid Conversation about Rate Base

Bob, nobody else in the industry could have written that article. Bravo to you for saying out loud what everybody else whispers. We need a better system of accountability without the inherent fraud. Numbers do matter, and we need them, but not the numbers worked out from a time of plenty and no competition. The earth and publishing is no longer flat. We need better systems.

(Submitted by a Print advertising sales person)


Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: PULP FICTION? The Candid Conversation about Rate Base

Your article on the subject of "rate base" was fascinating.  Bryan Welch's comments were especially insightful.


I'd be interested to learn how marketing directors and agency account executives view the concept of rate bases.  They're the people who need to know what the rates are based on, and it seems perfectly reasonable for publishers to offer a coherent answer.  Marketers know exactly what they're getting when they buy ads online.  Why shouldn't they know what they're getting when they buy print?


On the subject of reader revenue vs. ad revenue: there are thousands of American magazines, each with unique challenges and a unique strategy.  Very few people have access to the financial data that allows them to offer an informed opinion on the management of more than a few. For example, Dr. Husni never mentions what actual experience his opinion is based on when he strikes up his refrain about "customers who count."  It sort of sounds like he's lecturing the publisher of "Look."


And the poor $5.00 subscription!  What did it do to deserve such a beating?  Any respectable circulation director could demonstrate how a $5.00 subscription can be profitable.  But no, we've got to keep flogging the thing without mercy.


I have to note that lots of successful magazines support their editors with ad revenue.  It's a perfectly viable business model. Lots of successful periodicals prosper with no reader revenue at all... but very few prosper without ad revenue. 

(Submitted by a Publisher and an official Bosacks Cub Reporter)


Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: PULP FICTION? The Candid Conversation about Rate Base

Bo, I agree completely with your comments and the consensus of industry leaders on rate bases.  I think the reason there is so much resistance to moving away from them is that most senior magazine publishing executives with decision making power have grown up with circulation guarantees, rate bases and advertising driven business models.  Change is tough, especially when there is risk associated with it.


Maybe publishers can find a way to group together (without collusion) to gradually move to a different business model with less risk.  I'm sure that most consumer marketers would be very comfortable and could improve their bottom lines if relieved of the rate base restriction.

(Submitted by an Industry Consultant)


Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: PULP FICTION? The Candid Conversation about Rate Base

By the way, your post on rate base was both gutsy and excellent journalism. Congratulations.

I hope the publishing industry wakes up to the devastation caused by rate base. We are selling subscriptions for practically nothing, destroying the single copy industry, and devaluing our entire editorial product.


If I were an advertiser who wanted an engaged audience, I'd refuse to look at rate base. In fact, I'd probably ask for paid renewals (direct to publisher).


Thankfully, our publications carry no advertising. So I don't have to fight rate base problems with advertisers. But it is still creating havoc with the value of a magazine (paid circulation) in the eyes of consumers.  Let's put an end to rate base.

(Submitted by a Publisher)



RE: Magazine Distributor Blindsides Publisher's & Just Shuts Down

"We're still very much in business." Except that we have no employees, do no work, don't pay our bills, and leave all of our business partners stranded without so much as a word.

(Submitted by a Writer)


Re: Mag Circulation Fell in Second Half of 2013 //Celeb Weeklies, Fashion Mags Struggle

These things are all interrelated.  Not much demand at the supermarket checkout for magazines about movie stars and celebrities when you are trying to buy milk and put food on your table, before your unemployment benefits run out.  Thank you, United States Congress

(Submitted by a Dir of Production)


Re: Mag Circulation Fell in Second Half of 2013 //Celeb Weeklies, Fashion Mags Struggle

Bo a trend is a trend and that is just an academic view point,but an avalanche isn't academic it's deadly. The losses to the newsstand is deadly to the on-going nature of our business. Distributors close, sales plummeting, and Google makes billions. I am afraid we don't have the industry foresight to truly understand what is happening as it is happening. We are in bigger trouble than anyone realizes.

(Submitted by a Multi-title publisher)


Re: Time Inc:

Saw your post regarding Norm Pearlstein.  Last time I saw him interviewed at the AMC I thought him to be tired and yesterday's news.  Bringing him back with a $1.4M signing bonus shows that Time Inc. is following its same tired play book.  Wall Street aside, why does this individual deserve this sort of reward for the potential value he will create in the future?  Going public is one thing.  Sustaining a growth/earnings strategy is something completely different.  Just look at Fairway Holdings.

(Submitted by a Retired Publishing Executive)


 The Digital Advertising Industry Must Stop Having Unprotected Sex

When I was selling ad space for Fortune, I never believed any of the "big 3" had the kind of circulation numbers they claimed. And Time magazine having 4 million subscribers? Please.


As the whole thing started to implode in the 1990s, cpms declined and circulations continued to climb. Because they had to.


When I started my own magazine, I was told it would cost $30,000 just to have a conversation with the newsstand mobsters about airport distribution. The way they accounted for sales was Byzantine and impossible to verify - perfect ground to find someone to "adjust" the numbers in return for a little "consideration".


Today, it's the same old fraud in new wrappers. One of my competitors has a very high global Alexa rank, but their highest web audience is in India. I'm sure there are a few people in their target ethnic demographic in India, but hundreds of thousands of them? More like a bunch of people in Bangalore being paid to web surf.

(Submitted by a Publisher)



Re: Meredith & Time, Inc: A Match Made in Heaven / / Still Mad as Hell 

Bob, thanks for including the Maureen Dowd column from last Sunday.  As usual, she nailed it.  Regarding Meredith buying the old Time Inc. titles, I don't think it will happen.  Meredith management is way too smart to do that, and they realize there is little value remaining in the aging and tired stable of magazines which used to be a proud publishing business.  Great shot of you as Time MOY.

(Submitted by a Dir of MFG and DST)


Re: More Bad News for Mailing Industry: Senate Committee Advances Postal Reform Act 

USPS is on its last legs.  I mailed an important first class letter from Stafford, Texas to Rhode Island on January 30, and deposited it at the local Texas post office to make sure it got into the system.  It arrived at the destination on Monday, February 10, which is eleven days in transit.  THAT'S FIRST CLASS MAIL!!  Happily, I checked with the recipient to verify receipt, and was able to scan and email a copy of the document to get it in under the February 4th deadline.  For the rest of this month, I will convert ALL remaining first class bills (there are still a few) to email/internet processing.  That will leave only unwanted junk mail and an ever increasing pile of advertising circulars from the local supermarkets waiting to be fed into the shredder (because they have my address on them.)  Can congress do at least something good, and put the USPS under for onc

By Bob Sacks| February 22, 2014

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Bob Sacks

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