BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

By BoSacks on December 30, 2020
January 3rd 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: Welcome to 2020, a new decade and, in Star Wars terms, a new hope. About this time of year there are always a plethora of articles that forecast and focus on the near and far future of our media businesses. When that happens I find myself looking back, not for nostalgic purposes but for a foothold of perspective. I find it is often best to understand where you came from to have a good sense of direction as to where you need to be and how to get there. Good questions are how did I get here and where do I adjust my plans to move forward? What is working and what is not? In my last holiday message of 2019, I offered a "Be Here Now" approach appropriate for both business and personal objectives…
 
January 13th 2020
BoSacks Speaks OutFriedrich 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.
 
Too often some industry prognosticators confuse what is happening to "the big guys" to be representative of the entire publishing industry. It is not. There is a complete disconnect between mid and modest titles and the Hearst's, Conde's, and New York Times of this world. What Conde does is irrelevant to any other publishing house large or small. It is a fiefdom with its own set of rules, agendas, and methodologies. Whatever game plan Hearst or any other large publishing house has is nothing like yours or your competitors. It is a brave new world out there, and it is adapt or die time…
 
January 16th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: LSC announced the closing of its manufacturing facilities in Strasburg, Va.; Glasgow, Ky.; and Mattoon, Ill. The closing of the three printing plants is expected to be completed by July 2020.
 
These plants were legendary magazine plants, each with its own personality and style. I had the privilege through my career at various points to have hustled many a magazine through each facility. I have fond memories of the employees and various management teams. Spending time in those printing plants and learning from talented employees was the bedrock of my career as a director of manufacturing. I have always been thankful for the experiences…
 
January 27TH 2020
 
Special people and special companies deserve a shout out of thanks and gratitude from time to time. In this case, I want to bring to your attention the tireless work of John Mennell of MagazineLiteracy.org and Joel Quadracci of Quad Graphics. In my book they are unsung heroes performing necessary acts of kindness valiantly even though behind the scenes.
 
MagazineLiteracy.org supplies recycled printed products, new magazines, and comics to literacy programs around the country. From their web site comes the following statement: “Why are magazines and comics so special for literacy, you might ask? Promoting literacy establishes a lifelong reading habit. Studies show that holding reading materials in your hands increases learning. Magazines and comic books become familiar and not intimidating. They educate and inspire. Magazines and comic books in hands and homes foster ownership and build self-esteem.”…
 
John went on to say, “With these and other Quad supported efforts, we’ve moved over a million magazines." John pointed out that "Joel and his team have been so generous, and never flinching, allowing us to have an enormous impact and showing us what’s possible as we reach for meeting our full promise.”
 
Well, doesn’t that story make you feel good? My thanks to Joel and John for doing this meaningful and impactful philanthropy and for promoting genuine kindness on such a profound human scale. Magazines can help those in need, and perhaps literacy can help to end poverty.
Click here to contact Magazine Literacy
Recycle your magazines and comic books for literacy. 

 

March 18th 2020

I’m not sure where to begin. As a man in his 60s with asthma, I sit here safely in self-imposed isolation in the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, frustrated and worried about my family and friends, and like everyone else hoping for effective leadership for all of us from our governments both large and small.
 
I can only briefly try to express my sorrow for those lives already lost and for those yet to come in unknown numbers. The loss of life I expect will be so staggering, so overwhelming, so incomprehensible, as to be at first numbing and then painfully dwarfing anything in the experience of all our lives except for military wars. I hope I’m wrong, but I think not…
 
 
March 23rd 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: What publishers can learn from The Independent’s growth story I'm having a personal déjà vu publishing moment. It's not that the situation is the same; It isn't, not even close. But the effect for me and this newsletter is strikingly similar. The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on Sept. 29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intraday trading, and the publishing industry took it on the chin. Although the industry has made tremendous positive progress, the print world is decidedly less than it was before 2008. The resulting publishing effect for me was the sending out of negative but necessary industry news for an extended period of time. It had to be done then, and I believe it has to be done now. With the new and more powerful globe-changing event, the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe we need to stay as informed as possible about all perspectives. That is what I always try to do – Keep you informed…
 
April 20th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: Reports from the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: My friend and circulation consultant Joe Berger had a great idea a few weeks ago of getting together a team of publishing professionals to have weekly zoom conversations about what is happening to our industry from a ground floor perspective. We have had publishers, professors, consultants, and this week a printer. We didn’t know how our meetings would evolve, but we deemed them a good idea with benefits for all. So far we have had two reports of our conversations captured by Linda Ruth, who is a circulation consultant, and distributed to you in this newsletter.
 
At a time when most American businesses are struggling to survive during this challenging time, we need to stay alert and flexible with the still-evolving changing economic conditions. Hotels are empty, retail outlets are closed, and restaurants, bars, and eateries are struggling to exist with carryout or delivery orders…

 

April 29th 2020
In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas at the same time. In 1936 F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
 
I'm not saying I have a first-rate intelligence, but I do have two thoughts that are rolling around in my head. They are that the publishing industry isn't in peril, but many of its employees may be…
 
July 13th 2020
Last Friday, David Leonhardt wrote an article in the New York Times titled “It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?” It was subtitled, “The pandemic could shape the world, much as World War II and the Great Depression did.” It ran somewhat parallel with my essay last week that the pandemic has placed us in a time machine. We either accelerate to match the speed of change, or we get run over by it and replaced by something else…
 
July 15th 2020
 
There was a time when I was a monthly columnist for Publishing Executive Magazine. Each year my editor asked me to do a tips and tricks article offering suggestions for a healthy and successful publishing career.
 
One of the core elements I always suggested was that knowledge is power, and industry knowledge is employment power. If you can speak knowledgeably of the entire media process, you are a more desirable candidate for the job you have or, perhaps even more importantly, the job you want to have. Understanding what the other departments do is of vital importance. Inter-departmental communication and knowledge facilitate the teamwork of successful and efficient organizations.
 
I bring this up today, realizing that networking may be hard or near to impossible for an extended period of time due to COVID 19 and the increasing use of zoom meetings. If forecasters are correct, those industries that can now work mostly from home will continue to work from home. That puts a strain on making new industry friends and makes it harder to share industrial knowledge.
                     
Additionally, in-person meetings and in-person conferences may, in large part, be a thing of the past. If that is so, it strikes a dagger in the ability to network. The loss of networking is a loss to both the industry and our careers…

 

July 22nd, 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: In many ways the readership and the topics of interest covered in this newsletter have tracked the profound changes in the magazine industry very closely. In the early days of this newsletter, subscribers had several specific areas of publishing interest they could subscribe to. One of the popular subscription options was all about paper. In the late 1990s, there were over 2,500 people who were solely interested in the paper industry and subscribed to that list.
 
Do you know that in the old days of the 1980s and perhaps the 1990s FolioMagazine had a monthly column about the paper side of our business? Did you know that the MPA would hold a special session at every annual meeting to talk about paper in the large open session?
 
Now we are in 2020, and we sell near 50% fewer magazines than we used to produce a decade or so ago. The obvious consequence is that we buy less paper.
 
The article Verso shutdown would have devastating impact on forestry trucking, construction industries demonstrates clearly the ripple effect of our selling fewer magazines on the related supply chain vendors. 
 
July 29th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: Sometimes I have to put the bourbon aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry. I do this because I love the magazine media industry, and I don't want anyone to misinterpret the facts and actual conditions of our industry. 
 
In turbulent times, turbulent things happen. What I have to report tonight is a reflection of the turmoil of the times we live in. I was asked by those in the know not to say what I am about to tell you, and I would have kept that promise, but we live in an instant messaging age.
 
A person I do not know tweeted today that Folio: Magazine is no more. Because of that tweet, I feel I am relieved of the responsibility of keeping my silence…

 

August 4th, 2020
 
BoSacks Speaks Out: There is a brief comment in the article How to shift towards a paywall that I sent out last night. It is an oft repeated expression throughout the industry that “We have to face it: people hate ads.” I beg to differ on that point. What people hate are bad ads and bad advertising campaigns. People hate intrusive ads that follow you everywhere tracking advertising…
 
Perhaps it is counting on an algorithm for success rather than creativity that is at the heart of advertising’s problems today. Could it be that corporate consumer surveillance has replaced innovation and imagination? I think so…
 
August 12th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: Most of us naturally track our industry and know the score of what the plague and the media tech platforms (FANG) are doing to us. It is a toxic combination not only for our health but also for our careers and our business wellbeing.
 
I follow our industry very closely and read of layoffs and closures almost every day. We all read about them and absorb the data as shots from a sniper one information bullet at a time. The article Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs brings it into focus as a shotgun blast of intelligence right to the heart of our media industry. The entire global media workforce is shrinking. The plague and the media stress are a wide-spread phenomenon.
 
We are all hoping for a relatively fast vaccine and an equally speedy economic recovery. When that happens, media will get back on track and rehire, reinvent and reestablish itself, but perhaps not as it was. We have all learned to do more with less. That is one of the new permanent conditions we will live with long after the new normal solidifies. Some of us might never work from an office again. Being self-employed I haven't worked from an office since 1996. This will be a change in lifestyles for many media professionals.

August 28th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis
I have been a digital futurist for the publishing industry since the early 1990s and probably before that, depending on when you start counting my industry predictions. I still believe in the future of digital as THE most efficient and effective communication tool yet known to man. But my prognostications have always been tempered with pragmatism, as I am what I call a pragmatic optimist.
 
The web and all that it contains, the good and very bad, will be with us as far as one can see into the future. But while reading the article How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis I was thinking, "How did it come to this?" Which is what King Theoden asked in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. Now I ask the same question – How did it come to this? How can the advertising business lose $42 billion dollars in ad fraud while at the same time fraud-free, safe and proven magazines continue to lose ad dollars every quarter? How can there be so much excess revenue that an industry can lose $42 billion and do very little about it?
 
September 9th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines
 
Five years from now, we won't be worried about the effectiveness of Zoom calls because it will be an antique process. I'm not saying the next few years will be easy; They won't be. Hell, the next year alone promises to be a COVID backbreaker for many. What I am saying is that in five years, our jobs and methodologies will have morphed into something new. It has always been that way, only now it happens faster than ever… 

September 28th 2020 
BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic
 
…To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
 
With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
 
As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
 
To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you.
 
November 6th 2020
BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
 
There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion: that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.
The author states:
 
“You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”
 
We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways…
 
December 21, 2020
I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting…
 
We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous…
 
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
 
BoSacks
-30-


December 30, 2020

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