Bosacks Speaks Out
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Bosacks Speaks Out

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: IAB, Ad agencies and the Ad intrusion into our children’s lives

    BoSacks Speaks Out: First off let me state the obvious and get that out of the way – Apple is a for profit business. They are not philanthropists, and all actions are for their bottom line. All else comes second.

     

    That being said, Apple does seem to have a strong commitment to user privacy. Again, for their own mischievous good, but at least on the surface it does appear to be for helping to protect the consumer. They have implemented a number of features and technologies in their products to help protect user data and keep it private. For example, Apple uses end-to-end encryption for iMessage and FaceTime, which means that only the sender and recipient can see the messages and calls.

     

    Additionally, they have a "Sign in with Apple" feature that allows users to sign into apps and websites without sharing personal information. To me that is fantastic, but it does mean that Apple knows about everything I do, keeping me and my habits in their walled garden.  

     

    They have also kicked Facebook’s butt in the process of user privacy. I’m guessing that was no accident, but rather a premeditated digital mugging. Bravo! It couldn’t happen to a more deceptive and gross company.

    Overall Apple's privacy initiatives are, in theory, designed to give users more control over their data and to make it harder for third parties to access it without permission.

     

    Rest assured that advertising agencies have strong opinions on privacy. They don’t like it and have forgotten what a truly great advertising campaign is. Let’s face facts, digital advertising is intense, deep corporate, personal surveillance of us as humans, and it starts with our children.

     

    It is difficult to determine a specific number of data points that advertisers have on our children, as it can vary depending on the specific child and the types of data being collected. However, it is known that advertisers can collect a wide range of information on children including their browsing history, search queries, location data, and demographic information.

     

    Additionally, many children use apps and social media platforms that collect data on their usage habits and preferences. This data can be used to target advertising to children and to create profiles of their interests and behavior. There is no moral barometer when it comes to intrusive personal data collection.  

     

    This intrusion into our children’s lives should not be tolerated. The advertisers don’t care so long as it helps in their treasure hunt for revenue.  

    The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is an industry trade group that represents the digital advertising industry. They are in my opinion a non-functioning joke of an industry association. They say that they have developed guidelines for the collection and use of data for online advertising, which include principles for data privacy and transparency. In general, they say that the IAB advocates for responsible and transparent data collection and use, and for giving consumers control over their data. Except that they have fought tooth and nail to prevent honest digital safeguards. They go out of their way to protect the rights of the digital burglars invading our homes, our children’s and our inner thoughts.

     

    According to IAB, data collection and tracking should be transparent, and consumers should be informed about the data being collected and how it will be used. IAB also recommends that consumers should be able to control what data is collected and how it is used through mechanisms such as opt-in and opt-out choices. Well, here is a clear case of the distance between stated perception and the harsh reality of uncontrolled personal intrusion.

     

    Bob Hoffman wrote in May of 2021, “Ending tracking, ending surveillance, ending spying on the public is not a panacea for all the problems of the digital world. But it is a great place to start. We need to get rid of tracking – not advertising – to help make the web what it ought to be.”

     

     

    It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.

    Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011), Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple

     

    BoSacks
    Posted January 25, 2023
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The Dark side of AI for the Magazine Industry?

    I make no bones about it. I am a happy graduate of Star Fleet’s Academy for Futurists having watched every Star Trek show in all its iterations, many multiple times. I have seen the future.
     
    Is there anything that Star Trek prophesied that hasn’t come to pass? Communicators (Cell Phones), talking computers that answer questions, (https://chat.openai.com/chat with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZehhrrQGmt4)
    Phasers (Lasers) that have military implications. There are also discussions in scientific circles that warp drive is an actual thing and not might happen but will happen.
     
    Being a self-appointed futurist for the magazine industry, it has been easy for a graduate of Star Fleet’s Academy for Futurists to appraise new technologies. In each stage of my career, I was ahead of the curve when it came to using to good effect new technologies. I was one of the first to move from hot lead (Gutenberg) to computerized typesetting.
     
    I was an early adapter to using PDFs for plate making. I was a big and early proponent of Computer-To-Plate when many of my peers felt film still had a bright future and was a better vehicle than computers. You should have heard the passionate discussions in the Publisher’s Production Forum in NYC in the 1990s about the technological upheaval in the magazine business. I miss those discussions.

    I’m not bragging here, or I don’t mean to. I was one of the first in the industry in the late 1980s to early 1990s to demonstrate with this newsletter what one man can do to get a global readership. I was intentionally revealing the future of digital information distribution, which the senior management just didn’t get, nor did I think they wanted to get it. Everything was cozy, and the magazine industry was booming. That was then, and this is now. 

    I bring all this up to explain my fascination and focus with artificial intelligence (AI) and its positive implications to the magazine publishing industry. The effect will be huge and will be an asset to everything we do.
     
    Efficient shipping, quality printing, precise supply chain management, and last but not least editorial.
     
    There are several potential positive attributes of AI for magazine publishing. Some of them are:
     
    1.    Increased Efficiency: AI-powered tools can automate repetitive tasks such as fact-checking, copyediting, and proofreading, which can save time and increase productivity for magazine publishers.
     
    2.    Personalization: AI-powered recommendation systems can be used to personalize content for individual readers, which can increase engagement and retention. This could also lead to more targeted advertising and more effective monetization strategies.
     
    3.    Data Analysis: AI can help publishers analyze large amounts of data and gain insights into readership trends and preferences, which can be used to inform content creation and distribution strategies.

     

    4.    Automated Content Generation: AI-powered tools can be used to generate new content, such as news articles, summaries, and summaries of long-form content, which can help publishers keep up with the fast-paced nature of the digital news cycle.

    5.    Predictive Analytics: AI-powered predictive analytics can be used to forecast future readership and revenue trends, which can help publishers make strategic decisions about content creation, distribution, and monetization.
     
    6.    Cost savings: The use of AI can help reduce costs by automating repetitive tasks and helping improve efficiency, which can help publishers save on costs of hiring human resources.
     
    7.    Improved User Experience: AI-powered chatbots can be used to interact with readers and help them find the information they need, which can improve the overall user experience and increase engagement with the magazine's content.
     
    The implications are wide but not without drama, angst, and potential abuse.
     
    As a devoted optimist I need to point out that there are several potential negative impacts that AI could have on the publishing industry.
     
    One is that AI-generated content could replace human writers and editors, leading to job losses and a decrease in the diversity of voices in the industry.
     
    Another is that AI-powered tools could be used to automate the editing and proofreading process, which could lead to a decrease in the quality of content, as AI-powered tools may not be able to detect and correct errors in the same way that human editors can. Additionally, AI-powered recommendation systems could lead to a homogenization of content, as algorithms may prioritize popular, profitable content over more niche or experimental content. Finally, the use of AI in the publishing industry could also lead to issues around plagiarism and copyright infringement.

     

    Is using AI-generated text a copyright infringement of some sort?

    For example, AI-generated content that closely mimics existing works could be flagged as plagiarism. And AI-generated content that uses copyrighted material without permission could be considered copyright infringement. These issues could lead to legal challenges and financial losses for publishers, authors, and other stakeholders in the industry.
     
    Additionally, AI-powered tools may not be able to provide the same level of feedback and guidance as human editors, which could negatively impact the development of new writers. Not to mention the entry-level jobs we expect to be replaced by AI. Who will mentor the next generation of publishing professionals if their entry-level jobs are eliminated? AI could also limit the diversity of voices and perspectives in the publishing industry and could also make it more difficult for new and emerging authors to gain visibility and readership.
     
    There is a lot of good that could come from AI, but there are also the negative aspects. What Is your opinion? Which outweighs the other?
     
    Mark the words of a graduate of Star Fleet’s Academy for Futurists, this all bigger than you think and will definitely affect your career one way or another for a very long time.

     

     

    BoSacks
    Posted January 21, 2023
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: What is the future of the magazine business?

    As we head into the new year, I took a brief trip into the future experimenting with two free AI programs that I have been tracking and reporting on for several months now. These two programs will have an immense effect on the publishing industry in the near future. Many newspapers are already using these programs to write articles without human intervention.
     
    The first is a long-form question-and-answering AI Bot called ChatGPT. It answers complex questions in a conversational format. The second program I experimented with was DALL·E, a deep-learning model that generates images from text instructions which they call prompts.
     
    My first question to ChatGPT was the following question:
     
    What is the future of the magazine business? Remember the answer here is an AI computer generated response.
     
    The magazine business has undergone significant changes in recent years due to the proliferation of digital media and the increasing popularity of online content. Many traditional print magazines have struggled to adapt to the shift towards digital, and some have gone out of business as a result.
     
    However, there are still many magazines that have managed to thrive and continue to publish in print as well as online. These magazines have found ways to adapt to the changing media landscape by offering a mix of print and digital content, using social media and other online platforms to reach new audiences, and experimenting with new business models such as subscription-based models or sponsored content.
     
    Overall, the future of the magazine business is likely to involve a combination of print and digital formats, as well as a continued focus on finding new and innovative ways to reach and engage readers. It is also likely that the industry will continue to face challenges as it adjusts to the rapidly changing media landscape, but those magazines that are able to adapt and innovate will have the best chance of success.
     
    My next question was - What is the future for magazine printers?
    The future of magazine printers will likely involve a mix of traditional printing methods and digital technologies. Many magazine publishers are already using digital printing technologies to produce shorter runs of magazines or to print personalized copies for individual subscribers.
     
    In addition, the increasing popularity of digital content and the rise of tablets and e-readers are likely to lead to a shift toward more digital formats for magazines. However, it is also possible that traditional printing methods will continue to be used for certain types of magazines, particularly those that are produced in larger quantities or that require high-quality printing for photographs and other graphics. Ultimately, the future of magazine printers will depend on a variety of factors, including changes in consumer preferences, advances in printing technologies, and the economic viability of different printing methods.
     
     Of course, I had to ask the AI - What is the future of the paper industry?
     
    The future of the paper industry depends on a number of factors, including technological advances, market demand, and environmental considerations.
     
    One factor that is likely to impact the paper industry is the increasing use of digital technology. Many people are turning to electronic devices and platforms for reading, communication, and other activities that have traditionally been done on paper. As a result, demand for paper products such as books, newspapers, and office paper may decline.
     
    On the other hand, demand for certain types of paper products, such as packaging materials, may continue to grow as online shopping and home delivery become more prevalent. In addition, the use of sustainable and recycled paper is expected to increase, as there is increasing awareness of the environmental impact of paper production and consumption.
     
    Overall, it is difficult to predict the exact future of the paper industry, but it is likely that it will continue to evolve and adapt to changing market conditions and technological advances.
     
    Lastly I asked - What should magazine publishers worry about?
    Magazine publishers have a number of challenges to navigate in today's media landscape. Some of the key issues that they may need to worry about include:
     
    1.    Competition from digital media: The rise of digital media has led to increased competition for readers and advertising dollars. Magazine publishers need to find ways to differentiate themselves and provide value to readers in a crowded and competitive market.
     
    2.    Declining print circulation: Many magazines have seen a decline in print circulation in recent years, as more people turn to digital media for their information and entertainment. This can make it difficult for publishers to monetize their content and sustain their businesses.
     
    3.    Advertiser consolidation: The advertising industry is also undergoing significant changes, with a trend towards consolidation among advertisers. This can make it harder for magazine publishers to secure advertising dollars, as they may have fewer potential partners to work with.
     
    4.    Changing consumer habits: Consumers are increasingly using digital media to access information and entertainment, and this shift in habits can make it harder for magazines to engage and retain readers. Publishers need to find ways to adapt to these changes and stay relevant to their audiences.
     
    5.    Costs of production and distribution: Producing and distributing a print magazine can be expensive, and rising costs for paper, ink, and postage can be a concern for publishers. They may need to find ways to streamline their operations and reduce costs in order to remain profitable.
     
    These answers are excellent and I would add that these programs are young and will only improve in time.
     
    The second program I toyed with was DALL·E, a deep-learning graphics model that generates computer images from text instructions.  You can judge the results.
     
    I asked for a Vermeer-style painting reading a magazine.
    The second I ask for was an Andy Warhol style painting reading a magazine.
     
    Both these programs are outstanding and can offer amazing results. I’m sure there is a non-positive side to these and other programs, but today as we near the new year I’m sticking with the wonder of it all.
     
    BoSacks
    Posted December 26, 2022
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: With the damage done to our democracy, where is the industry leadership?

    BoSacks Speaks Out: With the damage done to our democracy, where is the industry leadership?

    You might think I'm talking about world affairs, the current devastation from earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues, and the real possibility of nuclear war. Those real-time crises make what I'm about to talk about seem pale and insignificant, which in comparison, they indeed are. I would be talking about world affairs if this newsletter reached the appropriate subscriber leader list to add Bo-clarity into the conversation. But to the best of my knowledge, here at Precision Media Group's central headquarters, while we don't have leaders of countries, we do have most of the leaders of the media industry.

    Yes, it is true, we get the best of the best when it comes to corporate giants who could make a difference in the greatest threat to our industry – zero trust by our customers rising from the deep underbelly of the digital media beast.

    Something has been bothering me for quite some time. It is the tame phrase "social media." The name social media sounds benign, doesn't it? It is not. It is a calculated, intrusive, and evil business model. It is not a harmless enterprise. It is detrimental social engineering for profit, not benign social media, and it is socially destructive. If you look at it as intentional, malevolent Social Engineering, it takes on a new and more destructive persona.

    As reported by Bob Hoffman last week:
    "According to Roger McNamee, author of "Zucked" and early investor in Facebook, speaking about social media this week, "We've had extraordinary damage done to democracy, public health, public safety, and people's ability to make their own choices...Yet policymakers have done nothing, absolutely nothing."

    I don't think McNamee's point about the "extraordinary damage done to democracy, public health, public safety" is hyperbole; it may be an understatement.

    Again from Hoffman, “According to The Markup, 33 of the nation's top 100 hospitals have a Facebook ‘pixel’ (a tracking device) on their websites that sends Facebook the IP address of anyone who goes to one of these sites.”

    “According MSN, ‘the intricate web of data collected by fertility apps, tech companies and data brokers might be used (by police) to prove a violation of abortion restrictions.’”

    “The Washington Post says, ‘Google's unprecedented hoard of information puts it in an even more powerful position. It gives concrete meaning, at a much wider scale, to years of privacy concerns: Innocuous personal data it holds is now evidence. It could lead to criminal charges.’"

    “The Post goes on to say, ‘The company (Google) received nearly 150,000 requests for user data from US law enforcement in the first half of 2021...and it handed over information on users in 78% of those cases. An estimated 26 states are expected to ban or heavily restrict abortion, and prosecutors will almost certainly go to tech companies, such as Google and Facebook...to seek the evidence they need to charge people who help provide the procedure.’"

    “For years, those who couldn't see beyond their own noses couldn't understand how ‘’I have nothing to hide’ was so fucking stupid. In an environment in which marketers know everything about us and governments try to know everything about us, everyone has something to hide. We just don't know what it is.”

    But wait, there's more. We not only have to fear Social Engineering but also our media advertising industry. Why does the advertising community "trust" what is obviously a global confidence game? Well, as Willie Sutton said, "Because that's where the money is."

    Fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, paying for ads never seen, fake web sites that look real but aren't, grabbing an obvious overabundance of loot. Not to mention the theft of our very selves. Our whole lives and families' interests are bundled for sale not to the highest bidder but to any bidder.


    The online advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand much less control under the current conditions we find ourselves in. There is no competent leadership anywhere, and I'm compelled to add the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is nothing but a joke.

    Where is the industry leadership? I used to think the US government could be the answer to regulate this problem. Forget that pipe dream. Too many senators have demonstrated evident stupidity about the Internet. It's ridiculous, but the lawmakers who have the power to regulate technology have no idea how technology works.

    Do you remember when Sen. Orrin Hatch asked Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook is able to sustain a business model while running as a free service? I'm sure Zuck stifled an internal chuckle and was barely able to keep a straight face when he responded, "Senator, we run ads." "I see, that's great," Hatch replied. No, there will be no shining knight from the Capitol to save the day.

    Part and parcel with the fraud, how is it that we all ignore the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people? Not their rights, our rights.

    Facebook's lies, duplicity and personal intrusion by hidden surveillance systems all go unchecked. Do you know that Facebook tracks you through third parties whether or not you are logged into Facebook? As Bob Hoffman pointed out some time ago, "And the pièce de résistance -- Facebook's new data policy asserts that they track you even if you don't have a Facebook account."

    There is an abundance of data that shows that magazines are more trusted than any other delivery vehicle. They are rated and respected by readers for top quality and accuracy in reporting.

    Yet, in review, print which is trusted by all parties loses market share every year, while obviously fraudulent and intrusive digital advertising rises to new heights every year.

    Advertising and social engineering is the Big Brother we were all warned about. Its mission is nothing short of personal surveillance for a profit. The information on us is stored, sorted and turned against us as an algorithm. And if the algorithm is good, we will march to it.

    Now is the time when I should make some sort of demand or plea for us to band together and transform the system. Nope, that isn't going to happen. There is too much greed and too much money for this to change any time soon. How does this rectify? Is there hope in this digital morass?

    This brings me back to the real world of politics and publishing. We desperately need businessmen with a clear moral vision for the future instead of a multitude of opportunists who see nothing but financial gain through market fraud and industrial personal corperate surveillance.

    Do I think things will change anytime soon? No. But I hope so because I am and always have been an optimist. What do you think? Am I taking this too seriously or not seriously enough?
    BoSacks
    Posted October 25, 2022
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  • An Airport Sans Newspapers

    By Edson Atwood
     
    My cherished ritual just ended.
    Thank you, Hudson News—I mean Hudson! (Hudson News rebranded as Hudson a few years ago.)
     
    Its slogan: “We Are The Traveler’s Best Friend.” Well, not my best friend. My best friend would have newspapers.
     
    Whenever I travel for business or otherwise, I always pick up a local newspaper. I usually try to pick it up in town. If it’s a longer trip, it’s fun to read local news while you’re in the area you are visiting. You can refer to local stories to the people you are temporarily living among.
     
    But often I forget to pick up a paper in town. So, I buy a newspaper in the airport on the way out of town. And I can read it at home at a later time, as a unique reminder of the vacation or business trip, and to understand a different news narrative than I’m used to at home, albeit news as recent history.

     

    But flying out of Charleston recently, I went to a Hudson newsstand and was told they didn’t sell newspapers. I went to a second Hudson store and asked again. They said they stopped selling newspapers about a year ago and that there were no newspapers in the airport.

    I am devastated by this. How is there an airport without newspapers?

    A newspaper is the baseline for existence, for providing information needed to accomplish your day and be able to have an understanding of what’s going on in the wider world. I don’t know if other airports are also sans newspapers. It’ something I may research at a later date.
     
    People are getting their news now from apps, or websites, or posts. I realize that. But there is such a large, overwhelming volume of that content. It’s not organized, vetted, and taught. Newspapers have editors. Editors clean it all up. And print it on a limited number of pages.

     

    Not unlimited screen after screen, scrolling down and left and zooming in and over, and turning the phone vertically, horizontally, and back to vertically, all while advertisements keep popping into view. Yes, websites and social platforms have a different outlook that is reflected in their presentation of the news—of the Truth, ultimately. But as I understand it, and have witnessed it, editors try hard to be fair, to be truthful, to be honest, and transparent. They have a mission to transmit Truth to the world. That’s why I got interested in Publishing. That’s why I pursued my degree in Journalism—because Truth, or Beauty, or Understanding—should be curated—curated—and shared, by trusted sources.

    Some of the loss of newspapers in the Charleston airport may be attributable to the pandemic and the loss of foot traffic. And assuming many people who used to buy newspapers in the airport would just leave them at their seats or on the floor, maybe now there is a lot less mess to clean up, and less garbage to cart away. An understandable result of not selling paper.

     

    But still…
     
    Still, I want my newspaper in the airport. I like the feeling of turning pages and making progress from page to page, section to section. When reading a newspaper on a mobile phone there is no sense of progress, just an endless stream of news and advertisements and words and advertisements and pictures and…advertisements. You never really finish news on a mobile device. And all day long you feel your knowledge is incomplete. You are incomplete because there is more clicking and scrolling you could have done, and you will still do.
     
    When you reach the last page of a newspaper, however, you fold it up and know you are “finished” with the news. You now have a foundation of information to build upon. You go forward, perhaps pursue more news in selected areas, but you’ve graduated from News of the Day 101 and can go forward from there.
     
    I do recognize the benefits of reading the news on a mobile device. When sitting at a table eating a meal, it’s a lot easier and neater to scroll through your phone than to turn pages. As long as you can keep the ketchup off the phone, a phone is a great lunch or dinner reading device.

     

    But when sitting on a rocking chair in the house, or in a hotel lobby—or in an airport or on a plane—a newspaper is the perfect platform to deliver news, and to keep you gainfully occupied.

    People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath. (Marshall McLuhan quote, from The Book of Probes)
     
    I don’t think anyone would ever describe a news app like a hot bath. (It’s more like a cold shower drizzling throughout the day.)

     

    So, my trip to Charleston is over. Really over. I have no memento, no week-old newspaper sitting in my computer bag or backpack to retrieve and read through, Charleston in mind. Hudson (News) didn’t allow me that simple pleasure, to have paper in-hand to understand my environs during my trip, nor as a sweet reminiscence reading the paper when back to my normal routine at home, post trip.

    Here's an idea, at least for local newspapers. What if you took a local newspaper, and in airports and tourist gift shops, rebranded it not as today’s news in paper form, but as a postcard of a time and place you visited, that you could browse at and review at a later time? More like an elaborate news-related postcard?
     
    See what happens without a newspaper in the airport? If I were browsing my Charleston newspaper now, I would be reminiscing more about the Charleston trip. But no. There was no newspaper. And that leaves me with time on my hand to concoct retro-focused ideas to rescue the newspaper industry.
     
    Hudson—my friend—I’m available to talk.

     

     

    Posted August 08, 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.
    BoSacks
    Posted February 13, 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
     
    ................................................................
     
    I SALUTE YOU
     
    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

     

     

    BoSacks
    Posted December 23, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Reader Speaks Out: An Industry in need of Self-Reflection

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Last week Samir Husni and BoSacks entertained a group of media professionals at a virtual town Hall hosted by The Media & Content Marketing Association (MCMA).
     
    It was mostly a free-flowing conversation between two publishing mavens who have been having friendly debates with each other for ages on behalf of an interested industry. It was a great hour and it’s always fun to chat with my friend. You know the routine, Samir has a passion for printed magazines, and although I like print, I take a more digital approach to our business and our future.
     
    I opened the conversation by asking if the publishing community is ascending or descending? Ascending of course. Then I asked if print magazines were ascending or descending? I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.
     
    Among the many topics, we discussed was my observation that we as an industry who are communication experts are failed communicators when it comes to promoting our own industry. You know what I’m talking about because other industries have succeeded while we fail. “Got Milk” comes to mind or “The Other White Meat”, and a dozen more. On so many levels publishers are on their own island and don’t/won’t cooperate with each other for the betterment of the industry as a whole.
     
    After the Town Hall, my friend Leslie Laredo sent me her reactions to the discussion. With her permission, I have printed it below. 
     
    The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
    George Bernard Shaw

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    BoSacks Reader Speaks Out: An Industry in need of Self-Reflection
    By Leslie Laredo
    President, Academy of Digital Media, a Laredo Group Company
     
    I thought I’d share my thoughts from the MCMA Town Hall with Bo Sacks and Samir Husni. I hope a part 2 of this Town Hall gets scheduled as we need more discussions around the efficacy of print media.
     
    I had several visceral reactions to the comments made, so my written words may not accurately describe the intensity of my feelings. While many say I am a “digital media guru” having considerable experience and success, since founding the first company dedicated to training the buyers and sellers of digital media, I have always advanced the concept that digital is a media channel that works best when bought and sold holistically or part of an integrated or omnichannel media plan. Digital has changed and expanded how we think about creating, delivering, and measuring all media. I would also add that digital has added ways to measure the effectiveness of print, especially proving how print creates a lot of top of funnel activity.
     
    My reaction to the comments made about the industry not pulling together to save itself was poignant. The issues are embedded on all sides of the media table, including publishers, agencies, and marketers. From what I understand, the MPA’s membership got decimated because of the publisher’s meltdown from ad dollars moving from print to digital. I don’t think the MPA or the NNA (National Newspaper Association) have done enough to support print media in comparison to how the IAB, RAB, TVB, and NAB support their media. To many, magazine media equals print, which is ill-informed and materially wrong. While the MPA’s annual Magazine Handbook contains a lot of information supporting the efficacy of print+digital media, I don’t think this is getting into the right hands at agencies nor elevated to decision-makers at the brands.

     

    On the other side of the table, most agencies still bucket magazines under print. The planning teams budget in silos. The buying teams have templates that compare performance averages across all digital formats and price benchmarks, resulting in buys with high percentages of fraudulent impressions. While the desire for “integrated” media proposals is often used in RFPs, the framework for evaluating is outdated, and no framework exists to evaluate all the assets magazine media brings to the table in an integrated way.
     
    Many agencies are at fault for not training buyers and letting their younger buyers get away with “I don’t read magazines, why would I put them on a plan,” which I heard directly from a buying team, and no media supervisor challenged the statement. It is unforgivable that organizations and associations don’t support/invest in training for the skills needed to have more updated and informed decisions and so often allow or tolerate a “focus group of one” approach.
     
    The national magazines and larger newspapers have always competed with TV for scale and ubiquity. So, when readership slipped because the desired format became digital, most magazines/newspapers did a terrible job selling the value of their print PLUS digital audiences. They had self-defeating advertising programs that allowed and often even promoted digital to be used as a mere value-add to a print sale. Giving away digital minimized, distorted, and obscured digital’s value proposition, and I think it has taken over a decade to begin winning this value back. From the beginning, publishers needed to sell why their media brands exist in different formats and use different assets, including audio, video, and digital, with more diverse audiences (digital was usually younger), and how differently they consumed content. I remember telling magazine publishers they needed to learn how TV was sold if they wanted to sell digital video because TV buyers managed that budget. No one listened, and they lost more ad dollars because print sellers didn’t call on TV buyers.

     

    I think Samir misses the point about print vs. digital. The Internet changed the expectation of content delivery. The blogosphere dis-mediated the role of the publisher, as everyone with a blog became a publisher. The Internet gave people an easy way to comment on content, and publishers learned that people loved this opportunity, giving new life to “letters to the editor.”
     
    Connectivity made it really easy for pass-along, expanding reach beyond what circ departments could ever imagine. Digital gave us a whole new slew of metrics to measure if and how ads were seen and interacted with (clicks, CTRs, interaction rates, viewability, completion rates, etc.). I loved the comment that publishers should have made their editors the most important influencers for their brand, just like broadcasters do with their anchors and hosts (e.g., Anderson Cooper for CNN, Lester Holt for NBC, etc.).
     
    While I admire Samir’s collecting and archiving first issues of every magazine, owning thousands of magazines being stored in hundreds of boxes, he is a “focus group of one.” I don’t know many people who keep back issues of their magazines around to reference. His “bought and owned” perspective and his story about challenging a woman at the grocery store checkout for flipping through a magazine but not buying it made me smile…but he didn’t see me flip through a magazine and then add it to my basket. Magazines are not consumed like a cereal box…words are meant to be shared outside a home; a cereal box is not. I say this is having grown up with three newspapers delivered daily (Rockland County News, New York Times, and WSJ) and experienced my dad and grandfather keeping old issues of National Geographic (now in boxes in my brother’s house), and my mom keeping the annual Thanksgiving issues of Gourmet magazine to reference every holiday. I now have print and digital experiences with NatGeo, which I love, and I don’t have to keep old print issues around because they offer digital archives back to 1888 (I need to tell my brother so he can clean out the boxes). All their content is only available behind the paywall, and I am a loyal customer and would have paid more than their subscription price ($24/year for both digital and print).
    It seems that Samir believes “digital is the bad guy” in the print vs. digital discussion. I have many personal anecdotes of why I gave up some print titles and kept others. My son wouldn’t let me cancel SI for Kids because he loved getting the December issue with “happy birthday Josh” printed on the cover. Most of the magazines that I get in print are because it was just too damn cheap not to subscribe, and those are flipped through but not devoured like The New Yorker ($74.00 print+digital) or The Economist ($225/year print+digital). This topic of subscription deserves its own Town Hall.
     
    I love how some magazine brands, notably from Hearst and Conde Nast, have evolved to appeal to the omnichannel media consumer, expanded their video assets, and created new subscription and e-commerce platforms. Our discussions should reflect on how digital changed the rules for content, distribution, community, and measurement. Digital does not hurt magazines; it expands the capabilities and experience of ink onto other surfaces.
    BoSacks
    Posted November 10, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Trends and Successes Worth Thinking About

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing Trends and Successes Worth Thinking About

    Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” I did not know old Fredrich was a prognosticator for the publishing industry, but he was correct. We have reached a stage in the magazine media business that there is no right way; there is only your way. Of course, I am referring to publishing business models of which there are no two alike.
     
    As a publishing community we basically do two things. We gather disparate niches or groups of the public and make containers of thought for them. We make and sell boxes of content that are constructed with either material atoms or digital ether. We do this for a profit. 
     
    I want to try to examine where we are and where we are going as an industry. I’ll throw in some specifics, but it is actually the general trends and new business models I am more interested in for todays’ exercise.
     
    The top obvious move here in the redeployment of our industry is the shift towards revenue diversification, moving on and away from a traditional advertising-heavy funding model.
     
    Alfred Heintze, COO, Burda International said this spring, “We must make ourselves independent from advertising revenues. That’s the lesson we’ve been learning since the 80s and 90s. All of our business models should be based on consumer happiness.”
     
    I like that sentiment, business models based on consumer happiness. If nothing else, it is a noble idea. Profit from happiness.
     
    Magazines now have in no particular order e-commerce, paid and free podcasts, paid and free newsletters, events, wine clubs, and travel clubs in addition to ink-on-paper publications. Also special Interest publications and an emphasis on paid subscriptions, sometimes now called memberships by many titles. The New York Times, which believes it has a potential addressable market of at least 100 million people willing to pay for English-language journalism, and the Wall Street Journal come to mind, but there are many others as well.
     
    Speaking of the New York Times, did you know that they have about 50 newsletters which are read by 15 million people weekly?
     
    Vogue is changing its revenue model too. Vogue has a global collective reach of 270 million people. Historically mainly funded by advertising, Vogue is now in the midst of a global transformation, propelled by its parent company Condé Nast, that includes membership tiers and a range of highly successful e-commerce offerings.
     
    On top of revenue changes, we are also developing new skillsets with data literacy and useful real time metrics for our editorial teams. We now have ways of gathering information about our audiences, whether it’s clicks and opens, time spent, or where people came from and how they got here. And also how loyal they are. We’ve arguably never had more ways to measure things.
     
    I think it is fair to say we have been in a burn-the-ships moment for a decade or more.  This is, of course, a reference to Cortez. When he reached the shores of the Yucatan, Cortez turned to his men and said, “Burn the boats.” Cortez refused to let turning back be an option. For the sake of his mission, it would be all or nothing. Those of us who are still here successfully have burned the boats and adapted new world strategies.
     
    I guess it is fair to say that effective transformation requires a change of mindset. To adopt a modern mindset, a publisher needs people who understand the need for constant never-ending innovation.
     
    Bauer is a good example of innovation and making a bet on making print a major part of the e-commerce funnel. Bauer is betting on the advancement of image recognition technology to close that gap between print and digital. They are set to incorporate new scannable images – without the need for QR codes or watermarks. These images, once scanned, will then take readers directly to a storefront for more information and purchase options.
     
    And speaking of the innovation and data literacy mentioned above, Meredith Corporation has a new slate of premium video and podcasting programming driven by real-time insights and predictive intelligence capabilities.
     
    Meredith’s Digital Chief Content Officer Amanda Dameron said, ““Podcasting is immediate and intimate. It creates a unique space for an authentic, unguarded exchange of ideas and is perfectly suited for our brands.” Again a traditional publisher leaning into redeployment and shifting towards revenue diversification.
     
    In the past 18 months, we have reinvented everything that could be analyzed and made more efficient.
     
    We learned that readers are willing to pay for quality journalism.
     
    We learned that the traditional methodologies and business plans that were in place in January 2020 were mostly a dream based on a previous unsustainable reality.
     
    Perhaps the toughest thing we learned was pulling the plug on the existing advertising model. In a further review that plug was removed for us.
     
    I think we can conclude that with a strong brand a magazine can be anything, transforming from a print-focused concept to a broader, more media-diverse, "branded" approach to content distribution. In the new approach there are many extensions of the branded experience that lead to revenue success, and in many cases better, broader, and more stable empires than in the past.
     
    Now the world has moved on and our industry with it. We are doing exciting things with our properties.
     
    We have reengineered the event business and have started to make virtual conferences work and be profitable.
     
    We have learned that there are various new methods to drive subscriptions such as podcasts, texting and, of course, beloved newsletters, not to mention – and most importantly – damned good content worth paying for.
     
    We have created new opportunities for consumers to form new habits, enabling publishers to establish more direct consumer relationships.
     
    I expect that what we have learned, the new revenue pathways, and the new processes will profit us in the near and the long term.
     
    Looking back, we have done an excellent job adapting to the conditions presented to us. I’m most proud to belong to such a fascinating and industrious publishing community
     

    by Bob Sacks
    Posted August 22, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Thoughts, Stats and an Exploration of TikTok

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Thoughts, Stats and an Exploration of TikTok

    Here are a few stats about TikTok to ponder and to help you see if you can in some way incorporate what is happening into your business model. Will it work for everyone? No! Could it work for you? Maybe. The wild numbers to me mandate and exploration.
     
    Here are just a few items about TikTok:
     
    Monthly Active Users – TikTok has about 1 billion monthly active users.
     
    Total App Downloads – The TikTok app has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times worldwide, as reported by Sensor Tower in December, 2020.
     
    Monthly Active Users in the United States – TikTok now has over 130 million active users in the U.S
     
    The percentage of U.S.-based TikTok users by age:
    10-19 – 32.5%,
    20-29 – 29.5%,
    30-39 – 16.4%,
    40-49 – 13.9%,
    50+ – 7.1%. All data via Comscore.
     
    Average Minutes Per User – TikTok users love the app. They spend an average of 52 minutes per day in the platform
     
    Opens – A user opens the TikTok app 8 times per day.
     
    U.S. Audience –TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States. 60% are female, 40% are male. 60% are between the ages of 16-24. 26% are between the ages 25-44. 80% are between the ages 16-34. This data comes straight from TikTok.
     
    I have been exploring TikTok for about a month just trying to understand the successful phenomenon. What I see on my phone is an unusual conglomerate of very different and many times very unusual subjects, some of them entertaining and occasionally some of them just stupid and meanspirited.
     
    I see bits of interesting perhaps real history, but I don’t know its accuracy. Even though it might be fake tidbits of history, I’m still interested. I just don’t take them as the gospel. I see a lot of cooking tips and tricks, again some very cool and some just weird.
     
    There are nostalgic 15 second bursts from past movies and television shows. When there was flooding in Europe and China there were videos quicker than the newscasts. The California fires, too.
     
    And then there are the pranks, lots of pranks. Some are funny and some are not. I’ll date myself here, but many of the short funny videos remind me of the British comedian Benny Hill.
     
    Oh yes, let’s not forget the cat videos, lot of cats, and dogs and other animals, too. I saw a woman who has a 75-pound tortoise that she takes for a walk each morning. I kid you not. There are celebrities there, I guess to push their brands and their movies. There are influencers wearing and selling products from legitimate companies.
    There are influencers sometimes in skimpy outfits just to gain a large audience of followers.
     
    TikTok has recently created a $1 Billion Creator Fund. This money will be paid by TikTok directly to its creators in an effort to further solidify its relationships with influencers. TikTok influencers with 2.5 million followers or more will be given around $600-1000 per post, compared to $100-$200 for every 10,000-20,000 followers on Instagram.
     
    Which brings me to another tok trend. An article from MSN called What is BookTok: the TikTok trend sending decades-old books up bestseller lists says:
     
    TikTok has created almost every bizarre trend imaginable. The platform is credited with popularizing everything from reciting sea shanties to cottagecore, and who can forget chanting along to a musical version of the Pixar film Ratatouille.”
     
    “Now, another trend has emerged but this time with an educational twist. Introducing: BookTok. Novels - old and new - have been going viral thanks to a new wave of book-loving influencers discussing their young adult literary picks.”
     
    “TikTok doesn’t seem like an obvious destination for book buzz but that hasn’t stopped it from booming. The #BookTok hashtag has racked up over 5.8 billion views, and some authors have seen a tenfold increase in book sales for works that are often decades old.”
     
    “Even bookstores are jumping on the trend. The Barnes & Noble website now has a “BookTok” page dedicated to the most popular books on TikTok and its American stores have introduced allocated sections displaying titles that have gone viral on the platform.”
     
    So, there you have it publishing community. If your company wants to reach out to a new audience between 19 and 49, this is where they spend 52 minutes a day, every day. I say again, it may not for everyone. But depending on your brand your content, and your creativity, this is where the action is today. 

    BoSacks
    Posted August 08, 2021
    (0) Comments

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