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  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    I want to go through an exercise of what we know, what we don’t know and throw a few possibilities in for good measure.
     
    Let’s start with a report from Kali Hays at WWD:
     
    “Nearly 40 percent of magazines that publish on at least a quarterly basis have seen their audiences decline so far this year, according to updated data from the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks the performance of such publications. That’s on top of a major pullback in advertising this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the related contraction of the global economy.
     
    “Of the major magazines from publishers such as Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith, 15 major titles saw their audiences decline or remain flat through the third quarter, so nearly all the months of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S so far, compared to the same period last year. But that leaves 20 titles that actually saw audiences grow.”
     
    This sounds pretty bad, but what about the 60% that didn’t show audience declines. Magazine readership has always had an ebb and a flow. Whole sectors rise and fall over time, which is historic in the publishing industry and not an aberration. I am not saying that these aren’t hard times; they are. But as old as the saying goes, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
     
    I believe that when the dust and the plague settle our industry will be more vibrant and successful, reaching more customers than ever before. The trick of course is surviving and adapting.
     
    Take Afar magazine which according to the Alliance for Audited Media grew its audience across platforms by 130.2% from September 2019 to September 2020. That is pretty outstanding. My guess is that if people can’t travel due to Covid restrictions, they satisfy their wander lust by reading about travel.
     
    As reported by Media Post there were other success stories. “Backpacker (47.8%), Veranda (43.8%) and The Atlantic (34.9%) also witnessed big gains in audiences year-over-year, according to the report.
     
    People (89.1 million), Allrecipes (61.7 million) and Good Housekeeping (60.7 million) had the largest brand audiences across platforms in September 2020.
     
    Total audience on all platforms across the magazine brands was up 5.9% year-over-year.”
     
    Today, I had a brief email conversation with David Carey where we discussed the Covid time warp. I wrote, “The plague has definitely accelerated publishing business models. We would have arrived here, wherever that is, sooner or later, but now in this time machine we are adjusting at a very rapid pace.” David replied, “I agree with you that this is an accelerant – the 2025 business models have arrived overnight.  For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    David is right. “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    What do we need to consider in our business plans to be fine?
     
    One thing we need to be aware of is the change in buying habits. Are they temporary or now ingrained into the new normal?  Rob Williams points out in What Does The 'Storeless' Economy Mean For Publishers? – “The "retail apocalypse" of the past few years grew much worse in 2020. The pandemic led many people to avoid stores and shop from the safety of their homes. The upheaval in the retail industry will continue to shape the role of publishers next year as content and commerce become even more seamless. The pandemic is hastening the shift toward a “storeless” economy as retailers go out of business or close down unprofitable stores…”
     
    And in another story Media Post reports that “A majority of U.S. consumers — 67% — plan to do their holiday shopping online this year, according to a new study by Dynata, sponsored by SAP SE. And 60% expect to do at least part of it in brick-and-mortar stores.”
     
    So, if people aren’t going to the stores, what are we as an industry doing to avoid a Darwinian moment in the business life cycle. Why can’t we have on-line drop-down menus for magazines at retail outlets and supermarkets that carry magazines? Are we so Neolithic that we refuse to let what can and should be digitized not be digitized? What other industry is not transforming...everything? Just because our products are analog that doesn’t mean our infrastructure and processes should be, too.
     
    I reached out to a member of the Publishing Pandemic roundtable, my friend Joe Berger who is a Circulation Consultant, and he offered the following thoughts:
     
    “There are issues and they include:
     
    “What magazines do you offer? The best sellers? How do you get retailers to show the most current issues and get that info updated in a timely fashion?
     
    “How many copies should be offered? What is in store? Often the retailers don't know what is in stock as they don't measure that.
     
    “What about "dark stores"? What is offered there? What about central warehouses? How would that be handled?”
     
    Joe continued, “In the end it's a combination of "will" within the newsstand portion of the industry and "will" on the part of the publishers. Especially for the major publishers who are now the drivers of the newsstand part of the publishing industry.”
     
    Joe’s a smart guy and these are all valid points. But it’s the fracking 21st century. There is no can’t with today’s available technologies; there is only a lack of will. I see this as an investment in the future of our industry. If magazines are not seen, they cannot be bought. We need to be developing and training the next generation of readers today, right now.
     
    Sure, it may be hard. Maybe you think it is near to impossible. But as Robert A. Heinlein said, “Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” Where is the “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!)” momentum at the newsstand? We are foolish not to tackle this distribution situation in earnest as the pandemic meteor crashes to earth. Magazine publishers with their 7,000 unique business plans have never played well in the same sand box, especially when it comes to the poor maligned newsstand. But there is a time and a place for mutual cooperation or mutual annihilation.
     
    Joe’s conclusion is humorous and spot on:
     
    “My guess would be it's a back-burner issue because the newsstand is a back-burner issue for all of these guys. Think about the publishing business as a plate full of food at Thanksgiving. The plate is full of delicious stuff: Turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, etc. Newsstand is that tiny helping of Aunt June's special cranberry treat you take to be polite. It's spicy. It's an acquired taste. You aren't entirely sure how it got made and you may not want to know how she did it."
    BoSacks
    Posted November 15, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    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.

     

    Take the New York Times, for example. The New York Times added 669,000 net new digital subscribers, making the second quarter its biggest ever for subscription growth. The Times has 6.5 million total subscriptions, a figure that includes 5.7 million digital-only subscriptions, putting it on a course to achieve its stated goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.

     

    Yes, The New York Times has video insertions and audio podcasts, but it is primarily a reading platform. There are 7,000 magazines on newsstands in this country that are reading based businesses. The point is that those very same readers most likely also enjoy TicToc, and YouTube, Snapchat, and a host of others. The act of reading and seeing other mediums are not mutually exclusive. Instead, what is culturally going on is an additive process to the human condition.

     

    Speaking of the reading process, there is something that is often overlooked, and it is a fundamental change in the process of reading. Take your pick from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Facebook to Buzzfeed, from Twitter to ISSUU and to the web pages of People and Time magazine – these reading experiences are not formatted as traditional magazines or newspapers. Facebook has well over a billion people reading without pagination as we understand it. There are indeed pages and sections in those reading platforms, but not a single folio. It is still reading but new and different and ever-changing.

     

    So, although we are not entering a post-literate society, there are big things to be vigilant about and that need our attention.  Humanity and Content Distribution, formally known as publishing, have entered a new period of transformation. The hard part of this transformation is that we are still contending with our old legacy thinking, which is how we all tend to live in the present and look ahead to the future through the conceptual filters of the past. It is no small task to fight that thinking process.

    I think we can all agree we are at the beginning of a new chapter in the history of media, and not the end of the last chapter in our book. In fact, there is no end; there is only a continuous beginning. And what we have gone through in the previous two decades is still just the new endless beginning. But I am more hopeful for our literate-reading industry today than ever before. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted November 05, 2020
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- For Magazines, Barnes and Noble is Holding Up Nicely

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable- For Magazines, Barnes and Noble is Holding Up Nicely

    Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandise, Newsstand at Barnes & Noble, Inc. returned for the second time to deliver an update to the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me.
     
    And the news she brought was this: despite the year we’ve been having, Barnes and Noble is holding up nicely. Currently sales are only down 26% year over year. Stores are open. People are shopping.
     
    This is not to say that the pandemic has been without impact. Some stores still have shortened hours; fire and flooding impact retail space. Some publications went on hiatus; others may not come back.
     
    Krifka: : Since January Barnes and Noble has lost 500 titles, representing $25 million in retail sales. Some of those titles were coming from the UK. We lost the entire TEN Portfolio, that was a huge number of titles and Retail Sales Dollars for us. Oprah magazine, despite rumors of closing, is still publishing, but they’ve changed their frequency from monthly to quarterly.
     
    Samir: it was the media who said they were going away, but from Day One the publisher said they were going quarterly. I visited a few stores, where I found a hefty magazine selection. You do see a decline in foreign titles, although some of the mainstays—British Vogue, Italian Vogue—are still out there.
     
    Krifka: Imports are an interesting situation. Future Publishing stopped printing for a number of months, their publishing schedule in terms of number of titles has gone way down. The cost of gearing up again may prevent some of the smaller ones from opening.
     
    Sherin: A more severe lockdown is coming in England.
     
    Joe: When a big service title goes from monthly to quarterly with a higher cover price, what do you see in terms of overall units?
     
    Krifka: Ultimately the retail dollars is what we’re focused on—and with those changes they perform better for us. The lower priced titles are by and large the ones that our customers subscribe to. Coastal Living, for example, went quarterly, and we saw increased unit sales.
     
    Sherin: In a sense the media did magazines a favor by threatening scarcity. People are showing more devotion to their favorite titles. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, for example, is way up year-over-year; in some chains as much as 80%.
     
    Joe: So lower frequency, higher prices is a good thing.
     
    Krifka: The monthly turn of titles is so quick, it doesn’t allow us to get the full sales benefit of each release. At one point we had NO new product and still were selling 50% compared to prior year. We were selling titles several months old. We were just moving too fast. Magazines are luxury, and they deserve the opportunity to be seen.
     
    Samir: They are a luxury and no longer an impulse buy. It’s a decision—you are going to spend $20 to buy this magazine. When I pick up a copy of GQ or Vogue, a subscription card—the dandruff of the industry—drops on the floor saying, you stupid Samir, you are paying $9 for one issue, and you can get the whole year for $10, and get a canvas bag along with it!
     
    Joe: But you’ll have to wait 12 weeks for it to show up.
     
    Samir: But they’ll send you back issues too. Even the one you bought and send your card in from. Until we get rid of guaranteed circ there is no solution.
     
    Sherin: No advertiser pays the full rate card, so rate base should be obsolete anyway.
     
    Bo: The upper tier of our business is still on rate base. The top 5 aren’t going to change; it’s working for them. The rest of the industry has no intention of having a rate base.
     
    Samir: I picked up Bicycling and Runner’s World. American magazines have finally discovered Black people, they are on the cover of all the magazines. Even the upper tier publishers are starting to change the way they are presenting their magazines to the public. Krifka, have you seen this? Will the trend continue?
     
    Krifka: It is unprecedented the number of covers featuring Black Americans—every category, even fall fashion. We’re not seeing any kind of drop in sale as a result. Sales if anything are gaining. Oprah, Vanity Fair, with Breonna Taylor—they are sell outs.
     
    Linda: What can you tell us about your new distribution strategy?
     
    Krifka: We’re in contract negotiations now regarding our distribution split between ANC and Media Solutions. Working with the two wholesalers will have the effect of forcing collaboration. Our industry badly needs some stability, and so far, everything’s looking promising.
     
    Linda: Publishers are receiving two sources of POS data, which are not in compatible formats, and it creates a challenge tracking sales in the chain.
     
    Krifka: This might be an opportunity for MagNet—they do receive our data. This would be a chance for them to merge the two together, creating a single source of reporting.
     
    Samir: How are the fall fashion magazines doing?
     
    Krifka: Doing well, trending lower than last year, but we’re seeing some typical buying behaviors. For a while there was an odd mix with anomalous titles spiking. Now it seems to be normalizing. We’re still seeing strong performances in football, fall fashion, the Economist in the midst of everything. I’ve heard coloring had a resurgence—but not at Barnes and Noble. Puzzles, though, are doing great. Cooking did OK, but closer to its usual level, we’re not showing a big spike in the category such as it showed in the grocery class of trade. Breathe, from the UK, has popped up into the top 5. Specials at $14.99 doing well too, and not pulling sales from the parent title. Transportation has fallen off a bit. But we’ve lost titles across the board and in strange places, so even the frequency changes have created change. But our top titles have come back to being the top titles.
     
    Samir: What about children’s magazines?
     
    Krifka: We’ve been focusing on pulling new kids and teen magazines in for years now—it’s important to start people reading in the category as early as possible. There isn’t a lot in there—Many of the new titles in in the kids section are imports. But in the UK they attach a toy to everything—the print part tends to be flimsy, so it isn’t exactly where we would like it be with the quality of the magazines. I believe the publishers struggle with who the buyer is and don’t look to see what is trending so they don’t take the chance. Centennial Media has done very well with Fortnite magazine and looking at trend publishing. 
     
    Joe: Many of those mags are not on the newsstand, and have small print runs.
     
    Sherin: The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids is also growing this year, double digits over the last issue; its biggest retailer is Lowes
    Joe: We need a buyer’s cooperative for them
     
    Sherin: We’re going to partner with the independent publisher we met with a few weeks back, who does cooking for kids.
     
    Samir: Who does the planograms for the mainlines?
     
    Krifka: As the title mix has been changed so drastically since January of this year, the mainline planograms and assortments for each store now need to be updated. For example, if there are fewer men’s magazines, they need less space on the mainline, and the map of it needs to change. Look out for more expansions in the new year as we rework to maximize the publishing we do have. Additionally my team, as we always have, is working with our publishers on new content ideas- be it stories in current books or brand new Bookazines as well as Exclusives that you will only find at B&N. This supports our leadership’s plan to return to being specialist booksellers. For example, each store will have a Bookseller who is a social media specialist so they’ll be able to go round the store and find what’s new and interesting and amplify its display. More local buying on the book side as well, so each store will become more unique as assortments are developed locally.

    Linda Ruth
    Posted October 05, 2020
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  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines

    BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines

    Re: Opinion - Subscription Fatigue Tim Bray would be more compelling if he could support his opinion with data.  I realize the publishing industry has screwed up a lot of things over the years, but why does a software guy think, without anything more than personal anecdotal evidence, that he is smarter than all the marketers in the publishing world.

    There are lots of factors at play here and there is not yet any notable success with micropayments for articles.  Like so many things, that could, and perhaps likely will, change at some point.  But it hasn’t yet.  Plenty of us in publishing have taken economics classes so the price elasticity of demand and maximizing the value curve are not new concepts.  He could be correct in theory but technology or other issues make it impractical or otherwise undesirable to act on his suggestion.  (Submitted by a President) 

    RE: Are you pushing your creative boundaries? I read this and think about how often what you can do creatively meets hard boundaries by editors/producers and by audiences. Maybe your great new idea really is great and new. That still may mean years of trying to get others, who decided whether you’re successful, to agree. If they ever do. (Submitted by a Writer)  

    Re: Men's Magazines Really loved the piece on men's magazine.  I remember when we were launching Men's Health, and there were a lot of critics (including reporters at major media outlets) who said "Why do we need another men's title? There are too many already with Esquire, Playboy, GQ, etc." A very wise publisher, Sandy Beldon who was responsible for Prevention magazine, and a great mentor, sat me down in his office one day and pulled out a list of men's titles (including many you mentioned in your piece -- remember Signature magazine?) and said, "look, when you come across this challenge just remind these folks how many men's titles there have been over the years, and that the marketplace certainly has room for a lifestyle brand like Men's Health." Wise words from an experienced pro, and of course, the history of Men's Health success both here and around the globe remains one of the great business stories of its time. (Submitted a media founder)  

    RE: A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?

    “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties."  

    Not able to avoid destroying humankind while trying to convince people that robots come in peace? The language use is impressive (though I’m interested in the details and how much of this is completely undirected—I don’t see how it could be), but perhaps developing a robot copy editor might be wise. (Submitted by a Print Sales person)

    RE: OPINION - WAH! Why the work at home bubble is about to burst I’m so glad to see this article. As a longtime manager and collaborator,  I’ve been concerned about the many micro-drawbacks of remote work for teams. We collect minute pieces of information from each other in every interaction (intentionally and not). That’s mostly lost in a remote work environment, and will inevitably flatten our collective learning curve. (Submitted by an Editor)

    Apple is starting a war over privacy with iOS 14: This seems like a good development to me. People who are collecting data on you should have to make the case why it's to your benefit to allow them to do that. If they can't make that case, you should be able to opt out. Submitted by an operations and fulfillment exec)

     



    BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Subscription Fatigue, creative boundaries & Men's Magazines
     
    Re: Opinion - Subscription Fatigue
    Tim Bray would be more compelling if he could support his opinion with data. I realize the publishing industry has screwed up a lot of things over the years, but why does a software guy think, without anything more than personal anecdotal evidence, that he is smarter than all the marketers in the publishing world.
     
    There are lots of factors at play here and there is not yet any notable success with micropayments for articles. Like so many things, that could, and perhaps likely will, change at some point. But it hasn’t yet. Plenty of us in publishing have taken economics classes so the price elasticity of demand and maximizing the value curve are not new concepts. He could be correct in theory but technology or other issues make it impractical or otherwise undesirable to act on his suggestion. So spare us your braying sir.
    (Submitted by a President)
     
    RE: Are you pushing your creative boundaries?
    I read this and think about how often what you can do creatively meets hard boundaries by editors/producers and by audiences. Maybe your great new idea really is great and new. That still may mean years of trying to get others, who decided whether you’re successful, to agree. If they ever do.
    (Submitted by a Writer)
     
    Re: Men's Magazines
    Really loved the piece on men's magazine.  I remember when we were launching Men's Health, and there were a lot of critics (including reporters at major media outlets) who said "Why do we need another men's title? There are too many already with Esquire, Playboy, GQ, etc."
     
    A very wise publisher, Sandy Beldon who was responsible for Prevention magazine, and a great mentor, sat me down in his office one day and pulled out a list of men's titles (including many you mentioned in your piece -- remember Signature magazine?) and said, "look, when you come across this challenge just remind these folks how many men's titles there have been over the years, and that the marketplace certainly has room for a lifestyle brand like Men's Health."
     
    Wise words from an experienced pro, and of course, the history of Men's Health success both here and around the globe remains one of the great business stories of its time.
    (Submitted a media founder)
     
    RE: A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?
    “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties."
     
    Not able to avoid destroying humankind while trying to convince people that robots come in peace? The language use is impressive (though I’m interested in the details and how much of this is completely undirected—I don’t see how it could be), but perhaps developing a robot copy editor might be wise.
    (Submitted by a Print Sales person)
     
    RE: OPINION - WAH! Why the work at home bubble is about to burst
    I’m so glad to see this article. As a longtime manager and collaborator, I’ve been concerned about the many micro-drawbacks of remote work for teams. We collect minute pieces of information from each other in every interaction (intentionally and not). That’s mostly lost in a remote work environment, and will inevitably flatten our collective learning curve.
    (Submitted by an Editor)
     
    Apple is starting a war over privacy with iOS 14:
    This seems like a good development to me. People who are collecting data on you should have to make the case why it's to your benefit to allow them to do that. If they can't make that case, you should be able to opt out.
    Submitted by an operations and fulfillment exec)
     
     
    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted September 29, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    The world is facing a moment that seems to be of historic proportions. It is an oddity of biblical timing, something akin to a comet strike, an ice age, rising seas, and an invasion of aliens all happening simultaneously. Those are the hypotheticals. In reality, we have a global pandemic, an economic collapse, global warming, unrest in the streets, and the disruption of the entire global infrastructure. Disruption has become an old and overused expression, but it so clearly establishes and defines the moment. Nothing is as it was, nor are we likely to reestablish our old norms. Sure, life and business will go on. We may not have had an alien invasion, but we have had comet strikes, ice ages, rising seas, pandemics, and massive flooding before, and we are still here.
     
    Included in the massive global disruption is its effect on the publishing community. Supply chains are challenged, print ads are drying up, retail is stressed, large printers are in bankruptcies, magazines are closing, and work routines and methodologies are forever changed.  

     

    And yet as an industry, we plow on and adapt to the new business order. In times of crisis, the criteria to succeed is with above-average leadership. That includes your own personal leadership as well as your managements.

     
    As reported by Jeanette McMurtry in Publishing Executive – "Historically, the companies that succeed through tumultuous and uncertain times are those with leaders who have a common characteristic associated with a growth mindset: psychological resilience."
     
    She goes on to say that "Wikipedia describes psychological resilience as follows:
     
    "The ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly. ... Psychological resilience exists when people develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences."
     
    I thought I would gather a few examples of this psychological resilience leadership in today's media marketplace. Consider this the outline of a pep talk.
     
    Let's start with MediaPost's report by Sara Guaglione titled Hearst Magazines To Invest In Larger Formats, More Editorial Pages In Print. Sara reports: Hearst Magazines announced a multimillion-dollar investment to "enhance the quality" of its print products. The magazines will have larger formats, higher-quality paper and improved editorial ratios. 
     
    "Magazines are a tactile experience, and quality production is important to our readers, our creators and the marketplace," stated Hearst Magazines Chief Content Officer Kate Lewis.
     
    The initiative is called Premium Print…
     
    Sara concludes the report with the following: " ‘We (Hearst) are experimenting and making great strides by activating our digital channels to sell products, including print and digital subscriptions,’ stated Hearst Magazines acting president Debi Chirichella.”
     
    "Our strategy to invest in digital growth while maintaining the strength, differentiation and high quality of our print products, along with this new investment, paves the path to our future," she added.
     
    Thank you, Hearst, for this display of resilient leadership. For years, I have stated that as an industry, we need to collectively change the formula and move print in the public mind from a commodity to a luxury product. For too many years, we have decreased paperweight and diminished the size of our print publications and appearance. I applaud this move towards better quality products, in essence, products worth paying for.
     
    I think this is a good time to mention a very interesting saying my mother had: "Rich or poor, it’s good to have money." Hearst can afford this lunge to increased quality, but it is a move worth thinking about for any titles depending on your circumstances, finances, and long-term goals.
     
    Along with Hearst, here is what Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief, The Atlantic has to say on the subject of quality:
     
    "I've been arguing for a long time that we will be saved as an institution by bearing down on quality, quality, quality. Just do the most deeply reported, beautifully written, carefully edited, fact-checked, copyedited, and beautifully designed stories — and the reader will come. They want to be supportive, and they want access. And it turns out to be true. Thank God for it."
     
    It turns out that The Atlantic has amassed over 300,000 paying subscribers in a year, "by bearing down on quality, quality, quality".

     

    Another thought on leadership came from Wolfgang Blau, President, International and Chief Operating Officer, Condé Nast, who delivered the opening keynote address at the virtual 43rd FIPP World Media Congress. He said:
     
    "To build the media company of the future we have to ask what is the dream, what is the purpose and mission of a media company and journalists today – and where the trajectory of change that we have seen is heading," he said.
     
    "We may be calling this the new normal, but the only thing that is new and normal now is that change of all kinds, in all areas of our business, is accelerating. The good news is that humans are incredibly adaptable and inventive, and if you look at the history of some of the world's long-established media companies, many of them have made it through much, much greater challenges."
     
    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. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted September 27, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines

    As a former Production Director at McCall's Magazine, my friend Samir Husni’s articles in this newsletter about the Seven Sisters had me fondly reminiscing. Did you know that while I was there in the 1980s, McCall's and the other seven sisters were transforming the production process and making digital cylinders for the Rotogravure printing process ten years before offset caught up with digital plate making? The seven sisters went from letterpress to digital using a HelioKlischograph to cut huge brass printing cylinders. It was and is a fantastic technologic process to see.
     
    I thought I would take the time to recall a little media history and see if we can find some trends applicable to today's COVID Time Machine. To start, I have been doing this newsletter since the beginning of accessible internet time, when there was no real web as we have today.  When I began the newsletter, I had no concept of what the newsletter, the internet, and communication itself would become. In fact, I didn't start a newsletter at first. I was forwarding thoughts and any relevant magazine information to my college roommate, who was working in the production department at Time Magazine. In retrospect, he was my first subscriber. And his Time Inc. workmate was my second subscriber, and on and on.
     
    I was working for Ziff-Davis in the late 1980s, and Ziff sent me on loan to AOL to help develop production methods for inserting and on-serting 3-1/2-inch diskettes into and onto magazines. It was a team effort by many smart professionals, and when it was over, they gave me a free "house" email AOL account. This was when the public's only entry to the WWW was with either Prodigy, Compuserve, or AOL.
     
    Did you know that the name of this newsletter "Heard on the Web" actually was meant to be an inside joke about printing on web offset presses, not the World Wide Web?  Since I was a production guy, "Heard on the Web" started out tracking and discussing printed manufacturing production matters.  In those days I talked about paper, printing presses, and the cycle of the magazine production process. In those days I had my subscription list separated into various topics of interest—General, Production, Paper, and eventually, the new thing called digital. Back In the day, I had over 2,000 readers just on the paper list. It is interesting to me that we rarely talk about paper anymore, and I no longer have a separate file for those interested in paper.
     
    One of these days I want to write an article about what were the important topics we tracked in the past that are no longer of primary interest. If it was important then, why not now?
     
    In the 1990s, I also discussed physical circulation and newsstand distribution issues.  Then as technology progressed a new concept hit the production circles. And that was the invention and use of PDF files. Most of my peers were pretty enthusiastic about that. I sure was. Shortly after PDFs came the computer-to-plate wars (CTP).   My goodness, some people thought you were a total heretic to even think of using CTP over traditional film-based production.  Yep, there was many a senior management argument about CTP among production professionals. Oh, the naive things we used to argue about are humorous to think about now. Many of those production leaders are still subscribed to this newsletter and I'm sure they will remember our discussions in the Publishing Production Forum. Mr Dead Tree, I'm thinking of you and quite a few others. We, the long-time readers of "Heard on the Web," have come a very long way from hot lead, which was how High Times Magazine and all magazines were initially typeset.  
     
    For me, the topics for the newsletter always have had one continuous thread -- what do I need to know to stay employed and be employable? That is still my ultra-simple criteria. Everything I send is distributed because I think it is, in one way or another, an essential piece of knowledge to help our careers. The adage that knowledge is power is correct. In this case, knowledge is employment power.
     
    What are we talking about these days?
    Here are a few headlines from the last few weeks:
     
    How testing drives subscription strategies for the Boston Globe


    Why we should be talking about the transformation of publishing, not its decline


    8 ways publishers are making money from podcasts


    How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis


    ‘Nothing quite like being forced’: Publishers whip up quicker, cheaper ad products for advertisers


    “Elevated levels of growth…likely to persist beyond the duration of the pandemic”:
     
    It is a broader range of topics than in the past because what successful publishing has become is a larger, broad-based eco-system of content distribution—a far cry from where we once were. We and our businesses have evolved and are still doing so.
     
    I believe that if we can keep a long-term perspective even under the cloud of COVID, we will see that the speed of what is happening technologically in our workflows is just another step in a long, evolving trend in the publishing industry. I assure you that five years from now, our primary topics of concern will be something completely new and different. 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 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.
     
    The publishing industry has been and is still vibrant and ever-evolving.  We still have paper magazines, e-zines and PDFs and CTP and tablets, smartphones, podcasts, and who the heck knows what is next.  The only thing that will not stop is the increasing speed of change in these horrendous times of where we were to wherever we are going.  
     
    Somewhere along my career path, trite as it may sound, I realized that the way to enjoy being in publishing is not to seek a final destination/solution but to try to enjoy the journey and the problem solving.  For those of us here, there is no other choice. 
     
    BoSacks
    Posted September 08, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis

    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?

    What do we know? We know that there are fake humans, click fraud, fake ad placement, ads paid for that are never seen, fake web sites that look real but aren't, all grabbing an obvious overabundance of loot. Not to mention the theft of our very selves. Our whole lives and families' interests bundled for sale not to the highest bidder, but to any bidder. The online automated advertising ecosystem is impossible to understand much less control under the current conditions we find ourselves in.

    There is an abundance of data that shows that magazines are more trusted than any other delivery vehicle. Magazines are rated and respected by readers for top quality and accuracy in reporting. Yet, print which is trusted by all parties loses market share every year, while obviously fraudulent digital advertising despite the known fraud does nothing but grow. How did it come to this?

    The agencies don't care about the fraud in the process, because they make easy money regardless of any scam, robots, unseen ads, and all the other dubious fundamentals that make up a great deal of the dishonest digital media industry. Until otherwise proven, the agencies are at the very root of the problem, because they "know" and do nothing.

    Ad agencies are addicted to easy profits, and they are making too much money to alter their course. Obviously, there is too much greed and too much money for this to change any time soon. What do I expect to happen when the fraud hits $100 billion dollars of loss? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because there is no cure for greed.


    BoSacks
    Posted August 27, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Confessions of a stressed media buyer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Confessions of a stressed media buyer

    I have had the luck to play many roles, and I've had multiple job titles in our media industry. I think the one I enjoyed the most, other than being the publisher of this newsletter, was as a Director of Manufacturing and Distribution. I thrived on the chaos that the job entailed. Each day had dozens of moving pieces tossed into the air, and if you were good at it, none of the magazine pieces hit the floor, and all titles shipped out on time and on schedule and reproduced with exceptional, consistent quality.

    I've seen the production process crush those without the ability to adapt to the non-monotony of diverse and complex situations on the fly. But I found it exciting to be in the center of the magazine manufacturing storm jumping from one solvable problem to the other. I believed then, and I think now, that there is always a solution. It is seeing the simple solution rather than the complex one that is at the heart of manufacturing alchemy.

    My enjoyment of the pressure of making magazine magic under stress brings me to the interview, “Confessions of a Media Buyer under Pressure”. I feel for the person here and the mental toll he or she is dealing with. The 24/7 cycle and the intense pressures of clients and supervisors not respecting that the media buyer is a person, a human with the need to decompress and step back from time to time and get refreshed. Clearly not all employees are built for the constant, ever developing 21st century stress and chaos. 

    Perhaps it is the new normal where we don't have the structure of the commute to an office, the somewhat orderliness of 9 to 5 (or so) out of the home, and the return commute to our families. If you take that organized part of our routines away, I can see the new expectation that we are always on call. 

    This always on call, always available, has been growing with each advancement of the digital process for the last two decades. It’s not that it is new – it isn't – but with the advent of the COVID Time Machine, we are where we would have been anyway, but years before it might have happened. And that presents a Human Resources situation where a person's personality traits that might have been acceptable for methodologies and work patterns of the past are no longer suitable for the compression of the new normal workload. 

    It’s a topic worth having a conversation about. If there are any HR professionals on this list or if you non-HR professionals would like to offer your thoughts to our group, I’d love to hear from you. -  bo@bosacks.com


    BoSacks
    Posted August 25, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • Pandemic Publishing Roundtable: An Industry-Wide Celebration

    Pandemic Publishing Roundtable: An Industry-Wide Celebration

    John Mennell is throwing a party, and we are all invited. In fact, John says, he wants every industry stakeholder—every printer, shipper, distributor, retailer and publisher—to join him in celebrating literacy.

    John joined the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable--Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me--on Wednesday to talk about his vision.

    Joe: Tell us about what you do. Where does this vision come from?

    John: It’s modeled after food banks; I have a history with this model, and I thought, it’s important to feed people’s bodies, and we also have to give them the opportunity to feed their minds. So I got the idea of adding literacy banks, and literacy newsstands to the current foodbanks. The idea is to support existing programs with literacy materials.

     Joe: How is the Covid crisis impacting your program?

     John: Demands on food banks are exploding, just trying to feed all the people. And Covid is moving the pickup to curbside. So that was a setback for ready access to our literacy newsstands inside food pantries. For example, there is a food bank network in Columbus that feeds 600 families per day. We’d been on the point of putting three literacy newsstands into this Columbus location for weekly families, walk-ins seeking emergency food, and for a children’s corner; but at the rate they must fulfill the curbside needs, they have only 38 seconds per car. We asked ourselves: how can they include our literacy distribution --

    Joe: Maybe by pre-packing?

     John: --and that’s the exact solution we came up with. Like packages of food from a deli counter, we’re including pre-packaged bundles of consumer and children’s magazines along with the food packages.

     Sherin: Are you able to get unsolds from the wholesalers?

    Sherin: They can get a tax writeoff

    John: Our ambition is to get them from every link, to rescue every expired copy throughout the supply chain. We get them from publishers, from consumers, and we’re in a pilot program with Barnes and Noble to retrieve their expired copies. We’re starting with stores in Columbus Ohio and rural Alabama; eventually we’ll have ability to rescue these magazines nation-wide.

     The other major source of magazines are consumers. They have bought the magazines they love, kept them in their collection for many years, and they want to share them because they love the idea of supporting children and families. They can’t bear to see these magazines destroyed.

     And yes, there are ways of writing off the costs, and currently there is a huge opportunity cost to NOT providing magazines. When we introduce ourselves to the local Barnes and Noble, the staff is so happy to find readers for the expired mags rather than having to destroy them. Expired magazines no longer have a monetary value, you have to pay to dispose them. By passing them on, we create supply chain value and give the product a new life by creating new readers, a new audience for these precious publications. We are creating readers who will grow up with these brands.

    This is in the interest of every industry partner at every point in the distribution channel. By providing copies to at-risk children, we are creating tomorrow’s readers. And I am convinced that a consumer who is inspired to purchase a gift subscription for an at-risk child, for a job-training program, for a kindred spirit, that consumer will forever be connected to the magazine through the good they have achieved. The possibilities for connection are endless in every interest group. Getting these publications into at-risk homes has enormous positive impact on developing readers and no negative. 

     Sherin: It connects them to the magazine, and also to the advertiser’s brands.  The brands you are accustomed to as a child, they stay with you. It gives the advertisers a reason to participate as well.          CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    Find out more at https://magliteracy.org/
    Linda Ruth
    Posted August 22, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs

    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.

    There are pluses and minuses. Between not commuting and lunches alone, I have saved a fortune in everyday expenses in the last 24 years. One of the minuses is the lost real-time relationships with co-workers and friends. The occasional drink together after work. But there is tremendous freedom working from a home office, and it can be accomplished from anywhere on the planet with a working internet connection.

    As an example, in the last ten years I have been on the road for 920 days and visited 10 countries and 174 cities, some of them multiple times. (Data from Tripit.com.) In all that time, I have never missed my publishing news cycle.  

    So, when we start the new part of our careers working solo, it can be an enjoyable experience. We just have to get through our tales of two careers.

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …” Charles Dickens

    Is it possible that Dickens was prescient and from the 1880s was forecasting the publishing business of the 21st century? How better to describe the current conditions of our industry in this COVID crisis? Is this not the best of times and the worst of times imaginable? Does not the media industry reflect a tale of two cities – one of prosperity and one of deprivation? We have parts of our industry that are doing well, while in other sectors, there is great angst, job loss, and contraction.

    Do you know that Dickens’ second to last paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities also forecast the modern magazine industry?

    “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.”

    Dickens is correct we will rise from this abyss with experimentation, innovation and determination. We will continue to entertain, educate and provide for the needs of a reading public. I am confident this observation is part of the still evolving new normal of business models created and adjusted on the fly through a global pandemic.

    Yes, our industry will never be the same. We will never be the same. But I think a strong case can be made that it will hopefully and eventually be a better, more stable, and once again a beautiful place in which to work.


    BoSacks
    Posted August 11, 2020
    (0) Comments

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It is purely a very "personal" and slanted collection of news gathered daily over the Internet, which to me seems relevant and useful about the publishing industry.  I do this as a labor of love and to keep myself as up to date as is possible with the ever changing and advancing "Information Distribution Industry" formerly known as "Publishing".

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