Sunday, December 9, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out; Steering the New World Digital Order

Steering the New World Digital OrderBy BoSacks

There is a book by Ray Kurzweil called "The Singularity Is Near." In this book, Mr. Kurzweil has a theory about The Law of Accelerating Returns, which states that in today's business environment, "Change happens faster than we are able to forecast or predict it." This is a departure not only from long ago, but from our more recent past as well. There was, in our lifetime, the possibility of accurately predicting technologic growth. Those days have gone up in digital smoke. Technologic growth that once took multiple generations to achieve now happens in months.

Another of Mr. Kurzweil's concepts is that the rate of technologic change is not linear, but exponential. This is not a new concept to anyone in the publishing field.

Everyone knows that I love technology and the possibilities that it holds, especially for those in our industry. We are, no doubt, on the bleeding edge compared to most other professionals. Retailers, lawyers, cabbies, mothers and most others, although impacted every day by the new world digital order, are affected somewhat less visibly than those of us who transmit information in the forms of magazines, newspapers, newsletters and the like. We are pushing and prodding the system to go ever faster.

Over the past decade, publishers have digitally married the electronic workflow. It occurred to me this morning that a magazine can no longer be produced without a computer. This is not a shocking discovery, but it did make me stop and think. From the written word pecked out on a keyboard, e-mailed and clipped by the editor, formatted and manipulated by the art director, spun with great skill and digital alchemy by the production elite, and converted by the printer magically to CTP, there is no longer any step in the process that is not fully and completely computerized. The presses are controlled by digits, the bindery is efficiently automated, and the bundling and shipping is all tagged and directed by database files. In the near future, magazines will likely have little computer chips called RFID imbedded into them for further electronic enhancement and accountability.

But what exactly have we produced with all this speed and technology? We have precision-engineered a book, a magazine or a newspaper--all three printed on paper. We have created a product that requires no electricity to operate. You don't need to plug it in or even attach a cord. In fact, if you do have a cord, it won't fit. It is not sensitive to magnetic surges or system failures of any kind. If left alone, it retains its imagery indefinitely. It can be dropped, stepped upon and will still be totally functional. And if, God forbid, you should spill coffee on it, for a few bucks you can get an exact duplicate. Basically, the format can never become outdated.

So now that that is out of my system, I can move on. Mr. Kurzweil is right about the dramatic speed of change, and that change has affected society as well as technology. And although the printed product is near perfection, there is one thing that it just cannot do, and that is refresh, change and update itself. Once, these were unnecessary, unsought-after functions. Now, we may have a society that demands them.

Here is another interesting thought on technology and our new society that comes from the findings of an in-depth, seven-month study by MTV and the Associated Press on happiness and young people: How happy are they, what makes them happy, and what are they doing to ensure future happiness? The results are that cell phones, the Internet and other technologies are woven into the lives of today's young people, and nearly two-thirds say that technology makes them happier.

What we have now in "screenagers" is a generation that has the ability to be in touch with each other immediately starting at earlier and earlier ages. This new generation of kids is naturally adept with technology and the speed of its change. They are comfortable with having virtual access to friends, family and the world at large. This is a generation that is just as comfortable with digital delivery as it is with bound books.

My conclusion from all this is that there is a very positive and robust future for publishers. We have the technology to print perfect books and magazines for those who desire them. We also have the ability to reach out to new generations of readers in new formats such as e-paper, cell phones and PDAs, and who knows what is right around the corner. All that matters is that we monetize our franchise and deliver our product to readers everywhere and anywhere they would like it.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and often called a new age corporate janitor.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bob Sacks: In an Iconoclast By Himself

Bob Sacks: In an Iconoclast By Himself
By John Parsons
The Seybold Report
Volume 7, Number 21 · November 1, 2007

Bob Sacks ("BoSacks" to his readers) is an outspoken columnist and lecturer to the
media and marketing industries. A veteran of many printing and publishing ventures since the 1970s, Sacks has been an advocate for innovation and change, as evidenced by his popular e-newsletter, "Heard on the Web" (, and the BoSacks blog.

Sacks straddles the past, present and future. "I've had every position there is to have in our industry," he said. He's been an editor, a publisher, a columnist, a director of manufacturing and distribution and a chief operating officer. He's also been a pressman, sold advertising for print and radio and worked for International Paper, "selling dead trees to major publishers." Sacks is sometimes cast in an adversarial, Jeremiad role, usually opposite the optimism of Prof. Samir Husni ("Mr. Magazine") in the debate over magazines and their fate. Far from being a prophet of doom, however, Sacks views technical innovation as the key to successful publishing - in whatever forms it ultimately takes. He consistently challenges past assumptions and his measured skepticism, combined with his vast expertise in media of all kinds (his first publishing venture used hot type), make him a valuable voice in the publishing industry. We asked Sacks about the future of publishing as we know it.

TSR: On your Web site, one of your lecture topics is something known as "El-Cid."
What is that?

It's all about the future of publishing. El-Cid is a key component to what
I'm trying to project. It means electronically coordinated information distribution.
It's imperative that we no longer consider ourselves as just publishers. We are information distributors. El-Cid is the ability to deliver information anywhere instantly, which is where our business models have to be. The future of publishing is the ability to access any information - all the time, effortlessly and accurately.

TSR: So you're talking about all forms of media, including browsers and readers?

BoSacks: I'm totally indifferent to the platform. Our franchise is information, and we shouldn't be hung up on atoms. That's a good way to distribute it; it's just not the only way.

TSR: Speaking of digital distribution, there are a number of digital edition vendors, the equivalent of a turn-the-page book or magazine on your screen. Do you think people are ready to turn virtual pages instead of paper ones?

BoSacks: I'm uncomfortable with your phrase "ready." We're getting there. It took us 600 years to perfect the magazine, and it works. It's easy to read, usually beautifully designed. How many Web pages can carry that description? Electronic magazines are improving every day and they have something else that no other Web page can emulate: a beginning, middle and an end. That's critical. Once the correct platform is developed for the digital magazine experience, it will readily be adopted.

TSR: What do you think the correct platform needs or what is it missing right now?

BoSacks: Touch-screen e-paper. When you can emulate the magazine experience, fly
your hand across your page and it will flip for you - what the iPhone does today -
that's the correct platform. A sheet of plastic, polymer, e-paper - looks like paper,
feels like paper, smells like paper but it isn't paper. It's a screen that works on reflective technology. Light doesn't shine through it or from it. It uses ambient light, which makes it a pleasant reading experience. It needs to be four colors, it needs to be wifi connected and it needs to be scalable.

TSR: Does size matter?

BoSacks: Yes, for some, but the beauty of publishing platforms of the future is that we don't care. You want it little? I'll deliver it little. You want it medium? I'll do that. You want e-paper? I'll do that. Would you like dead trees? I've got plenty of them, too.

TSR: The old print advocate saying is that they want media they can take to the beach
or read in the bathtub. Is that realistic? Is e-paper going to get there eventually, and how do you think it's going to happen?

BoSacks: I predict in five years we'll have a workable e-paper solution, commercially
affordable. We're predicting under $50 in five years. Comfort level, ease of readability is really important. It's interpreted as wanting paper and books, but that's a learned exercise. What they really want is to get their intellectual fix, the information that they're addicted to. It could be news, it could be about Britney, it could be wooden boat building, whatever your focus or passion is. People want that and that want it in an easy-to-read, portable format. This could be e-paper or something we haven't invented or thought of yet. E-paper seems like the most likely next mechanism of change. There is also nanotechnology, which is not what e-paper is about currently. Nanotechnology might jump ahead of e-paper or follow behind it, but I see e-paper as the next defining moment in information distribution.

TSR: What do you see as the future of printing on dead trees, as you put it?

BoSacks: I see it just like vinyl records. That used to be the way people used to listen to music, and the majority of the public now uses MP3s and MP3 players. There is still a market out there for audiophiles who swear by records and they still make some records. Collectors are out there. My friend Samir Husni is a collector, and I think that's a part of his philosophy. He's a dead-tree hugger. He loves his magazines, and he's a vinyl record collector.

TSR: How long do you think there are going to be printed publications on paper?

BoSacks: I could foresee there are a couple of generations left. The number of titles is clearly going up, but the number of printed pages is clearly going down. Magazine circulation is going down. Printed products will be around for quite some time, but I think the right question is, how long will printed products be the dominant source of information distribution? The answer is, not that long.

TSR: A couple of generations?

BoSacks: It doesn't matter. The inevitable conclusion is that digital media will be the dominant way that we distribute and monetize our franchise, and printing will be less dominant as we move forward - not disappear, but be less dominant.

TSR: What about the business of publishing bothers you the most? What's your pet
peeve about magazine publishers?

BoSacks: It's the distribution model, which once worked and once worked well but is
archaic. Today, for newsstands, we print 10 copies and sell three. This is not a successful formula to compete with the digital world. I want to distribute 10 copies to the 7-Eleven and sell 10. I don't want to have the infrastructure to go back and pick up seven out of the 10 and take it back and shred it. It's inefficient. Compound that with the circulation side, where Samir and I are in agreement. We basically tell our newsstand readers that they're stupid. Here, you just spent $6.95 for this magazine on the newsstand, but we'll give you 12 issues for $4 if you subscribe. What is going on there? That is a model that only exists in this country. In Europe, newsstand and subscriptions are the same price, as it ought to be.

TSR: What is it about the magazine world that gratifies you the most?

BoSacks: I love being in the thick of it. This has to be one of the most exciting times in the history of information distribution. My first magazine was typeset in hot lead, pretty much what Gutenberg did and we've done for 600 years. Now, in one lifetime we're making these technological evolutionary jumps. It's exciting. I love being around and involved in this part of publishing history. In my lectures, I say, "What Gutenberg did was democratize knowledge." I think this digital process is doing the same thing, democratizing knowledge all over again, empowering and teaching people, giving them access to information that they never had before. The libraries of the world are now available to damn near everybody. Admittedly, you have to have an Internet connection, but the barriers to that connection are fewer and fewer. I love that about what we can do.

TSR: Don't we have a ways to go with finding all that information? It seems to be
pretty well buried.

BoSacks: You're absolutely right. But I'm not sure that anything has really changed.
Before the Internet, let's say 10 or 15 years ago, there were literally millions of books: hard, dead-tree books. How did people find them? They went to a bookstore and asked for recommendations. You need experienced professionals. In those days it was
the bookstore manager, and now you have Web sites and editors of Web sites who
can make recommendations to get you the information you want. Search engines also
are only going to get better. I'm not daunted by the amount of information out there. I think it will continually improve the filtration process, and this may be fee- based, because everything has to revolve around revenue. How do we monetize our information? That's what we do. We own information. We distribute words. How do we place enough value on those words to monetize it?

TSR: So it'll be democratized for those who can afford it?

BoSacks: It's democratized now without the structure. It takes a certain skill set to really find what you want. Anybody can get on Google, put in the name "Bob," and they'll probably get 2 million hits. You want to find Bob Sacks, you have to have the skill set to say, "I want Bob Sacks," and you'll only get 1,000 responses. Of course, if you do put in my name, it will be top of the list. That's just my ego talking.

So it's out there, but as we move forward, I think the question is, what's the next business model going to be? One path may be the cable TV model. People will pay and publishers will sign them up for programs. You can get the basic package, which might include your local newspaper and a magazine of your choice for $6 a month. Then you get the silver package, the gold package, all the way to the platinum package - everything that's been ever printed - for $79 a month. You refine your research, you refine your sources, much like the 500 channels we have now, and combine that with the value of editors. Editors can help you sort and deliver the information that's relevant. I do that for the industry. For my newsletter, I'm the editor, the sorter, the filter. Based on 37 years in the business, I decide what's important to know and I pretty much have a successful handle on what's worth knowing. That's a human intervention.

TSR: What's your long-term prognosis for publishers of information and their business?

BoSacks: The most important thing that publishers need to know is that their franchise is nothing more or nothing less than words and ideas. They don't own paper companies. Publishers don't own computer companies. They sell words. If they put the words in the proper order, those words have value. So they shouldn't care about the distribution path; all they should care about is monetizing their franchise, their franchise's words, and words aren't going to go away. We've been at this a long time. To go way back in history, we used to do cave paintings. That's how we communicated and took out-of-brain memory and shared it. Then we scratched on bones or wooden sticks and passed them on from generation to generation 25,000 years ago. Those were the first books. Then we get into parchment, then Gutenberg, now we're into electronic transmission. We're doing the same thing we've done for 25,000 years. We're reading words. The platform doesn't matter.

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is Very Important

BoSacks Speaks Out: This is Very Important
by Bosacks

I have received a few letters of late asking me if I could distribute news items that are upbeat and constructive to the printed side of information distribution. That seems a fair request made to a guy who has spent 36 years putting ink in just the right place on a formulation of dead trees, starch and assorted fillers.

My answer is thus: You have no idea how very hard I try to find upbeat, balanced and thoughtful information about our industry. I spend many extra hours each week pounding the internet to find a modicum of "good news". Please make special note here, that there is actually some good news out there once and a while, and when I find it, I pounce on it and send it out. There just isn't enough good news for the dead tree guys, these days.

At the end of the day the truth is the truth. We are a diminishing race. We are not, nor will we be extinct. But we are getting smaller every day. Niche titles will be around for a very long time to come. But they will not be mainstream communication devices. It is never going to turn around and be like it was. There just is no turning back. As my buddy Omar Khayyam once wrote:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

So in my writings and my daily newsletter, I am offering a new kind of hope. Nature abhors a vacuum. For every job that is eliminated in print there are even more new jobs created in the digital arena. Look it up. It is in the US census bureau data. Graphics jobs, editorial jobs, production jobs, and jobs we have never heard of. Those jobs are the new frontier. And it is growing by leaps and bounds.

I can't help those that are at the end of their career in a dead industry, who won't help themselves. I too am a dinosaur of sorts. But I have reinvented what I was and have transformed myself into something else. Forward thinking and not wistfully wishing I was still a VP at McCall's Publishing. I will never be a Director of Manufacturing at McCall's again. It is DEAD. gone, finished.

But there is hope for others. There is a huge future out there for those that can see the forest for the trees.

My readership on the most part seems grateful for my honest portrayal of where we are and even more importantly, where we are going. Sometimes I get a note that has a depressed angle to it. I do my best to respond with hope and encouragement.

I have a worldwide audience. I take that as a responsibility to deliver the best most accurate information I can, regardless of the implications.

I make several claims as to who I am and what I know. What I am dead sure of is the future direction of information distribution. The king of the information forest is not tree based life, but silicon based information distribution.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why the Newsstand is Dead

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why the Newsstand is Dead

I'm still on the road today after Thursday's big event, but wanted to report in about the successful Periodical and Book Association of America Convention in Philadelphia. I have been to a few PBAA conventions and I always find their focus and energy to create the strong and necessary dialog and idea exchanges between publishers and distributors a noble cause. In my opinion, there are too many important issues that have long been left unanswered, unattended to, and other wise left to linger and rot. The PBAA attempts to correct that general industry oversight.

The big debate between Samir and myself, if I can judge by the ovation at breakfast the next day as a clue to its success, went very well, and I am hoping to receive some unbiased reports from readers as to which side was more convincing. If you were there please send me a report.

Another highlight for me was a conversation and presentation with some Russian distributors. It was a terrific hour of exchanges and insights.

That's some good news of the event. The bad news is that I have seen a damning demonstration of the death of the newsstand in a forum on the last morning. This panel had a national distributor, a national wholesaler, a national retailer, and a publisher. I applaud the open dialog and for that I am very grateful. We need more conversation, not less, about supply-chain and you have to start somewhere. But, why here?

The disconnect for me was amazing and not in a good way. Not if you are hoping for new ideas and the creativity necessary to drive our businesses out of their lengthy doldrums. Although I paraphrase, the conversation went something like this:

We acknowledge that the ship is sinking, but, dear friends and business partners, it is sinking very slowly. We take great pride that we have been sinking slowly for fifteen years. We are adrift on the seas and sales have been flat for so long that flat is starting to look good, something like up, only different. And flat is good, isn't it?

Do you know that when the wholesaler described an interesting and well-thought-out program of efficiency in the newsstand arena that successfully reduced wasted product, yet convincingly provided real data of same percentage of sales, someone on the panel, I don't remember who, was angry that such an operation was even being discussed, let alone put into operation. Yes, that someone had the nerve to say openly the tired, old, mantra, "lower the draw, lower the sale." To that I say, fine, buddy - you go down with the ship. I'm getting off the Titanic and creating a newer, more stable, efficient business model. Anyone that tells you there absolutely cannot be improvement in the print-ten-copies-and-sell-three model is leading you towards a big iceberg in an increasingly digitized sea. Get off now or get off later, it's your decision, but I guarantee you are getting off that ship or sinking with it.

So, this is the death of the magazine newsstand business right before our eyes. The collusion on the stage of non-aggressive thought, the inability to recognize the icebergs, the captains yelling, damn it all, this business is the Titanic and nothing can sink this ship. BoSacks says this ship is headed in the wrong direction and needs to turn mighty quickly.

Would you entice your children to join an industry, any industry, that is barely treading water for a decade and a half and has completely lost the ability to detect up from down.

As I sat there at the breakfast table, I was shocked at some of the inflexible positions and the thought of clinging on to the same business models that have keep us stagnant and without growth for over fifteen years. Yet as annoyed as I was, here was a panel that was attempting to discuss problems long kept in our dark boiler rooms in the bottom of our perspective ships. Here were some industry professionals, in an open forum seeking answers, and in front of their peers. They must get some real credit for that. They agreed to meet again and with that perhaps there will be progress. I can only hope for it.

This industry needs new ideas, new distribution models, greater efficiencies and above all else appropriate leadership for the times. We need captains that are willing to turn the ship and not hit that damned iceberg head on. Only an insane person keeps repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So, I'm asking the industry at large, are you insane or just getting paid too much.

Upton Sinclair said it much better than I, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out - Printed Magazines as Plastic Records

"To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser."
Robertson Davies (Canadian Journalist and Author. 1913-1995)

Printed Magazines Will Follow the Path of the Plastic Record
By BoSacks
Publishing Executive Magazine

To paraphrase the sages, publishing is a journey, not a destination. We have been on a very long journey, reaching out to more and more readers as our business models, our technology and our society have progressed and morphed to the challenges and changes of the reading public.

There are enormous new pressures on publishers now, and I think a case can be made that they are different and more complex than ever before. As I stated in a previous column in this magazine, we have been storing out-of-memory text for more than 25,000 years-a very long and noble tradition of teaching and sharing. But where once we had functionally slow and predictable growth strategies, we now seem to have almost instantaneous structural change and a mandatory global outreach program.

As far back as you can go, publishing was always local. Whether it was books, newspapers or magazines, it was a locally constructed, man-made event that required a certain amount of craftsmanship. (Is that term even used anymore?)

That localization included, in almost every case, the "thinking" as well as the physical product. If there was a broader distribution, in most cases it was an aftereffect, not a planned affair.

Until very recently, publishing, writing and printing were handmade products. Until the advent of the typewriter, authorship was constructed by hand with ink and paper.
Even the use of the elegant typewriter was still a process of pecking on a keyboard, which used a mechanical and understandable process of levers and gears to affect the keystroke. I wonder how many of my readers have ever used a typewriter? No, not you geezers-the question really is directed at the younglings.

How many readers understand that paste-up of mechanical boards was just that? Artists took galleys--paper that had typography or ink on paper in columnar, long sheets--spread glue on the back and actually, by hand, pasted the type onto a cardboard sheet, hopefully in an artistic and readable style.

This handmade construct then was photographed by craftsmen, and their product was turned over to a different set of tradesmen, who would, by hand, make printing plates. Then the plates were put, by hand, onto a printing press, and the color adjustments were set, by hand, by a pressman who also was a craftsman of the trade.

So, where am I headed with this nostalgic trip down publishing's man-made history? Magazines are unquestionably printed better and more precisely than ever before. What was once typed or even penned by hand now is instantly spell-checked and corrected without intervention by the author. And the speed of global delivery can be instantaneous if so desired.

In the 21st century, we have a new breed of craftsmanship learning an ever-widening path of information distribution. Where once the written word only was available as ink on paper, we now have a universe of distribution models and methods. There is a debate in our industry about the life and/or death of the printed page. In my opinion, it is an unnecessary debate.

Let me use the music industry as an example. Once, the recorded music industry depended on pressed plastic--records--to reproduce music. Then in 1982, the CD was launched. There were years of transition as the listening public graduated to the new storage system. Now we have MP3s, and the same transformation is taking place. Did you know that there are still audiophiles that cling to the old records as preferable? They are known as the "collectors." And yes, there is still an industry that supports them.

To bring that perspective to the magazine industry, I think we always will have printed magazines, much like we still have plastic records. But the majority of readers eventually will move on to the digital delivery of the printed word with new technology and a globally instant reach. Dead trees with type on them always will be available to the collectors who can afford them, while the general mass of the reading public most likely will pull out their e-paper, and read anything and everything they want to their hearts' content. It's not a matter of if, it's only a matter of when. PE

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor

Friday, June 8, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Selling Ads on the Front Page

BoSacks Speaks Out: Is it just me, or is the selling of prime real estate on your front cover a betrayal of principles? Whose principles you might ask? Good question. And I don't claim to have the answer. No really, as hard as it is to believe, this time I only have questions.

There are many reasons to be in the publishing business, and surely one of the top two is to make money. I accept that fully, and that is one of the reasons I went into the business in the first place. That being said there should, it seems to me, be some room left over for publishers to exhibit principles, patience, strength of character and display some sound business practices.

Now why do you think the industry is having accountability problems? Could it be because we have long ago abandoned strong principles, reasonable patience, a modicum of character and any resemblance of sound business practices? Well, yes, I think it could.

The selling of the front cover is just one more step in the pitfalls of publishing greed and continuing the downward spiraling loss of integrity.

What's with you guys? Somebody strap a 2x4 to the publisher's spine. What will you sell next - your grandmother? And if you do, will that be an off-rate card sale too?

The reason we are in this mess and have lost our integrity has nothing to do with the Internet. These problems are all self-made. The problem is that somewhere in the past we as an industry sold our affections to the lowest bidder like a street walker. And once down that road, it is very hard to regain your personal integrity or the respect of your past John's.

"Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions."
The Bible

Fashion Paper Joins Bottom-of-the-Front-Page Club
With today's issue, Women's Wear Daily, the longtime chronicler of the fashion world, becomes the latest newspaper to sell a piece of valuable real estate: advertising space on its front page.

Women's Wear Daily is running a front-page advertisement, a slim banner promoting a bracelet by Cartier.

A slim banner, about an inch-and-a-half wide, runs across the bottom of the cover and promotes Cartier's Love bracelet, a popular gold band. Not only is the image a familiar one - particularly to fashion-oriented readers of Women's Wear - but the sight of a strip ad on the face of a daily paper is becoming increasingly common, too.

Indeed, the latest debates in journalism seem no longer to be about whether or not it is prudent or ethical to run ads in places they haven't historically appeared, but how to do so in a way that makes the most of the property being sold.

"Women's Wear Daily has had a heritage of creativity when it comes to advertising, and this is moving it to an entirely new place, " said Daniel Lagani, president of the Fairchild Fashion Group, the unit of Advance Publications that owns the paper. "We are making our best real estate available for our best advertisers."

The paper, he said, is following the leads of other newspapers that have opened their cover pages to ads in recent months. The trend was apparent just yesterday in New York, where the free daily Metro New York had a strip ad for Avalon Communities, a rental housing chain, while its rival, amNew York, another free paper, had a so-called cover-wrap - an overleaf featuring the paper's logo and advertising content by a sponsor, in this case, Starbucks. The New York Observer, meanwhile, which recently switched to a tabloid format, arrived on newsstands with a banner ad for Wempe watches and jewelry.
So many newspapers are now running advertising on either the front page or the front pages of sections within the newspaper that the phenomenon was labeled "A Fading Taboo" in the headline of an article in the June/July issue of The American Journalism Review. Among the papers that have started accepting front-page ads are The San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Hartford Courant, the article said. Papers that now run ads on section fronts include The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Journalists lament the trend as a potential sign that the boundaries between editorial and advertising content are weakening, and because the advertisements reduce the amount of prime space for news and feature articles. But front-page ads seem destined to stay, given the declines in advertising and circulation that newspapers have endured in the Internet age. Prominent ads command premium prices.

Edward Nardoza, editor in chief of Women's Wear Daily, said that while journalists would prefer commercial-free front pages forever, ads are acceptable there as long as they are well conceived and pose no ethical conflicts. "We've come to terms that it's part of doing business today," Mr. Nardoza said. "I can't stress enough that it will have no effect at all on the independence of our editorial coverage or our decision-making process. There will be a strict delineation of all editorial material."

Most readers do not find front-page ads intrusive, said Gilbert Bailon, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the publisher and editor of Al Día, a Spanish language newspaper in Texas.

"People are bombarded with advertising every day, from their cellphones to the Internet and every other way - seeing a front page ad strip isn't going to move the earth," he said. "I think some hard-core readers won't like it, but they get adjusted very quickly."
Timing, and not desperation, led Women's Wear Daily to its decision to introduce a front-page ad, Mr. Lagani of Fairchild said. The paper did run smaller black-and-white ads called tombstones at the bottom of the front page until the 1970s, for companies like Jantzen and Peter Pan Fashions. In 2000, it ran some cover-wraps with ads for Gucci. The new front-page banners will be limited, Mr. Lagani said, to prevent overexposure.
"In the case of Women's Wear Daily, business has never been better," he said. "This is simply a smart business decision."

He would not say how much the Cartier ads cost, but said the paper charged a premium for the prime space and required a commitment to a package that included a full-page ad inside the paper and a series of ads on the Women's Wear Web site.

The Web site component was a draw for Cartier, which strives to be a trendsetter among luxury retailers on the Web, said Frédéric de Narp, president and chief executive of Cartier North America. Cartier advertises on Yahoo, and other sites, and the ads on link to Cartier's own site, where the company plays up its designation of June 8 as "love day." On that day, Cartier will give 10 percent of sales of the Love collection to charity.

Mr. Bailon of Al Día, who started accepting front-page ads shortly after starting the paper four years ago, said that journalists should look on the bright side of the trend. "Every company has to find new ways to develop revenue, and this is an opportunity," he said. "If this is the new way, then you have to give a serious look."

Friday, May 25, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: MRI Audience Numbers

BoSacks Speaks Out: OK, Call me a skeptic, call me a curmudgeon, you can even call me a dinosaur, but don't call me a believer in the lost city of Atlantis or absurdly grotesque phantom circulation figures. Even if it's true that that the statistics say that Handgun Magazine gets 47.1 readers per copy, it ain't so. That is more than one new person reading each printed copy every day of the month. Are these office copies left in some doctor's office? Perhaps they are from the firing range. I get it, it's the guys sitting around the 'ol cracker barrel sharing their single copy of the magazine. Sorry, I just don't buy the premise.

"I'm not going to lie. . . The only stat that counts is if you win games. I understand that, but still, I don't want my stats to look bad or not be up to par."
Michael Vick

First Half 2007 MRI Audience Numbers Released

By Bill Mickey

Small-circ enthusiast magazines have astonishing reader-per-copy rates.

Top-line spring readership data detailing circulation, audience and readers per copy for 254 titles for the first half of 2007 were released yesterday by media and consumer research firm Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI). The data presents an interesting opportunity to examine the relationships of these numbers. For example, according to MRI's data, there is a huge disparity between readers per copy figures for small enthusiast magazines and large mass-market titles.

The widest stretch from circulation to readers per copy, according to MRI, belongs to Handguns, which has a circulation of 114,000 and an astonishing 47.15 readers per copy, bringing total audience to 5.4 million. And, in general, the smaller enthusiast publications dominate in readers per copy, with the top ten titles in this category below 300,000 circulation.

But MRI arrives at the reader per copy category by dividing audience figures, which MRI generates, into circulation figures, which ABC or BPA provide. "We're pulling the audience [data] from our own study. We're pulling the circulation from either ABC or BPA, and we're dividing the readers that we obtain from our survey by the claimed circulation," says Julian Baim, chief research officer at MRI. "Handguns, for whatever reason, that number is on the exceptionally high side. We measure audience and then we take the circulation statement from either ABC or BPA and we take one and divide by the other."

Baim says that MRI measures audience by surveying consumers across a number of factors, including subscribers, single-copy purchasers, pass-along readers and public-place readers.

The figures in the report do not include electronic or digital copies of the magazines as reported on ABC statements. And Circulation figures are based on ABC and BPA publishers' statements.

Also interesting to note: AARP The Magazine, the largest circulation magazine in the U.S. at 23,171,000, has an audience of 31.5 million. Yet Meredith's Better Homes and Gardens, at a 7.7 million circulation, has an audience of 38 million. This is because AARP is almost flat in their readers per copy category at 1.36, according to MRI figures, while Better Homes and Gardens has almost 5 readers per copy.

In a separate release, AARP The Magazine compared its 31.5 million audience reach to YouTube (30 million U.S. audience), iPods (30 million units sold) and The Oprah Winfrey Show (30 million viewers).

Top Five Circulation

Readers Per Copy

AARP The Magazine

Reader's Digest

Better Homes and Gardens

Consumer Reports

National Geographic

Top Five Audience

Readers Per Copy


Better Homes and Gardens

Reader's Digest

AARP The Magazine

National Geographic

Top Five Readers Per Copy

Readers Per Copy


Sport Truck

Popular Hot Rodding

Stock Car Racing

Bridal Guide

BoSacks Web Site BoSacks Archive BoSacks E-Paper Reporter

BoSacks Speaks Out BoSacks Pulp & Paper Report Who Is BoSacks?

Subscribe to the Bosacks Newsletter

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Paid Circ Is What Matters

BoSacks Speaks Out: Paid Circ Is What Matters

Well, here you have it. Right out of the very mouths that feeds us. Please read this article and think about our pursuit of metric changes. And while you're mulling it over . . . I have these two statements for you from the article below:

" . . . our business decisions, like yours, are driven by facts and results,"

Publishers of newspapers and magazines have tried to shift advertisers' focus to overall audience from the established metric, paying subscribers and newsstand buyers.

Get that? . . . The advertisers want facts and results . . They want paying buyers and paid subscribers . . . not fluff, not subterfuge, and surely not smoke and mirrors.

So it seems that we need to look deeply within ourselves and our current business models to deliver what is increasingly becoming the demand and mantra of advertisers and media buyers: Accountability

"Bush, Congress, the mayor - each of them are symptoms of a bigger problem, that we don't have accountability for disasters or challenges of this scale. That's all the public wants in trying times - accountability."
Michael Chertoff

Macy's Ad Chief to Newspapers: Paid Circ Is What Matters
At NAA: Readership May Be Up, but Macy's Wants to Target
NEW YORK ( -- When the latest round of newspaper circulation reports again revealed that paid circulation was continuing to fall, industry advocates pointed out that newspaper readership -- including websites and pass-along copies -- is growing. But Macy's ad chief told newspaper executives today that paid circulation still matters more.

Winning ad dollars, says Macy's Anne MacDonald, requires one thing above all: 'You need to be winning in the marketplace.'

That's because the brand wants to reach its target customer repeatedly and through a platform that matters to her, said Anne MacDonald, president-CMO, Macy's corporate marketing, during a talk at the annual Newspaper Association of America conference. "What we try and do is make sure that we talk to her on a continuous basis," she said.

Not swayed by emotion
Earlier Ms. MacDonald told the crowd she is an "absolute newspaper junkie" and wants to see the business regain its footing. "But our business decisions, like yours, are driven by facts and results," she said. "And they can't be driven by emotion or personal predilection."

Winning ad dollars, she said, requires one thing above all: "You need to be winning in the marketplace."

Publishers of newspapers and magazines have tried to shift advertisers' focus to overall audience from the established metric, paying subscribers and newsstand buyers. Part of the drive reflects growing research suggesting that eyeballs are eyeballs -- as they are in other media -- regardless if anyone paid 50 cents, a dollar or $5 for a publication. But it also dovetails with the reality that free readership, particularly online, is the one circulation measure showing growth.

The perspective from Macy's is particularly important because its parent, Federated Department Stores, buys more than $1 billion in measured media each year, including around $830 million worth of newspaper space. But Federated and Macy's are increasingly looking at national TV and magazines over its stores' traditional homes such as spot TV and newspapers.

Leveraging content online
Ms. MacDonald agreed that newspapers' online plays are important, to the point that publishers' frantic recent efforts aren't close to sufficient. "You need to be much, much more aggressive in leveraging your content online," she said.

But turning around paid circulation declines will require an advertiser's approach, Ms. MacDonald said. "Newspaper will need to think more like brands and more like marketers," she said. "Show the consumer the value in your reports and your columnists."


Macy's to Newspapers: Engage Audiences

By Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer
Macy's Chief Marketing Officer Delivers Tough Love Speech to Newspapers

NEW YORK (AP) -- The chief marketing officer of Macy's department stores delivered tough talk to the newspaper industry Tuesday, telling a publishing conference why her company is moving ad dollars to other media such as TV, magazines and the Internet. Anne MacDonald, a self-proclaimed newspaper "junkie" who keeps stacks of them around her home and reads several each day, told publishers they need to do more to win back business from Macy's, which is part of Federated Department Stores Inc.

With Macy's now a national brand following Federated's acquisition of May Department Stores, the chain is turning increasingly to media with a national reach such as fashion magazines, television and Web sites, she said.

Newspapers are still effective at delivering local messages, she said, but need to do more to engage Macy's shoppers -- primarily women aged 18- 54.

"In order for your newspapers to be winning our advertising dollars, you need to be winning in the marketplace, and that's not currently the case," MacDonald said in a keynote talk at the conference held by the Newspaper Association of America.

Analysts and investors have long been concerned about the decline in ad spending by department stores, and in particular Macy's, as they become national brands and less likely to use local media such as newspapers. Also, newspapers have been struggling with declining circulation and ad dollars as more people get their news online.

Among MacDonald's several suggestions for change was for newspapers to collaborate more effectively across regions and with each other in selling advertising, which would allow national companies such as Macy's to reach a broader audience.

As it is, individual ad buyers for Macy's stores deal with individual newspapers on advertising plans. "That's not productive for either of us," MacDonald said.

She pointed to her own industry, department stores, which had to undergo significant changes over the past several years to adapt to competition from online stores, television shopping channels, big box retailers and discounting clubs.

Macy's, she said, is seeking to establish itself as a more upscale, fashionable brand and drive foot traffic even when there aren't promotions, and is still trying to understand how customers are changing the ways they shop. "Like us, you must change the way you think," she said.

MacDonald pointed to the example of her two favorite sections of her hometown newspaper, The New York Times. Every week she pulls out the science and dining sections and reads them first.

If the Times were to somehow deliver those sections to her wrapped on the outside, she would be impressed that the publisher had learned something about her reading habits, she said.

She also issued a plea to publishers to collaborate with advertisers on research to better understand the rapidly evolving habits of their customers. The idea was immediately embraced by Jack Sweeney, publisher of the Houston Chronicle, who asked MacDonald how to find out what questions they needed answered.

Mark Contreras, senior vice president for newspapers at E.W. Scripps Co., called MacDonald's remarks a "very thoughtful call to action for newspapers to pay very close attention to. .. . We have the wherewithal to meet many of their needs."

BoSacks Speaks Out: The $70 Magazine!

"Such labored nothings, in so strange a style, Amaze th' unlearned, and make the learned smile"
Alexander Pope (English Poet, 1688-1744)

BoSacks Speaks Out: Thanks to my author- friend David Renard, I have been introduced to the style press phenomenon. Until David actually grabbed me by the sleeve and showed me, I will confess that I had no idea there were large stores selling magazines for $89 and up, hundreds of them. That is right, a whole newsstand store of magazines with price tags that would boggle the mind of the average publisher. Just to be very clear, that price I mentioned of $89 is for each issue. And that was not the most expensive . . . not by a long shot.

Having a strong manufacturing background, I have to tell you that for that kind of pricing I was mighty disappointed in the printing quality of most of them. They were OK, but at that price level I would have expected more. . . much more.

Anyway, not only do they have magazines at these price levels but David tells me that the sell through rates are much higher than our industry standard.

So Mr. and Ms. Publisher. . . What do you make of that? Here is where Mr. Magazine will be correct about the future of magazines. Expensive niche printed publishing only for those who can afford it.

Have you got an opinion on any of this? I would love to hear it.

The $70 Magazine! Boutique Glossies Rampant in Soho
by Nicholas Boston boutique-glossies-rampant-soho

The new issue of aRUDE, an outsized independent style and culture magazine, is offering something new for its cover price of $9.95: empty pages. It's a "vanity issue dedicated to Paris Hilton," said its Nigerian- born editor and publisher, Iké Udé. Save for a Mondrian-inspired centerfold collage of the socialite herself, the issue contains only page after page of empty space, punctuated with questions to the reader. "Is she a genius because she works smart and not necessarily hard?" "Aren't you jealous of her?" "Who should she marry?" Readers are instructed to fill in the blank space with their answers, artwork and any shout-outs to or about Ms. Hilton, then to return this material in the envelopes provided to aRUDE's headquarters on 17th Street in Chelsea, where the content will be scanned and re-edited into a "real" magazine, to be re-issued in late summer.

"We want to democratize the editorial contribution in a magazine framework, where it's open to readers to become creators," said the Nigerian-born Mr. Udé, whose contributors include the professional dandy and partygoer Patrick McDonald, F.I.T. professor Valerie Steele and reedy Russian model Larissa Kulikova. "It's kind of like"-you know what's coming- "a blog in print, in a way."

Just what is the deal with those expensive downtown glossies like aRUDE, euphemistically referred to as the "style press"?

"It's a term that came out of France, where magazines that were high-end boutique magazines would be called la presse de style," said David Renard, author of the recently released book The Last Magazine (Universe), in which he argues that the survival of the magazine-publishing industry at large lies in innovations made by the independents. "But instead of just being style as in fashion, style in essence means more design, in a sense, or trendy or cool."

Lafayette Smoke Shop, located at the corner of Lafayette and Spring, is a hotbed of the pricey publications. "All tourists; many, many tourists" is how the store's manager described his clientele-along with the moneyed Soho residents who need to fill coffee-table space, of course.

"I bought one called SOON, in Chinese, French and in English-$70 cover price!" said Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi and author of the annual Samir Husni's Guide to New Magazines, now in its 22nd year. "You can tell that those boutique magazines are done for the people within the industry, rather than the people outside the industry. It's a celebration of our inner circle. Most of them you can find in New York, but the minute you reach Des Moines, they're gone!"

But most of the style press is sustained not by newsstand sales but from ads taken out by-and sometimes custom-designed by-high-end fashion houses, retailers and other luxury brands. "There's no way they can make money without advertising," Mr. Renard said. "They'd have to be selling at $20, $30 a piece-sometimes that's impossible! They want to keep the American concept of low prices."

To get the most desirable advertisers, editors have to woo first-rate style mavens, photographers and graphic designers-usually friends or friends of friends-to contribute work for free. ("Diane"-as in von Furstenberg-"will always take out an ad with us," Mr. Udé said.) Then they have to get the finished product into the right hands. "In New York, with the right wholesaler for New York City, you can make 500 copies look like you are everywhere. Everywhere!" Mr. Renard said. "To whom? To the advertisers and to the tribe that you're trying to attract, let's say the downtown 'cool set.' Only 500 copies-that's 30 stores."

Most of the magazines are primarily visual, repositories for art photography. One exception is 032c, published by partners Jörg Koch and Sandra von Mayer-Myrtenhain out of Berlin; the latest issue, which will retail for $20.99, arrives in New York at the end of May and contains lengthy essays on contemporary art and politics. "Readers are editors, artists, gallerists, architects, students at Columbia and N.Y.U., and, of course, fashion people- designers, P.R., photographers, stylists," Mr. Koch said of his shiny export.

Trace ($5.99) is one title that has extended its brand beyond print. In 2003, the magazine started Trace TV, a cable-television channel in France, which is now available in the U.S. on the Dish Network. In Trace's editorial offices on Broome Street, editors converse in a kind of lingua universale, lapsing from English into French and occasionally Spanish, with intermittent exclamations in other tongues. Editor in chief Claude Grunitzky, 36, the son of a West African diplomat who himself speaks six languages, founded the magazine in 1996 in modest digs in London. Over the next 10 years, he relocated the operation to downtown Manhattan and morphed into a kind of style-press mogul. The magazine is now published in three separate editions-American, British and French- with each distributed to appropriate linguistic markets worldwide. Mr. Grunitzky calls himself a "cross-cultural guru."

"When you look at these 'style press,' what they give us is the cornerstone from which we can build the future for print," Mr. Husni grandly claimed. "Because those magazines cannot exist or have the impact that they have if they existed in any other medium - not online, not on TV."

At any rate, Mr. Udé eagerly awaits the results of his little editorial experiment. "It's not easy to do this," he said. "But thank God it's not easy! If it would be easy, then every Dick and Harry would be doing it."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Mr. Magazine, Time Inc, MPA, Editorial Integrity, and More

BoSacks Speaks Out: Mia Culpa

Friends, I have received dozens of letters and even a few phone calls from long time readers asking me about my missing vents, prognostications, and poignant punditry.

What happened to the irregularly regular BoSacks Speaks Out?

I have plenty of excuses but none of them really work.

I think the true line in the sand for me was drawn with my entry into political life. When I got elected as a town councilman, I had no idea how all consuming it could become. The previous roll models that went before me spent little or no time between meetings, preparing and working for the future of the town. So I figured I could do nothing a whole lot better than those guys, who are doing nothing.

But actually, I have taken a decidedly different approach. If you will allow me the bravado, I have taken a typical Bo-Approach to governance, and that would include speaking out, and working very hard on many town issues. Duh! What a surprise?

So how much speaking out, and in how many venues can one man achieve? I don't really know. But I have seen less speaking out in my newsletter and more speaking out in my town.

All that being said, I will do my best to return to the forefront of media venting, wherever it seems necessary, pontificating whenever possible, and prognosticating as the future unveils it's unexpected twists and turns.

PS: As an FYI - -I have completely reorganized my web site. It now has a wealth of new information and is updated daily with news items that are very important but just didn't make the cut for the daily newsletter. It also has the often asked for archive of old articles and Bo- Rants. It has updated information on everything we do for a living, and some things we don't do, including dozens of excellent media/publishing links. It is still a work in progress and I hope you enjoy it.

I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
Charles De Gaulle (1890 - 1970)

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On the MPA, Editors, Integrity, Time Inc, Circ, Ads and More m

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: GM Wants More Newspaper Advertorials
. . . my company doesn't do advertorial. Ever. I throw a screaming fit at any (potential) advertiser that even suggests it. In fact, I've been known to pillory books put out by our largest advertisers (when they deserve it.) Our readers trust us for it. Readers come first.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: GM Wants More Newspaper Advertorials
hey, didn't that pcworld editor get canned for not running favorable articles? an advertorial is where you bribe the sales staff with money and free content. A p.r. placement is where you bribe them with lunch. :)
(Submitted by an Industry Consultant)

Re: If They Write It, Will They Come?
"Gannett has done more than any other newspaper company to incorporate user-generated content in its Web sites," he said, and I'm sure he's right. They're also doing it in the daily printed paper: "Hey, write to us about your experience of the Easter egg hunt." [If we can't afford journalists, we'll get the public to do the work for nothing.] And a self-respecting fish wouldn't want to be wrapped in the once world-famous Des Moines Register.
(Submitted by Writer)

Re: If They Write It, Will They Come?
You need people who can tell stories well and who understand enough about what they cover to see and convey what is most touching and interesting. Saying "give me user-generated, high-quality content" is all well and good, but just how many editors do you have to sift through all the crap that will come in? Hell, they spend tons of time sifting through what staff and freelance writers generate. This is abdication in the name of relevance that is actually an admission of incapability. People like this don't know what to do, so they come up with something that sounds good. So follow the model and you're still screwed, because you're working on the assumption that the essence of what you've done and chosen to do is right, even if the mechanism is wrong. If readers are the ones to tell the stories, then what are the papers there for? No wonder circulation is down.
(Submitted by a Writer)

Re: Editor re-instated after dispute with PC World
As one of the angry protesters in writing to PC World hoping they would realized that in sacrificing the integrity of their editor they were sacrificing the integrity of their brand and there are few faster paths to destruction I think McCracken's return is a cause to cheer for all of us who believe journalism is first about integrity. Let this lesson be both to Editors, for gods' sake have the courage to stand up for what you know is right, and for Ad executives (or Conde Nast Webisode producers) to realize that if we sell away the integrity of journalism our industry will be forever damaged . . . . and become TV.
(Submitted by a Senior Director)

Re: Editor re-instated after dispute with PC World
Wow! Integrity wins! And the supreme judge in this case was at the top of the company food chain! There IS practical value to virtue. Always has been.
(Submitted by a Senior Sales Rep - Retired)

Re: Editor re-instated after dispute with PC World
Bo, you are wrong about this one. Integrity has nothing to do with it. All this is a reaction to a strong readership out cry.
It still boils down to chasing the almighty dollar and nothing to do with management making the correct decision with any integrity.
(Submitted by a Senior editor)

Re: Editor re-instated after dispute with PC World
Great - the guy who saw the future and said that it's pandering to the advertisers is again the one in charge of online. Now wasn't it an IDG executive who noted a month or two ago that online was their future? In the long run, I'm not sure that this sounds like integrity winning over sales. It's more a case of, "Oh, how embarrassing, and in public no less."
(Submitted by a Senior Director of Mfg and Dst)

Re: Editor re-instated after dispute with PC World
Integrity is for underpaid suckers . . . and the world is filled with them.
(Submitted by a Sales Rep)

Re: NEWS FLASH * * * Elimination of Publishers Periodical Rates for Foreign Subscribers
it can't be the stupidest thing. claiming to not be a government agency while operating like one is dumber yet! Zinio and adobe must be behind this particular change :)
(Submitted by an Industry Consultant)

Re: NEWS FLASH * * * Elimination of Publishers Periodical Rates for Foreign Subscribers.
Unfortunately this is not new news but seems to have been over looked by many. Many printers will not offer ISAL, so re-mailers or first class international may be the only options. The postal service is also eliminating air and surface letter post.

You cannot mail Periodicals foreign and Canadian mail after 12:01 AM May 14.
You must make other arrangements for this mail.
(Submitted by a Postal Director)

Re: Newsweek Editor: 'Dead Tree' Magazines Will Continue
Bob: As a former Newsweeker, I feel Meacham is correct; there will always be a future and a place for good, timely, relevant writing. Newsweeklies have the advantage of pictures and graphics to support their editorial, but the writer still needs to follow the NPR maxim: 'Can you see what I'm saying?'

4,000 words is about 3,700 more than I care to read from a computer screen. There are some ideas that cannot be sufficiently concentrated and packaged onto one page. The answer is simple. Print the article and read it at your leisure. I guess that is why people continue to buy print.
(Submitted by a Print Salesperson)

RE: Newsweek Editor: 'Dead Tree' Magazines Will Continue
Prediction 1: "Green" magazines and catalogs will not be printed on recycled, de-inked, or FSC certified paper. They just won't be printed at all.

Prediction 2: Before the end of 2007, the "disposable celebrity" bubble is going to burst. This category is soley responsible for the strength of the newsstand performance. I spend about $50 on the newsstand every month, and before I discovered the guilty pleasure of various "celebretard" websites, there was always a representative mix of this category in my briefcase. I haven't purchased one issue of a Bauer weekly in months. I'm actually spending more on magazines than before, but my purchases are in completely different categories.

I work with the paper industry and have (for the past 10 years) been trying to help my clients find ways to make print relevant. I NEED your service. You do a fantastic job.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

Re: Why "Mr. Magazine" canceled his Newsweek subscription
I never thought I'd say this (I haven't always been a fan of Mr. Magazine) but this article is right on. In my market, at least, there are NO online competitors that actually make money. (The largest websites in our market are strictly not-for-profit and carry no advertising whatsoever.) Our readers are our customers, not our advertisers. We should do what our readers want, and the advertisers will follow.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Why "Mr. Magazine" canceled his Newsweek subscription
It's the number one reason our industry is in freefall. ALL our problems -- lack of interest in our products, newsstand sellthrough decline, phantom circulation (or just plain circ fraud) which leads to lack of trust by advertisers in our product -- all of these stem from one primary failure:
not serving our readers first.
I've been in this industry for over a decade, and it still amazes me to see how people in this business abuse their customers. None of my titles exceeds 25% advertising (I sell out an issue and say "try next time" if we are about to exceed 25%) . We screen our advertisers heavily (for example requiring written references for personal/professional services like psychic readers -- common in our market.) We mail in envelopes to protect reader privacy. We never, ever sell or rent our list. And our readers have responded by incredible loyalty and support. People will respect you if you respect them.

More and more, I see "industry experts" in Folio and elsewhere recommending the policies we have thought were purely common decency (as above) and have followed for years. Hopefully, it's not too late to save our industry. Thanks for a wealth of great information,
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Why "Mr. Magazine" canceled his Newsweek subscription
As a former client, I can vouch for the fact that Samir is really the most knowledgeable magazine guy in the world!!!!!!
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Why "Mr. Magazine" canceled his Newsweek subscription
Bo, I think you and Samir are the two brightest light bulbs in the industry. I've had many a conversation with fellow publishers about you. We all agree, that you bring needed fresh air into some very stagnant smoke filled rooms. The MPA, ABC, BPA and all the others, need your criticisms and your approach to our problems. Please keep up the good work and the continued pressure you apply by speaking out.
(Submitted by a Senior Publisher)

Friday, May 4, 2007

It’s All in the Delivery

It’s All in the Delivery

In 25,000 years, nothing has really changed except the method of sharing content.

No matter how far back in history you go, humans have captured the moment and written it down, somewhere. Whether you look at the 25,000-year-old Ishango baton from the Congo that recorded a six-month lunar calendar, which was the first known non-cerebral memory device, now called a book … or the cave paintings of France … or the scrolls of the Library of Alexandria … or the retooled olive press of Mr. Gutenberg, you couldn’t find a more interesting and complex period of our industry, of information distribution, than now. OK, maybe Mr. Gutenberg’s era was pretty exciting too.

From the moment movable type was invented till just a few years ago our path was crystal clear and unavoidable. Gutenberg created movable type from soft metal, and an industry was born from the rapid distribution of information.

Did you know he swore his printing partners to secrecy? And upon their deaths, the contract read that the “idea and process” of movable type defaulted back to Gutenberg and his heirs. Nice try, Johannes. Too bad that he died in poverty. Imagine that—the man who invented the world’s first real mass-information distribution system dies in poverty.

An Irresistible Force
The growth of the printing press and the distribution of information was an irresistible force, whose only combatant at the time was ignorance and what seems to us now extremely limited technology.

Of course that limitation is only apparent to us as we look back with tremendous hindsight. The technology of that day was nothing less than amazing, as is our reaching out to the stars. It took a single scribe over a year to copy a single book. Did you know that it took 200 to 300 sheepskins to make a bible? And there was no “preflighting” and “spell checking” to make sure that the scribe got it right.

But Gutenberg could turn out hundreds of books in a week, each one identical to the next. So it is not hard to envision the exponential growth of … well, everything. You no longer needed old wise men to learn from. You didn’t need to be an apprentice. You could learn anything and everything from a book.

Well, we all know the story of how the first book was a bible. But do you know what the very next books were? The topics were exactly the same things that are popular today. Craft books, then scientific books, then the explosion of thought and free thinking.

The printing press reduced the cost of books, increased their availability and encouraged the spread of literacy. It helped alter the economic, scientific and ideological outlooks for the next five centuries. It must have spread something like a virus, and the net result was that it democratized knowledge. And that is no small thing. Yes, that is the business Gutenberg was in, and so are you.

From Storytellers to E-tellers
We have gone from the storytellers of the oral tradition and cave paintings to memory devices like batons and parchment scribed by hand. We have gone from the printing press to new forms of electronic communication. Each new development in the history of communication has always further democratized the delivery of information. Nothing has really changed, except the method of delivery.

So if you think about it, printing on dead trees is no longer the only way of reproducing books and magazines. The process of reading, however, has not changed an iota; it is the same as it has always been.

We are still reading exactly the same way we did 25,000 years ago—we are still mentally interpreting written symbols. We are exploring new ways to do the same things the Ishango shaman did. Capturing ideas, storing it outside of the brain, and passing it on to other humans. Nothing has changed in 25,000 years except the method of delivery. PE

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Where are Today's Mentors?

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
John Quincy Adams (American 6th US President (1825-29), eldest son of John Adams, 2nd US president. 1767-1848)

BoSacks Speaks Out: Where are Today's Mentors?

By BoSacks
Publishing Executive Magazine sid=48494&var=story

In these pages I have pontificated many times about the positive nature and direction of our industry, about the belief that we are headed to a new golden age of publishing, and that new technologies should be considered the friend of information distributors. But there is one aspect in this new world environment that has me worried and concerned. It is the area of mentorship where, it seems to me, we have fallen behind and by that loss as an industry we have been greatly diminished.

What has happened? When and where did we loose the skill set and the will to teach the younglings? Have we so trimmed our business models and our work force that there is just no time to teach and mentor? Have we lost sight of the power of the properly groomed apprentice? Is there just not enough time now with the diminished workforces to add the burden of schooling for the future?

I do not know how to quantify the value of a properly mentored apprentice except through my own experience. But I know that as I passed up the corporate ladder, each of my teachers built upon the foundation of the other guild members that went before them. And I can tell you this, having been a mentor myself, there is a tremendous joy in the successful transfer of knowledge and power.

I have had the great pleasure to be mentored by supervisors, many of whom were great leaders in an era that fostered and promoted genuine leadership. Today I am paying homage to the process and naming names of those friends and giants.

For me, Vito Coliprico, (NY Times Magazine Group), Lowell Logan (McCall's Publishing) and Irving Herschbein (Conde Nast) were giants in their day and took the time to reach out to a young and inquisitive subordinate. The results of their tutorship is the man who stands before you. I have attempted to return the favor to them and the industry by using the technology of the day to mentor others, through my e-newsletter, and my column in this magazine.

Without mentorship we are collectively less than we might have been. It is the aggregate of this loss that will be felt and perhaps is being felt now. Who are the leaders of your corporation? Who are the genuine leaders of this industry? I don't mean who is your immediate supervisor or who is the CEO - those are just job titles. I am asking, where is the leadership? A generation ago if you asked anyone in publishing who the leaders were, the names I mentioned above would be high on the list. Who is on the real leadership list now?

We have many problems ahead of us as an industry. We will need good leaders to provide direction. If you think about it, we are trying to prepare publishing personnel for jobs that don't yet exist. These publishing students will be using technologies and concepts that haven't yet been invented, and they will be trying to find the solutions to problems we don't even know are problems yet. What we can do is take the time to teach our subordinates to think and reason. We can teach them to take reasonable risks. We can teach them to be leaders.

Here is an idea taken and amended from my mentor Vito Colaprico. Each and every one of you should start a "publishing school" in your company. It doesn't matter how big or small your company is. It could meet once a week or once a month. Here is how it works.

All magazines have the basic components of editing, production, ad selling, ad management, circulation and distribution. In most corporations there are walls around those functions. I say it is time to breakdown those walls. Have the apprentices teach their disciplines to the apprentices of the other departments. What happens is, in order to teach you must learn your own skill set first. In order to teach, you must learn to stand up in front of a group and be articulate. The learning of your own field and the capacity to teach it is the start of leadership skills.

The byproduct of this process is the cross-pollination of skill sets. Various departments will have comprehension of exactly what the guys in the other departments in fact do for a living. This will promote a greater team spirit throughout the company and facilitate unimagined efficiencies, and perhaps even camaraderie. And among those students will be the leadership of tomorrow that we so desperately need today.

Where the Heck is the Industry Going?

Where the Heck is the Industry Going?
By BoSacks

As an industry, who are we, where are we going, and will we recognize ourselves when we get there? This rant is intended to be a look in the media mirror—call it a “State of the Union” address of sorts.

There has been a lot of news, conjecture and posturing about what the media industry may be morphing into. These changes are not only affecting the industry, but the psyche of the people who work in it. As I travel around the country, I see some members of our industry who are terrified, some who are exhilarated, some who are fearful of losing their jobs, and some who have already lost them. On the other hand, some are adapting to new business models and thriving.

Where are you in this cycle?

There is wild positive speculation mixed in with some doom, gloom and panic. My good friend and industry analyst Dr. Joe Webb says that some people call him Dr. Doom for stating the facts of an industry in transition. Dr. Joe and I forecast change, but in no way do we forecast doom. In fact, I see it in the opposite light. It is an era of tremendous opportunity and growth for electronically coordinated information distributors (publishers).

Look at the past 10 years. Ten years ago, we were arguing about whether or not digital plate-making was a good idea. Ten years ago, we were wondering what the heck a PDF was, and why we would ever use it. Ten years ago—that’s right only 10 years ago—the Internet was in its infancy. Ten years ago, we all had job security.

But, one thing has not changed in 10 years. Publishers still hire writers and editors. Production personnel still format the information, and send it to vendors for global distribution.

You could say that nothing has changed except the speed and mechanism of delivery.

The underlying conclusion is that we, as an industry, will not be going out of business. We have a fine and honorable future ahead of us, just not quite as we knew it. So what? It is time to get used to it. Your career depends on you adapting to these inevitable facts of change.

Printing ink on paper is a science. Analog publishers had to learn and fine-tune that science to distribute their products. Now, in the Internet age, there are several methods of distributing content. It is still nothing more nor less than a science. This new technology is actually an advantage to publishers and their age-old franchise of information distribution.

Are people getting laid off all over the place? Yes, but new jobs are being created just as fast, if not faster. Page make-up and design is off the scale in actual growth, even production jobs are up, but not producing only ink-on-paper products. Writers are still writing, editors are still editing, and publishers are still publishing, but in new creative mediums, as well as old ones. Even printers are still printing, but they are consolidating like crazy and trying to establish a new survival mode in preparation of the “screenager” years, when today’s tech-savvy teens enter the adult consumer market.

Eventually, even the screenagers will grow up and be expected to perform in the work force. They will grow up with some type of real bona fide reading. The lawyers can’t practice law, the doctors can’t doctor, and the engineers can’t engineer without real reading. And they will be reading what publishers publish. There still will be money to be made with words that have meaning that equates to value.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, “Heard on the Web.” Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Publishing Prognosticators

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Publishing Prognosticators

Perhaps I have finally been in the publishing business long enough (30 Years) to reach the state of sage-ability. At this time we are obviously experiencing a negative, if somewhat common, business trend. I say common because from a historical perspective it's clear this happens on a regular basis. It's not fun, it's hard on everyone, but it is an oft-repeated event. To deny its reoccurrence is ridiculous. We have had large downturns before and we will have them again. Unless you really believe that America is going out of business, there is nothing to fear but the fear of being laid off.

I have been laid off in other bad economic times and now I'm a self-appointed publishing sage. Bad times like this happen, in fact must happen, at least once in a while. It is hard on me and no doubt hard on you. But to think that we are going to just ride some alchemist's pipe dream of growth upon growth upon more extended growth is no less foolish than turning lead type into golden bestsellers.

The following article is gloomy in its truthfulness, but just a tad too short sighted for my tastes. As I've been saying, my experience has shown me that healthy business has an ebb and a flow, a pulse if you will, not unlike the story of Joseph and the dreams of a distant Pharaoh, the old story where a dream of seven years of feast was followed by a dream of seven years of famine.

Let me say here that I do not believe we are in for seven years or five years or even four of famine after the last amazing long bull market and it's effects on our industry and on others. But I do think we will be in for another 12-month period of belt tightening and business model deliberation. Here is where Goethe gets it right, at least in a business sense, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger."

Is it time to reassess our business plans? Yes. Is it time to develop new and creative sales programs? Yes. Is it time to seek new avenues of diversified distribution? Yes. Is it time to pack in the tent poles of publishing and become plumbers, carpenters and god forbid anything other than the fifth estate. Nah. Not at all.

All I see is that we are in a common economic trough and from deep in the trench it is very hard to see the way out. Now I am not crass enough to forget that there are people, humans, in this equation, real people with children, people with plans, people who need a comfortable retirement, that are going to get hurt. I am a father, a grandfather and a husband myself, who would shelter as best as I can/could the pain and angst that these cycles bring to my family and my publishing compatriots. I cannot succor you or predict the upswing other than it will happen. Oh yes, I can tell you that it will happen when the best of the prognosticators say it won't happen. That is the way of it all. Those who say they know really don't know at all, including me.

Bosacks Speaks Out: What is content?

Bosacks Speaks Out: What is content?

Content, Content, Content What is it good for? Nothing!
All this talk of content and mergers and increased content and increased
mergers. Phooey!

It's not about the content. Piles and piles of content is just that -- piles and
piles of junk. Useless to most, perhaps somewhat useful to some few dogged
focused pursuers of information. Content is not king, but quality content
might be queen. And focused quality content might be considered a king.
And Presorted Personalized Focused Quality Content might be the "Emperor of All Information" Content is the workshop where I store all my tools. Information is the exact and only "hexagonal wrench" I need to finish the damn job. Now where was that wrench? When did I use it last? I don't remember. It could be anywhere.

Here is a question -- what makes this newsletter useful to you? I think it is
the fact that I have spent 30 years doing a job very similar to yours. Not
exactly the same, but close enough. My experience empowers me to act as your "agent." I sort through the information of our industry and forward to you the best that I can find that might be useful for you to know, based on my parallel experience to yours. Am I 100% correct? No, not even close. But I am useful enough to have a very large readership. So where am I going with all this? It is not the volume of content that is important; it is the focused practical usefulness of information that makes the content valuable.

All this talk of content and the power of mergers, and the power of combined
content... Phooey! Mergers are good for business due to tangible efficiencies. Smaller head count, less office space and greater buying power. The rest is bull! Synergies? BULL! All this jabber of a "volume of content" is terribly misleading.

AOL ... and Time and Warner... Think of them as three separate companies for
a minute who have more content than the Great Library of Alexandria. So What?
Do you know that in the old great Library of Alexandria they had no idea
what they had? All they had were rolled up scrolls. Piles and piles, shelf
after shelf, room after room. I'm mean huge! For that time, it was the combined knowledge of all the ages. Awesome Huh?. NOT!

Most scrolls were not labeled at all, Just rolled up and tied parchment, placed in piles. They had little or no titles once unrolled. And absolutely none had an index or a table of contents on any publication. The concept of indexing or a TOC wasn't invented yet. So what did they have? They had tons and tons of content, without the ability to get to what they needed, when they needed it. There were no labels. Where would you begin? How would you find what you want? How would you even know what you want? Sound familiar?

I am a huge Internet user, and the truth is I love it. But there is still so
much to do. The billions of pages of information out there are for the most
part useless, until we reinvent indexing and a new system of personalized
delivery. What we need is a "true" personal agent. A computer program so
sophisticated and detailed that it does the searching and sorting based upon
our unique and personalized individual needs.

We need that computerized personalized agent that I have spoken of several times in this newsletter. An "agent" or "concierge" of cyberspace. An "agent" that fits where our wristwatches fit now. A total voice recognition system, answerable only to us. A program that will know all that is knowable about us. An "electronic friend" that will send birthday cards and meaningful presents to friends and family. It will pay all the bills and make all appointments with coworkers and doctors. An agent so integrated into the

cyber paths that my agent will call your agent to confirm or deny our availability to meet without our intervention. An agent that knows so much about us that it knows not only what we want to read, but also what we didn't know we wanted to read. That is to me the key to growth. This agent has to be so "smart" it will deliver to us not only what we have "asked for," but also information that we need to know about, but didn't know that we didn't know.

This "thing" or something very like it will happen. In fact I think it will
happen in our lifetime.

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Paper, Advertising and, Oh yes... Commodities

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Paper, Advertising and, Oh yes... Commodities

I just want to take a time out here to point out, no suggest, that the paper people reading this newsletter read the following article twice. Why, you may ask? Because reading and not understanding what you are reading can be dangerous, and I think that there has been a misunderstanding of the current advertising climate and a confusion of economic facts by the paper community. After all, as the Japanese proverb goes, "If you believe everything you read, you better not read."

What the heck is Bo talking about this time? It is this - the belief and actions of the paper companies that, with all the predictions and prognostications of increased advertising spending, it is a good time for paper price increases. In my humble opinion it is not, and will not, indeed cannot, be supported. It is among other things, the simple dynamic of supply and demand. Magazine circulations and the paper they draw upon are on the decrease. Paper supply is on the increase. All this "talk" that I freely distribute to you about the advertising recovery can be very misleading. Yes, advertising spending is on the rise from the worst business climate in several generations. So what? Increased advertising across the "board" does not necessarily equate to increased magazine pages. The "board" has changed; it has grown, and has become an uncontrollable and annoying monster. Ads are everywhere, from the Internet, to taxi cabs, to the public toilets we frequent. All these new format ads cost money and that money is coming from and being siphoned from more traditional vehicles, such as magazines and newspapers.

Let's get real here. With a few exceptions, magazines are still hurting, laying off people, and decreasing ad rate bases. And that means less paper, not more. Less paper by publishers means, more paper in inventory. And that means, by the law of commodities denied by most paper companies, not a good time for an increase.


Bosacks Speaks Out: The Future of Publishing Revisited

Bosacks Speaks Out: The Future of Publishing Revisited

The second item in the following news story is about ebooks. And that leads me to ezines. Have any of you tried or

They are similar in nature and both pretty damn good. I have a preference, but that is not worth the telling here. Both represent a piece of the future of publishing. My future? No, your future.

I highly recommend that all publishing professionals check out both sites. Check it out and use it, at least once. Come on, you can do it. The first one is free. You will be doing yourself and your career a favor. To me they represent a fair guess at how we may slowly switch from a dead tree information distribution system to an all-electronic one. If you can use your imagination and slip epaper or eink into this forecast, then you've really got something. The future of publishing is right here. Are you ready for it? There are some major and some minor magazines already on track here. Both consumer titles and BtoB titles are available, not to mention the newspapers.

Here is my prediction. In five years - OK shoot me if it is ten - we will all have a sheet or set of sheets that are composed of flexible epaper. This will be foldable like a newspaper or magazine and fully downloadable from one publisher or many publishers. In one set of epapers, you can have your favorite morning newspapers, magazines and books. When you are done, you erase it, or save it, for the next download. Electronic memory will be inexhaustible and so will be the power source. It will be part of a wifi-of-the-day network, meaning that anywhere you are - and I mean anywhere - you can get updates, new editions, or the local movie schedule of any town you just happen to be in.

This will happen whether you like it or not. Whether you are prepared or not. We as a publishing industry will use less paper. Paper will not go away, nor will print editions. But publishers will use less paper. That will be an adjustment for printers, circulators, mailers and production people; in fact the entire process will be different. The only ones that I can see escaping the job transformation gambit will be the keyboardists. That would be the writers, editors, proofreaders and the like. Those that capture the "word" are almost unchanged. Those that distribute the "word" are forever altered in what they do and how they do it.

This is just one man's opinion, but I know I'm close to correct. Not exactly, because the real future and it's coexisting technology is unknowable. But I am damn close, of that I am sure.


BoSacks Speaks Out: Fastest-Growing Ad Medium?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Fastest-Growing Ad Medium?

Does anyone on this list think that advertising in the Cinema is not an absolute abominable intrusion?

How would you feel if you paid for Broadway tickets to see Phantom of the Opera and before the Curtain rises for your expensive evening's entertainment, you had to sit through 10 or 15 minutes of advertising? Why should going to the movies be considered any different?

My reaction is pure disgust. We now have a situation where it costs over $10.00 per person to see a movie, and then I get the privilege of getting assaulted by unwanted advertising before my paid for entertainment starts. I must admit that I like the coming attractions, which is of course a style of advertising, but that is okay with me. It is consistent with the evening's expectations and agenda. But being forced to watch generalized consumer advertising is wrong, and I shutter to think, as the article below suggests, that it will be growing at a faster pace then the Internet, TV or magazine advertising.

We better get a consumer watch group started right now, and at the very least put a legal limit on cinema advertising. How about this -- five years from now the ads can't play for a longer time than the actual movie runs? Does that seem fair to you? 50% advertising and 50% movie? If not that, where should we draw the line?