Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why Esquire Mag is your Future?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why Esquire Mag is your Future?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Please, let's not all get crazy at the same time. So many people are over-reacting to the announcement that Esquire is using e-ink on their cover that I almost don't know where to begin. But almost isn't don't know.

First and foremost, this is a clever magazine cover gimmick for a 75th anniversary cover. Period, end of story, except for all the brouhaha. They deserve to do something special. And e-ink is going to be something special. In this case it is underutilizing the power and the possibilities of e-ink, but what the heck? You have to start somewhere. And this year our industry starts here on the cover of Esquire with a flexible, magazine-bindable production of e-ink.

We as an industry have been inserting and on-serting for generations. Believe me I know, as I was partly responsible for the AOL onslaught of on-serting and inserting first fragile plastic diskettes and then CD's into magazines. The computer and music sectors have been doing this for years. The women's service groups have inserted hundreds of items including such nutty ideas as shampoo samples which in the course of palatalizing squished and squeezed the samples all over the printer's bindery floor. So ease off on the condemnation that gimmicks are something new or distasteful.

And the same thing is true for the carbon footprint. Why is Esquire being singled out?
I'm the first to admit that we have been reckless as an industry when it comes to carbon foot-printing and inefficiencies, but to single out a single publisher . . . . pure and absolute rubbish. Anyone who is starting to condemn a single gimmick in a single magazine doesn't know the industry, the history, nor the true story of magazine sales and magazine production.

E-ink or e-paper is special, in fact it is very special, and it is an integral part of the future of the magazine business. If we are going to have a big future at all, it is going to be digital. We will combine the ease of use of digital editions of magazines with the portability of brilliantly colored WiFi connected epaper, with a drastically lower carbon footprint than today and dramatically reduced manufacturing costs. What's not to like? What part don't we understand?
Publishers sell words and thoughts, not paper and printing? For those who need to hear me say it again, printing ink on paper is not going to go away; it is also not going to be the dominant distribution vehicle of information.

Esquire's Granger: Magazine Medium 'So Compelling We All Should Do More with It'
Editor responds to news of flashing anniversary cover.
Jason Fell

Since the report last week about Esquire's flashy e-paper October anniversary cover-and our follow-up on the technology behind it-I've been hearing/reading a lot of negative opinions about it.

One Web site called it obnoxious. Rex Hammock said it was "the worst use of technology by a magazine." Fast Company, in a blog post, estimated that the manufacturing process increases the issue's carbon footprint by 16 percent over other typical print publications. But, if you ask Esquire editor-in-chief David Granger, the technology could help revolutionize the way we read magazines, beyond the printed page and online.

"When I talk to groups I sometimes speak about the days I had when I'd get the new issue of Esquire and go through it and think to myself, 'Fuck, it's still a magazine,'" Granger said in a recent interview with FOLIO:. "What I mean is that the medium is so compelling that I and we should all be able to do more with it. The magazine experience is one of the last remaining opportunities to enter a hermetically-sealed world, an edited experience of our culture created by someone else. And, more importantly, it's an experience that encourages you to stay in it rather than constantly bounce in and out of it.

"We have an amazing medium, print, and if we can enhance the experience of it by putting new technology to use, then all the better," he said.

Bob Sacks, an industry consultant and frequent proponent of technology, says that Esquire's flashy cover may be a small step overall but offers a glimpse of what's to come in the next few years.

"It's not a representation of what e-paper was designed for, but doing the cover is the right thing to do," Sacks says. "It will be a demonstration of what it can be used for. In the near future we all will have flexible e-paper readers in our pocket and will be able to access all the magazine and books you want."

Right now, the technology is expensive and, if you believe Fast Company, not very green. Granger says that, with time, he hopes the technology will become cheaper. Maybe, after some refining, the application will become more realistic and environmentally-friendly, too.


The Real Cost of E-Ink
posted by Anya Kamenetz

An article in the New York Times earlier this week described an effort by the legendary print magazine Esquire to make "a nod to the digital age" by using something called E Ink on its cover. That's pretty much what it sounds like: electronic ink, so the cover can blink like a Times Square billboard, as opposed to a staid old highway billboard.

One problem: Did anyone stop to consider the environmental implications? Check out this description of the process, from the Times article:

The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China. They are shipped to Texas and on to Mexico, where the device is inserted by hand into each magazine. The issues will then be shipped via trucks, which will be refrigerated to preserve the batteries, to the magazine's distributor in Glazer, Ky.
Editor David Granger described it as "a 21st-century technology" combined with "a 19th-century manufacturing process." Can't argue with the second part, at least. The article goes on to note that this process is expensive, and hence requires sponsorship from a Ford SUV (not exactly a 21st-century technology itself). But what about the other cost . . . the carbon one? Some back-of-the-envelope calculations show it's not small, and Ford's not picking up the tab.

Let's start at the beginning. According to the article, "The batteries and the display case are manufactured and put together in China." The manufacturing phase is the biggest question mark in the life cycle of any product. According to life cycle analysis by Nokia, the manufacturing phase, alone, of another battery-powered electronic device, their 3G phones, is responsible for 12.3 KG of CO2 equivalent per unit. Granted, the E Ink display is a lot simpler and uses much less material than a cell phone, so let's say the carbon footprint is one-tenth as much-1.2 KG per user. That would be 135 tons of CO2 for the entire run of 100,000 devices.
Next, the devices will be shipped to Texas. According to E-Ink, a comparable prototype device weighs about 150 grams (5.3 ounces). According to the calculator on ShipGreen.net, shipping 100,000 of those overseas from Shanghai to Houston is worth another 2.6 tons -189 tons if they for some reason chose air freight.

From there, the little magic doohickeys will make their way to a Mexican maquiladora (where the work conditions are certain to be just lovely-ditto the Chinese factory) to be inserted by hand into the magazine covers (1.28 tons from Houston to Monterrey, Mexico), and from there, the completed issues, about one-third heavier than normal, will travel about 1,400 miles to the magazine's distribution center in Kentucky (11 more tons). Oh, and because of the delicacy of the electronics, they'll have to travel in refrigerated trucks. Certain kinds of refrigeration units can consume a half gallon of fuel per operating hour - that's an additional 10 gallons for that 20 hour trip-per truck. So for 5 trucks (let's say), the refrigeration adds about another half a ton. Then the blinking magazines go to their final destinations.

So . . . the total outlay in greenhouse gas emissions for this little experiment-again, this is based on loose estimates-comes to 150 tons of CO2 equivalent, similar to the output of 15 Hummers or 20 average Americans for an entire year, and a 16% increase over the carbon footprint of a typical print publication (based on calculations by Discover Magazine, Time, and In Style). The potential environmental impact of the E Ink covers increases even more when you consider that the units are designed to be disposable after one use and they'll make it more difficult or impossible to recycle the paper portion of the magazines.
Maybe Esquire should go back to the drawing board for a truly forward-looking concept of the possibilities of print. Fast Company would be glad to advise them on where to go to get printed on 100% recycled paper

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Much Does Free Really Cost?

BoSacks Speaks Out: Last week I wrote the following in my blog called Pub Talk.

How Much Does Free Really Cost?
There was an announcement this week from Google that the company plans to launch a new ad tool, called Ad Planner, designed to help agencies identify sites where their target audience might be active. This new, free service, if I understand it correctly, uses audience measurement data and combines that data with search engine information, to determine with extreme exactitude what sites attract the particulars of any unique demographic audience. It then creates a resource for ad agencies to determine where to precisely place ads.

This seems to me to be a two-edged sword. It is conducive for advertisers, publishers and webmasters to have as much data on their readership as is possible. But at what point is that pool of rich data just too intrusive and delving into our private lives, while we are numbly uninformed at the keyboard? At what point will the power to corrupt be so overwhelming a temptation by the "Google god" of personal information storage that it gets used against us?

This could be simple paranoia, a relic attitude from the last century when only I and my conscience knew where I was and what I was doing. Now it seems our very thoughts (Google searches) are on open display and for sale to the highest bidder. Does this mean that "big brother" is actually watching? The clear answer is yes. But it turns out that there are two big brothers: one is the government (phone tapping) and the other is the capitalist system. I'm not sure which one scares me more.

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
Benjamin Franklin

Resisting Google

What happens when a single company becomes the gateway to the Internet? Critics are raising concerns about Google, where over 60 percent of all internet searches in the U.S. originate. Boston Globe reporter Drake Bennett investigated the Google juggernaut.
BOB GARFIELD: In the novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." In our anxious age of information and technology, some have seen the face of Big Brother, and they are calling him - Google.

According to Nielsen Online, the California based company, not yet ten years old, is now responsible for more than three-fifths of all Internet searches in the United States. Of course, Google doesn't just sift through information. It collects and compiles it too, which, as Boston Globe reporter Drake Bennett wrote recently, has some scholars and programmers pushing back. Drake, welcome to On the Media.

DRAKE BENNETT: Thanks very much.

BOB GARFIELD: So I go on and I do a series of searches during the course of a day, or a lifetime, and Google keeps track of all of that stuff. How long does it keep it and how can it connect it to me as an individual?

DRAKE BENNETT: Well, it can connect you through cookies, which are these little lines of text that identify the computer that did this search. And Google and other ISPs do now put a time limit on how long they keep cookies and other identifying information, but they do have this record of what the search was and what computer did it. For the first year, year and a half, that can be traced back to you.

And also, as Google has expanded into email and social networking and things like that, I mean, you're giving them more and more information, and they're holding onto it.

BOB GARFIELD: Now, in its privacy policy, Google, cross its heart, hope to die, swears it would never compromise anybody's personal information. And let's assume for a moment that Google would never risk [LAUGHS] its ten plus billion dollar a year golden goose by selling user data.

But the government, especially in the post 9/11 era, does have a frightening history of subpoenaing entire haystacks to locate potential needles. And, in 2005, Google itself was subpoenaed. Tell me about that case and how it turned out.

DRAKE BENNETT: That was a big Justice Department investigation into child pornography. The Justice Department wanted information about what sort of search terms were popular. They wanted to make the case that a lot of people were looking for child pornography.

Google, more than any other of the companies that were subpoenaed, really pushed back and fought the case in court and ended up having to release a much smaller amount of information than the government originally wanted. So Google, if you ask them about privacy issues, will hold this up as an example of how they're going to really go to bat for you.

There are other ways besides subpoenas, though, that the federal government goes after information. One of them is National Security Letters. That's a much lower profile thing and happens probably more often.

BOB GARFIELD: And, in fact, had Google received any National Security Letters we would have no way of knowing that. It could have been forced by the government to surrender information and be legally bound never to disclose that the letter was ever even received.

DRAKE BENNETT: Yes, exactly. That's a very good point. It's something we would not even hear about.

BOB GARFIELD: Now, you mentioned how Google pushed back against the subpoenas in 2005. Others are pushing back against Google. For example, in Finland, an employer is not [LAUGHS] allowed to do a google search about a prospective employee. But there's been other solutions for trying to stem the influence of this juggernaut. Can you go through some of them for me, please?

DRAKE BENNETT: Sure. There are programs one can use or websites one can go through. One of them is something called TrackMeNot. Basically what TrackMeNot does -- it's a Firefox plug in and every time you do a google search, it sends out three or four dummy searches based on, you know, what other people are searching at the time.

Google has no way of knowing which of those searches was your real search and which was the artificially generated one, and so it sort of creates this white noise and obscures your tracks.

Another thing that an increasing number of people are turning to is a site called Scroogle. You go to the Scroogle site and you type in your search query and Scroogle basically takes the search query and turns around and submits it to Google, so any attempt, any cookies that come back, don't make it all the way to you. They stop at the Scroogle site and Scroogle basically just throws them away. So it sort of serves as this buffer.

BOB GARFIELD: We've been talking about privacy issues up 'til now. You also wrote that there's a new worry arising, and the worry is about what it means when a single company becomes the world's doorway to the entire content of the Web. Those are mostly your words.

In what ways should we be concerned that Google has such dominance in the search sphere?

DRAKE BENNETT: Unlike the other organizing systems for information that we've had in the past, like the Dewey Decimal System, for example, Google's algorithm, the thing that decides what information is more and less important, is proprietary. It's a secret. And there's a worry that Google's own agenda, because it is a profit making entity, could impinge there. For example, there have been a couple of cases, lawsuits against Google, where companies have accused Google, Inc. of basically blackballing them.

The SearchKing is perhaps the more telling case. It's a company that marketed itself basically as a gamer of the Google algorithm. It sold a service to online companies that wanted to improve their Google ranking.

SearchKing, in its lawsuit, accused Google of basically kicking them out of the Google search results. And Google seems, in its response, to have basically admitted that it did so, although there's some debate about that. But, more importantly, what Google said was - that's none of your business. I mean, we get to decide how we rank information, and this is basically free speech.

BOB GARFIELD: It makes some people think of the railroads, which were owned by private companies but which nonetheless, because they were essential monopolies and because they so influenced the public economy, the federal government regulated them.

DRAKE BENNETT: It sort of gets at this larger question of, you know, what is a search engine? You know, do we treat them like newspapers, do we treat them like television stations or do we treat them like public utilities, where they're providing this service that people increasingly cannot live without and that, as a result, the government needs to decide the terms of access?

BOB GARFIELD: Drake, thank you.

DRAKE BENNETT: Thanks a lot.

BOB GARFIELD: Drake Bennett is a reporter for the Ideas section of The Boston Globe

Monday, July 14, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Why Media See 'Depression' As Real

BoSacks Speaks Out: It was Dr. Joe Webb who reminded me yesterday of the old Harry S. Truman quote, "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours." The publishing industry along with the rest of the economy is hurting right now, although as is usually the case, some few titles are bucking the downward trend and showing some actual gains.

I think it is sadly a double whammy on print, because the economy will surely rise again, but will the advertisers return as they used to when the economy bounced back? At best the answer is yes for some and no for some others. We were struggling enough in this digital transition period and don't need an additional economic anxiety attack to have advertisers focus on identifiable ROI while tightening their belts and reducing their budgets.

If you add the increasingly visible sustainability factor into the publishing caldron of issues to contend with, you start to see the makings of a perfect storm. That storm is still on the horizon, but it is looming and it is large. As with any storm there is always hope it will remain distant with only the booms of thunder to remind us of our peril and help us keep our focus as we steer correctly towards open waters and profitable information distribution.

It is going to take very nimble, very aggressive, visionary management to lead the way.

I wrote a blog a few days ago for another site where I listed the following as the last of several predictions for the end of 2008 and that that seems fitting and appropriate to refer to here:

More publishing dinosaur management who don't already have their own facebook page, nor the knowledge of how to build one, will be asked to either jump from the executive terrace or take what's left of the money and run.

"We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
John W. Gardner (American Writer and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 1912-2002)

Layoffs And Closings Help Explain Why Media See 'Depression' As Real

One of the hardest things for reporters to do is to distance themselves when they become part of a story. That's precisely the problem with journalists covering the U.S. economy.

We're a long way from it being what NBC claims is "a bust." We're not in another "Depression" either, despite dozens of network stories to that effect. But many journalists think things are that bad because their own industry is in chaos.

Ad sales have plummeted and online sales aren't making up for it. Media outlets are closing or laying off staff. There are at least 4,000 fewer jobs for reporters and editors than in 2000, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The list of media laying off or buying out staff includes some of the best-known outlets: the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg Times, Media General, Tribune and Thomson Reuters. And those are just since May.

Top names in journalism are walking out the door or being pushed. Such popular writers as David Broder and Tony Kornheiser joined more than 100 co-workers to take the latest buyouts at the Washington Post - the third round in just five years. The newsroom is down 25% as a result, according to the paper's media critic, Howard Kurtz.

In just a month and a half, a media blog run by the Poynter Institute cited roughly 40 stories detailing the red ink being spilled on the floors of newsrooms nationwide.

Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group (which owns almost 60 dailies), said recently that there will be two types of newspapers in the future - "those that survive, and those that die." He went on to claim "as many as 19 of the top 50 metro newspapers in America are losing money today, and that number will continue to grow."

That adds a little perspective when news reports dwell on problems at General Motors or the possible sale of Anheuser-Busch. Journalists have covered market changes in other industries with obvious anxiety.

An American Journalism Review analysis was titled "Why a lot of newspapers aren't going to survive" and included a prediction that "a lot of major metros" will close.

The few that survive will be smaller and possibly even free. Tribune has announced plans to trim the news hole in its papers. Stock pages have followed classifieds in moving to the Internet. Whole sections of newspapers have gone away.

Those are the news outlets reporters and producers turn to every day. TV and radio news departments have long been famous for "rip-and-read," where they lift an entire story from the newspaper.

That's the context for your economic news. Your paper screams disaster with every story about business. The evening news broadcast repeats the claim. Both reflect the media mind-set about their changing business as much as they do reality.

In December 2005, the big issue was the declining auto industry. CBS's Trish Regan might as well have been discussing journalism when she said: "Jobs in traditional industries, the ones that helped build this country, are slowly disappearing." That could be the epitaph for traditional journalism except for the word "slowly."

Journalists know it but seem unable or unwilling to adapt. Instead they do what they do best - they communicate. They tell stories. The news becomes one long ode to a dying economy. Mortgage crisis, debt crisis, housing crisis. Every story is a crisis, but the unstated crisis is the very one reporters are coping with.

The Washington Post's Neil Irwin recently tried explaining the disconnect between economic reality and ordinary Americans' opinions. People are saying, "It is not just bad, it is run-for-the-hills terrible," he said. Irwin's pathetic defense of the economy: "It's not all that grim."

What followed should have been a detailed analysis of how the mainstream media have misrepresented the economy of the greatest nation on Earth. But Irwin didn't even try. He mocked claims that the media could have a major role in the gloom.

"There is no obvious reason that it (media impact) would be more pronounced now than in 2001 or 1990, when consumer confidence did not drop as much as it has recently," he claimed.

But he ignored major changes in the media landscape - the rise of the 24-7 news cycle, the increased power of the Internet and, especially, the blurring of lines between unbiased journalism and so-called "analysis."

Reporters blur those lines every night on the evening news, convinced the problems impacting media must reflect society in general. That same sense of self-importance has undermined journalism for decades and now does the same to the U.S. economy.

Gainor is the Boone Pickens fellow and vice president of the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute.