BoSacks: No B.S.: Sizing up Publishing Success
There is an old expression that says, "It's not the size of the wand, but the magic that it performs." I believe that this sage advice is true with almost everything, including our beloved publishing industry. David showed Goliath what size meant to him and Reader's Digest showed The Saturday Evening Post what size meant to it at 25 percent of the Post's size. Did you know that Reader's Digest was the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States and didn't lose that lofty spot until 2009 to Better Homes and Gardens? International editions of Reader's Digest are distributed to 40 million people in more than 70 countries, with 50 editions in 21 languages. It is the largest paid circulation magazine in the world. Oh yeah, and all that success came in a relatively puny size. The rate base of a full page in 2012 for RD is $185,300. So, size, at least here, is less meaningful than the perceived magical performance.
I am telling you all this because I firmly believe that size doesn't matter as much as the magic and the worth of the content we produce. As we move into the mobile media landscape we must remember the success of the Reader's Digest format.
This brings me to another very important point about paginated media. One of the tricks to our survival as a publishing industry is still paginated media. Yep. That is correct. Regardless of the substrate and regardless of the size we still need to remember paginated media, and I'll tell you why.
Reader's Digest, or the even the smaller TV Guide, showed us that 50 percent less than the size of an iPad doesn't truly matter, but rather the great respect for the concept of the full page is what's important. For me, having successfully sold advertising space, I have always considered that we in the paginated media business are also in the real estate business. We sell the right to view our real estate, because we have massive amounts of vacationers (readers) coming to our valued properties each and every day for the tremendous views. We rent our plots of real estate to advertisers. Now, hold that thought as we move into the next stage of publishing.
It is my opinion that ads have yet to work well on mobile media because we have somehow forgotten the value and magic of the paginated page. If we get back to basics and remember we are still in the real estate rental business, we can recreate what we are/were on any substrate. I suggest that if we start to think in full-ish page increments for both ads and edit on mobile platforms, we will have a winning formula at any size.
Hiding ads on the bottom of a small screen covering one tenth of a page hoping for results will never work and serves little purpose. Getting results is what both the reader and the advertiser have always wanted. I postulate that a full-page ad on my smart phone, if properly rendered for the substrate it is on, is just as powerful as a full page in Reader's Digest, The Saturday Evening Post or any other magazine at any other size. In fact, if we regain our proud nature for the page and we use the full data resources at our command to deliver the exact advertising message, the mobile process could be extremely useful and lucrative to both the reader and the advertiser
Flipboard founder Mike McCue recently said that he believes that publishers are "addicted to ad revenue from banner ads," and he also pointed out that those ads are in a permanent downward price spiral. He said they are better off with Flipboard-style ad campaigns that offer 10 to 15 times the payout of banner ads, which is "closer to print economics."
It is no surprise that the founder of Flipboard would be pitching Flipboad ad styles. But I have to agree with him that in the mobile world, full pages are not only the way of the past but quite possibly the way of the future, too. Someone has to pay someone for good and worthwhile content. The advertiser or the reader must be willing to be part of the publisher's revenue stream. If readers are willing to pay the full load, we don't need advertising. If advertising is going to pay part of the process, we need a successful infrastructure to deliver results. On mobile niche platforms the answer is full-sized real estate. Mobile success will come when we use the power of paginated media. PE
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He also is co-founder of research company mediaIDEAS (MediaIdeas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web.