BoSacks: No B.S.: The Benefit of Tracking Trends
I will confess to my readers that in the boom of the 1990s I did a fair amount of day trading in the stock market. I was pretty good at it, but let's keep that between us multithousand readers, and no one tell the IRS. Actually I'm just kidding about that part; I always considered them a silent partner in all my operations.
One of the things I learned, and the tip that I would like to discuss with you in this annual tips and tricks issue, is the concept of trend analysis. It is a simple formula for calculating predictable actions. It can be used for damn-near anything, not just the market.
Staying with a stock market approach, I'm sure you are aware that stock prices drift daily. Sometimes they go up, and sometimes they go down, based on the sentimentality of the day. Each day's closing price is your benchmark for analysis.
Here is the formula for spotting trends: Look for something (not only stocks) that has higher highs and higher lows. Since we know prices will fluctuate, you are looking for a trend line. This trend line is a directional pointer. Even though the item we are watching goes up and down, if the low points get higher each day then you have a positive trend. If the highs are lower and the lows are lower, you have a negative trend.
So what does this have to do with publishing? Pretty much everything. If you track any part of our industry, you will see various trends. Newsstand circulation is one worth watching. For decades we have seen sales fluctuations—they go up and down—but the trend is negative.
What about digital advertising? Here we see higher highs in revenue and also higher lows. The simple conclusion here is that the trend is for digital revenue to steadily increase.
What about digital magazines? Yes, there, too, we see higher highs in revenue and published copies that are available.
The big publishers are chart followers, too. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, is fully invested in the digital phenomenon. He has been a driving force of innovative thinking that places Hearst with a long-term and positive view of our industry. Last month he stated, "Hearst should reach the $10-million mark in e-subscriptions by summer 2012." Carey said that Hearst had 300,000 paid digital downloads a month and "that number is going to double for us in short order."
John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, said recently, "For those who can crack the code, digital will mean the reinvention of the magazine business." I believe that he, too, is a trend watcher.
And the last quote I will send your way is from Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg, who said, "We have a $15- million business that came out of nothing, that didn't exist a year ago."
Over the next 10 years or so, we, as publishers, will be living through one of the most volatile realignments the publishing industry has ever seen. It will change the very nature of what we do, transforming our industry from primarily a print-oriented business to one where digital products will represent the largest share of a smaller periodical industry. You can see this on a trend chart, and you can also just look around you and see the communications technology that surrounds us and that we use every day.
The tip I would like you to strongly consider is where your career is trending in relation to the industry. Is it on a higher-lows and higher-highs trend, or something else? Keep your eye on all the trends in your life and act accordingly. 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.