My friend Samir Husni has penned a short essay and complaint about "numbers" used in our industry for purposes of industry review and analysis (Click here). He bemoans the way some media reporters publish stats on the number of new titles in each quarter, and he wishes that they reached out to him for his extensive collected number of new launches. I suggest that his collection of data is very large, unique, and probably the most definitive.
There is absolutely nothing new in the latest newsstand reports that we didn't really already know, and the latest stats shouldn't be any kind of surprise to anyone. The print enthusiasts on the planet will continue to deny that there is anything wrong with the medium, and many new print titles will still be born despite the statistically obvious fact that print gets a smaller footprint each and every every quarter since 2008. There is no bottom to this trend and there is no correction possible anywhere in sight. Nevertheless. I suggest that there is some hope.
Professor Samir Husni and I both love the magazine industry, yet we come to that affection from completely different directions. He is enamored with print on paper, while I am enamored by the global power of content distribution in/and on any platform that the consumer/reader wishes. The differences of our perspectives are very significant, but don't preclude a decades-long, great friendship. Conversations between us are at the very least dynamic, as one young man found out when he was sitting between us at dinner on the first night of the IMAG Conference in Boulder. He got an earful from both sides.
It seems to me that my opinion on the changes to the ASME guidelines will be in the minority. To me it boils down to integrity: you have it or you don't.
As an industry we seem to keep diluting our once unimpeachable integrity, whittling at it here and there, until before we know it, we have none. Native advertising, ads on the cover, editors working hand in hand with advertisers -- where does it end?
There is a story in today's paper that is a recap of a very local discussion about our paper of record here in Charlottesville, VA. The thing that struck me is a very small item that, until I read this article, was completely under my radar. It tells a story that I was directly involved in for several years, but that I had completely forgotten about.
There is an unsung part of the magazine media industry that many of us rarely think or hear about, and yet a case can be made that this hard working section of the industry is the mighty engine that actually keeps us running.
We constantly read about creativity in our industry, about the art or editorial without which we wouldn't have a business. We read about newsstand issues, both the good and the bad. But the "magazine auto mechanic" who keeps the engine running is rarely in the forefront of industry discussions. Yet without a good, well distributed substrate, where would you put your creative content?
My optimism may be hard to understand with all the data that on the surface seems so damned negative. To be truthful, most of the data is negative for print magazines, but not for every magazine. And that is what must be fully understood and why there can still be a robust future in store for some of those who choose the print path to revenue and glory.
Monday night was the opening of the American Magazine Media conference held in New York City. All the major local American publishers were in attendance and many notable luminaries from other parts of the globe as well. I conversed with as many as I could including many of my London friends. I had the chance to chat with publishers from the Midwest as well as two Swedish publishers that I met last year. The conference focused on the topic of the Magazine Media Business and was well attended.
Many of the people who read this blog are in one way or another devoted to the process of print. Some of them are printers, some of them are publishers and most of them have a strong and deep bias, which is clearly and understandably centered around making a profitable living. In fact, we all, regardless of what our profession is, have a biased point of view that is skewed by our need to make a living. In this discussion I am not in any way saying a bias is wrong, just that it exists and aids us in forming our opinions.
Too many times in the last decade pundits, printers, publishers and workers in the ranks have heard or have talked about it themselves -- the inescapable, oft repeated mantra that print is dead. I am so tired of it that it boggles the mind.
Here is my statement and you should repeat after me, "Print is not dead or dying. The facts plainly show otherwise." Let's agree right here and now to get on with the necessary process of information distribution for a profit and forget about fear mongering old wives tales.
For the past week Mary Berner, President of The MPA (Magazine Media Association), and I have been communicating publicly and sometimes privately. I think all of our conversations have been appropriately spirited and healthy for the industry. We don't agree on all issues, but we are having a professional dialog most of it in the open, and that is good for everyone.
As the most recent MagNet reports came in, I started to ponder other recent changes in reporting on the magazine media industry. You will remember that the Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), which had until recently been chronicling the magazine industry's ad page performance for almost 70 years, was asked to stop tracking and distributing "sold" ad page data to media professionals with its legendary Boxscores. MIN editor-in-chief Steve Cohn reported that publishers were being discouraged from turning over their numbers as the MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, was getting ready to unveil
I applaud all passions when it comes to this subject, and perhaps it is time once again to revisit and reconsider the question, what is a magazine? But at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. The death of magazines, which isn't really happening, is a red herring when considering how we keep score. The only viable score card, when one is in a business dialog, is revenue. Many printers are doing very well in these trying times, while at the same time the magazine business on the whole isn't. Ad revenue on an industry wide basis is down, newsstand sales are down, and subscriptions are down.
My Goodness, Rance Crain wrote a terrific, important and timely article directed for the advertising world. And it is just as meaningful for magazine publishers as it is for ad agencies. It's time to stop the Bull. You can take all the surveys you want, but multiples of 25X pass-a-long for every magazine you produce is Bull with a capital "B". It doesn't really happen.
You would think that a guy who goes to a dozen publishing conferences a year and is also the writer/publisher of a daily newsletter on the subject of media, would find it easy to explain why the annual ACT magazine events at the University of Mississippi are so compelling. My problem is that it is hard to exactly define magic, and this special event is filled with magic and marvel. It is hosted by my good friend and industry debating partner Professor Samir Husni, who continuously attracts a world-wide concoction of diverse speakers. But it is not exactly the diversity of the presenters that makes it so special. If that was all it took, it would be easy to replicate, but nobody has an event quite like this one.