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Bosacks Speaks Out

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year Later

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year Later

    It’s been about a year since the world and the publishing industry went into quarantine and an unknown dangerous void lay before us. Last year I wrote an article titled Presumptions of the New Normal where I laid the case that:
     
    “the magazine industry was under stress before the rise of COVID-19. Each year advertising was down double digits, and so were magazine newsstand sales. There are, of course, many success stories out there, and that is important to recognize. You may be one of them. But when viewed as a whole, the charts and statistics were not pretty. I guess you can say there were many individual victories, but the war wasn't going well.”
     
    A year later where are we and what is happening?
     
    I think it is safe to say that the great Klingon writer Worf Nietzsche got it right when he said, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
     
    Those of us who survived are indeed stronger on so many levels. We have reinvented everything that could be analyzed and made more efficient. We learned that we could work remotely and still thrive. It also seems that we have proved that our offices are quaint vestiges of the past and in many cases irrelevant to a successful media product.
    We learned that readers are willing to pay for quality journalism. I wonder what took us so long to make that conclusion? Could it have been the seductive allure of flighty mistress Advertising?
     
    We learned that the traditional methodologies and business plans that were in place in January 2020 were mostly a dream based on a previous reality.
     
    The time machine we entered into a year ago accelerated whatever was happening before into new possibilities that under pre-covid processes would have taken years to develop. 
     
    We learned we could take the entire magazine process and launch it into the cloud. Sure, we all worked in the cloud before, but not like we did that year. Instead of taking years for the technological jump, we did it in days. One day in early March you worked in an office, and the next day you stayed at home for a year and worked in the refuge of family, zoom and casual attire, and you did not miss a beat. The cloud became your new best friend.
     
    Perhaps the toughest thing we learned was pulling the plug on the existing advertising model. It is fairer to say that plug was removed for you.
     
    Now the world has moved on and our industry with it. We are doing exciting things with our properties.
     
    The industry is working hard to create drop-down menus for on-line shopping and the selling of magazines from retail stores and grocery chains.
     
    We have reengineered the event business and have started to make virtual conferences work and be profitable. Admittedly in most cases not as profitable as live, in-person events, but we are headed in the right direction. (I am a big fan of the networking possibilities of in-person events and what the connections made do for your career.)
     
    We have learned that there are various new methods to drive subscriptions such as podcasts, texting, and, of course, newsletters, not to mention damned good content worth paying for.
     
    We have created new opportunities for consumers to form new habits, enabling publishers to establish more direct consumer relationships. As the popularity of subscriptions increased, many publishers have been able to move away from low price trials, improving profitability, as well as broadening their offer with enhanced membership benefits to reward increased loyalty. Hearst, for example, reported that they were able to remove a number of their lowest-priced trial offers and still grow subscribers by 33%.
     
    The pandemic indeed introduced stress to the already struggling magazine newsstand industry, but it may have boosted the success of bookazines. Meredith, which publishes People, Food & Wine and dozens of other popular titles, has seen newsstand revenue grew by $3 million in the past quarter compared to the year prior. Its earnings report specifically cited bookazines, which are usually presented as single-topic, in-depth magazines often marketed to consumers as collectors' items. Hearst produced 80 bookazines last year, up from 75 in 2019.
     
    What are the lasting long-term effects of the covid year I discussed above? No doubt a continuation of remote working where possible, continued searches for efficiency, and an ever-flighty and unpredictable advertising market.
     
    Last March I also suggested that we will have a new roaring 20s. The public will emerge from quarantine with a revitalized lust for life. That will manifest in splurges in retail spending, restaurant visitations, air travel, car travel, and hotel stays. Concerts and plays will be back and with all this a rebirth in alternative weeklies, local magazines, and the concurrent advertising to go with it.
     
     Looking back, we have done an excellent job adapting to the conditions presented to us. I’m most proud to belong to such a fascinating publishing community. It has always been our job to communicate, inform, counsel, entertain and inject cautious sobriety into the body politic. And that is something we are dammed good at.
     
     We will always adapt our work methodologies and our business plans, and, in so doing, protect the public by distributing knowledge. That is what we do best. That is the responsibility we have always willingly accepted.
     
     A year into the new normal and under conditions no one could have prophesized we are about to come out as a leaner and stronger industry. More so than anyone might have expected in March of 2020. I expect that what we have learned, the new revenue pathways, and the new processes will profit us in the near and the long term.

     

    Keep up the good work. And congratulations on your stamina, good cheer under an extraordinary situation, and your creativity.
    BoSacks
    Posted March 18, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism

    My friend Samir Husni is the founder and director of The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi's School of Journalism and New Media.  He is a journalism professor, a successful publishing consultant, and very much like me, a man filled with opinions.
     
    Samir and I first met somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s at a publishing conference held by Lane Press for their customers. The chemistry was instantaneous. I don't remember the topic, but we immediately went into our corners, took our positions, and debated.
    That was not why Lane press brought us there; we were there just to give separate lectures on our take on the business of publishing. But what they got was an unexpected bonus for the attendees.
     
    Our off-the-cuff discussions were such a hit that word got out to the trade magazines, and Samir and I hit the road publicly debating our industry's future on a national basis.
     
    He is a dear and respected friend, and we both love taking sides just for the intellectual fun of it.
     
    Last week at our weekly Publishers Pandemic Roundtable, we didn't have a guest speaker, so it was just the gang together to chat and share thoughts.
     
    That is when Samir shared with the group his feelings that Journalism is dead. Well, if Bo has ever seen an opportunity to take a different opinion, this was it, and we had our usual back and forth on the topic. It went ten rounds. Alas, since we didn't have a guest speaker, we didn't record the dialog. But it was a good one and for the ages.
     
    A few days later I suggested to Samir that I would like to pursue the topic publicly, and I asked him for a statement on the subject that I could use as a starting point to delve into the topic. Here is his statement:
     
    "Journalism as I knew it growing up is dead or dying. It is so hard to find the good solid truthful journalism of yesteryears. There is too much information out there and too little understanding. The line between journalism and opinion has disappeared. I learned in journalism school that when a journalist gives his or her opinion, he or she is no longer a journalist...By that sentence I can easily say we are losing journalism by the second if not faster..."
     
    I disagree with much of that, but we can't proceed without an accepted definition of what journalism is.
     
    Merriam-Webster's definition of journalism is as follows:
    1a: the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media
     
    b: the public press
     
    c: an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium
     
    2a: writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine
    b: writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation
     
    c: writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest
     
    Let me start out first that this is an opinion essay, not a work of journalism, although I'll do my best to include some facts along with my opinions.
     
    I can agree with Merriam-Webster's definition above and add that for me, Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current events, science, history, and other areas of public interest based on facts and supported with proof or evidence.
     
    I would add that with today's instant information distribution systems in place globally, contrary to Samir's point I see that journalism has seen a dramatic improvement in quality over the years. Advances in technology and increased specialization have done wonders for fact-checking, data analysis, and even long-form writing.
     
    Here is where the good professor and I agree, there is more information out there than ever before, and to Samir's point, too much of it isn't reliable or truthful. But there is also an abundance of excellent, honest, journalism by the definitions stated above.  
    Do we need to avoid echo chambers? Yes, of course. But that is nothing new. Historic yellow journalism comes to my mind when pining for the glory of the “good solid truthful journalism of yesteryears. 
     
    The term yellow journalism was started as a war between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, coined in the mid-1890s and was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. It used irresponsible, exaggerated, lurid, and even slanderous reporting. The wide appeal reached a million copies a day and opened the way to mass-circulation newspapers that depended on advertising revenue rather than cover price or political party subsidies. (Sound familiar?)
     
    It was Thomas Jefferson who said:
    “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Much of his opinion was due to the trash printed about him in the day's newspapers that were viciously opposed to him.
     
    Crass, opinionated, mean-spirited, foe journalism is nothing new. Likewise, some of modern style journalism is very partisan and supported by more biased revenue streams – in other words, like the journalism of 200 years ago.
     
    But not all journalism then or today is without merit. Finding and reporting the truth remains critical to civic life and a healthy democracy. Some examples of excellent sources in my mind would include:
     
    Vox. The Atlantic, NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, LA Times, CJR- Columbia Journalism Review, The Boston Globe., Chicago Tribune. San Francisco Chronicle. USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Time Magazine to name a few, and there are many others.
     
    Do these publishers get it right 100% of the time? No, of course not. But the body of work over an extended period of time leaves us with excellent journalism.
     
    And what do they report on? Climate Change and the Environment, Youth and Education, Immigration, Health Care, Money, Power, Corruption, Criminal Justice, and let us not forget, Politics. Politics can be reported on fairly and factually, however hard that might be for the reporter.
     
    We can easily agree that some works of journalism are qualitatively better than others. Great sustained journalism is a costly enterprise. Not all can afford to focus on quality and fact-checking, but many do, as I shared above.  
     
    The issue is not that excellent journalism is not being produced; I believe that it is and on a daily basis. But it is being so overwhelmed by the quantity of inferior content, that it is sometimes unnoticed and has to be searched for. Nevertheless, once we find the sources of true journalism, it is there for us continuously, and, for those that do it well, profitably.
     
    What are your thoughts on this subject? Is journalism dead or dying? 
    BoSacks
    Posted February 28, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: The new media surveillance wars of 2021

    BoSacks Speaks Out: The new media surveillance wars of 2021

    Back in the last decade circa 2018, I started to incorporate in my lectures about the media industry the growing crisis of surveillance capitalism. Now things are taking a turn, and the surveillance players are beginning to eat each other. Of course, I'm talking about the current and growing war between Apple and Facebook.
     
    One of the problems of living through any revolution is that it is almost impossible to take a long view of what's happening. Hindsight is the only exact science at play.
     
    So, before I go forward, let us review a few of my observations from 2018.

     

    There once was a time when advertising was focused on imparting information.
     
    Sadly today it is more concerned with collecting information. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and damn near every digital giant is exploring every microscopic part of our lives. That is not a generic, anonymous life, but a specific personal intrusion on every individual in the modern-day ecosystem. It is evident to anyone that we are living through the most profound transformation of the media industry since Gutenberg's invention of movable type and the printing press in approximately 1439.
     
    With the incredible and on-going acceleration of technology and our reliance on it, we are irresistibly embedded in it. The truth is we cannot function without the modern infosphere. If you stop and think about it, technology surrounds us everywhere to the point that we have to stop thinking of it as a mobile service but rather ubiquitous technology. Soon nothing will be mobile because everything will be mobile.
     
    The big picture is that It has all come too fast without evolving safe societal rules. We are saturated with life-rattling new technologies. Yet more is on its way — artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robots and greater use of cyber weapons. These are changing our lives and our businesses in ways that are both good and near evil.
     
    We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behavior of those users in astonishing detail without their explicit consent.
     
    It takes our private experiences and turns them into revenue opportunities. It changes everything. It's impossible to overstate the peril of our times. We used to fear the totalitarian government who knew everything about us, followed us everywhere. We are well on our way to such a nightmare. Except it isn't our government that knows everything about us, follows us everywhere, knows who we are talking to and what we are saying, and keeps secret files about us. It is the marketing industry.
     
    All this brings me to Apple's CEO Tim Cook and what he said last week.
     
    Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed.
     
    Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we're here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.
    If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.
     
    We should not look away from the bigger picture and a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theory is juiced by algorithms. We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better, and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.
     
    Too many are still asking the question, 'How much can we get away with?' When they need to be asking, 'What are the consequences?'
     
    What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?
     
    What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?
     
    What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?
     
    It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn't come with a cause. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.
     
    A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe."
     
    Here is what Justin Bariso noted in his article from INC.com:
     
    “The fact that Cook doesn't name Facebook somehow increases its impact. Because as you hear Cook's 's speech, you can't help but immediately think of the house that Zuckerberg built.
     
    “If you're wondering how Apple and Facebook ended up at odds, you can read more of the details here. But the reality is these two tech giants have been heading towards a major conflict for quite some time. 
     
    “The problem is that Apple's and Facebook's business philosophies are diametrically opposed to each other: 
     
    “Apple is a lifestyle brand. And part of the lifestyle Apple sells is users having more control over their privacy.
     
    “Facebook, on the other hand, is in the data business. The more data they collect on users, the more effectively they can sell targeted ads.
     
    ‘But collecting and selling all that data comes at great cost, as Cook highlights. ‘The end result of all of this is that you are no longer the customer,’ said Cook. "You are the product."
     
    Justin Bariso concluded with this:
     
    “Now is the time to ask yourself: 
     
    “Which philosophy do I want to pursue? 
     
    “Do I want a business that serves my customers? Or one that takes advantage of customers to serve my business?
     
    “Because in the end, only one of these philosophies is sustainable for the long-term. The other will lead you to crash and burn.
     
    “And while the long-term solution may initially prove more challenging, remember:
     
    "The path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom."
     
    Stay tuned to this situation.
     
    On a fourth-quarter earnings call last Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lashed out at Apple, calling Apple anti-competitive.
     
    The Apple and Facebook wars are heating up, with Facebook threatening to sue Apple. This war of words and lawsuits is just the beginning, and I will be keeping my eye on it and report to you any developments.
    BoSacks
    Posted January 31, 2021
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  • Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    Bo’s Totally Random and Unresearched Predictions for media in 2021 and beyond

    At this time of a new year I’m usually asked for my predictions of the incoming year. My usual glib answer is something like, “Next year will be like this year only more so.”
     
    As I look back on 2020 and then forward into 2021, I am starting to think my comedic answer was more prescient then humorous. I’m afraid that a good deal of 2021, which we all looked forward to with relish, will be exactly like the tail end of 2020. There is no permanent new normal until the covid plague is defeated, and that I’m sad to say isn’t on the near horizon.
     
    Bummer, yes. I know. And I’m sorry for pointing that out. The best current estimates are that everyone will be vaccinated by June. If past is prolog, I don’t believe that estimate. But let’s say it does work out that way, then the first half of 2021 will be pretty much like the end 2020. The same conditions of personal and business reinvention and adjustments.
     
    Let me start here in the middle of the plague. With all our new covid related problems we have and are still dealing with our old unresolved issues, such as fake news, fake ads, real ad blockers, fake impressions, fake humans (bots), fake ad placement and undeniable declines in magazine advertising.
     
    Are there exceptions to the declines in advertising? Of course, there are. As I’ve stated for the last decade, what really matters is the success or failure of your magazines or media enterprises. It doesn’t matter what the industry as a whole is doing, as many titles are doing quite well. It only matters how you are doing.
     
    I am bullish on the industry as it clearly grows and morphs into something new at an on-going and accelerated rate. More people read, collect and share distributed media information than ever before. There is more revenue being made in media beyond the wildest dreams of our publishing ancestors. The only problem with that observation is that most of the money isn’t in traditional businesses. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and the like are undeniably media companies, although they deny it. They have the lion’s share of the revenue pie and their growth is exponential, while print’s isn’t. Growth, yes. Exponential growth perhaps for some, but limited for most.
     
    With the above as a foundation here are my totally random and unresearched predictions for media in 2021 and beyond.
     
    Will subscription fatigue finally sink inIf we accept the concept that there is a limit to everyone’s disposable income, how will the still growing shift to a subscription model everywhere be sustained? Will there eventually be subscription fatigue? The answer to fighting the fatigue must be like Amazon Prime and the great bundling caper. Subscribe for this cool product, thing and widget and we will give you all these other things and widgets at no additional cost. Mr publisher what can you bundle with your subscriptions?
     
    The growth of podcasting will continue to grow. Ok, that is a no brainer but still must be listed. The growing podcasting technology and accessibility is reaching more and more consumers with a vast assortment of new content. Revenues in the podcast advertising market are projected to grow 14.7% year over year to nearly $1 billion in 2020, according to the IAB and PricewaterhouseCooper.
     
    The Apple and Facebook slugfest. Apple is now letting users decide whether to allow apps to track certain forms of personal data, like the websites they visit or the things they have been shopping for.  Apple wants the user to decide what information about them is shared with advertisers. Facebook is worried that this will change the value of advertising, which is the foundation of Facebook’s revenue stream. The adage has never been truer: "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold"
     
    Home voice platforms will continue to grow. Alexa and her competitors will soon be ubiquitous. Each morning I listen to “flash briefings” from publishers such as The Washington Post, ESPN, NPR, The New York Times, and the Harvard Business Review just to name a few. We have reached Star Trek levels of voice activated computer access. This will continue to grow and new “tricks” will be added that will no doubt astound us. I’m not clear about the monetization paths, but with ubiquity almost anything can produce revenue.
     
    Google and Facebook get bombarded by antitrust suits. The end of 2020 saw many actions by governments around the world to try to regulate the media giants. The DOJ is suing Google for allegedly violating anti-trust laws. Facebook has also been hit with lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of dozens of states. Sadly, Google and Facebook have more than enough money to fight in the courts for years. But perhaps in 2021 the legal distraction will help publishers and advertisers get reacquainted with each other.
     
    Social eCommerce Will Increase in 2021. This is nothing new but the speed of change and buying habits of consumers has predominantly and permanently shifted to a digital path. If you as a publisher want 2021 to be a year of growth, your business model will need to focus partly on social ecommerce and multiple paths of revenue.
     
    Working remotely has permanently reshaped the media industry. The adhesiveness of the new pandemic stay-at-home lifestyles will continue well past the end of the plague. When will we all get back to physical workplaces? Never, not all of us, but some of us will with limited business travel, limited time in the office, and executive leaders questioning all expenses as never before. Management has discovered new forms of what they will be calling efficiencies. The enforced quarantine and power of technology has rewritten the workforce rules of the requirements of a physical presence.
     
    As we move into 2021 with all the changes still ahead of us, remember our purpose. We have the power to make our customers laugh, cry or become more knowledgeable on any and every subject. At the end of our efforts, we hope our work is appreciated, valued and paid for.
    Our publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are still unexpected and unexplored.
     
    The plague has undoubtedly created an interesting time for media professionals. Some of us in media have made momentous leaps while others are still trying to figure out the new rules of engagement. But have no fear -- we as an industry are strong, vibrant and creative. Yes, there will be unexpected changes and unusual turns of events still to come. Rather than fear it, embrace the future, because there is no rational alternative where everyone – even you – is empowered to be a disruptor.

    BoSacks
    Posted January 03, 2021
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    BoSacks Speaks Out: 2020- A reflective review of where we were and what we were thinking

    January 3rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Welcome to 2020, a new decade and, in Star Wars terms, a new hope. About this time of year there are always a plethora of articles that forecast and focus on the near and far future of our media businesses. When that happens I find myself looking back, not for nostalgic purposes but for a foothold of perspective. I find it is often best to understand where you came from to have a good sense of direction as to where you need to be and how to get there. Good questions are how did I get here and where do I adjust my plans to move forward? What is working and what is not? In my last holiday message of 2019, I offered a "Be Here Now" approach appropriate for both business and personal objectives…
     
    January 13th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks OutFriedrich Nietzsche once said, "There are no facts, only interpretations." That comes mighty close to our understanding of the magazine industry today, at least when it comes to the various reports we constantly read on the subject.
     
    Too often some industry prognosticators confuse what is happening to "the big guys" to be representative of the entire publishing industry. It is not. There is a complete disconnect between mid and modest titles and the Hearst's, Conde's, and New York Times of this world. What Conde does is irrelevant to any other publishing house large or small. It is a fiefdom with its own set of rules, agendas, and methodologies. Whatever game plan Hearst or any other large publishing house has is nothing like yours or your competitors. It is a brave new world out there, and it is adapt or die time…
     
    January 16th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: LSC announced the closing of its manufacturing facilities in Strasburg, Va.; Glasgow, Ky.; and Mattoon, Ill. The closing of the three printing plants is expected to be completed by July 2020.
     
    These plants were legendary magazine plants, each with its own personality and style. I had the privilege through my career at various points to have hustled many a magazine through each facility. I have fond memories of the employees and various management teams. Spending time in those printing plants and learning from talented employees was the bedrock of my career as a director of manufacturing. I have always been thankful for the experiences…
     
    January 27TH 2020
     
    Special people and special companies deserve a shout out of thanks and gratitude from time to time. In this case, I want to bring to your attention the tireless work of John Mennell of MagazineLiteracy.org and Joel Quadracci of Quad Graphics. In my book they are unsung heroes performing necessary acts of kindness valiantly even though behind the scenes.
     
    MagazineLiteracy.org supplies recycled printed products, new magazines, and comics to literacy programs around the country. From their web site comes the following statement: “Why are magazines and comics so special for literacy, you might ask? Promoting literacy establishes a lifelong reading habit. Studies show that holding reading materials in your hands increases learning. Magazines and comic books become familiar and not intimidating. They educate and inspire. Magazines and comic books in hands and homes foster ownership and build self-esteem.”…
     
    John went on to say, “With these and other Quad supported efforts, we’ve moved over a million magazines." John pointed out that "Joel and his team have been so generous, and never flinching, allowing us to have an enormous impact and showing us what’s possible as we reach for meeting our full promise.”
     
    Well, doesn’t that story make you feel good? My thanks to Joel and John for doing this meaningful and impactful philanthropy and for promoting genuine kindness on such a profound human scale. Magazines can help those in need, and perhaps literacy can help to end poverty.
    Click here to contact Magazine Literacy
    Recycle your magazines and comic books for literacy. 

     

    March 18th 2020

    I’m not sure where to begin. As a man in his 60s with asthma, I sit here safely in self-imposed isolation in the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, frustrated and worried about my family and friends, and like everyone else hoping for effective leadership for all of us from our governments both large and small.
     
    I can only briefly try to express my sorrow for those lives already lost and for those yet to come in unknown numbers. The loss of life I expect will be so staggering, so overwhelming, so incomprehensible, as to be at first numbing and then painfully dwarfing anything in the experience of all our lives except for military wars. I hope I’m wrong, but I think not…
     
     
    March 23rd 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: What publishers can learn from The Independent’s growth story I'm having a personal déjà vu publishing moment. It's not that the situation is the same; It isn't, not even close. But the effect for me and this newsletter is strikingly similar. The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on Sept. 29. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intraday trading, and the publishing industry took it on the chin. Although the industry has made tremendous positive progress, the print world is decidedly less than it was before 2008. The resulting publishing effect for me was the sending out of negative but necessary industry news for an extended period of time. It had to be done then, and I believe it has to be done now. With the new and more powerful globe-changing event, the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe we need to stay as informed as possible about all perspectives. That is what I always try to do – Keep you informed…
     
    April 20th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Reports from the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable: My friend and circulation consultant Joe Berger had a great idea a few weeks ago of getting together a team of publishing professionals to have weekly zoom conversations about what is happening to our industry from a ground floor perspective. We have had publishers, professors, consultants, and this week a printer. We didn’t know how our meetings would evolve, but we deemed them a good idea with benefits for all. So far we have had two reports of our conversations captured by Linda Ruth, who is a circulation consultant, and distributed to you in this newsletter.
     
    At a time when most American businesses are struggling to survive during this challenging time, we need to stay alert and flexible with the still-evolving changing economic conditions. Hotels are empty, retail outlets are closed, and restaurants, bars, and eateries are struggling to exist with carryout or delivery orders…

     

    April 29th 2020
    In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas at the same time. In 1936 F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
     
    I'm not saying I have a first-rate intelligence, but I do have two thoughts that are rolling around in my head. They are that the publishing industry isn't in peril, but many of its employees may be…
     
    July 13th 2020
    Last Friday, David Leonhardt wrote an article in the New York Times titled “It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like?” It was subtitled, “The pandemic could shape the world, much as World War II and the Great Depression did.” It ran somewhat parallel with my essay last week that the pandemic has placed us in a time machine. We either accelerate to match the speed of change, or we get run over by it and replaced by something else…
     
    July 15th 2020
     
    There was a time when I was a monthly columnist for Publishing Executive Magazine. Each year my editor asked me to do a tips and tricks article offering suggestions for a healthy and successful publishing career.
     
    One of the core elements I always suggested was that knowledge is power, and industry knowledge is employment power. If you can speak knowledgeably of the entire media process, you are a more desirable candidate for the job you have or, perhaps even more importantly, the job you want to have. Understanding what the other departments do is of vital importance. Inter-departmental communication and knowledge facilitate the teamwork of successful and efficient organizations.
     
    I bring this up today, realizing that networking may be hard or near to impossible for an extended period of time due to COVID 19 and the increasing use of zoom meetings. If forecasters are correct, those industries that can now work mostly from home will continue to work from home. That puts a strain on making new industry friends and makes it harder to share industrial knowledge.
                         
    Additionally, in-person meetings and in-person conferences may, in large part, be a thing of the past. If that is so, it strikes a dagger in the ability to network. The loss of networking is a loss to both the industry and our careers…

     

    July 22nd, 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: In many ways the readership and the topics of interest covered in this newsletter have tracked the profound changes in the magazine industry very closely. In the early days of this newsletter, subscribers had several specific areas of publishing interest they could subscribe to. One of the popular subscription options was all about paper. In the late 1990s, there were over 2,500 people who were solely interested in the paper industry and subscribed to that list.
     
    Do you know that in the old days of the 1980s and perhaps the 1990s FolioMagazine had a monthly column about the paper side of our business? Did you know that the MPA would hold a special session at every annual meeting to talk about paper in the large open session?
     
    Now we are in 2020, and we sell near 50% fewer magazines than we used to produce a decade or so ago. The obvious consequence is that we buy less paper.
     
    The article Verso shutdown would have devastating impact on forestry trucking, construction industries demonstrates clearly the ripple effect of our selling fewer magazines on the related supply chain vendors. 
     
    July 29th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Sometimes I have to put the bourbon aside and deliver a sobering report to the industry. I do this because I love the magazine media industry, and I don't want anyone to misinterpret the facts and actual conditions of our industry. 
     
    In turbulent times, turbulent things happen. What I have to report tonight is a reflection of the turmoil of the times we live in. I was asked by those in the know not to say what I am about to tell you, and I would have kept that promise, but we live in an instant messaging age.
     
    A person I do not know tweeted today that Folio: Magazine is no more. Because of that tweet, I feel I am relieved of the responsibility of keeping my silence…

     

    August 4th, 2020
     
    BoSacks Speaks Out: There is a brief comment in the article How to shift towards a paywall that I sent out last night. It is an oft repeated expression throughout the industry that “We have to face it: people hate ads.” I beg to differ on that point. What people hate are bad ads and bad advertising campaigns. People hate intrusive ads that follow you everywhere tracking advertising…
     
    Perhaps it is counting on an algorithm for success rather than creativity that is at the heart of advertising’s problems today. Could it be that corporate consumer surveillance has replaced innovation and imagination? I think so…
     
    August 12th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Most of us naturally track our industry and know the score of what the plague and the media tech platforms (FANG) are doing to us. It is a toxic combination not only for our health but also for our careers and our business wellbeing.
     
    I follow our industry very closely and read of layoffs and closures almost every day. We all read about them and absorb the data as shots from a sniper one information bullet at a time. The article Advertising Slump During Virus Crisis Hits Media Jobs brings it into focus as a shotgun blast of intelligence right to the heart of our media industry. The entire global media workforce is shrinking. The plague and the media stress are a wide-spread phenomenon.
     
    We are all hoping for a relatively fast vaccine and an equally speedy economic recovery. When that happens, media will get back on track and rehire, reinvent and reestablish itself, but perhaps not as it was. We have all learned to do more with less. That is one of the new permanent conditions we will live with long after the new normal solidifies. Some of us might never work from an office again. Being self-employed I haven't worked from an office since 1996. This will be a change in lifestyles for many media professionals.

     

    August 28th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis
    I have been a digital futurist for the publishing industry since the early 1990s and probably before that, depending on when you start counting my industry predictions. I still believe in the future of digital as THE most efficient and effective communication tool yet known to man. But my prognostications have always been tempered with pragmatism, as I am what I call a pragmatic optimist.
     
    The web and all that it contains, the good and very bad, will be with us as far as one can see into the future. But while reading the article How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis I was thinking, "How did it come to this?" Which is what King Theoden asked in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers. Now I ask the same question – How did it come to this? How can the advertising business lose $42 billion dollars in ad fraud while at the same time fraud-free, safe and proven magazines continue to lose ad dollars every quarter? How can there be so much excess revenue that an industry can lose $42 billion and do very little about it?
     
    September 9th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines
     
    Five years from now, we won't be worried about the effectiveness of Zoom calls because it will be an antique process. I'm not saying the next few years will be easy; They won't be. Hell, the next year alone promises to be a COVID backbreaker for many. What I am saying is that in five years, our jobs and methodologies will have morphed into something new. It has always been that way, only now it happens faster than ever… 

     

    September 28th 2020 
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic
     
    …To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
     
    With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
     
    As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
     
    To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you.
     
    November 6th 2020
    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
     
    There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion: that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.
    The author states:
     
    “You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”
     
    We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways…
     
    December 21, 2020
    I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting…
     
    We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous…
     
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
     
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
     
    BoSacks
    -30-

     

    BoSacks
    Posted December 30, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: I SALUTE YOU - We are committed to pursuing new possibilities

    BoSacks Speaks Out: I SALUTE YOU - We are committed to pursuing new possibilities

    “Darkness, the truest darkness isn't the absence of light; it is the conviction that the light will never return. But the light always returns to show us things familiar, home, family, and things entirely new or long overlooked. It shows us new possibilities and challenges us to pursue them."
     
    So ends Lois Lane’s reporting in the 2017 movie Justice League. How pertinent is her observation for the year 2020? And how challenged and committed we have become to pursuing new possibilities. There were indeed times when we hit the seemingly endless darkness with Covid plague death rates only understood by previous historical eras but never ours.
     
    The darkness of the plague affected everything in our daily lives – our families, our homes, our security, and our businesses. Nothing has been unaffected. Yet here we stand with the death rate still on the rise. Nevertheless I believe we are at the turning of the tide with the light of functioning vaccines finally on the horizon. Will 2021 be different? Yes, in so many ways – some known, some forecast, and some changes still unknowable.  
     
    Marie Curie said, "Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." That is a philosophy worth attempting to comprehend as we crawl from the depths of this global pandemic to a hopefully brighter vaccinated spring and a glorious covid-free summer/fall season next year.
     
    This time has been an historic and particularly trying year for us all. Many have handled it with resilience, innovation, creativity, and a kind of fervor to get things righted. When faced with a series of situations never seen before, some have correctly approached it with techniques never used before. Bravo creativity in chaos!
     
    On April 29th, 2020, I wrote about my presumptions of the new normal, where it seemed apparent that we were/are in a time machine, a machine that accelerates whatever was happening before. If your business was in decline, that decline was now accelerated. If your business was doing well, the methodologies and the technology you used for success should/could lead to further achievements, if not now, then in the near future.
     
    We are continuing to innovate as an industry and that process will payoff ten-fold when this crisis is over. But we shouldn’t forget our brothers and sisters who were “covided” out of gainful employment. Too many of the people of our industry have been left without a job and the steady income we all need to support our families. The publishing industry has always had a life and death cycle, but that cycle is in a time warp of acceleration.
     
    I suspect by June of 2021 we will see start-ups galore and new publications popping up everywhere hopefully reemploying our lost and furloughed team members. In retrospect the roaring 20s of the last century is easily now more understandable, and I expect the same lust for life to be demonstrated everywhere in our new normal of a future. The exuberance of survival can be most intoxicating and long-lasting.
     
    J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't talking about a plague, but he covered our times and sentiments well when he had Frodo say, "I wish it need not have happened in my time." "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
     
    What to do with the time that is given us? There is much angst and legitimate fear in the world today, some of it based on reality and some just imagined. It is hard some days to distinguish between the two, between the real plague at our doorstep and the imagined fear for family, friends, and co-workers. I have lost a few friends to Covid in the past few months. I expect you may have too. So the fear seems more real than imagined. But I will report that Carol and I feel mostly safe and pretty much cloistered in our home in Charlottesville for the past 9 months. We know we are privileged to be able to lay low and play it safe.
     
    In my professional life as a publisher, I have for over twenty-seven years expressed a year-end message of review, hope, and promise to my readers. This year is no exception. With almost everybody sitting on the edge of their seat attempting to fathom today's morass of intense plague and the ensuing problems that comes with it, it makes sense for us all to stop and take a moment or two of personal reflection and review. Many of us have been forced as never before to challenge our old calculations, personal observations and perhaps even our professional longevity. It seems that what we grew up relying upon as stable and true is just no longer as reliable as it once seemed.
     
    We can’t go back in time to change what has happened, but we can proceed for a more hopeful and better tomorrow. Paraphrasing Omar Khayyam, the pen is in your hands and 2021 is yet to be written. It is now time to write your own future to the best of your abilities. Be creative, be imaginative and be courageous.
     
    History has proven that plagues come and then they go, that business downturns appear when least expected and retreat just the same, that the winter is cold only to be followed by the beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is our love of family and friends. Like superheroes, I believe that love is our secret power, and with it we sustain ourselves with the love of family and friends.
     
    The following message was first sent in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional year-end expression of hope and reflection. I have been sharing this poem with my newsletter readership for decades.  Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding and hope. The plague has intensified my understanding of the poem.
     
    Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work so hard that sometimes we forget the real reasons for our energetic pursuits. In the end, it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real long-lasting meaning.
     
    That being said, I send you all a big safe hug and the hope that you are surrounded by love, family and continued friendship.
     
    I wish you all peace, sensibility, and a joyous and healthy new year
     
    Bob Sacks
    -30-
     
    I SALUTE YOU
    There is nothing I can give which you have not;
    but there is much that, while I
    Can not give, you can take.
     
    No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
    Find rest in it today.
    Take happiness.
     
    No peace lies in the future,
    which is not somewhere hidden in this present instant.
    Take Peace.
     
    The sometime gloom of the world is but a shadow;
    Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
    Take joy
     
    And so, at this holiday time, I greet you,
    With the prayer that for you, now and forever
    The days break with peace,
    and all shadows flee from your path.
     
    Fra Giovanni
    A salutation written to a friend in 1513
    .
     
     

    BoSacks
    Posted December 19, 2020
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  • Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    Bosacks Speaks Out: Don’t publishers need to be where the customers are?

    I want to go through an exercise of what we know, what we don’t know and throw a few possibilities in for good measure.
     
    Let’s start with a report from Kali Hays at WWD:
     
    “Nearly 40 percent of magazines that publish on at least a quarterly basis have seen their audiences decline so far this year, according to updated data from the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks the performance of such publications. That’s on top of a major pullback in advertising this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the related contraction of the global economy.
     
    “Of the major magazines from publishers such as Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith, 15 major titles saw their audiences decline or remain flat through the third quarter, so nearly all the months of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S so far, compared to the same period last year. But that leaves 20 titles that actually saw audiences grow.”
     
    This sounds pretty bad, but what about the 60% that didn’t show audience declines. Magazine readership has always had an ebb and a flow. Whole sectors rise and fall over time, which is historic in the publishing industry and not an aberration. I am not saying that these aren’t hard times; they are. But as old as the saying goes, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
     
    I believe that when the dust and the plague settle our industry will be more vibrant and successful, reaching more customers than ever before. The trick of course is surviving and adapting.
     
    Take Afar magazine which according to the Alliance for Audited Media grew its audience across platforms by 130.2% from September 2019 to September 2020. That is pretty outstanding. My guess is that if people can’t travel due to Covid restrictions, they satisfy their wander lust by reading about travel.
     
    As reported by Media Post there were other success stories. “Backpacker (47.8%), Veranda (43.8%) and The Atlantic (34.9%) also witnessed big gains in audiences year-over-year, according to the report.
     
    People (89.1 million), Allrecipes (61.7 million) and Good Housekeeping (60.7 million) had the largest brand audiences across platforms in September 2020.
     
    Total audience on all platforms across the magazine brands was up 5.9% year-over-year.”
     
    Today, I had a brief email conversation with David Carey where we discussed the Covid time warp. I wrote, “The plague has definitely accelerated publishing business models. We would have arrived here, wherever that is, sooner or later, but now in this time machine we are adjusting at a very rapid pace.” David replied, “I agree with you that this is an accelerant – the 2025 business models have arrived overnight.  For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    David is right. “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!) they will do fine…”
     
    What do we need to consider in our business plans to be fine?
     
    One thing we need to be aware of is the change in buying habits. Are they temporary or now ingrained into the new normal?  Rob Williams points out in What Does The 'Storeless' Economy Mean For Publishers? – “The "retail apocalypse" of the past few years grew much worse in 2020. The pandemic led many people to avoid stores and shop from the safety of their homes. The upheaval in the retail industry will continue to shape the role of publishers next year as content and commerce become even more seamless. The pandemic is hastening the shift toward a “storeless” economy as retailers go out of business or close down unprofitable stores…”
     
    And in another story Media Post reports that “A majority of U.S. consumers — 67% — plan to do their holiday shopping online this year, according to a new study by Dynata, sponsored by SAP SE. And 60% expect to do at least part of it in brick-and-mortar stores.”
     
    So, if people aren’t going to the stores, what are we as an industry doing to avoid a Darwinian moment in the business life cycle. Why can’t we have on-line drop-down menus for magazines at retail outlets and supermarkets that carry magazines? Are we so Neolithic that we refuse to let what can and should be digitized not be digitized? What other industry is not transforming...everything? Just because our products are analog that doesn’t mean our infrastructure and processes should be, too.
     
    I reached out to a member of the Publishing Pandemic roundtable, my friend Joe Berger who is a Circulation Consultant, and he offered the following thoughts:
     
    “There are issues and they include:
     
    “What magazines do you offer? The best sellers? How do you get retailers to show the most current issues and get that info updated in a timely fashion?
     
    “How many copies should be offered? What is in store? Often the retailers don't know what is in stock as they don't measure that.
     
    “What about "dark stores"? What is offered there? What about central warehouses? How would that be handled?”
     
    Joe continued, “In the end it's a combination of "will" within the newsstand portion of the industry and "will" on the part of the publishers. Especially for the major publishers who are now the drivers of the newsstand part of the publishing industry.”
     
    Joe’s a smart guy and these are all valid points. But it’s the fracking 21st century. There is no can’t with today’s available technologies; there is only a lack of will. I see this as an investment in the future of our industry. If magazines are not seen, they cannot be bought. We need to be developing and training the next generation of readers today, right now.
     
    Sure, it may be hard. Maybe you think it is near to impossible. But as Robert A. Heinlein said, “Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.” Where is the “For those who can readily adapt (think Darwin!)” momentum at the newsstand? We are foolish not to tackle this distribution situation in earnest as the pandemic meteor crashes to earth. Magazine publishers with their 7,000 unique business plans have never played well in the same sand box, especially when it comes to the poor maligned newsstand. But there is a time and a place for mutual cooperation or mutual annihilation.
     
    Joe’s conclusion is humorous and spot on:
     
    “My guess would be it's a back-burner issue because the newsstand is a back-burner issue for all of these guys. Think about the publishing business as a plate full of food at Thanksgiving. The plate is full of delicious stuff: Turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, etc. Newsstand is that tiny helping of Aunt June's special cranberry treat you take to be polite. It's spicy. It's an acquired taste. You aren't entirely sure how it got made and you may not want to know how she did it."
    BoSacks
    Posted November 15, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Preparing for the post-literate consumer
    There are many assumptions in the article Preparing for the post-literate consumer that, although possibly correct, miss an obvious conclusion:  that new generations, if nothing else, multi-task like no other set of generations before.

     

    The author states:

    “You'd be forgiven for believing that we've forgotten how to read. Judging by our popular culture, we're becoming a post-literate, oral society, one whose always-dominant visual sense has overwhelmed our reasoning to the point where 72% of consumers now say they prefer all marketing to be delivered via video.”


    We are not post-literate. We are multi-literate. We have added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways.

     

    Take the New York Times, for example. The New York Times added 669,000 net new digital subscribers, making the second quarter its biggest ever for subscription growth. The Times has 6.5 million total subscriptions, a figure that includes 5.7 million digital-only subscriptions, putting it on a course to achieve its stated goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.

     

    Yes, The New York Times has video insertions and audio podcasts, but it is primarily a reading platform. There are 7,000 magazines on newsstands in this country that are reading based businesses. The point is that those very same readers most likely also enjoy TicToc, and YouTube, Snapchat, and a host of others. The act of reading and seeing other mediums are not mutually exclusive. Instead, what is culturally going on is an additive process to the human condition.

     

    Speaking of the reading process, there is something that is often overlooked, and it is a fundamental change in the process of reading. Take your pick from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Facebook to Buzzfeed, from Twitter to ISSUU and to the web pages of People and Time magazine – these reading experiences are not formatted as traditional magazines or newspapers. Facebook has well over a billion people reading without pagination as we understand it. There are indeed pages and sections in those reading platforms, but not a single folio. It is still reading but new and different and ever-changing.

     

    So, although we are not entering a post-literate society, there are big things to be vigilant about and that need our attention.  Humanity and Content Distribution, formally known as publishing, have entered a new period of transformation. The hard part of this transformation is that we are still contending with our old legacy thinking, which is how we all tend to live in the present and look ahead to the future through the conceptual filters of the past. It is no small task to fight that thinking process.

    I think we can all agree we are at the beginning of a new chapter in the history of media, and not the end of the last chapter in our book. In fact, there is no end; there is only a continuous beginning. And what we have gone through in the previous two decades is still just the new endless beginning. But I am more hopeful for our literate-reading industry today than ever before. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted November 05, 2020
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  • BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    BoSacks Speaks Out: Disruption and Leadership during a Pandemic

    The world is facing a moment that seems to be of historic proportions. It is an oddity of biblical timing, something akin to a comet strike, an ice age, rising seas, and an invasion of aliens all happening simultaneously. Those are the hypotheticals. In reality, we have a global pandemic, an economic collapse, global warming, unrest in the streets, and the disruption of the entire global infrastructure. Disruption has become an old and overused expression, but it so clearly establishes and defines the moment. Nothing is as it was, nor are we likely to reestablish our old norms. Sure, life and business will go on. We may not have had an alien invasion, but we have had comet strikes, ice ages, rising seas, pandemics, and massive flooding before, and we are still here.
     
    Included in the massive global disruption is its effect on the publishing community. Supply chains are challenged, print ads are drying up, retail is stressed, large printers are in bankruptcies, magazines are closing, and work routines and methodologies are forever changed.  

     

    And yet as an industry, we plow on and adapt to the new business order. In times of crisis, the criteria to succeed is with above-average leadership. That includes your own personal leadership as well as your managements.

     
    As reported by Jeanette McMurtry in Publishing Executive – "Historically, the companies that succeed through tumultuous and uncertain times are those with leaders who have a common characteristic associated with a growth mindset: psychological resilience."
     
    She goes on to say that "Wikipedia describes psychological resilience as follows:
     
    "The ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly. ... Psychological resilience exists when people develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences."
     
    I thought I would gather a few examples of this psychological resilience leadership in today's media marketplace. Consider this the outline of a pep talk.
     
    Let's start with MediaPost's report by Sara Guaglione titled Hearst Magazines To Invest In Larger Formats, More Editorial Pages In Print. Sara reports: Hearst Magazines announced a multimillion-dollar investment to "enhance the quality" of its print products. The magazines will have larger formats, higher-quality paper and improved editorial ratios. 
     
    "Magazines are a tactile experience, and quality production is important to our readers, our creators and the marketplace," stated Hearst Magazines Chief Content Officer Kate Lewis.
     
    The initiative is called Premium Print…
     
    Sara concludes the report with the following: " ‘We (Hearst) are experimenting and making great strides by activating our digital channels to sell products, including print and digital subscriptions,’ stated Hearst Magazines acting president Debi Chirichella.”
     
    "Our strategy to invest in digital growth while maintaining the strength, differentiation and high quality of our print products, along with this new investment, paves the path to our future," she added.
     
    Thank you, Hearst, for this display of resilient leadership. For years, I have stated that as an industry, we need to collectively change the formula and move print in the public mind from a commodity to a luxury product. For too many years, we have decreased paperweight and diminished the size of our print publications and appearance. I applaud this move towards better quality products, in essence, products worth paying for.
     
    I think this is a good time to mention a very interesting saying my mother had: "Rich or poor, it’s good to have money." Hearst can afford this lunge to increased quality, but it is a move worth thinking about for any titles depending on your circumstances, finances, and long-term goals.
     
    Along with Hearst, here is what Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief, The Atlantic has to say on the subject of quality:
     
    "I've been arguing for a long time that we will be saved as an institution by bearing down on quality, quality, quality. Just do the most deeply reported, beautifully written, carefully edited, fact-checked, copyedited, and beautifully designed stories — and the reader will come. They want to be supportive, and they want access. And it turns out to be true. Thank God for it."
     
    It turns out that The Atlantic has amassed over 300,000 paying subscribers in a year, "by bearing down on quality, quality, quality".

     

    Another thought on leadership came from Wolfgang Blau, President, International and Chief Operating Officer, Condé Nast, who delivered the opening keynote address at the virtual 43rd FIPP World Media Congress. He said:
     
    "To build the media company of the future we have to ask what is the dream, what is the purpose and mission of a media company and journalists today – and where the trajectory of change that we have seen is heading," he said.
     
    "We may be calling this the new normal, but the only thing that is new and normal now is that change of all kinds, in all areas of our business, is accelerating. The good news is that humans are incredibly adaptable and inventive, and if you look at the history of some of the world's long-established media companies, many of them have made it through much, much greater challenges."
     
    To paraphrase my friend Andy Kowl: Many people think a leader sees the future. The truth is simpler: leaders see around corners and through obstacles.
     
    With all the multiple disruptions happening in today's marketplace, there is absolutely no room for complacency and nostalgic dogma. You and your company have to rethink the unthinkable. You have to challenge all your assumptions and see through the obstacles.
     
    As Sun Tzu said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." Hearst is taking the challenge. The Atlantic is changing the rules. And you should do the same. This advice is for the personal you and the collective us. We are all increasingly living through a new period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before.
     
    To endure and prosper, your business environment must contain constant reinvention. It is a chaotic time where if you don't replace your current businesses, someone else will do it for you. 
     

    BoSacks
    Posted September 27, 2020
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines

    BoSacks Speaks Out: On the Publishing Industry and the Technologic Growth of Magazines

    As a former Production Director at McCall's Magazine, my friend Samir Husni’s articles in this newsletter about the Seven Sisters had me fondly reminiscing. Did you know that while I was there in the 1980s, McCall's and the other seven sisters were transforming the production process and making digital cylinders for the Rotogravure printing process ten years before offset caught up with digital plate making? The seven sisters went from letterpress to digital using a HelioKlischograph to cut huge brass printing cylinders. It was and is a fantastic technologic process to see.
     
    I thought I would take the time to recall a little media history and see if we can find some trends applicable to today's COVID Time Machine. To start, I have been doing this newsletter since the beginning of accessible internet time, when there was no real web as we have today.  When I began the newsletter, I had no concept of what the newsletter, the internet, and communication itself would become. In fact, I didn't start a newsletter at first. I was forwarding thoughts and any relevant magazine information to my college roommate, who was working in the production department at Time Magazine. In retrospect, he was my first subscriber. And his Time Inc. workmate was my second subscriber, and on and on.
     
    I was working for Ziff-Davis in the late 1980s, and Ziff sent me on loan to AOL to help develop production methods for inserting and on-serting 3-1/2-inch diskettes into and onto magazines. It was a team effort by many smart professionals, and when it was over, they gave me a free "house" email AOL account. This was when the public's only entry to the WWW was with either Prodigy, Compuserve, or AOL.
     
    Did you know that the name of this newsletter "Heard on the Web" actually was meant to be an inside joke about printing on web offset presses, not the World Wide Web?  Since I was a production guy, "Heard on the Web" started out tracking and discussing printed manufacturing production matters.  In those days I talked about paper, printing presses, and the cycle of the magazine production process. In those days I had my subscription list separated into various topics of interest—General, Production, Paper, and eventually, the new thing called digital. Back In the day, I had over 2,000 readers just on the paper list. It is interesting to me that we rarely talk about paper anymore, and I no longer have a separate file for those interested in paper.
     
    One of these days I want to write an article about what were the important topics we tracked in the past that are no longer of primary interest. If it was important then, why not now?
     
    In the 1990s, I also discussed physical circulation and newsstand distribution issues.  Then as technology progressed a new concept hit the production circles. And that was the invention and use of PDF files. Most of my peers were pretty enthusiastic about that. I sure was. Shortly after PDFs came the computer-to-plate wars (CTP).   My goodness, some people thought you were a total heretic to even think of using CTP over traditional film-based production.  Yep, there was many a senior management argument about CTP among production professionals. Oh, the naive things we used to argue about are humorous to think about now. Many of those production leaders are still subscribed to this newsletter and I'm sure they will remember our discussions in the Publishing Production Forum. Mr Dead Tree, I'm thinking of you and quite a few others. We, the long-time readers of "Heard on the Web," have come a very long way from hot lead, which was how High Times Magazine and all magazines were initially typeset.  
     
    For me, the topics for the newsletter always have had one continuous thread -- what do I need to know to stay employed and be employable? That is still my ultra-simple criteria. Everything I send is distributed because I think it is, in one way or another, an essential piece of knowledge to help our careers. The adage that knowledge is power is correct. In this case, knowledge is employment power.
     
    What are we talking about these days?
    Here are a few headlines from the last few weeks:
     
    How testing drives subscription strategies for the Boston Globe


    Why we should be talking about the transformation of publishing, not its decline


    8 ways publishers are making money from podcasts


    How Ad Fraudsters Are Thriving During the Covid-19 Crisis


    ‘Nothing quite like being forced’: Publishers whip up quicker, cheaper ad products for advertisers


    “Elevated levels of growth…likely to persist beyond the duration of the pandemic”:
     
    It is a broader range of topics than in the past because what successful publishing has become is a larger, broad-based eco-system of content distribution—a far cry from where we once were. We and our businesses have evolved and are still doing so.
     
    I believe that if we can keep a long-term perspective even under the cloud of COVID, we will see that the speed of what is happening technologically in our workflows is just another step in a long, evolving trend in the publishing industry. I assure you that five years from now, our primary topics of concern will be something completely new and different. Five years from now, we won't be worried about the effectiveness of Zoom calls because it will be an antique process. I'm not saying the next few years will be easy; They won't be. Hell, the next year alone promises to be a backbreaker for many. What I am saying is that in five years, our jobs and methodologies will have morphed into something new.  It has always been that way, only now it happens faster than ever.
     
    The publishing industry has been and is still vibrant and ever-evolving.  We still have paper magazines, e-zines and PDFs and CTP and tablets, smartphones, podcasts, and who the heck knows what is next.  The only thing that will not stop is the increasing speed of change in these horrendous times of where we were to wherever we are going.  
     
    Somewhere along my career path, trite as it may sound, I realized that the way to enjoy being in publishing is not to seek a final destination/solution but to try to enjoy the journey and the problem solving.  For those of us here, there is no other choice. 
     
    BoSacks
    Posted September 08, 2020
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