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  • Publishers Pandemic Round table - David Atkins’ Newsstand Concierge Stands Ready to Assist

    Publishers Pandemic Round table - David Atkins’ Newsstand Concierge Stands Ready to Assist

    If you are unfamiliar with David Atkins and his business newsstand.co.uk, he is almost certainly not unfamiliar with you. Newsstand, the world’s largest print newsstand online, has over 4,000 magazines available with same day dispatch, worldwide.
     
    The Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, Samir Husni, Bo Sacks, and me—welcomed him to our group to talk about his operation, the movement to print-on-demand, and the opportunities for publishers moving into online sales.
     
    David’s business began in 1898 as a family wholesaler business, JG Palmer. Changes in the industry, with the consequent losses of many independent wholesalers, led the company to reassess what the needs of the customer were, and how they could help. The result was the shift to online, beginning with subscriptions and moving to single copies in 2011. Today, their online strategy enables publishers to get their publications into the hands of the reader through internet sales and online orders as economically and as quickly as possible. Through their concierge service, they are able to offer publications to readers based on their area of interest.
     
    Joe: When did your shift to online take place?
     
    David:  We stopped being a wholesaler in 2006, dabbled with projects for Tesco’s and national newspaper publishers and started concentrating on online sales in 2009. We started working with independent publishers in 2015. It’s been a nice journey. We get our copies from the wholesalers, various distributors and directly from the publishers themselves. We sell either subs or single copy at the same price point, it’s the same thing to us with the only difference being the frequency of the purchase. We’ve gone from 100% subs to, today, about 50/50. It’s slowly tilting to single copy. Maybe 10% of customers will buy more than 1 copy and we have some voracious customers.
     
    Joe: How different is your warehouse setup now from when you were a retail tieline?
     
    David: Very different. We had a huge packing machine, unique on the planet, that packed into boxes for 4,000 retailers, in every day, out every day. Now we have endless shelving! It’s tricky for staff working with packing lists with 65 different issues rather than the one. It’s an investment in equipment, an ongoing process but still a mainly manual one.
     
    Bo: You have a great site--functional, easy to use, one-click purchase; it’s a brilliant setup.
     
    David: Thank you Bo! I’m really all about function over form; but we want to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. Of course there are always improvements to make to the website but we tend to place more importance on the service that the image, there’s always work to be done in either direction.
     
    Samir: How did your business change with the pandemic?
     
    David: It’s had its plusses and minuses. The pandemic initially strengthened our sales, which were spiked to two to three times greater year over year. At the same time, it led to other companies, both at home and abroad, focusing on online, so we needed to work harder to maintain our share of market. On the other hand, more people also have discovered they can buy single print copies online.
     
    Internally, there are all the challenges of keeping the people on site (in the warehouse) happy, as well as helping others to transition to working from home. It’s not easy and I am keen to get everyone back into the office soon. General anxiety in the population reflects in how people interact with customer service; in our case, emails into customer service went up 400% and not all of them were pleasant.
     
    Sherin: We’ve all had to up our game. Amazon set the standard for delivery. Publishers need to learn to keep up with that. We have to turn everything around in a day or two. The pandemic has taught us to be faster, smarter leaner and deliver to our customers so they keep coming back.
     
    David: You’re right about that; we went big on getting copies to the customer tomorrow. The rest of the industry was still going with 10-12 weeks. You can get a refrigerator tomorrow but have to wait 3 months for a magazine; it doesn’t make sense. We’ve been busy changing that. FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE CLICK HERE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted June 11, 2021
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  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Chief Content Officer Guy Gonzalez of LibraryPass

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable with Chief Content Officer Guy Gonzalez of LibraryPass

    What could be more relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities than digital content? Guy Gonzalez joined the Pandemic Roundtable—Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, Gemma Peckham, and me—to talk about it.

    Guy is Chief Content Officer for LibraryPass, a new company, started only last year, which curates digital content for libraries and schools. Its main product, Comics Plus, offers unlimited, simultaneous access to digital comic books, graphic novels and manga through libraries and schools. Though LibraryPass is new, Comics Plus has been around for a decade, originally as a consumer and library product, but is now only available to libraries and schools. The other major company in the space, Comixology, is the current market leader; owned by Amazon, Comixology is exclusively commercial, with no library presence.

    That’s where LibraryPass comes in.

    Guy: One of the biggest challenges libraries face today has to do with the cost of providing access to digital content for patrons. When the pandemic hit, everything turned around. Bookstores and libraries were closed and print sales were mostly put on hold; people were turning to digital for purchasing and borrowing. This went on so long it now looks like it might be a permanent change in behavior; a lot of people have grown accustomed to digital reading and are likely to stick with it for at least some of their reading. But it’s more expensive for libraries to offer digital content than you’d think. For starters, libraries are going into this budget year with less money to spend overall. Ebook collections are mainly driven by patron demand, so bestsellers eat up the bulk of a content budget. As a result, you see less active curation. Digital licenses from the major publishers expire after a certain number of checkouts or a certain period of time, typically 52 checkouts or two years. With major bestsellers, some libraries are finding that the cost of keeping a single copy of a single ebook in circulation could be as much $500 per year. 

    LibraryPass’ model is based on unlimited, simultaneous access which enables libraries meet demand without worrying about wait lists or expensive single-user licenses. They can host community reads without special terms as multiple copies can be checked out at once. It’s a risk for us, of course, as publishers get paid by usage rather than units, but offering a deeper backlist means that usage is spread wider than in the traditional model. You might remember that a number of years ago, Scribd had to cut back on its romance titles for their unlimited access subscriptions because romance readers are voracious, and Scribd was paying out more for royalties than it was making in subscriptions. Getting the subscription model right is a tricky balance to ensure fair pricing for libraries without us going out of business!

    Joe: Tell us about the value of comics for libraries and schools.

    Guy: Unlike Comixology and some publishers’ dedicated offerings that are primarily consumer-focused, Comics Plus doesn’t have a consumer angle. We serve readers only through libraries and schools. Comics are immersive, engaging; readers of all ages enjoy them, and many can be used in educational settings and aligned with curricula. Our most widely circulating series right now is Avatar: The Last Airbender thanks to the cartoon debuting on Netflix last year. It introduced a brand-new audience of kids to the series and they’re devouring the comics. 

    Bo: How do you market the comics?

    Guy:  Comics are the most word-of-mouth driven media there is. Kids discover comics amongst themselves. Adult fans have lifelong favorites they still read and love.

    Joe: And how do you hear back from the kids, what they’ve discovered, what’s hot?

    Guy: Unlike traditional book publishing, the comic segment is relatively transparent with its sales data. The numbers can be huge, but even a “bad” comic can sell more copies than the average book.

    Joe: Tell us about the evolution of the digital format in comics and graphic novels.

    Guy: With variations on a “guided view” for mobile devices, the experience is more tactile than reading a regular ebook. Digital comics are good to read on iPads, better than magazines, but the main usage is, increasingly, on phones. Webtoons are digital comics specifically created for mobile and is the fastest-growing segment of the market worldwide.

    Bo: What age group predominates?

    Guy: Broadly speaking, kids’ comics are the fastest growing and best-selling. Manga remains hugely popular, too, and is a massive force worldwide. Netflix has done a good job of bringing anime to mainstream attention, too, which is driving some manga sales. Superheroes are declining, and the market tends to be an older audience, and one that is increasingly niche. Webtoons skew younger and arguably much more diverse with a huge international audience. 

    Joe: Tell about Webtoons.

    Guy: WEBTOON is a literal platform, and also the Kleenex of digital comics brands as people use “webtoons” to refer to any comics created first for digital reading. Some are effectively throwbacks to old comic strips; some are single panels; some are full-fledged stories. Most scroll left to right, same as we do in the US and as they do in Korea, which has a huge audience.

    The accessibility of digital platforms has changed the way people publish comics, and the way people read them. Technology often changes behavior; sometimes it’s slow and subtle, and sometimes it’s immediate. WordPress, for example, did more to change publishing than the Kindle did, in my opinion, building on the success of blogging platforms that came before it. Today, Substack is WordPress for email; structurally the same concept but with email as their focus, which allows for better customer acquisition and monetization than blogs ever managed. Each email is just a webpage on your Substack blog. These kinds of evolutions can change who gets to be a publisher, what they publish, how they publish, and who reads them.

    Bo: Which is why cross-pollination is necessary from each realm of publishing to the others.


    Linda Ruth
    Posted May 20, 2021
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  • Publisher’s Pandemic Roundtable - With Lizanne Barber of Distripress

    Publisher’s Pandemic Roundtable - With Lizanne Barber of Distripress

    We Will Once More Meet Face to Face

    Our Pandemic Roundtable, comprising Joe Berger, Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me, started one year ago and is, amazingly, going stronger than ever. Recently we hosted Lizanne Barber, Managing Director for Distripress, the international association of distributors, publishers, and associated press industry supply chain service providers.

    Distripress’ mission is, as it has always been, to connect its international members in the world of publishing. It started almost seventy years ago, and has grown to, today, 200 members from 50 countries around the world. Many members have joined historically to take part in the Congress, where every fall they have had the opportunity to meet up with industry colleagues from the world’s markets. For decades the Congress served as the one way that people could meet up with their international colleagues and discuss their international business—and still is often the only time people meet their international partners face to face.  
    Linda: I first attended Distripress in Toronto in 1988. The next year, when I went back, I was astonished that people remembered me from the year before; I was new to the industry, and it seemed no one in the US remembered me from meeting to meeting. Going back year after year, I came to feel a real connection with these people, even though we only saw each other a few days once a year. 
    Lizanne: Yes, it’s all about building connections, and it really is a community. My first Congress was in Monte Carlo, and I had the same experience. Once you’re in Distripress you are in its community forever. Last year was the first year Congress couldn’t take place. Meetings by Zoom have been fantastic, but we’re all looking forward to meeting face to face again.
    Joe: As the new Managing Director, tell us about your mission at Distripress.
    Lizanne: Irreplaceable as the Congress is, I want to look at Distripress and make sure we’re offering connections throughout the year, and not just that once in the fall. I’m surveying our members and looking for touchpoints, finding out more about their businesses, about how they have been managing in the pandemic and how they are structuring their businesses coming out of it. So far, I’ve spoken to over 75 members. 
    Joe: And what have you discovered? 
    Lizanne: The main reason they are members is the connection with the community that we offer. And as we emerge post-COVID, we will continue to organise the Distripress Congress event, and look for more ways of strengthening those connections, and adding touchpoints, all year long. This year we plan for the Congress to be a smaller event, because there will be parts of the world where people still won’t be able to travel. But in the US for example, we’re finding that people are willing to travel again. That’s fantastic for our community.
    People are willing – and wanting -  to meet up again face to face. So we’re planning a two-day conference in Zurich this fall, with a half-day forum of industry presentations and a day and a half of face to face meetings. For those who cannot attend we will be offering a virtual meeting platform a few weeks later and the opportunity to view and listen to the half day Forum presentations on the Distripress website, which will be available to all members. The planned – and widely anticipated-  larger Congress in Estoril has been moved to 2022 when we plan to welcome all members back in full force.
    People are really excited about the opportunity to meet again. It’s great to have virtual meetings, but face to face is a different level of connection. So many things can happen, so much can happen serendipitously, in person as opposed to over Zoom. 
    Bo: Humans like to mingle. You can’t mingle on zoom. You can talk but not mingle.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted May 09, 2021
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  • MCMA - A Candid Conversation with BoSacks

    MCMA - A Candid Conversation with BoSacks

    Media & Content Marketing Association
    Reporting on this event provided by: Greg Wolfe, MCMA Board Member
     
    The MCMA held another zoom “Candid Conversation” event on Friday 4/24. Noted magazine expert and publisher of Heard on the Web media newsletter, Bo Sacks, joined as a special guest and Matt Steinmetz from Adweek was our moderator.
     
    We had a lively discussion over zoom about many topics facing the magazine industry, with attendees from consumer and business publishing, and also vendors that serve the industry as well.
     
    In his introduction, Bo said he thought that the problem for publishers is the commodification of content. Media was once a “luxury item,” he said and will need to be again for us to be sustainable as an industry. “Trust and brand recognition would be media’s life preserver amid the rising tide of fake news and shifting consumption habits.”
     
    He said that “we are in the solution business” and challenged the attendees to think about what the solution is that their publication provides. “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole, “he said.
     
    Bo was nonetheless very optimistic about publishing and said he thought we were entering the “next golden age of publishing,” with vast opportunities for success with both digital and print publications.
    In terms of magazine categories doing well, Bo said home and decorating, and food titles were overperforming. He also mentioned that the association magazine from AARP is the largest circulation magazine in the U.S, serving the senior and elderly community, and that was a strong category.
     
    There was some discussion on podcasts and Bo said he was a big proponent. He thought that there was a serious revenue play from sponsors.
     
    One attendee raised the subject of third-party cookies going away and what the impact would be on publishers. Bo thought it would make publisher’s first-party data very valuable but said the thing about “big data” is that you can have a huge amount but if you don’t know how to analyze it properly and make it actionable it’s useless. He also said that there is so much fraud in programmatic advertising, and if that comes more to light, the first-party data will empower publishers more than ever.
     
    In terms of print, Bo remarked that print is now a “luxury item” and that low-quality print is a non-starter in this day and age. He advised that the future for success in print was very high-quality and very expensive.
     
     On the subject of remote vs. in-person offices in publishing, he felt that remote working would be a major factor in the future and would continue post-pandemic, but that creativity blossomed in a face-to-face environment and would still be needed and valuable. He threw out a projection of maybe 20% in-person and 80% remote. Other participants felt that face to face was important for relationship building and collaboration across the work teams.
     
    Another attendee, a long-time b2b publishing executive, shared that another benefit of remote working was how it opened the pool of potential employees much more broadly and allowed businesses to hire the best person regardless of geographic location.
     
    There was a lively discussion about trends in the event side of the business. In response to a question, Bo commented that the publisher’s content was at the core but there were an unlimited number of ways to provide other products and services to their customers, such as events, and highlighted the wine clubs that have been successful for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Bo was bullish on the membership model approach with many spokes coming off the wheel.
     
    Bo thought that virtual conferences were “not as thrilling” as live and that the opportunity to make a new friend was one of the important benefits of live events that you don’t get from virtual. Bo thinks it is going to be a slow transition back to live events, though. There will be questions of trust and sorting out how vaccination requirements play into it.
     
    Lisa Pistilli, from Lester and President of MCMA felt there was also a question of how fast conference travel budgets and sponsor budgets would come back as well.
     
    Matt Steinmetz from Adweek, who was moderating the event, mentioned that he could get many more people to attend a virtual event than a live event, and they have been successful from a financial standpoint with virtual events this past year. Bo agreed that publishers had figured out how to make virtual events work and they would also be here to stay, even after it was safe to go back to live events.
     
    There was a thought, among those online, that a benefit was that businesses were inclined to send more people to virtual or hybrid events due to the lower cost of attending virtually.
     
    One vendor spoke from their perspective after having attended virtual conferences this past year and felt the value for her company was considerably less, from a sales standpoint. She mentioned that some of the upcoming hybrid conferences she is considering sponsoring are making guarantees of in-person attendance numbers, and she is planning to attend some events in second half of 2021.
     
    In talking about virtual conferences, a theme was that the most successful events this past year didn’t try to replicate an in-person experience, but rather built a new experience that would bring value to the attendees and sponsors in a new way. The comparison to Amazon, that didn’t replicate the experience of a bricks and mortar store online but created a new online shopping experience that was different but satisfying.
     
    When asked about what industry conference he was most looking forward to, Bo said it was Samir’s ACT events at the University of Mississippi, where Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni is a professor of journalism. “Samir puts together 40 high-tier publishing professionals all giving their best insights not only to the other professionals but more importantly to the J-students. There is no more intimate conference in the business.”
     
     He noted that at the end of the conference beside Bo doing a wrap-up keynote, they then go to Morgan Freeman’s Blues club called Ground Zero “and that’s worth everything!”
     
    I think we’re all looking forward to the day, hopefully soon, when we will be back together in person. Morgan Freeman’s blues club in Mississippi sounds like a great way to kick that off.

    Greg Wolfe
    Posted May 04, 2021
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  • BoSacks Readers Speak Out - On the New Normal, The week Junior, White Knights, and Conde Nast

    BoSacks Readers Speak Out - On the New Normal, The week Junior, White Knights, and Conde Nast

    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Presumptions of the New Normal One Year later
    GREAT share and dead on perspectives Bo! ... Man it's been a helluva 12 months but it's been amazing to see how folks have creatively adapted, and found ways to grow and thrive.
    (Submitted by a VP, Media Sales)
     
    RE: INTERVIEW with Andrea Barbalich, Editor In Chief, The Week Junior US
    My kids were all readers. I took them to the library once a week, and we came home with stacks of books, which they read in bed, on the couch, in the back yard, in the attic, in the car ... everywhere. I loved it. If they had spent all that time with their faces in a screen, I would not have been happy. Almost anything that gets kids away from the screen is a good idea.
     
    RE: "Magazines and the American Experience" exhibition
    I realize that book reviews are a rare feature in your esteemed newsletter, but I'm driven to take pen in hand to say that the catalog of the "Magazines and the American Experience" exhibition, currently running at the Grolier Club, is a book that anyone with even a passing interest in publishing history should buy immediately, without hesitation.
     
    The exhibition is drawn from the magazine collection of Steven Lomazow, and God bless him for gathering an extraordinary range of titles, from the earliest American magazines to today's, and for assembling an remarkably coherent historical narrative based on subject rather than just a timeline.
     
    Since I live on the West Coast I ponied up $75 for the catalog (a coffee table-size hardbound) in lieu of going to New York to see the exhibition... the best $75 I ever spent. It's been a long time since anyone published anything about magazines this comprehensive or as beautifully packaged.
     
    The illustrations are particularly rich, and they complement the text instead of simply illustrating it. You don't see printing of this quality very often these days.
     
    I was especially gratified to see a large section dedicated to African-American magazines, which have gotten pretty short shrift in general histories up until now. The wealth of titles that Lomazow has collected in this area (and many others!) is staggering... and a tribute to his vision.
     
    Required reading! Book at https://www.oakknoll.com/. Exhibition at https://www.grolierclub.org/
    Submitted by an official BoSacks Cub Reporter and a Publisher)
     
    Re: “Housty, how can we boost the audience of our newsletter?”
    Great share Bo ... MRI-Simmons' custom research work for publishers over the past few years has highlighted the benefits of well-done newsletters ... expanding the brand footprint, extending value to existing customers ... and overall generating better, deeper engagement for the media brand overall.
    (Submitted by a VP, Media Sales)

    CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    Posted March 22, 2021
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  • 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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  • One Pandemic, Many Responses: How Magazine Publishing is Faring Around the World.

    One Pandemic, Many Responses: How Magazine Publishing is Faring Around the World.

    Moving our focus out for an international perspective, Ian Watts dropped in on the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me—to tell us that there are bright points of hope in a world market that is still facing the impact of the pandemic.
     
    Ian is the Director of Pincot Consulting Ltd, from whence he provides international circulation services to Genera Solutions, America’s largest magazine exporter. I can’t remember when I met Ian; he’s been in our business a long time. He started out with WH Smith Wholesale in the UK in the 1970’s.
     
    “That was a great academy for English circulation people, back in the day,” he tells us. “They did great training, hoping to invest in people they would then keep for life.” Those who left were picked up by publishers—in Ian’s case, Murdoch in the 1980’s, then SM Magazine Distribution, then Hachette, who owned an export company in the UK and COMAG UK. He’s been in international ever since.
     
    Following a stint as International Sales Director of Comag UK, Ian went on his own. His specialty was taking kids’ product and making it international product. He launched some big success stories internationally, including Spice Girls magazines, and later Sudoku magazines. His job now is to liaise with the 70-80 markets around the world that receive American exports and get the best deals and service for Genera’s US publisher clients.
     
    Ian: It’s a fascinating, exciting field. Every market around the world is an individual market with its own characteristics, facing the same issues that we face, but dealing with it individually. It’s very stimulating, learning about how these different markets manage.
     
    Joe: Can you give us an idea as to how these various markets look for imported product?
     
    Ian: Due to Covid responses It’s tough everywhere. International markets are going through a hard time for their own domestic publications; and it’s harder still for import. A lot of the import sale comes from travel locations, and of course travel has been decimated in most countries. There are exceptions. Some of the larger markets, for example Australia, continue to have domestic travel; but overall travel is down 90%, and outlets are closed in many airports. The sales we are currently getting are indicative of the market for import products consisting of people who live in the market, as opposed to travelers. They could be local-language speakers, or expatriates.
     
    Joe: Do you see any bright spots?
     
    Ian: There are certainly exceptions to this downturn. The strong, heavy-edit magazines, ones that look toward American politics, and to how we might fix the world, ones oriented toward business, are doing relatively well travel outlets notwithstanding. Examples are Foreign Affairs, Atlantic magazine and the New York Review of Books. US Business magazines are highly respected, for example Harvard Business Review.
    Linda Ruth
    Posted March 10, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • BoSacks Readers Speaks Out: On Disputing the Death of  Journalism

    BoSacks Readers Speaks Out: On Disputing the Death of Journalism

    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    Dear Bo, I enjoyed reading your opinion, and I enjoyed more seeing our cartoon and picture.
    Here’s to the rebirth of good, solid, truthful journalism.
    (Submitted by Professor Samir Husni)
     
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I think we've all been in publishing long enough to be skeptical of anyone proclaiming some aspect of the industry's death—whether it's the death of print, the death of magazines, the death of the book, the death of the novel, the death of reading. I think, at its root, proclaiming the "death of X" comes from a deep sense of loss or grief over a world that has changed and sometimes not always for the best. This can unfortunately turn into nostalgia and desire to return to the past. But we can't go back, nor should we.
     
    Fortunately, there is more quality journalism available today than there has ever been in my lifetime—reading Bo Sacks for 20 years has taught me that. And much of it isn't necessarily found in the places we once looked. Journalism is undoubtedly changing because it must. It's questioning itself and its purpose and how to regain the trust of the people.
    (Submitted by a Publisher)
     
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    Thanks for taking that view Bo. I always dispute when people say journalism is dead and the media is worthless. I understand where they are coming from as the pretense of objectivity has been prominently dropped in many cases, and more recently, the acceptance of facts has taken a hit. But to say it is dead is a gross overstatement. There is plenty of great reporting still going on and I am hopeful that we will figure out a sustainable model that will ensure journalism lives and thrives going forward.
    (Submitted by a CEO)
     
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I remember well the Lane Press Publisher Consortium bringing both you and Samir together. It was an enlightening discussion offering two different perspectives into the growth path of our industry. Your and Samir's dialogue was then and remains today a combination of both opinion and fact - indeed both valuable sources of information, but invaluable when both viewpoints are free-flowing and debated with respect. Open discussion is the pathway for informed decisions and understanding and I applaud you and Samir for respectfully learning from one another and together helping to shape the dynamics of our industry.
    (Submitted by a Salesperson)
     
    Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Disputing the Death of Journalism
    I think the two of you are using different definitions of journalism. Samir uses the term to mean independent, objective, opinion-free journalism, and you are saying opinion-based journalism has been around for a long time, so we can't define "journalism" that way. I think you're both right. The opinion-based garbage we get today is nothing new, and is "journalism," but it's of a different kind than the more noble type they (supposedly) teach in journalism school.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    by BoSacks Readers
    Posted March 02, 2021
    (0) Comments

  • 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
    (0) Comments

  • Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - One Source’s Unique Front-End Magazine Program

    Publishing Pandemic Roundtable - One Source’s Unique Front-End Magazine Program

    Last week, at the Publishing Pandemic Roundtable—Bo Sacks, Gemma Peckham, Joe Berger, Samir Husni, Sherin Pierce, and me— spent our hour with Gregg Mason of One Source, the distributor to major Natural Food specialty retailers, discussing the unique nature of the One Source checkout program, the changes that the pandemic has brought, and what we might anticipate for 2021.
     
    Joe: Can you give us some background on One Source and your role in the company?
     
    Gregg: One Source is a traditional direct distributor, in that it orders its product from publishers and ships to one location for pick and pack. We service primarily the natural food segment, with close to 2000 retailers nationwide. Our largest chain is Whole Foods, with 500 stores, followed by Sprouts with 365 locations. We also service a small sports retail segment.
     
    One Source started small when the chains were small and grew along with them.  Our approach to magazine merchandising is unique—we don’t have mainlines. We are front-end focused with pockets at the checkout-only, and with non-logo’d pockets. Without logos, it allows dynamic movement of magazines which caters to the impulse buy of shoppers. We can sell more of what sells and the fixture presentation changes often.  
     
    When our retailers wanted a magazine program and looked at what traditional grocers had, they wanted something different, something fluid and dynamic. Something that would appeal to both new and returning customers; something that had the ability to drive high efficiencies. This fluid checkout was the solution.
     
    Bo: Does the fluidity you exercise with different titles in the pockets create a better sell through?
     
    Gregg: Having the titles move around drives greater sales and sell through as they do stay in store but get shifted. Older product moves down, newer product comes in at the top of the rack. Titles with enough product at release for two pockets consolidate down to one over time. In this way we can extend shelf life for high-selling magazines. Our best-selling regular-frequency titles are all either bi-monthlies or quarterlies, we’re able to give them their full on-sale period.

    CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

    Linda Ruth
    Posted February 28, 2021
    (0) Comments

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