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Publishing 2011: A Look Ahead

Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 4:21 PM

What will magazine publishing look like next year? The worldwide response to a changing landscape.

By Meredith L. Dias

The year 2010 may only just be coming to a close, but a lot of publishers already have big plans for the upcoming year. This year has been a technological whirlwind for magazine publishing professionals. It has sparked an across-the-board sea change for some publications -- not just changes to the content itself, but recalibration thereof to make it accessible on a wide range of portable digital readers (or PDRs, as we call them here at STRAT).

STRAT and its sister publication, Editors Only, have explored many of these technological advances this year -- particularly iPads, QR codes, and smartphones and tablets. To varying degrees, publishers in all sectors are looking for ways to appeal to a growing base of PDR users. But it isn't just about digital -- print publishers, too, are looking for ways to engage their readers and bring in more revenue.

We recently surveyed a sample of STRAT readers about their plans for 2011. How are they planning to rejuvenate their publications? Are the proposed changes mostly digital, or are some publishers looking to more conventional methods to bring in more revenue?

The International Response

Our responses ran a fairly wide gamut, and publishers from all over the world shared their future plans. We heard from publishers on three continents, and the responses indicate that there is a worldwide shift toward online publishing.

Glenn Hunt, publisher of New Zealand's 1am magazine, offered us a glimpse into the state of online publishing on the Oceanic continent: "The southern hemisphere is really lagging behind the U.S. and Europe in embracing the online culture and marketing, so models that are successful there aren't working down under (i.e affiliate schemes, etc.)." However, his publication is still surging ahead with a move to Australia, where online publishing is gaining ground. "We are planning to shift operations to Sydney from Auckland, NZ, as we are finding people are really slow here in NZ to embrace the online thing." It would seem, then, that 1am finds a digital presence crucial enough to merit relocation to a better digital publishing environment.

We also heard from Russian journalist Marat Kunaev. "I had to change jobs because of the financial crisis," he tells us. "Online journalism used to be just a second job for me -- a way to earn some extra money. Now it has become my primary occupation. Here in Russia, the Internet has become much more popular. It's a source for information and connection to others in my country and worldwide. This year my partners and I came to know just how good the online opportunities are. Next year, we'll be putting that knowledge to work in our activities. We expect to become more international and gain greater audience."

Non-digital Strategy Changes

A lot of magazines are looking for ways to cash in on current online and digital trends. But there are still publications that are looking to more traditional modes of driving profit.

Marcia Passos Duffy, co-publisher and editor of Our Local Table-Monadock magazine, says, "We will be looking at ancillary products that will support our magazine's mission (to promote local farms/food), including sponsoring events related to food and farming and partnering more with local organizations." She recognizes that the very nature of a publication is changing: "Today, publishing a magazine is more than just putting out editorial with ads on a periodical basis. Running a regional magazine means getting more involved in the community."

Geoffrey Morris, president of Morris Media Group, is also looking at some tried-and-true techniques for 2011: "(1) Focus the content to be more directly in line with advertisers' goals and needs. This is an overall approach: focusing on categories and theme that we may not have addressed before that will attract more advertisers. We are still keeping editorial integrity in tact of course -- not changing to pay for play -- be merely changing overall focus based on conversation we have are will have with advertisers. (2) Sales training and strategy: re-aligning goals and incentives to be more effective. A more sophisticated tiered incentive structure for the sales force bolstered by year-long management and sales training for some of the staff." His third strategy, however, is in keeping with the online publishing boom: "Bolster Web sales efforts, in a big way."

"It's no longer a one-dimensional world," says Lee Smith, publisher and editorial director of Deli Business and Cheese Connoisseur magazines. Like Morris, he envisions a diverse strategic plan for his magazines. "We are looking to do more integrated media next year. We launched a trade show this year that was a tremendous success, far exceeding our expectations. It is expected that efforts such as the trade shows, sponsoring contests, web-based media, etc., are helping boost advertising sales in our magazines."

Planned Digital and Online Changes

Of course, many of the publishers we heard from have big plans for their online and digital presences. Keith Tosolt, managing editor of Concrete International, says, "In 2011, we'll be expanding the online version of our publication and adding an interactive product guide. The motivation for this move is to offer an add-on value for advertisers."

Barbara Oliver, associate publisher of MBE magazine, plans to enhance her magazine's digital presence in the coming year. "We are encouraging more of our subscribers to take the magazine in digital format. This will cut down on our production costs significantly." The magazine plans to revamp its sales strategy, too: "We are expanding our offerings to include advertising in our digital edition as added value, especially for those in the travel and hospitality industries. We will be using the social media networks as a marketing tool to generate interest in our editorial content."

Joe Angel, vice president and publisher of Summit Media Group, plans to incorporate some custom e-media into his publications in the form of micro-sites, e-newsletters, and e-show dailies, among others. Kent Kiser, publisher and editor-in-chief of Scrap magazine, is introducing a digital edition of his magazine next year. "The proliferation of more sophisticated wireless devices (such as the iPad) is making it more important to at least offer such options, even if the majority of your recipients may not read the digital version," he says. His magazine saw single-digit revenue growth in 2010, and he hopes to improve upon that performance in 2011.

What to Expect in 2011

As indicated by the wide array of responses, different magazines are employing different tactics to increase revenue next year. This diversity of approach is encouraging. There is no blanket solution to the publication profitability problem; magazines in different sectors will require different strategies.

What can we expect in 2011? Certainly, the responses indicate an increase in digital editions and hopes for greater online revenues. But the surge in digital publishing doesn't necessarily mean that we should abandon the sales and advertising strategies of yore.

I think Amy Lestition gets it right in the November/December 2010 issue of Signature magazine: "Association professionals need to slow down and interpret the effects of the evolving publishing industry on their organizations. Recent technological enhancements in media have forced the publishing industry to race to adapt new publishing vehicles and produce more and more content. But ask yourself: Why we are racing? Is it because we are doing more with less? Or is this the 'new normal' for association publishing?"

These questions apply not only to association publishing, but magazine publishing at large. Do consider them before charging ahead in 2011.

Meredith Dias is senior editor of STRAT and Editors Only.

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A Magazine Startup Checklist

Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 4:20 PM

An analysis of key factors to consider for achieving success, print or online.

By William Dunkerley

What considerations go into starting a new magazine? Often, the most important element is left off of everyone's list.

Someone recently asked a group of experienced editors and publishers about start-up considerations. Answers included a lot of good nuts-and-bolts issues -- things like digital delivery, printing, mailing, who will be the readers, who will be the advertisers, and on and on.

One item that did not come up: Will this new magazine be able to succeed? And if you think about it, isn't that the first question that should be asked?

Who wants to start a magazine that isn't going to succeed?

History shows us that a lot of the magazines that are started don't succeed. In that respect, a new magazine has a lot in common with a new local restaurant. A lot of them don't even last three years. Someone had come up with what seemed like a good idea. But it just didn't pan out.

What Goes Wrong?

Often, the failure of a new magazine is chalked up to contemporary economic conditions. Other culprits could include too much competition, inadequate capitalization, or poor management.

Are these the real reasons? Or are they just rationales for failure? Frankly, there isn't one item on the list that couldn't have been analyzed, tested, and anticipated -- before all the money was spent and lost. Maybe we should add "poor planning" to the list.

While the economy et al may have played a role in a magazine's failure, I've found that there is a single, more fundamental issue that underlies most magazine startup failures. It is that there was no real need for the magazine. That too is something that can be analyzed and tested in advance. But rarely is it done in any thoroughgoing way.

Needed by Whom?

A startup magazine that seeks advertiser support actually has two key constituencies: the readers and the advertisers.

A preliminary understanding of reader needs can be achieved by exploratory testing of your startup idea with focus groups. Once you've translated the resultant insights into a sample table of contents, illustrative articles, and graphic identity, you can put that all to a test with subsequent focus groups. And finally, an actual market test can help quantify what kind of reception your new magazine will get from potential readers.

On the advertising side, you've got to look at what the advertisers are currently doing. Where are they advertising now? How much money are they spending in each venue? Are they getting satisfactory results? What consumers are they trying to reach? Interview key advertisers and ask them what their marketing objectives are, and where they want to go in the future. Identify how your magazine can either fill a void or be more effective for the advertisers than existing options.

Is That All There Is?

You may think that if you have identified sufficient need on the part of readers and advertisers that you're good to go. But not yet. There is something else. There has got to be a symbiosis between the readers and the advertisers. That means the readers have got to have an interest in the advertisers, and the advertisers have got to have an interest in the readers. There has to be a mutual need!

From an advertiser point of view, the purpose of your magazine is to attract good, prospective customers. If it doesn't do that, you have failed your advertisers. And if you fail them, they will abandon you.

You have two tools for getting the advertisers what they want. They are (a) marketing and (b) content. Your marketing must be successful at attracting readers who will become good buyers for your advertisers. Your content must be something that can be effectively marketed to those readers. What's more, it's got to be effective in motivating readers to look through the publication so that they will see the advertisements. Content also should inspire reader trust and loyalty. Advertising will be most effective in that kind of environment.

The Checklist

Most magazine startup checklists deal with how to start a new magazine. This one is different. This is a checklist for whether to start a new magazine. Here it is:

1. Is there a need for the magazine?

2. What's your proof?

3. Will you create a symbiosis between readers and advertisers?

4. What's your plan for doing that?

Follow this checklist, and you'll be off to a good start on your quest to launch a new magazine, print or online.

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William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

Breaking News: Newsweek Sold Again

Posted on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 8:20 PM

Ownership of Newsweek changes hands for the second time in three months.

By William Dunkerley

Newsweek, just sold last August, has another new owner. Now it's owned by The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, a joint venture created by Newsweek and The Daily Beast (an online news website). Sidney Harman who bought Newsweek in August is a 50 percent owner of the new company. IAC/InterActiveCorp, owner of such websites as Match.com, Excite.com, Reference.com, and founder of TheDailyBeast.com, owns the other 50 percent. Interestingly, IAC's chairman and CEO, Barry Diller, is a board member of the Washington Post Company, the outfit that sold Newsweek to Harman a few months back.

STRAT analyzed the factors of Newsweek's business strategies in our July issue. We found them flawed, but there didn't seem to be a compelling business reason for the sale. Then in our August issue, we reported on the sale to Harman, a publishing novice. We wondered what could have motivated the purchase of the money-hemorrhaging news magazine.

Now, we're left wondering what's behind joining forces with a news website. Newsweek already has a news website (Alexa rank: 1911). But reported plans are to junk Newsweek.com in favor of keeping TheDailyBeast.com (Alexa rank: 2121).

Did Harman buy Newsweek and cleverly flip the property for a nice profit? There have been no media reports of any money changing hands going into the joint venture.

Was Harman merely an intermediary for the acquisition of Newsweek by Diller who himself was afraid to ask for it? Who knows.

Are the principals assembling a print and online news organization to support a 2012-oriented political agenda? Who knows on that count, too.

Some speculate that the wisdom of the joint venture lies in efficiencies of a combined operation. Reports indicate that Newsweek is leading up to a $20 million loss for this year, $10 million for The Daily Beast. It's hard to picture wiping that away with "efficiencies." Our analysis indicates that Newsweek's losses are a result of flawed business strategies. The Daily Beast, on the other hand, is still in a start-up mode (launched in 2008). Thus, its losses are not necessarily a result of any dysfunction at all. It simply may not have had enough time to achieve profitability.

The ostensible objective of the new venture was expressed by its CEO, Stephen Colvin: "Consumers and advertisers value media distributed across multiple platforms. The merger of The Daily Beast and Newsweek audiences creates a powerful global media property for the digital age."

That seems like a sensible statement. But…

Launching a major news-oriented website like The Daily Beast was a considerable undertaking. At just 2 years into it, the job is far from done and it is too early to know if sustainable success will be achieved.

The turnaround of a major print publication like Newsweek, with a legacy of failure, too, is a monumental task with an uncertain future.

And, the merger of two organizations is yet another challenging undertaking unto itself. Merging usually creates unnecessary duplication that has to be dealt with -- a need to accommodate 2 different business cultures through carefully orchestrated process, not by decree; a refocusing of business objectives and a concomitant adjustment of work routines; and dealing with staff resistance to change.

Organizational mergers are indeed challenging enough all by themselves. But when you're dealing with a major website still in the throes of startup and a failed print publication that has yet to display a viable turnaround strategy, and try to merge the two, you have just multiplied the risks involved by an enormous factor.

There are a number of experienced and talented people involved in the Newsweek Daily Beast venture. Maybe they have a good plan and will succeed. Maybe the undertaking is just an expression of bristling egocentricity. Or, maybe there's a hidden political agenda. Time will tell. But, if they are able to produce the "powerful global media property for the digital age" of Colvin's vision, it will indeed be a noteworthy accomplishment, one that will stand as an exemplary model for the industry.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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Price Objection over Online Ads

Posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Are you having trouble getting decent rates for online advertising? If so, you are not alone. Here's an analysis of the problem -- and some tips on how to solve it!

By William Dunkerley

A lot of publishers are saying that they just can't get a good rate for online advertising. Advertisers want to pay less. At the same time, publishers are looking to make up for recessionary fall-off of print advertising. And getting more revenue online seems like an answer to many. But, how can you deal with the persistent price objections?

Let's analyze what's going on here.

I find that there are two factors involved. The first is the sales methodology used by the publishers. In many instances, it is just not up to the challenge of selling online advertising. The other factor is the online advertising itself. Unfortunately, many publishers are not offering advertisers good value with online ads. For a variety of reasons, online magazine ads in many venues are relatively ineffectual for the advertisers.

The Sales Methodology

The sales team of one publisher was telling her that they needed to cut the online ad rates. Why? The advertisers were telling them that this publication's rates were too high. Maybe they were too high compared to an online competitor, or perhaps they were just plain too high. The sales team sought to remedy this by acceding to the advertiser demands for lower rates.

At another publication in a completely different field, advertisers were telling the sales people that they simply didn't have the money to spend on ads. Recession had hit their businesses. And, if they weren't making money, they couldn't be spending money on online ads. The sales team at this publication wanted to start offering deep discounts in light of the economic circumstances.

Price. Price. Price. That's certainly a common objection these days. Are your sales people encountering it, too? If so, here are a few tips to consider:

1. Are your sales people unwittingly prompting that objection? There's no doubt that many advertisers are spending money cautiously -- and they're letting sales reps know that. But, after hearing the price objection a number of times, a salesperson may go into a sales call anticipating the objection. As a result, he introduces the subject of price early in the conversation. It's an attempt to head off the price objection and avoid rejection. Talking price before the prospect is convinced of benefits, however, is almost always a mistake. In fact, the more the salesperson talks about price, the more likely it will become a source of objection.

2. "Your rate is too high" and "I have no money" are often code words for "goodbye." In other words, the advertiser is trying to end the conversation. She hasn't been convinced that online advertising in your publication offers any concrete benefit. Price isn't the real objection. The problem here is that the advertiser hasn't been sold yet. So, responding with a justification of the rate or suggesting a discount can be just a waste of time. The code words for "goodbye" are often invoked when the salesperson has done an inadequate job of probing the prospect. The salesperson doesn't know what the advertiser's goals are. As a result, he can't tell the prospect how advertising in your magazine can achieve those goals. So what can be done to rescue this sales call? Re-probe the prospect. Pick up on something that seemed to be of interest, and get her talking about her marketing objectives. Present a few targeted feature/benefit statements. Then, go for a close. Don't revisit the price pseudo-objection. Just go for a close.

3. In the rare situation where the advertiser honestly believes that he can't spend money on ads because he's not making any money, there is opportunity for a different approach. Educate the advertiser. Successful advertising is not an activity that is loss-making. It is profits-producing. Failing to spend money on efficacious advertising will only perpetuate a company's weak financial position. Worse, it can even create a downward spiral. Effective advertising is a way out; it leads to new business. Find ways to drive home these points, and your prospect will see why it is important that he spend money to advertise in your publication.

The Online Advertising Itself

Many advertisers are refusing to accept publishers' online rates because the online advertising isn't paying off for them. You may be able to quote how many exposures they are getting or cite click-through statistics. But an advertiser can't take those numbers to the bank. What an advertiser is usually looking for is orders. In the case of image advertising, it is benchmarked survey results that demonstrate impact. When considered in these terms, server statistics don't really mean much. What's more, they are often inaccurate. Efficacy is what's important.

I know that some advertisers actively look for server statistics when deciding where to advertise. But sooner or later, things will come down to efficacy of the advertising. If the advertiser spends a lot of money on click-throughs and exposures that produce inadequate results, he may learn the folly of his ways. And if you sold yourself based on server stats, you might come up short. It would be better to have sold your online advertising based on efficacy.

But that raises the question: is advertising with you online efficacious? Will the advertiser get results in terms that really matter?

Too many times, the answer to that question is no. The online ads are bearing no fruit (or at least insufficient fruit). Why is that so? Here are a few reasons why some online advertising produces inadequate results:

1. The ads aren't big enough. It's a well established fact that, in advertising, effectiveness is proportionate to the size of the ad. That's why a full page in a print publication out-pulls a tiny fractional. A lot of online banner ads are the digital equivalents of tiny fractionals. They're not going to produce big results. Online advertising really got itself into a rut with the preponderance of banner ads. If you want your advertisers to see results from advertising with you online, sell them big ads.

2. Some ads have no fixed location. They are served dynamically as members of a sequence. Now you see it, now you don't -- the next ad has been served. What's wrong with that? It has to do with repeat exposure. Repeat exposure contributes to advertising effectiveness. When an ad has a fixed location, readers will re-experience the ad as they navigate back and forth in your publication. If an ad is not there all the time, it misses that reader-initiated re-exposure. And what if the reader remembers an ad and wants to revisit it? If it's still where she saw it before, she'll have a chance of finding it. If something else is in its place, that ad has missed another chance at repeat exposure. Give your advertisers the best shot at repeat exposure. Give their ads a fixed location.

3. The wrong people are looking at the ads. Advertisers want exposure to qualified, prospective customers. Sometimes in the rush to boost server statistics, a publisher will take steps to boost traffic, any traffic. And that can result in pairing advertisers with readers who have little interest in buying. Hitting a targeted audience is just as important online as it is in print. Reader acquisition generally costs more in print than online. That tends to make publishers rather judicious about acquiring a well-targeted audience. Lower-cost online audience promotion can lead to a less stringent approach. That in turn garners a less qualified audience. If you want to acquire and sustain the interest of advertisers, be sure that you are aggregating for them an audience of qualified buyers.

Earlier, STRAT carried a two-part series entitled "Why We're Not Seeing More Online Ad Revenue." It expands upon the ad-related issues I've been talking about in this article. Here you can see Part I and Part II.

Sales methodology, and the advertising itself. Those are the factors that are stimulating many of today's price objections with online advertising. Use the tips presented herein successfully, and you can see those price objections drop by the wayside.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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What Ails Publishers Most

Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 1:40 PM

What are the top issues facing today's magazine publishers?

By Meredith L. Dias

Over the last few years, you have likely watched many publications, perhaps even some of your own, fold under the pressure of the concurrent publishing industry and economic crises. Where did those publications go wrong? What one fatal error did they all make?

The answer may trouble you: There may not have been one fatal error. As we discovered in a recent STRAT survey we conducted, there are a host of issues facing today's publishers. We asked some publishers to identify their top problems, and their lists ran a fairly wide gamut.

Here are the top ten issues reported to us:

--Advertising sales
--Monetization of content
--Postage issues
--Distribution, printing, and paper
--Social networking
--Staff cuts/issues
--Rate cuts
--Circulation and subscription
--Changing reader trends

In other words, publications have suffered over the last few years for many reasons. Many of the aforementioned issues are, of course, likely related (e.g., staff cuts and economy, advertising sales and rate cuts, etc.). Still, as indicated by our survey results, broad strokes won't paint a clear picture of the recent publishing crisis. So let's examine some of these key issues in a bit more depth.

Monetization of Content

Publishers are having trouble monetizing their content on both the print and digital platforms. Peter H. Miller, president of Restore Media LLC, lists "monetizing digital media" as his number one concern. Conversely, Bill Kinross, VP and group publisher of Meating Place, tells us that his publication is having trouble "proving the value of print when other media platforms offer such detailed metrics and print doesn't."

Perhaps the most acute comment we received was from David Drimer, associate publisher of The Forward: "An irreversible dearth of print advertising forces an accelerated focus on digital operations, and nobody has yet created a viable business model for monetizing the Web that creates as much margin as print did in its heyday."

Publishers still have not discovered a winning formula for online profitability. The surging popularity of e-reading devices and apps has provided some major rejuvenation for downtrodden publishers, but print and digital content are still learning how to coexist in a mutually profitable way.

Going Postal

Postage issues were a common complaint among our print publishers, third only to advertising and monetization issues. David Drimer says, "Postal service is very poor throughout the U.S. for periodical mail, especially on the West Coast, so timely delivery is a challenge." Doug Cooke, publisher and editorial director of JAXFAX Travel Marketing Magazine, cites "continuously escalating postal prices" as a thorn in his publication's side.

It's no secret that the United States Postal Service, dealt a hearty blow by the Web, is suffering. The USPS is currently mulling over the idea of eliminating Saturday delivery altogether. The idea must first go through Congress, but the fact remains that customers are facing planned rate increases and, likely, imminent service cuts. Unfortunately, high-volume customers like magazine publishers bear the brunt. While planned postage rate increases constitute an annoyance for the average customer, "magazine publishers would see an 8 percent price jump, according to the proposals" (according to a Washington Post blog from July). Such a steep rate hike could prove devastating to print magazines already near their breaking point.

Staff Issues

Staff cuts constitute a major concern for many publishers, but not the only one. Tim Robertson, publisher of MyMac, mentions the high turn-over rate of stable writers. Another publisher mentions high corporate expectations. Several publishers highlight the plight of their editors, who are "being stretched too thin as we do more online and through webinars and seminars," says Bill Kinross. Sara Waxman, publisher and editor-in-chief of Dine Magazine, provides a three-item list that sums up the plight of a lot of understaffed publications:

1. Sorry
2. I'm in production right now
3. No time

Peter Miller mentions another problem of particular importance in today's publishing environment: "training old media people on new media." People who have cut their teeth on print magazines must now adapt to an alien frontier, where content is up-to-the-minute and technology changes constantly. A publication's success is now contingent upon the ability to keep current with industry and tech trends. This is difficult to accomplish when staff members who spent comfortable decades in print must first learn the basics, while new media pros surge ahead with new technology and social media solutions.

Rate Cuts

A few publishers identified competitive rate cuts as a major problem. One publisher told us, "Our biggest challenge is competitors that keep cutting rates to get business, destroying the marketplace for years to come. Multiple magazines in our market are slashing rates by 50 percent or more."

This is a prime example of shortsighted publishing strategy. Just as magazines that prematurely eliminate their print editions shoot themselves in the foot, magazines that engage in competitive rate cutting do considerable long-term damage to themselves, their competitors, and their advertisers. Richard Cress, publisher of CSC Publishing, Inc., sums it up with his "Top 3" list:

1. Selling ad space.
2. At full price.
3. While the rest of the publishing world discounts to the point where they lose money on every ad!

No Catch-All Cause, No Catch-All Solution

If only there were catch-alls in the magazine industry equation. If only there were one clear problem and one clear-cut solution. But this is not calculus or grammar. The rules of magazine success aren't so rigid and, for some, this lack of structure can be intimidating. What if you make a strategic gamble and lose? What if you do everything "right" and still lose money? What if you've engaged in several rounds of trial-and-error and seen no results?

Look to other publications for inspiration, but not concrete answers. The strategy that saved one publication could ruin another, and vice-versa. Magazines A and B may share the same strategic problems, but if they serve different audiences and industries, they will require different interventions. Magazines C and D may serve the same industry, but one may have a heavy social media presence, while the other may have a more profitable print edition. There are countless possible scenarios.

Your solution may come after months of strategic meetings. It may come from a magazine consultant. Who knows? It may even come from one of your own staff members, whose revolutionary idea changes the way your publication does business.

Meredith L. Dias is research editor of STRAT and Editors Only.

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The Printable Clickable Link

Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 1:39 PM

How QR codes and Microsoft Tags are making print publications interactive.

Print magazines are starting to offer readers clickable links to Web content. The technology for doing this relies upon capabilities of the increasingly popular smart phone genre of mobile devices. The process is simple to implement. First, the magazine prints the link in the form of a mobile tag. Here are examples of two popular formats:

A Microsoft tag.

A QR code tag.

The reader uses the camera feature of the smart phone to capture the image of the tag. Then, an application on the smart phone facilitates the connection: reader to Web content. Get Married magazine, one of the publications that has begun using the Microsoft mobile tags for both editorial and advertising content. Here is an example of one of their tagged editorial pages:

A Get Married magazine editorial page offers readers a Microsoft tag link.

QR codes have actually been in use in Japan for many years. They are used not only in print publications, but also on business cards, signs, even busses. But, the practice seems not to have migrated to the U.S. to any large extent. More recently Microsoft has begun promoting its own variety of mobile tag.

Regardless of which tag format is used, it will be necessary for the user to download an application to the smart phone. Typically, the downloads are available for free. (App for scanning QR codes: http://www.neoreader.com/download.html; Microsoft Tag reader: http://www.gettag.mobi/)

For those of you who have smart phones, we have compiled a number of links that provide additional information about the technology. Just use one of the tags above to see them. (We'll leave the list there for 60 days.)

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Distressed Print Publications Making Mistakes

Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Why do some thrive, while others fail?

By William Dunkerley

It's no secret that a lot of print publications are suffering. Advertising is down. Subscriptions are down. The only thing that's up is the number of casualties. Some major publications have already shut down, along with a host of smaller ones.

Many publications, however, are transitioning from print to online as a means of cutting costs. After all, with revenues down, it would seem to make good sense to reduce costs wherever possible. Switching to an online presentation can almost instantly cut out a big chunk of expense: paper, printing, distribution.

For most publications that have been print-only, developing an effective online strategy is long overdue. Today's readers have different expectations for how news and information should be provided to them. The print-only model for many is a relic of yesteryear.

That doesn't mean that there's no role for print in the mix. There are still a lot of things that can be provided with greater utility in print than online. But the idea of all print all the time has little relevance today.

That said, many distressed print publications are making transitions to online that are ill advised.

Coping with a recessionary period has always put a strain on publishers. Usually, when companies that use media advertising start feeling the pinch, advertising budgets are among the first to be cut. As a result, publishers are among the first to feel the pains of recession.

My consulting firm has worked with publishers through quite a number of recessionary periods. As a result, we've been able to observe some general patterns that seem to repeat themselves each time. We've seen publishers that are able to withstand tough economic times with only a minimal amount of sacrifice. For some, business even improves. Others, however, have their very existence threatened.

What's the difference? Why do some thrive, while others fail? My own observation is that the publishing companies that ran into the most trouble were operating with troubled business strategies in the first place. When times were good, they were able to coast along and even turn a profit. But when the going got tough, they didn't have the inherent strength to keep going.

That process reminds me of awhile back when my car was overdue for a tune-up. When I cruised along on a flat stretch of road, it ran with no apparent problems. But, if I drove up a steep hill, the engine would start to sputter and cough, and the car had trouble making it up the hill.

In past recessions, when publishing companies in need of a strategic tune-up began having trouble making ends meet, many realized something was amiss. That led them to address the primary dysfunction that existed in their business plans and strategies. As a result, many were able to pull through the recession and emerge even stronger.

The problem today is that instead of having that epiphany and subsequent adoption of new business strategies, the publishers are merely opting to cut out the major print-related expenses and go online. That's a mistake.

It's true that they begin saving money. But in the end they're not saving their publications. That's because they haven't routed out and changed the old dysfunctional business concepts that led them to the trouble they're in. What many publishers are doing is simply taking their print-style content, along with their old business models, and moving them online.

They're buying some time with this move. But they haven't fixed the underlying problems. In effect, they're masking the symptoms rather than addressing the cause.

Solid, sustainable results from publishing operations are best achieved by using a sound, synergistic business model. An economic downturn is a wonderful time to fix longstanding flaws in your business model. Doing so will help you survive the tough period. And it will also put you in a much stronger position for attaining even greater levels of success when economic conditions rebound.

William Dunkerley is publisher of STRAT and principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants.

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The Benefits of Being a Multichannel Magazine

Posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 12:59 PM

A publishing concept that will allow your publication to thrive in this period of transition and well into the future.

By William Dunkerley

Is your publication print or digital? That's a question a lot of us hear these days. And typically our answer will be: "print," "digital," or "both."

Lately, it has become fashionable to be something other than just print. Print is old.

But, if you think about it, plain digital is old, too. The ways in which consumers are now receiving information are increasing almost exponentially. Something new is coming along all the time.

Starting with the traditional website, now there's also the digital publication. Some of those are in HTML format. Others come as PDFs or the page-flip variant. Some information is text with the usual photos and illustrations. Then there're videos, podcasts, and even databases. Not to forget blogs, RSS feeds, text messages, email blasts, and tweets.

Google recently announced "Google TV." It is a platform that will merge the Internet with conventional TV. With it, viewers could seamlessly go from watching, say, a CNN news story about a Mediterranean resort, to reading a Traveler magazine article about it, to zooming in on the satellite photo on Bing maps. All on a single household TV.

Things are diverging and converging at the same time!

With all that going on, why are we still print, digital, or both?

Discordant Channels

Actually, a growing number of publications are using a lot of channels today. But typically, each channel takes on an identity of its own to some extent.

Rarely do the channels appear to be part of a unified whole, however. Often it is difficult to figure out what the relationship is between the print product and the digital presence. Sometimes one channel appears to be competing with another. Seldom do the consumers have the impression that what they're getting from the publisher is a coordinated array of information, provided via the most convenient and effective channel.

There's little synergy going on here.

What should be done? The idea isn't that you just use all these various channels in some way. It is that you use them synergistically. It is that you use the channels in a way that gives the subscriber a sense that she is getting a unified product. It is that you use them in a way that takes best advantage of each channel to convey the kind of information that is best suited to it.

The Difference Between Brand and Channel

While commenting on Google TV, Broadcast Engineering magazine recently editorialized, "Today's viewers don't know or care whether the programs come from satellite, cable, over the air, Internet or by water pipe. What viewers want is to be able to easily find the desired content and then view it in a comfortable environment."

Today's publishers would do well to have a similar perspective regarding their readers. Yet, too many publishers tend to view themselves through the prism of the channel or channels that they favor. They think of themselves as basically print or basically digital.

A few years ago, I was a speaker at the World Congress of the World Association of Newspapers. There I heard some of my fellow speakers, publishers of many of the most well-respected newspapers in the world, proclaim steadfastly, "Make no mistake about it, we are in the print business."

Think of where the beverage Coca-Cola would be today if the company's 1950s-era leaders insisted, "We are in the glass bottle business."

Today, you can get the product in a can, a plastic bottle, or a paper or plastic cup. You can buy it in a supermarket, a convenience store, at a restaurant, or from a vending machine.

The brand is the contents. The container is like the channel.

Coca-Cola carries its brand to its consumers via various channels.

It also differentiates the identity of its brand from the container used to deliver it. There's no product called "Bottled Coke" or "Coke à la Can" or "Coke in a Cup." Regardless of where you buy the beverage or what kind of container it comes in, a Coke is still a Coke.

The brand is not wedded to the channel. In fact, it is independent of it.

Those newspaper publishers at the World Congress were confused over the difference between their branded information and the channel used to deliver it, the printed page. As a result, they have been leading their publications into greater and greater irrelevancy as reader preferences have evolved. And so have a lot of magazine publishers.

It's Time for a Change

The time has come to adopt a new paradigm for magazine publishing. The objective is to decouple the channel from the brand.

It is also time to begin employing the power of the range of channels now available to magazine publishers. Coca-Cola has benefited from being a multichannel brand. And so can you.

Change doesn't mean simply going over to digital. For many publications there is still strong role for print. A lot of talk has claimed that readers are abandoning print for online. Advertisers, too. But what they're abandoning is the inappropriate use of print when publishers try to keep it as the be-all of a publication.

At the same time, a lot of digital publications are missing a bet by not having a print component.

The new paradigm for a multichannel magazine washes away these channel-specific fixations.

If the name of your magazine is XYZ, let that be the name of your brand, not of a particular channel used by you. Let XYZ be the brand name for the sum total of the experience a reader gets when subscribing. Market that brand, that sum total experience -- not a particular channel, not a disparate assortment of channels. Market a synergistic and unified whole.

What Does a Multichannel Magazine Look Like?

The multichannel magazine is part print, part digital. It is the best of both worlds. But, its essence is not in the channels through which it is expressed. It is in the content. The multichannel magazine looks like its content.

Let's use a hypothetical magazine as an example. "Clown Magazine" serves an audience of professional and advocational clowns. Its typical contents includes:

--A cover (traditional format)
--Table of contents
--An editorial
--Photo stories featuring costumes and facial make-up
--Tutorial articles on tricks and routines
--Short features and news stories of interest to clowns
    (Topics include:)
     --Relevant regulatory and legislative issues
     --Laughter therapy
     --Getting respect as a clown
     --Clowns in Washington
     --Avocational clowning
     --Rent-a-clown business tips
     --Circus update
--Classifieds (help wanted and positions sought)
--Directory of products and services
--Display advertising

Here's how the contents make use of the various channels:

The tutorial articles are lengthy, and tedious to read on an electronic display. In addition, some illustrations and diagrams are large and intricate. They also do not lend themselves to viewing on a display. Therefore, the tutorial articles appear bi-monthly in print. The bi-monthly frequency is not problematic because the content is not time sensitive.

The photo stories involve large photos and often two-page spreads. Consistency in rendering color is important. The idiosyncratic color variations among electronic displays are unacceptable. As for spreads, only the page-flip digital format seems equipped to do them. And with most current technology, reading a page-flip publication is like reading small print with a magnifying glass -- not an attractive feature. As a result, the photo stories appear bi-monthly in print.

The cover appears as the home page of the digital destination (which appears weekly). It has a horizontal format to accommodate display formats. On the first week of every second month, when the issue includes a print component, the cover does double duty, appearing on both the digital and print components.

The table of contents is the first editorial matter to follow the cover. It lists all contents, print and digital.

The editorial is a blog, and accommodates reader comments.

The short features and news stories appear in the digital component. Design for all digital content is intended to accommodate viewing on iPhone/iPad-type mobile devices. Breaking news and high interest short features are the subject of tweets. Email blasts are used occasionally for particularly compelling items. Email is also used weekly to provide subscribers with a link to each new issue

Any editorial content is subject to podcast and video treatment, as warranted.

The archive contains not only the content of the digital component, but also PDFs of the print component.

The products and services database is a full, searchable editorial feature. It also appears in categorized form. Companies listed may purchase emphasis for their listings, and add links.

Display advertisements appear in both the print and digital components. Print ad placement follows typical industry practice. Digital advertisements are large compared to typical practice (banners), since the smaller sizes are relatively ineffectual. The classified advertisements appear in categorized form.

That's the Blueprint

As publishers, if we follow this plan, we will better serve our readers and advertisers. And, we will be more successful in this rapidly-evolving period when reader preferences are shifting quickly. The plan should be far from static, however. As technological innovation opens new doors, new channels, it will be important to embrace any that will be helpful.

If you believe you're already doing all this, you may be right. But maybe not. I recommend that you conduct a fairly exhaustive analysis to assess how integrated your brand really is. What do the readers believe? Do they think they are receiving the benefit of a synergistic, multichannel magazine?

Going from a fragmented or confined use of channels to become a truly multichannel magazine is a big step. It is one that involves a lot of change. It is a new paradigm. Change is usually uncomfortable, and frequently resisted. Keep in mind, though: during this period of rapid changes in reader preferences, a magazine that fails to adapt will make itself increasingly irrelevant. Don't do that!

William Dunkerley is publisher of STRAT and principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants.

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Giving Up on Print

Posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Is ditching your print edition an advisable strategy?

By Meredith L. Dias

For some of you, eliminating your print edition and going digital-only may seem like an intuitive cost-cutting maneuver during these lean times. Imagine a profit and loss statement devoid of postage, printing, and paper costs. Tempting, isn't it? But think twice before you proceed.

You don't need me to tell you that times are tough in the print magazine industry. If you're a print publisher, your ad sales have likely taken a hit while postage, printing, and paper costs have increased. As a result, you've likely made some painful budgetary decisions over the past few years -- layoffs, editorial page reductions, rate cuts, and perhaps even changes to the physical size of your publication. Maximizing rapidly dwindling resources has become, for many, the new print media reality.

The Case for Stopping the Presses

Some publications have made the difficult decision to eliminate their print editions. Jim Mathews, senior director of online editorial and production of Aviation Week, says that his current digital edition "goes as text and PDF to email boxes, and [subscribers] are free to print it out when they need to." This eliminated "a swath of production costs while serving the reader better."

Mathews evaluates the respective benefits of print and digital. He acknowledges that "print will never go back to the same place in the hierarchy of value it once enjoyed when it was the only game in town." However, though the scales seem to be tipping in favor of digital, "print will always be better than electronic for certain kinds of things ... just as electronic is superior for certain kinds of storytelling and content delivery."

PC World magazine stopped producing its print edition in January 2009. Editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff tells us the story behind the tech magazine's successful move to digital: "We'd spent much of the 2000s shifting our business to the digital spectrum, because it made sense for a publication covering the world of technology. In 2008, we looked ahead at the upcoming print advertising market and macro-economic conditions and realized that it wouldn't be wise to continue publishing in print. We had done so much in previous years to shift our weight to the digital side that when we did make the change, nothing in our process changed and we laid off only one employee."

The Case for Staying in Print

Not all print publishers have seen their publications ravaged by the recent economic crisis, though. "Printed circulation hasn't changed appreciably over the last decade," says Doug Peckenpaugh, managing editor of food product design for Culinology. "In my sector, people still like to have a printed version to carry with them or read in various locations -- for instance, on airplanes during work-related travel."

When STRAT surveyed over a thousand editors and publishers about giving up their print editions, many of them suggested the same: that there is still a large contingent of readers who prefer print editions. The challenge, then, appears to be finding the advertisers that will resonate with them.

For many publishers, the print edition is the heart of their multimedia presence. Jennifer Thiele Busch, editor of Contract, tells us, "We no longer consider ourselves a magazine, but rather a media brand with distinctive yet complementary print, online, and face-to-face components." Although Busch foresees a time when "current trends will move us toward reduced [print] frequency," she emphasizes that "the print publication remains at the core of the brand."

Print publishers are also fighting back against some of the anti-print rhetoric that has invaded the media discussion over the last few years. "Experts have been giving print a eulogy for quite some time now. The reality is that an online presence will never generate the kind of revenue print can," says Jesse Santiago, publisher and editor-in-chief of Texas Family Magazine. John Smalley, editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, agrees: "The notion of 'eliminating the print edition' is so far from reality at this point that I find it hard to comment. That's like asking McDonald's, 'How do you think your customers would react if you quit making hamburgers?' We're a two-platform business these days -- print and Web -- and to eliminate either would not make sense right now."

Making the Decision

Our survey responses ran a wide gamut. Most editors and publishers stood strongly behind their print editions. Some touted the respective benefits of their print and online editions. A few represented digital publications that have never produced print editions, or publications that have made the transition to digital-only.

What our responses didn't include: doomsday prophesizing about the future of print. There have been so many high-profile print publication failures in the last year (see: Editor & Publisher and Newsweek) that we've overlooked the publications that have remained afloat, whose print editions are still profitable and sustaining a broad reader base. They're out there. They're industry magazines, association journals, and niche publications. You may not recognize their names or know their editors, but take notice now. They have figured out how to survive a simultaneous recession and publishing crisis.

Many of the editors and publishers who spoke to us recognize the complementary nature of print and Web publishing. Deborah Lockridge, editor of Heavy Duty Trucking and Heavy Duty Aftermarket Journal, sums it up: "We see a real need for in-depth information that can be provided in print form, while our digital efforts tend to focus more on news and other more timely content."

In other words, print can do things that digital cannot, and vice-versa. There is, at least for the time being, a place for both in the new media landscape.

Meredith L. Dias is research editor of STRAT and Editors Only.

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"Great article. Started on 'The Benefits of Being a Multichannel Magazine,' and migrated to this one! Just started reading your newsletter and am very impressed with your acumen." --Jeff Gayduk, Premier Tourism Marketing Publications. 08-25-2010.

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