Monday, December 25, 2006

How to Keep Your Job in Today’s Changing Publishing World

BoSacks: How to Keep Your Job in Today’s Changing Publishing World

The last thing anyone wants during this unique transition period in publishing is to be downsized and out of work. Yet, it is an ongoing trend for publishers to minimize the workforce and still publish on a regular periodic time table. So, I offer you some tips on how to not only stay employed, but to prosper and grow.

I’m not going to lecture you on the niceties of corporate cubicle etiquette, ridiculous office romances, chronic corporate complaining or the needs of showering before you go to work. If you have any of those problems, put this magazine down now and start to clean out your desk, because there is nothing I or anyone else can do to help you. On the other hand, if you have the desire to grow, learn and thrive in publishing, listen up. There are some simple rules that will have positive long-term career results.

In this world of ours, everything is layered like an onion, and no man is an island. By that, I mean that you have at least two lives, not one: your home life and your work life. In the work world you also have two lives: the one you have now and the one you will have in the future. In 21st-century publishing, it is highly unlikely that you will retire from the job you have today. So your two jobs are trying to keep the one you have now and preparing for the one you will have in the future. Think of the work you do today as preparation for the work you will do at you next job.

You have three choices. Stagnate and stay in the position you have (those people get fired first), keep your eye on your immediate supervisor’s position, or get a job elsewhere.

What you really want for your next job is a promotion. That might mean that you want your boss’s job. What do you need to know to do your boss’s job? Remember that all bosses also either get their boss’s job, get fired or get laid off. And as nature hates a vacuum, you must be in the right spot with the correct credentials, willing and able to take the opening spot on the roster.

2 Tips for keeping your job and advancing your career

1Understand that publishing is a process. It has a beginning, middle and an end. Where are you in that process? Do you fully understand it? Do you know what happens before and after your involvement?

Take the blinders off and complete your education of the entire publishing process. Editors, do you understand production? Ad sales, do you have a clue about the manufacturing process? Production people, do you understand circulation? (OK, that was a trick question—nobody understands circulation, including circulators.)

To excel in your career, you should at least be familiar with the languages of the other departments with which you work. The industry is changing. We are putting out more and more magazines with fewer and fewer people. Publishing personnel and the various departments are multitasking and blending. Columnists are now writers, typesetters and editors. Artists need to understand production page specifications and sometimes act as production people. Editors sometimes do page make-up and Web development. Good production personnel speak all publishing languages. We are a growing group of skill-blended professionalism.

I really believe that knowledge is power. Industry knowledge is employment power.

Imagine yourself on your next interview. If you can speak knowledgeably of the entire process, you are a more desirable candidate. Knowing what the other departments actually do is important. Inter-department communication and knowledge facilitates successful and efficient teamwork.

2Network and join professional organizations. If your company won’t pay for it, pay for it yourself. As I mentioned, your current job is only a part of your career. A good professional group has the collective intelligence of the entire industry. They are a tremendous resource. If you have a question or stumble upon an unfamiliar situation, someone in that group knows the answer. If you ever get that pink slip, they know where the new jobs are. Professional organizations are important on many levels, not the least of which is exposure with your contemporaries.

Essentially, you have either a job or a career. Career people stay employed. You must always be working on your career. Stay alert and continue to educate yourself about your industry.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

5 Easy Steps to Publishing Nirvana

5 Easy Steps to Publishing Nirvana
By Robert M. Sacks

Let's get down to some serious business. Does anyone in their right mind think that writing, journalism or publishing is just going to fade away and disappear? Does anyone think that there isn't going to be the need to be informed, be knowledgeable, or just know stuff? Here is news for those in doubt of their careers and the continuance of the honest profession of being a publisher/printer. People have always had the need for information and will always require news, instructions, directions and knowledge.

The only difference now from yesterday or last year or last century is how they get to know what they know. The human race has always required and worked to improve information distribution. As far back as the caveman, they processed the information of the day, and transferred those ideas and thoughts to the walls of their homes and religious places. As society progressed, we improved the process.

The first tool for storing portable information outside of the brain is called, in today's terms, a baton. It carried thoughts and stored information on an inscribed stick to be carried about by a shaman. It stored the phases of the moon and other important astrologically dependent information, such as the best time to plant seeds. Planting seeds at the proper time is a good idea if you like to eat on a regular basis. Think of the baton as the first Flash memory JumpDrive.

We have been drawing on walls, carving on rocks, inking on papyrus, and cloistering men in monasteries who repeatedly copied information ad infinitum with mistakes and all.

So have no fear about your chosen profession. The process of information distribution is not going to go away. Indeed, it is accelerating at an unprecedented rate.

What you need to consider is the true value of your information to the general public and the process by which you distribute this knowledge.

Five easy steps to publishing nirvana:

1 Who is my target audience?

2 Where is my targeted audience?

3 What is the real value of my edit (information) to that audience?

4 What is the most efficient method to reach the maximum targeted audience?

5 How do I keep my information valuable and fresh for my targeted audience?

These may seem like simple concepts on the surface, but they are not. They constitute a complex, Zen-like formula. Success is measured by the antique term called profit. And to achieve the Zen-like state of profit, you must follow the Bo-formula to publishing nirvana (in the box above). On the atomic level, it can all be distilled down to the simple equation of RV = RP or, for the laymen, real value equals real profit.

In this era of abundant information, is your edit of any real value? If so, how valuable is it? If it is valuable, to whom is it valuable? This is where the concept of niche comes into play. The value of when to plant seeds is only valuable to a select few. And to those few, only information on certain types of seeds would be of value.

In today's publishing world there are three key components: the jewels of extremely valuable edit, the readers who need and desire those gems, and the ability to get the booty into the clients' hands by the most efficient means possible. In my experience great edit trumps the other two. To paraphrase loosely, if you have the appropriately precious edit, they will come.

The last necessary element to the so-stated condition of publishing nirvana is the honest and sometimes brutal truth. This can be the hardest part of the Bo-formula. Like an alchemist of old lore, here is a Bo-exercise for you to try. Find a hand-held mirror and hold it up about 18 inches from your face. Look into the mirror and ask yourself the five questions listed to the left. Did you flinch? Did you grimace? Did you honestly know all the answers? Did you divine the truth? Only you know that for sure.

Bob Sacks is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, "Heard on the Web." Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.

Friday, September 15, 2006

BoSacks Speaks Out: Bill Ziff, Publishing Pioneer, dies at 76

BoSacks Speaks Out: Bill Ziff, Publishing Pioneer, dies at 76

For a man of many words, I find my word skills insufficient to the task of describing to those of you who didn’t know of him, the genius, and multiple successes of niche master, Bill Ziff. He was one of the giants of that great publishing period at the twilight of the last century. Not that great publishing empires are over, but rather that they are changed to an almost unrecognizable form in relation to past renditions. I guess old publishing was more linear and two dimensional, compared to current trends which need to have three or four dimensions of content distribution.

There is no easy way to form a comparison. Writers will still write, editors will still edit, and publishers of course will still publish. But Bill Ziff actually created two huge niche publishing empires. He sold the first due to health considerations and, upon recovery, started a new and tremendously successful publishing machine the second time around just as strong or perhaps even stronger if the sales price of $1.7 billion means anything to you. And that was in last century dollars. That is an amazing feat. I know of no other publisher who has achieved a similar success twice. I am sure that someone may have done it, but tonight I am drawing a blank and am not aware of it. Bill Ziff was the Zen master, the Niche master of all time and space when it comes to publishing formulas. He seemed prescient in his ability to identify and see the addicted brand devoted hobbyist before anyone else and maximize that vision with fantastic ad revenues.

I had the good fortune to work for Bill Ziff and Ziff- Davis Publishing in the early 1990s. Those were the peak years of Bill’s second empire. Our struggles seem to me, almost comical in retrospect. The problems then were the reverse of today’s publishing woes. How big a binder could we find to print an unheard of number of folios? Monthly magazine, inches thick, that were gargantuan in page count and overflowing with bound-in inserts.

All that is true, but what is left unsaid so far is the quality of the way in which the employees were treated. By whatever criteria one can use to judge the employees were treated better there than any other place I can remember. From heath care, salaries, vacation time or free membership to health clubs, there was a constant delivery of generous compensation and respect. The result was the staff was happy to work there and was equally happy to work hard, very hard.

All that was created and crafted by the genius and inspired management of Mr. Bill Ziff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Publisher's Secret Weapon

"Heard on the Web" Media Intelligence:
America's Oldest e-newsletter est.1993

Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.
- Jules de Gaultier

.............From the General Publication News Files...............

A Publisher's Secret Weapon

In the era of Internet publishing wars, make sure you are armed to the teeth.

By Bob Sacks

What good is a balloon with no air to fill it? What good is a rocket without the fuel to propel it? Of course, they are no good at all. They all have interesting potential, but that is all.

The same holds true for the Internet. The Internet is nothing but a tool. You can't hold it or see it, at least not without the secret weapon that publishers have. It is, for all intents and purposes, as empty or as dumb as a rock.

What do people do on the Internet? They can basically do one of three things: They can hear, they can see, and they can read. All the Internet really does is act as the freight train for information. It is strictly a vehicle for the distribution of electrons. There is nothing else that the Internet does.

It is publishers who possess the secret weapon that give the Internet its appeal. It is publishers who use this oft-forgotten secret weapon who will prosper in the coming Internet wars. But let's call the secret weapon by its other not-so-secret name. It is content that will rule the freight trains and fill the cars with information distilled down to electrons for global distribution.

The publisher is empowered to place that content on paper with ink, on the Internet with pixels, or beamed to a PDA, cell phone, or even a sheet of e-paper by wireless connection. The delivery method is and should be totally irrelevant to both the publisher and the consumer. With the only possible exception that electronic information distribution is by far the fastest and least expensive.

Now, each consumer has a different reading comfort level. That is OK, we can deliver exactly what they want, when and how they want it. The most important thing to remember is that successful publishers have exactly what the public wants. Content, in the multi-varied form of facts, fiction and gossip, all distilled down to one "word" information. That is what the Internet is all about. Getting information. Everything else that is going on is a distraction or a subset of getting information.

And at the end of the day, what is it that publishers have in abundance? Information. The better the information, the more the public will be willing to pay for it.

So we have nothing to fear as an industry, for we are content. The rest is simply a matter of having information good enough to charge for and the mundane task of distributing it.


That being said, the trick is to have the unique and specific content that readers must have. The only way to achieve that is with great editors and writers.

This, my friends, is often overlooked by bean counters and bottom-line publishers. Any publishing house can get hack writers or dispassionate editors. They can, and they do. That is the clear path to diminishing readers and diminishing returns, especially in this era of content glut.

But the smart publisher that invests in great edit is planting seeds into the Ethernet that will sprout readers clamoring for more, willing to pay the piper for the jewels of addictive content.

Giving the editor the power to get the brightest minds and set up an infrastructure of intriguing, addictive, thoughtful wordmanship—that is investing. Giving the editor the support of a competent staff—that is investing. Creating a tangible atmosphere in the industry that you are the very best, the most knowledgeable, most articulate, most visionary publishers—that is investing.

There is no known cure for addictive content. And the only way to get it is to have great editors and really compelling writers. In the content delivery world, there is no substitute. I leave you all with this question (and let's be honest): How addictive is your content?

BY Robert M. Sacks

Bob Sacks is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is publisher and editor of a daily, international industry e-newsletter, "Heard on the Web." Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.

Upscale parenting magazines discover eager advertisers

Upscale parenting magazines discover eager advertisers
By Theresa Howard, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — The magazine business is having an upscale baby boom. Two new arrivals are parenting magazines Cookie and Wondertime.

The parenting magazine niche is looking attractive because industry veterans Child, Parents and Parenting grew ad pages 20% from 2002 to 2005, while ad pages industrywide were up just 8% for that period, according to the Magazine Publishers of America.

The latest entries are aiming beyond the soccer mom to the yoga mommy — aiming for parents who not only want to be smart about child-development trends, but also are willing to pay a premium for their kids to look smart with the latest fashions and gear.

The upscale kids market is expected to reach nearly $30 billion from sales of apparel, furnishings and accessories, according to research firm Packaged Facts.

That spending power is attracting advertisers, many new to this magazine category, from marketers of cars and watches to kiddie apparel, including such brands as Gucci and Burberry.

"Advertisers want to reach parents who are more style- and destination-conscious," says Eva Dillon, publisher of Cookie, which beat its advertising goals for the premiere issue, which came out in November, by 20%.

Among brands helping it drive past the goal was Cadillac with an ad for its pricey SRX crossover SUV. And the GM luxury brand returned to run the ad again in Cookie's second issue (one of six planned for 2006). The copy: "Not all housewives are desperate."

"(The SRX) is the closest thing we have to the modern-day station wagon," says Kevin Smith, Cadillac spokesman. "A station wagon still has some level of stigma. It's not cool to drive a station wagon. It's cooler to drive an SUV or an SUV-like vehicle."

The newcomers are not the only titles with new views on parenting magazines. The category vets have been revamping their publications in the past several years.

Category leader Parenting started to research in 2002 what women wanted in parenting magazines, says Jeff Wellington, vice president and group publisher. The answer, he says, was content that felt more like Vogue and Elle, magazines they read before having children.

"It's not just the mommy category," Wellington says. "It's the woman's category that happens to have children, too. That's why a lot of new magazines are coming in." Parenting will try to defend its strong ad page growth, up 34% since 2002.

Family marketer Walt Disney wants in on the action, too, and recently launched Wondertime, with a focus on learning. The first issue, on sale now, includes an article on teaching your child how to climb a tree. The magazine, now selling ads for its second issue, surpassed its ad goal for the first.

Glenn Rosenbloom, senior vice president and group publisher, says the parenting category is "vibrant."

"We've gotten a great response from advertisers across the board," he says. "Marketers realize that parents, when they become parents, are entering a whole new life stage, and there are an awful lot of products and services they need."

Is there enough advertising to go around? Maybe not, says Bob Mate, executive vice president and publishing director of Meredith, which produces the magazines Child and Parents.

"Just because someone comes out with a new magazine doesn't mean a manufacturer is going to increase their budget," he says. "The pie may not be growing as fast as the number of titles out there."