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 (www.BoSacks.com). 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."