Thursday, December 27, 2007

How Many Magazines Debuted This Year?

How Many Magazines Debuted This Year?
By Carl Bialik who examines the way numbers are used, and abused
If you want to know how many magazines debuted in the U.S. this year, you have to start by answering the question: What is a magazine launch?

The Magazine Publishers of America, a New York-based trade group, counts only magazines that plan to appear at least quarterly, spokeswoman Cristina Santos Dinozo said. Its New & Noted list, compiled from press releases and various media sources, included 204 titles, by my count Wednesday morning.

Southern Beauty is one notable magazine launch this year., an online magazine database, announced last week that 389 magazines had launched this year. The database, owned by New York-based Oxbridge Communications, counts any magazine that has a regular publishing schedule, even if it's only annual. "We don't include what we call 'one-shot' publications because we don't consider them periodicals, publications published more than once on a regular, even an irregular, basis," president Trish Hagood told me.

One-shot publications do count for Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi. Through November, he'd counted 636 titles - but 363 of them, or 57%, were what he calls "specials." He reasons that sometimes what initially appear to be one-off issues evolve into periodical publications, such as People's Style Watch, which now appears 10 times a year. "That's the only reason I include all the specials," Prof. Husni told me. "Because you never know." But sometimes you do: Prof. Husni "guesstimates" that fewer than 5% of these specials become full-fledged magazines. Even among the sturdier launches, attrition is common. Just over one-quarter of the 459 magazines launched a decade ago with a publication schedule of quarterly or more frequent still come out at least four times a year, and only two in five of last year's such launches have maintained that pace.

There are other idiosyncrasies that make the numbers distinct from each other. MediaFinder includes Canadian titles, but the other two don't. Also, the MPA counts announcements of magazine launches, even if the title hasn't debuted. Meanwhile, Prof. Husni only counts magazines for which he's acquired a physical copy (a lifelong magazine obsessive, he says he claimed $37,000 on his taxes last year for magazine purchases, which he keeps for his personal collection). "I know a few magazines that have been published, but I could not get my hands on the issue," Prof. Husni said. "I've seen so many times where people produce a pilot issue and get publicity, but no magazine ever comes out."

Meanwhile, the rate of launches has slowed, by MediaFinder's and Prof. Husni's definitions. Unless December brings an unusually large set of launches, this year will see the fewest since 1991. And there have been only 221 quarterly titles launched, the fewest since 1986. Nonetheless, Prof. Husni calls on other numbers to argue for the health of the industry: He says that in 1980, he counted 2,000 consumer magazines available to the general public. Now, he says, there are 7,200.

Further reading: The industry publication Folio also noted the disparate numbers. Prof. Husni's site includes covers of every 2007 magazine launch.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What The Reader Wants

What The Reader Wants
BY Vinod Mehta
It is an honour and a privilege for me accept this coveted award on behalf of the Outlook Group. I would like to especially congratulate Saikat Datta, the correspondent and Ajith Pillai, his editor. Saikat pursued this story for over six months, putting it together for all of us was like a roller coaster drive.

Ladies and gentlemen, in India 2007 numerous challenges face the media. There is the reluctance of the media, especially the electronic media, to regulate itself. And simultaneously we see daily the eagerness of our political masters to impose a code on the profession which will effectively castrate it.

Then there is the strange but seemingly irresistible animal called sting journalism, which when it is good is very good, but when it is bad, shames us all.

Then there is the media's myopia regarding how its credibility is being eroded. To the extent that journalism today is often confused with being part of the entertainment industry.

Then there is the challenge of the markets. What is the media for? Is it only for making money? Once you treat the media as if it is no different from running an ice-cream parlour, journalism loses out to commerce.

Then there is the accusation, hurled by politicians, that the media creates cynicism about politicians. Thanks to the media, our politicians maintain, the public views its leaders and the very process of governing, with suspicion and mistrust. Our netas say a pervasive climate of cynicism leads to the sense that a whole range of problems are beyond the control of mere politicians, beyond solutions altogether. This in turn breeds frustration, hopelessness and lack of faith in government. I don't accept this highly exaggerated accusation, but I concede it is on the table. And the media needs to counter it, probably with the response that politicians by their conduct create the cynicism, we journalists merely spread it around.

And last but not least, what checks and balances should the media impose on itself in India 2007, where the intense competition, both in print and TV, is threatening professional ethics? As journalists we need to remember that a newspaper's credibility is like the virginity of a woman. You can lose it only once.

I now come to my main concern. There is one more critical challenge, one that is rarely discussed in journalism seminars or among serious editors. But I notice advertising managers and self-styled media pundits pontificate on it endlessly -- and they have by now signed and sealed the argument. They have given us a new mantra. When these guys speak in the excellent and proliferating media and advertising journals, they assume the pose of Moses. Their words are written on tablets of stone. And what is their subject? It is the nature of editorial content in television and print. They have come to the considered conclusion that the highest responsibility of the media is to give the reader or the viewer what he or she wants. Any other kind of journalism is irrelevant, indeed an insult to the public!

I believe this is a crucial issue for the media. Alas, the wrong guys are discussing it, the wrong guys are giving us the solutions.

I say this with much humility, but brand managers, with honourable exceptions, are congenitally incapable of understanding the nature and purpose of journalism.

They simply cannot understand it by virtue of their background: which is sales in order to maximise profits. They can never understand that content is more, much more, than what readers want. It also has a social dimension. Thus, content is a mix of what the reader wants and what he does not want. The trick is to marry the two and make money.

Accompanying the mantra, is much loose talk that the old journalism is dead and a new journalism has been born. This new journalism is entirely based on reader or viewer demands. So, we are told the reader is king and it is the job of a responsible media organisation to provide cent per cent satisfaction.

This proposition is now so widely accepted that to argue against it is like whistling in the dark. Those who believe otherwise are seen as cranks, out of touch with the contemporary market -- in other words the reader. If journalism is a consumption item like butter chicken, then why not give the customer the flavour and taste he wants. That, after all, is the first rule of free market capitalism.

Ladies and gentlemen, in my nearly 30 years as editor, I have heard a lot of nonsense talked about journalism and its role in India, but this piece of nonsense is outrageously and self-evidently absurd and dangerous. To demolish it is urgent. To let it become the benchmark of our profession is to put in peril everything we have worked for in 60 years.

I ask you this: If some readers or viewers wish to see or read about paedophilia, should we oblige? If some readers or viewers wish to see or read about wife-beatings, should we oblige? I could go on. The whole idea is preposterous and I dare say most editors would end up in jail if they followed the mantra.

I will just provide three examples of the confusion in readers minds regarding their expectations from the media.

One. Research shows unambiguously that most readers desire to read more international news. Yet, the international pages of a paper are the least read. International news may be good for the soul but it does nothing for circulation.

Two. Readers insist that the price of their morning paper does not matter. It is such a vital part of their life that they would happily pay the extra rupee for it. Yet, as Mr Rupert Murdoch and Mr Samir Jain have demonstrated, print publications are extremely price sensitive. You can bleed the opposition by cover price cuts. The phrase "invitation price" terrifies rival publishers.

Three. Readers will tell you that they want a single-section, compact morning paper. They don't want sections and supplements dropping out. Yet the opposite is true. Papers with multi-sections prosper, others suffer.

I think I have made my point. We must lead readers, not be led by them. Really great journalism must do more than merely give people what they want. There has to be room for the unexpected, for stories the public has no idea it wants until it sees them.

The reader is a paradox. He frequently complains about negative news being constantly reported. But for all his clamouring for positive news, surveys show that people are more interested in negative news, sensational news, news about crime, violence and corruption. The reader, ladies and gentlemen, is not king; actually he is a nice hypocrite.

Editors in India are an endangered species, but only a good and professional editorial team can decide what is news and what is humbug. That is the sum of what I have learnt in 30 years. Thank you.

Meat to Wrap the Mind Around

Meat to Wrap the Mind Around

IN September, when Sasha Wizansky and Amy Standen published the inaugural issue of Meatpaper, a slender magazine that is, according to the cover, "Your Journal of Meat Culture," they weren't entirely surprised that both omnivores and vegetarians responded enthusiastically.

"Responsible meat eating could hold its own as a philosophical position with people who are vegetarian," Ms. Standen said. "Meatpaper is about every way of looking at meat. I think of it as a magazine that's just as intended for vegetarians as it is for meat eaters."

"It's about their response to meat," Ms. Wizansky added. "And there are so many ways of responding to meat."

This week the second issue of Meatpaper, a quarterly based in San Francisco, hits newsstands. Its responses to meat are unflinching, and often humorous: a deliberation as to whether the Bible bans blood sausage, a photo essay on found meat, a married couple discussing cannibalism. (Not to give anything away, the husband both offers himself up and resigns himself to eating his companion, while the wife dodges the question.)

The magazine names the present moment, when braised pork belly is comfort food and savvy diners know their Charolais from their Chianina, the "fleischgeist," or spirit of meat.

"We get e-mails from people who say, 'We're trying to get more in touch with our animal ethic - my friends and I are going in on a whole pig, and we're going to learn all the traditional ways to process it,'"Ms. Wizansky said last week over a platter of house-cured salumi at Perbacco, a busy California Street restaurant in San Francisco.

"It's amazing how often we hear that," Ms. Standen said, taking a sip of lambrusco. "I don't know why, but our version of back-to-the-land is culinary."

Ms. Wizansky and Ms. Standen met while working at Salon, the online magazine. Last year Ms. Wizansky, now an independent graphic designer, asked Ms. Standen, a reporter for KQED public radio, to join with her in editing Meatpaper. Both are in their early 30s, and both were once committed vegetarians. ("We find over and over again that bacon is the conversion meat," Ms. Standen said. "Bacon is how vegetarians change their minds.") But having spent some time eating abroad - beef in England, foal in Slovenia - they devoured Perbacco's ramekin of ciccioli, a rich pâté of shredded pork.

"Sasha is an incredibly brave eater, and by far the braver of the two of us," Ms. Standen said. "She will eat anything, and it's a source of my undying admiration."

"So far I haven't met the meat I wouldn't eat," Ms. Wizansky said. "But maybe I haven't traveled enough to meet that meat."

"What could it be?" Ms. Standen asked. "Some organ? We ate duck testicles a few weeks ago at Incanto. They were very tasty."

"They were mild," Ms. Wizansky said. "Like unassuming little sausages."

Chris Cosentino, the Incanto chef, contributed to the second issue with "Captain Beef Heart," an article about his favorite offal. But if his recipe (for grilled beef heart salad) is the only one that appears in the magazine, it's because Meatpaper, which has a circulation of 3,200, sees itself less a food magazine than an interdisciplinary art journal, more Esopus than Cook's Illustrated. It explains why it's available in New York not only at Marlow & Sons, the general store and pub in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but at Project No. 8, the chic clothing boutique on the edge of Chinatown.

But Ms. Wizansky and Ms. Standen have no interest in turning Meatpaper into an elitist polemic: they celebrate the fleischgeist and so far have held two publication parties, with loose plans for a third. "Meat makes a better party," Ms. Standen said, explaining that at the second party even vegans enjoyed themselves around a table of cured meat. "It's a little bit raunchy, kind of gross - it's salty and savory."

"It riles people up, but in a good way," Ms. Wizansky added. "People get very enthusiastic."

"Because they're daring each other to taste these things," Ms. Standen said. "There's a certain daredevil aspect to it."

"Even the American barbecue is like that," Ms. Wizansky said. "Meat is one of the only foods that can be the centerpiece of a gathering." And, as they have shown, an entire magazine.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Magazine Covers We Loved in 2007

Magazine Covers We Loved in 2007
By Nat Ives

Nobody -- at least none of the media elite up North -- knew how beautiful the words "garden" and "gun" sounded together until Rebecca Wesson Darwin introduced this magazine last spring. And it wasn't until the fall issue that we realized how well a black-and-white photo of a woman with a Beretta could work on the front of a magazine. We haven't asked about newsstand sales; we're too busy imagining the mystical place called "21st Century Southern America."

It ain't easy living in New York, much less living single in New York -- or getting good dating advice from a magazine. But Time Out New York found it it is entirely possible to make fun of New York singles in its Dating issue, so we were treated to this hilarious and, OK, possibly cruel cover photo of one reason you're so not being romanced right now.

Sometimes all a magazine needs to do is find the simplest way to tell the story. We're sure the housing-market coverage inside this March issue of The Economist is remarkably written and insightful -- but we never found out, having found in this image all we needed to know about the then-approaching mortgage debacle: Its downside will be deep.

Not everyone appreciated W's concept for multiple covers of its Art issue in November, for which renowned painter and photographer Richard Prince basically scrawled fake autographs on some celebs photos. "Hey, Richard," he wrote on an Angelina Jolie cover, pretending to be her. "Shine on!" wondered if this was false advertising, given the lack of a Jolie interview inside. For some reason, though, we called it art.

Although we by no means endorse magazine covers that depict people sitting on toilets -- that's disgusting, folks -- sometimes an image just kills with its timing. Columbia students laughed in September when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was translated as telling them, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." Here, a neighbor in the adjoining stall either has a "wide stance" or would like to discuss the issue further.

We were, like many people it seems, rooting for Britney Spears to return to form and really blow everyone away in her comeback performance at MTV's Video Music Awards. The train, car, bike and bobsled crash that followed left us speechless and, we kid you not, concerned. Entertainment Weekly had the words for it that we did not. We're still concerned about Britney, too.

This cover took home the "Best Coverline" award from the Magazine Publishers of America at last fall's American Magazine Conference, but it's even more than that. It's also a genuinely frightening image. Beyond even that, the cover is an hommage to perhaps the best cover ever, National Lampoon's 1973 masterpiece that threatened, "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog."

The right photo plus the right pull quote equals a cover portrait that is neither cruel nor promotional. Given the audience figures circulating toward year-end, in fact, this July cover looks downright generous. But it's not; a profile of Katie Couric's "impossible year" demands a chance for Ms. Couric to say that this isn't quite how she hoped things would go, either.

Esquire isn't any more above using sexy semi-dressed women to move newsstand copies than any other men's magazine, but it's not addicted to them. It actually found a way to start 2007 with a cover design featuring a veteran who lost two legs and one arm in Iraq. That did a lot more for us than Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive" ever did.

OK, this isn't a magazine, nor is the cover even pretty, but this list isn't the Pulitzers, either. The New York Post deserves recognition for reporting the news (for those who care about baseball) and what seems to be the truth -- at the same time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Paper, Printing Trends and Circ

BoSacks Readers Speak Out: On Paper, Printing Trends and Circ.

Re: Long Live Paper!

A very big yeah! From a paper dude! I once had a cartoon I saved from the Economist that showed a lumberjack ready to cut the last tree and and eviromentalist standing proclaiming it was the last tree and the lumberjack only had the vision of the "last chair". I really don't think we will witness the end of trees or paper (but it always strikes me a little funny). And I love the debate and the fact that we all have to work a little harder to ensure or future!
(Submitted by a Paper Person)

Re: Long Live Paper!
I just got around to reading this... On my iPhone. And I sell paper for a living.
How sad is that?
(Submitted by a paper Person)

Re: Identifying the Top Trends for 2008

Bob: Say hi to Nick , . . . He has it right! It is all about the reader. It still is simple to round up the right readers and sell them to the advertisers! Give the advertisers what they really want - response. Give 'em what they want! One more thing! Taking newsstand alone out of the total circulation mix is silly. Great, let's raise newsstand prices, but still 'sell' subs at 12 issues for 12 dollars. then we can all complain about the decline in newsstand sales, and how smart the sub folks are. Let's compare the intro sub prices (forget basic rate) on some of the same titles to their newsstand prices, and track them over the last 5 -7 years, interesting.

Oh, and by the way, how about some newsletter writers who actually worked selling ads, or circ or with full P & L responsibility. Some things are easy to criticize, but very very hard to do
(Submitted by a Senior Distributor)

RE: the-future-of-newspapers-the-problem-is-in-the-newsroom-not-the-newspaper
I guess I don't understand why "news" has to be an online medium and "information" has to be print. While there are some unique aspects to "paper technology" - emerging developments in e-paper readers and cost reductions in technology will erode this advantage over the next several years. Personally I'd like to see a tablet type portable that

allows me to download my paper or magazine or book via wireless and where appropriate read it in a design format that approximates to the analog original. Maybe the rumored ultra-portable from Apple, supposedly making an appearance at Macworld Expo in January will give some pointers to future trends.
(Submitted by a Publisher)

Re: Americans' Reading Proficiency in 'Alarming' Decline
The article asks, What are the consequences if America becomes "a nation in which reading is a minority activity"?

I know the answer to this question.

Specifically, I know what happens when people stop reading novels. Now, this article was at pains to say real *reading*, serious, manly, commercial *reading* was more important to study than an earlier NEA effort that got, I guess, bogged down in literary reading which "led critics to downplay its implications."

Novels, then, are the least of our problems: they're frills and idle pleasures, and if women want to go on reading them that's OK, but men surely don't have to, and maybe we can rework school curricula so they begin to disappear. Novels are not important.

Excuse me, but they are. Staggeringly important if it comes right down to it. This is serious, so allow me to explain.

Reading a novel requires entering the interior life of its characters. It's not a place any other art form can take you quite as fully, because you arrive there with the opportunity to reflect on your own life. (Movies, operating in real time, have extremely

limited opportunities for reflection, but thanks for playing.) By reading a novel, you develop three extraordinary skills: empathy, because a character's choices will actually make sense; sympathy, because a reader can share a character's emotions; and self-

knowledge, because the choices, circumstances, and behaviors the reader reflects on will doubtless extend his experiences, imaginary though they be, to include crucial decision about identity and self.

Let me put it another way. Could you invade Iraq if you'd read Moby- Dick and Middlemarch?

Not unless these books' insights into hubris and the nature of society's interdependence somehow eluded you. When reading a novel, I learn about myself and I learn about the world and I'm hard-pressed to think of any other thing that can teach so much, that can strengthen me so much.

I admit, reading is harder than video games. It's harder because reflection is involved. (And sometimes vocabulary, and a certain generosity toward cultural oddities of other times and places.) But reflection would be one of the last bits of baggage we'd want to discard. It is what makes society possible, tolerable, even hopeful. It is what makes death endurable, too.

So, if reading becomes a minority activity, we will have greed and useless levels of self-assurance and very little tolerance. The inner lives of others will become closed to us. That would leave us, I suppose, rather mystified by other people, and quicker still to see them as enemies. We will stop understanding each other.

Novels look like little pleasure craft floating along in society, not a causal force. But if we could dissect the fabric of thought and belief, we would surely discover that the cultivation of imagination had a great deal to do with the advances of science, and that the cultivation of empathy had a great deal to do with every bit of political, philosophical, and social progress mankind has made.

Literary reading is not a minor scrap of pleasure but the source of thinking that engages the self and world honestly and compassionately. Go ahead--try to think of something else that does.
(Submitted by an Industry Supplier)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is This the Future of Magazines?

Is This the Future of Magazines?
By Jon Fine
Martha Stewart sells order and comfort. Hugh Hefner sells hedonism. Tyler Brûlé sells the ideal of a life in which every aspect is excruciatingly curated and significant. I This worldview formed the basis for Wallpaper*, the iconic design magazine he founded in 1996 and sold to Time Inc. (TWX) shortly thereafter. It also underpins Winkreative, the branding and strategy agency he founded. Brûlé, who lives in London, left Wallpaper* in 2002 (though he's still with Winkreative) and earlier this year launched the monthly Monocle. In it you find a carry-over of his stylistic obsessions, fused onto a fascination with life and opportunity in regions so emergent that you've probably never heard of them. To name two: Breakaway Georgian republic Abkhazia and the Swedish- speaking Finnish archipelago-got that?-Aland.
The lens-sorry!-through which Brûlé views the world is so singular, so coolly global and far- reaching, it all but invites parody. Monocle is unquestionably the only publication to cover Taiwanese retail design, life in distant Arctic regions, and Swiss college architecture. It costs $10 per issue, and assumes of its audience a certain degree of wealth, and, perhaps above all, formidable travel habits; in the felicitous phrasing of London's Guardian newspaper, it appears to target "departure-lounge divas."

No Brûlé piece is complete without some mention of his own diva-esque moments, so here goes: At Time Inc. his expense reports were notorious for including helicopter travel. By way of defense, he says such travel was approved by his superiors.

All right, I can practically hear you rolling your eyes over all this. But Monocle is unusually-even refreshingly-ambitious, especially considering its print run doesn't yet exceed 150,000. It's something of a test-case for a different publishing model. Most individual magazines focus on one country's readers. Monocle eyes an audience that's much farther-flung; Brûlé says its 5,000 subscribers-who pay $150 a year-are spread across 79 countries. In a manner almost wholly lost at American magazines, it cherishes the primacy of a print publication as physical object. Each issue contains startling photography, multiple kinds of paper stock, and, somewhat discordantly, concludes with a manga comic. Monocle is either prescient, or steering sharply toward an audience that doesn't exist.

But Monocle and Brûlé raise two key questions: Can rarefied information be sold like a luxury product? And why does some of the most out-there global coverage and trendspotting come from a tiny new magazine masterminded by a branding agency's creative director?

The answer to the second is easy, says Brûlé, who cites shrinking international coverage in outlets ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the BBC. This gap allows idiosyncratic and smaller media players to plunge in, particularly in online realms where distribution costs are minimal. Among the new breed of internationally minded Web players is, which smartly sidesteps putting its magazine articles online in favor of a video-heavy strategy. Another is potty-mouthed hipster title Vice, whose newish just parlayed a report on Iraqi metal bands into a full-length documentary.


As to whether rarefied information constitutes a luxury product, well, that's the notion that will determine whether Monocle takes off. Its advertisers already tilt toward the seriously high-end: Prada, Gucci, and the private wealth-management arm of UBS (UBS).

Still, maybe Monocle is an ill-conceived vanity play with no chance for traction beyond the few fortunates who live like Brûlé and share his painstakingly assembled interests. Or perhaps Monocle evinces a next generation of magazines: higher-end, aimed at much smaller audiences, and with a Web component more like TV than print. Brûlé's 250 days of travel a year give him a catholic sense of media possibilities. He can rhapsodize about how the digitized citizenry of South Korea and Japan still patronize newsstands crammed with sharp-looking magazines, or muse as to why German newsweeklies are more ambitious, ad-fat, and glossy than their British or American counterparts. (Weekend newspapers in Germany are less of a big deal.) An ultra-stylish and ultra-global future has already arrived for Tyler Brûlé and the lucky few like him. But for Monocle to succeed, that future will have to arrive for many more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Long Live Paper!

On The Media
Long Live Paper!

BOB GARFIELD:People have been predicting the death of print and paper for decades now. Here's Dr. Egon Spangler's take in Ghostbusters almost a quarter-century ago.

I bet you like to read a lot, too.

Print is dead.

WOMAN: Oh. That's very fascinating to me. I read a lot myself. I also play racquetball.


BOB GARFIELD: Dr. Spangler was a little ahead of his time, but now with the Internet, E-readers and E-Ink technology, his prediction should be coming true. Right? Not according to National Journal Media critic William Powers. In the fall of 2006, as a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, Powers wrote a paper called Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper is Eternal. He says that paper does a lot more than just fold up nicely.

WILLIAM POWERS: When you're holding a book with your hands and you're turning that page, the hands are doing a lot of work that the eyes don't have to do. The hands are telling the brain where you are, how much further you have to go, and so forth.
When you're working with a screen, your brain has to keep figuring out where you are in the text because it's not physically evident to any other part of your body. It's a very different experience, and in many ways less helpful to the brain.

BOB GARFIELD: So, even cognition is different between reading something on a screen, as I am right this second, and reading it on a printed page.

WILLIAM POWERS: Exactly - I mean, what I basically argue in my essay is that paper isn't just a container for content. It actually becomes part of the content. It affects the content because of the way it interacts with the brain. It's a technology, although we don't usually think of it as a technology.

And the one attribute that these new inventions bring to the table is refreshability, the idea that they're wired to the Web. But I actually think that that quality is in some ways a downside. I think there is something about paper's disconnection from the Web that is very appealing to people, the idea that you can't click away to another site, to an email, to something you need to check, that when you have a piece of paper in front of you, a paper medium, you are focused on just that.

BOB GARFIELD: Is the allure of turning the printed pulp-based [LAUGHS] page something intrinsic to the experience, or is it more that we're just habituated to it?

WILLIAM POWERS: You know, it may happen - I mean, it's true. This is what our brains and our bodies are used to using. However, there are many old-fashioned devices that people have been predicting would go away for generations. I cite a professor from California named Paul Duguid who talks about the hinge. Futurists have been predicting the death of the hinge for generations.


WILLIAM POWERS: Science-fiction movies since time immemorial, and stories, have always had sliding doors, doors that disappear into walls.



BOB GARFIELD: Shoo-shoom! Yeah.

WILLIAM POWERS: Hinges are old-fashioned. Doors that are hinges take up space needlessly and so forth. And yet the hinge lives on because hinged doors do things for people that they like. They are expressive. You can slam doors. You can use doors to send messages. There's something about hinges that continue to work for us.
And I argue in the paper - and I know many other people sort of feel this, I think, in their guts when they use paper - there is something about paper that really, really works that has worked for 2,000 years and it's going to be very hard to replace it.

BOB GARFIELD: Couldn't this all come down just to the mundane issue of cost, that it's just a lot cheaper to do things digitally than to deforest the landscape?

WILLIAM POWERS: Yes. That could well kill off paper. I think it is already killing off certain kinds of paper media. And, in fact, I get into this in the essay. There are kinds of content that don't require paper. And I actually think that most of what newspapers do, the breaking news function, is much better suited to digital media. And this is why people have migrated to the Web for breaking news, and are moving away from newspapers. That intuitively makes perfect sense to me.
The one thing that newspapers do that doesn't work as well in digital media is the longer form kind of journalism - features stories, longer investigative pieces.

BOB GARFIELD: But magazines, you think, have a better chance of surviving in their non-digital form, and books as well, I suppose. Is the future of books on pulp-based products indefinitely?

WILLIAM POWERS: I think books have the greatest chance of surviving on paper, some kind of paper - maybe not pulp-based. And there are green papers that I have used, that are almost a kind of plastic, that are wonderful and that really work and that could be, if paper is staying with us, could be the future of paper.
You know, all these E-books and E-readers that are being developed, what they're all trying to do is what a book already does. And whereas where I think magazines might one day find a vehicle online that matches the paper version, I really have doubts about books.

BOB GARFIELD: Okay. So you wrote this piece, which, I'm sorry to report, I read on a computer screen.

And it makes some pretty interesting assertions about our relationship to paper and its future. What has been the reaction?

WILLIAM POWERS: The reaction was surprising to me in that a lot more people were interested in this paper than I expected. And I continue to get email from fans of paper. Almost everybody who writes me says, thank you, you know, I've been waiting for someone to weigh in on paper.

BOB GARFIELD: And let me ask you a question. Have any of the congratulations come in the form of nice notes on stationery?

WILLIAM POWERS: Yes. Some people have written me on very nice pieces of paper. I must also say a lot of the people who email me make a point of telling me that after downloading the PDF they printed it out before reading it. I love that.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, Bill, it's always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

WILLIAM POWERS: Thank you, Bob. I enjoyed it.

BOB GARFIELD: William Powers wrote Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper is Eternal as a fellow at the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Samir Husni's Vision of Journalism

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Samir Husni's Vision of Journalism

I am continually mystified by Samir Husni's continued attachment and fixation to a publishing world where only paper is important. Is there no room in his heart for a meaningful pixel or two?

"The problem is in the newsroom, not the newspaper" is a pretty good article where Samir almost gets it right.The real problem in the newsroom, and in the heads of some friends and pundits, is that they seem to forget that it is actually the words, the journalism, the thinking, and the final distribution of that wisdom, that contains any meaningful importance.

Why does it matter so much if it is paper or plastic? What is the difference? Who really cares? The problem is in the newsroom . . . yes. And most newsrooms are getting better and better, embracing the electronic distribution of their hard, journalistic work. Is that wrong? Should they stop the electronic distribution model now? Is there really no hope for a significant digital future? Is paper the only way to share information?

Samir, are you going to tell me that it ain't journalism, if it ain't on a paper substrate?

Words don't know and don't care how they are read. They just want to be understood.


"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks, no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know."
- Ernest Hemingway

The future of newspapers: The problem is in the newsroom, not the newspaper

I recently gave a speech at the Paper and Pulp Products Council (PPPC) European Summit in Brussels, Belgium on the future of ink on paper and the magazine and newspaper's future as we know it today. I noted that the problem is not with the medium but rather the problem is with the message. In fact, after further reflection and several visits with newspaper newsrooms both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, I am more of the opinion now that the problem is rather with the newsroom also and not only with the message. In fact, I do not know if we can separate our message problems from our newsroom problems.

The majority of the newsrooms that I have visited are still operating in the same way they operated when I was working in a newsroom as if nothing has changed. Yes, we no longer use typewriters (we are talking 70s here) but we still have the beat system and the division of the newsroom between reporters, writers, editors and designers. The territorial divisions in the newspaper are still alive, well and kicking the newspaper to its grave. Try to tell the folks in the newsroom that the reporter from the city council beat needs to work with the reporter from the world beat and see what will happen. Try to tell the reporters to ignore yesterday's news because their readers have already heard and seen the news and see their reaction. The newsroom has to go beyond the news and the reporters working there have to do the same.

As we move to adapt in this rapidly moving technology era, we need to make sure that our reporters and editors will focus their content on the right medium. That is why some forward thinking newspapers are moving more in the direction of content editors and directors rather than news editors.

I believe that we need to have two newsrooms in each paper, one to operate the on-line edition which will continue to operate like the old fashioned newsroom with beat reporters whose sole job is to chase and report the news (from their virtual office to the web directly) and a contents-room for journalists who are going to stop the news-race and rather focus on analyzing and studying the news in order to create information out of the news as the editor-in-chief of the Dutch newspaper nrc·next Hans Nijenhuis likes to say, "News is free, but information is not." He told Monocle magazine last month, "We feel that Next is actually a daily magazine. Traditional papers are done page by page and sent off to the press to be put together. At Next we put all the pages on the floor at 18:00 and see how it works as a whole . . . "

The technology of paper (and yes paper is a technology for those who tend to forget that) may no longer be the best home for most of the news, but it sure IS the best technology to provide the information that is needed to link our yesterday with our tomorrow. The good paper technology still provides its customers with a "beyond the news" detailed information that as Bruce Brandfon, the publisher of Scientific American says "will have a profound impact" on its users. We must keep that in mind and start to implement that profound impact in our newsrooms.

Change should start from within, or the prophets of doom and gloom will continue to predict the demise of the newspapers. A paper (notice that I did not use newspaper) must be that, a paper that offers unique journalism that will have that profound impact on the lives of its readers whether political, culture, financial, or even entertainment and lifestyle (Such as in the British paper The Independent). Profound is the key for a successful journalism paper in this century and beyond. The fun thing about the aforementioned is that it is not new. The necessity of journalism is as important today as it has ever been. The only change is in the way journalism is delivered. The paper technology is great for some journalism and the web technology is great for some other journalism. The key is to change and adapt. Change must come from the inside, inside the newsroom, otherwise, newspapers will be committing mass suicide in this country and their numbers will continue to drop. If your newspaper is not necessary and sufficient you can start counting the days to the grave, and if you are still talking about the need to change, IT IS TOO LATE.

The papers in this country can still have a great future if we free the newsroom and the way we do business in the newsrooms. Trimming the staff, redesigning the paper and closing national and overseas offices are nothing but band-aids on a major, deep cut that will not help the healing process. Now is the time to hit the brakes and rethink our entire strategy of the future. A strategy that should begin today and it should begin from within the newsroom.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In magazines, the haves and have-nots

In magazines, the haves and have-nots
This has been a tough year, and 2008 looks tough
By Lisa Snedeker

For the longest time, the fortunes of the magazine industry were predictable, rising when the ad economy was good, sinking when marketers cut back on their spending.

That started to change several years ago. Magazines began coming back from the ad recession that set in in 2001, but it was no longer a case of a rising tide lifting all ships. In particular, business titles and newsweeklies continued to struggle. It was a selective recovery.

A fundamental change had set in. The magazine business had divided into the haves and have-nots, those that saw their pages again fill with ads, such as the fashion titles, and those that continued to struggle for every ad.

The reality is that the magazine industry has been forever changed, and it's not just the result of competition from the internet.
Magazines are no longer a given for readers and advertisers. In these new, harsher times, they are having to set themselves apart as unique brands with passionate readerships that speak louder than mere numbers on sell sheets.

It's no longer a matter of competing against other titles in a category. Magazines must now compete against all other media, both for readers and advertisers, and with more media options out there it becomes harder by the day.

All this forebodes a nasty shakeout.
It's already begun. Indeed, 2007 saw a number of titles fold, many long-established, among them Business 2.0, Life, Child, Premiere, Stuff and most recently House & Garden, the 100-plus year-old shelter magazine published by Condé Nast.

Ad pages will almost certainly be down for the year, based on the most recent figures from September, with pages off 1.1 percent through the first nine months of the year and off 2.3 percent for the third quarter alone.
Year 2007 will also likely see the least new magazine launches in years, around 750, well down from the 1,065 in 1997, one of the last boom years, or for that matter the 901 that launched in 2006.

Funding for new titles has gotten scarce, both on the part of major publishing houses and the deep-pocketed private investors who had long been drawn to the glamour of publishing.
Magazines have lost a lot of their glamour. Big money is now investing elsewhere. As Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi professor who tracks magazine launches, put it so succinctly to Media Life over the summer, "The industry has entered a dark tunnel. The only thing they can see is the train coming."

Year 2008 promises more of the same. On the downside, more magazines will fold. We will likely see shakeout in weaker categories, such as celebrity and teen titles, which media people have long believed are overcrowded. Fewer new titles will launch.
Overall ad pages will continue to shrink, and the business and personal investing categories will continue to struggle, as will the newsweeklies.

We will also likely see magazines cutting their circulation. That's one prediction of media planners and buyers in a recent Media Life poll. Media buyers see that as the big trend to look for in 2008.

It certainly makes sense.
Hefty circulations become increasingly costly to maintain with the rising costs of adding new subscribers and printing in general. But there's also a notable trend among media buyers away from quantity--how many readers a magazine claims to have--toward the quality of that readership, and how committed they really are to that magazine.
This is not new. It's a trend that's been building over a number of years. What's new is the will among publishers to act on it by slashing away marginal readers. In late 2006, Time magazine chopped its rate base from 4 million to 3.25 million.

Rate base cuts will be a positive for magazines.
There will be others positives in 2008.

We will see the launch of more regional titles, reflecting the continuing diversification of local media markets with the further erosion of newspapers' dominance of those markets. Local magazines have done very well in recent years, and they continue to do so even with the troubles plaguing real estate, a huge ad category for them.

We will see more specialized titles aimed at unique, clearly defined readership bases. The enthusiast titles have long done well, weathering a lot of the erosion that's afflicted general-interest magazines. They've done well because they have strong, devoted readerships.

In 2008, we will see more bold moves to introduce change to how magazines are sold to advertisers, such as Time's plan, announced at the time of its rate-base cut, to offer advertisers the option of buying pages based on its total audience of nearly 20 million readers, rather than circulation.

The idea was to begin selling magazine advertising the way television is sold, and media buyers at the time applauded Time and publisher Ed McCarrick for advancing the idea, even as they predicted resistance on the part of the buying community.

We will see magazines do a far better job of integrating their web and print editions, both for readers and advertisers. Publishers have gotten a lot smarter about how the web can help build their print brands, which is for the good.

We will see publishing launching online-only publications, as Felix Dennis has done in the UK with Monkey, a title aimed at young men.

We could also well see in 2008 some very interesting new print magazines launching.
As much as this harsh new climate has discouraged a number of launches that might have gone forward a decade ago, there will still be entrepreneurs out there who will dare push forward with big ideas, and their chances of succeeding are no worse now than a decade ago.

We could well see really smart new launches coming from the big publishing houses as well. Among the big launches last year was Condé Nast's Portfolio, and it launched against huge doubts, as yet another business title in an already overcrowded field. By all accounts, Portfolio is doing well.

If anything, turmoil in any market creates opportunity, and the turmoil in magazine publishing will encourage new ways of thinking that would have been dismissed in more stable times.

Lisa Snedeker is a staff writer for Media Life.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Can Time Inc.'s Maghound Concept Work?

Can Time Inc.'s Maghound Concept Work?
By Kristina Joukhadar

Several stories have been written about Time Inc.'s upcoming Maghound offering, but so far, no one has really explained how it will work.

Will publishers be leery of working with Maghound?

"I hope not!" says Dave Ventresca, president of Maghound, which is spearheaded by Time Consumer Marketing.

"It will help in terms of efficiencies to have the Synapse technology residing in CT, having the resources and the publisher relations'there will definitely be some cooperation and a supportive role, along with support from other Time Inc. divisions, but Maghound will be led by Time Consumer Marketing.

While some publishers may be hesitant to join a program that might pirate some of their regular subscriptions, Ventresca says that in a live market test, the majority of consumers selected new brands, not the titles of their existing subscriptions. In the MAGHOUND environment, we feel that more people will be reading more magazines longer than with the traditional subscription model.

What about the concept?

Maghound is not selling traditional subs, but rather, a membership in a service, says Ventresca. "We're offering a better way to order and manage magazines that come into your house [single copy]. You get a set number of titles for a monthly fee with no term.

"You are charged month to month, and are not linked to just one brand. So in month one, you can get magazines A, B and C; and in month 4, you can switch to magazines D and E."

What are the practical concerns?

"We're pretty confident we can do this," says Ventresca. Time Customer Service and CDS and Palm Coast/Kable--all the major fulfillment systems--have said they can work with this. We've painted it all in broad strokes and some operational definitions remain, but we have the fulfillment solution figured out."

The current delivery system and consumer pricing levels will make it impossible to get issues out any faster than with a traditional subscription, Ventresca says. "You're still dealing with the same fulfillment calendars, the same printers, so it¹s hard to shrink. And the database selection dates are done in advance.

"It's not faster, but it will be an improvement in the expectations of the consumers, because with the account screen online, they will know approximately when they will receive all of their issues.

"For example, it will tell them 'The first issue of magazine A will be the January issue, due to arrive the third week of December.' We have postal experts working on this and they know good delivery times. All copies will qualify for the periodicals rate, presorted in with the regular run.

"Each magazine's fulfillment calendar will be known," he says, "so if the consumer selects the magazine in January, February, etc., we'll know when they send the order to the database. You need to build the fulfillment system to be scalable, reliable, cost effective, and we're doing that."

Will consumers buy their copies online?

Ventresca says the beauty of the Maghound system will be its ease of use for the consumer. "There is no term and full flexibility. Consumers will manage online in one screen. The switching is easy when there's no term. They are charged a monthly fee, by credit card and Pay Pal."

Will it meet the auditing requirements?

The Audit Bureau of Circulations reporting has been gone over multiple times, Ventresca says. "It's good circulation, paid for by real consumers with real dollars, and the orders are placed in a magazine centric environment. For the time being, at least, it will temporarily count toward single copy sales.

"When there's more volume in the future, it might evolve into its own classification on the ABC audit report. As far as the value to advertisers, it's great circulation. For a flat fee, you can choose from hundreds of magazines, which demonstrates 'wantedness.'"

What data will publishers receive?

The Maghound database will be separate and contain only the magazines and members in the program. Because of the nature of its financial relationship with its members' services, and the fact that these are not subscribers, Maghound will own the customer data and will not be able to share it with other publishers (including Time Inc.) for promotional purposes. You can¹t release the names, as members wouldn't want their data shared.

How will the finances work?

There will be full reporting for publishers, issue by issue, with how many copies were sold, particularly for new members. For example, the report will include: "Publisher, Magazine, cover date, no. of copies distributed, no. paid and no. sent to new members as part of the free trial or bad credit card debt," says Ventresca.

"Publishers will receive a fixed dollar amount per issue sold per title with a certain amount for every copy--the amounts will differ by class of title. A lot of magazines have experienced unproductive circulation on their files, and this circ will have positive payments. It could be used to replace less attractive or more expensive circ."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just How Dumb Is Congress?

Just How Dumb Is Congress?
WiFi Bill Proves They're About as Sharp as a Sack of Wet Mice
Posted by Ken Wheaton

Not to be outdone by Senator Ted Stevens ranting on about how the Internet is a series of tubes, the House of Representatives decided they'd prove how utterly clueless they are about how the web, WiFi and the world work.

According to C-Net: "The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including 'obscene' cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000. ... That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user's account be retained for subsequent police inspection."

There was no Democratic opposition and only two Republicans voted against it. And yet the braintrust in the House can't figure out why it's approval rating is lower than those of both George W. Bush AND the war.

In the immortal words of Mark Twain: "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."


Drudge Report Goes Mobile

Posted by Stephen Wellman

Another sign that the mobile Web is really going mainstream: The Drudge Report now has a mobile Web site. What's next?

Matt Drudge, ur-blogger and meta-aggregator of the Web, has launched a mobile version of his popular site, Drudge Report, called iDrudge Report. This is yet another indicator that the mobile Web is becoming a mainstream part of people's online lives.

The Drudge Report has been notable as an online trend setter. Started in 1996, Matt Drudge initially distributed his Report as an e-mail newsletter. He first launched his site in 1997 as a supplement to the e-newsletter, but Drudge eventually stopped the e-mail version and published exclusively through the site.

The Drudge Report has been credited with setting or accelerating numerous online media trends, including online content aggregation and blogging.

Is Drudge's new mobile site a sign of the times? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Not your father's Google

Not your father's Google
Posted By Allan Mutter

The online search business is about to be upended by a revolution in technology that represents the last, best chance for newspapers and other traditional local media to preserve their franchises.

Despite falling revenues and rising online competition, publishers still have the rich archives and potent local presence that make them the ideal partners to team with the next-generation search companies preparing to take on Google and the other incumbents in an industry projected to double to nearly $17 billion in revenues by 2011.

Instead of ceding web search to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft - as they almost universally do today - publishers should combine their vast archives with the best technology from the start-ups to create compelling, state-of-the-art, local web and mobile sites. In so doing, newspapers can leapfrog the search behemoths to regain a commanding, and substantially unassailable, digital presence in their respective markets.

This opportunity is the subject of a new white paper I have written to explain how publishers can team with the emerging search companies to take advantage of the most compelling online strategy for newspapers since the inception of the Internet. You can get it by emailing me here.

With Google's stock trading at record highs, this may seem to be an odd time to discuss the sophisticated, new technologies that some day could make googling as obsolete as pecking at an old Royal typewriter. But it's safe to say that today's middle-schoolers will have far superior search resources at their command when they write their college term papers. They might even have them by the time they start high school.

Given Google's enormous market power (67% of all searches) and profitability (nearly $15 billion in the corporate cookie jar), the company itself may lead the way to the next-gen technologies that will transform search, the largest online advertising category. But the unavoidable inertia typically associated with a corporation of Google's size also exposes it to challenges from smaller, more nimble, competitors.

The Google killer could be a classic start-up that bootstraps itself out of nowhere - like Google did - to become a multibillion-dollar business. But a more intriguing alternative is one that also offers newspapers and other local media companies the opportunity to reinvigorate and defend their once-indomitable franchises.

Beleaguered as local media may be, they still have the market presence and unsurpassed wealth of content that make them the perfect partners for the new search companies preparing to compete with Google and the other market leaders.

The emerging technologies that could upend the search business are far smarter than the crude, but effective, algorithms that today power Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The new technologies surpass the conventional search engines, because they identify, evaluate and establish relationships among the billions of discrete bits of information they catalogue, thus enabling them to respond to searches with deeper, fuller and more contextually appropriate results than you can get with Google. The value of these new technologies is best illustrated by considering the limitations of the current state of the art.

If you search "apple" today on Google, you get a lot of information about the computer company but not much about the fruit, because Google, rather primitively, sorts and ranks results according to the frequency and prominence of the key words contained in the content it continuously scrapes from the web. Because more people write about iMacs than granny smiths, the outcome is perfectly understandable, but not particularly helpful if you want to make a pie.

If you want to discover the best apple for a pie, you have to feed Google the right series of key words to learn what it is. The path to the answer in this case involves a four-step search for "apple," then "best apple," then "best apple pie" and, finally, "best apple for pie."

Most of us can speed the process by picking the right combination of key words on the first or second try. But that reflects the superiority of human intelligence, not the quality of Google's technology. Still, for all our cleverness as a species, we are able to acquire satisfactory answers to our searches only about two-thirds of the time, according to the limited industry research conducted on this question.

But what if there were a better way? What if computers could understand the meaning of all the bits of data necessary to intelligently parse and present the answer to a query like, "Where can I find a Spanish-speaking, female physical therapist, who accepts Blue Cross and who sees patients after 6 p.m. at an office within half a mile of public transportation on the Northwest Side of Chicago?"

That's the idea of a host of complex new technologies collectively called the semantic web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, who is generally credited with being the father of the Internet.

In the semantic web, information would be tagged according to commonly understood conventions, so the word "Spanish" could be recognized in certain contexts as a noun referring to a language or ethnicity and in other settings as an adjective relating to geography or food.

To get there from here, a number of efforts are under way to train computers to catalogue vast arrays of content with tags - invisible to humans but intensely meaningful to computers - that allow bits of information to be stored in databases structured according to standardized schema.

Newspapers and other content-rich local media can gain an unassailable lead in their respective markets by teaming with the emerging semantic technology providers to efficiently publish targeted and personalized interactive products utilizing the articles, images, audio and video that already populate their archives - or that will be created in the future by their staffs, syndication partners and site visitors.

The increasingly granular knowledge of consumers gained by tracking how they use content will enable media companies to cost-effectively sell premium-priced, targeted advertising that intercepts buyers about to make a purchase.

The powerful new wave coming in search technology will give media companies their last, best chance to reassert their relevance and re-establish their economic strength. If they fail to seize this opportunity to publish agile, customizable and cost-efficient digital media, there is a great danger that their franchises will be damaged irretrievably.

Monday, December 03, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: R.I.P., the American magazine, 1923-20__

BoSacks Speaks Out: R.I.P., the American magazine, 1923-20__
I met Jon Friedman at the MPA conference mentioned below. We talked and chatted for a while in the journalists' newsroom provided by the MPA and, based on the article below, walked away with different impressions. I came away with a bit more hope for our future than Jon. There was plenty of self-aggrandizement and pie-in-the-sky talk at all of the main sessions, but filtered in between the hyperbole was some good information, some moderate success stories and even some real, forward thinking. But most of the heady, aggressive forward-thinking that was at the event was not in the big conference room.

For the future, I suggest making it mandatory for all "old style" publishing management seniors to attend the Indy publishers sessions to network with today's genuine free thinkers and tomorrow's magazine leaders. Here is where and why Jon Friedman is wrong - the revitalization of the industry was actually in Boca, but it was, as you might expect, a day early while the other events were a day late. What I am saying is that the Independent publishing sessions that took place the day before the big event were inspirational and exciting. Jon and many others who should have been there weren't.

Note to the big guys for next year's MPA Indy meeting: ATTEND.

"Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking"
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes (German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1749-1832)

R.I.P., the American magazine, 1923-20__
Commentary: Welcome to an industry choking itself to death

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- I was alarmed by what I saw and heard at the recent American Magazine Conference in Boca Raton, Fla. Simply put, this industry seems intent on choking itself to death.

These days, I half-expect to open the New York Times* and see a story by Richard Perez-Pena saying, "The magazine publishing industry has died after a lengthy illness. A prolonged advertising shortfall triggered a massive crisis of confidence. The modern magazine industry in the U.S. began with the creation of Time in 1923, and it remains on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C." (*Unless the New York Post's magazine-beat ace Keith J. Kelly gets the scoop first, as is his habit.)

When I headed to the industry conference in late October, I had hoped to encounter editors and publishers brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and optimism. Yeah, right. With an air of desperation, this group resigned itself to spouting cliches about "embracing the Internet" and touting their cosmetic redesigns, which is something like covering an open gash with a skinny Band-Aid.

I know the industry leaders paint me as a thoughtless doomsayer. I see them as the embodiment of Kevin Bacon's character in "Animal House," who, as he is being trampled to dust, continues to shriek, "All . . . is . . . well!"

I get no pleasure from writing gloomy stories. Magazine professionals are mostly good company. They're delightful raconteurs about the good old days (of way back, during the 20th century). They've been good to me, as a columnist. Sorry, folks.

Changing roles
The folks I encountered in Boca Raton are creatures of magazines. They love to hold them, gaze at them and admire the splashy headlines and colorful photos. Sometimes I can't fathom why, though.

Aside from Adam Moss's New York and Rick Stengel's Time , not many magazines today seem to maximize the potential of the cover. I don't see much evidence that the spirit of George Lois, the most adventurous, creative and just the greatest magazine designer ever, is alive and well in 2007.

The editors at the conference were a beleaguered bunch, weighed down by a numbing workload. As one Rodale editor who was younger than 40 (and no, it was not David Zinczenko of Men's Health!) lamented, "Once my whole job was to edit copy -- now it's a part of the job." Another editor grumbled, "I wish my job consisted solely of editing copy."

Their roles have changed substantially because of the advent of the Internet. For some reason, the industry's biggest problem is that magazine editors and publishers still view the Web as more of a curse than a blessing. To them, it's an occupational hazard and a necessary evil. Creatures of magazines, right?

The biggest weakness of most magazines' Web sites (and those of newspapers, too) has been their insistence on hiring longtime colleagues or other mainstream-publishing folks to edit them. That has been changing, which is an encouraging sign. Now the publications are leaning more heavily on established Internet pros.

Making progress
Fortunately, most (though not all) magazines have moved past the prehistoric practice of merely slapping copy from their publications onto the Web. They're incorporating more video and audio products as well.
But they have a long way to go before they establish distinct identities for their magazines' sites. When they can do that, I'll be impressed -- and, crucially, they'll all make a lot more money.

Helpful, as ever, I offer five ways that magazines can improve their Web sites:

Take a page out of the playbook of what differentiated from the pack. Have almost as many graphics and design experts as writers on staff.

Provide a feature that you simply don't have space for in your newsstand product: namely, the back story. Readers love to know the Inside Story on a big event. Let your reporters explain HOW they covered big news, and give them an opportunity to tell their stories. Yes, some blogs do this, too, but not often or well enough.

Make the sites as interactive as possible. Time took a good step in this direction by having its readers pick the questions it asks celebrities in its regular feature.

Use the Web to explain the news as comprehensively as possible. Don't simply report the story on the Internet -- give such information as a chronology. The Wall Street Journal's Web site routinely does this, and it pays off.

Keep the staff nonbelievers as far away from the Web as possible. If editors or reporters are ambivalent about or hostile to the Web (like many have been at Time Inc., and you can't fire them all), don't let them corrupt your site with their lethargy or disapproval. Listen, the Web is the most exciting part of a modern journalism enterprise for ambitious writers and editors. If they haven't figured it out by now, to hell with them.

A recent cover blurb on Newsweek declared: "Books Aren't Dead." Whew. That's a relief, if not a bit of hyperbolic blather.

But the better question to ask is: Are magazines dead?

If you think so, then you'd probably agree that the wounds have been self-inflicted. Check out the remains at the Newseum.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

WSJ's New Glossy, Pursuits, to Go Global

WSJ's New Glossy, Pursuits, to Go Global
Along with U.S. Debut Next September, Distribution Added in Europe, Asia
By Nat Ives

NEW YORK ( -- The Wall Street Journal has decided to expand the scope of Pursuits, the glossy magazine it plans to introduce next September, by adding distribution in Europe and Asia. In addition to the 800,000 copies planned for Journal subscribers in the United States, Pursuits is expected to be inserted in about 80,000 copies each of the Europe and Asia editions, for a total circulation of 960,000.

The Journal already publishes glossies in Europe and Asia, but they'll be replaced by the Pursuits brand.

"Because of the robust advertiser response, we have made the decision to launch Pursuits as a global publication that will appear in all editions of the Journal worldwide," the company told employees in a memo from L. Gordon Crovitz, the Journal's publisher, and Michael F. Rooney, chief revenue officer at the paper's parent, Dow Jones & Co.

In an interview, Mr. Rooney seemed unsure why Pursuits was originally conceived for just the U.S. "We just started to think about it domestically to begin with," he said. "We discussed it in the hallways, talking about clients here domestically."

Single glossy brand

The Journal already publishes a glossy in Europe called Style Journal and another in Asia called Weekend, but Mr. Rooney said plans call for Pursuits to replace them, establishing a single glossy brand for the Journal around the world.

"So many of our advertisers are global," he said. "For us to use this franchise wherever they sell product is a unique opportunity for us."

News Corp. is set to complete its takeover of Dow Jones, an acquisition that was avidly pursued by its CEO, Rupert Murdoch, earlier this year. Mr. Murdoch said one of his plans to improve the company was to introduce a glossy magazine to the Journal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Good Mystery: Why We Read

A Good Mystery: Why We Read

PERHAPS the most fantastical story of the year was not "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," but "The Uncommon Reader," a novella by Alan Bennett that imagines the queen of England suddenly becoming a voracious reader late in life.

At a time when books appear to be waging a Sisyphean battle against the forces of MySpace, YouTube and "American Idol," the notion that someone could move so quickly from literary indifference to devouring passion seems, sadly, far-fetched.

The problem was underscored last week when the National Endowment for the Arts delivered the sobering news that Americans - particularly teenagers and young adults - are reading less for fun. At the same time, reading scores among those who read less are declining, and employers are proclaiming workers deficient in basic reading comprehension skills.

So that's the bad news. But is all hope gone, or will people still be drawn to the literary landscape? And what is it, exactly, that turns someone into a book lover who keeps coming back for more?

There is no empirical answer. If there were, more books would sell as well as the "Harry Potter" series or "The Da Vinci Code." The gestation of a true, committed reader is in some ways a magical process, shaped in part by external forces but also by a spark within the imagination. Having parents who read a lot helps, but is no guarantee. Devoted teachers and librarians can also be influential. But despite the proliferation of book groups and literary blogs, reading is ultimately a private act. "Why people read what they read is a great unknown and personal thing," said Sara Nelson, editor in chief of the trade magazine Publishers Weekly.

In some cases, asking someone to explain why they read is to invite an elegant rationalization. Junot Díaz, the author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," vividly recalls stumbling into a mobile library shortly after his family emigrated from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey when he was 6 years old. He checked out a Richard Scarry picture book, a collection of 19th-century American wilderness paintings and a bowdlerized version of Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sign of Four."

So what about those three titles turned him into someone who is crazy for books? "I could create a narrative explaining the creation myth of my reading frenzy," Mr. Díaz said. "But in some ways it's just provisional. I feel like it's a mystery what makes us vulnerable to certain practices and not to others."

Such caveats aside, there are some clues as to what might transform someone into an enduring reader.

"The Uncommon Reader" posits the theory that the right book at the right time can ignite a lifelong habit. (For the fictional queen, it's Nancy Mitford's "Pursuit of Love.") This is a romantic ideal that persists among many a bibliophile.

"It can be like a drug in a positive way," said Daniel Goldin, general manager of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee. "If you get the book that makes the person fall in love with reading, they want another one."

Most often, that experience occurs in childhood. In "The Child That Books Built," Francis Spufford, a British journalist and critic, writes of how "the furze of black marks between 'The Hobbit' grew lucid, and released a dragon," turning him into "an addict."

But what makes that one book a trigger for continuous reading? For some, it's the discovery that a book's character is like you, or thinks and feels like you. In accepting the National Book Award for young people's literature for "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" earlier this month, Sherman Alexie thanked Ezra Jack Keats, author of "The Snowy Day," a classic picture book. "It was the first time I looked at a book and saw a brown, black, beige character - a character who resembled me physically and resembled me spiritually, in all his gorgeous loneliness and splendid isolation," Mr. Alexie, a Spokane Indian who grew up on a reservation, told the audience.

In an interview, Mr. Alexie said "The Snowy Day" transformed him from someone who read regularly into a true bookhound. "I really think it's the age at which you find that book that you really identify with that determines the rest of your reading life," Mr. Alexie said. "The younger you are when you do that, the more likely you're going to be a serious reader. It really is about finding yourself in a book."

Of course that doesn't account for reading for information, enlightenment or practical advice. And for others, it's not so much identification as the embrace of the Other that draws them into reading. "It's that excitement of trying to discover that unknown world," said Azar Nafisi, the author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran," the best-selling memoir about a book group she led in Iran.

Sometimes the world of reading is opened up by a book that goes down easy. Mr. Bennett said he chose "The Pursuit of Love" for his fictional queen because it happened to be the first adult novel that he read for pleasure. He said that for him, as with the queen's character, the book was a stepping off point into more heavyweight literature. "There are all sorts of entrances that you can get into reading by reading what might at first seem trash," Mr. Bennett said.

And certain books that become phenomena - like those in the Harry Potter series or "The Da Vinci Code" or, to a slightly lesser extent most books recommended for Oprah Winfrey's book club - can, in tempting people to read in the first place, create habitual readers. Perhaps more often, however, those readers just wait for the next "hot" book.

Indeed, even after Ms. Winfrey recommends a title, sales of other books by the same author don't necessarily match those of the book that bears her imprimatur. "What I find with readers today is they don't go off on their own to another book," said Jonathan Galassi, publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "They wait for the next recommendation."

It may also be that for some, reading is a pursuit that, like ballet or baseball, simply requires practice. "I think for a lot of people, reading is just something you do," said Paula Brehm Heeger, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association. "And you eventually realize that you really like it."

Book sales in general are growing only slightly: According to the Book Industry Study Group, a publishing trade association, the number of books sold last year, 3.1 billion, was up just 0.5 percent from a year earlier.

The question of whether reading, or reading books in particular, is essential is complicated by the fact that part of what draws people to books can now be found elsewhere - and there is only so much time to consume it all.

Readers who want to know they are not alone are finding reflections of themselves in the confessional blogs sprouting across the Internet. And television shows like "The Sopranos" or "Lost" can satisfy the hunger for narrative and richly textured characters in a way that only books could in a previous age.

But books have outlived many death knells, and are likely to keep doing so. "I'm much more optimistic than I think most people are," Mr. Díaz said. Reading suffers, he said, because it has to compete unfairly with movies, television shows and electronic gadgets whose marketing budgets far outstrip those of publishers. "Books don't have billion-dollar publicity behind them," Mr. Díaz said. "Given the fact that books don't have that, they're not doing a bad job."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"To Read or Not to Read"

"To Read or Not to Read"
Poor readers big losers in job market
BY Sonya Neufeld

THE LESS time you spend with your nose in a book, the worse your reading ability gets, "alarming" new research shows.

The US-based National Endowment for the Arts collated statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits of Americans in a new study called "To Read or Not to Read", issued last week.

It found that, on average, Americans aged 15 to 24 spent nearly two hours a day watching television and only seven minutes of their free time reading.

According to the NEA, American 15-year-olds ranked 15th in average reading scores for 31 industrialised nations, behind Canada, Ireland, Korea, Finland, Sweden and Poland.

Australian 15-year-olds came fourth.

The percentage of even the best-educated adults, who attended college and had been rated proficient in reading prose, slipped by 20 per cent from 1992 to 2003.

When it comes to looking for a job, that's bad news. A survey in the report revealed that nearly three-quarters of employers who were polled rated "reading comprehension" as "very important" for workers with two-year college degrees and nearly 90 per cent said the same for graduates of four-year degrees.

In his preface to the 99-page report, NEA chairman Dana Gioia described the data as "simple, consistent and alarming".

He said it revealed a "disturbing" pattern. "As Americans, especially young Americans, read less, they read less well," he said.

"Because they read less well, they have lower levels of academic achievement.

"With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well in the job market.
"Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages and fewer opportunities for advancement."

Prisoners had significantly worse reading skills than other adults, and "deficient readers" were less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting.

The research showed that daily reading "overwhelmingly" correlated with better reading skills and higher academic achievement, boosting the likelihood of economic success.
Mr Gioia said the study confirmed the "central importance" of reading for a "prosperous, free society".

"[It] is not an elegy for the bygone days of print culture, but instead is a call to action not only for parents, teachers, librarians, writers and publishers, but also for politicians, business leaders, economists, and social activists."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Why we're killing ourselves to save print magazines

Why we're killing ourselves to save print magazines
By Raymond Roker

I promised myself that I wouldn't get too sentimental as I write my 150th issue Diatribe. And just as that self-imposed moratorium left me to assemble a list of unemotional, but interesting factoids and historical anecdotes, I got an all-too-familiar piece of electronically delivered news: Print is doomed!

Here's how the future of print was summed up in the article:

"Print as a medium will ultimately fade away, just as parchment became paper, the typewriter gave way to the pc, and the waxed cylinder morphed into the record, then the compact disc, and now the digital download. The first to go will be newspapers, but over time magazines and even books will follow. And not only will they be distributed digitally (read: without paper), and accessed through a variety of devices - some mobile, some not - they will most likely be free. Not this year or next, maybe not even within the span of a decade, but surely in our lifetime. Your trusty copy of The New York Times that stains your hands with ink, your Vanity Fair with Leo DiCaprio on the cover, your dog-eared copy of the bestseller Skinny Bitch will all become museum pieces, bought and sold on eBay as collectibles, or tossed into landfills." -Adam L. Penenberg, Media Magazine, October 2007

But wait, I love magazines! I love print, period. These days, this plaintiff declaration is like saying "I love album art." Nobody, besides our friends at the exquisite-but also doomed-Wax Poetics, can hear your screams. As a fan of record sleeve art, you can cite all the intrinsic lore, the romance, the vital role it plays in user experience, blah, blah, blah. All the while, as you drone on about the classic 12" works of wonder, somebody's downloading another tiny JPEG of 'album art' into their iTunes. And the beat goes on. Virtually.

But, ****; I really love magazines. I mean I know the industry is hurting right now. Hell, URB surely isn't immune to the bruising. Advertising revenues for 99% of the magazines out there have declined (some, dramatically) and newsstand sales have dropped too. This year alone saw FHM, Stuff, Scratch, and a bunch of others you've never heard of, all shut down. Web 2.0 is the new, new media, and people are spending more time with texting than reading text. 20th Century ink on paper just isn't as "sexy" to a lot of people, not the least of which are the advertisers who pay for me to even have a page to spill on. The magazine industry, like record labels, has already seen its best days. And like passengers on a sinking ship, all civil order has broken down and competition for life vests is fierce.

But I can't be bothered with all of this conventional wisdom and unimaginative doom and gloom. And like the cooler edges of the music industry, independent magazine publishers are creatively staving off their demise with innovation, perseverance and gravitas. We are a resilient bunch, if not downright bullheaded. I'm not arguing the facts or even the future, but, today, I'm more excited about print-and this magazine-than I have been in a long while.

Of course, I'm biased. I'm a voracious consumer of all things paper. I fuel up at a newsstand like some commuter junkie at a Starbucks, easily dropping $80 at a time on gorgeous bound journals I never get time to read. But touch them, I do. I lay them on my coffee table or file them into plastic holders. I let them pile up on my nightstand and shove grotesque amounts of them into my carry-on luggage. I treat them like artwork and they take up more room in my house than clothes. I flip the pages, feel the coating of the cover. Gawk at the images, the headline fonts, and detailed illustrations. I go to my happy place and shoot up the lush pulpy pages like I might never get high again.

Note: I doubt most of you share this level of affection, and that's OK. The fact that you're even 600 words into this rant let's me know that you at least get a little tingle at the local Barnes & Noble newsstand. So what's keeping print so inventive and refreshed these days?

Definitely, part of the surge is that there's blood in the water. And that's a good thing. Weak publications are thankfully retiring and making room for genetically stronger breeds . . . hell, mutts! Opportunistic and dispassionate publishers are steering clear of print entirely. Culturally deaf and dumb-downed titles are imploding. And after several years of denial, many in the industry are finally embracing the Web as an ally to their editorial missions.

There's nothing better than a technological mugging to get your head straight. The first dotcom onslaught was a de facto war against print. But the rise of Web 2.0 has actually given magazine publishers new creative license, allowing us to actually be less disposable than before-even in the era of Facebook and Twitter. Everybody from stalwart monthlies to esoteric quarterlies are getting tricked out with new paper stocks, die cut covers, limited edition versions and metallic inks-none of which look good on an LCD monitor. Not to mention the most meaningful evolution: dramatic new takes on content and editorial packaging (You have to have noticed it with us).

Mass is dead, but so is niche. Localism is the new global. All-you-can-eat megazines are calcifying. But discerning curatorial adventures and brave points of view have become print's inoculation-at least temporarily-against the algorithmic efficiency and "long tail" (Google it) of the digital world.

Is this all just the last ditch throes of a Jurassic medium about to go the way of hip-house? Personally, I think it's more than simply sheer preservation, but who cares. At this moment, magazines are alive, fighting and kicking, and the reader is the beneficiary. From Journal (a soft spoken chance find picked up at a bodega in the East Village) to Good (a sharp, fast-rising noble effort by a trust fund kid), to Colors (doing for Skate culture what Wax Poetics does for music), to Metropolis (big, bold, beautiful manmade objects), and numerous others titles I devour, I've been inspired on each recent trip to the newsstand and mailbox. And if I'm drinking ink-colored Kool-Aid at the table of the industry's Final Supper, pass me another glass.

Which brings me to us. In your hands-and OK, maybe soon, on your iPhone-you hold URB's 150th issue. I could fill an entire edition with the triumphs, tears and ambition that got us this far, but I'll save that for my blog or an e-book I'll feel compelled to write someday. In the meantime, we're here. Still. And for all those who say print is doomed, that's just music to my ears.