Monday, May 28, 2007

Magazines feeling postal pinch

Magazines feeling postal pinch
High-circulation periodicals enjoy discounted rates, while smaller publications get hit with steep rate hikes.
By Teresa Stack and Jack Fowler, TERESA STACK is president of the Nation. JACK FOWLER is publisher of the National Review.,1,5257005.story?coll=la-news-comment&ctrack=1&cset=true

THE COST OF getting magazines into your mailbox will shoot up July 15. How much? It depends.

Magazine publishers are facing a radical postage rate restructuring that favors those with large circulations and transfers costs to small- and mid-circulation publications.

Past increases to periodical postage were applied fairly equally across all publications. But this time, things are drastically different — and potentially damaging to the diversity of voices that our founders strove to foster when they created the national postal system.

Our respective magazines — the Nation and the National Review — sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum and disagree on nearly every issue. But we concur on this: These proposed postal rate hikes are deeply unfair.

It is not simply that we want to avoid a massive increase in our mailing costs, though that is a factor. More important to us is that we believe in a vibrant marketplace of ideas (where we each think our ideas will prevail). We are not afraid of intellectual competition; we welcome it.

For this latest round of rate hikes, the U.S. Postal Service proposed a 12% increase that would have affected magazines more or less equitably. Then, in an unprecedented move, that plan was rejected by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the body responsible for setting rates. Instead, it approved a complicated pricing system based on a proposal by Time Warner Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the country. Rather than base rates on total weight and total number of pieces mailed, the new, complex formula is full of incentives that take into account packaging, shape, distance traveled and more.

It adds up to this: discounts for some periodicals; as far as we can see, mostly the huge-circulation titles associated with firms like Time Warner. At smaller magazines like ours, rates will go up 15% to 25%. Research by McGraw-Hill Cos. concludes that the rate increases for some small-circulation publications could hit 30%.

Time Warner and the Postal Regulatory Commission say this scheme rewards efficiency. But the rates appear to have been adopted with little research into their effect on publishers and with no meaningful public input.

How will small magazines that operate on the economic margins — yet have an outsized effect on public discourse — accommodate $500,000 (in the case of the Nation and the National Review) in additional postage expense? Will we be forced to cut back on reporting, raise our prices, reduce our staffs or our number of pages to stay afloat? For some titles, the change may prove fatal. It certainly will make it more difficult to start a new magazine, and publishing will be less competitive as a result.

Time Warner and the postal commission seem to have little understanding of the crucial role the Postal Service has played in establishing an open marketplace of ideas. It has always been a central policy of the Postal Service to use its pricing mechanism to encourage smaller publications and competition.

Since the time of James Madison and the founders in the 1790s, it has been understood that low rates for small publications make it possible to have the rich, open and diverse media that a self-governing people require. This is what is at stake today. And because so much of the material online originates in print magazines, these postal rates could have the unintended effect of shrinking the digital marketplace of ideas as well.

We urge the relevant congressional committees to hold a hearing to investigate this coming crisis before it is too late. The last 215 years of postal policy were instrumental in the creation of the extraordinary free press we have in the U.S. today. We should not begin to overturn this magnificent tradition.


Internet Ad Revenue Charges Ahead

Internet Ad Revenue Charges Ahead
IAB Suggests 35% Growth in Its Year-End Report
By Emily Tan

Published: May 24, 2007

NEW YORK ( -- Internet ad revenue grew 35% in 2006, with search, display, classifieds and lead-generation categories continuing to rise at a healthy clip while e-mail, sponsorship and slotting fees remained flat or lost share of the total online ad market.
The IAB said online growth is coming from advertisers using the web to drive product awareness, purchase intent and brand loyalty.

The figures come from the Interactive Advertising Bureau's quarterly Internet Advertising Revenue Report released today, which included both fourth-quarter and full-year 2006 figures.

Hit record high
U.S. online ad revenue reached a record high of $4.8 billion last quarter, an increase of 33% over the 2005 fourth quarter. The 2006 full-year total was $16.9 billion. Display advertising and keyword search were up $3.7 billion and $6.8 billion, respectively, last year.

Randall Rothenberg, president-CEO of the IAB, said in the announcement that the growth is coming from advertisers using the web to drive product awareness, purchase intent and brand loyalty. "We have every confidence that this growth trend will continue as marketers allocate more of their total marketing dollars to interactive and the industry delivers effective and innovative platforms for connecting with consumers," he said.

As in past years, ad revenue was concentrated among top publishers. The top 10 raked in $11.6 billion, or 69% of total online ad revenue, down slightly from the 72% share those publishers had in 2005. The top 50 publishers accounted for 93% of the online ad market.

Rich-media share drops
While much of the buzz circulates around broadband video, rich media as a share of total online ad revenue actually dropped, increasing total dollars by a lower-than-industry rate, from $1 billion in 2005 to $1.2 billion in 2006. But Sheryl Draizen, senior VP-general manger, IAB, said that the growth is coming.

"I think that everyone is talking about broadband digital video, but it hasn't happened yet," Ms. Draizen said. "There's still a lot of potential."

E-mail's share remained flat, although total dollars spent on the tactic was up 34% to $338 million. Ms. Draizen suggested e-mail may be reaching a plateau and that spam-blocking by consumers also is a key factor in its slow growth. The IAB has developed guides to provide marketers with information that will make e-mail campaigns more effective.

"Authentication and deliverability issues for e-mails need to be delved into," Ms. Draizen said. "It's really about what are the best practices for e-mail that they have the highest percentages to get to the audiences they need to reach."