Sunday, March 30, 2008

In the UK, free Publications bite down Hard

In the UK, free Publications bite down Hard
National papers have lost 14 percent of their circulation
By Heidi Dawley

For Britain's national newspapers, the recent years have been tough, in some ways tougher than for U.S. papers. It's not just the internet, though that's certainly hurt.

British papers have been besieged by free dailies in growing numbers, far more than U.S. papers.

It's cost dearly. In all, Britain's national paid-circulation newspapers have lost 1.9 million copies, nearly 14 percent of their circulation since 2000, according to a study from Ernst & Young.

Worst hit have been the downmarket titles. "We could say the increase in the number of free titles has hurt the populars more than other segments of the market," says Luca Mastrodonato, a media analyst at Ernst & Young in London and author of the study.

For the U.S., where free papers haven't gained nearly the foothold, it raises some intriguing questions. For one, how much have the paid titles been hurt so far? And will free dailies ever take off in the U.S. as they have elsewhere in the world?

While most U.S. markets have free publications, there are just a few with free dailies backed by big-money chains with growth ambitions, notably the Metro and Examiner chains. And their growth hasn't been anything near what's been seen in Europe.

But it's tough to draw comparisons, and for several reasons. One is that the Ernst & Young study looks only at national newspapers in the UK, of which there are many, not local dailies. In the U.S., there are only really three national dailies, The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and they have fared far better.

Also, the U.S. doesn't have upmarket and downmarket papers, at least outside of major cities like New York. Metro dailies tend to be one-size-fits-all papers. And while their circulation losses have been considerable, they're below UK levels. All told, U.S. dailies have lost 8 percent of their daily circulation since 2001 and 11.4 percent of their Sunday circulation, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Still, Mastrodonato's study is interesting for what it says about the UK market. His figures show the Daily Mirror and the Sun have lost more than 17 percent of their circulation since 2000, whereas the quality titles like the Daily Telegraph and the Times have only lost 10 percent.

The loss has been particularly pronounced for the downmarket papers since 2003, when the free papers really began taking off in Britain. Since then downmarket papers have lost 14.5 percent of their circulation, compared to just 2.2 percent for the qualities.

In fact, the only paper to see its circulation increase in the last two years is the Financial Times, which is very high end.

A big factor behind the decline of the downmarket papers has been the defection of the young, which surveys show are increasingly turning to the internet for information. In fact, Ernst & Young reports that over half of Britain's 15-to-44-year-olds rely on the internet as their first source of news and information.

One huge reason is that it's free, and that also explains the attraction of the free papers over the paid-for downmarket papers.

"The risk is these people aren't going to get the paid-for habit in the future. So going forward the risk gets higher," says Mastrodonato.

All this paints a dark future for downmarket paid-circulation papers, in Mastrodonato's view.

He foresees a shakeout in which paid dailies will shrink in number and more free ones will arise.

He's more optimistic about quality dailies, which he believes will have an easier time of it. "We will be looking at print editions for some time to come," he says.
Heidi Dawley is a staff writer for Media Life.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Long-running industry magazine files tell epic story of writer's market

Long-running industry magazine files tell epic story of writer's market
The Associated Press
CINCINNATI: Emma Gary Wallace, professional author, had more than a few notions about the business of writing.

With a resume that included essays in housekeeping and cooking magazines, and a popular Christmas story, "The New Neighbor," she was able and ready to share tips with readers of a new monthly magazine called Successful Writing.

"Writers waste a great deal of postage sending stuff around the country to impossible markets," she observed. "Don't carry coals to Newcastle or offer jewelry in a blacksmith shop. Every magazine has its own policy and makes a definite appeal to a certain clientele. Study these and take them into consideration when offering your wares for any market."

The year was 1921, and advice about writing was and remains a market itself.

The timeless cry for help as one makes the great leap from the desire to write to actual writing to published writing has inspired countless books, magazines, classes and Web sites. Successful Writing, now Writer's Digest, is one of the oldest players in the business. Based in Cincinnati at the corporate headquarters of F&W Publications, it still enjoys a circulation of more than 100,000.

"I sincerely believe that we have something to offer a broad spectrum of writers at every stage of their development, from the novice to the veteran writer in every genre," says Writer's Digest editor Maria Schneider.

For anyone who wonders what the emerging writer has faced over the decades, the magazine's files preserved in bulky, bound volumes tell a dual history. Evolution is constant, as technologies from airplanes to computers, and historical events from the Great Depression to the sexual revolution, bring on new markets and genres. But at the heart of the game, the riddle remains: How does one write, and write well? How do you get your writing noticed and sold?

Like the best epics, reading through the pages of Writer's Digest is less about finding the answer than enjoying the questions.

"It's like asking if we're any closer to the great mystery of how one paints a portrait or composes a symphony?" says mystery writer Lawrence Block, who for years contributed a column to Writer's Digest. "Most of the arts certainly are extremely difficult, and there are always more people who want to do it than can do it."

Writer's Digest features interviews, market surveys and general advice. The April issue includes a cover story on vampire novelist Laurell K. Hamilton, updates on such "hot" genres as romance and horror and an essay by contributor Bonnie Trenga, who recommends that sentences run no longer than 40 words because "your readers don't have a very long attention span."

When the magazine debuted, "crook stories" were in, dialect was out and the great new draw was "motion pictures," or photoplays, a business barely as old as the century. The Goldwyn Co. ran an advertisement about its hunt for the "screen's own Shakespeare." An article reported that the "penurious playwright who used to peddle manuscripts" was "probably writing his plays for the motion pictures now, and living in ease."

Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and other modernists were already breaking up traditional narrative and grammar, but in the early 1920s, the marketplace belonged to the straight and the simple.

"A readable, lucid style, is far preferable to what is called a 'literary style.' ... a complicated method of expression which confuses rather than clarifies thought," one columnist advised. A suggestion for nonfiction writers: "One of the surest ways to please editors is for the writer to prove himself accurate."

The market often danced to the tune of current events. In the '20s, the rise of commercial flights resulted in "airplane fiction," adventure stories set in the skies. The repeal of Prohibition, in 1933, led to new opportunities in beer industry journals.

During World War II, romance writers were urged to forget those Depression-era tales of financial peril and were reminded that if a young man wasn't in uniform, the writer had to explain why. At the end of 1945, after the Japanese had surrendered, correspondent Sgt. Donn Hale Munson reported that the "war market" was "shot" and that it was time to "take your hero out of uniform ... and put him back in civic clothes."

The times could change as surely as snow melts in spring. In January 1981, the cover story centered on authors and their typewriters, and revealed that Gay Talese used dental floss for repairs. By April, the magazine was running a long article on word processors. By the end of the year, one article speculated about an "easily accessible database network."

Cyberspace and electronic publishing seemed like science fiction for much of the 20th century, and it took a science fiction writer to catch the future. A 1971 essay by the editor of Galaxy magazine, Frederick Pohl, an award-winning science fiction writer, uncannily anticipated print-on-demand and electronic books as he imagined the market of 2001.

"Suppose you want to read a novel. You type out the name and byline on the keyboard of your teletype, and 'order' a copy of the book. Immediately it starts printing out your personal copy, a page at a time," Pohl writes. "And if you don't care about (having an actual book), you can hang your TV tube over the foot of the bed, have the book displayed to you a page at a time and read it at your ease."

Scandals that seemed new in recent years were around long before. In the 1930s, articles were appearing on plagiarism, ghost writing ("as old as the proverbial hills") and journalistic fakery. In the 1950s, a new genre teen fiction was identified.

If publishing was ever a gentleman's game in tweed, the pages of Writer's Digest were not telling. Books over the decades were compared to breakfast food, chewing gum and oil-burning engines. A columnist in 1930 complained of the "abnormal emphasis being stressed on sex." As early as 1945, the industry was condemned for selling its soul to the gods of publicity.

"Nowadays it is not enough to publish a book; it must be sent skyward like a trial balloon, carrying its banners and famous names," complained Vardis Fisher, an Idaho-based author and newspaper columnist.

Romance and mystery were in demand all along, although trends and publications have come and gone.

In the early '20s, you could try Saucy Stories, which called for "fiction with very rapid action" and a few "clever epigrams" thrown in, or "The Youth's Companion," which "welcomes humor and pathos, but not pessimism." During the Depression, the MacMillan Co. was looking for "realistic, proletarian" novels, while by 1974, in the wake of Watergate, magazines from the National Tattler to The Woman were seeking investigative pieces.

The writer in 1949 looked out on an especially interesting market. Whisper magazine was seeking "sensational material, only with tabloid treatment." Jungle Stories was soliciting stories on "native tribal life or adventures of white men in the jungle."

Both sides of the Cold War were possible: Personal Liberty Magazine sought examples of "the enslaving spirit of Communism, Nazism and fascism." The Kapustkan Magazine wanted fiction "aimed at the evils of war, greed, hypocrisy, secrecy, poverty, injustice, intolerance, inequality and intimidation."

A caution: "Brevity desired."

The market was a code to crack and self-proclaimed experts came bearing solutions, such as J. Berg Esenwein, whose advice "plucks out the heart of magazine writing" and saves much "eye strain" for young writers. Readers of the '20s and 1930s likely heard much about William Wallace Cook's Plotto, "a new method of plot suggestion." Other options included Grace Porterfield Polk's "Polk-a-Dot Primer for Poets" and the Sherwin Cody School of English, presided over by Cody himself, a bearded man with a stern, professorial gaze.

No one was readier to counsel, and console, than Thomas H. Uzzell, identified as a former editor of Collier's and a market watcher whose ads and essays appeared for more than two decades.

In 1931, as the Depression dragged on, he reminded the idle businessman that the empty hours could be filled writing that long-promised book. "Necessity has launched more literary careers then you'd like to imagine," Uzzell observed.

A decade later, soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II, an Uzzell ad was headlined "WAR! NEW MARKETS! NEW DEMANDS! NEW PROBLEMS! Can you solve them?" Uzzell declared that in "such times only craftsmen, trained writers with editorial insight can survive. Escape and propaganda must be combined."

The famous, too, have prescribed. Somerset Maugham, in a 1942 essay, thought hospital doctors were ideal writers because they have seen human nature "bare" and frightened. Fifty years later, Stephen King urged against writing outlines, even as the magazine itself touted a system of plotting with index cards. Michael Crichton believed that you should get published first, then worry about an agent.

All agreed that the only way to become a writer was to write. The prolific John Updike recommended steady work habits, while Michael Chabon said nothing was possible without "talent," "luck" and "discipline." And in the early 1920s, a promising young short story writer offered a terse formula for success after a less fortunate peer sought help on how to develop a plot.

"Your letter was very vague as to what you wanted to know," the author scolded. "Study Kipling and O. Henry, and work like hell! I had 122 rejections slips before I sold a story."

The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was not easily discouraged.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Death of Print? Not at News Corp in Britain

Death of Print? Not at News Corp in Britain
News International unveils 'biggest printing plant in the world'
By Patrick Smith
Journalists at News International's four national newspapers will face wide-ranging changes when the company moves all printing from its Wapping headquarters in April.

At a tour of the company's new £187 million Broxbourne plant in north London today, the company's senior management said that the latest in automated printing technology would give journalists later deadlines and editors greater freedom in redesigning pages.

News International claim the plant, just off the M25 near Enfield, is the biggest printing centre in the world. It is part of a £650m initiative including plants in Knowsley, near Liverpool, and Motherwell, near Glasgow.

The "triple-width" printing presses can produce tabloid and broadsheet newsprint simultaneously, meaning that many traditional editorial and printing deadlines could be scrapped.

Clive Milner, News International's group managing director, told Press Gazette: "It affects the process of journalism in a number of ways. It allows the editors to refresh and redesign the product and that's good news for readers.

"Our current products are in some cases constrained by the production, this is changed by Broxbourne."

The Sunday Times, which currently begins printing on Wednesdays, could now be printed entirely on Saturday, he said, putting sections like business into a "live" slot.

The Broxbourne plant is the size of 23 football pitches, it has 12 full-colour printing presses capable of printing 86,000 copies per hour - the equivalent of 330,000 tonnes of newsprint a year. Wapping managed 36,000 copies per hour.

Automated, pre-programmed computer technology - including laser-guided trucks and conveyor belts carrying rolls of paper around the vast factory floor - mean that printing staff are to be cut by two thirds making the company an estimated annual saving of £13m.

James Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp's Europe and Asia division, said the investment "should be ample answer to those who believe the business of journalism, in print, is a business for yesterday's readers, not tomorrow's."

He continued: "At News, we believe that print will continue to be a driving force, even as we expand in this connected age."

The Sun is already being printed at Broxbourne. The Daily and Sunday Telegraph will begin printing from Broxbourne late this year.

NI is currently looking for a new home for its editorial staff. A sale document for Wapping has been issued to potential buyers but no potential site has been mentioned by the company so far.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Went Wrong with the Postal Rate Hike?

What Went Wrong with the Postal Rate Hike?
Nothing, says Time Inc.'s mail czar.
By Jim O'Brien

Recent data from the Postal Service indicate that Periodicals Class mail only covered 83% of its costs in fiscal year 2007. This news comes on the heels of the "cost based rates" that went into effect last July and were designed to reduce the Postal Service's costs. Many people in the industry are now wondering "What went wrong?" The answer is that "nothing went wrong," once three basic facts are understood:
Since the new Periodicals Rates went into effect on July 15, 2007, the USPS' data only reflected 2-1/2 months of mailing under the new rate structure (the USPS fiscal year ended on September 30, 2007).

In an effort to mitigate the impact on smaller mailers, the July, 2007 rates only reflected 40% of the actual bundle and container costs. As a result, mailers did not receive accurate pricing signals and some companies actually reduced the number of drop-ship entry points. This reduction resulted in increased USPS transportation costs.

Many mailers focused 100% of their attention on implementing the new rate structure and spent very little time reviewing their mailing practices an implementing changes in 2007.

As a result of these three factors and others, the Postal Service did not reduce its costs in FY 2007. With this as a backdrop, the question now becomes, "Will the new rate structure have a positive impact on Postal Service costs in 2008?" To drive costs from the system, mailers need to make changes. Here are a few changes that are taking place at one mailer and in the printing industry.

Time Inc. is making a number of changes to its mailing behavior and these adjustments may be of use to other publishers. For starters, each title has been analyzed to determine if all or a portion of its circulation can take advantage of co-binding, co-mailing, and/or co-palletization. Today, six Time Inc. titles participate in co-mail pools and the company will soon begin to co-mail a portion of their large circulation monthly magazines. Most people think that large circulation titles are not good candidates for co-mail because they have little to gain in presort improvement, but that perception may soon change.

Todd Black, Time Inc.'s assistant director of postal operations, working in conjunction with Brown Printing and Time customer service, has developed an innovative plan for Essence magazine and other large circulation monthlies. It begins when Time customer service determines Essence's presort. The label data for the carrier route copies is sent to Brown Printing in its usual fashion and the copies are produced using selective binding. Following production, the carrier route copies are included in Fairrington Transportation's co-palletization pool and drop-shipped. Essence also has a number of copies that do not lend themselves to co-mailing (polywrapped, personalized wraps, etc.) and these copies are also included in the co-palletization/drop-ship pool. The balance of the non-carrier route labels are not presorted and customer service produces a SLIR file that is transmitted to Brown for inclusion in their co-mail pool. After manufacturing (using conventional binding) the copies are co-mailed, entered into the Fairrington pool-shipping program, and drop-shipped to 96 ADCs. As a result of this combination of co-mailing and co-palletization, virtually 100% of Essence is drop-shipped with very few sacks and a significant presort improvement.

Time Inc.'s weekly titles have also been reviewed and improvements have been made. Since these weekly magazines have large circulations and carrier route percentages in the 75% to 85% range, there is little opportunity for co-mailing and drop-ship improvement. However, certain editions of the magazines do quality for co-palletization. The best example of this is an edition of People magazine that is produced in one plant for a national distribution. Prior to the implementation of the new rate structure, this edition was placed in sacks and entered into the postal mail stream at the printing plant. Today, these copies are included in the Fairrington co-palletization pool and drop-shipped. As a result, these copies have shifted from "100% sacks and zero drop-shipping" to "nearly zero sacks and 100% drop-shipping."

In addition to the co-palletization, Time magazine co-binds its Life and Style supplement along with its regular issue four times per year. Entertainment Weekly will co-bind a special issue along with one of its regular issues in May.

When the changes have been completed on the Time Inc. magazines, Black estimates that 23 Time Inc. titles will be using co-mail or co-palletization for all or a portion of their print order. Black states that, "There are cost savings out there for everyone, regardless of your size or vendor. My advice to other mail owners is to dig deep into each mailing to find what portions you can better presort and drop ship right now. For the portions that can't, ask why and keep asking why until each mailing is optimized."

In addition to the changes being made by the Time Inc. titles, the printing/logistics industry is opening new co-mail facilities and adding new machines to handle a wide variety of products. Black recently visited the new R.R. Donnelley & Sons co-mail facility in York, Pennsylvania. In response to increases in customer demand, Donnelley already has expansion plans for this new facility. York complements Donnelley's existing facility in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

In March, Black will visit the ALG Worldwide Logistics facility also located in Bolingbrook. ALG is a logistics firm that provides co-mailing and drop shipping for the print industry.
Quad/Graphics has developed a multifaceted program that now includes: Multi-Mail (co-mail); Multi-Wrap (offline for poly wrapped Periodicals); Multi-Bind (co-binding); and Multi-Blend (inline combination of previously bound Periodicals with magazines that are being bound). These options provide a great deal of mail-piece design and production schedule flexibility for their clients while still creating volume that maximizes presort and drop ship efficiencies. Quebecor World Logistics continues to invest in solutions that will enable them to co-mail a greater range of product (specifically thin and poly wrapped mail pieces). By the end of 2008 they will double their capacity with new state of the art co-mailers.

Fry Communications in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania is now offering its customers onsite co-mailing, selective binding, blended mail at the mail table level, and co-production (co-binding). Fry reports that they are seeing substantial growth in the number of copies co-mailed and increasing interest from clients who previously were not interested in taking advantage of the reduced distribution costs. In addition, Fry now has customers who use them as a co-mailer but not as a printer. As Fry's pool size increases, the opportunity for savings increases as more copies move from a 3-digit sort level all the way to carrier route presort.

If the changes at Time Inc. and the printing/logistics industry are representative of more global Periodical Class change, we will most likely see a significant reduction in Postal Service costs and a corresponding improvement in cost coverage throughout 2008. Such changes will go a long way toward keeping Periodicals Class mail well within the CPI rate cap in future years.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mags Grow Online but Still Dwarfed by Web Bigs

Mags Grow Online but Still Dwarfed by Web Bigs
Titles Have to Face up to the Scale of the Competition If They Expect Larger Share of Digital Ad Revenue
By Nat Ives
NEW YORK ( -- When the magazine industry turned out for its latest digital conference last week, no one doubted the importance of the web. But now that they've moved online, many major magazine publishers are finding themselves nobodies in the new neighborhood, overshadowed by digital brands like Yahoo, MySpace and Huffington Post. So how much of the internet's growth can magazine brands snare for themselves?

CNN Gives Biz Sites Run for Their 'Money'
Now With Online Video, Is a Bigger Threat on the Web

The signs so far have been discouraging. Consider the recent good word from the Magazine Publishers of America. Consumer magazine sites attracted 67.5 million monthly unique visitors in the fourth quarter last year, it reported, up 8.1% over the fourth quarter a year earlier.

That's great if publishers only want digital companions for their core print properties, to recruit subscribers and provide a little inventory for integrated ad buys. If they also want to leverage their magazine brands to get meaningful online ad revenue, however, they have to face up to the scale of the competition. And YouTube draws at least 67.5 million unique visitors all by itself, according to Nielsen Online.
"Do I think the web will cannibalize from print magazines?" said Christopher Johnson, VP-content and business development for Hearst Magazines Digital Media, in an interview last week. "Yes, I'm afraid I think so. The question is: Do you want those dollars that are shifted out of print into online to be absorbed by your company?"

Scale and inventory

The most popular magazine-brand websites are becoming real businesses because they have scale and, therefore, the inventory to offer advertisers. They include the sites for Sports Illustrated, with 6.6 million unique visitors in December, per Nielsen Online; Forbes, with 6.5 million; Time, at 6.3 million; Newsweek, at 5.9 million; and People, with 5.3 million.

But brands that span media hold their own much better against the rest of the web. ESPN, the mega-brand attached to cable TV, magazines, mobile and radio, attracted 19.1 million uniques to in December. Still not YouTube numbers, but considerably better than the standalone magazine sites.

A foothold in TV doesn't hurt;, where Time Inc. houses Fortune and Money magazines, scored 7.1 million unique visitors in December, Nielsen said. Martha Stewart's eponymous site, part of a multimedia spread if ever there was one, got 2.1 million. And there are the united-we-stand Condé Nast portals such as Epicurious, where Gourmet and Bon Appetit content helped grab 4.2 million uniques.

The vast majority of titles, however, can't attract enough eyeballs to top Nielsen Online's cutoff for measurement. Fewer than 10% even draw as many people online, where their content is free, as they have paying offline, according to Format, a magazine consultancy. The industry, in fact, averages 0.3 uniques per paid print copy.

"There are . . . . examples of sites that are very profitable," said Bob Davidowitz, the former publisher of In Touch and Life & Style, now a partner at Format. "You're seeing a number of other properties with a lot of velocity and growth."

Adding software

"They need to be thinking about, 'Now we're in a really different kind of business,'" said Jeremy Davis, another Format partner. "It's not just Madison and Vine, it's Madison and Vine and Silicon Valley. 'What is the software that's going to get our readers engaged?"

Christopher Johnson, VP-content and business development for Hearst Magazines Digital Media

Fast Company has put its muscle behind that approach, overhauling its site last month to add tons of community functions. Readers-turned-members can contribute blogs, take up questions from the editors and communicate with other readers.

Hearst's digital unit, formed less than two years ago, has recently forged a bevy of partnerships to help catch any spending that shifts out of print, Mr. Johnson said. Two weeks ago Hearst announced a deal with YouTube to develop magazine-branded channels and share the ad revenue. It signed up, along with Condé Nast and Time Inc., to provide content for a site called AOL Home. And last week Hearst said it will help feed Yahoo Buzz, a site allowing readers to vote articles up or down.

"We've decided our strategy is to partner with all these guys," Mr. Johnson said. "I think of them as the equivalent of the Wal-Marts and Barnes & Nobles: great places to put our titles and content in front of millions of people every day."

"If one side is, 'do I want a companion site,''' he added, "the other side is 'do I want my digital media strategy to be a business in itself, to live and die based on its ability to exploit the medium using the brand?'"