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Friday, March 04, 2005

The Making of a Print Person 

My son has decided to become a publisher.

This week, he and his cub scout den visited a local newspaper printing plant. The field trip was scheduled after a long day of school, and the kids started out restless and bored.

But the moment they got their eyes on the monster web press, with paper streaming above their heads, the massive noise, the forklifts moving rolls of newsprint into position, and the papers popping out folded and ready to go, they were hooked.

Last night, my son collected a few of the magazines I've been associated with, and took them to bed to read. I think it's the first time he's noticed that Daddy's name appears on the masthead.

He's hooked.

Saving the future of magazines, one kid at a time.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

More Magazine Thoughts--B2B Edition 

Rex Hammock's MediaLife interview, plus my lack of consistent posting in the past few days, has evidently unleashed a torrent of words. Must...get...back...to...work.

But before that, I want to continue a thought on some of Rex's quotes, grabbed in my last post.

If you're a b2b publishing executive, how many of your magazines or newsletters have you read recently?

And if you can't find the time, or find your publications to be a little boring, or arcane, what must your audience think? One of my basic rules of publishing has always been, if I think my publication is boring, then I'd guess my readers do, as well. The goal is to create something that I'd want to read--even if it's not my field or primary area of interest.

Most salespeople I've worked with have either never read their magazines, or do so inconsistently. And by reading, I don't mean checking to see that Advertiser A got the promised position opposite editorial content B. I used to require salespeople to read their magazine, and be prepared to discuss it in staff meetings. [I believe David Carey, publisher of The New Yorker, requires something similar.] This was considered busy-work, and didn't earn me a lot of friends. Now, I have the pleasure of working only with the sales talent I choose to, and I choose to work with sales executives who intimately know and understand what they're selling.

So, some advice for b2b executives and salespeople: Read your stuff. Attend your conferences and trade shows as an attendee, not as a grip-and-grin executive just passing through. Spend time on your website, and make sure you get the RSS feeds from your products. It could help.

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Must-Read Stuff From Rex Hammock 

A magazine lover on why they matter


If you're a b2b media executive, and you do nothing else of value today, you can redeem yourself by reading the Media Life interview with Rex Hammock, linked above.

Everything Rex says is right on, including his insight into the power of the magazine format, regardless of how it's distributed (print and postage, or on-demand print-it-yourself, or...)

Among the sample grabs:

I think people who don't even read magazines, who certainly don't think about magazines, make way too many decisions about the business and editorial aspects of the industry. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it...one example of this is how many advertising decisions related to magazines are made by people who don’t actually read the magazines they buy into or don’t buy into.

Likewise, too many magazine editors and designers, and the publishers who hire them, make design and editorial and business decisions for someone other than the reader.

I think consumers have confidence in magazines. Consumers love magazines. I think it's media buyers and, frankly, media company owners and executives who are having the crisis in confidence about magazines. I wish they’d just get over it and get back to publishing great magazines.

Amen. There's much more. Read the whole thing. Please.

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Dead Tree Media 

Yahoo's Semel In The Spotlight:

I've been thinking a bit about dead trees and print media. For some reference points, see:

PaidContent.org's link to Wired's story on Yahoo, which notes: The story strikes some odd notes, like the reference to COO Dan Rosensweig and Chief Sales Officer Wenda Harris Millard as "dead-tree media types."

And Rex Hammock's essays on the future of magazines:
How will magazines survive the Internet, Part III?
How will magazines survive the Internet, Part II?
How will magazines survive the Internet, Part I?

As someone who's always felt that I had ink in my veins (which really hurts, sometimes), this is a critical issue for me. But I've come to the conclusion that it's the wrong question. In a recent post, I posited that thinking about print may be the wrong way to look at it. We should be thinking about written-word media, as opposed to visual or aural media (and interactive media like video games).

Here's a little media diary of mine, from last week, when I had a sales trip to New York. After waking up, I checked my rss feeds, and skimmed the New York Times headlines online. On the way to the airport, I listened to NPR's Morning Edition. On the plane, I read the print edition of the Wall Street Journal, and then paged through the Postal Service's new deliver magazine.

While in New York and between sales calls, I pulled down email and my favorite rss feeds to my nifty little smartphone (Audiovox SMT-5600), which is the Swiss army knife of cellphones, except that I can't figure out how to use the corkscrew yet). I also checked out how the Dow was doing by standing like an idiot in front of an office building window and watching CNN on a monitor, and then later, by watching the CNN feed to an elevator television.

On the trip home, I thumbed through the Economist, the best-written business magazine on the planet. (One of the fun things about the US Airways Shuttle is the free magazine newsstand, though the selection has really declined post 9-11).

And finally, at home, I did my e-mail, then watched a rerun of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart with my wife, and then passed out.

So that was my day--a lot of media inputs from a lot of sources: print, radio, the internets and television. And probably not an unusual media day for a 45-year-old traveling on business. Print was equally weighted with other media forms, but written-word media far outweighed either aural or visual media.

Is there a lesson here? Print is the wrong metaphor. Dead-trees are just one way written words are distributed.

Newspaper executives continue to wring their hands over declining news holes and circulations, but they're thinking with the wrong metaphor. See this piece from The Micknsey Quarterly, via Forbes: Can The Tabloid Format Save Newspapers? Wrong question!

The right question is: can newspapers (and other print media) effectively transfer their true skill--which is not applying ink to paper--but is researching, reporting and editing news, analysis, features and service pieces for a targeted audience, to other distribution mechanisms?

I'm just as comfortable with my print edition subscription to the WSJ as I am with my digital subscription--and use one or the other depending on my immediate circumstance. Am I grabbing a quick burger or flying? Then the print edition works--except on a crowded plane, where the Journal's broadsheet format can cause cramped muscles or annoyed seatmates. Am I walking between appointments? Then my smartphone can pull up what I need from the Journal.

This phenomenon is most apparent in my children, who are 7 & 9 years old. They're equally comfortable shifting among different types of media. They read magazines, the comics sections of the newspaper and books, of course--we're a dead-tree family. But they also skim the internets (under supervision), where they follow their interests (horses and Yu-Gi-Oh) and play games. They listen to CDs, or MP3s. They love DVDs, and Tivo (where they have their favorite shows captured). To my kids, the "how it gets there" of media is irrelevant.

Print is not dead, and probably never will be. But more importantly, written-word media is not dead--it's the critical driver of most new media distribution technologies.

In thinking about the Wired article on Yahoo, linked at the top here, there's another lesson. Terry Semel has brought a Hollywood studio outlook to Yahoo, and it's changed the value of that business. Print media types have been doing the internet thing for a while--and we're still moaning about the potential loss of dead trees. If we took Semel's approach, which is to bend a distribution mechanism to the will of a filmed-entertainment mogul's business model, we'd probably lose less sleep. And maybe make more money.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Out to Lunch 

I've been busy with a variety of projects, but will be posting again soon. If you've read this blog for a while, I'm sure you'll agree that 'out to lunch' is a most appropriate phrase.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Time Waster of the Week 

Keeping Score On The Road

TravelPost is the web equivalent of sticking pushpins into a world map. It's addictive, and a nice walk down memory lane, as well.

I've posted my map, so far. (I can only waste so much time). I've managed to visit every state in the US, and all of the southern Canadian provinces--just haven't had the time to enter them all, because the interface is a bit stodgy. But I do notice severe blanks in my travels--no Eastern Europe, no Africa, little South America, little Asia. Must book travel now!

Of course, when my partner Scott Chase gets his hands on this, he'll fill in most of the world. He's the only person I know who had to staple in extra pages into his passport for all the visas he acquired. He was crushed when his passport expired, and he had all those blank pages again.

From GridSkipper, the travel blog from the Gawker media empire.

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