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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Top 100 B2B Magazines 

BtoB has published its list of the Top 100 Trade Magazines for 2005, ranked by revenues (even though the chart indicates it's ranked by ad pages).

I worry a bit about this list, which seems to take total ad pages and multiplies them by something like the 6x rate.

I know several of the magazines on the list fairly well, and their revenues are highly overstated--in one case, by about 150%; in another, by about 50%.

Using a rate card rate doesn't account for the effect of publications like weeklies, which tend to have far higher average frequencies among advertisers, and it also doesn't account for the impact of off-rate card activity, special projects, and so on. But it does make certain magazines look far more prosperous than they really are, even though in reality, they're doing pretty darn well.

I'm not sure this sends the right message to our advertisers. If you were a successful ad salesperson, would you drive up to a client appointment in a Ferrari (even if you borrowed it)? You might not want to be seen in an old clunker, either, but you'd want to take care to show that your clients aren't investing more in you than you are in them.

I feel bad for some of the magazines on this list. Will their advertisers think that they're too prosperous, and not re-investing enough of their mythical wealth in the product?

Don't get me wrong. I love lists. They're fun to read and it's great to be ranked among other top players. And I think BtoB's Special Report on the Power of Print is nicely done.

See Matthew Schwartz's lead article.

And his list of Five Notable Launches.


Monday, March 27, 2006

A question for you... 

While I'm on an editorial roll, I'll point to GameBiz Daily, which as usual, comes through with a thoughtful editorial insight in its regular Media Coverage column:

One gimmick that was regularly fought over in newsrooms in the pre-Media Coverage days, was the use of questions as headlines. On some publications, editors banned the use of questions as cover lines entirely. On others, we used questions, but occasionally regretted that choice.

The real problem with question-headlines is that they are often a cheap cop out. Big-font questions allow publications to make bold statements without having to really stand behind them.

If you're tempted to use questions in headlines, or as coverlines, GameDailyBiz offers the seven following suggestions:

1. Answer the freakin' question.
2. Answer the question you asked
3. Answer in the positive
4. Answer as quickly as possible
5. Answer definitively
6. Center the story on the question
7. If you're going to ask a question... ask big!

If you're a b2b editor, I highly recommend subscribing to GameDailyBiz. Every Friday, they do a terrific job of dissecting and analyzing specialty gaming media, which is not all that different from business-to-business media.


Editorial Tenure & Editorial Excellence 

The Economist, which I think is the best-written and best-edited business magazine* in the English-speaking world, has made John Micklethwait the 16th editor in its 163 year history. Micklethwait formerly served as the magazine's American editor, with stellar results.

According to MediaLife Magazine:

The U.S. now accounts for almost half the magazine's total circulation, at 515,480 of just under 1.1 million total, and well more than the 160,000 it sells in its home market. Though so unlike U.S. weekly newsmagazines, the Economist has crafted a mystique in the U.S. as a must-read for its global view, especially among business executives, and that led to a doubling of U.S. subscribers in the last decade.

Throughout its history, the Economist's editors have averaged 10.9 years in the top chair. Micklethwait, who is 43, ought to be able to match and extend that average.

I think there's a close connection to be made between length of editorial tenure and the strength of an editorial brand. Recently, I posted about my friend and former colleague Steve Cohn's 20th anniversary at min, the must-read newsletter for consumer magazine executives and advertisers. If you read through the tributes to Steve on the occasion of that anniversary, one pattern clearly emerges--his tenure as editor allows him to serve as the institutional memory of consumer publishing.

I have the pleasure of working with Jim Kristie, the editor and associate publisher of Directors & Boards, who has presided over the magazine for 26 out of its 30 years. Jim's tenure, his memory, his ability to contextualize current corporate governance events and ideas, and his laser-like knowledge of what's really important to corporate board members, makes the magazine a must-read for top corporate directors--who really don't have the time for a typical 'trade' magazine.

In b2b media, we change editors far too often. It gets expensive to pay an editor who's been in the chair for a long time, even if annual raises amount to COLA adjustments. It's hard to keep a top editor interested and engaged when cost-cutting seems to be the only real measure that many publishers use to gauge editorial effectiveness. And ultimately, many owners and publishers (and editors themselves) do a disservice to their magazines and their business by viewing editing as a craft (proper grammar, no run-on sentences, words spelled correctly) as opposed to an art.

Great editors are artists, and great editors edit magazines that are easier to sell and make profitable because they connect completely with their audience.

Will Blythe, writing in this weekend's New York Times Book Review, makes a related point about what makes a great editor in his review of a biography of Harper's editor Willie Morris:

Talents with blue pencil are perhaps less vital than capacities as confessor, backbone, ideal parent and prod to insurrection. Morris's greatest gift to his authors may have been a kind of veneration — he believed his writers could fly, so they flew. "He knew how to feed writers' egos, to make them want to write their best," Bill Moyers, who reported on his American travels for Harper's, once said.

Editorial quality--and the knowledge and experience to know what 'quality' really is--makes a difference. My blog-friend Dave Jung, who is a customer of our type of media, recently offered praise to Martin Rowe of Test and Measurement World for a highly technical piece on the configuration of oscilloscopes.

Says Dave:

As a marketer, you might cringe a little to see a critique of the product offerings, but this is honest, worthwhile writing that engages the reader. And that's what trade publications should be doing, especially when they are talking about the products they cover. It may seem simple, but rarely do trade pubs do this well. T&MW did. Kudos.

I don't know how long Martin Rowe has been with T&MW, but I suspect it's been a while. It takes longevity, and the will to care, to be able to research, write and publish a piece like this.

Publishers: hold onto your best editors and revere them. Make it possible for them to think it impossible to want to do anything else.

*The Economist is veddy British, insisting on calling itself a "paper," rather than a magazine, and staffed with people with names like "Micklethwait."


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