24 June 2007

SubHub's Super List

SubHub is stating a simple truth about digital publishing when it compares conventional printing on paper to the Internet. The lessons are here not only for conventional publishers but for custom publishers as well. Custom publishers — companies that create and manage publications (i.e. marketing tools) for nonpublishers — are an esteemed part of our community. They provide service, eyeballs, work, and a really neat (if not necessarily new) paradigm. Whether using the single sponsor or multi-advertiser approach, the editorial and demographic focus they provide tends to rock.

Even so, SubHub may be showing a bit of the future of custom publishing. The company’s stated mission is to provide “an affordable solution for publishers who wanted to control their own site and have the option to make money in different ways from their content. . .[the site would be] comprehensive yet simple to use; fully managed, but would leave the publisher in control.”

Granted, most SubHub clients seem to have deeper roots in products and services than in content. Neverthless, the SubHub tools enable smaller businesses to do their own custom pubs.

20 June 2007

Felix Dennis on Editing

The sale of Dennis Publishing's Blender, Stuff and Maxim US editions pretty much takes a sharp mind out of the U.S. publishing biz. A snapshot of how Felix Dennis thinks can be found in a report I wrote for the Spring 2000 issue of Magazine Retailer. It goes a little something like this.

On December 2, Felix Dennis of Dennis Publishing was the luncheon "entertainment" at a meeting of the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). His stateside publications РMaxim and Stuff Рare relative newcomers to the North American scene. Their verve and, even more importantly, their success have made Dennis Publishing a player in the new world market. In a brash, droll and informative talk, he told the assembled New York editors about the power of single copy. The cr̬me de la of prime time editing understood this intellectually and many had personal experience with the concept.

He cited some delightful statistics about Maxim's growth. The print run jumped from 175,000 copies to 2,700,000 in 25 issues. An MRI study revealed the average Maxim reader is a 30-year-old male with a median household income of $62,000 a year. He reported that the October 1999 issue "brought in 55,000 new subscription blow-in cards." Then he topped that nugget with the news that Maxim's newsstand percentage sale is currently 73% nationwide."

And then he shared his company's authentic success secrets. Staffing levels are lower than the norm which leads to "an environment where creativity and risk-taking dominates our company's culture." He also told the New York editors that "the cult of the celebrity editor" has no adherents at Dennis Publishing.

"The concept of one man or one woman," said Dennis, "as the big cheese, the font of all wisdom, is, in my judgement utter baloney. It leads to self-indulgence and a pomposity, which creeps inevitably onto the pages of the magazine."

He said that his company "worships at the altar of the reader" and that "the advertising community is a welcome and essential element of our congregation; but they are not invited to conduct the service or choose the hymns."

Dennis then gave a breakdown of Maxim's editorial content by category and confided that his company "arrived at these allocations of editorial content by the astonishing methodology of asking our readers what they wanted . . . and then supplying it." In looking at other magazines he pointed to "a gap in real affinity between reader and content" and observed that the "paid circulations of hundreds of magazines have been declining for years." To attract subscribers, American magazines have, according to Dennis, have employed such "promotional smoke and mirrors" as "junk mail drops, promotional giveaways and stamp sheets."

He suggested another way: "What if magazine subscriptions could be driven primarily by newsstand sales, and newsstand sales driven by editorial that connected with the reader." Dennis acknowledges that he does do some direct mail and that he has a three-person circulation department.

"I believe," said Dennis, "that the real circulation department at Maxim is called 'the editorial team." And that is the secret of reader-driven success."

15 June 2007

The Meaing of Magazines

As we ponder the magazine’s fate, it’s kind of fun to look at the first time the word was defined. We take you now to A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson. A magazine, sayeth the good doctor is:

A storehouse, commonly an arsenal or armoury, or repository of provisions. Of late this word has signified a miscellaneous pamphlet, from a periodical miscellany named the Gentleman's Magazine, by Edward Cave.
Built into the very meaning of a magazine, then, are the notions of power and sustenance. You can learn more about Cave and his magazine at John Lienhard's "Engines of Ingenuity " site.

07 June 2007

Learning From Magazines

In his blog, the Inksniffer, veteran British journo/international consultant John Duncan talks about what newspapers could learn from magazines. My God, man, haven’t papers suffered enough?

Actually he was reacting to a speech about “The Magazine in the Age of the Internet” that Canadian corporate exec Isabelle Marcoux of Transcontinental Inc. gave on 6 June at Mags University Conference. And he makes some good points.

Duncan says

Magazines are the handsome cousins of newspapers. They look like us in lots of ways, only they're prettier and they smell better. We could marry them if we wanted to and even have kids, but in the end we're just not attracted to them
.He states that the lessons newspapers could learn from magazines might include “keep launching with confidence . . .try much harder to make newspapers beautiful . . .see the internet not in terms of terrifying migration but useful augmentation . . .copy relentlessly from abroad.”

I'm convinced. Maybe magazines could learn something also. Miracles happen, so help me Christopher Hitchens..

06 June 2007

Don't Get Me Wrong

Don't get me wrong. I love magazines.
And to be honest I love print. Or maybe I've been indoctrinated since birth about the eternal life of print that I stammer and shiver at the thought of a (-gulp-) world without print. (A chorus, if you please, of "Gimme That Old-Time Religion.") No matter. Print is dead.
But back to my magophilia. Fern Siegel's witty review of Bookmarks magazine in MediaPost shows why we love this medium.
She notes:
The 5-year-old bimonthly is chock-full of reviews; it summarizes more than 500 from over 50 major pubs. It’s a digest for those obsessed with new books and a user-friendly way to keep informed — and impress your friends.
She cites other features worthy of notice, such as a regularly-appearing piece, devoted to a past writer or era. She concludes by praising Bookmark's "devotion to literature."

She paints a picture of a magazine that delivers focus, smarts and passion to its subject matter. . .in other words, it exemplifies the qualities we have come to associate with magazines.

05 June 2007

Okay, I have a flair for the obvious. (Why else would I have felt at home in magazines?) So here’s my two cents.

The magazine industry’s current hell only starts with cultural tsunami stirred by the Web. Yes, there’s been a migration of eyeballs to the Web. Yes, there’s been a migration of advertising to the Web. And yes, yes, yes, the Web is becoming a favored source for information and ideas.

The deeper problem is the entrenched structures and conventional wisdom of the publishing industry.

For example,The overwhelming majority of marketing and financial decisions are based, in my opinion, on enticing advertisers and retailers. Not a sin, per se. But aren’t they forgetting something? Oh yes, the readership.I

I know firsthand that publishers like, respect, maybe even love their readers. They adore the reader’s passion, knowledge and commitment. But I think that ultimately publishers do not see readers as customers but as bait.