Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Naughts: a decade to forget for the trade press

Where were you on New Year's Eve 1999? Were you on break from school? Busy in the newsroom? Selling ad space? Drunk on the coach?

If I were to say that the media world looked a lot different in 1999 than it does today . . . well, there would be no way to measure how much of an understatement that would be. But which medium has suffered more in this decade: newspapers or the trade press? Both have been slammed. But I would lean towards saying that no media segment has been hit worse than B2B.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Will 2010 bring more closings? or less?

I created an animated GIF out of a couple of pages of information from the Paper Cuts Out of Print page which rather graphically shows the accelerating pace of newspaper closings from 2007 to this year.

2009 may have been a record year for newspaper closings, but my guess would be that 2010 will be an even worse year for trade magazines. Many are hanging by a thread now, yet I see very little real change going on in the industry. The reason for this may be that so many titles are owned by financial interests that play the game of musical chairs with their properties -- so hope springs eternal as owners pray that they can dump their properties for only a modest loss (closing properties, therefore, is not a solution they would prefer since it would lower the overall sales price of their companies -- but if the losses are too great then closing is the only way to save their EBITDA based financials).  But this game, of course,  can only be played if there are other financial companies willing to pay inflated prices in order to enter the game.

Monday, December 28, 2009

NYT announces the end of free content . . . seriously

I'm having a real hard time trying to figure out the point of this article: is it simply one of those end-of-the-year prediction stories that old editors force their reporters to write?

Apparently everyone has to do these prediction stories -- Folio:'s Jason Fell is doing a series of interviews along these lines -- so New York Times reporters Richard Pérez-Peña and Tim Arango have been pegged to give us the newspaper-of-record's take on where the media world is going:

Over more than a decade, consumers became accustomed to the sweet, steady flow of free news, pictures, videos and music on the Internet. Paying was for suckers and old fogeys. Content, like wild horses, wanted to be free . . . Now, however, there are growing signs that this free ride is drawing to a close.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do you have "linkophobia?

This amazing story on the City Desk blog page of the Washington City Paper site got me thinking this morning about something: B2B media execs, do you authorize your editors to link to the competition? or to other media, in general? If the answer is "no", maybe it's time to rethink this policy.

More on the story mentioned above, and why it illustrates one of the weaknesses of "old-media-think" after the jump.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Launch on Friday, failure on Monday

This was a great way to start the Christmas week, with a laugh: here's a story from the The Business Insider on why the GQ and Esquire iPhone app launches are an abject failure.

That's right, Condè Nast and Hearst launch their magazine apps late last week and within a couple of days a columnist has already passed judgement: no one wants to read their magazines on a phone.

After a few days of sales, neither the January issue of GQ (featuring a near-naked Rihanna), nor the January issue of Esquire are in Apple's list of the top 100 best-selling paid apps in the App Store. (Each costs $2.99.) Nor is either in Apple's list of the highest-grossing apps, which sorts by revenue generated (versus strictly unit sales).

(By a weird coincidence, I am currently rereading a biography of Thomas Edison. As the book points out, Edison's work method was simply to try a million different ways to get the result he wanted, refining as he went along until he got something that worked. Thank God Edison didn't have to read this kind of nonsense or we'd still be in the dark. And I'll take this analogy one step further: the move from a successful print model to a successful online or mobile model is no less daunting than creating the phonograph or incandescent light bulb -- ask any publisher or ad director.)

As for whether people will read publications on their phones, the writer ignores the fact that both the New York Times and WSJ apps are doing well. Both apps are free, however.

So now publishers are experimenting with paid models. Will a paid app model work? I say yes; Dan Frommer says no, with a bunch of caveats where he speculates that a tablet reader might work better than an iPhone reader, etc.

But can we at least give it a full week before declaring the experiment a failure?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• After 23 years of advertising on the Super Bowl broadcast Pepsi has decided to place those advertising dollars online. A 30 second Super Bowl spot will set you back $3 million, a bit less than the price of a banner ad on this site (hey Pepsi, what a deal! Call me.). 

• The Detroit Media Partnership get e-reader fever, signing a deal to appear on Amazon's Kindle device. Readers will be charged $6.99 a month for access to the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.  Both newspapers are also working with Plastic Logic to develop a new edition of their newspapers in a different format.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update: Esquire issue now online

This is a quick follow-up to my content story here: you can now find the Esquire issue shown in the demo in the iTunes store (iTunes link).   Maybe iTunes links will become my version cat blogging.  In the spirit of holiday cheer here's another.

Consequences of the deal gone bad: GM to wind down Saab; Nielsen to wind down E&P

I couldn't help but think of Editor & Publisher this morning when I heard the news about Saab: GM was to begin shutting down operations at the Swedish carmaker according to the reports, and it all sounded very much like what is going on today at Nielsen.

In both cases, there was hope that a deal with a new owner was in the works. In the case of GM, a deal with Spyker Cars could not be completed; in the case of Nielsen, the final deal with e5 Global Media Holdings LLC did not include either E&P nor Kirkus Reviews.

I'm sure that both owners had already envisioned life without their properties, so that when the deals could not be completed they went to Plan B -- a shutdown. I'm also quite sure that both GM and Nielsen are still open to some sort of last minute deal that would either sell off the brands completely, or at least sell off the assets and brand.

The next week or two will reveal whether either brand will survive intact.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

IAB revises "Standard Terms and Conditions for Internet Advertising"

The IAB released a revised standards statement for Internet advertising today. The new document includes sections on non-disclosure and data usage, ad placement and positioning language as well as other language usually found in media and advertising contracts and schedules.

“Streamlining business processes in interactive has been one of our main objectives as an organization and with the contributions from both advertising agencies and media companies we believe that we have accomplished this goal,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB in a press release that can be found here.

Tailoring content for both web and mobile devices means new content, new service and new ideas

The fact that B2B publishers are suffering in today's economy more than any other medium should not be news -- it certainly is not for the publisher's themselves. But the decline and fall of newspapers, and now their trade magazine, gets most of the attention.

But as I mentioned in the third quarter advertising report story, both mediums are suffering at rates higher than others -- meaning that even in good times these mediums would be in decline.

Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that both formats have been the slowest to adapt to the Internet and to the new rules that govern electronic publishing. For years now writers such as Paul Conley have been complaining about what he sees on B2B web sites -- the lack of links, the lack of new content, etc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For some publishers "brother can you spare a dime" is the new sales pitch

Is charity a business model? One would get that impression reading some of the stories that have appeared today.

There seems to be a common theme in some of today's media stories: Media Matters . . . raised roughly $10 million in 2009; this quote contained in a Times story on tablet readers "We all kind of regret that our ancestors gave away the magazine for too little money,” Mr. Granger said; and finally this one Herald to Online Users: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Paper taking donations for Web content (believe it or not, I wrote my headline before seeing that one). had a very good interview with Michael Schudson yesterday concerning the future of journalism. His views seem very well reasoned, especially his optimism concerning New Media. Mr. Schudson also voiced some thoughts about what would support the new journalism -- philanthropy and government were mentioned, though I doubt he thought they would be the exclusive sources of support. But really, is this a good model for publishers to pursue? or is this coming form a journalism perspective?

(Looking at the Voice of San Diego site what grabs your attention? For me, it is the "Donate Now" button as well as the About Us page where the staff includes a Director of Development, in charge of fundraising, and a Corporate Sponsorship Coordinator -- but no Advertising Director.)

The good news is that I believe most major publishers have moved beyond free, and are now ready to admit that they must again start driving revenue -- the days of cut-cut-cut may not be over as many owners still have not learned that this is a dead-end solution -- but creating new revenue channels is a must if they are to have a sustainable (if I may borrow that word) business.

The question is where will this new money come from? Advertising? Subscriptions? Apps? Devices? The answer remains all of them as publishers continue to experiment.

The New Year, though, will provide many answers as the market gets hit with new media readers, apps and . . . pleas for charitable contributions.

E-newsletter advice from an interesting source

Almost spilled my coffee this morning: just to the left of the story Jamie Jungers: Tiger Woods And I Had Sex The Night His Father Died and below the story Tara Reid's Playboy Cover Photo  (sorry, no links) I found some advice on e-newsletters from George Weiner: R.I.P. E-mail Newsletters: 7 Ways to Pump Adrenalin Into Your List. He follows up this post with some more words here on the site where he is the CTO.

Next week will have a story on ways to use mobile media to do investigative journalism. Or not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Business Models

David Shedden is at it again. His latest compilation of links concerns business models -- well worth bookmarking. (His other pages under the Transformation Tracker title are great, as well. But this one is especially relevant to the topic of this site.)

WSJ and Facebook -- I'm trying to get used to the idea

The new Wall Street Journal:
"One wife told of receiving a child's toy dishwasher—she had asked for a real one—and immediately bursting into tears." WSJ's Facebook home page.

(It's a reference to this story.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paid content vs. Paid App.

Rupert Murdoch wants readers to pay for content; some say paying for something more tangible like an iPhone app is a better way to go -- actually, I've said that.

The Guardian, at least for now, is falling into the "app" side of the battle. They have introduced their own iPhone app that will cost the user $3.99 (iTunes link). The Guardian app gives you access to Guardian content, and is free of paid advertising (at least for now). For many, the lack of ads will justify the purchase price of the app; others may consider the app price a type of subscription.

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The Trade Press Problem: it's not the editor's fault

If I could summarize the reason this blog exists I would do so as follows: this site is designed for the business side of the new publishing world, those executives, publishers and ad execs who struggle every day to find solutions to the problems of modern publishing.

In others words, we love you journalists, but there are plenty of other sites catering to reporters, editors, freelancers and others on the writing side of the business.

While trying to decide what to write about this morning I found this finely written column by Alan Webber on the Folio: web site. I read it . . . twice . . . and could find very little to disagree with.  But it was targeted to the wrong audience.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• Reed Construction Data has thrown more charges at arch rival McGraw-Hill.  Earlier this year Reed closed most of its regional construction magazines.

• Google made three rather significant announcements during the past week or so that may have an effect on publishers in the New Media space.

• The sad news of the week was that Editor & Publisher was closing, of course. But the other part of the announcement was that eight of the ten brands that made up the Nielsen group have found a home with e5 Global Media LLC, a new company formed by private equity firm Pluribus Capital Management and financial services company Guggenheim Partners. The Hollywood Reporter's take on their new home was upbeat.

• The New York Times fourth quarter forecast is not exactly good news: Times print advertising is expected to decline 25%, though Internet advertising is expected to grow. I guess the good news is that this is an improvement on the over 31% decline the Times suffered in the third quarter.  The TMS Media report on third quarter media performance is here.

• In a week of downers, I guess the way to end this round-up is to point out the WSJ story on new forecasts for advertising growth in 2010.  ZenithOptimedia is now expecting a blowout year (snark alert) with growth of .9% versus their previous forecast of growth of .5%. Let's start to chill the Champagne.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What does it mean to be "profitable" today?

A TNM Editor & Publisher autopsy:

The announcement yesterday by Nielsen of the sale of The Hollywood Reporter and other books, and the closing of Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews are stark reminders of how brutal this business can be.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nielsen shutters Editor & Publisher (with updates)

As someone who spent their youth in the newspaper industry, this one hurts: 'Editor & Publisher' to Cease Publication After 125 Years.

According to E&P's editor, Greg Mitchell, employees will be around through the end of the year and will be updating the web site. But the print publication is closed immediately.  For my thoughts on this, follow me below the fold (with updates).

UStream brings video streaming to the iPhone

Trade publishers often ask more than is humanly possible from their editors -- editing more than one magazine; writing, editing and blogging; photography and design; podcasts and video podcasts -- now publishers can ask their editors to be broadcasters, as well. Good grief, is there still time to add this to the 2010 budget?

Here is one way to do it: give your editor a new iPhone and have then download the Ustream mobile app from the iTunes app store (iTunes link). They will be all set to begin broadcasting their publication's new online TV show.

The whole process took me five minutes from start to finish.

For now, at least, you have to watch the "broadcasts" on a station you create when you sign up for the service. You can also upload the videos to your YouTube page, or download the video as a Flash file for display on your web site. Each video is also given a direct URL for easy viewing.

Is all this practical? I don't know. You can, after all, use a video camera or phone for capturing video at a trade show or other event, encode as Flash or QuickTime, and host on your site now. Why do live video through a phone?  Maybe it's silly . . . but wait, someone will put this to good use and when I find a great example I'll write another post about it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ad declines continue in 3rd quarter; Internet advertising up a bit

TNS Media Intelligence released its number for the third quarter, and while the picture remains gloomy, Internet display advertising at least grew.

You can find the report here, but the highlights (or lowlights) are below the fold:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Google has made three announcements in the past three working days that could have an impact on publishers

On Friday Google announced it is expanding personalized search results based on an individual's search history. While the change is somewhat of a commonsense evolution of the search engine, some fear the consequences could lead to less diversity in search results.

The first impact would be that SEO would harder to achieve. The second impact might be that the results are skewed towards larger companies. In a PC World post by Tony Bradley, Andreas Pouros, chief operating officer at Greenlight, said that "small businesses that aren't as well known as the bigger brands won't be clicked on as much and won't then get the opportunity to appear in results in future searches." I'm not sure this isn't already happening anyway.

Major publishers formally announce digital consortium

Can the magazine publishing industry be led from the wilderness by the big guys or is this new effort simply an attempt to keep the "leaders" in front, and to keep others out?

That is one of the questions on my mind when reviewing today's announcement by the new publishing consortium announced by News Corp., and Hearst.  If you didn't read the announcement here it is with an excerpt below the fold:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Apple's iTunes app store for the iPhone and opportunities for trade publishers

I plan on talking about the iTunes app store more in detail later, but for now here is a lengthy story from the New York Times on the subject. There is no mention of publishers using the store which is strange since the New York Times app (iTunes link) is very popular.

UPDATE 12/9: MarketWatch reports that an analyst for Oppenheimer,  Yair Reiner, has said (leaked) that Apple will be producing tablets in February for a possible March or April product launch.  It's interesting that on Friday Skiff, the Hearst backed platform, made its initial announcement; then yesterday the consortium announcement. Seems that things are heating up in the e-reader world. (And yes, I don't exactly trust these analysts either.)

AOL: the second time around

This week AOL becomes an independent company again and few old media outlets share their opinions on the matter:

WSJ: "...AOL, which is poised to reemerge as an independent entity later this week, albeit in an online world that has passed it by."

AP: "Marriage of old and new media is ending in divorce."

The Hollywood Reporter: "Time Warner is set to spin off AOL this week in a move that finally will undo the much-maligned AOL-TW merger."

Canadian Press has the most interesting take on this:
AOL also is trying to produce online material far more cheaply. It plans to launch dozens of new sites next year and populate much of them with work done by freelancers. These freelancers will be paid by the post - some with a flat rate, some with a share of revenue based on the amount of traffic the post generates.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jobs, jobs, jobs

For some reason media people never want to talk about the elimination of media jobs in economic terms. It is never the fault of the economy, it seems, but of the media business itself.

It is true that the height of media employment (or at least newspaper and magazine employment) seems to have been around 2000 and has declined ever since. But it has really picked up starting in 2007, right around the time the economy started to tank. 

All that prelude is said because today's jobs report is certainly a glimmer of hope -- if not for the media business, at least for the American workforce, in general. Additionally, MediaBistro has a few decent editor positions posted today for some of you to check out. A trend? We can only hope, right?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tempest in a tea pot

I really hate these kinds of stories. The headline promises something of substance -- New White House pool rotate sparks debate -- something traditional and new media pros can debate, but then the whole thing falls away -- a big mess of innuendo and conjecture.

Time previews Sports Illustrated tablet magazine

If you follow MacRumors you know that there has been a lot of discussion about both a new tablet product from Apple, as well as its possible impact on the magazine world.

Now Time has posted a video on YouTube that demonstrates the new Sports Illustrated as seen on a reader:

This is certainly a major step ahead of the traditional "flipbook" solution. What I see, however, is not a magazine solution for the web, but a new way to do web publishing (or at least, tablet/reader publishing).

Magazines and newspapers are dying, right? So the thought is that we need a magic pill that will "save our magazine/newspaper", and that pill will most likely result in some sort of new product -- a tablet/reader version of the magazine, a new web product of some kind.

This is all great. I agree that creating new products for the web or for a reader is a great idea. But that is not the same as saving the magazine -- that is saving jobs, creating a new ancillary product, a new revenue stream. But if the print magazine folds, it folds. There is, in my opinion, no such thing as "going web only". If the magazine folds and a new web presence emerges what you have done is kill one product and create a new one (and to repeat, there is nothing wrong with that). That brings us back to the kinds of arguments that Paul Conley has been making: are print editors really what you need when you create new web products.

OK, so what about tablet readers? and what about what Apple is doing in this area? More to come, for sure.

To read more about Time's prototype, read Peter Kafka's take on this on the All Things Digital page.