Kate and Prince William Vs. The Hackers

This was just too good to pass up. Either the magazine merchandiser at this Barnes & Noble has the wickedest sense of humor or: they’re really amazingly lucky.

As seen today, may I present the award for the “Funniest Merchandising Juxtaposition of the Day to:  Blue Water Production’s “The Royals” comic book vs. 2600:The Hacker Quarterly.

Who will sell more? Kate and her Prince or the hackers of 2600 Mag?

What I Believe (FWIW)

Sometime in the past month, I passed two years of posting thoughts, facts, and links to articles on Twitter. The experience has been revelatory in that I have learned much from the people I follow. Learning the discipline of posting to Twitter has helped me focus on the publishing business and stay on track with other tasks.

In a month or two, I will pass one year posting to this blog and two years since I left the corporate world to go and work for myself again.

This week, a new client asked me to introduce myself, via a presentation, to his senior management team. He asked me write up an introduction that would state who I was, what I believe about my end of the publishing industry, and where I think it’s all going.

In lieu of anything earth shattering report on, I thought I would share it with you:

Since 1988, I have provided single copy sales consulting services for a wide variety of magazine publishers. These companies have ranged in size from small regional sports publishers to Ziff-Davis Communications, Fox Sports and the former Emap-USA.

The one constant in this business, from the day I entered it as a newly minted professional to the moment that I put these words into an electronic file is: change. Throughout all of this time, people have wanted magazines. Publishers have strived to produce them for their readers, and retailers and distributors have tried (often successfully, sometimes in spite of themselves), to make them available to the public.

Will all of this business go up in a blaze of e-ink, Flipboard and Facebook? Maybe. But certainly not tomorrow. The beauty of a magazine is it’s durability, it’s ubiquity, and it’s simplicity. No owners manual is needed. No need to fear a power surge or a low battery alert. If you drop it in the pool or bathtub or it get’s stolen from the beach, your loss is a few dollars, not a few hundred dollars. If people didn’t want to be magazine publishers, then no one would call me saying they wanted to publish magazines. If publishers didn’t want to produce magazines then why would Samir Husni and MediaFinder vie to count the number of new title launches each quarter?

Where will this business be in two years? Five years? Ten years? I don’t entirely trust the prognostications of many of the consulting firms daily e-blasts that flood our in boxes every morning. They have services to sell and someone paid them for their research. We do know that people are snapping up e-books and digital readers and tablets. But people are also still buying print books. And the book market is very different from the magazine market.

I firmly believe that a savvy consumer magazine publisher working in today’s environment will offer the reader both a digital and print experience. I believe that in order to thrive in this market, you must have a promotional plan that complements both offerings and encourages the reader to participate in both experiences. Paper only will not work. Digital only leaves money on the table.

What do you believe?

Rachael Ray Gets It – And Then Gets Lost

As a guy, I don’t think I’m supposed to like Rachael Ray. I think I’m supposed to be annoyed with her energy, her perkiness, her upbeat style. At least, that’s what the snarky gossip blogs say.

Truth be told, I’ve admired her since I first saw her on what I think was a Travel Channel special where she toured the streets of Boston, ate food from Fenway Park, and visited with my hero, Luis Tiant in his restaurant.

So it was no surprise to me when it was announced in 2005 that she was teaming up to launch a magazine based on her popular TV series. It was thrilling to learn that it was a circulation and advertising hit. She had the right demographic, the timing was right, and while I’m in the wrong demographic, I had to admit that the magazine was well done.

Two years ago, The Food Network Magazine was launched and it stole Rachel’s thunder. That happens. But what happened next is encouraging.

This month, the May issue of “Every Day With Rachael Ray” is being relaunched.  According to Folio Magazine and AdWeek, the magazine has been completely rethought. There are now four distinct sections to the magazine, added offerings on the web site, more informal graphics that look like handwriting, and more attention to detail in the food shots.

Our industry needs magazines like these. Ones that are based on name celebrities. But, these are celebrities who are approachable and likable. Moreover, we need magazines that aren’t afraid to take a long hard look at themselves, understand why their circulation and advertising revenue is declining, and then make adjustments so they can remain viable.

I have to say that as a member of the single copy side of the industry,  I was thrilled to find over the weekend that the relaunch effort spilled onto the newsstand with a special display and $1.00 off promotion in a local supermarket. The dump display looked well designed and I absolutely loved the new cover of the May issue (see below):

Winning!

But, then, in typical fashion for our industry, a second look revealed that the display was located in – yep – a dead aisle.

Or maybe not so much...

To be fair, there wasn’t a crate of strawberries or cookies in front of the display. And, the display was very visible from main aisle. So let’s hope that there were a lot of these dumps located in stores around the country and that readers respond enthusiastically to the new redesign of this title.

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