Thanksgiving Potpourri

So what am I grateful for this year? You mean aside from being gainfully employed and working in an industry that continues to fascinate, infuriate and confound on a regular basis? Yes, there are things to be grateful for. Here are a few of them:

MagNet Reports: I’m grateful that buried about halfway down last week’s third quarter news dump was this interesting tidbit: While everyone knew that Source Interlink’s ungraceful exit from the newsstand biz was a sales killer, same store sales looked pretty good. In other words, sales in retailers that weren’t Source supplied and didn’t have their deliveries interrupted were, well, not bad.

Data reported to MagNet suggests that retail sales in retailers unaffected by Source saw their dollar volume rise (in part because of price increases in celebrity weeklies. Unit sales, for the months of August and September declined by 6.5% (a significantly better picture than the entire market and entire 3rd quarter which was down by 26%) but dollar volume rose .75%.

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I can tell you from my own experience that I am seeing stronger sales in both units and dollars since this summer and I am projecting much better 3rd and 4th quarter results for most of my clients.

Strong Covers: I don’t know about you, but I am seeing some great covers this year. It’s going to be very hard on the foredeck to select this year’s top ten! I’m grateful that we continue to turn out some pretty tremendously great magazines. While our industry has struggled from declining circulation and ad revenue, we haven’t experienced a creative brain drain on the editorial and design side.

Should DuJour's two tone high gloss logo from their Fall issue make the list?
Should DuJour’s two tone high gloss logo from their Fall issue make the list?

Maybe our leaders should start pumping some revenue back into circulation and marketing? Maybe we could budge the numbers upwards with a little support?

Honest reckoning in the world of digital circulation: I have to confess that when I hopped into the world of digital newsstand and subscriptions, I thought the world would be much like the one I inhabited and I also thought sourcing and maintaining these readers would be a snap. Maybe I’d have to eat some crow and admit the fanboys were right.

Nope.  Not so much. Digital circulation has its own rules, its own weirdness, and is not that easy. Obscure provider service, buggy apps. Price sensitivity. Building what is essentially an entirely new business model on the fly is, well, wicked hard.

I’m grateful that maybe, just maybe, we can finally have an honest discussion about how digital and print circulation can coexist and support each other in the long term goal of growing a magazines’ readership. Because that’s our ultimate goal, right?

Taylor Swift: No! I’m not a creepy internet stalker. And I don’t turn her music off when it pops up on the radio. And I don’t roll my eyes when the spin instructor starts off another week with a T. Swift single.

Taylor was on three magazine covers (that I’m aware of) last week. That’s probably not a record but it’s bound to help sales and that’s always a good thing considering how many other covers she’s graced this year.

With that in mind, I’ll be putting out my top ten unscientifically chosen covers next month and I want to know if I you loyal readers think there should be a special Taylor Swift category.  I already took an informal survey of some of the national distributor AE’s I work with asked them this question:

“Should the Foredeck of the Titanic have a special award for 2014 Taylor Swift covers?”

And the answer was:

So what do you think?
So what do you think?

Chime in with your answers below.

So what are you grateful for this year?

I Know It’s Around Here, Somewhere

A long lost publisher client recently contacted me. He’s in a different somewhat more lucrative end of the publishing business these days and he asked for assistance in compiling a list of magazine publishers in several different categories.

After I began the research I was at first intrigued to discover that there was no really solid comprehensive list of these types of titles. There were a lot of lists, but they were all very different. The upside of that discovery? Damn! We’re a really diverse industry!

Then I began visiting publisher web sites and looking for subscription information, advertising information, the corporate name, details on management and…

A quick short term project turned into a hard slog and plod through a wide variety of web site designs. Some sites made it immediately obvious that they were the publisher of a magazine. Others seemed to want to hide that fact. Are they embarrased that they have a print product in the 21st century?

But was fascinating about the whole project was how anti “mercantile” many of these sites were. Aren’t we in the business of selling information to readers as a service?

So I have to ask:

You want your potential paying reading customer to fill out a long form of personal information before you even tell him how much your going to charge him for a subscription?

Or even better, you’re going to hide the button to subscribe to the magazine at the very bottom of the page in teeny tiny little type?

Or your page is so full of flickering images and tabs that no one with the exception of a hard core gamer could figure out what exactly you provide as a service?

Or your page is so devoid of anything that the casual passer by would presume that you’re a long abandoned web site from the old AOL dial-up era?

Or should an advertiser decide that he wants to be in your magazine  you’ll hide the advertising information button at the bottom of the page next to the teeny tiny little subscribe button?

Or, you don’t make your media kit readily available?

Or you do have a media kit, but it’s out of date?

Or it’s full of bunkum and hokum (OK, really obvious bunkum and hokum)?

Or you don’t have any sort of contact information. What? You don’t want to hear from your readers? Isn’t this the 21st century where all communication is is free flowing and on all the time?

So with all of that in mind, this Friday’s information dump and pie chart gives an approximate breakdown on where I found all of the information that I was looking for.

Because it’s Friday, and who doesn’t like pie?

Where Magazine Publishers Hide Subscription and Contact Information on Their Websites.
Where Magazine Publishers Hide Subscription and Contact Information on Their Websites.

Halloween: Magazines And Candy

As a small child, there were two things I loved most about Halloween. The first thing of course, was the candy. There was a lot of candy. It was mine and I did not have to share it with my siblings or my parents. The second was the realization that Thanksgiving was right around the corner. As far as I was concerned, Thanksgiving was the greatest holiday ever.

For many years our house was incredibly popular with the Trick or Treaters. The reason was simple: We gave out comic books. As mentioned in other posts, my dad was the manager of a magazine, book and newspaper wholesaler and as such, my family had very easy access to almost any sort of reading material available. We got to see bestsellers before they were bestsellers and premier issues of magazines before they hit the stands. In our house, if you wanted some fresh reading material you checked the stairs to the second floor after Dad came home from the warehouse.

Of course, none of them had covers, but that was the price we paid for early access.

Comic books were another story. The company didn’t have to return covers of unsold comics so he often brought home a few boxes to hand out on Halloween. We no doubt heard complaints of “But I wanted Batman!” or, “My sister doesn’t read Spiderman!” and I’m guessing a lot of trades happened further down the street.

Source: Jacketflap.com
Source: Jacketflap.com

I still love Halloween even though our kids are too old for it now and we no longer know most of the kids in the neighborhood. But I love handing out the candy, seeing all the costumes, and waving to the parents. I really love seeing the change in the neighborhood.

A few months ago, I began to work with a childrens’ publisher and as I do with all clients, I asked to be put on their comp list for two copies of each issue of each magazine they publish. So you can imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, a large heavy box was tossed onto our porch by the local UPS guy. I opened it to discover 50 copies of the latest issue of the publishers’ SIP.

This does happen sometimes and when it does, the magazines either get donated or make their way to the recycling bin. But this year, with Halloween so close, I thought I’d take a page from my childhood and see what the response from the kids was.

You know. Kids. The ones who supposedly spend their lives in front of screens. The ones on You Tube who are recorded trying to tap the page of the paper magazine and are frustrated when nothing happens. You know, todays kids don’t read.

We still gave out a lot of candy last Friday. Our neighborhood borders a very popular park and a busy street so even in bad weather (which we had in spades), we got a lot of traffic.

So how did these pre-screenagers respond when I said, “Hold on, I’ve got one more thing for you?”

Every single girl under the age of 10 was thrilled to get the magazine. About half of them recognized the title and were very happy to get this along with their pick of candy.

About a quarter of the boys under 10 said, “No, thanks” to the offer of the magazine. I’d estimate that about 25% of those who refused were way too focused on the candy selection and getting off the porch as fast as they could so they could get on to the next house. I’m guessing, but have no proof, that the rest of the boys were serious gamers. They just had that gamer look to them.

So, is this a scientific survey? Of course not.

Does this reinforce the idea that people like free stuff and the magazines were just the topping to free candy? Well, as the kids say, “Duh!”

But it does tell me that at least within my own community, children and pre-teens still recognize magazines and are willing to accept them. This was a great example of a value add, I think.

If this were more of a real world test, I would have loved to have handed out significantly more of them in more neighborhoods and had a unique sub insert card to track any post Halloween sign ups. Maybe there could have been a special url for the parents to go to.

So that must mean that next year I’ll need even more (and better candy) and a lot more boxes.

 

 

 

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