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?

Newsstand Reality vs. Publishing Design

Two very fun things turned up in this week’s hard slog through the marshlands of galley preparation and budgeting: My recently ordered “Cover Junkie” arrived via FedEx, and the good folks at MagNet released an e-blast listing the top performing covers on the newsstand in 2011 based on the actual sales data they collected through the year.

Cover Junkie is the brainchild web site and social media project of Netherlands based magazine art director Jaap Biemans. His website is a drool worthy time killing collection of some of the most interesting, beautiful, jaw dropping, and “What the heck(!) were they thinking” magazine covers. The Facebook page is a daily shout out to the best cover of the day. Their Twitter feed is a lively day long journey through the world of magazine design.

If you’re on these two social media sites, save them in your favorites and start interacting. You’ll learn more than you could imagine. If you’re not on social media while working in this industry and you don’t think it’s time well spent, learning and sharing, well, I can’t help you.

From a US based newsstand sales and marketing guys perspective, the Cover Junkie Magazine is a personal hand held extension of the revelation that the site has been. Holy smokes – is my perspective on print magazine design narrow and provincial.

File this under "Drool Worthy"

Some of our great publications are mentioned like Wired, The New Yorker, Esquire.  But have you ever heard of Germany’s “Zeit Magazine”? Italy’s, “Internazionale”? For that matter, how many American publisher’s are aware of our own homegrown “Vice Magazine”? Had you ever heard of “Adbusters” before the Occupy Wall Street movement got started (Actually, those last two I had heard of, but only because of Cover Junkie.)?

In contrast, MagNet, the single copy sales data collectors, published “The Most Effective Covers of 2011“. MagNet points out that from a single copy sales perspective, the most effective covers are the ones that sell the most copies. Believe it or not, this is a fact that often seems to escape notice in many publishing offices.

Two interesting streams of thought stand out in MagNet’s reveal:

1. Many of the best selling issues were specials and one-shots. These are what the Dead Tree Edition referred to as “Zombies”.  Leading the pack was National Geographic’s Wildlife Photography special with unit sales +300% higher than any other National Geographic title.

2. Not surprisingly, all the best cover advice in the universe will not guarantee a great unit sale or sell through at the newsstand. The list the Foredeck put forward last month was completely biased, highly subjective and unscientific.

Why did I do that?

Because when it comes to newsstand sales, once the copies are printed, shipped and the retailers invoiced, there’s absolutely no control for things like:

  • The national economy
  • The local economy
  • If your national distributor properly billed the title (A problem that usually only pops up when the publisher changes something at press and fails to inform the distributor)
  • If your local wholesalers properly bill the title (See above)
  • If you properly printed your UPC code on the cover (No, I’m not kidding)
  • When local wholesalers make their deliveries
  • If the local merchandisers give you a favorable or unfavorable display
  • If there’s something in the magazine that will cause a national retailer to pull your magazine from the shelves (Anyone out there remember the original Sassy Magazine?)
  • If a national retailer suddenly drops you from their authorized list just before you go on sale

This list could go longer, but I’ll spare you the agony.

So save Cover Junkie to your favorites and start looking at things with yet another new perspective. And while you’re at it, keep in mind that design is important, and so is the sale that will put money into your pocket and keep your magazine flying. That means your readers will want more.

Isn’t that why we publish?