Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

06/24/2013

Publishing: Going Digital-Only is Like Ripping Off a Band-Aid :(


Ripping off the band-aid can make an owie

OUCH! You know that’s the reaction when you rip off a long-in-place band-aid. Well, that emotional reaction applies in publishing — especially in repetitive, fast-paced, rapid-fire publishing like weekly or monthly magazines — when they make the big strategic decision to drop print altogether and go totally digital.

It’s scary! But, many are being driven to this decision due to the declining print ad revenue. AND, more than this, the advertisers/investors are demanding more ROI (return on investment) metrics. You can ONLY get this kind of reader-tracking analytics and metrics through digitally informed processes that drill down and tell advertisers such things as who read the ads, what they liked, what they bought, when they bought, the last time they bought, when they made love last (ha, a little humor), etc.

“Going digital-only is fraught with a variety of strategic leaps of faith, but when the dust settles a more efficient model can emerge that’s free of print legacy encumbrances.” – Bill Mickey, Editor FOLIO: Magazine.

Digital-only is probably more appropriate for only some types of magazines; like academic journals, educational and scientific mags, etc. Why? These magazines’ audiences are more advanced in the digital world and that’s the world  they work, read and play more and more.

More from Bill Mickey in this article for FOLIO: magazine:

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

Behind 1105 Media’s decision to take the Education Group digital-only

When a print magazine transitions to digital-only, the idea that it’s a knee-jerk, last-ditch effort to keep a dying brand alive is not unique to media industry navel-gazers. A brand’s audience can smell it a mile away, too. However, there are many times when this strategy makes sense, and even renews a formerly print-focused brand with a host of new opportunities—provided its owners can pull the trigger on some tough strategic decisions along the way.

At 1105 Media, the Education Group, which consists of two main brands T.H.E. Journal and Campus Technology, went all-digital in August 2012. Prior to that decision, the group was publishing the two print, monthly qualified-circulation magazines serving technology professionals in the K-12 and higher education markets. Both had long histories in print—T.H.E. Journal launched in 1972 by the father of its current publisher Wendy LaDuke and Campus Technology had been in print as a magazine for over twenty years, and a print newsletter before that.

But the decision to put that print legacy behind them was triggered by a confluence of what’s become a common pairing of market forces: A decline in print advertising and a rise in advertiser demand for digitally-informed ROI metrics.

Data Accountability
“We made the decision to go digital in part because that’s where our readership lives (they are technology advocates and decision-makers within their work spheres) and in part because print advertising—at least in our market—is clearly a dying animal,” says Therese Mageau, the education group’s editorial director. “Advertisers are looking at ROI and asking for evidence of effectiveness—you can’t give them that with print. The truth is, we could do all the reader surveys we wanted, but we didn’t really know [specifically] who was reading our magazines and if any of them were actually looking at the ads.”

Nevertheless, when the group decided to, as Mageau put it, rip the band-aid off last summer, it immediately began recognizing benefits in production, audience make-up and engagement metrics. There were, however, challenges introduced that still heckle the ongoing strategy.

But even before that, market indicators were trending toward an advertising community that was looking for more ROI data on marketing spend—data that display advertising in print couldn’t support.

“For a while now, from the advertisers point of view, it’s become increasingly challenging for them to prove any kind of ROI on advertising,” says LaDuke. “Since marketers are under so much pressure to show a good return on their marketing spending, it was becoming very problematic to provide that from a print perspective.”

The Writing is on the Wall
At that point, the Education Group decided that rather than continue to try to protect print from what they viewed as a gradual but unavoidable long-term decline, they would go after what their market was telling them it wanted.

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03/21/2013

Digital Content Models – Become Instant, Multimedia Publishers Across All Platforms


Publish Everywhere Lickety-Split!!!

Damn! The last two years have wrought tremendous advances in digital publishing. How about a model that “seamlessly integrates text, audio, video, and interactive elements into ebooks, digital magazines, and other publications, and then effortlessly publishes into an iPad or iPhone app, for Kindle and Nook e-readers, and for Web browsers (in HTML5).”

The ultimate creation platform for the digital, mobile age. I guess so!

And just who developed this digital content publishing model dripping with super powers? – A company called Atavist, that’s who. And we will be jawing and giving out informative links about them and peripherals tonight.

Briefly, “Atavist is a media and software company at the forefront of digital, mobile publishing. Our mission is to enable the next generation of multimedia storytelling, reaching readers across mobile devices and the Web.”

Bill Mickey, Editor of FOLIO magazine, elicits great info in this interview with Atavist co-founder, Evan Ratliff:

Atavist Co-Founder Evan Ratliff On Digital Content Models

From long-form to subscriptions, there’s something for everyone.

One of the more dramatic turnarounds when considering online and digital content is long-form journalism. Once considered anathema to online publishing, not to mention mobile, only a couple years ago, it’s now considered an opportunity on multiple levels—from ebooks to tablets to interactive web features.

The Atavist
, founded by Evan Ratliff, Jefferson Rabb and Nicholas Thompson, was launched in early 2011 to tap the burgeoning long-form digital content market for mobile and web publishing. Here, Ratliff [pictured], who will be a speaker at FOLIO: and min’s MediaMashup summit on April 16 at the Grand Hyatt in New York, shares some of his insights on digital content production, the emerging models and how traditional publishers can participate.

FOLIO: What are some of the trends you’re seeing in longer-form content production in digital formats—online and mobile/tablet?

Evan Ratliff: It’s remarkable how things have changed just over the past two or three years. When we started, the idea that people wanted to read longform online was assumed to be dubious, if not ludicrous. Really, someone is going to sit at a computer and read a 5,000 word story? Almost no major outlets were doing digitally-original longform work. But the trend in the opposite direction started with the Kindle, accelerated with the iPad, then really took off with read-it-later services like Instapaper, Pocket and best-of selections like Longform. Now that you could read something in your hands, it changed the perspective on whether anyone would read something longer than a couple paragraphs, digitally.

But that’s all old news, at this point. What’s happening now is what we’d hoped would happen when we started in 2009: People aren’t just publishing longform online, they are designing for it. Whether it’s us, or the Verge (really, Vox Media in general), or Pitchfork, there are now a growing number of publications really thinking about how to make longform reading a different kind of experience online. Even more encouraging, major media outlets like the New York Times are following in the wake of the smaller ones, utilizing a lot of those ideas and putting serious resources behind executing their versions of them.

FOLIO: What are some of the more interesting content models you’re seeing coming out of the Atavist platform (from you and/or your customers)? How exactly are the boundaries of multimedia storytelling being pushed?

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06/12/2012

How Targeted Acquisitions are Changing the Magazine Publishing Model


Targeted Acquisitions Changing Publishing Model

Giant publishers such as Hearst and Meredith are foregoing expansion by building in-house tangential departments (such as digital, mobile and marketing services) from the ground up and are, instead, target purchasing already established peripheral companies with the needed expertise.

They are doing so to play catch up with a marketplace that is moving faster than organic growth can keep pace with.

Who is buying who and what, when, and for what purpose and at what cost, and what’s exactly behind the deals is detailed by Bill Mickey, Editor of FOLIO magazine:

The Acquired

How big publishers like Meredith and Hearst are expanding operations, hedging against print advertising and transforming the traditional publishing model through targeted acquisitions.

Acquisitions allow companies to make rapid changes to their corporate structure and are often a way to play catch-up with a marketplace that’s moving faster than organic growth can keep up. The call for diversification has been going on quite a while now and it’s no big secret that print advertising, by itself, is incapable of the scale publishers need to survive. Accordingly, publishers have been acquiring companies with surgical precision that allow them to quickly enter a market that’s tangential to magazine publishing, but far enough outside their wheelhouse to be considered nontraditional—digital, mobile, marketing services, for example. And as these acquisitions are being made, the model of magazine publishing itself is being changed. And we wanted to look at how these deals not only change the buyer, but the seller too, and what this means for an industry that once only had one thing to do: Print magazines.

Two companies have historically been singled out for making key acquisitions that have, along with continuing to build out and expand their core media expertise, quickly given them significant market share in marketing spending outside of print—Meredith and Hearst. Here, we dive into their key acquisitions to see how the companies have changed as a result, the value that’s being created, and how the companies they acquired have also changed.

The Shift From Offline to Online

Nothing has inspired the necessity to chase nontraditional deals than the rapid shift of marketing dollars from print to digital channels. And now, even digital has fractured into social, mobile and search marketing spending, to name a few. Meredith was one publisher that recognized this relatively early and in the last 5 years has spent roughly $110 million on six companies to form its Meredith Xcelerated Marketing Group (MXM).

The group is kind of like an in-house advertising and marketing agency that allows Meredith to offer marketing services way beyond what its core media brands can offer by themselves. Yet having those media brands in close proximity to these new services allows for tremendous leverage and scale for the acquired companies as well.

Meredith had been offering “custom publishing” services to the tune of $75 million in annual revenue for 35 years before MXM, but the market was quickly changing in ways that print-centered custom solutions could no longer support. It was time to start buying, and fast.

“It became clear to us that the marketing dollars would start moving from offline to online,” says John Zieser, chief development officer and general counsel for Meredith Corporation. “We knew we needed these competencies and it was better to acquire them for a few key reasons: We needed them, the market was moving quickly, we had to get to market. In our minds it was better to buy businesses that had a track record of serving clients.”

Bootstrapping Is Too Slow

With the market changing so quickly and with huge accounts in the balance, Zieser and the rest of the executive team weighed the risks of a bootstrapping, entrepreneurial approach versus buying established expertise with an existing track record. “It’s really about how do you focus on delivering these competencies to our clients in a top-quality way?” he says. “If you find the right target, that’s a much more intelligent approach in our world, which is moving quickly. To me, as a corporate executive, it’s a lot less risky approach than trying to start something from scratch and putting it front of a Nestlé or Kraft and hoping it all works.”


Impacting the Traditional Model

While MXM operates as its own group, now making about $300 million in annual revenues (a far cry from Meredith’s custom publishing days), it has also had an impact on Meredith’s National Media group as well. The various companies that make up MXM now have a deep well of mass media-branded content to draw from and support their marketing services, and Meredith’s brands benefit from having a cutting-edge agency within arm’s reach. “Having cutting-edge marketing services is very useful—we often have National Media people sit in with pitches. We’ve also developed a profile of a company that is much more attractive to our clients than if we were to just stay in our traditional publishing role, there’s a halo effect as a result of these development activities,” says Zieser.

A unit within the National Media group, called Meredith 360, made up of executives attached to the big, national clients, also meets regularly with MXM and keeps them apprised on the strategic needs of the larger accounts. “It’s a useful pipeline to understand what our clients are looking for outside of traditional advertising,” adds Zieser.

Now, integrated marketing programs can run $1 million to $2 million per discipline (mobile, digital, social, etc.), but can run upwards of $10 million for a 12-month program across them all, some much higher.

Treading Lightly

In forming MXM, Meredith had a tight line to walk as each company was gradually integrated into the group and the company as a whole. In all cases, Meredith acquired entrepreneurial-run operations that were on the verge of stepping up to the next level and needed a bigger partner to make that happen. The owners didn’t want to totally liquidate and exit, and most of the deals were built on three-year earn-out models to keep the primary shareholders motivated and incentivized.

Nevertheless, the acquired brands had standalone value, and integrating them into the mothership too quickly could dilute that value. “We were very careful. These businesses are people businesses that have intellectual property—it’s human capital and expertise in that particular discipline. We were very careful about not integrating those businesses too quickly and not jeopardizing what made them special. But we were integrated from a revenue perspective very quickly,” says Zieser.

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05/20/2012

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants


Measuring Emotional Response To Media Platforms

Time Inc. has performed a study (a biometric study, no less) that measured, in real time, the emotional responses and attention spans of viewers to content in various platforms: magazines, smartphones, radio, TV, computer, newspaper, tablets.

Guess which platform ranked the highest ?

But first, a little definition time:

Digital Native – Consumers who grew up with mobile and digital technology as part of their everyday lives.

Digital Immigrant – Consumers who encountered and used digital media later in their adult lives.

Biometrics – The process by which a person’s unique physical or emotional traits are detected and recorded by an electronic device or system (e.g. scanning of the human iris in identification or measuring degrees of emotional responses). 

Understanding the results of the viewing patterns, attention spans (and what can hold them) and emotional responses to media content experienced over different platforms can be valuable in successful publishing — Both for ad sponsored, recurring content media AND, by extension, for writing, marketing and selling books.

More detailed analysis by Bill Mickey of Folio magazine’s Audience Development Spring 2012 Report:  

Time Inc. Measures Consumers’ Emotional Response to Media

‘Digital natives’ switch media 27 times per hour, but emotionally tied to mags.

If publishers think they’ve been covering the bases with an anytime, anywhere content strategy, they might be shocked to learn the results of a recent Time Inc. study conducted with Innerscope Research. Digital Natives, defined as consumers who grew up with mobile and digital technology as part of their everyday lives, switch their attention between media platforms an astonishing 27 times per hour.

That was one of the key findings of the study, called “A Biometric Day in the Life,” which used biometric monitoring and point-of-view camera glasses to follow the media habits of 30 individuals during 300 hours’ worth of media consumption. Biometric belts measured their emotional responses to various media platforms and the glasses recorded what platform they were viewing.

The other half of the study group consisted of Digital Immigrants, people who encountered and used digital media in their adult lives, who, predictably, have a more mellow media consumption patterns.

“Technology is shaping so much of how people think about media, use media, combine media,” say Besty Frank, Time Inc.’s chief research and insights officer. “We’ve started to think about all of these changes in the media specifically as they impact the notion of storytelling. We felt that the biometrics would add a new dimension to what we knew about how people use media and what the implications are for how we run our businesses and how we and our clients communicate with consumers.”

The study was particularly interesting, adds Barry Martin, Time Inc.’s executive director of consumer research and insights, because of the ability to record a subject’s emotions as they consumed their media. “We’ve done a lot of biometric work in media labs, but we’ve never been able to do it as they were going about their daily lives,” he says.

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05/15/2012

Magazine Publishing: E-Media Revenue is Slow (Let’s Peek Inside the Numbers)


Magazine Revenue Sources

I post news on the entire publishing industry and remind readers occasionally of just what the whole publishing industry consists of 🙂 

Wikipedia gives about the best concise definition of Publishing:

‘Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copyediting, graphic design, production – printing (and its electronic equivalents), and marketing and distribution of newspapers, magazines, books, literary works, musical works, software and other works dealing with information, including the electronic media.’

Bill Mickey, Editor of Folio magazine (the magazine for magazine management) , discusses the results of Folio’s 2012 B2B CEO survey and says  “Hurry Up with That E-Media Revenue.”

Apparently, the survey reflected an industry still heavily dominated by print. Nothing wrong with that, but it worries the execs that the other platforms, such as digital, are not increasing their shares fast enough.

In other words, the ad revenue from the new tech media is not growing fast enough … at least, not as expected.

Mickey says their 2009 B2B CEO survey reflected e-media representing 12% of revenues for companies making < $5 million, and 13% for 2010. And in 2011, 13% again. For companies making > than $5 million, e-media accounted for 13% in 2009; 19% in 2010 and 17% in 2011. Not a very fast growth.

The one good thing is that print did remain steady during this same period.

As the focus continues on digital, and as mobile platforms mature, more dramatic upticks are expected in the other key revenue categories next year.

Believe me, the magazine publishing biz is doing quite well today compared to a few years ago!

Now, for some great analytical charts and graphs detailing more inside numbers of Folio’s 2012 B2B CEO survey jump here.

04/12/2012

Publishing’s Next Gold Strike: The Emerging App Market


Emerging World of Apps !

Tonight’s post is a bit technical, but, by reading it, maybe we can pick up some insight by osmosis.

First, some definitions to help clarify:

API – Stands for Application Program Interface. It is a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application or Web tool. A software company releases its API to the public so that other software developers can design products that are powered by its service — For example, Amazon.com released its API so that Web site developers could more easily access Amazon’s product information. Using the Amazon API, a third party Web site can post direct links to Amazon products with updated prices and an option to “buy now.” More detail and another example here.

HTML5 –  The latest and greatest programming language that is device-agnostic and can be used across all mobile formats/platforms. This is also important for ebook publishers to understand so when they want to publish to all mobiles with just one format they can find a service that employs HTML5. See “What exactly is HTML5?” for more accurate detail, I’m sure.

Apps are big business for the tablet and mobile platforms. They provide seamless progression to enhanced functionality for us users of all kind of digital services — such as digital publishing across all tablets and mobiles with just one format.

Magazine publishing leads the way in employing apps, but understanding there emerging use will also benefit all publishers including indie publishers 🙂

Bill Mickey, Editor of FOLIO magazine, explains it better than I ever could:

The APP Market: Models Are Emerging, But Which To Choose

As the tablet and mobile markets evolve, publishers consider their pricing and distribution options.

Read and learn more 

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