Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/30/2011

Digital Magazines – The 2011 Stats


The tablet age (along with some other mobiles) is only about a year old … But, there have been digital editions for over a decade (and I didn’t realize that!). At any rate, the blossoming digital publishing age did come along at a time when print mags were sliding. And from all indications digital editions have revived the magazine industry … even pumping up their print sisters in some cases 🙂

Now, let’s get into some business performance numbers for 2011 RE this rather new industry … provided by Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor of FOLIO magazine

The State of the Digital Edition Industry in 2011

Publisher satisfaction grows but monetization continues to frustrate.

We’re only about a year into the tablet age but more than a decade of using digital editions. Today, with the rise of ever increasingly sophisticated mobile devices and apps, digital editions are poised to leap to the forefront of publishers’ revenue generation plans and serve as their flagship on devices such as the iPad.

But are they able to deliver? Nxtbook Media recently wrapped its 2011 State of the Digital Edition survey, which looked at audience development and revenue growth, as well as where mobile fits in.

The good news? Publishers on both the consumer and b-to-b sides are more satisfied with their digital editions than last year when Nxtbook first conducted the survey. However, there is some growing frustration as publishers continue with how to actually monetize digital editions.

Satisfaction Up by 40 Percent

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are satisfied with their digital edition (12 percent are “quite satisfied” while 37 percent are “somewhat satisfied”), up 40 percent from 2010. “Publishers this year are more optimistic and they’re also more decisive than last year,” says Nxtbook marketing director Marcus Grimm.

However, while publishers are realizing digital editions have great potential for growing audience, they aren’t sure how to do so. Sixty-four percent of respondents say they are confident there are many more readers out there but they don’t know how to reach them (up from 59.3 percent who said the same last year). “That speaks to the youth of our audiences,” says Grimm. “Publishers are trying lots of things; we know readers are out there, but we’re not cracking the code. The iTunes store brought us to a totally different place—every time we think we have this space figured out, it changes.”

Just 21 percent of respondents said they know there are more digital magazine readers out there and they know how to reach them.

Still, Grimm advises publishers should strive for 15 percent of their readership to come from digital editions at this stage. “If you can get to that, it’s a vibrant number,” he adds. “It’s a large enough number that your advertisers will care about.”

Advertising Satisfaction

Publishers are less satisfied with digital editions as an advertising tool than as an audience tool. Just 29 percent of publishers say they are very or somewhat dissatisfied with the advertising revenue of their digital editions, about the same as last year.
However, the satisfaction gap between b-to-b publishers (Nxtbook’s main clientele) and consumer publishers shrank over the past year.

“The iTunes store has helped b-to-b pubs a lot and specialty optimized magazines are helping with sponsorship,” says Grimm. “Advertisers are getting excited about new optimized magazines.”

Still, just 12 percent of respondents say they have a firm handle on how to generate money with digital magazines. Sixty-one percent of respondents say their digital magazine can be a revenue generator but are unsure how to get to the next level.

Perhaps most troubling, the number of respondents who say they’ve tried many ways to make money with digital editions and are fairly convinced they can’t nearly doubled from last year to 8 percent.

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11/07/2011

‘The Week Magazine’ Proves Print Power Still Exists


Print Magazine Success!

When most print magazines have been devoting more and more effort to digital operations to save their very skins … The Week magazine has been growing print subscriptions and advertising sales like it was the glory days of the 1960’s. 

How are they doing this, you ask? 

I asked too … and found this incisive article by Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor of FOLIO magazine

Print Power

How The Week continues to grow print revenue (and profits) in a dotcom world.

Mobile content and community brands dominated the media category of the 2011 Inc. 5000, which recognizes the 5,000 fastest-growing privately-held companies in the U.S. (The number one company in the media category: GoLive! Mobile, which “creates and packages content, including videos, games, and social media, for consumers to access on their mobile phones”, as well as offers consulting services to companies that want to create their own mobile content.)

But “traditional” publishers made the list as well, including two Felix Dennis-owned publications: Mental Floss, ranked #50 in the media category with three-year revenue growth of 52 percent to $3.1 million in 2010, and The Week at #51 in media with three-year growth of 49 percent to $38.4 million in 2010. Unlike many of the other publishers on the list, The Week continues to flourish as a print enterprise.

Here, president Steve Kotok talks to FOLIO: about how The Week continues to boost print revenue and profit, why readers are the brand’s best way of gaining new subscribers and why The Week is waiting until 2012 to finally jump into the app race.

FOLIO: The Week recently made the Inc. 5000 as one of fastest growing media brands. Where is the growth coming from?

Steve Kotok: I would say the growth is coming equally from subscription and advertising. The subscription growth is coming from our ability to raise price, that’s the biggest thing. According to ABC, our price is up 40 percent, and as measured by us as net-net it’s doubled.

On the ad side, it’s going from selling print ad pages to engaging with these larger brands. The number of ad packages we’ve sold at $500,00 or more since 2008 went from one to three to 10, this year it should be 15. The vast majority are combining print, digital, and events. We wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, it’s coming from print ads or digital ads.’ It’s coming from our ability to offer larger packages to the advertising brands and serve them if they want to make a splash in D.C., to serve them digitally, to serve them in multiple ways.

There is stuff we put in buckets for accounting, but when really looking at our biggest sales, we may say $600,000 of this goes to print, $400,000 goes to digital, and $50,000 goes to an event fee. We wouldn’t be able to sell any of it without the other.

FOLIO: Are packages coming from existing advertisers or new advertisers?

Kotok: It’s a combination. Every year you start new, some are existing advertisers, a lot of them are new…it’s definitely breaking a lot of new business but that’s not really a distinguishing factor. Every year we make our best shot at them.

FOLIO: Please talk about current revenue ratios (print versus digital versus other channels). What is it today and how has that changed in recent years? What does it need to be going forward?

Kotok:
Subscriptions and print advertising are more or less equal with Web ads being 15 to 18 percent of the revenue generated by print ads. However, print and Web ads combined exceed subscription revenue.

FOLIO: Do you see that changing going forward?

Kotok: I don’t now if we will see a huge change. A few years ago we may have thought that ads were going to grow faster than subscriptions but our ability to grow subscription revenue and keep it growing has surprised us. I don’t think we’ll start doing more digital advertising than print advertising.

We’re going on the Kindle, Nook and iPad in January and that’s all circulation revenue. I don’t see the mix radically changing, although we still see our print subscriptions and our print ads growing. Web ads are growing faster but at 15 percent of print revenue, it’s not a massive shift—we may go 80/20, 75/25, print to digital in the future. We have a good business. We’re aware of the trends. Even before digital, there were trends to follow. We’re not embarrassed of print.

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07/12/2011

Tablet, E-Reader Addicts Also Want Print


Printed Books Still Desired

This is not surprising to me at all … I have posted many times RE the NON-demise of the printed word.

John’s Note: I tried to link to all past posts on ‘printed word’ or ‘print’ but WordPress is giving me trouble tonight! Just go to the “search this site button” at top of this page and enter ‘print’ for my past discussions. 

Oh, the printed word has definitely gone through changes … but, think about it … these changes were brought about by what? Why, the ‘printed’ word itself, of course … only in a different format (digital), that’s all.

A study on this very issue is presented in an article for FOLIO Magazine by Executive Editor Matt Kinsman:

Study Says Tablet, E-Reader Users Haven’t Given Up Print

Few magazine apps in the App Store don’t have at least one reviewer clamoring for a subscription package that bundles print and app, and now a new study from GfK MRI suggests that rather than abandoning old media, tablet and e-reader users might still be print’s best audience.

John’s Note: By the way GfK means ‘Growth from Knowledge’ and MRI means ‘Mediamark Research and Intelligence’

According to the study, tablet owners are 66 percent more likely than the average U.S. adult to be heavy users of printed versions of magazines, while e-reader owners are 23 percent more likely to be heavy print users.

The study also says men are more likely to own tablets while women are more likely to own e-readers (although I still dig my Kindle and I’ll arm-wrestle anyone at GfK MRI or Yudu who makes fun of me).

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03/08/2011

Inside the Numbers of Digital Content…Making It Pay


I’ve always thought (hell, make that knew) that ‘content’ was king…and, therefore, the basic ingredient to any successful writing/reporting venture online OR off.

The trick in the new online, digital paradigm was making it profitable…Therein lies the rub. 

It’s not too often that an insider gives up any real tangible figures or metrics highlighting just how their business is doing…where it started from and how it is becoming successful. 

Surprise!  Henry Blodget (pictured), CEO of financial news and analysis site Business Insider (which was just named a Top 25 Financial Blog by Time.com) has done just that in this article for FOLIO magazine by Matt Kinsman:

At FOLIO:, we’re used to having to cajole publishers to share metrics to back up the case they’re making for their own success. But every now and then someone lays it all out, understanding that solid revenue, net income and EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) figures go a lot further than phrases like “synergy” and “relationship with our audience.”

Kudos then to Henry Blodget, CEO of financial news and analysis site Business Insider (which was just named a Top 25 Financial Blog by Time.com), who shared the type of proprietary financials that keep most PR heads up at night in a post making the case for the viability of “digital news” as a business. (The admissions come on the heels of Huffington Post’s $315 million sale-or as one talkbacker to Blodget’s post wrote, “The headline on this post should be: Dear AOL, For your consideration, we’re an excellent Web property too!”)

The stats: Business Insider generated $4.8 million in revenue in 2010 (up from $39,495 a couple years ago), mostly from advertising. The company was profitable in 2010 (making $2,127), but Blodget warns it will dip back into the red over the next few quarters, due to aggressive investment, spurred in part by New York State’s capital tax. “Making $2,127 feels about 2,127 times as good as losing money,” he writes. “And it makes us confident that, if we keep working hard, and we keep getting better, we’ll be able to build a successful business and a truly great product someday.”

The Costs Of Making Online Content a Real Business

While we’re definitely in the “aggregation”-oops, sorry, I meant “curation” age-many online startups are investing in staff and resources in creating original content (which is more than can be said for many of their peers coming from traditional media).

Blodget [pictured] acknowledges the knocks against HuffPo’s content (paying a few big name writers while plucking content from low-or-unpaid bloggers, generating SEO-bait) but he also says that with HuffPo expected to grow another $20 million to $50 million in revenue that it “will likely hire a lot more New York Times staffers to go with the ones it has already got. In other words, HuffPo will keep getting better.” (HuffPo did just snap up political writer Jon Ward from News Corp’s The Daily).

Blodgett doesn’t reveal what he’s paying to generate content, but says “We didn’t make that profit because we’re a sweatshop, by the way.” He claims a 25-person newsroom, (which is larger than many magazines which are generating far more than $4 million and splitting four or five people-if they’re lucky–across print AND digital).

He writes

“Our newsroom salaries for full-time employees, for example (which include bonuses and benefits) are now higher than at many companies in the traditional news industry. Because the digital news business is quite different from the traditional news business, we often promote from within, and we’ve had the huge pleasure of watching folks who joined us as interns grow up to take leadership positions. True, we can’t yet toss around the $300,000-$500,000 a year per brand-name columnist that Huffington Post and Daily Beast are now reportedly tossing around. But, in future years, if we keep doing what we think we can do, we should be able to pay our top people a lot more than we do today.”

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12/03/2010

Mag Publishers Branching Out


In order to save money, and also seek new revenue in non-traditional functions, magazine publishers are taking on related tasks usually contracted out to vendors. Actually they are strengthening their own vertical (business model) in-house capability.

These tasks include such things as launching all kinds of media products, from Web sites to custom publishing, virtual events, databases, books, supplements and spinoffs…Afterall, if you’re going to branch out you might as well stick to your core business and who knows what a publisher needs more than a publisher?

This magazine publishing branch-out (or in-house vertical strengthening, as I like to call it) kind of reminds me of what writers (novel writers as well as others) have had to do to break loose from traditional publishing “slush piles” and non-action by learning and taking on more of the tasks performed by publishing houses in the past…This all was made more possible and easier through the new digital technology. Let’s all drink a scotch on the rocks to that!

Tony Silber and Matt Kinsman, reporting for FOLIO magazine, analyze it this way:

When Publishers Become Vendors

Dave Schankweiler, CEO and publisher of Journal Publications Inc., a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania regional publisher, remembers the day he became not just a publisher, but a vendor to publishers too.

Back in 2004, the company, which publishes the Central Penn Business Journal, Central Penn Parent, and NJ Biz, launched a new survey, called Best Companies in Pennsylvania. It used an outside survey firm to do the first report. The night the winners were presented was a huge success. “That night,” Schankweiler remembers, “it was loud, and there was a countdown and a lot of excitement. And that’s exactly when we decided to change the company, because we were coming down from the high of the event. We said, ‘Why don’t we take this out into the market and do it as a service to other publishing companies?’ “

Magazine publishers are by nature entrepreneurial types. They like to tinker with their businesses. They’re incessantly launching all kinds of media products, from Web sites to custom publishing, events, databases, books, supplements, spinoffs. But there aren’t a lot like Dave Schankweiler. Most media companies tend to stick to their knitting and limit their creative impulses to media products.

Some companies, though, are transforming themselves into a different kind of hybrid, media companies that have branched out into businesses traditionally occupied by publishing-industry vendors. Gulfstream Media, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based regional publisher is one. Gulfstream is the parent company of Magazine Manager, a popular ad-sales management software. UBM’s TechWeb is another. TechWeb created UBM Studios, which develops in-house virtual events for tech publisher UBM as well as for external clients.

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10/27/2010

E-Media Revenue Numbers – A Reality Check for Mags


Since the intro and explosion of digital media and publishing, how are the e-media revenues shaping up?

How are the profit margins changing?

What are the current realized earnings for small to large publishing firms now riding on the digital pony in the internet rodeo?

Well, for those who like charts and numbers (and interesting they are), I am presenting a great layout by Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor, at FOLIO magazine:

Digital is the priority for most publishers, yet many executives have had to re-adjust their e-media forecasts just as they did with more traditional revenue streams such as print and events. Online ad spending in the U.S. dropped 5 percent to $5.5 billion in the first quarter of 2009 and 7 percent to $6.2 billion in the second quarter, according to market analyst IDC.

Digital revenue remains relatively small, despite massive percentage growth in recent years (and massive slumps in traditional revenue streams). “Those who have been aggressively pursuing digital will likely see it between 8 percent and 15 percent of the overall revenue mix,” Deborah Esayian, co-president of Emmis Interactive told FOLIO: recently.

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12/06/2009

Advertorials Pump Life Into Print


Marketing diguised as editorial or legitimate content is finding more receptive publishers who need the money to survive. But, these marketing advertorials should be clearly identified as commercials so as not to fool the naive and gullible.

Advertisers love this venue and are gaining more freedom of advertising control when they throw in the dollars. So, readers, as the old adage goes: “Believe nothing you read and only half of what you see!”

A few of these type of advertising models are springing up and getting around the accepted norm of clearly marking them with “advertising tags”. One example given in the following article by Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor of Folio magazine, is Worth magazine:

Advertorials Give New Life to Print
But not labeling them as such is a mistake.
By Matt Kinsman 12/01/2009

Advertorials—the original “paid content”—are no stranger to magazines (FOLIO: does it too. See an example here.) Marketing that looks like content is always attractive to advertisers and as publishers agonize over plummeting print revenue and clients starting to do their own branded Webinars/events/lead gen, advertorials are a way to lure them back and maybe even hit budget for the first time this year.

Reader’s Digest’s Taste of Home recently said it will produce custom editorial columns that are more “synergistic” with advertisers’ promotional goals. Taste of Home created custom in-book sections that feature branded recipe cards for client Jimmy Dean that run next to the magazine’s own recipe cards section. According to RDA’s Taste of Home and Home & Garden Media Group vp and publisher Lora Gier, these sections are clearly marked as advertising and all advertroasial sections are “new pages” that don’t take away from existing editorial pages.

“The conversations we have are very strategic versus just discussing demographics and rates,” Gier told FOLIO:. “We are winning exclusive business through these partnerships.”

Advertorials Without the “Advertising” Tag

However, other publishers are pushing the boundaries of advertorials. A recent RIA Biz article gave a comprehensive look at a new advertorial program from Worth magazine, which was acquired by Sandow Media in 2008.

Worth charges financial advisors $2,495 per month or about $30,000 per year (the minimum commitment) to receive two-page profiles in six issues, free reprints, magazine subscriptions worth up to $11,000 for the advisor’s clients and a hard cover book with advisor profiles.

The article quotes Worth publisher Patrick Williams as saying, “Fifty-one million of assets under management just for the first issue. People say print media is dead but I have $51 million that says they are wrong.” [It’s funny how marketers’ complaints about print seem to disappear when they get to control the message.]

However, Worth isn’t labeling profiles as “advertising” but includes a sentence in the preamble of the profile section indicating they are paid for.

I’m all for vendor content and realize publishers (and editors) need to work more closely with advertisers but I don’t agree with advertorials that are anything less than clearly marked.

In 2006, FOLIO: did a cover story on the rise of Schofield Media Group, a publisher which at the time had grown to 10 magazines in the U.K., 14 in the U.S. and $40 million in revenue, thanks to a model that includes selling editorial case studies.

At the time, then Penton Media group publisher Terri Mollison said of Schofield’s model, “How can any market derive what key trends or ‘hot companies’ are worth reading about when the only criteria to select those companies is which vendors and distributors who are willing to pony up money to have accolades written about them?”

I wonder how many publishers are willing to take that same stand today.

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