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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Managing Print Relativity and Profitability in Today's Digital Environment

'Print' used to be the sweet, young damsel that all the young, publishing studs lined up to ask for the next dance. The only girl at the dance under Momma's age, so to speak.

Not any more! Now there are a number of younger, publishing format damsels sitting side-by-side and taking up half of the ballroom floor.

BUT, Miss Print, although older, is still a beauty and in some demand!

Tonight's post is going to examine how to manage the reduced, but still viable, demand and profitability of the print format.

Most print outlets (including magazines and books) have been swinging toward digital and events as a more accessible, efficient and profitable means of reaching more people faster.

And this move is right - especially for those with the long term vision.

But, print is still producing acceptable (but declining) profits in many areas of the publishing universe --- Especially in the established brand market that was initially born out of the print format.

So, how to manage 'print' to make it the most profitable today?

Many publishing companies today have embarked on a digital/print format system that has reorganized its stable of print brands to a tiered value system. To wit (excerpted from tonight's research article):

"First-tier brands, identified by their high-value readers and customers, get the full multiplatform treatment: monthly print issues, a robust digital offering, events and marketing services. Second-tier brands will have the same mix, but with a reduced-frequency print magazine-bimonthly or quarterly. Third-tier brands, where there isn't enough revenue to support print, are digital and events only." 

"A digital-first operating structure supports print as a by-product, as opposed to having print as the core and supporting digital, which is the legacy model," says Peter Goldstone, CEO at Hanley Wood."
"As a result of that reorganization, Goldstone says that while the majority of capital investment has gone towards technology and data infrastructure, as well as new talent, print is getting some resources too. Only now, the company can better determine where to best allocate the funds."
Note by John: As I've said numerous times before, 'print' will never go away completely. It will be used in a vibrant, different, but reduced mission. 
More details, including some neat charts showing publishing ad and revenue losses as well as print investments, are presented in this informative article by Bill Mickey in FOLIO magazine:

Managing Print Profitably 

Deciding whether to contain costs, invest—or both—in legacy products in the age of digital.

It wasn't too long ago that print was considered the center of the wheel from which all other product platforms sprang out of. That's still the case for most traditional publishers, but the newer product platforms are where all the action is now. Companies are declaring "digital-first" or "mobile-first" strategies with brand spin-offs that are anything but print.
So where does that leave the print products, the very brands that gave credence to the digital products and events that are now commanding greater shares of the topline as the magazines plateau or even contract? For some, it means feeding print just enough sustenance to keep lending the other platforms the brand equity needed for audience growth-while the vast majority of the capital investment is poured back into everything but print.
You don't have to look very far to see the trends. According to ABM's most current BIN numbers through August 2013, year-to-date ad pages declined 7.5 percent. Comparing that to the same period from 2008, b-to-b print advertising has declined 37 percent in pages. Most b-to-b publishing leaders will tell you that they don't expect those pages to return.
On the consumer side, full-year numbers provided by PIB show a 34-percent decline in ad pages between 2008 and 2013. The MPA has moved, smartly, from cheerleading print to a focus on magazine brands' cross-platform audience and advertising footprint.
And that's the story most traditional publishing CEOs will tell you. The focus is not on print anymore, it's on total reach. More specifically, it's about growth in digital and events.
The Value of Print
Executives say that readers and advertisers still value print, but those groups are shrinking.
At IDG, which among the other tech-oriented publishers has been a canary in the coal mine with its strategy of managing print against other lines of business, there's been a push towards digital and events for years. In the IDG Enterprise division, which has brands such as Computerworld, Infoworld and CIO, print revenues are now "comfortably under 20 percent" of gross, says IDG Enterprise CEO Matt Yorke.
"Print to profit is definitely something IDG has been talking about for at least five years," he says. But looking at print's contribution to the overall revenue pie has become more complicated. There's the pure financial allocation, but there's also the less tangible strategic view.
"We also look at it strategically in terms of the equity that print brings to the brands. The value, for example, of having a print vehicle that supports robust digital and event offerings. And if so, where is that value derived and how do we do our best to quantify that? Are we prepared to look at it as a marketing expense? Or do we think a particular brand has reached the point where there's far more value in digital and events and having print is actually stopping us from doing other things-therefore there's a negative value?"
The flip side, adds Yorke, is looking at opportunities that might become available if print wasn't part of the equation. They could be taking those resources and investing in platforms that offer a higher path for growth.
Active Interest Media, an enthusiast publisher in the outdoors, home, horses and marine markets, has a more stable view of print, but that's likely going to change in the long term. Print is still relatively strong in niche enthusiast markets, says AIM's president and COO Andrew Clurman. Aside from the newsstand, which is extremely challenged right now, subscription and advertising revenues are positive.
"We haven't seen any discernible fall-off in subscription interest and renewals or the core metrics around reader engagement and satisfaction," he says. "And for the overall print mix, we have been flat to slightly up in pages on a global basis."
Accordingly, Clurman says the company is putting about 25 percent more capital towards traditional consumer marketing efforts-direct mail, email marketing and other promotions. But there needs to be a payoff on the other side. The investment isn't arbitrary or done simply to prop up print.
"We're doing that based on our estimation that we're actually going to get a return on that," he adds. "So I think that speaks to the power of print in our markets."
Print revenues overall are just under 50 percent at AIM, with events adding 45 percent to the top line.

Nevertheless, when taking a longer-term view of print AIM is hedging its bets. The outdoor group, for example, is moving much more quickly towards a digital mentality, at least from a customer perspective, where marketers have become very sophisticated with their own earned and owned media efforts. And as that digital favoritism creeps into other markets, print's growth curve becomes pressured. Even now, Active Interest Media has a very conservative outlook for print.
"We don't see print as a growth business for us," Clurman says. "Our strategy is to go find the premier legacy media brands in the special interest markets that we're in, and those are almost entirely print magazine brands. That's the gateway and it gives us access and credibility to do all the other stuff which is to surround the print brand with events, digital and services."
The Influence of Print
At the same time, print still holds a cross-platform influence. "If you let the print brand slip, then people in those markets, whether they're readers or advertisers, will think the brand has lost its luster. That has an impact on everything else we do," says Clurman.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Absolute Power of Writing Processes

A scene from the documentary “The Missing Picture,”
a memoir of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.
A writing process can possess the power to change a 'documentary' style reality (content over form) into an artistic form that approaches that reality by emphasizing form over content --- In other words, a more entertaining documentary.

Caution has to be used here, however, so as not to blur the lines of reality so extensively that you stumble into an unacceptable revisionism of facts.   

“The documentary as we have come to know it, especially in the United States, emphasizes content over form, information over aesthetics,” the festival’s program note says, adding that there is consequently a need “for the documentary to be reconsidered as art.” - Rithy Panh

Other key excerpts from source research article:

“I’m not really very concerned when I’m starting a film whether it will be documentary or fiction,” he said in an interview late last year. “When you’re making a documentary, you don’t have actors, but nonetheless, there is a writing process that does take place in the editing room. Every time you are getting ready to make a shot in a documentary film, you are asking yourself questions about your cinematographic approach. You are approaching the truth, but the image is never the truth itself.”

“It’s not that there isn’t a lot of really worthwhile work in the field,” said Dennis Lim, the film society’s programming director (and a former contributor to The New York Times). “But I feel it gets dangerously close to being just informational or journalistic.” He added: “We’ve come to think of documentary and fiction as very distinct forms, but the line isn’t as clear-cut as we have been conditioned to think. There’s a lot of work that falls in between.”

Writing processes can make true, biographical or documentary works read like literary fiction.

More on emerging writing processes from “The Missing Picture,” a memoir of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, “Manakamana” set in a cable car in Nepal and “The Act of Killing,” a documentary about mass slaughter in Indonesia that relied heavily on re-enactments by members of the death squads that committed the original crimes:

What's Real Gets More Creative

‘The Missing Picture’ and Other Films Rethink Documentaries

The very first movies were, in their way, documentaries: snippets that showed the trot of a horse, a smoke-belching train pulling into a station or Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession. But the paths of fiction and nonfiction film soon diverged, and they remain distinct today, each with separate standards and expectations and consigned to separate categories at festivals and the Oscars.

But documentary filmmakers, chafing at those rules, eager to broaden the variety of tools at their disposal and hoping to tell their stories to a wider audience, have been pushing aggressively at the boundaries of their genre. The traditional “A-roll, B-roll, talking heads” paradigm, influenced by journalism, is increasingly being challenged by experiments in which all of the standard features of the traditional documentary — like voice-over, music cues and narrative arcs based on real life — are being mutated or eschewed and devices from the world of fiction embraced.

“It almost feels wrong to call the films that are coming out now documentaries,” said Richard Rowley, director of the Oscar-nominated“Dirty Wars,” which used film-noir techniques. “It sounds like we are stenographers, filing away records for future generations to see what life was like here, not storytellers. But there’s a huge body of docs being produced now that are as immersive and transformational as a well-constructed fiction film.”

There were indications of that approach in this year’s Oscar race, in which one of the nominees was “The Act of Killing,” a documentary about mass slaughter in Indonesia that relied heavily on re-enactments by members of the death squads that committed the original crimes. But it is even more evident in a crop of new documentaries that includes “The Missing Picture,”a memoir of genocide in Cambodia that opens in New York on Wednesday, and “Manakamana,” which takes place entirely in a single cable car in Nepal and will open in theaters next month.

In many ways, “The Missing Picture,” which last spring won the top prize the Cannes festival’s Un Certain Regard competition for “original and different” work and was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language category, is a hybrid. An intensely autobiographical account of the genocide the Khmer Rouge inflicted on Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, the film is directed by a survivor, Rithy Panh, and uses techniques unusual in documentaries.

Confronted with the absence of family records and the relative paucity of official documents, Mr. Panh, 49, had to search hard to find substitutes. He ended up using clay figures set in dioramas and mixed in whatever grainy archival footage he could find, along with Khmer Rouge songs and speeches, dream and fantasy sequences, and a haunting original score, topping all that off with a hallucinatory, poetic, French-language narration.

“I’m not really very concerned when I’m starting a film, whether it will be a documentary or fiction,” he said in an interview late last year. “When you’re making a documentary, you don’t have actors, but nonetheless, there is a writing process that does take place in the editing room. Every time you are getting ready to make a shot in a documentary film, you are asking yourself questions about your cinematographic approach. You are approaching the truth, but the image is never the truth itself.”


Source article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/movies/the-missing-picture-and-other-films-rethink-documentaries.html?ref=international

Saturday, March 8, 2014

LinkedIn's New Publishing Platform? A Needed Ingredient But May Need Improvement

LinkedIn is concerned that it's online numbers and influence might be dwindling. So, it has added some new features of late. 

One new feature, and one I enjoy, is the 'Influencers'. Postings by national and international achievers who possibly enjoy huge fan-bases. Another new feature, and another one I enjoy but haven't seen any results from yet, is allowing members to publish blog-post-style content --- which LinkedIn hopes will convince users that it is more than a collection of members' résumés. They believe members have a large untapped reservoir of experience and knowledge that their postings can share with other members/professionals. This does hold great potential.

The latter feature above will also grow the posting members' brand as their posts will become part of their professional profile.

Some professionals have reservations about posting their work in a somewhat unprotected manner on LinkedIn. You can view some of these concerns on this post from Kevin O'Keefe's blog 'Real Lawyers Have Blogs': Flaws in LinkedIn publishing platform apt to limit benefits for professionals.

I believe, however, these concerns are unjustified for the type of knowledge-sharing that LinkedIn has in mind with this feature. They don't expect real academic research, that needs protection, to be shared on these posts - just interesting knowledge and experience garnered by professionals in their trek through their particular life's journey. Much like the 'Influencers" feature presents.

More details now by Sarah Halzack from The Washington Post:

LinkedIn has added a publishing platform. Here’s why that matters.

With the launch of a new feature that allows members to publish blog-post-style content, LinkedIn has ramped up its push to convince users that it is more than a repository for résumés.
The professional networking site is aiming to become the virtual town square for our professional lives, a place where its 277 million members go daily to read the news, show off their latest projects, network with peers and keep tabs on who has been given a promotion.
“That’s one of the big reasons we’ve invested heavily in our content efforts,” said Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn’s head of content products. “We believe that every professional reads some sort of content on a daily basis about their company or their competitors or their industry, just general professional knowledge.”
The publishing tool, LinkedIn hopes, is yet another reason to stick around on its site. The service enables users to publish posts in a bloglike format.
The project comes as some analysts have begun to worry that the site might be losing momentum.
Kathleen Smith is one LinkedIn member whose use of the site embodies both the inroads the company has made on engagement and the challenges it faces in boosting it further. The chief marketing officer at Falls Church-based ClearedJobs.net said she visits LinkedIn five to six times a day.
“I log in in the morning just to see what my network’s talking about. . . . I know of a few people who post really good articles, and I’ll be on the lookout for that,” Smith said. “And then I’ll post two to three things.”
But Smith also said that she has built more business relationships on Facebook and that she prefers to keep up with industry thought leaders on Twitter. Also, she said, she is frequently frustrated by posts from other members that are not useful to her.
“I unfortunately think it’s gotten too spammy,” Smith said.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Discrimination in the Publishing Industry? You Bet!

Discrimination has always existed. In the past, to heavy degrees; currently, to a little less than heavy degrees and in the future, hopefully, to much lighter degrees.

What am I saying here? That discrimination will never go away? I guess I am. Because as soon as one 'type' of discrimination goes away (actually becomes minimal - I don't think they will ever go away completely), another 'type' will take its place. The dark side of human nature will see to that.

Discrimination is something we all have to fight against constantly to improve our world as well as ourselves. Sort of like a built-in sharpening stone we have to hone ourselves against everyday to stay sharper (more intelligent and humane).  

Now, there are all types of discrimination, but we will be addressing racial discrimination tonight - in the publishing industry.

Just look on Amazon - you will find over two million books, both legacy and self-published. Of these, only about 15,000 are from African American authors. And don't OVERSIMPLIFY and say 'African Americans' just don't read and write as much!

We are going to get into that with tonight's source article written by  on Good E reader.com:

Does the Publishing Industry Discriminate?

A quick search of the Amazon Kindle store reveals over two million titles, both legacy and self-published. But a search for books tagged “African American” reveals only slightly more than 15,000 titles combined. Add to the lack of dedicated reading material, stores that focus on demographic-specific titles are facing hardship as well.
An article by Judith Rosen for Publisher’s Weekly this week indicates that African American bookstores are suffering, even during this month that is so typically a high point for sales due to the attention given the Black History Month. According to the article, the number of black bookstores who were members of the American Booksellers Association has resulted in more than 200 store closings in the last twelve years alone, down to 100 member stores from over 300 in 2002.
Rosen pointed to certain economic factors, such as the destruction of major metro neighborhoods that at one time played host to bookstores who stocked black literature. That has been compounded by the loss of platforms like key magazines that at one time promoted black authors’ titles.
But while it is the physical bookstores that are suffering, what is the correlation between that and the unequally low number of titles available on Kindle? Are publishers and self-published authors simply not writing and releasing books that speak to a specific market of readers? And if not, why not?
One source in the article quite openly stated that black consumers simply don’t read as much, but that is too easy a statement to oversimplify, one that could quite easily be the result of a chicken-and-egg situation. Do publishers not produce as many African American titles because they, too, believe this? Or is the lack of titles that speak to the consumer the reason for this generalization?
Recent news from a number of successful authors has made it quite obvious that self-publishing is the great equalizer in the book industry, one that is presumably open to authors from all walks of life. During this month of historical awareness, hopefully more concerted efforts will be made to open the doors of self-publishing to a far underserved group of readers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spotlighting 'Print on Demand'

What's happening with print on demand? What's the latest? What's the future of print on demand?

While new publishers are focusing almost exclusively on digital publishing processes to capture the growing tablet and other mobile audience, some innovative publishers, with perhaps a longer vision, have been employing, tweaking and improving the POD (print on demand) technology to enter into the print marketplace for the first time, and connect a new generation of readers to print books through personalization.  

So, just how are these new POD applications being exploited? And by whom?

Hoffman Media and Sourcebooks are two publishers that are increasingly using POD technology - and tonight we will delve into how and at what costs and savings and success levels they are doing it.

But first, for those who might need a little refresher on the details of POD:

"Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received, which means books can be printed one at a time. While build to order has been an established business model in many other industries, "print on demand" developed only after digital printing began,[1] because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.
Many traditional small presses have replaced their traditional printing equipment with POD equipment or contract their printing out to POD service providers. Many academic publishers, including university presses, use POD services to maintain a large backlist; some even use POD for all of their publications.[2] Larger publishers may use POD in special circumstances, such as reprinting older titles that are out of print or for performing test marketing.[3]"  
--- Wikipedia

Now, this by Erin L. Cox as published in Publishing Perspectives:

The Future of Print --- On Demand

This article is a part of a series on print-on-demand, sponsored by Ingram Content Group.

For the last five years, while many publishers have been focusing on digital innovation in order to capture the attention of what appeared to be a growing audience of tablet owners, some innovative publishers have been finding new ways to use print on demand services from Ingram Content Group to repackage content, enter into the print marketplace for the first time, and connect a new generation of readers to print books through personalization.
Because print on demand eliminates a number of costs by allowing publishers to print with a relatively short turn-around or through a small print-run, it has allowed some publishers to rethink their print business, offer new opportunities they previously had not explored, and even take bestselling ebooks and create print versions of those titles.
Lifestyle magazine publisher, Hoffman Media, known for Victoria and Cooking with Paula Deen, had never previously published books of their content in quite this way before. Greg Baugh, Vice President, Manufacturing saw that he could create the same premium product that they create with their magazines through hardcover books. But, he wasn’t sure whether the marketplace was ready for such a product, so he opted for print on demand to test their audience. “Though the publishing of books using print on demand is not entirely risk-free, there is very little labor involved and, though we have only just begun by publishing 6 titles so far, we are seeing sales that pleased us,” said Baugh.
Because Hoffman publishes magazines, they already had edited work with rich photography ready. So, the work they needed to do to make the content ready for a book was take the ads out, change the trim size, fix pagination flow, and alter the Table of Contents — about four hours work, all told. Though they have started with only six titles, Baugh said that they are expanding to further titles in the future.
Sourcebooks, whose CEO Dominique Raccah was named FutureBook’s Most Inspiring Digital Publishing Person of 2013, offers both the digital and print versions of their “Put Me in the Story” program which allows readers to personalize their favorite bestselling books. Partnering with such classic children’s brands as “Sesame Street,” The Berenstein Bears, and Hello Kitty, Sourcebooks offers the opportunity for parents to download the app to create an ebook or have a book printed using print on demand.
In an article in The New York Times when the program was announced, Raccah said, “We started with two very distinct challenges: How do we create a more meaningful bedtime reading experience for parents and their children? And, as a publisher, how do we build a digital future for children’s book authors and illustrators?” By allowing both ebook and printed personalized books for children, they are doing just that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Just What Is The Netflix of Books?

Oyster offers more than 100,000 books in an
all-you-can-eat subscription model.
Of all the media substrates, the book and publishing industries have been notoriously slower to react, adapt and change. And this has proven true in the acceptance of the so called 'all you can eat' subscription models.

For one small monthly subscription fee one can gain instant access to huge libraries of hundreds of thousands of books.

What determines the ultimate success of these programs is the quality and quantity of books offered --- and this is built upon the quality of publishers (both big and smaller houses) that offer their books in these subscription models.

So, just how do publishers get paid under these business models? How do the writers/content providers get paid? What is the advantage to readers?     

A key excerpt from tonight's research source: 

"But the fundamental benefit for publishers is that by creating this fundamentally better reading experience, we can grow the pie for the industry. That means getting people to read more books, bringing in new audiences, and if we're able to do that, it's ultimately a win for us as a company."

So, essentially, if you start with satisfying the readers (the end users of your product) first, you will invent a sustainable model that makes money and is a win win for all players.

The following interview with Eric Stromberg, CEO of Oyster (among the first to offer the subscription model for books) will answer the questions raised above.

This interview is conducted by Daniel Terdiman, a senior writer for CNET:     

How the 'Netflix of books' won over the publishing industry (Q&A)

Oyster has grown its library of books available to its all-you-can-eat subscribers to more than 100,000 titles. CEO Eric Stromberg told CNET how it happened, and how the company is changing the world of reading

The world in which people have to rent movies one at a time from a video store, or buy individual songs from iTunes has come and gone. These days, Netflix, Spotify, Rdio, and other services are making it easier and easier for people to subscribe to all-you-can-eat plans.
As slow and painful as it has been to get the media giants on board, they've come around. But not in every industry. Take the book publishing industry, for example, which has been even slower than its counterparts to move into a subscription system.
Still, even the book publishers are now finally coming around. Over the last few months, a number of services have launched that offer monthly subscription plans, and access to tens upon tens of thousands of books in return for a monthly fee. Even better, they are on board with making those titles available across multiple devices (essentially any running Apple's iOS 7), finally seeing that there's a way to make money, even while providing customers with the access they actually want.
Among the first to offer this type of system for books is Oyster, a New York-based startup founded by Eric Stromberg and two co-founders. For $10 a month, the service offers unlimited access to more than 100,000 titles, books that can be read across a number of devices, and at the reader's pleasure.
This is no fly-by-night operation. Already, it has signed up big-name publishers like HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and others. And those companies are, in turn, providing some of their biggest titles. That's why Oyster has been called the "Netflix for books."
CNET recently caught up with Stromberg, both by e-mail and by phone, and asked him about Oyster's origins, its goals, and how it will conquer the world of putting books in readers' hands. The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Q: Where did the idea for Oyster come from? 
Eric Stromberg: Growing up, I was a big reader. I grew up in a household where I'd come home from school everyday, and my dad would ask what I was reading, both in school and for enjoyment. Like a lot of people, I was focusing mainly on required reading, but after college I fell back in love with reading for enjoyment. So in 2012, the idea for this came along in a late-night conversation with Chris Dixon, one of my mentors, and I was really excited to combine my passion for books with what I'd worked on for most of my career in technology.
Also, I was inspired by other forms of all-access models, like Spotify, and Netflix, and how they really fundamentally changed people's consumption habits, where you pay once and never have to think about it again. So that inspired me, and my two other co-founders.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Break from the Publishing Business to Publishing an Emotion

For those who may not know - I lost my wife, Yonsuk, to a horrible neurological condition five months ago. Although devastated at the time (totally destroyed was more like it), I am better today. I always believed/accepted she went to a better place - but, today I came across an old prayer printed on the back of a picture of Jesus that fell out of an old daily planner book of mine.

It goes like this:


I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
 Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
  In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
  Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
  Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
  Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus' love illuminated
  Every dark and fearful glade.

And He came Himself to meet me
  In that way so hard to tread;
And with Jesus' arm to lean on,
  Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
  For I love you dearly still;
Try to look beyond earth's shadows,
  Pray to trust our Father's Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
  So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth -
  You shall rest in Jesus' land.

When that work is all completed,
  He will gently call you Home;
Oh! the rapture of that meeting,
  Oh! the joy to see you come!

- Priests of  the Sacred Heart Monastery

I truly needed this prayer at this time - I believe Yonsuk is speaking directly to me.