Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Press Gazette: A Considered Obituary

Yes, we all know by now that Press Gazette has bitten the dust after four decades of reflecting the newspaper, broadcast, magazine and latterly digital media industries. This is sad news, particularly for those in need of regular and reliable news about magazines.

There are other sources we can go to - the obvious suspects like MediaGuardian - but I can't think of (or find) one which covers our favourite medium to anything like the extent which PG did. Media Week has a dedicated magazine section, true, but it doesn't have the same breadth of coverage. You can also tune your aggregator to seek out magazine news and that does bring in some interesting sources - but generally the magazine content is tangential. This has the advantage of offering a new angle, but is not a substitute for the bread-and-butter stuff.

Will any of the existing sources beef up their offerings? No particular reason why they should, since the specialised opposition has just gone west. Will anyone pick up the baton from PG? Not unless they can find a more effective business model.

Maybe the answer is aggregation - better tuning of the search terms, different engines. It won't be the same but it might be the future.

Future: Back To basics

Bath-based magazine publisher Future has blamed its £49m loss on too much acquisition and not enough organic growth, which is an interesting admission. The titles bought from Highbury House (see MagBlog passim) have been mentioned as particularly disappointing performers. (No wonder Kelvin MacKenzie gave up.)

To staunch the immediate flow of cash they have decided to sell off the Italian arm of the business and to renew focus on basic areas of the business.

CEO Stevie Spring outlined a six point plan for recovery: "focus on basics; focus on core; focus on audience; focus on geography; and to focus on publishing partnerships; focus on investment, particularly online."

This sounds to me like the advice any magazine journalism student should be able to parrot off by the end of their first week - write for the readers and foster the community.

Which just goes to show that some principles hold true at all times, in all places and on many media platforms. It's all about the readers.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sorry (E)squire

After bumping into the Deputy Chief Sub of Esquire at last Friday's PTC Awards bash I feel obliged to moderate my previous entry to the extent that, apparently, Esquire covers with fellas on do very well – at least as well as those with female cover stars.
Also, it seems that Mr Langmead* has a notice period of a year. That's a long time to wait for a new editor but NatMags hope that he will be able to join the Broadwick Street gang in January.

Those Awards in full – with a very special mention for Ian Taylor of Focus magazine.

* The editor who's not all around Esquire, yet

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Esquire: more upmarket but still with birds

Another reinvention for poor old Esquire magazine. It has tried raunch, it has tried sophistication, it has tried taking women off the front cover and is has tried putting them back on again. Still those pesky young men who flock to GQ and Nuts won't buy it.

Now NatMags has poached Jeremy Langmead from Wallpaper (excuse me if I don't asterisk because actually I don't have wallpaper on my walls so it is not stuff which is all around me) in the hope that he will be able to sprinkle some fairy dust on the venerable but ABC-lite title.

But what I like best about the New Plan To Take It Upmarket For Older and Successful Men is that there will still be birds on the cover. Oh yes. As NatMags chief Duncan Edwards so rightly observes: "To say that intelligent men don't like looking at good looking women is a non sequitur."

Clearly Esquire has just not been putting the right kind of women on the cover.

Who pulls what strings?

GamesIndustry. biz reports that Sony is pulling the plug on the print version of Official Playstation Magazine (OPM) in the US, preferring digital distibution to dead tree technology.

OPM is published by Ziff Davis, characterised by Felix Dennis in his book How To Get Rich as a highly aggressive, persistent and determined company. It would be worth a bet that they did not go gentle into that good night.

However, ZD president Scott McCarthy seems to have recognised the present reality in his statement:

"With this next generation of game consoles, the days of having to bundle a disc with a magazine to distribute games-related content are over," he explained.

"And the disc has clearly been a major driver for consumer interest in premium-priced, platform-specific magazines in the past, when the magazine disc was the only way gamers could get such content."

No more cover mounted discs? Should I sell my shares in Future immediately? (Maybe, maybe not)

OPM is (was) produced under licence and, like all contract publications, that licence only holds good for the length of the contract. Sony's decision is, in that context, just another example of disintermediation. Why go through a third party when you can communicate with - and sell to - your customers directly?

Or as a Sony suit put it: "We are focused on delivering content via the PlayStation Network and website, not discs.

"While we have enjoyed a very good run with the printed version of Official US PlayStation Magazine, we feel it is important to shift assets online to meet the needs of today's PlayStation consumer. This is a natural evolution of our content delivery strategy."

This fits exactly with other recent decisions by ZD on computer games console magazines, also reported by

However, although this would seem to be a story about print versus digital, it is also a business story and other factors must be considered. Magazines are subject to auditing and audits sometimes reveal uncomfortable truths, such as slipping sales. With the new Playstation widely regarded as being expensive and Nintendo's wii about to launch, maybe Sony decided to take one possibly negative option out of the mix.

ADDENDUM: Sony's decision has certainly got things buzzing: buzz 1.
ADDENDUM2: Maybe they saw it coming: wii vs PS3 sales

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Profiting from subscriptions?

We all know that it's getting tough out there on the newsstands but some pockets seem to keep growing. Emap must be thanking its lucky stars for Grazia right now (or was it because of the radio?), even if BBC Worldwide has nabbed the rights for its neo-colonisation of the Indian print market (and take a look at this list of worldwide holdings and subsidiary companies).

NatMags, it seems, are more inclined to revisit an old idea and take subscriptions out of the 'too hard' basket. However, putting them in the same basket as digital media might not be the way forward and claiming that developments in data technology allow a one-to-one relationship with consumers might just make Tesco wonder how smart some of their suppliers are.

Friday, November 10, 2006

IPC – not sinking but stalled

Hmm, maybe Mike Soutar got out of IPC before the fan got hit! Good old PA (trading as Andrew Neil's The Business online) have dug out some interesting Company House filings:
The Business - Global Business News Online

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The C Word

Community, that is. Sometimes it seems as though every media commentator completely overlooks the humble magazine.

Take Anthony Lilley writing about new media in last Monday's MediaGuardian: "The media industry is starting to rediscover communities and all their messy, expensive-to-administer complexity. And we are relearning the lesson that at the heart of communities are conversations which thrive on authenticity. If they don't ring true and connect with members, they fail."

Well stone me. It's not as if magazines have not been doing exactly that for the last 400 years, is it? If you want authentic conversation, try the letters page of a specialist magazine (motorcycles, gardening, fishing, you name it); one better, try the editorial office for the letters which don't get published.

All magazines serve very specific communities and if they don't address them properly they fail. Sometimes at great expense because the market is not there (see CarWeek); sometimes because the market has changed (see Hotdog, another long lasting success from the fruitful loinds of James Brown).

Newspapers may be discovering this well-hidden secret too but once again magazines don't get a look in when Stephen Glover and Kim Fletcher are considering the future of Press Gazette (a magazine which serves its community pretty well but is not always well supported in return).

Glover writes: "Press Gazette has long had a rather heterogeneous constituency comprising regional and national newspaper journalists, who often do not share the same preoccupations. It has also had half a foot in the world of television journalism." But no magazine journalism?

Fletcher writes: "If there is such a thing as a journalistic 'family', it is a highly dysfunctional one. Reporters on popular papers are not keen on reporters from so-called quality ones, regional newspaper journalists don't trust national newspaper journalists, television journalists like only themselves." Again, no magazine journalists.

Are we so beyond the pale?

And given the state of the newspaper industry, should we be glad that we are?

Another C Word ...
... is perhaps being applied to Richard Desmond and PA. The agency is making rapid advances in the world of outsourcing editorial. Not content with Radio Times listings and Andrew Neil's The Business (and online - note the address at the bottom of the splash page), it now looks likely to take over the Daily Express business pages. According to Press Gazette and MediaGuardian, the Express's travel pages could be next. How long until OK! and New go the same way (sorry Kirsty)? Happy often seems as though it is put together by computers anyway.

While we are on that word: Matthew Freud

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