Saturday, May 30, 2009

Open Thread Weekend.

I bought my first football magazine of the year today. Athlon Sports 2009 national college football edition. The magazine was $7.99 which is up a dollar from the previous years. Now the fact that the Magazine was a dollar more this year didn't bother me so much. It had been $6.99 for at least 5 years or so and it's a fact of life that things go up in price. What bothered me is this years magazine went up a dollar and was 15-20 pages less than previous years. We are paying more and getting less. I believe this is a phenomenon not unique to sports magazines but in most things today. When I bought my last TV they told me if I watched it 3 hours a day I would get 10 years out of it. Which means as much as I watch it if it lasts 5 I am lucky. The TV I was replacing while not LCD and all that other jazz was 17 years old and had been moved back and forth from Denver to Omaha to Wayne To Omaha To Wayne To Omaha more times than I can count.

As for athlons they have been shrinking their magazine for years. Some years it's bigger than others but if you get an Athlons Magazine for the late 70's or 80's ( and I have some) compare it to a edition from the past...oh 10 years. See how much larger it is heighth and width wise. And even though pages counts are similar notice the ads and the size of the print. Compare the quality of the paper. Paying more for less. It seems to be the way of the times.

Now that I am done bitching Open thread :)


et said...

Another good metric of how well a print publication is doing, Count, is the advertising-to-editorial ratio. The median for profitable publications is one-third advertising and two-thirds editorial. Once the advertising content starts to drop below 1/3, the publication is in trouble and is going to look to make up the revenue from somewhere: typically from subscriptions. It's also useful to look at the number of "house" ads taking up what otherwise would have been salable ad space - ads for the publication's own upcoming issues, its sister publications, conferences or events that the magazine is co-sponsoring or hosting. The more freebie "house" ads, the more trouble the magazine is in.

Print pubs that haven't yet figured out a viable online companion product are going to fall on harder times than ever in the years ahead, mark my words. (Well, hell, I've only been preaching this since we launched our online-only trade journal back in 2001...) Their problem number one is that with a huge legacy print operation to support, it was all too easy at the outset of the Web Revolution for publishers to "throw in" the online ads for free in order to clinch the annual print contract. This immediately undermined establishing any real value proposition for online ads. It was an extra, a sweetener, lagniappe. It's very hard to start charging for something once you've given it away for free.

Problem number two is that with corporate budgets shrinking and pressure increasing on ad managers and agencies to perform, they are increasingly dumping print entirely from their budgets - especially in the tech sector - because online advertising is so much more accountable when it comes to tracking and reporting actual ad results. The postcards inserted in magazines for requesting more information - "bingo cards," as they're known in ad parlance - were notoriously rife with what we called "literature collectors" (I personally sent all manner of radio equipment brochures to one D. Laurescu in Romania in the 80s - I think he was wallpapering with them.) and couldn't be tracked from source-to-sale with any reliability. Load up your clickthroughs with cookies and you can build a digital trail from initial inquiry to dollar value of eventual sale. That's a powerful CYA motivation for any corporate ad manager.

A side problem with print/online hybrid publishing operations is that very few of them have grasped that for the online vehicle to be salable, it has to offer unique and exclusive content. Most online versions of print pubs simply repurpose what has already appeared in print. That's not a model that will fly for much longer. Today the web is the primary source, not the add-on. Publishers with big legacy print ops have yet to grasp that.

Print will still be with us for a few more years, but as the generation of CEOs who love to see their glossy ads on the inside front cover of Publication X and the agencies who thrive on design awards begins to wane, it will go away for all but the toniest of magazines - the Architectural Digests and Bon Appetits of the world - just so there's something other than your mobile phone to browse in the dentist's waiting room or airport gate area.

Sorry to rabbit on about this at such length, but you can tell my mind (not to mention, livelihood!) has depended on this issue for years...

Anonymous said...

Like other print publications believe me the internet has brought slow death to the football magazine. And I don't think it's a good thing.

In many ways as you have noticed I am kind of a dinosaur. I think the death of the newspaper is a bad thing. I like magazines. I have a hard time reading long articles on the net. In fact I print them out which gets to be more expensive than buying a print publication. You can't lay in bed and curl up with the net.

One of my favorite things is going out on a October Sunday afternoon with the newspaper and a cigar and reading about the Nebraska game the day before. Yeah you can do that with net but it's not the same. And that Kindle thing isn't the same either. The net has it's place but so does the print publication.

One thing I was actually going to apologize to Athlons after I thumbed through the Magazine is it did seem to have less ads this year though as you say maybe that's not a good thing. But the ads they got rid of where the shady ones from the touts and handicappers who are mostly scum of the earth who rip people off by claiming to pick winners 80% of the time and selling their services for outrageous sums of money.

Anonymous said...

I am watching the spelling bee on ESPN. Two things. Why is it that most of the kids are Indian? 2nd. I noticed while none of the words are "easy" some words are like 37 letters longs while others are 6.

et said...

They go for weird root languages and obscure words, as I remember. The sponsoring newspapers distributed study pamphlets with alphabetical lists of the words most common in competition, back in the day. When I was in 8th grade I placed third in my state. :-)

I think trade magazines - business-to-business stuff - will die before hobbyist and general consumer magazines, because they're more driven by commerce/information than by enthusiasm. I agree that there's a lot to be said for something you can take to the beach or the park and leaf through. And I despise the notion of gadgets like Kindle. Human eyes need the non-electronic rest of the printed page.

Jonathan said...

Well it looks like we're not going to have that Kobe/James matchup. The Cavs are just giving Game 6 to the Magic.

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