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Monday, June 29, 2009

Twitter Litter

In an era of too little time and diminishing print space, is all the coverage of Michael Jackson's death on line and by the major media--including The New York Times--relevant, material and necessary?  Or is this just another, more perfect example of Twitter litter?

PS—I thought I had coined the phrase “Twitter litter,” drawing some audible twitters when I used the term as an iBreakfast Club panelist in April.  But on looking up the phrase to doublecheck, I find that others beat me to it, including Urban Dictionary earlier this year and Mark Justice in 2008.  Nice going, guys!

-- Jeff Bogart

3:10 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's in a Name: The Daily Journal?

Today in midtown Manhattan I walked past the News Corporation Building on Sixth Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets, the new home as of June 12 for “the bulk” of The Wall Street Journal’s reporting operations.  I then passed by 1155 Sixth Avenue at 44th Street, a building in which the newspaper has been occupying three floors for what a guard called “quite some time.” 

The paper’s name has been chiseled into a pillar erected outside this second site.  I thought, perhaps it’s fitting that the newspaper—flag bearer for finance and investing—has left lower Manhattan, where it began in 1889, and followed the major brokerage firms, banks and Wall Street law firms to midtown, only a few steps away from the glitz of Broadway.  If so, it now seems fair to ask the following: Isn’t it also time the paper dropped the words “Wall Street” from its name and masthead? 

-- Jeff Bogart

6:10 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Magazines and Digital Technology: Warm Embrace or Shotgun Marriage?

With the explosion of digital versions of magazines, are mainstream publications still acting the role of digital laggard, afraid to adopt new technology wholeheartedly?

Apparently so—at least in the case of mainstream magazine publishing companies.  That’s my take-away from the  Folio webinar I attended today featuring two veteran magazine industry analysts. The session (aimed at the industry’s top executives since that’s the primary audience claimed by Folio( seemed timely in view of the industry’s ongoing transformation (atrophy?). 

Magazine executives will need to rethink their definition of publishing if they are to be successful in this digital age, the two analysts for the Webinar, Bob Sacks and Dave Renard, said.  The “key to success is to embrace new technology,” Sacks declared, implying that much embracing has still to be done.  Being a publisher means more than the traditional role; it means information distribution, Sacks ( added.  Although not exactly a new concept, it has apparently not been adopted by magazine publishers.

So in this day and age, what is a “magazine,” anyway?  The modern magazine is best redefined as “metered, edited, and designed content intended to be periodically delivered to the reader in a format that is date-stamped and permanent,” Renard ( ) said.  Magazine publishing delivers “paginated media,” or “metered, edited and designed content,” the two analysts also said.  Paginated media, noted Sacks, is still an excellent way to go regardless of the “substrate.”

The Webinar was titled “Digital Editions:  The Next 12 Months,” and Sacks and Renard flagged several trends, including:

  • the next 12 months will see the start of a “shift” to measuring magazine advertising effectiveness in terms of “usage.”  Until now, they said, the premise promoted by magazine publishers has been that every page of the magazine is read—a premise that they called a “myth.”

  • by 2016 advertising and circulation revenue from digital magazines will account for “about 20 percent of a publisher’s total revenue.” (They did not provide the current percentage.)

  • increased emphasis will be placed on digital readers (e.g., Kindle), “as a new generation of e-paper readers enters the market over the next four or five years,” and these readers will display color not just black and white.  These devices will move away from not being able to display two pages at once.  Although the Kindle is now “clearly” not ready for magazine content, it will come move closer to doing so over the next 12 months. 

  • magazines will increasingly be designed for digital, not print display.

“If you aren’t comfortable in the digital world, I don’t think you can survive in it. . . . You must understand what a digital magazine is and what a digital magazine can be. . . . must understand the new sociology that supports it,” Sacks said.  He added, “. . . we must understand that all the achievements that the digital world has created will not retreat . . .it will  only get stronger . . . our industry is never going back to a print-only focus. . .the modern publisher must be indifferent to the substrate. . . .remember, magazines are not changing, but the way people read is.”

Asked why anyone would want to read pages in a format smaller than print, Sacks replied, that digital devices such as the Blackberry are not difficult now for “screen-agers” to read. 

Questioned why publishers are so reluctant to create digital versions, Sacks answered that they have “an irrational fear of the unknown.”  Renard added that many publishers tell him that they hope the big changes come only after they retire.

With advertising declines, cuts in the number of pages, reductions in the frequency of issues, and the growth of web-based content, retirement for these publishers could be coming very quickly!

-- Jeff Bogart

11:09 pm edt          Comments

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