Archive for the ‘Magazines’ Category

Service of What Were They Thinking II? Gun Permits for Blind Applicants, Publishing Charitable Donations and Magazine Subscription Rates

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Huh

Seeing Straight

Did you know that Iowa grants gun permits to blind applicants? They fear that not doing so would be in violation of the Americans with EyeglassesDisabilities Act.

Giving for All to See

Publishing the amounts people give to charity is old as the hills and must work. Proud of my new last name I learned my lesson when newly married a thousand years ago. I put my name on the envelope I dropped in the basket at church only to see it listed in the monthly published donations at the lowest level.

charityRecently I almost offered a modest online donation to celebrate a friend’s father’s life when I noticed that the site was publishing each donation and name. As $100 wasn’t the amount I had in mind, I passed. There’s no way to tell how much charities don’t get because of potential donors like me though I’m sure they’ve worked out that public pressure ups totals.

How Dumb Are Their Readers?

One design magazine has dogged me to renew my subscription at $24/year or a “special offer” of $48 for two. A blow-in card in every issue boasts a $15 offer for new subscribers. Hmmm.

Can you add to this list? All three examples are head scratchers to me. Your thoughts?

writing a check

Service of Statistics and Studies: Tablet Sales, MPA on Magazine Ad Sales & Gallup on the Public’s News Sources

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Statistics

I like to tease out the significance of statistics, studies and findings and check them against my instinct and anecdotal observations. One place to find plenty of material is Mediabistro.com, a superb aggregator. From this site, in coverage about Barnes & Noble’s chief executive stepping down, I also read a digest-size update about the tablet business for books.

What a Pill

Book TabletsBarnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon.com’s Kindle, among the best rated tablets for books, aren’t doing as well as expected and neither come near the iPad. Linking to TechCrunch’s coverage, Mediabistro noted that the Nook division’s income dropped 34 percent from last year at this time.

I imagine one reason for the disappointing results for Nooks and Kindles is that people think of them delivering “books exclusively”–maybe magazines, comics, a few games and kid’s flicks too, options that are just a start for the remarkable iPad with its apps and multiple functions.

On a recent visit to Barnes & Noble I saw the latest versions that do far more–almost everything an iPad can–email, tweet, access apps, minus the picture-taking function and for hundreds of dollars less. But who knew? A crucial breach in getting out the info to the hoi polloi perhaps?

Based on my observations on NYC subways, busses and Metro area commuter railroads, I thought the book tablet industry was booming. Shows yet again how unrepresentative of the rest of the country NYers are; how commuting by public transportation vs. private car must impact the need for and therefore the national sales of such devices; that the reading demographic uses iPads or still reads books on paper or simply that fewer are reading.

Galloping Along

Town CrierThe same July day Mediabistro shared highlights of a Gallup poll of almost 2,050 adults who said that they get their news from TV in 55 percent of cases followed by the Internet at 21 percent. They voiced their responses without the help of options provided by the survey taker.

I thought that the Internet would have done better if not best. According to Dylan Byers on Politico, “For all the focus on ‘social,’ including Facebook and Twitter, only 2 of the 21 percent mentioned such networks as their primary source for news,” he wrote in “Gallup: TV dominates as U.S. news source.” Newspapers or print material came in at nine percent with radio at six.

How Does This Add Up?

Vintage magazine adMediabistro picked up FishbowlNY.com news which covered a Magazine Publishers Association report about the decline by five percent of consumer magazine advertising pages in the first quarter of this year compared to last. Wish this was a revelation.

The exceptions with “double digit ad page growth,” are also of little surprise given the health of the pharma/OTC health remedy and fashion industries: Prevention, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Women’s Health; Vogue, GQ and Elle. Only one, Saveur, was about food and one about decorating—HGTV Magazine 

Unless you already own one or both, were you to buy a tablet, would you buy an iPad or one of the others that cost $300 less? If you own a tablet, do you still read traditional books?  Where do you get news? Are you surprised about the magazines rich with ad pages or that some categories or titles are missing from the list?

Surprised

Service of Transitions

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Paris Poster

I’ve mentioned previously the advice a colleague gives her hotel clients: Welcome and encourage all travelers, not just the business guest who, while exiting the airport, checks in through a smartphone application [app] to learn his/her room number and doesn’t need a porter or any reception services. Remember the traditional traveler who wants to check in with a person: You need them both.

GrandHotelRomeI thought of her warning–no doubt she knew of hotels that forgot their tech-deprived clients when eliminating jobs and/or services–when a friend described his frustrating experience reading a printed travel magazine from a major publisher. It was designed to be read on a tablet or smartphone and was almost useless as a printed document.

Information in the cover story about Rome, such as the address or phone number of a featured shop, hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction, was nowhere on the printed pages or in the back where editors sometimes tuck such information.

By comparison, last week’s New York Magazine listed an address and phone number for every one of hundreds of entries in its “Best of New York 2013” issue covering countless categories. Now that’s a keeper.

Trevi FountainBack to the travel magazine: Its print edition has lost its way. It’s no longer of service to its readers and in so doing may soon divert most of them to the competition.

To find an address or phone number you have to be at a computer to type in each email address–such as palazzoesposizioni.it. Try getting that one right the first time from the italicized 8-point type. I got it wrong—left out one of the z’s–which is easy to do as most of the addresses are long and, for many of the readers, in a foreign language. Then what? Where do you write the address? There’s no room on the printed pages.

My friend wrote, “What a waste of money—I can’t be the only reader who feels cheated.”

Saving the article as-is for a trip file is out of the question. Who would subscribe or pay $5 for another newsstand copy?

Why, when companies jump on the latest bandwagon in search of new customers, do they so often forget about at least half of everyone else? Even the slickest and once smartest can be embarrassingly clumsy in making a transition or adding technology. Have you noticed similar examples in these or in different industries?

Change

 

Service of Launches

Monday, September 24th, 2012

launch

In spite of lackluster economic forecasts I know of two launches last week, both made possible by a combination of intelligence, flare, diligence, hard work and technology.

You couldn’t have missed news of the iPhone 5-as much of a happening as an opportunity to upgrade–so there’s no point my going on about it except to wonder about the strategy of making millions of folks wait so long to get one.

money-in-pilesFirst weekend sales, projected in the $8 to $10 million range, prove I don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you didn’t sign up at 5 a.m. on a certain day, or spend a week waiting in line outside a store–and I always wonder how these eager buyers can afford the phone if this is how they spend their time–you’ll get the device in about a month. In Apple time won’t the iPhone 5 be old news in 30 days?

Back to last week’s launches: You may have missed the premier issue of ISLE, a striking online magazine founded by its editor, Lisa McGee, an American living in Ireland.

map-of-irelandISLE is a celebration of that magical country. It doesn’t hurt my appreciation of the magazine that on my one trip to Ireland I, too, fell in love with the Emerald, well, Isle.

McGee isn’t any old émigré. She’s a well-regarded, successful editor on this side of the pond. She has equal measures of visual, styling and writing abilities in addition to a nose for what people want to see and know. ISLE–and what inspires it–is her palette and she’s a Vuillard [Jean-Édouard Vuillard is one of my favorite artists].

Her columns range from “Product Isle” and “Blog Isle” to “News Isle.” I was always covetous of the products McGee chose for House Beautiful Magazine and “Product Isle” doesn’t disappoint. My favorite: Jenny Walsh’s turquoise Cuckoo Clock.

There are surprises among the blogs she highlights: One is written by a Mexican cook in Ireland.

Dunfanaghy

Dunfanaghy

If you need a visual vacation, visit her coverage and photos of Inch House Country House and Restaurant-it’s actually in North Tipperary-or the seaside town of Dunfanaghy. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it but I’d love to go. As a craft lover I was intrigued to read about the 10 studios in Ceardlann an Spideal.

What about you: Have you been nurturing a new business or product idea? If you are bursting with an idea will you launch regardless of the economy? I can’t tell you how the iPhone 5 works but think that the first issue of ISLE is a keeper-don’t you?  

 nurture-a-plant

Service of Print

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

print

I continue to see people on trains, subways, in our apartment house [as evidenced by piles left outside front doors for garbage pickup] and in the library who read magazines and newspapers. There is increasing evidence print-vs-tabletthat while the print patient is sick, not all of it is on life support.

My observations are anecdotal, for sure. But take a gander at some of the things I’ve read lately:

From the Wallets of Billionaires

Warren Buffet told The Daily Beast‘s  Howard Kurtz why he has and continues to buy newspapers: “‘It’s not a soft-headed business decision,’ the 81-year-old investor tells me from his Omaha office.” Kurtz continued: “In putting his considerable money where his mouth is-Buffett’s company is in the process of buying 63 Media General newspapers for $142 million-the chief executive is challenging the widespread belief that the industry is trapped in a death spiral.” The papers he’s after “have to serve smaller markets where there is ‘more of a feeling of community,’” wrote Kurtz.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reads eight traditional newspapers a day and says “he prefers magazines the old fashioned way, despite having an iPad,” according to news aggregator Mediabistro.com, covering posts in VentureBeat and FishbowlNY. The news sources remind us that most of Bloomberg’s fortune has been made in the digital news and data service businesses.

Fashion and Beauty’s Youth Appeal

woman-and-magazines1And print isn’t just for old fogies. In Adweek, Emma Bazilian recently covered statistics to prove the point in “Condé Nast Finds Magazine Readership Growing Among Millennials.” Note: I was confused by the word “millennial” in the title as the youngest of the millennials, who can be as old as 37, is 23 yet the article spotlights readers in the 18 to 24 age range.

Nevertheless, “Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically ‘grew out’ of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s.”

Bazilian continued,  “Men’s magazines also gained ground with the 18-to-24 set, thanks to the addition of lad mags like Maxim and the ‘phenomenal growth’ of male fitness titles such as Men’s Health.” Bazilian was quoting Scott McDonald, svp of market research for the publisher.

Not surprising, the pulse for women’s service and news magazines is increasingly weak. The former, according to the article, didn’t keep up with the fact that most of their readers no longer stay at home and millenials turn to the Internet for news.

Mobility

sonytabletThen there’s Tracie Powell, in Poynter, who wrote “Consumers aren’t rushing to replace their magazine and newspaper subscriptions with mobile news products, according to a new survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.”

Her article, “Survey: Mobile users as likely to be print news subscribers as non-mobile users,” continued “The survey shows that although nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults use at least one mobile device per day, nearly equal percentages of mobile media device users and non-users – 39.8 percent and 40.2 percent respectively–said they still subscribed to at least one newspaper or news magazine, which suggests users of smartphones and tablets aren’t abandoning print media.”

Another of Powell’s points: “The survey shows ‘news consumption ranks fourth among reasons people use mobile devices, behind interpersonal communications, entertainment, and internet usage for information not provided by news organizations.’”

So where are you on the life of print? Am I looking at mortally wounded vehicles of communication and sources of information, placing hope on the thinnest strands of signs of life? Will the publishing industry–and some of the billionaires who continue to enjoy holding paper when they read–find ways to save print?

old-fashioned-ambulance

Service of What Were They Thinking?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

hell

I’ve written many posts that illustrate business behavior or decisions that deserve this reaction. Recently I’ve noticed a rash of examples that inspired me to revisit the question.

Humor Doesn’t Always Translate

I saw a scarf manufactured by a well known Italian fashion brand. Prominently printed along an edge in fancy script were the words “cheap & chic.” European or rich person’s humor, perhaps? At $80, the scarf represented the couture brand’s bargain basement price point. In spite of the pretty pattern and colors, the words translated to “what were they thinking?” Can you imagine the reaction of the recipient of such a gift?

My Stars

Another well known apparel brand, this one with retail stores of the same name, sells a tee-shirt with a yellow star reminiscent of the symbol Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany. Wonder what the stylist-and his/her boss-had in mind? One of the hosts of the WABC radio program “Religion on the Line” was not amused.

You Can’t Have That

magazinesLeafing through the pages of a once-favorite decorating magazine, I stopped at the image of a bright red and white bedroom ensemble. Most of the photo captions on the page were obscured by the dropout type on dark background. Centrally placed in the largest type on a white background I read: “____[name of store] no longer stocks this toile headboard, but the company still sells the matching dust ruffle.”

I couldn’t see the dust ruffle in the photo [though a friend said he could see a little bit of it]. The coordinating floral comforter took up most of the image but there was no mention of it.

Pay Your Debts

And then there was the Secret Service person who didn’t pay his Columbian prostitute. Now was that the time to be cheap?

Race to Play

sportscarsOn NJ.com, Christopher Baxter wrote “N.J. state troopers face probe for ‘Death Race 2012′ down Parkway to AC.” According to Baxter, two troopers “escorted a caravan of luxury sports cars at speeds in excess of 100 mph down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City last month.” Baxter quoted one of two witnesses, Wayne Gantt, who complained to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority: “I had the great pleasure today of nearly being killed by, not one, but two, Lamborghinis traveling in excess of 110 mph in a (New Jersey State Police) escorted ‘caravan’ of approximately 30 exotic vehicles all traveling well over 100 mph.” What a precedent for the next time a state trooper tries to ticket a driver for going 75 mph in a 65 mph zone.

Guess the police and the sports car drivers don’t remember how former NJ Governor Corzine was almost killed when he urged his chauffeur to travel at 90+ mph down a turnpike and the car smashed into something. Speed must be in the air in that state.

Can you explain what these people were thinking or add other examples to the list?

 head-scratcher

Service of Pennies Wise

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

penny

I’ve seen and heard so many instances of pennies wise pounds foolish lately. I’m a veteran bargain hunter and commend-even celebrate–prudent purchasing. I have never believed that more expensive automatically means better. I relish value for my money. But some go overboard to the detriment of themselves or others.

Now I See You, Now I Don’t

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles is considering the path of 14 other [misguided] states. In discussion: To remove passing an eye test as a license requirement. In New York today, if you don’t want to be tested in person you can send in a form signed by your eye doctor.

mr-magooUnder a new plan, applicants would check a box to confirm that they can see just fine. When questioned, the only defense department spokespeople had was that other states are doing it. So New York wants to have thousands of Mr. Magoo’s on the road too? Bad plan.

Up, Up and Away

An airline steward called The Frommer Travel Show the other week and warned cruise goers who need to fly to the embarkation city to arrive the day before. Air travel is iffy, becoming worse weekly, between weather and regulations and goodness knows what. The Frommers constantly share this advice with their radio show audience as well.

cruise-shipThe steward said, “To miss the ship for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise to save the cost of one night at a hotel is foolish.” By arriving early, you do save something-a ton of stress.

Not a Wrap

The more brand name stores hand me a folded carton and tissue paper for me to wrap a gift-or nothing at all– the more they confirm the sense of my discount store shopping sprees.

No Proof

I may sound sarcastic here but I can only imagine that publishers are saving on proofs when I can’t read a caption or copy in a magazine or newspaper spread because of a background that visually swallows up the words. Otherwise wouldn’t somebody–an assistant editor, an intern, the deli deliveryman waiting for his money at reception with a spread being reviewed by the receptionist–catch this?

Doesn’t Ad Up

My husband pointed to a full page ad in the Sunday New York Times Book Review section recently that left out a crucial piece of information: Who is this history book about?

There was a photo of a past American President on the cover, but the face wasn’t familiar to my husband who has read thousands of pages of American history and has a great memory! [I didn't recognize him either.] The title included the word President–not which one. Maybe you can read who the cover boy is when holding the hardcover in your hand. You sure couldn’t find out on this page.

The ad had plenty of copy filling up the page–the usual praise from reviews and fellow authors such as “gripping” and “compulsive reading” to “harrowing and fascinating saga” and “crackling tale of suspense.” Maybe this major publisher’s marketing director was fired to save money. His/her assistant was tapped marketing director, saving thousands on salary and losing thousands more from such elementary mistakes.

What false savings have you noticed lately?

weighing-pennies

Back to Basics II

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

apple-pie

This evergreen topic intrigues me. I last covered it in February.

Research 101

I have always enjoyed research. Thought I was good at it until the other day. I moaned to my friend, editor/writer Jim Roper, that I’d spent one hour trying to find a street mailing address for a company’s headquarters and the closest I got was the city.

An aside: It’s amazing how some of the most high tech places are able to hide-or maybe it’s because they are high tech that they know how to.

chamber-of-commerceI’d checked every online resource, including the Chamber of Commerce, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. I came up dry.

Jim said, “So CALL the Chamber.” I stopped pounding the keyboard, picked up the phone and left my phone number and email address in a voice message. The next day what sounded like an intern called my voicemail with the street address. It was easy enough to get the zip code on usps.com. The phone? What a concept!

Mail Fundamentals 

The last mail pickup in midtown Manhattan is 4 pm. Can you think of any business for which this is a convenient time?

mailboxWorse, the nearest mailbox to our office that was on Third Avenue and 44th Street disappeared a week ago while the one a block away, on Lexington Avenue and 44th Street, right across from a post office, remains. Another box on Lexington Avenue and 43rd Street, in front of my bank–a block from the post office–is also gone. Was anyone looking at a map?

Elementary Checking

I get emailed news alerts from a major network. Thought I had a case of déjà vu when I saw the subject line, “Bank to Pay Billions to Investors,” that I remembered from the day before and clicked to read the topic: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s canceling July 4 recess.”  I, too, make silly mistakes. We should all take it a notch slower.

Magazines Forever

magazine-stackRegardless of the economy or technology, we love magazines and continue to invent and launch them. [Somewhere I have a prototype of one that I made with my friends in 5th grade.]  In the first half of this year we added 138 magazines vs. 90 last year at this time, wrote Stefanie Botelho in folio.com. Food titles and regional magazines were most popular. Closures are down, from 86 last year to 74 this, in the same time period.

Do you have any tips for locating a company that wants to hide? Examples of basic services you may have put aside but are using again or others you’d like to use, like the US postal service, that are becoming harder to access?  

hide-and-go-seek

Service of Full Disclosure

Friday, July 16th, 2010

full-disclosure

In his column, The Ethicist, Randy Cohen wrote recently in The New York Times, “Your wife should err on the side of caution and not take anything of value from a supplier.” The woman supervised travel for a company and she’d won the grand raffle prize of two roundtrip tickets to Japan at an event sponsored by several airlines. There were some 1,000 guests.

matchbookIn my first job out of college I worked at Dun & Bradstreet writing credit reports. We were told that if a company we visited manufactured matchbooks not to take a single match, even to light a cigarette. That has been my guideline ever since.

Yet I think that Cohen is being harsh in this instance. He softens at the end of the column, noting to the husband who sent in the query, “At the least, she must disclose her winnings to her supervisors and get their green light before she packs her bags.” I’m comfortable with that.

Some in the media won’t let a PR person buy them so much as a cup of coffee. Others gather enough loot over years to fill a strip mall. Reporters and editors don’t have a lot of time to schmooze over lunch these days, nevertheless, just as business is done by some on a golf course, I can’t imagine how, for the price of a lunch or a coffee, anyone would sell their soul and run photos of horrible looking, poorly made or faulty goods in a new product column or run positive coverage of a lackluster ad campaign or sleazy business.

bookstarsWhat about a book or movie reviewer who is sent/given a galley or invited to preview the flick? I don’t recall reading in their reviews that they didn’t pay for the book or seat at the theatre and it doesn’t bother me. What about a beauty editor sent samples that aren’t samples but entire bottles and jars? No problem in my mind. Making up samples would cost a fortune and wouldn’t provide the same experience. Packaging–how the beauty product looks and how the dispenser works–is part of the evaluation.

Full disclosure: I send promo codes to reviewers who ask for them so they can try a client’s smartphone application and have given hundreds of yards of fabric and countless rolls of wallpaper and dinnerware and flooring to be used for newspaper or magazine new product pages or to decorate a home that a magazine photographs.

Obviously, if a company pays any of the reviewers for their assessments, they must disclose this relevant piece of information, whether they write for a blog, web site, an online or print newspaper or magazine. Special sections or advertorials are paid for by the participants and are clearly identified by publishers, usually at the top of the page.

Because attitude and service are more than half of the experience, I think that a restaurant, hotel or travel reviewer should be anonymous and pay for all his/her expenses, no exceptions. 

What about stock brokers? Should they tell you that they’ve been told to push an investment by the boss?

Where do you stand on full disclosure? Do you care?

full-disclosure2

Service at a Price

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I bought a nifty yoyo at a boutique yesterday and asked for a gift bag–in this case, a very small paper bag with self-stick label to keep it closed. “That will be $1 more,” I was told. They kept the gift bag and gained my annoyance. A full-priced store that charges $10 for a yoyo should give you a gift bag.

How did stores make a profit in the past when they paid gift wrappers? Now, you’re often given a box and tissue paper to do the deed yourself. Barnes & Noble still wraps books and gifts and during the holidays, their stores invite local charities to do the wrapping–what you donate is up to you.

This brings me to American Airlines’ charging $8 for a blanket and pillow: Now, really. Aren’t we inching towards the “oh, you wanted a steering wheel with that car? That’ll cost ya,” style of business?

I got yet another renewal notice from a magazine in which my renewal rate at a “savings” was $20 for a year and the blow in card noted $15 for 12 issues. But look again at that card. In mouse type was, “plus $3 shipping and handling.” It’s enough to make you cancel the subscription, which I did.

ATM machines can be fee-scalpers too: Use another bank’s and watch out. Bank fees in general strangle a budget.

Have you bought theatre tickets online? There’s a $6 to $8 per ticket surcharge that you don’t get if you buy from the box office. That’s the surprise as you check out. It’s especially deceptive if you’ve fallen for a discount ticket promo that touts 25 to 45 percent discounts because that’s no longer the percent of the discount at all.

The head-scratcher: Doesn’t the box office staff cost the theatre money? Why charge so much more to have someone make out a label, put tickets in an envelope and slide it through a postage meter which should take less time than dealing with a whiney customer at a ticket window asking a bunch of questions. And with an email address, that cost them nothing to capture, the theatre can pester a likely suspect from now to kingdom come about upcoming shows–at no cost.

Can you imagine someone in the agency business playing similar games? “Oh, you expected me to write your press releases and select media for the $6,000/month fee? That’ll be an additional $3,000/month.” [I know, I know, some do.]

What surcharges drive you nuts? Why can’t businesses do what they should for a fair price and leave it at that?

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