Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Print Is Not Dead

I've just published the following article which appears in The Capitol Communicator at

The obituaries for print magazines seem to be everywhere. Fueled by the shift to electronic media and the decline of advertising revenues, it seems that not a day goes by without hearing about the shuttering of a print media product. But, as the saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. Print is not dead and there are publishers who are going against the trends and increasing their investments in ink-on-paper products as a way of cementing their position in the markets they serve.

Hearst Magazines, a division of Hearst Corporation, the well-known publisher of a number of popular magazines including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and O, the Oprah magazine, has launched Food Network Magazine with much success. Originally planned to have a paid circulation of 300,000, the publisher has just reported circulation of over 900,000 and is on track to surpass the one-million mark before the end of this year. Published in collaboration with the cable TV channel, Food Network and its popular website, the print product offers unique content available on neither the television shows nor its website and is delivered in a format that can easily be used by its readers in their kitchens. A recent article in the New York Times quotes Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi: “I give a lot of credit to Hearst for being willing to go in one direction when everyone else is going in the other direction. They’re doing well in a tough time, and Food Network is the big success story of 2009.”

But large publishers are not the only ones enjoying success with recent launches of print magazines. Numerous niche publishers, fueled by the success of their websites, have launched print products. Heather Vreeland, publisher of newly launched Atlanta Occasions Magazine, saw the print product as a more direct way of reaching her customer base than she was able to achieve with her company’s website. Focusing on the bridal industry in the greater Atlanta area, she was having difficulty selling advertising space on the website because of low traffic and strong competition from the national websites serving the bridal market. So, rather than wait for customers to find her, she determined that with a print product she could go to the places her customers visit by distributing the magazine at wedding gown stores, bridal shows, and other locales where the customers of her advertisers were congregating. The result: the print magazine is generating significantly more revenue than her website and has served to increase her company’s visibility within the market it serves, something that would not have happened if she continued to rely on just her company’s website.

These cases are not unique. Although costly to produce, print products continue to deliver value to readers and advertisers when they are positioned to complement the content offered by a publisher’s electronic media. Unlike websites, which require a computer to view, magazines are portable, can be more readable, and can deliver a verifiable readership of purchasers than can most websites. Print is alive and well and will continue to be so as long as publishers view them as an integral part of a multi-media mix of content delivery products.

For more, contact Robert Silverstein, principal, Advertising Sales Experts, Inc. (

The Importance of the Editorial Calendar

Of all of the information you make available in your publication’s media kit, there is none more important than the annual editorial calendar. This is especially true in the current economic climate where advertising budgets have been reduced. The annual editorial calendar is one of the most important planning tools advertisers and their advertising agencies use to select the publications, and in which issues of those publications, they will schedule their ads.

I have heard from many association publishers that it is very difficult for them to create a calendar. “I can’t plan more than a few months in advance” and “I want to have the flexibility to put in timely articles” are just two of the excuses I have encountered. But, advertisers don’t want to hear those excuses. What they most need to know is which issues will deliver the most value for their advertising investment in them, and the editorial calendar is their best tool to do this.

The annual editorial does not have to be detailed. No one is expecting you to know what the exact wording of the headline of each feature story will be a year before it is published. But what the advertising community does need to know is the subject areas to be covered in each issue. For instance, if you are selling advertising to software manufacturers, they will look at the editorial calendar to see in which issues there will be a stories about technology. The same is true for all of the major categories of industry suppliers serving your industry.

Another important piece of information that should be included in your calendar is any tie-ins or bonus distribution of issues at industry events, conferences, and conventions. Exhibitors look for bonus distribution opportunities offered around events at which they will be exhibiting and are more likely to advertise in the issues distributed at those events.

As you develop your annual calendar, keep in mind the buying cycle of when specific product categories are purchased by your readers and plan the feature stories within those timeframes. One example comes from publishers of trade magazines serving the retail industry. The busiest time of year for most retailers is around the holiday months of November and December. But the products that are sold in the retail stores in those months were actually chosen and purchased as much as ten months earlier. If you are planning to write an article on the popular new items to be purchased as holiday gifts, planning that article in the November issue of your magazine will not be attractive to advertisers. However, planning that same article in the February issue will be much more meaningful to the market and will attract the advertising of those vendors selling merchandise to retailers because their ads will be seen at the time those retailers are making their purchasing decisions.

Your editorial calendar does not have to include every article or editorial department you have planned for each issue, but should include at least one topic per issue that, over the course of a year, will be of interest to every major category of your industry’s suppliers. Also, if you are planning a special issue, such as a buyers guide or “year in review” article, be sure to include those in the calendar as well. Remember, the editorial calendar is looked at by advertisers to help them determine if your magazine covers the most relevant issues of your industry and which issues will contain content that covers the segment of the market they each serve. Without a calendar, advertisers may simply pass you by as an advertising medium.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Look Back at Typesetting Technology

It is not my intention to discontinue or replace the advertising sales content on this blog but to only add additional postings about the history of typesetting (at least as I have experienced it). I think it's interesting that all of the technologies we take for granted today are evolutionary extensions of the technologies that were used years ago. Products like InDesign and Photoshop didn't just show up. They came about as improvements to products and processes that preceded them. It is the rapid speed of technological change that I am most interested in, but seen from the perspective of not only where it is going, but where it has been. As print production technology has changed, advertisers have had to adopt to those changes just as publishers have. The creation of advertising material has had to keep up with the technologies used to produce the magazines in which those ads appear. So, the changes that have altered the print production process have effected everyone involved in the creation and production of a publication and all of its content, editorial and advertising. Please let me know if you are enjoying these postings.

Although I have spent most of my career in advertising sales, I actually started my career on the production side of the business. I recently installed the latest version of Adobe InDesign, and as I look at the amazing functions available to me with just a few clicks of a mouse, I think back to the way I first learned how to do typesetting and layout years before the invention of the personal computer.

Not that many years ago, typesetting technology was broken into two categories: hot type and cold type. Hot type referred, primarily, to the Linotype machine, a device that used molten lead poured into molds that formed the individual letters. Much of the terminology used in modern typesetting—leading, for instance, the insertion of a blank piece of lead to add space between lines of type—came from that technology. But, Linotype machines required skilled operators to run them, were expensive, and because of their size and the amount of heat generated from them (in order to keep the lead molten), they were found only in commercial facilities. Cold type came about as the photo offset printing process developed. It created a market for companies to enter the typesetting business by creating relatively low cost devices that would set type which could then be photographed and converted to offset printing plates. One of the earliest entrants of this technology was the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation, and their machine, the Varityper, was the first typesetting machine I learned to use.

Using the Varityper was slow and tedious work. First, the pica width of the column was set with margin guides. A sheet of paper was inserted into the machine and each line of a story was typed twice, once to allow the machine to determine how much extra space needed to be added between each word, and then after setting a dial that added that additional space, a second time to produce a justified line of type. Line after line was done this way until you created a fully justified column of type. This was then “pasted-up” on a layout sheet to create a single copy of each page of a document which was then photographed and the negative used to create a printing plate.

With all of this typing and retyping, one was sure to have some typos in the text, which occurred often. When a mistyped word was spotted, the corrected word was typed on the border of the paper. The finished paper was then taken to a light table and the corrected word was positioned on top of the incorrect word and an X-Acto knife was used to cut through both layers at the same time. The old word was discarded, and the new one, which fit perfectly in the cutout space, was held in place by a piece of clear tape applied to the back side of the paper. This tedious process certainly taught those of us who used the machine and then had to correct our own errors how to type as accurately as possible.

Each typestyle or font came as a family, so it was easy to have a word set in bold or italic. It was just a matter of changing the font, which was a half-moon shaped metal form containing all of the characters. Picture it as the predecessor to IBM’s “golf ball” font utilized on the Selectric typewriter. But, the Varityper created very sharp type that photographed clearly and printed well on a machine that required little more than basic typing skills in order to operate. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was the predecessor to desktop publishing as we came to know it when the IBM PC was introduced years later.

So, I am going back to a document I am creating in InDesign. I don’t have to type each line of type two times, I have hundreds of typestyles available to me in sizes ranging from 6 point to 72 points, if I should find a typo, I will edit it directly on the screen, and there is not a drawing board, X-Acto knife, t-square, or paste anywhere near where I am sitting. But, I do look back fondly at my time in front of a Varityper as it taught me the basic skills of typography that I can still apply today.

Next week, I will talk about the next device I learned to use, the IBM MTSC composing system.

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