Monday, June 18, 2018

New Owner Casts a Queer Eye on the L.A. Times

I swear this is exactly what I saw on my phone today when I checked the Los Angeles Times web site for an update on the newspaper's de-troncification.

There's been no Photoshopping or other tricks. It really does look as if Dr. Soon-Shiong took out an ad asking readers of the Times to cast their Emmy votes for "Queer Eye".

The demand that mobile ads appear "above the fold" -- on the first screen view -- sometimes causes interesting juxtapositions. (The use of "above the fold," a long-time newspaper term, in reference to mobile ads is itself an odd juxtaposition, proving that publishers haven't fully adjusted their mindsets to the small screen.)

The actual letter from the good doctor states, "I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis." (Wow, he's so old school he knows that "media" is plural.)

Dr. Soon-Shiong did indeed close today on the purchase of the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from tronc Inc. for $500 million. Or maybe it was just a four-week trial purchase for only 99 cents; the news accounts seem to differ on the details.

Tronc is reportedly celebrating the sale by planning to de-troncify itself. A move is afoot to change the newspaper company's name back to something containing "Tribune" and most definitely not containing "tronc," which was famously mocked by comedian John Oliver as sounding "like the noise an ejaculating elephant makes."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

U.S. Magazines Are in a Steep Decline, Except . . .

Everyone who’s in denial about the sorry state of U.S. magazine publishing should take a close look at the chart above.

It shows that on a “real” (inflation-adjusted) basis, the spending on magazine advertising has dropped from about $65 per person to only about $22 in the course of just 10 years.

Those of us in the publishing business have been joking for years that “slightly down is the new up.”

But when the population is growing and prices are rising, “slightly down” means losing major ground. And in some years, magazine ad revenue has dropped way more than “slightly”.

The long-term trend for the consumer side of the business isn’t as bad, but it still sucks: The average number of magazines mailed to each U.S. household has dropped “only” by half in the past 30 years, according to a recently released U.S. Postal Service study. (The advertising chart was in the same study. The Postal Service is just full of good news these days.)

This cover was ripe for social media.
As a whole, the “magazine media” industry is in decent shape because of fairly good performance from the digital side of the house. As I note in a Publishing Executive article published yesterday, traffic at large digital-native web sites dropped 5% during the 4th Quarter, while web traffic of large magazine brands rose 5%.

The good news for printed magazines is that their credibility has a halo effect on the magazines’ web sites, which gives them a competitive advantage over their digital-only competitors. People may be buying fewer magazines, but they still associate them with quality and reliability.

With the rise of duopoplexy -- consternation about fake news and privacy abuses – trust has become a valuable commodity on the web. (“Duopoplexy” is a mashup of “duopoly” and “apoplexy,” in case you’re wondering.) And, as noted in the Publishing Executive article, the right magazine cover can do wonders for a publishing brand’s exposure and social-media presence.

But there’s only so much credibility leveraging and propping up that can be done by the digital side of the house. For long-term survival, magazines need to be able to stand on their own.

The first step to sustainability is to admit that what we’ve been doing isn’t working any more – and hasn’t been working for a long time. Too many consumer titles, for example, have inflated ratebases (minimum-circulation guarantees) that force them into offering $5-per-year subscriptions and other self-defeating practices.

And I challenge you to find a competing medium that has a more cumbersome process for buying ads than the U.S. magazine industry.

Hooray-for-print denial may make us feel good, but it prevents us from making the changes necessary to help our beloved magazines survive and thrive.

For further reading, some signs of hope for magazines:

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Magazine Advertising Entered the 21st Century Today

The beleaguered U.S. magazine industry received some welcome, perhaps groundbreaking, news today: A major trade association is backing the launch of an automated online marketplace for print advertising.

The platform could enable American publishers to fix one of their biggest weakenesses -- the cumbersome process for buying print ads, which has contributed to double-digit declines in annual ad revenue in what should be a favorable economic climate.

At the bottom is the full text of the French company's joint announcement today with BPA Worldwide, the dominant circulation-auditing and trade association for business-to-business publications.

My description and analysis of Adwanted and the BPA's involvement, "With New Online Marketplace, Print Ads May Have Finally Entered the Programmatic Age", was posted today by Publishing Executive.

And here are a few Q&As to help put this all into context:

Q: Is this programmatic print advertising?
A: It depends upon what you mean by "programmatic," but the answer is probably no. Adwanted does offer some of the best of programmatic ad buying, such as one-stop shopping from multiple publishers and automated purchasing. As with programmatic-preferred and programmatic-direct deals, the Adwanted platform recognizes the value of direct advertiser-to-publisher relationships. But it doesn't entail machine-to-machine buying; a human has to place the order. Nor does it involve bots, massive fraud, sketchy definitions of "viewability," or other hallmarks of programmatic digital ads.

Adwanted publisher's dashboard
Q: Wouldn't it have been better to get some big-name, industry-leading publishers on board first rather than building the network around niche B2B publishers?
A: Maybe, if you're good at herding cats. A joint meeting of, say, Meredith, Conde Nast, and American Media to discuss the creation of an ad marketplace would have been overrun by hot and cold running antitrust lawyers, with heaping sides of mistrust and paranoia. 

Cooperation comes more naturally to the B2B world, where publishers can network with a plethora of folks who face similar challenges but aren’t competitors. 

Also, big consumer publishers tend to have silos where the print people are shut off from the digital world and don’t see why the processes that have worked for decades should now be viewed as hopelessly anachronistic. B2B people are more likely to live in both the print and digital worlds, so they understand why print will continue to get its clock cleaned if it keeps asking 24-year-old media buyers to fill out reams of paperwork. 

Q: Why did you write that the BPA is "the organization best suited to dragging printed magazines into the programmatic age"?
A: The BPA is governed by a board made up of executives from the three types of organizations that are crucial to Adwanted's success -- advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers. The BPA-Adwanted arrangement couldn't win that board's approval without getting the input and buy-in from all three groups. Or without most of the board members' employers having already decided to join the platform.

The BPA is also able to build on the success of its B2B Media Exchange, the programmatic digital marketplace it started last year. The association's members tend to look to the BPA for such cooperative ventures that give them the capability of doing things they can't do on their own, while the MPA is dominated by large consumer publishers that tend to go it alone.

And I can't imagine the other large circulation-auditing organization, the Alliance of Audited Media, attempting something like this. It's not in their DNA to go beyond the auditing role and act like a trade association. 
Adwanted can streamline negotiations.

Q: Didn't Time Inc. introduce programmatic print buying to the U.S. three years ago? 
A: Good old Time Inc., a master of tooting its own horn, even when it didn't have much of a tune to play. Within months of Time's big announcements, no mention of the program was to be found on the company's web sites. And new owner Meredith doesn't seem to have resuscitated the project.

Time’s program was only for Time’s titles, so it was a closed system rather than a robust marketplace. It offered advertisers such choices of readers as "women" and "affluent" -- not exactly the kind of hypertargeting they can get from niche B2B and enthusiast titles. 

For advertisers, Time's program probably looked more like a gimmick searching for a problem rather than the solution to a problem. I suspect they gave it the once over and decided there wasn’t much “there” there.

Q: You're making it sound as if this BPA-Adwanted deal is the best thing to happen to magazine advertising since invention of the three-martini lunch. How much are they paying you?  

A: Nothing. I do admit to a bias: I work in the magazine industry, love magazines, and want to see them thrive. I've been worrying and complaining for years about how we've fallen way behind competing advertising media when it comes to ease of doing business. I was hoping the BPA would rise to the challenge, and it has -- with what looks like a well-conceived solution.
Here's the press release:

BPA Worldwide announces alignment with to expand automated ad buying to members’ offline media 

Shelton, CT May 9, 2018 – BPA Worldwide, a global leader in media auditing, today announced it will enable its members to add automation to the media buying process beyond online display ads.

When it launched the B2B Media Exchange, the private digital ad marketplace (PMP), BPA’s members asked if the PMP could also provide access to offline media buying, including print, e-newsletters, events, directory placements, in addition to digital ads. BPA has now aligned with to bring those capabilities to its members. 

Leading up to the launch of the B2B Media Exchange, we conducted a ‘Listen & Learn’ tour regarding our members’ top industry priorities, and the efficiency of automating offline buying was listed as the next step once the B2B Media Exchange was up and running. It is designed to provide greater buyer access, quality data and efficiency in buying online and offline media,” explained BPA President and CEO Glenn Hansen. “We want advertisers to be able to come to the BPA site, evaluate media and ‘Buy Now’ with a click to enter into a transaction – be it online, print or face-to-face.” Publisher members will be empowered to offer the same “Buy Now” option on their own sites and in digital media kits.

"When we established the vertically focused PMP comprised of BPA’s members’ audited sites, individual members were not able to reach scale on their own to justify the ad tech expense; however, when put together, BPA’s B2B membership creates a significant impact in the marketplace,” Hansen continued. “Adding the ability to buy all media with the aid of automation is a logical extension of what we created for the online world.” 

For years, B2B publishers have assured their advertisers their media offerings were compelling, based (partially) on the fact that their audience had vitality and was supported by an audit statement. Advertisers would depend on the audit statement and advertising would be placed.’s core product automates the buying and selling process of advertising for legacy publishers and their media buyers., operating in Paris*, is now bringing its software platform to the US and Canadian markets.’s platform allows publishers and media buyers to efficiently transact. Data sources on the platform include pricing/rate cards, marketing insights and circulation information in the form of audit statements. The platform handles the entire process from media selection, agreeing to terms and conditions, to issuing insertion orders. Once a publisher is on the platform, it is simple to provide a “Buy Now” link.

BPA has worked with to create a specific offering for BPA members. BPA will offer a “Buy Now” link to their publisher members and will be featured on the BPA website in the User Tools section in three different places (Reports Library, Brand Compare Tool, and the Audited Site Tool) thereby providing attribution. “We have always known that advertisers rely on BPA to provide assurance. Now we will be able to show actual engagement, too,” Hansen said.

“When we first met with BPA, we were impressed with the thinking which drove the creation of the first B2B programmatic marketplace, the B2B Media Exchange” said CEO, Emmanuel Debuyck. “Our platform’s ability to drive automation and digital empowerment and measurement for legacy publishers was a perfect match to help with BPA’s member efforts.”

If interested in learning more, please contact Glenn Hansen at or by voice at 203-447-2801.

*In France, is working with publishers such as Lagardere (Elle, Paris Match, etc.), Group Marie Claire (Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan), Mondadori (Grazia, Auto Plus), as well as Le Monde and Les Echos.

 # # # 

About BPA Worldwide. BPA Worldwide is in the business of providing assurance. For 80+ years as a not-for-profit assurance service provider, BPA was originally created by advertisers, advertising agencies and the media industry to audit audience claims used in the buying and selling of advertising. Today, in addition to auditing audience claims, through its iCompli service, BPA verifies compliance to defined government, industry, and organizational standards as well as adherence to privacy, data protection and sustainability guidelines and best practices. Performing nearly 2,600 annual audits of media channels in over 25 countries, BPA is a trusted resource for compliance and assurance services. For more information on BPA and its services, please visit the website.

About Adwanted Group. offers Legacy media companies (offline- Print- Outdoor- Cinema- Radio) a quick and easy way to market their advertising space; and advertisers and their agencies to get access, book and purchase these advertising space online. Adwanted Group through its subsidiaries,, Affinity Media, Audience Media, Media Opportunities and Access Outdoor, Adwanted Group is present in Europe, Asia and the United States.

For more information on contact Joe Lagani (President US Sales) at

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Big News Coming This Week for U.S. Magazines

UPDATE: Here's the announcement, released on May 9, along with some analysis: "Magazine Advertising Entered the 21st Century Today"

An announcement is scheduled for this coming week that I think could end up having huge -- and very favorable -- implications for the U.S. magazine industry.

I've been given an advance briefing about the subject of the announcement, and I'm quite impressed by what I see and the thinking behind it.

It addresses one of the biggest weaknesses and challenges faced by magazines -- an area where we've fallen way behind competing media, much to our detriment.

And one of the organizations involved in the announcement is exactly who I had in mind as the best positioned to address the problem.

At first blush, the announcement will look relevant only to certain publishers and to a particular segment of the industry. But if this venture takes off -- and it already seems to have the backing to do so -- it could become a catalyst for significant, positive developments that could spread throughout most of the industry.

Here's a hint, an excerpt from an article I wrote for Publishing Executive in late 2016:

Why does it take so long and so much freakin’ bureaucracy to buy a simple ad page? With a few mouse clicks, an ad buyer can book a digital ad that will run on the websites of 100 magazines. But try placing an ad in the next issue of those same 100 magazines. By the time you’re done, the following month’s issues will already have been published.

Stay tuned.