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. 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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wait! Don't Kill That Magazine: 4 Ways To Rescue A Struggling Publication

As if plummeting ad revenue and rising paper prices weren’t bad enough, now the threat of skyrocketing postal rates has successful publishers like ESPN and Meredith talking about shutting down magazines.

But euthanizing money-losing titles isn’t always the best answer.

Just because your accounting system says the magazine is unprofitable doesn’t mean you’ll be better off ceasing publication. (I explain that more in a new article for  Publishing Executive, "Is It Time to Put Your Magazine Out of Its Misery?".)

A better option may be radical surgery – dramatically scaling back your magazine’s footprint to make it more sustainable for the long haul. Here are four examples:
Reduce Frequency
Turning two 80-page issues into one 160-page double issue can cut your production and distribution costs by one-third. For example, well over half the postage for most titles is related to the number of copies mailed, not the weight of those copies.

You can’t get that kind of savings from the usual, less radical tweaks. And, unlike trimming page counts or shifting to cheaper paper, doubling up actually yields a better product.

A double issue doesn’t have to be double-sized. Typical practice is to increase the page count by about 50% -- enough to give the readers noticeably more than they would get in a normal issue.

Reducing frequency enables you to continue publishing the issues that attract the most advertising while euthanizing the dogs of summer – those issues with poor ad sales.

A bonus: Double issues really do count as two issues. A recent promotion for TV Guide Magazine offered a special deal for a “1 year (52 weeks)” subscription, with fine print stating “will be delivered in the form of 26 double issues”.

Pare Your Subscription List
Letting people subscribe for less than the cost of printing and mailing their copies might have made sense when ad dollars were rolling in. But with that subsidy gone, sustainable publishing now means getting readers to pick up more of the tab.

Consumer magazines typically have a wide array of subscription price points – from airline-rewards miles to long-time customers who pay list price. (Are we the only industry that charges our best customers the highest prices?)

You can save money by eliminating negative-remit subscriptions and unprofitable promotions. Replace them with free copies distributed to such “public places” as hair salons, hotel lobbies, and doctors’ waiting rooms. Choose locations likely to be of interest to your advertisers or to have prospective subscribers. (Money-saving hint: Select regions in which your postage is most efficient.)

You can generate even larger savings if you’re willing to let your circulation shrink. That frees you, for example, to drop those 50-cents-per-copy subscription promotions, as well as subscription sources with poor renewal rates. And to stop offering renewals that don’t at least cover the cost of printing and mailing.

Factor in the impact on ad revenue; fewer subscribers means lower rates per page. But circulation reductions aren’t as big a deal as they used to be with advertisers, who now look to print media for highly engaged audiences, not masses of eyeballs.

Take a critical look at newsstand 
Magazine retailers and wholesalers focus on maximizing sales, not publishers’ profits. That means distributing lots of copies that don’t sell, which is OK for the channel partners but not so great for publishers that bear the printing and paper costs.

You’d think wholesalers would stop distributing your title to convenience stores that sell only 10% of the copies, but it never seems to work that way. Be willing to ban your magazine from retail chains with the worst sales.

Look especially at whether in-store promotions are paying off. And don't buy what you can't monitor: Non-compliance has become epidemic. (Hint: If you have copies in airport stores, there’s a good chance you're losing money on them because of "pay to play" promotional fees.)

Get more love for your digital edition 
Rising paper and postal prices don’t, of course, affect the costs of digital editions. Unfortunately, people haven’t exactly been beating down the doors to read our e-magazines.

But what if we gave them more reasons to take a look, whether via price discounts or bonus content? If you sell bookazines, give all of your subscribers access to a free digital edition. Or create a digital compilation of your best stories from the past year or on a specific topic.

Leveraging our digital editions more in promotions, such as providing free access to an issue, can gradually increase the share of digital-only subscribers. And it’s an inexpensive way of getting the email addresses of prospective subscribers.

The goal is not to get rid of print altogether but rather to replace our least profitable print copies with digital distribution.

Other Dead Tree Edition articles about magazine publishing include: 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Spanking-New Savior for Printed Magazines: Stormy Daniels

Stormy's booty basher?
The U.S. magazine industry got a real shot in the, um, arm Sunday night when Stormy Daniels confirmed that she had spanked future-President Donald Trump with a magazine that bore his picture on the cover.

Her revelation on “60 Minutes” broke the Internet, as millions of Americans who had abandoned printed magazines suddenly clamored for a UV-coated tush whacking.

Egotistical millionaires (is there any other kind?) this week have been offering to pay out the – uh, big bucks – for publishers to put their faces on a cover. Inspired by The Donald, they’re having their own #MeToo moment, desperate to drop trou for an “adult sophisticate” star who will give their porculent posteriors a periodicals paddling.
Confused Trump fans are joining the craze, buying up any magazine that looks as if it might have details on how Stormy toasted the underwear-clad Fuehrer’s buns.Wait ‘til they find out that North American Whitetail is about deer, not derrieres.

Not whacking material
Publishers seeking to capitalize on the excitement are already engaged in a race to the bottom with rebranding campaigns. Car buffs will soon be able to get their rear bumpers bashed with Road & Whack.

Anagram-loving golfers will be rolling up Flog Digest, while red-cheeked adventurers peruse Conde Nasty Traveler. Christianity Today will publish Christianity OK, for all those evangelicals who’ve forgotten the Ten Commandments and see no evil in Trump's actions.

Forbes is rushing back to press, my sources tell me, with the 2006 issue that Stormy supposedly used to deliver the news. Melania has pre-ordered a special edition that comes with an embedded Taser.

But with new evidence that Stormy’s ham slammer was actually a copy of Trump magazine, plans are already being made to relaunch the defunct title as tRUMP.
The real tRUMP buster?

Mr. Tree is especially ecstatic to report that the ill-fated Rosie magazine will be back, this time as Rosie Cheeks. That’ll get my spank on.

There’s even talk of a certain yellow-bordered magazine-media icon becoming National Pornographic.

(Editor’s note: With its stiff paper and tight binding, National Geographic is hard to roll into a proper crack plasterer. Those with tiny hands – I’m not naming any names – will prefer something thinner like Shorts Illustrated for delivering the blessed moonshot.)

Magazines – real, printed magazines – are of course the perfect tool for smackin’ the donkey. You can’t roll up a book the way you can a magazine.
Spank me, Rosie!

Newspapers are too flimsy. Besides, the ink tends to rub off, leading to messy fingerprints, which could be a real problem if you decide to, say, declare Chapter 11 four times and then run for president 10 years from now.

(Some newspapers claim to use low-rub ink. I’m all for low rubbing – but with ink?)

The web has been kicking magazines in the can for more than a decade. But now that Americans are rediscovering the joys of a four-color thwack on the gluteus maximus, we’ll be able to show that digital whippersnapper who’s the boss.

A real knockout
There is one downside: There may be calls to include warning labels on magazines. Consider that Stormy said she “just gave him a couple swats,” but “from that moment on he was a completely different person.” That sounds good at first.

But considering Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior, I’m thinking Stormy must have slapped his booty so hard it gave him a concussion.

Further proof that Mr. Tree has perverse fascinations with magazines as sexual objects, magazines about Trump – and with Rosie:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Game Over: Postage Rate Hikes Would Shut Down ESPN Magazine

A plan to increase publishers' postage rates drastically over the next five years would cause ESPN The Magazine to cease publication, an ESPN official indicated Friday.

If the Postal Regulatory Commission follows through with its plan "to increase our postage rates 40% over the next 5 years then ESPN will not produce a paper Periodical mailed through the USPS," Dennis Farley, the magazine's distribution director, said in a statement filed with the PRC.

"The content will be delivered via the many other means we now use to deliver our content," Farley added, in emphasizing that ESPN would continue as a popular cable network and web site.

In theory, Farley's statement left open the possibility of using other means to deliver the magazine to its 2 million paying subscribers. But that "other means" doesn't exist for a printed magazine, and digital magazines have mostly failed to catch on with consumers.

The PRC, claiming it has the power to override the inflation-based cap on most postage rates, put forth a plan in December to bail out the U.S. Postal Service with a series of rate increases. The Periodicals class, on which the USPS supposedly loses money, would be hit especially hard.

More than 100 organizations have filed comments with the PRC opposing the plan. Among those was the nation's largest magazine publisher, Meredith Corporation, which recently projected that the rate hikes would force it to stop publishing some titles and reduce the number of magazines it mails by 32%.

Ironically, even under the Postal Service's questionable accounting, ESPN The Magazine is probably a profitable customer for the USPS. The fortnightly is dropshipped entirely on pallets to 175 postal facilities, Farley said, with 83% of the copies in carrier-route bundles.

The Postal Service does well with such efficient mailers while tending to undercharge inefficient Periodicals mailers.