7 Missteps That May Prevent Publishers From Jumping to the Second Curve

President’s Note

The magazine industry has felt the nonstop impact of disruption and displacement since the late nineties. Like railroads, telegrams, and more recently, the music business, print media faces an evolutionary emergency as consumers shift to newer technologies and new modes of consumption.

Magazines were blindsided by digital media 20 years ago. Just as they’ve tried to pivot, some new disruption emerges. The result? An extended period of struggle, as ad revenue dwindles, massive rounds of layoffs sweep the industry, and many titles close. 

The dynamic now playing out before our eyes can be explained in the context of the “first-curve-second-curve” model of business economics. The model, created by the author, consultant, and futurist Ian Morrison, says that the first curve is a company’s traditional business—all of the activities that led to a company’s success to begin with. The second curve is the future—new technologies, new capabilities, new talent and new audiences. The second curve is the inevitable paradigm shift that makes the first-curve business model obsolescent and ultimately extinct. 

The key is to succeed at the first curve while simultaneously jumping to the second. For magazines, the last 25 years have been a continual journey to the second curve. In this report, Ads&Ideas Editor Tony Silber explores the impact of media-industry disruption on ad sales using the “first-curve-second-curve” model, identifying in the process some of the self-imposed impediments that media companies may be grappling with.

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American and European Publishers Learn from Each Other as Advertising Models Converge

In March, I attended the FIPP Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin and left with the realization that advertising-related problems in Europe are the same ones we’re facing in America: media fragmentation, a failing business model, fraud, and the emergence of social platforms that distribute our content for free and control the ad spend. This led to a decline in ad dollars for virtually all content creators. The myth perpetuated by the platforms was if you build a social presence-, the audience—and business model—will come. It turns out the only business you built was theirs.

The roots of this situation go back years. It’s taken us 25 years to understand it. Consumers need to pay for content. And that’s not what Google and Facebook want. They alone account for more than 60% of all digital ad dollars spent. But now, at events like the Digital Innovators’ Summit, we’re seeing signs of new approaches.

I spoke with FIPP CEO James Hewes about the media and advertising environment. Here’s a transcript of that conversation, edited for length and clarity by Ads&Ideas Editor Tony Silber.

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When You’re Selling Products That Your Customers Don’t Want

How research can help avoid major mistakes in new-product development 

At some point in your career, chances are you’ve gotten a call from a salesperson excited about a new product their company has developed. But chances are also that it was developed with the seller’s needs in mind, not yours. In the media business, new-product development is an insular process. It’s frequently driven by insular executives—people who rarely speak to customers and don’t understand timing or the pain points in the market. They just know they’re under pressure to produce revenue, so they push out a flawed idea. 

The result is predictable. The salesperson ends up behind the eight ball. The client doesn’t have the budget. The idea doesn’t sync with their current priorities. They lose trust in the media brand, which they believe has lost traction in the market. 

In the end, it becomes an “Oh, no, here comes Bob,” dynamic, when a formerly valued partner (the salesperson) becomes a nuisance to be avoided. 

That’s devastating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of planning, any sales organization can raise its game to ensure its product development syncs with what the market needs. I recently spoke with Jack Semler, the owner and CEO of Readex Research, about this common and potentially crippling sales mistake. Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity by Tony Silber. 

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Outsourcing Your Ad Sales: Why To Do It, And How To Make It Work

The ad-sales business has gotten much more complex in the last decade. Media companies are scrambling to adapt as marketing budgets get smaller and ad campaigns get shorter—even as media product lineups have vastly expanded, forcing salespeople to master new technologies—and sell more stuff. 

But in ad sales, as elsewhere in life, you are what your numbers say you are. For companies seeking continued revenue growth, and looking to impose tighter cost management, one alternative is to partner with a proven outside sales firm. 

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Print Ad Spend is Down in 2018, But There’s No Surge in Digital


Tony Silber interviews Todd Krizelman of MediaRadar

What does it mean when more than 20,000 advertisers stopped placing ads in print media in the first four months of 2018? Perhaps it’s more ad spend flowing to digital channels and the Facebook/Google duopoly, right? You might conclude that it’s bad news for print media and part of the rise of digital. 

Wrong. It’s something more complex, and it serves as a clarifying moment for print-media companies and their sales teams. 

There were 151,825 advertisers in print in January-April 2018, according to an analysis by MediaRadar, down by 13 percent from the 172,155 print spenders in the same period in 2017. But the catch is that those advertisers didn’t move to digital. Rather, they stopped advertising altogether.

This intriguing analysis doesn’t support the narrative of a decline of print media. Here’s a transcript of our conversation with Todd Krizelman, edited for length and clarity.  

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"What Publishing Sales Organizations Can Learn From Other Industries" — An Interview with Steve Grossman.

President's Letter

Steve Grossman, a well-known Chicago-based sales consultant, first contacted my company to measure our interest in taking over ad sales for a group of consumer titles, which eventually happened.  It seemed odd that this important role had been assigned to someone outside of our industry; we tend to work mostly with publishing specialists.  However, as we worked together, I realized that most of the challenges I hear about from both small and large publishers are not really unique to publishing sales.

Yes, there are some distinctive characteristics of the ad sales business, such as multi-channel sales points with client and agency involvement, but Steve had run into similar problems in other industries.  I thought that our readers might benefit by exposure to sharp thinking from someone who is not “in the bubble” with us.  Steve agreed to share his thoughts during an interview we held in January.  Here is an edited version:

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Here's Where Publishers Will Be Investing in 2018

FOLIO: talked to ten publishers and industry partners (including Jim Elliott) to see how they plan to get the job done in 2018.  Here's an excerpt:

Jim Elliott, President, James G. Elliott Co., Inc.

Investment planning must grow out of each individual publisher’s specific situation, reflecting their goals, resources, history, skill sets, market environment, and much more, so there is no single best strategy. However, there are some general considerations that pertain to each of the major publishing sectors, as follows:

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Time Inc. and Meredith Merger Raises Important Questions for Magazine Media

FOLIO: got reactions to the merger from industry experts, including Jim Elliott:

"Jim Elliott, founder of James G. Elliott Co., an outsourced media ad sales company, shared with us a similar sentiment. “I think Meredith is a best-in-class publisher,” he says. “What I think this means is they see value in print and always have. And they see value in a print brand. I think that’s a good thing. I think it sets a tone.”

Read the whole article here: 


An Interview with John French

At the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience in Oxford, MS in April, 2017, John French delivered one of the best speeches I have ever heard on publishing industry issues. John is the former CEO of Cygnus Business, former CEO of Penton and former President of Business Magazines, PRIMEDIA.  The title of his talk was “Life Lessons in Adding Value.” He now shares his experience as an advisor to publishing executives and investors. I encourage you to learn more at johnfrench.com.

JIM:  So John, I was very moved by your speech at ACT 7. It was an inspirational overview of the business and how to properly run a business. You’re in a unique position because you’re really a turnaround expert. You come in where there are problems. You have to be an expert on business—period—because you know how to spot a business that’s really headed into trouble.

JIM:  What do you do to turn around a publishing company that’s in trouble? What steps do you take?

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Jim Elliott Receives Lifetime Achievement Special Award

Jim Elliott Receives Lifetime Achievement Special Award

Jim Elliott, President of the James G. Elliott Co., Inc., received the First Annual Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award from Association Media & Publishing on June 26, 2017, at the 37th annual EXCEL Awards Gala in Washington, DC. This special award honors an industry service provider who has performed outstanding service to AM&P  and whose accomplishments have spanned a career in association media and publishing. The award was founded in 2016 in honor of loyal AM&P member Mitch Mohanna, who passed away in 2015.

“I am deeply grateful for this particular recognition,” said Elliott. “Mitch Mohanna was a good friend and respected competitor who brought great value to our industry, and it is humbling to receive this award honoring his name.”

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Google Plans to Clean Up the Web with Chrome Ad Blocker

Google will introduce an ad blocker to Chrome early next year and is telling publishers to get ready. The warning is meant to let websites assess their ads and strip any particularly disruptive ones from their pages.  See full story on The Verge:


Jim Elliott slated to receive the Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award from Association Media & Publishing

Association Media & Publishing Honors Emerging Leaders and Lifetime Achievement Special Awards

Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) is excited to announce the recipients of its special awards – the Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award and the four Emerging Leader Awards sponsored by Imagination. The awards will be given at the 37th Annual EXCEL Awards on June 26, 2017 at the DoubleTree Crystal City as part of AM&P’s Annual Meeting.

James G. Elliott, president of James G. Elliott Co. will receive the AM&P Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award. This special merit award honors an industry service provider who has performed an outstanding service to AM&P and achieved accomplishment spanning a career in association media and publishing. It was founded in 2016 in honor of loyal AM&P member Mitch Mohanna, who passed away in 2015.

Click here for full press release:


A Broad Perspective on the Print Landscape

President's Letter by Jim Elliott

Tony Silber has been a keen observer of the magazine industry for a long time. His perspective is not limited to just one sector, but includes all significant developments across the entire industry. In his position as Vice President of FOLIO:, he frequently talks with senior people about their challenges and opportunities, their views and their concerns. Tony graciously agreed to share his thoughts with the readers of Ads&IDEAS®.

ELLIOTT: Tony, of all the people I know, you have the broadest perspective on the print landscape. You often interview senior people in the commercial B2B, consumer and the association print world. So what are the hot trends this year in each of these three sectors?

SILBER: There are several major trends in play now that have a direct impact on magazine media. One that affects all corners of the magazine-media world is in digital advertising. This revenue source has generally increased in importance for all media brands, but not in growth from the macro perspective. Just two companies–Facebook and Google–are thriving on digital advertising. They control more than 50 percent of the entire multibillion-dollar spend, and virtually all of the growth. This duopoly is an existential threat to any business that relies on advertising. Another problem with digital advertising is fraud. Robot traffic, phony engagement statistics, and tech middlemen that claim a huge piece of the spend are all challenges that have not been resolved. 

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How Can You Sell Them If They're Too Busy to Listen?

Interviews in the following article from Digiday, ''It's brutal': Junior agency employees feel the squeeze from low margins (http://digiday.com/agencies/brutal-junior-agency-employees-feel-squeeze-low-margins/) explain some of the reasons that agency people are working longer hours and still have more to do in less time.

This is in complete agreement with findings in the 2016 Study of Media Planning & Buying, conducted jointly by Kantar Media SRDS and the James G. Elliott Co., Inc.  We found that agency planners and buyers are responsible for an ever-increasing amount of work to be done in less time than ever before.  To learn more about the impact these developments have on advertising sales and a link to download your own free copy of the study, see http://www.adsandideas.com/research-1/

Understanding the Buyer/Seller Dynamic

Special Announcement from Jim Elliott

In 2012, Steve Davis, President of Kantar Media SRDS, and I agreed to undertake a research project to help both of us–and our clients–understand more about the workload and practices of media people in agencies.  Since 2013, Kantar Media and the James G. Elliott Co., Inc. have conducted three studies of advertising planning and buying. 

For 2016, we added a Sellers component to the third Study of Media Planning and Buying to help publishers and salespeople identify differences between the way they view the buying/selling process and the way agency buyers do.  Comparing responses shows several disconnects between what each side thinks is happening. We prepared an overview, the ™Publisher's Guide to Understanding the Buyer/Seller Dynamic,∫ to help you understand these disconnects so you can minimize their negative impact.

The study pulls insights from Kantar Media SRDS users with current media planning or buying responsibilities for consumer, business, or digital media, as well as individual Advertising Sales or Publisher contacts in SRDS Consumer Magazine or Business to Business publication listings.

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Ad Sales, Consulting & The Business Side Of The Magazine Industry In A Very Honest & Practical Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With James G. Elliott

Mr. Magazine™ talks with Jim Elliott about some of the problems and some solutions for magazines and magazine media over on his blog.

Samir Husni: With the current magazine and media climate, suddenly no one is just talking change; everyone is saying that “change” has left the station. What are you seeing from the advertising/marketing aspect of the industry that either gives you hope or makes you want to close shop and head home?

Jim Elliott: From the advertiser and agency perspective you’re seeing the desire to find the ultimate answer to turning around the advertising decline that they’re experiencing at the same rate or bigger than we are. And that’s creating the search for other new and exciting things. Virtual reality is an example that I think the industry will spend a great deal of time looking at in the next couple of years.

But as we know from the numbers of people that come in here with new and shiny objects, there is no shortage of them; there will be plenty of new ones in the next couple of years coming forward, all of which will attempt to have an advertising or sponsorship component to it.

From the standpoint of media, particularly of the magazine business, I don’t think the magazine business is driving the show anymore. I think they’re kind of following, attempting to create shiny objects at the same time that lead the industry, but often are following on deaf ears, because they’re not the leaders in this process any longer.

Read more here:



Thoughts from Mr. Magazine™

J.E.:  What will the publishing landscape look like in 2020?  How about 2025?

S.H.: There are only two people who can tell you the future, God and a fool—and I’m not God and hope never to be a fool.  But I wrote an article for a German magazine some years back about where magazines would be 40 years from now. Rather than looking into the future, I looked at the past. And I looked at where magazines were 40 years before I wrote that article and in reality, I didn’t see any difference.  And I still don’t today going forward.

A magazine is still a magazine. When I sit down and look at my collection of more than 30,000 magazines, there is really no difference over time. Maybe there is a bit more color or fonts, but a magazine is still a magazine. And the creation of the magazine is still the same. 

If you look at a magazine like Flair from the 50s, all you can say even today is wow! The technologies that existed back then; all the types of paper, tissue paper to heavy stock, were used in that magazine. There is really nothing new on the face of the earth.

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Jim Elliott speaks at ACT 6 Experience

The ACT 6 Experience this year hosted more than 40 speakers and over 100 magazine and magazine media movers and shakers from all around the globe between April 20, and April 22, 2016. This is the sixth annual ACT (Amplify, Clarify & Testify) Experience, the theme this year: Celebrate Magazines Celebrate Print.

A panel moderated by Brian F. O'Leary discussed Making Money in Print, and the power of magazines.  What follows is the individual introductory presentation by Jim Elliott, and the full panel discussion.
Full panel discussion:


How Reading — and Readers — Are Changing

President’s Letter

Naomi S. Baron, linguistics professor at American University in Washington, D.C., will be talking about her latest book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, at the ACT 6 Conference at the University of Mississippi in April.   

After reading Professor Baron’s book and talking with her, I am really looking forward to her presentation, based on empirical research from an international sample of younger readers. She has already helped me to understand the fundamental change in the way we read, and what that means. It can be very difficult for older people who came out from either side of the media business to really get their hands around, because much of her research contradicts what we see in the trade press and what “everybody knows.”

Here’s an example. Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to a number of eastern colleges with my daughter. We always ended up visiting the library during the last part of the tour. In many cases, it was pointed out to us that printing in the library was now free.  While we all like free services, that did not seem particularly important to me at the time.  Later, Professor Baron provided the necessary context.  Although textbooks are often provided in a downloadable format, many students actually print them out chapter by chapter so they can make notes! This got me thinking about where we might be headed.


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