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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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:

http://associationmediaandpublishing.org/

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:

https://mrmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/ad-sales-consulting-the-business-side-of-the-magazine-industry-in-a-very-honest-practical-way-the-mr-magazine-interview-with-james-g-elliott-president-the-james-g/

 

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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Overcoming Sales Challenges with Jam Sessions

By Craig Miller

"Many of us are more capable than some of us...but none of us is as capable as all of us!" —Tom Wilson, Ziggy cartoonist, said that.  We know it’s true because we see what happens every time an Elliott Co. office holds a jam session.  

Based on his experiences in Vistage (when it was still called TEC), Jim Elliott implemented a simple procedure years ago that allows any salesperson to tap into the combined knowledge of their peers whenever it’s needed. 

Our jam sessions are similar to the brainstorming technique developed by Alex Osborn (the “O” in BBDO—Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn). However, brainstorming is just one part of Osborn’s Creative Problem Solving process. In brainstorming, a small group of people meet for the purpose of generating as many ideas as possible, written down in a list without attributing the ideas to anyone. No criticism is allowed during the brainstorming meeting, and a moderator tries to ensure that no one dominates. The hope is some really good ideas will be produced because of the volume. Weeding out or unworkable ideas occurs later in the creative process.

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AM&P's Signature Magazine Spotlights the Kantar SRDS and James G. Elliott Co., Inc. Study of Media Planners and Buyers

The January/February 2016 issue of Signature Magazine looks into the Kantar SRDS/JGE Study and how it illuminates the potential of associations ignoring ad dollars from agencies and clients.  Here are some excerpts:

Why do so many associations avoid calling on advertising agencies to find new business? It may seem counterintuitive to go to a third party to make a sale when the association has built its stronghold in the marketplace on its own member relationships. Or it could be not fully understanding how selling to agencies differs from selling directly to clients. The truth is, you need a balance of both.

At a time when so many types of organizations are publishing and marketing content–and the options for delivering advertising to potential buyers just keeps growing–association publishers can't afford to ignore the potential for increasing their ad sales by marketing their brand to agencies, say Jim Elliott, president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc., and Steve Davis, president of SRDS and Kantar Media Health Research.

"An association often says it doesn't have any agency business, but if you look, their B2B competitors that serve that same industry have plenty of agency business," points out Elliott, who is also a member of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors.

"The truth is that the association's sales force is often uncomfortable with multimedia selling and working with agencies," he continues. "But you can increase your market share from agencies if you know how to engage with them."

Elliott, whose firm is one of the nation's largest outsourced media ad sales companies, says advertisers often tell their agencies: Find something I wouldn't normally run my ad campaign in. "They are looking for fresh and loyal audiences, and an association publication can be just what they need," Elliott says.

The study pointed out that the trend toward fewer annual schedules translates into a less predictable workload for agency buyers–and that often accounts for their last-minute requests for proposals from publishers. "Agency buyers are time starved," as Elliott puts it.

"Advertisers wanting a discount is a fact of life," says Elliott, "so raise your rates a little every year so that you have a margin to negotiate."

In fact, Elliott says that association sales staff should be taught the skills of negotiation. "You need to say to the agency or advertiser: 'That rate is there for a reason, but what I can do is work with you on frequency or value add, etc.'"

You can read the full article in the digital magazine here:

http://staging4.texterity.com/associationpublishing/january_february_2016?pg=28#pg28

Thoughts of a Millennial in the Magazine Industry

By Peter Englert

After graduating with a degree with a magazine emphasis, I am often asked my opinion on the topic of “print is dying.” I really don’t see that happening any time soon, and I’m a Millennial. Sure, it’s rare to ever find me without my phone in my hand or right in front of my face, but when it comes to reading a book or magazine, I would much rather feel the texture of the pages between my fingertips than to be glued to a tablet swiping left or right.

With print, I don’t worry about my issue not being charged or my book crashing. Many magazines have gone through the transition from print to digital, but are we ignoring the magazines that started digitally and have now started to print such as Allrecipes Magazine or Creativ Magazine? We could even bring up magazines that have spawned from television series and shows like Rachael Ray Every Day or HGTV Magazine

My aspiration for myself in the magazine industry is to work with creative and design. To be a part of the creation of a print magazine has got to feel pretty great. When a story is published in print, it’s complete and there’s no turning back. When a story is published digitally, it still is possible to remove it from the site or make a spelling correction. I don’t think print is going away any time soon, but it definitely must evolve to remain relevant, innovative, and engaging in such a digitally driven world.

A Look Ahead: Print and Digital Periodicals

This exerpt is from an article by Jim Elliott currently on Foliomag.com:

Just a few years ago, it looked as if digital publishing would push print aside. But print refused to die. Why?

Clients of my advertising sales and consulting company publish a wide array of periodicals, from specialized small circulation scientific digital journals to highly-regarded printed consumer magazines, newsletters, and everything in between. We often discuss publishing formats. Just a few years ago, it looked as if digital publishing would push print aside and that publishers would be able to avoid paying the high costs of paper, printing and postage. But print refused to die. Why?  Some readers want printed magazines. 

Click here to read more at foliomag.com

The Brand

This piece originally ran on www.foliomag.com. It has been downloaded hundreds of times since June 25, and the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that we wanted to bring it to you as my President’s Letter.

President’s Letter

Over the past 10 years, I have talked with many senior magazine executives about their struggles to serve the changing publishing environment. Finding balance is difficult, and making money while adapting to this changing climate is not easy. The consensus is that they need to get back to basics, and to find better ways to leverage their brands.  They need to invest for the future by backing the right technologies, but nobody knows which implementations will prevail.

Power of the Brand

For the past decade, we have argued that branding will be critically important to magazine companies that want to build digital businesses. Familiar product brands are perceived as being more trustworthy than unbranded. For example, an unknown prodigy who starts posting financial content on the Web will be at a huge competitive disadvantage to a site like Kiplinger.com, written by editors who have been trusted advisors to investors for more than 80 years. Powerful print brands will be the ultimate winners of the digital transformation IF they can adopt appropriate strategies.

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Media Planners and Buyers: What Are They Thinking?

The first rule of selling is “know thy customer,” so Kantar Media SRDS and the James G. Elliott Co. jointly conduct the Study of Media Planning and Buying.  The purpose of this study is to understand the media planning and buying information needs of media planners and buyers at agencies and what the general expectations of these media people are.  Earlier this year, we reported results of the second study in this series, which confirmed the results of the first study two years ago. 

These were the four objectives of the 2015 Study of Media Planning & Buying:

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Advertising's Existential Moment

"The value of traditional advertising is no longer clear. New formats create as many problems as they solve."

To dig deeper into these trends, Folio: interviewed 18 key players (including Jim Elliott) in magazine-media advertising today.

The past few years have been challenging in the world of advertising. First came the decline of print, with “digital dimes” replacing lost print dollars. 

Then programmatic buying turned inventory into a cheap commodity. The “viewability” debate stole another chunk, and ad blocking is an emerging challenge. The rise of social, mobile, video and native atomized audiences and changed the rules of the game again and again. And then there’s whatever happens next. And all this is happening in a market where just two companies—Google and Facebook—now grab more than $60 billion in annual U.S. advertising revenue, which by some accounts is more than the magazine and newspaper industries combined. So what’s going on here—and what’s the long-term outlook? 

Read more at: http://www.foliomag.com/2015/advertising-no-longer-adding/

Programmatic Ad Buying: A Q&A with Industry Experts

The Lane Press Blog hosted a Q&A with Jim Elliott and Steve Davis, President of Kantar Media SRDS, so they could share insights into programmatic ad buying found in the 2015 Study of Media Planning & Buying co-funded by the Elliott Co. and Kantar Media SRDS.  Read the full interview here:

http://lanepress.com/programmatic-ad-buying-a-qa-with-industry-experts/