Archive for March, 2010


Good Things Are Worth Repeating: What I Told the 2010 CASE Editors Forum

March 27, 2010

On March 24 I spoke at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) 2010 Editors Forum in Cambridge, MA. My topic was “What Can Alumni Magazines Learn From the Newsstands?” Associate Editor Dale Keiger of the Johns Hopkins magazine and a blogger on The University Magazine Group’s blog UMagazinology wrote a good summation of my opening talk to the group.
He started the UMmagazinology blog by stating “The 2010 CASE Editors Forum in Boston got off to a fine start yesterday with an opening address by Samir Husni. Husni is the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, and he bills himself as Mr. Magazine.” To read Dale’s entire blog click here, and to read his follow up blog click here.

And here is a tweet from Erica Endicott, Graphic Designer at Emory University in Atlanta, about the aforementioned presentation:

“It’s like a tent revival in here with Samir Husni. People are almost shouting “amen”!”


Best Quote Yet on the Future of Magazines…

March 27, 2010

The legendary George Lois, Esquire’s magazine art director from 1962 to 1972 was asked in The New York Observer (March 22 issue) “What does he think about reading a magazine on the soon-to-be-released iPad?” His answer:

“It’s O.K., I guess. But magazines will never die because there is a visceral feeling of having that thing in your hands and turning the pages. It’s so different on the screen. It’s the difference between looking at a woman and having sex with her.”


Innovation is the 2010 catch word, and Innovations in Magazines is its catch book

March 22, 2010

It seems as if the word innovation is occupying the center stage in anything “magazine-ish” these days. However, a great effort by the London based International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) has resulted in the first ever compilation of examples of “how technology, out-of-the-box thinking and old-fashioned hard work are enabling innovation that is delivering new readers, revenues and relevance to magazines around the world.”

The result is the first ever Innovations in Magazines 2010 World Report, a well illustrated, 100 pages book that brings the reader an up-to-date round-up on what is going on in the world of magazine innovation world-wide. FIPP is not stranger to being on the cutting edge of what is best for the magazine industry world-wide. Chris Llewellyn, President and CEO of FIPP reminds the book readers of FIPP’s mission, “to strengthen links between magazine publishers world-wide in order to exchange knowledge, experience, and ideas.” This book is just one example of what FIPP has done and continue to do to help the periodical industry world-wide.

The range of innovative techniques and methods mentioned in this book brings the reader to a knowledge level that is required for anyone involved in the publishing industry. In fact, it almost leaves nothing to the imagination. It’s all in the book. A swift course at the fraction of the price that it will cost anyone to do all the research needed for this handy up-to-date information. Innovation in Magazines finally nullifies the definition of insanity that has been raging like a wild fire in our industry. It no longer talks about the same things time and time again and expect different results every time. The book does not talk about change or the need to change; it is “change in progress.” Grab it, read it and learn a lot from it.

As the book editors John Wilpers and Juan Señor write, “While many magazines cope with revenue and circulation losses by cutting back and retrenching, many others are countering hard times with hard work, imagination and innovation. This book highlights and celebrates this brilliance.”

A must have brilliance celebration. To order your own copy click here.


Wellington Named AEJMC Magazine Division “Magazine Professional of the Year”

March 18, 2010

First it was the magazine now it is the publisher of the magazine who is receiving the honors of being named by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Magazine Division as the 2010 Magazine Professional of the Year. Ted Spiker, professor of journalism at the University of Florida and current head of the Magazine Division made the announcement this morning. What follows is the Magazine Division’s press release:

Vicki Wellington, publisher of Food Network Magazine, was named the 2010 Magazine Professional of the Year by the AEJMC Magazine Division.

Wellington will accept her award at the annual AEJMC convention in Denver in August. On Thursday, Aug. 5, she will make a featured presentation, “Ensuring a Print Future in a Digital Age.”

In October 2009, Food Network Magazine was named Ad Age’s A-List Launch of the Year. In its launch year, the magazine tripled its rate base to 1.25 million. Food Network Magazine is already one of the 100 best-selling American magazines on the newsstand.

The honor was announced by the Division’s Immediate Past Head Dr. Dane Claussen, who chaired the selection process, and by Prof. Ted Spiker, the Division’s current Head. Dr. Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center, nominated Wellington.

“When you consider what a success Food Network Magazine has been—especially during a challenging time for the media industry—then you can see why Vicki is well-deserving of this honor,” Spiker said. “And we’re thrilled that she’s going to share her vision of the future of magazines with us in Denver.”

Food Network Magazine is launched as a joint venture of Hearst Magazines and the Food Network in October 2008. Wellington had been publisher of CosmoGirl since February 2008. Prior to joining Hearst Magazines, Wellington was the founding associate publisher of domino magazine.


The Magazine Innovation Center: An Update

March 17, 2010

Jim Elliott president of James G. Elliott Co., Inc. recently interviewed me for his firm’s newsletter Ads & Ideas. He introduced the interview with the following:

President’s Letter
With magazine ad sales and circulation numbers taking a hit this year, the chatter on the streets these days is often about the future of magazines. There’s no doubt that the Internet has encroached on magazines’ ad dollars and readership numbers. Everyone knows that some major publications have closed their doors, but there’s no evidence that magazines, as a medium, will go away.
But that doesn’t mean we can be successful at doing what we’ve always done. In fact, maybe we need to ask ourselves, is the weakness in the marketplace a factor of magazines or advertising or the economy? The short answer is all three, and the long answer involves a look at the way magazines use technology, how magazines structure their revenue streams, and what magazines need to do to attract readers and advertisers in complex times.
I had the chance to talk to Dr. Samir Husni, known as “Mr. Magazine” for his long-term work at the University of Mississippi on the tracking of the magazine industry. Recently, he announced the start of his “Magazine Innovation Center,” a non-profit organization to study the future of magazines and print. Here’s what he had to say about magazine content, our industry, its digital competition, and what we, as an industry, should be doing to position magazine publishing as the exciting, powerful and important industry it is.

To read the Jim Elliott’s interview with me click here.


Inside the magazine industry: Here & Now’s Robin Young interveiws Mr. Magazine™

March 10, 2010

Earlier today Here & Now the national radio news show aired an interview with me regarding the status of the magazine industry. Here is the intro from Here & Now web site and you can click on the link below to listen to the entire program.

For years, Samir Husni has been collecting the first editions of new magazines. He says he can go to a newsstand, look at the magazines for sale, and figure out who’s living nearby and what they’re interested in. He’s now a professor at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism; he’s also director of the school’s Magazine Innovation Center. We speak with “Mr. Magazine” about which magazines are dying and which are thriving.

To listen to the show, click here.


Cathie Black: The Magazine World Today is an AND World and Not Either Or

March 9, 2010

The magazine publishing business in no longer in the either or business. “Our world today is an AND world,” the first lady of magazine publishing Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines, told the audience attending the morning keynote event of the second day of the Publishing Business Conference and Expo in New York City.

However, that AND world had a funny start as Ms. Black started her presentation. A computer problem delayed the showing (for seconds) of the Power of Print video that Ms. Black wanted to open her remarks with. She was quick to announce to the audience with a big smile on her face, “That is why I believe in the future of print.”
Ms. Black went on to tell the audience, “We had a tough 18 months, however we did not have a consumer problem; we had an advertising problem.” She was quick to add that, “Now things are getting better. Our multi platform business is getting better and all of us talk about all platforms now.” She gave a new definition of the changing role of magazine companies. “A magazine company is now a diversified magazine company. We have become an advertising agency, we are designing ads, we are designing campaigns, creating events, etc,” she informed the audience.

She reflected on the changes taking place in both the physical shape of the magazines and their contents. “We’ve up-sized House Beautiful last year, we did the same with Good Housekeeping and we will do the same with Country Living this coming fall,” she said. “If we are going to charge more for our content, we have to offer an enhanced consumer experience,” Ms. Black said. “At the end of the day, it is all about innovation.”

Innovation does not necessary means that magazine companies are going to be in the device and tablets business. Ms. Black was quick to answer a question about the involvement of Hearst in the creation of a digital device platform. “We do not want to be in the device business,” she answered with no hesitation what so ever. “We need to create experiences based on what the readers want, where they wanted, when they wanted and how much they will pay for it.” The content is going to be different for each of the devices, invented or yet to be invented. “We are moving away from the devices business,” she concluded.

And as for the future, Ms. Black said, “there is no magic bullet, there is no magic answer, we will work with the innovations that comes to the table.” In conclusion, we all know that every thing is changing including the role of editors who are now can be seen “at NBC thinking about a television program, or attending a tech event or workshop, or taking an advertiser to lunch.”


From Traditional Media to Tradigital Media: Reporter’s Notebook from Day One of the Publishing Business Conference and Expo

March 9, 2010

Print has no future. Print has a future. Print will vanish in 20 years. Print is still growing strong and will continue to do so. We are moving from the age of traditional media to the age of tradigital media. Those statements and more were what I heard in day one at the Publishing Business Conference and Expo in New York City. What follows are, in random order, some of those statements and who said them. Enjoy and keep in mind that only two people can ever tell you the future: God and a fool.

From Prescott Shibles, Vital Business Media:

On the state of change: We are moving from traditional media to tradigital media
On using dollars to chase pennies: Print dollars are changing to digital dimes
On the state of the web marketplace: Top 50 web properties hold an 89% revenue market share
On the new targeting: People are moving from site targeting to people targeting
On who has the real power in the digital space: The real powers in the digital space are Apple and Google

From Chris McMurry, CEO McMurry, Inc.:

On McMurry’s agenda for success:
1. Hiring great people, most companies just hire people
2. To make sure we are a great place to work
3. Evolve our business along the needs of our customers (most of them are businesses)
On the new age of advertising: The era of interrupted advertising is coming to a close and they are moving their marketing budgets into content marketing.
On the future of the media: The future of the media on the planet will be driven by corporate interest and not media interest.
On the role of the editor: Today’s editors have to become internal experts in the company regardless of the medium. They have to write, edit, shoot video, be behind the mike, etc. On change: 2009 was a great year to ask editors to change. When you change a title or a name, it forces people to think harder about the change…
On resisting change: As a leader I will not be tolerant with people who resist change.
It is better to buy than to build? Doing video for example, we bought a video company rather than taking the time for organic growth…building things organically costs more money and takes more time
On the future of print: Print is under assault…I still think it has years of life in it…if you are not aggressively growing your digital you will be left behind. The topic is not saving print, but rather the reality of the market place

From Bill Uhler, General Manager, Ogden Publications:

On the future of print: Print remains the main hub for our media business now, but it will continue to shrink… our print revenue have gone from 99.9% to 85%… the main revenue is still coming from print but, print will be smaller. We expect 10X audience for every print reader.
On magazine sales: Our magazine sales were up 16% on the newsstands last year and 11% up on the subscription front. A lot of our titles deal with sustainability…so they resonate with the readers…
On experimenting with higher prices: We were also raising the prices on both newsstands and subscription and it is having a nice effect on the draw. Our draw (number of copies distributed on the newsstands) started going up because the distributor is making more money from the higher cover prices.
On Ogden status: Our company is not shrinking, it is growing…we have no slow down…we are not shrinking back.

From Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO, Forbes Media:

On the future of our industry: We have to get over platforms and delivery and think more of added value. Now the favorite word is metrics.
On the type of content: Make no mistake people want useful content.
On paying for content: You expect the bread and butter and water at a restaurant to be free. You know you are paying for it, but you do not want to see it itemized on your bill. People only pay if they feel they are getting value added information (they are not going to see it another place) unique information and specialized information useful for a particular need.
On the role of the iPads and other tablets: They will not be our salvation, but they will enable us to reach audiences that we were not able to reach. There will be no instant salvation.
On measuring success: How much money do we have in the bank?
On Mr. Forbes current investments: One major area of investment is in the overseas markets, thanks for high tech. We have the world at our fingertips. There is a huge appetite for local editions of Forbes overseas.
On the status of print: Print and books give credibility. Our Forbes Asia has a small circulation, but without the printed edition it will impossible to do the rest of the platforms.
On the future of print: Print will be around, but the business model will change.
On who is going to be the next president of the United States: Not me!


The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Andy Serwer, Managing Editor, Fortune Magazine: A Fortune rooted in the past, spreads its wings to the future

March 4, 2010

With deep roots in the past and new branches for the future, the new reinvented Fortune magazine gives a new, and positive, meaning for a blast from the past. Born in 1930 in the worst of economic times, Fortune magazine has reinvented itself 80 years later, also in the worst of economic times. (To the right is the new cover of the reinvented Fortune, and through the interview are sample pages from the magazine. Also to take a tour of the new Fortune click here).

Andy Serwer, Fortune’s managing editor wants the magazine to “start the conversation, again.” The new Fortune “wants to take the business issues of the day and be ahead of the curve,” he told me in The Mr. Magazine™ Interview. The new reinvented Fortune magazine, is the core of the Fortune enterprise, Mr. Serwer told me. The new Fortune reminded me so much of the original Fortune magazine, the Henry Luce’s Fortune of the 1930s and 1940s of the last decade. Delivering information through story telling, info-graphics, great photography and a hefty dose of the visual impact of print (that rare combination of typography and photography) all caught my attention and led to this interview with the man in charge of all these changes Andy Serwer.

And, as we every Mr. Magazine™ magazine interview, here are first some sound bites followed by a very lightly edited version of the interview with Andy Serwer:

Andy Serwer’s sound bites:

On the changes in Fortune magazine: “We decided to ensure the future of Fortune magazine by optimizing the frequency, and doing the magazine right. So, we’re investing in the physical properties of the magazine. We’re using better paper stock. Starting in this issue, we’ve invested in better paper that’s costing us more because we want the physical product to be better for our readers and for our advertisers. We’re rethinking our magazine to make it more relevant, more differentiated. There’s more utility in the front of the book.”

On whether he is an optimist or a pessimist: “You’ve got to be optimistic to an extent, positive in a realistic way. I won’t lie to you, sometimes its tough. You have to be realistic about what you’re doing, understand the limitations, and really embrace change. If you don’t like change here in the print business, you will be out of business very soon.”
On the future of the three major business magazines, Business Week, Forbes and Fortune: “There may not be a future for three of them. We’re certainly going to be one of them. I can tell you that.”

On the multi platform approach to the magazine business: “We understand that Fortune is a brand that is consumed across different platforms so obviously we’re exploring that. The magazine itself is the core of the enterprise.”
On his best advice to create a magazine: “You have to commit to doing a magazine, listen to your customers, respond to your customers, but also get out ahead of them and create a first class publication and that’s what we’re doing.”

And now for the full, lightly edited, interview with Andy Serwer, Fortune magazine managing editor.

SH: Fortune was launched in the worst of times, and from its very beginning, as a monthly magazine, it had a focus on customers who count rather than counting customers. With a cover price of $1, Fortune was an in-depth read and it answered the simple question, “What’s in it for me?” back then in 1930. How’s the new Fortune compared to the original Fortune of the 1930 that Henry Luce started?

AS: It’s interesting in fact, Samir; we’re 80 years old as of February. We do have this incredible tradition. There are some things that remained constant and some things that changed a lot. I think really, fortunately, one thing that has still made us very differentiated and very relevant is our long-form journalism. We’re really proud of that—our narrative, deep-dive stories. We did that in the first issue of the magazine, in February 1930, and we’re doing it today. Readers know that’s what we stand for, that’s a part of our brand. That’s a constant. The rest of the magazine has changed a lot. It’s shorter, the departments are shorter, there are all kinds of photography, and especially information graphics now that are off the chart, pun intended. I think behind it, there’s a business intelligence that is also constant. And of course, all the tertiary parts of the magazine, or of the enterprise I should say, are completely different, which is to say the websites and conferences and all of that. As far as the magazine itself, I think the long-form has stayed the same, and the essential core IQ of the magazine is another constant.

SH: One of the things I keep telling my students is that we’re no longer just in the information delivery business. We are more like experience makers. As I flip those old, old issues of Fortune, almost every issue had an experience that related to that audience and engaged that audience. As I look at some of the new designs, I look at some of the briefs–the info-graphics–it seems to me, its all designed to create an experience with the reader. How do you expect this is going to change where almost every magazine is now headed in that direction?

AS: We never want to insult the intelligence of our readers. I think that you could argue that a strategy where you have to say, “Hey, this important” isn’t the best. I think that everything we do has a high journalism IQ, especially our longer pieces, and our shorter ones as well. We’re adding value by having the smartest people in the business work here and do journalism. I think often our great work speaks for itself, not that we don’t emphasize great display type and great points of entry all that we can. But, I think you can over label.
SH: There was a lot of talk two years ago about the fate of business magazines, especially when Condé Nast launched Condé Nast Portfolio. Portfolio folded, Business Week was sold, Fortune is cutting its frequency and Forbes is in changing. You name it the troubles facing magazines, and they are all found in the business magazines. Is there a future for a business magazine in this day and age?

AS: I think there is a future for business magazines in this day and age. Was there a future for four of them? The marketplace said no. There may not be a future for three of them. We’re certainly going to be one of them I can tell you that. One of the other magazines went from perfect bound to saddle stitch and they reduced their frequency without being up front about it. We like to say we’re a little more transparent than that. We tell people that and we’re not blind to the marketplace. We need to optimize our business model. We don’t just cover business, we’re practitioners as well. We’re not so arrogant as to ignore the marketplace. We understand that Fortune is a brand that is consumed across different platforms so obviously we’re exploring that. The magazine itself is the core of the enterprise. We’re in good shape here. The other ones are in not as good shape as we are. Our mission is clear. We have great people. We have an environment where I get phone calls from people at other publications who want to come work here.

SH: Back in 1978 when Fortune changed to a bi-weekly magazine, people referred to the late ‘70s, early ‘80s as the “Golden Age” of magazines. In this digital age, what are you doing to ensure a future for print, especially with Fortune magazine?

AS: First of all, that “Golden Age” thing, I think it’s interesting you said that Samir, because people talked about the golden age of radio, the golden age of Hollywood, and both radio and especially Hollywood are as vibrant as ever. The ‘30s were a golden age in Hollywood, the ‘70s were a golden age in Hollywood and while you may not think that Avatar is a great, great film in the same way those classics were, it’s still doing okay. In other words, we can have a great new market for journalism, a digital marketplace that is essentially addictive. There’s never been more demand for business information, for news generally, than right now. An important point, Samir, is that the pie is getting a lot bigger. To me, by no means is it a foregone conclusion that magazines are not a part of that equation. They predicted the death of radio with television… Well, what am I doing? We decided to ensure the future of Fortune magazine by optimizing the frequency, and doing the magazine right. So, we’re investing in the physical properties of the magazine. We’re using better paper stock. Starting in this issue, we’ve invested in better paper that’s costing us more because we want the physical product to be better for our readers and for our advertisers. We’re rethinking our magazine to make it more relevant, more differentiated. There’s more utility in the front of the book. People said they wanted to know about careers and jobs; they wanted to know about entrepreneurism: we have two new departments to speak to that. They want to know about global business: we have a columnist, Michael Elliot from Time magazine that is going to address that. They want to know more about Washington and business: we have a “Washington Watch”, part of the front of the book that addresses that; we have a new columnist, Nina Houston, who is our Washington editor, who is addressing that. You have to commit to doing a magazine, listen to your customers, respond to your customers, but also get out ahead of them and create a first class publication and that’s what we’re doing.

SH: Our most valuable player is our customer and one of the things that I really liked out of the sample of pages I saw was the fact that they had that flashbacks of the ‘30s and ‘40s that I used to see in Fortune as I flipped through those old copies. There was always this “meet and exceed” the expectation of the readers, in which the magazine is previewing the future and validating that information. How are you going to use digital to enhance that print experience?

AS: Just to speak to that fact that you felt like it was evocative of our history, that was done in part by design. Our design director went back and set out to have a healthy flavor from that era for the new magazine. Our new fonts and our new logo speak to our tradition, and the information graphics as well. If you’re a great brand like ours, with a long history, you want to be cool, but you also want to show your tradition. I can think of a couple brands that aren’t journalistic. You think about BMW and Levi’s. These are brands that have a look and feel to them, they’ve been around for decades and decades, yet they’re really cool and cutting edge and that’s what we’re looking to do. As far as the digital piece goes, it’s interesting because it’s sort of like the website is the website and the magazine is the magazine and nary the two shall meet. Except, behind both is a shared value system. Part of our brand that is so important is trust and accuracy. We work very hard to preserve that on the web. I think there’s a story in the New York Times about a study that magazine websites are lacking in that department. There are tremendous time pressures with a web business. We’re not perfect, but we really strive to try to have the same standards with the website that we do with the magazine. We want to have the website be sort of a digital reflection of the magazine. We want it to speak. When you go to our website, we want it to really scream from the treetops, “This is Fortune magazine’s website.”

SH: How do you see the new Fortune playing a role in defining what journalism is? Everything else is changing. Do you view media today as changing the definition of journalism? Can we use Fortune as an example for the students, saying, “Here is an example of the new journalism of 2010 and beyond.”

AS: I’d like to think that Fortune is going to be in sort of the vanguard of how a magazine can adapt to this new age. It’s pretty clear that magazines are going to be around for quite some time. I’m very excited about the iPad. I’ve used one, although to be honest, the magazine’s functionality is not at the fore of that particular product, but it will be and it will be that and others. Magazines are going to be around. You go to a train, you go to a swimming pool, you go to a living room, you go to someone’s country house, you go to someone’s office, you go to doctor’s office, there are magazines all over the place and there are people reading them all over the place. They’re not going to stop doing that, so the same kinds of things hold true today that held true four years ago, which is to say you want to be very creative and ahead of the curve. But also you really need to do things that you can’t find online and that’s a conscious part of what we’re doing now. It’s not commoditized. If it ever was commoditized, your magazine, it sure as hell better not be today.

SH: That’s a very good point. What are the two or three things you have on your to-do list of the future? What do you expect from this reinvention of Fortune? What, at the end of the day, will someone say, “Andy, job well done, we’ve achieved our expectations.” What will that be?

AS: We want to be part of the conversation. That’s the big thing, which is to say, people talk about the magazine, “Did you see the article in Fortune?” They have to be able to do that. We have to be able to be something that people discuss. We have to take the business issue of the day and get ahead of the curve. We have to look great. That’s another piece. We have to have some utility as well. I would say those are the three things. We have to be something that people say, “Aha! That’s something I could actually do, or use in my life.” I think those are sort of the three pieces.

SH: What has been your biggest obstacle or biggest challenge in reinventing Fortune?

AS: I would say speed. I’ve always wished we could work faster and faster. I’m someone who likes to work practically around the clock and fortunately, most of the people here work around the clock. We’re working at a tremendous pace, but it never seems to be fast enough to my liking. I always wish we could change things quicker and be more responsive and get out ahead even better. But sometimes you have to take some time and parts of the process will take a little bit longer than you want them to.

SH: What was the easiest thing in reinvention of Fortune?

AS: The easiest thing I think about reinventing the magazine was getting people here to buy into it. It’s really great having a staff of business journalists because when you have to do really tough things like downsize the magazine and change the frequency, you can explain it to them and they can say, “Listen, I was just looking at GE’s business, I understand. And looking at our business, we understand. We need to do those things.” And when you talk to them about reinventing the magazine and making it more appealing to a reader in 2010, and not being so 2005 anymore, I mean, then people will hear, “When do we start?” It’s been a great effort by everyone here.

SH: Do you consider Andy the eternal optimist or do you think at some time in this business in the last few years you’ve felt some sense of pessimism?

AS: I’m definitely a “glass is half full” kind of person. Someone called me a happy warrior one time. I don’t know about that, but to lead any organization, you’ve got to be optimistic to an extent, positive in a realistic way. I won’t lie to you, sometimes its tough. You have to be realistic about what you’re doing, understand the limitations, and really embrace change. If you don’t like change here in the print business, you will be out of business very soon.

SH: Thank you.


Start spreading the news: Print is NOT dead…

March 2, 2010

In what I hope is the beginning of a new trend in celebrating our magazine industry, five industry leaders teamed together to put a video promoting magazines and the power of print. Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines, Jack Griffin, President of Meredith National Media, Ann Moore, Chairman & CEO of Time Inc., Charles Townsend, President & CEO of Condé Nast and Jann Wenner, Chairman of Wenner Media launched their “good news” celebration video yesterday at the opening of the American Association of Advertising Agencies meeting in New York City. A long awaited step in the right direction and a great celebration of each and every one of the 9,400 print magazine titles that were distributed on the nation’s newsstands last year. Go spread the news, print is NOT dead.

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