Archive for August, 2011


Oklahoma Today magazine: When collecting six covers of one issue becomes more like an old fashioned baseball cards collecting game…

August 31, 2011

Oklahoma Today’s September/October issue is a special one indeed. Special in dual ways: content and presentation. Oklahoma Today magazine devotes this 132-page issue of the state-wide publication to “Oklahoma’s unprecedented contribution to country music…” and since “Oklahoma country music can’t be communicated in a single cover…” the magazine offers “unprecedented (they must love this word) six cover looks.”

I was lucky enough that my friend Joan Henderson, the magazine’s publisher, mailed me all six covers: Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood. Once I started reading the magazine and comparing the issues I was surprised to find out that the “Newsstand buyers will find the Blake Shelton cover. Subscribers will receive…” one of the other covers. The catch, the magazine asks readers to collect all 6 covers.

My question, how can you do that if you can’t buy them at the newsstands? Since all the copies on the newsstands have the same cover, one has to buy six issues of the Blake cover and start trading with other subscribers to get the collection of the six covers. Does this remind you of the good old days of baseball cards trading and collecting? Anyone willing to trade their Reba cover with my Blake cover?

A good idea waiting for execution… who will be the first in Oklahoma to get the entire 6 covers of Oklahoma Today and what will be the price for such a collection on eBay? Good luck and let the games begin!

(Truth in reporting: I used to work as a publishing consultant for Oklahoma Today magazine)


Digital and On-Line is NOT the New Cemetery Plot for Print… and BoSacks Speaks Out. YOU BE THE JUDGE

August 25, 2011

Lately the pace of magazines announcing the folding of their ink on paper editions while continuing to publish on-line has increased. To those folks I have three words: YOU ARE DEAD. There is no ifs or buts about it. YOU ARE DEAD.

Any magazine, that existed in ink on paper, and cannot survive in its original medium is DEAD. If a magazine loses its two sources of revenue, the readers and the advertisers, how on earth it is going to survive by the mere change of the platform? Do magazine publishers really think they can save money by not printing and distributing the ink on paper publication and can get the advertisers back just by transforming their publication to digital only? They better think twice.

For one, to create a digital publication, with all the bells and whistles digital requires, that cost is going to overcome the cost of printing and distribution. Replicas of print, no matter how many pluses you can add to them, are still replicas and are not serving the purpose and capabilities of what digital can provide. A good new medium deserves a good business model and a new way to present content; not just being a replica of another medium. Digital publications that are well done and produced are going to be much more expensive to create than similar ink and paper magazines. Think the cost of good video and audio and additional photo-shoots to provide more content to that ease of swiping touches of the screen!

In addition to that, if your ink on paper magazine drops in circulation, regardless of the many reasons that exist out there (competition, time, bombardment of information, you name it) what makes a publisher think that just moving to digital will eliminate the aforementioned problems and will wipe up all the reasons for the readers’ departure in the first place. Same can be said about the advertisers. The advertisers are not having the problem with the medium, but with its reach. Do you think a digital only (after years of being in print) will be easier to attract and keep readers, and thus provide customers to the advertisers? Think twice. Remember the old saying, out of sight, out of mind.

So do yourself and the industry a favor. If your magazine is losing its audience and its advertisers, let it rest in peace. Do not torture the old soul and send it to live in the digital world only. You will soon discover that the digital world is not a resting cemetery plot for your magazine. It is a torture chamber that will lead to a very slow death. Just check with the many titles who used digital as an excuse to fold their print editions over the last ten years or so. Do you know where they are now? DEAD.

So if you can’t reinvent your magazine (which by the way is still a very good and viable option), in its original medium and make it necessary, sufficient and relevant (the three holy ingredients needed for any magazine to survive), than take the bold step and KILL the magazine. Do not torture the poor soul any longer. It must have served you well during its years of glory. Digital only is not the way to reward the memory of a good departed friend.

Digital and on-line only are new media, so treat them that way. They deserve a different treatment and can produce wonderful products. Replicas of print they are NOT. Cemeteries for print they are NOT. They are new media and we better treat them as such. If you consider yourself a creative person, why can’t you be an innovator and not a renovator?

And, here I go again, one last time, the problem with print today is not digital or on-line. The problem with print is the content we are producing for print. It is the message that has the problem and not the messenger. So rather than torturing the poor soul and transferring the same message to digital from print, recheck that message and pay attention on what each medium can provide. It does not take a genius to do that. Just some common sense.

Addendum… Addendum… Addendum… Bob Sacks Responds to Samir Husni’s Blog Entry…
Here he goes again… my friend Bob Sacks wrote a rant in his electronic newsletter based on his understanding of my blog entry. In my opinion, Bob failed to see my main point regarding print and digital: If a magazine is failing in print, folding the print edition and moving to digital only, is not going to save said magazine.

Here is Bob’s response. Judge for yourself and feel free to comment below:

My Friend Samir has written a rant of monumental proportions which I have printed below. I think the hot weather in Mississippi has been too much for him, or perhaps the latest announcements of many magazines closing or moving onto the web as solo digital products was just too much for him to handle.

He says: “Lately the pace of magazines announcing the folding of their ink on paper editions while continuing to publish on-line has increased. To those folks I have three words: YOU ARE DEAD. There is no ifs or buts about it. YOU ARE DEAD”

To me that comment is at best, grandly excessive. Going to the web is not death nor anywhere near it. It is joining the future of the publishing platform. Several national research analysts like Forrester Research and mediaIDEAS have come to some very similar conclusions that by 2020, 60% of publishers revenue will be from digital sources and 40% from print. They go on to announce that there will still be billions of dollars of print revenue for publishers and printers alike. That is nothing to be ashamed of, and I would like just a sliver of that printed revenue pie. But it also means that there is not only life for publishers on the web but also an opportunity for very great prosperity.

Samir goes on to suggest that: “to create a digital publication, with all the bells and whistles digital requires, that cost is going to overcome the cost of printing and distribution.” I do not believe that to be an accurate statement at all. It does depend upon what niche title you are publishing. If in the 21st century your subject is best stated and covered with video, then staying in print will not help you when your competitors are soaking up your entire old readership on the web.

But bells and whistles are not the be-all and the end-all. I believe that our true franchise is words and they can be reproduced on any substrate. The New Yorker is doing quite well without any bells or whistles with their iPad app with just damn good words and an occasional B/W cartoon. That is, of course, a print and web success story, but there are hundreds of web-only success stories too.

I could go on all night here, but let me close with the following thought. Print will survive quite nicely, but it isn’t going to be the predominant way that people will read. In all likelihood print will be a coveted and expensive luxury item.

There is much life, vibrancy and tons of money to be made on the web. To suggest that it is the burial ground for print publishers is totally off base. As I have said before, it is the first inning of a double header and there is only one out.


From Publishing Executive Magazine: Mr. Magazine™’s M.O.: 3 Lessons Magazines Can Learn from Cable

August 10, 2011

Change is the only constant in our magazine business; however, most apply that change to content and design rather than their business model for a changing magazine industry.

Since its birth, the American consumer magazine has followed a variation of one business model: circulation revenue from single-copy sales and subscriptions, and later advertising. In the early days, circulation was the major source of revenue; later, advertising became the major source, reaching a whopping 80 percent of the total revenue. When the economy collapsed in September 2008, the advertising market dried up, leaving the magazine industry facing a major crisis.

Add to that technological advances, expansion of digital media and the creation of tablets, and it’s clear that signs of the demise of the magazine industry’s business model were written all the over the wall. All of a sudden, industry leaders started talking about the need to reinvent the business model and to become more “consumer-centric” rather than “advertising-centric.” With the economy rebounding and digital solutions explored, the talks about the new business model have dried up, and we are back to our old ways.

1: Content and 2: Price
For years I have felt that cable television has been the best thing to ever happen to the magazine industry, and that we can learn and apply a lot from both its content and its business models in our own business. From its very beginnings, cable television has followed a consumer-centric model, regardless of how much advertising was later added to its programming. Consumers had to pay a price (and a high price, for that matter) for the premium channels they wanted to receive. That price came on the heels of free television when all consumers had to do was pay for the television set. Today, the average family pays almost $70 a month for cable services—compare that to free television just 30 years ago.
Having more choices means less time spent on different channels, but it also means paying much higher prices for those channels. The more specialized the channel, the more specific the amount of time spent with it and the higher the price paid for it. Whether it is the Playboy Channel or HBO, people are willing to pay more for it.

The same should be the case with magazines. Having 10,000 titles available for the general public today, compared to 3,000 only 30 years back, does not translate to selling more magazines. In fact, the opposite is true. More means less. However, for example, when an almost ad-free magazine caters to the needs of a specialized, literary-minded audience who are interested in food as a culture, Lucky Peach magazine is born with a single-issue price ($10, in this case) that is equal to almost a two-year subscription to a host of general-interest magazines.

3: Distribution
In addition to the price and content, the distribution method of cable television provides the magazine industry with a last, but not least idea for sales and distribution. Cable is sold via bundles, not per channel. A few tests are taking place worldwide regarding the business of selling media via bundle rather than individual entities. On a recent trip to the Netherlands and to the United Kingdom, I witnessed magazines sold via bundles on the newsstands. Three, four and up to seven magazines bundled in one unit—aimed at a targeted audience, and sold at a discounted price—are available to customers to purchase.

Back in the days of broadcasting, folks were able to get one, two or three channels, based on the receiver they bought. Today, a basic cable package is at least 30 channels or more. No individual choices, but starting with the basic and going up with the specific bundles the customer needs, from sports (as many channels as you are willing to pay for and as specialized as multichannel packages for specific sports) to movies, to adult programs, to news, etc. Trying to sell magazines as a specialized bundle may also be another way to promote the consumer-centric model that can survive both the technological changes and the advertising-dependent business model.

No matter what the next step is, one thing is for sure: Doing the same thing over and over again is, as the Chinese say, insanity. We must change our business model, and we must change today. Tomorrow is already too late. PE

Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine™, is founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He can be reached at and can be followed at

This column appeared in the current issue of Publishing Executive magazine. Click here to check it out and the entire current issue of Publishing Executive magazine.


Rave Previews for the ACT2 Experience… Register Today, Space is Limited to 100

August 3, 2011

The previews for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT2 Experience, “Restart Your Engines: The Future of the Printed Word in a Digital Age,” are starting to appear. Media Industry Newsletter (min) and The New Single Copy newsletter previewed the ACT2 Experience in their August 1, 2011 editions. The ACT 2 Experience is limited to 100 “experience makers.” To be one of the 100, you need to register today because once the 100 slots are filled, you will have to wait for next year. The ACT 2 Experience takes place Oct. 26 thru Oct. 28 at the campus of the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media. To register click here or visit

Here is The New Single Copy Preview:

ACT2 Experience. The Second Act Set for
Mississippi in October

The Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi will be the scene for the second edition of the ACT Experience, called “Restart Your Engines: The Future of the Printed Word in a Digital Age.” The dates are October 26 to 28, 2011. The director of the Innovation Center is Samir Husni, journalism professor at the University. Among the speakers will be Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley-Wood; Scott Crystal, former president of TV Guide; Sid Evans, group editor, Time Inc. Lifestyle Division; Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, CEO, Hoffman Media; Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children, Inc.; Steven Kotok, president, The Week; Will Pearson, president, Mental Floss Inc.; Roy Reiman, founder, Reiman Publications; Sue Roman, president, The Taunton Press; Bob Sacks (AKA BoSacks), Precision Media Group; and John Harrington, publisher/editor, The New Single Copy. Other speakers and participants include Vito Di Bari, designer and futurologist (Italy); Scott Coopwood, publisher, Delta magazine; James Elliott, the James G. Elliott Co.; Nina Gerwin founder, Eye Capture; Jeremy Leslie, editorial designer and founder, (U.K.); David McDonald, CEO, True North Custom Media; Mark Pasetsky, founder, Cover Awards; and Franska Stuy, editor in Chief, Libelle (The Netherlands). Husni also plans a panel, featuring printers and paper company executives, on “The Future of the Printed Word.” For more information on ACT2, go to http://www.

The first edition of ACT, which stands for amplify, clarify, testify, was held in October 2010. It differed from any other publishing conference I have ever attended. To some degree, it was because of the eclectic group of speakers, but it was also elevated because of the university atmosphere, and the participation of the university’s journalism students, who contributed an enthusiasm and excitement that convinced the grayer heads that there will be a future for print in the age of digital.■

And here is the min preview:


Newest hat worn by the University of Mississippi journalism professor and Guide to New Magazines author is Magazine Innovation Center founder (July 2009), and in that capacity Husni will host the second ACT (amplify, clarify, and testify) conference on the Ole Miss campus from October 26-28. Theme is Restart your engines: the future of the printed word in a digital world, and the faculty includes the recently hired Time Inc. Lifestyle Division group editor Sid Evans, ex-TV Guide president Scott Crystal, The Week president Steven Kotok, Hanley-Wood ceo Frank Anton, and Reiman Publications founder (1965) Roy Reiman. Returning from last year’s inaugural Reimagining our future while we still have time are The New Single Copy editor/publisher John Harrington, and Precision Media Group founder/ president Bob Sacks (better known for his Web monicker).

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