Sunday, June 24, 2007

boom, with a view

Punk Planet magazine ended this week. It was the thing I worked on my entire adult life. It was the thing that I built from nothing with my bare hands. It was the thing that taught me everything I know about journalism, about business, and about how those two things can sometimes work together. It was the thing that allowed me to tell stories I never could have dreamed possible. And it was the thing that broke my heart, here, at the end of times.

It's been a hard week--it's much easier to write about these sorts of things when it's not about you--but it's been one full of reflection. While it's too close still to really begin to dissect the whys and hows of it all, I will say this: We held a magazine that was seemingly destined to fail together for 13 years; we committed acts of journalism far beyond what our budget, and often our skills, should have been capable of; and we put every ounce of our selves into all 80 issues. What more can a person ask for, ultimately?

Friday, June 15, 2007

all the ads shit to print

Publishing 2.0 has a very good analysis today of the New York Times ad numbers and how print ads are down by double-digits year-to-year and while web ads are up, they're not up up.

It's an astounding analysis when you really dig through the numbers, and it paints a pretty clear picture that while things are down in print ad-wise and things are up on the web ad-wise, the two don't come close to balancing out. According to Scott Karp's read on the numbers, print ad sales in May 2006 vs May 2007 declined by $19 million while online ad revenue rose by only $3 million (a 21.4% jump, but still).

Those numbers don't spell an easy future for the Times, or for anyone looking to make a painless transition from print to web. Sure, I'd give my right eye for that $3 million in ad revenues, but they've got to be digging through a lot of couch cushions trying to locate the $16 million they just lost.

NOTE: I'm not used to reading numbers in the millions (oh independent publishing!), and thusly an earlier version of this post erroneously reported the numbers wrong. It also included a funny joke about interns and coffee.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

what will we do when the money runs out?

Venerable and influential publisher McSweeneys this week announced that they're broke. Stuck with massive debt from the PGW meltdown--the same disaster that sent Soft Skull to Winton, Shoemaker & Co (hi Richard)--McSweeneys has taken the move made famous by Top Shelf Comix and appealed directly to their readership to purchase backstock.

I have to say that I was surprised when I heard the news--McSweeneys puts out a public air of such confidence that I'd never expect them to write a letter like this. Which means it's really drastic.

Having had to write a letter like that myself, I can say it's not an easy one to write. It's humbling--you hate to admit that there's trouble--and, more importantly, you know that it's a one-shot deal--you can't do something like this twice--so you've got to make sure that this is really the time you need to throw out that hail-Mary pass. If you've established trust with your readers (and if anyone has, it's McSweeneys), it'll work to get you out of debt, but it's a temporary fix. Appeals to your readers can't be a business plan. Speaking from experience, if you don't have the next step lined up, the money's going to run out again before you know it. Here's hoping they do.

The McSweeneys letter is another sign that the trouble that befell magazine distribution in 2005/06 (though we're all still seeing the effects still today) is creeping into books at a time when the industry is truly vulnerable. And the letter is also a sign that even the most respected are on shaky footing indeed.

I wish them the best over there. The world would be a worse place without their amazingly quirky books to look for on the shelves. Support them if you can, and hope they've got Plan B ready to roll.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to monetization

So in light of the comments in the post below, I've decided to put my money where my mouth (er... fingers) is (er... are) and have signed up for an AdSense account to see just how the future of revenue streams on the Internet works. (I recognize and accept that that last sentence made me sound like your great aunt who just signed up for "the hotmail.")

So far, the sign-up server was down for an hour and a half and, after signing up, it takes one to three days to have your site approved, neither of which seem particularly cutting-edge or user-savvy, so I'm going to chalk one up into the skeptical column for now.

I don't expect to make any money off this site, by the way, this is more for the experiment/learning experience of actually serving these ads than it is the ¢72 that I stand to make from it. Because while I, like Whitney, firmly believe that children are our future, the rest of the world seems to point to Google instead.

Friday, June 8, 2007

10 things minus the big one = a bankrupt future

An interesting blog post has been making the rounds lately 10 Obvious Things About the Future of Newspapers You Need to Get Through Your Head. The author makes some good points--specifically around the fact that it's neither Google's nor Craig List's fault that newspapers are suffering right now.

However, what he leaves out is how all of these changes effect the financial landscape for publishers (buried in the comments the author admits as much when he says that web ads haven't replaced the income lost from print ads) and, until that answer can be as simply and effectively stated as the rest of his list, well, the list is a bit moot.

I've said it other places but the problem with this transition from print to web isn't the skillsets of reporters, isn't whether or not RSS feeds are valid, isn't a 60-second newscycle, but instead how all this stuff gets PAID FOR. And nobody has a good answer for this. I'm convinced it's possible--I mean, hell, simply cutting out the paper and printing cost alone helps get you part of the way there--but until there's a solid solution, lists like these only treat the symptoms, not the disease.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cross-posting for eye-crossing times

On a site less focused than this one, I began a list of indie magazine titles that are shutting down, leaving the newsstand, going on hiatus, etc... etc... In addition to being terribly depressing, it seems relevant to this site as well and I thought I'd include a link. Join in the discussion over there: You Will Know Indepedent Publishing by the Trail of Dead

How is it that someone's name I'd never heard of before a few weeks ago is suddenly everywhere?

The wires report:
Wary of possible editorial meddling by the Australian newspaper tycoon following his $5 billion bid, the union hired a company to seek other suitors for the nation's leading business newspaper.
Ron Burkle, a supermarket magnate who's tried to buy the Los Angeles Times and other papers, confirmed yesterday he is considering a bid through his buyout firm Yucaipa.

Seriously, I didn't know this dude from Adam a month ago, and suddenly he's Captain Ubiquitous. And really, those that are worried about the editorial integrity of the Wall Street Journal (the what to the who now?) should probably not look to this dude as a saviour. He's bought up a bunch of car magazines and just failed in his bid to buy Maxim. And, as if that's not enough, he's also fighting against the first amendment.


Last year, he had his employees buy stacks of copies of the Los Angeles Business Journal to keep people from reading an article about his divorce in the newspaper. His spokesman said he was trying to protect his child.

Yep, that's the guy for the job. But man, how psyched were the LA Business Journal publishers that day--"Dude, we've sold out EVERYWHERE!"