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“I am not a Media Person” -Chris Anderson

chris andersonAfter hearing Chris Anderson speak this morning, I have to heartily disagree with his own statement, above.  Before becoming entrenched in the media world, Anderson was an active physicist (not sure exactly what this is, but know smart and scientific) when he was approached by Conde Nast.  Hard to believe he had never heard of this huge media conglomerate, but knowing my own Robotics/Aerospace/Mechanical “enginerding” family I’m not totally shocked.  Through his rise to the best-sellers list and award-winning EIC of Wired magazine, Anderson has maintained his scientific background through his robotics company, GeekDad.com and the technology apparent in his magazine.

In his hour and a half speech, I had to scribble to try to write down even half the things I wanted to remember.  Including, but not limited to, these enticing little tidbits:

  • We live in a messy world, and it’s only getting messier.
  • Atoms increase in worth; bits decrease (digital moving to free)
  • We need to make the most of the Old World while exploring the New World.
  • No business in their right mind would go to a 100% paid online model.
  • You can only make money off scarcity. Time, experience, food, land is scarce; digital content is not.

Chris Anderson free BookAnderson was generous enough to give us a copy of his book that’s not released until July 7 (quite a thrill in holding a book not available in public!), which is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Radically, the digital version and full length audio book are free, though the premium content of abridged audio and hardcover title come with a price tag.  

Though Anderson came to speak about his magazine work, I was enthralled by his book publishing knowledge.  He shared interesting insights, from not wanting to receive royalty checks (since that means the advance wasn’t high enough), to making money from speaking as opposed to the selling of his books, to how once the coherency was decided for his book he can’t even remember the actual words pouring forth.

 

Wired - in print

Wired - in print

Another note-worthy comment made by Anderson is his openness to a digital Wired.  In fact, he made the bold statement of “If the Kindle is [made in magazine form] I will stop killing trees immediately.”  I asked about the digital magazines available today, through Zinio and the like, and Anderson explained he doesn’t think people want to read a magazine on a computer or need the physical pages, but need it to be mobile.  So my next question is: Who will be first with the mobile mag reader? There have been rumors about Conde Nast, or will Amazon lead the pack yet again?

 

Anderson is highly optimistic in his views.  Believing in the monetization emotionally – writing etc. for fulfilling reasons vs. financial, as well as future brand extensions, he in no way sees the death of publishing (an obvious sigh of relief).

It’s a media company, not new TV show

I was at class by 9:30 today, without coffee since my little pot decided to be on the fritz, so it was a huge tease when Seth Familian came on screen, with his video projected straight from San Fransisco with a clear image of his steaming mug.

familianFamilian is listed in our program as “CEO, 8020 Publishing”, but apparently as of very recently (last night, perhps?) he resigned from the position due to different thoughts on the business.  So that made me realize a) I can’t believe he is out of bed at all and not ridiculously hung-over after quitting and b) 9:30 NYC time is 6:30am SF time, so Seth, I applaud you.

I also applaud the new revenue models Familian was generous enough to share with us this morning.  With experience at Zinio (another company I admire) and an MBA from Berkeley, he’s definitely an authority on media.

JPG Magazine, “Your World in Pictures,” is the title for which Familian was responsible.  Living in both the digital and print realms, JPG is submitted hi-res pictures from a global community.   jpgmag.com boasts more than 200,000 active members, with 20-25 page views/returning users while the magazine has more than 35,000 submissions/issue.

Quick look at the concept: Photographers submit hi-res pictures falling within certain categories, which are then voted on by the other members on jpgmag.com, with the winning images appearing in the print magazine.

Where does the name “8020” come from?  That’s the split in content: 80% of work done by users, with only 20% being editorial contributions.

The 8020 concept is new by itself, but combined with the 3 Key Strategy Mechanisms Familian presented, it’s ingenious:

  1. Theme-Based Content
  2. Community Driven Curation
  3. Diversified Monetization

1. Theme-based content may be the cornerstone to success.  It gives users the parameters for what to submit, so compares like things to one another.

2. Community Driven Curation gives power to the users and drives growth.  This involves social layers on top of content interactions – not only can users vote on their favorite image, but can contact each other and see what others have “favorited”, establishing common ground.  Also compliments and constructive criticism are exchanged, resulting in what Familian says is an extremely friendly space.

3. Diversified Monetization is the ah-ah moment; the light bulb in the head.  Obviously, we all know content is not free.  But, in this case, with UGC it mostly is.  Not only that, but Familian found ways to stabilize the cash flow using on-demand options and price differentiation.

While print on demand still isn’t as cheap as the mass print runs, it is risk neutral.  So instead of just offering digital “issues” of the prints that didn’t make it into the print magazine, Familian has worked with POD agencies to offer it in book form.  By selling the book it generates profit, and the users/photographers featured end up being JPG’s marketing agent by WOM saying that their image can be found, published.

Whatever venture Seth Familian finds himself in next I have no doubt it will be a success.  He seems to be the rare person with a firm grasp on media’s potential as well as the business and finance facets of a company.

I am so far from a photographer with hi-res images, though I plan on joining the jpgmag.com community just to interact with other talented people and communicate in the universal language of pictures! I encourage you all to try it.

Professional Opinions from the High and Mighty: Esquire Editor in Chief, David Granger

I have such a different view as I look out my window.  I’ve traded my Chicago highrise scene featuring a view of Lake Michigan to look out over a patio a few floors below, surrounded by brick buildings and some tall glass structure.   That’s right, I’m in NYC!  Which is great overall, the kicker – I’m in a dorm.  Talk about digressing, I’m back to having a roommate (like in my bedroom, not sharing an apartment with my best friends), no real dishes and one bathroom for four girls.  All for a worthwhile cause though, as I live through these small indignities for the greater good of publishing (presumptuous, maybe)!

David Granger, EsquireSo today was my first (12-hour) day as a student once again, and I admit to being pleasantly surprised.  Our first assignment was to read “Esquire” magazine and purvey the website in preparation for to hear David Granger, Editor-in-Chief, speak about the State of the Magazine.  After searching for Esquire in a Chicago CVS, again at two magazine gift shops in the airport, a newsstand in NYC and a Duane Reade (apparently the NYC version of CVS) I was frustrated and not at all dazzled with the availability of the title.  Luckily a roommate (one of three in my “suite”) had been able to purchase it, so I was prepared, if not impressed.

…Then Mr. David Granger started to speak.  On the 12th anniversary to the day of his position as EIC at Esquire, he shared with my fellow NYU peers and me his successes as well as the reality of the media business.   When he boarded the figurative ship that was Esquire in 1997, the brand was about to sink.  Under Granger’s leadership, he has led the magazine to multiple awards, accolades, and the most successful fundraiser in UNICEF’s history.

“After nine years {as EIC}, I was fed up with Esquire still just being a magazine.”  -David Granger

Instead of letting his magazine slide into stagnation, Granger pulled his team together and brainstormed, to figure out what they could change.  Instead of seeing print as an old/outdated medium, he views print as old because “it’s really fucking good.” Choosing to use the website as a vehicle to drive people to the print edition, Granger makes Esquire a wanted commodity through innovative designs (including a table of contents that turns a boring list into an art form), genius covers copied by many, and content he believes to be funny, passionate and inclusive.

Though he admits to despair and desperation as being his “friends” at the office, Granger sees massive opportunities in the media landscape, though with less money to spend.  Esquire celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, and I have the utmost confidence Granger will continue to take Esquire on its trajectory of success.  I’m going to help in my own way by (Dad, spoiler alert, getting my father a gift subscription for Father’s Day)  Similar to Obama, featured on two covers, Granger takes a “We Can” attitude to the future.

Insight from David Granger:

  • Cigarettes are the greatest prop in history
  • “Tap Project” is Esquire‘s greatest achievement
  • Men love sandwiches

Thank you, Mr. Granger, for taking time out of your obviously very busy and successful life (not to mention the day after bad sushi) to share your knowledge.

Also thanks to the panelists in the later panel on “Magazines as Brands: The New Reality”:

  • Cyndi Stivers, Editor, EW.com: Great moderator, innovative website with minimal costs
  • Liz Vaccariello, EIC, Prevention: Your case study on the “Flat Belly Diet” was interesting and an obvious success.  I wonder if everyone at Prevention is in such good shape!
  • Marvin Scott Jarrett, EIC, Nylon: Not a very energetic speaker and quite cocky, but forgivable since obviously so talented.  Started Nylon 10 years ago, and is now partnering with iconic brands like Apple and Nike.  Not exactly anti-society, but anti-convention.
  • Paul Maidment, EIC, Forbes: Loved the British accent and was pleasantly surprised by his ability to joke, though it was hard to understand him at times.  More dry content, but do understand that he knows his target well and Forbes makes them smarter and richer!
May 2020
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