From a recent Pew report, Americans Spending More Time Following the News. The report’s title captures two things at once. One, time spent reading news is not falling; in fact it’s up from 2000. Two, it suggests the old model (subscribing, bookmarking) is being replaced by a new paradigm (following, friending).
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In today’s New York Times Sunday Styles Magazine, J Crew ran a 2-page spread that promotes its products and website — as well as products and websites of several boutique retailers that don’t seem to have any formal or financial relationship to J Crew, such as An Ambitious Project Collapsing and Silver Tears Campers.
From a short WWD piece under the headline Highlighting Some Friends:
“The company’s fall ads, which begin running in The New York Times Sunday Styles section this weekend, will shine a spotlight on some under-the-radar Web sites that offer what it deems cool, noncompeting products. ‘We like to edit and find things that are not big and famous,’ said Millard ‘Mickey’ Drexler, chief executive officer. ‘So we put together a list of our favorite Web sites that did other things and that we thought were creative. They’re small companies and they’re not out there as much as they deserve to be…. We wanted to share with our customers the things we love.’”
Wow, that’s generous. I remember an Intel commercial from 1999 that highlighted a bunch of non-Intel websites, such as eToys, but Intel’s motives were pretty clear. Some of the promoted companies were strategic investments by Intel’s VC arm, and all of them were companies that created rich, multimedia, processor-intensive websites that looked sucky on last year’s Intel chip.
It’s less clear to me what J Crew gets out of an ad that introduces readers to other cool sites that also sell stuff. For example, I went to two of the other sites but didn’t visit jcrew.com. There are plenty of ways to associate your brand with other people’s creativity or “share the things we love.” Is J Crew doing this because its employees can’t contain their love of coolness across the retail web, and they just had to do that sharing in their print ads? Really??
When I saw yesterday that Conde Nast plans to increase the rates it charges readers of its magazines and websites because, according to CEO Charles Townsend,
“We have been so overtly dependent on advertising as the turbine that runs this place, and that is a very, very risky model as we emerge from the recession,”
my first thought was: Oh come on. There have been plenty of recessions and one Great Depression since Conde Nast began a publishing empire built around ad-supported magazines, starting with Vogue and Vanity Fair (which in 1915 ran more ad pages than any other US magazine). I thought here’s another traditional publisher that’s preparing its audience for a post-Internet iPad paradise where readers will pay for their digital content.
My second thought was: Maybe, but so what. Conde Nast should have raised subscription and newsstand rates ages ago. When Henry Luce launched Fortune Magazine in 1930, he charged $1 per issue at a time when the Sunday New York Times cost $0.05. The whole point (according to Alan Brinkley’s telling in his Luce biography The Publisher) was to weed out the riff-raff who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay such an insanely high price for a copy of magazine, and then to make a mint selling advertising against such an upscale audience.
Whether or not the content-is-free culture of the Internet gives way to an I’ll-pay-for-the-premium-stuff future, Conde Nast should raise rates for their magazines. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ readers aren’t highly price sensitive. And besides, the advertising pitch gets better when your readership is limited only to those with lots of disposable income.
Here’s a print ad for Boot Dermocare created by McCann Bankok, ostensibly designed for audiences in Asia, and presumably too racy for American magazine readers. (Censorship courtesy of the ChasNote design team; full version below.)
Predictably, a wide range of US and UK advertising sites republished the ad. Is that the intent? Give North American and European brands and agencies plausible deniability (“Oh dear! That wasn’t us! That smut was created by a distant subsidiary when we weren’t looking!”), while at the same time providing them, through the magic of social media, a global audience for their more eye-catching if controversial creative? (BK is king of this practice.) Sneaky but smart.
Meanwhile, here’s the full version. You thought what?! Those are her toes!
(Hat tip to Nicole Williams, who as far as I can gather is the world’s leading authority on NSFW advertising creative.)
Those were the good old days, eh? When you could pitch cigarettes as the healthy alternative, and differentiate yourself from the competition by calling your tobacco “toasted”?
Ad revenues at Conde Nast will down by $1 billion from 2008, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. More at SAI.
From SF Gate:
“Conde Nast Publications is closing Gourmet, the nation’s oldest food magazine, and three other money-losing titles as the high-end publisher tries to weather a devastating advertising slump.
“In addition to Gourmet, which had a circulation of 980,000 last year, the publisher is closing Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie, a parenting magazine. Earlier in the year it killed publication of Portfolio, a business magazine, and Domino, a lifestyle title.”
Quite a headline from Silicon Alley Insider. From the story:
“Michael Jackson tributes and book-a-zines have generated $55 million in additional newsstand sales for magazine publishers, providing one bright spot, however somber, amid widespread newsstand declines so far this year.
“‘Based on our estimates, we’re at about almost $67 million in Michael Jackson product,’ said Gil Brechtel, president-CEO of the Magazine Information Network, often called MagNet, which tracks data from wholesalers and retailers.”