Emphasis on “almost”

Ezra Klein

One of the most mind-bending facts of our information culture is that almost every major medium of information supports itself by advertising.

Radio? Advertisers. Magazines? Advertisers. Television? Advertisers. Google? Advertisers. Facebook? Advertisers. Twitter? Advertisers. Perhaps the only major exceptions to this rule are books, which are supported by sales, and Wikipedia, which is supported largely through donations.

— from “Information Is Free but Only Because Advertisers Pay,” by Ezra Klein, Bloomberg View, January 4, 2012  (emphasis added)

Another prominent exception: National Geographic magazine. Advertising once represented only 10 percent of the Magazine’s annual revenue; now that number is closer to 30 percent (if not more).

Which makes us wonder: Why has our Society rolled this one-of-a-kind publication in with all the other ad-driven media at NGS? Why take what’s been a unique relationship with the Society’s members, and turn it into the same old business that everyone else is trying desperately to sustain (ad dollars for viewer eyeballs)?

Why have we voluntarily sacrificed the relationship with members that’s long made the Society special?

Uh oh.

 via The Washington Post

The Magazine withers away….

NGM on iPad: “Bordering on obstinate….”?

Exhibit A: Thoughts about iPad magazines by Khoi Vinh, former Design Director for NYTimes.com (via the Future Journalism Project):

Khoi Vinh

Khoi Vinh

“A lot of people who make, read and love magazines have called me a naysayer about this issue, but I say that if you really care about the value that magazines can bring to the world (and I admit, I’m skeptical about whether they really do offer much value anymore), then it would be wise to give up the ghost on this unrealistic notion that a fancy presentation layer and rudimentary DVD extras-style bells and whistles slapped on top of content that can already be read for free on the public Web will generate any significant revenue. It’s bordering on obstinate to think that something you care so much about can be salvaged by doing more or less the same thing that has failed magazines so consistently until now: continuing to ignore the fundamentals of digital user experience design and how they diverge from analog print design.”

Exhibit B: National Geographic‘s iPad app:

≡  photo of Khoi Vinh via his website, Subtraction

iPad magazines have already lost their luster?

“Digital sales dropped toward the end of 2010 for all the magazines that make those figures available to the Audit Bureau of Circulations,” says a recent report in Women’s Wear Daily. Among the titles losing their digital luster: Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ, Men’s Health, and Wired.

Why the sudden drop in sales? PC Magazine says the main problem is the lack of a workable subscription model. MSNBC’s Technolog suggests that magazines need their own dedicated category in the App Store. And while we don’t know the sales figures for NGM’s iPad app, we have a hunch they’re nothing to brag about — especially if the following online review by “JimFeet” is a fair barometer of what most people are thinking:

via iTunes

After using the Wired magazine app I downloaded the Nat Geo apps with enthusiasm – waste of time. Both the Traveller and the Nat Geo mag apps are little more than online versions of the magazine – including splitting up photo spreads that span two or more pages into their equivalent multi-screens. This means that while you can view the entire image if you have the actual magazine open in front of you, you have to flip between screens in the app and try to visualize them assembled in your head.

AND, as for the claim of “interactive”, not so much. The only interactivity I found was a less than 1 minute video that can be played from the “cover” screen. Hardly interactive in my estimation.

Lastly, this app offers a VERY small sample of the magazine. You must register and subscribe to get the full edition. I have no problem subscribing but I couldn’t find any description of what it would cost without first registering.

Nat Geo would do well to subscribe to Wired. They might learn something.

Hey, David Griffin — any thoughts?

MPA: It no longer stands for anything

The Magazine Publishers of America (once led by NGM Publisher John Q. Griffin)…

… has just been rebranded as:

So… MPA is now an acronym for what? Or as Mark Glaser of PBS’ MediaShift points out: “Kinda weird to still have the MPA name, but that now stands for something different.”

Weird, indeed. Then again, it’s a perfect barometer of the confusion within the magazine industry.

The good news: National Geographic isn’t a magazine (like, say, Newsweek) as much as it’s “the official journal of the National Geographic Society.” But that only matters if “Society” does.

Repeat After Me…

The weeklies are toast, but the monthlies are safe…
The weeklies are toast, but the monthlies are safe…

From Newsweek.com:

Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham came to New York to tell the magazine staff at a 10:30 a.m. ET meeting on Wednesday. “We have reported losses in the tens of millions for the last two years,” he said. “Outstanding work by NEWSWEEK’s people has significantly narrowed the losses in the last year and particularly in the last few months. But we do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management.”

… NEWSWEEK Inc. Managing Director Ann McDaniel told the staff: “Because we don’t have a secret buyer waiting in the wings, because no deal is imminent, some things are unknown.  I do hope that you get to stay together as the great team that you are. In case that doesn’t happen though, let me make one thing perfectly clear: Any employee, business or editorial,  in good standing at the time of the sale, who does not get an offer from the new owner, will get the severance, notice, dismissal and RIF pay described in the contract and in NEWSWEEK’s severance policy on the intranet. If you are new to NEWSWEEK, and remain in good standing through the sale, you will get four months of pay.”

The weeklies are toast, but the monthlies are safe…
The weeklies are toast, but the monthlies are safe…

Another Photography Crowdsourcing Project

"Welcome to 48 Hour Magazine, a raucous experiment in using new tools to erase media's old limits. As the name suggests, we're going to write, photograph, illustrate, design, edit, and ship a magazine in two days. "

According to Gizmodo, 3,357 people have already signed up to participate in 48 HR Magazine — and the project hasn’t even launched yet.

Meanwhile, back at our Society, more than four million members are invited to participate in this innovative co-branded marketing campaign:

We can do so much better than this.

≡  image mosaic via Gizmodo

“I think they’re in a coma.”

Samir Husni

They still believe that it’s just a cycle, that advertising will come back, and things will go back to the way it used to be,” says Samir (“Mr. Magazine”) Husni. “I think they’re in a coma. If they think things are going back to the way it used to be before 2007, they are not living in this world.”

“The” Magazine?


There was a time, not too long ago, when it was almost forbidden at the Society’s headquarters to refer to National Geographic magazine as “The Magazine.” It also was bad form to use the “F” word — “flagship” — when talking about NGM. That sort of language diminished the Society’s other publications, or so managers used to think.

But now that Adventure is dead, and Traveler is teetering, it feels like the winds have shifted. Take a peek at National Geographic’s new beta website, and you’ll see “The Magazine” is back.

We hope that speaks to the major role NGM — and the Society’s members — might play in the future. We also hope that doesn’t foreshadow the fate of the NGS magazines that remain standing.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.