Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Hold on to that magazine!

Yesterday I gave some of my arguments for why trade magazines will survive and thrive amid changes in the media. The Magazine Publishers of America association -- no surprise -- thinks that all print mags will endure.
But their argument seems to be that in the future we'll need something "real" to hang on to in our floating bathtubs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bad news at Penton

There's bad news at Penton, and it's the sort of thing that can leave folks worried about layoffs. The Cleveland-based publisher of such B2B titles as "Air Transport World" and "Baking Management," said it will restate earnings for all of 2002, 2003 and 2004. The problem involves deferred tax assets. Correcting the errors will cost some $72 million.

On death and dying in the media

One of the more common topics discussed on media blogs is the death of print media. And there's always an argument to be had in predicting that one form of the medium will perish, while another will thrive.
I have my opinions on the subject too. I worry that the newspapers of my youth may not be around by the time my grandchildren are old enough to read. But like my friend Douglas Fisher, I'm not convinced that all is lost. And I tend to feel quite positive about the outlook for community newspapers.
I don't see blogging as a competitive threat to traditional forms of journalism; I see blogging as a long-overdue response by the consumers of traditional journalism. Bloggers are journalism's audience, journalism's partners, journalism's opportunity to understand itself.
I'm fascinated by the spread of citizen journalism into audio, but I don't expect that podcasting will destroy radio.
And I'm least worried about the print versions of B2B media -- which puts me in a different camp from Rafat Ali of Paidcontent, who says his "pessimism is mainly about trade mags."
Here's why I'm optimistic:
First, much of the B2B press has the advantage of controlled circulation. When it's time to cut the media clutter, the free stuff in my mailbox is not where I'll look first. Second, the B2B press publishes (or at least tries to publish) information that is needed. People are less likely to stop reading things that can bring them money than they are to stop reading things that cost them money. Third, trade publishing is about information distribution. Smart publishers will find multiple ways to get information to users and make money from it. B2C publishing is about the "package"-- selling indistinct, commodity-like pieces of information in a single magazine. It's going to be difficult for Vogue or Seventeen to find a way to sell a single piece of content about lipstick directly to readers. But price information, market-share data, competitive analysis -- the cores of B2B information -- can sell with or without the rest of a trade mag.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Publishers' policies on blogs

I've been impressed with how some mainstream newspapers are embracing the participatory journalism movement. The Greensboro News & Record, for example, is generating considerable attention from other mainstream media outlets for its use of blogs and its embrace of transparency. But I have yet to come across a B2B publisher with a similar level of interest in how online journalism is evolving.
Much of the foot-dragging is based in fear, it seems. When I mention blogs to many B2B journalists, I tend to run into a lot of paranoid pontificating about amateurs pontificating in pajamas. I've said it before ... and I suspect I'll say it again ... trade publishers have to look again at the community journalism movement. Those people in pajamas are not your competition, they are your audience. They are not your enemy. They are the key to all your opportunities.
The pajama people are also often your coworkers.
And one specialty publisher has created a set of rules on employee blogging that may prove a workable template for any B2B publisher. The rules are evolving, according to Rexblog, because the company is listening to feedback from bloggers! Check out the most recent version of the rules here.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Custom publishing: growth and ethics

Few things have gotten the business side of trade publishing companies as excited in recent years as the revenue potential from custom publishing. Companies such a Cygnus and Penton have even started separate units to create and market vanity publications for clients.
Now comes word that corporate spending on custom publishing rose 19% last year to $35.5 billion. Certainly that's good news for the bottom line of many a B2B publisher. But it does leave me wondering about the nature of custom publishing, and some of the ethical risks.
I remember there was considerable debate about a decade ago when it was still fairly routine for publishers to ask journalists to write for custom publications. I don't think you'd find a serious journalist anywhere who doesn't have a problem with that. And today I'd be surprised to find anyone other than the most amateur of operations failing to use a separate staff or freelancers to produce custom pubs.
American Business Media's "Editorial Code of Ethics," the latest version of which I blogged about earlier this week, specifically condemns the use of editorial staff "in the preparation of custom publishing."
What I'd like to know is if this is still the issue it was a few years ago. I'd love to hear from any editorial staffers who have been pressured to write for a custom publication, corporate Web site or similar product.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More on transparency in journalism

Shortly after I finished my earlier post about journalism ethics and transparency, I came across an interesting piece about transparency and branding. There's a link at the end of this post, and I'd urge everyone to take a look.
My experience has been that journalists remain too elitist, too enamored of their insider information and connections to appreciate the need for openness. The hidden histories of the mainstream press are widely known among journalists, but not among news consumers. How many Americans know Andrea Mitchell is married to Alan Greenspan? How many folks know NPR congressional reporter Cokie Roberts is the daughter of two members of Congress (a fact that is omitted on her NPR bio.)
I'd argue that the lack of transparency is an even larger problem in trade journalism, particularly in the use of anonymous sources. Few B2B publishers have rigid rules on sourcing. And ABM's ethics guidelines don't discuss the issue. As a result, the B2B world is full of the weakest of all journalism phrases: "according to sources." When I question B2B reporters about that phrase I often find they are being misleading -- using the plural "sources" when they've only talked to one, favored source. And sometimes they aren't talking about sources at all, but instead use the phrase as a sort of catch-all attribution for things that "everyone" knows.
Here's my prediction: the push for transparency in journalism is about to gain strength, but not from journalists, bloggers, academics or Dan Gillmor. This change will be driven by folks on the business side who are eager to protect their brands.

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Journalism ethics for B2B

American Business Media has released its updated "Editorial Code of Ethics." Nothing in it should be a surprise to anyone who practices the journalism craft. The guidelines are clear, simple and even a little obvious. Nonetheless, I know there are folks out there who balk at ethical behavior, so I'm grateful that ABM has taken the time to publish the code.
Of particular note are the guidelines related to online advertising. The online world is new, and the rules are still being written. As a result there have been more shenanigans on the Web than in print in recent years. ABM is calling for online standards similar to those used in respectable print publications -- clearly labeling advertorial content, keeping editorial content under the control of the editorial department, etc.
ABM also wants online readers to be able to "opt out" of having their information sold to third parties. That's the sort of consumer-oriented move I support, but it's not going to go down well with many circulation departments.
One disappointment is that the guidelines don't mention transparency. Dan Gillmor, who may be the best thinker in journalism today, has suggested transparency as part of a model for the post-objectivity world.
My experience is that the most common form of unethical journalistic behavior involves non-transparency, in which reporters don't fully disclose biases, history (many B2B reporters once worked in the industry they cover) and relationships with sources.
I'd like to think the folks at ABM are thinking about these issues, and perhaps next year's version of the ethics guideline will address them.
In keeping with this idea of full disclosure, let me say this: Among the members of the ABM committee that issued the guidelines are Rama Ramaswami, who I remember as one of the brighter people I met in my time at Primedia Business; Marlys Miller, who is an editor at Vance Publishing, where I once worked; and Whitney Sielaff, publisher of one of my favorite B2B magazines.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

VNU Business sells four B2B titles

VNU Business Media is selling four B2B magazines for the retail industry to Chicago-based Ideal Media, a new division of Schofield Media Ltd.
"Retail Merchandiser," "Restaurant Business," "Foodservice Director," and "Beverage World" as well as related trade shows and Web sites are all included in the transaction. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
According to the press release, editorial staffers won't have to worry about relocation, because the magazines will "be co-located in New York City and Chicago."
The purchase -- at least of the food and drink magazines -- may prove a nice fit. Schofeld already publishes "Food & Drink" magazine in the U.S. and "Food Chain" in Europe.
Schofeld, the U.S. arm of England's Schofield Publishing, has been growing at a rapid pace of late. Last month Schofeld bought "American Executive" and "Health Executive" from RedCoat Publishing.
Given that Schofeld is publisher of "Construction Today" and "Furniture & Interiors," I'd look for more purchases in the homebuilding and furnishings space.

Monday, March 21, 2005

B2B magazine for retailers

My fellow B2B media blogger David Shaw has announced his latest venture -- a B2B magazine for senior retail executives. The publication promises coverage of transportation, logistics and other issues "throughout the retail value chain."
Congratulations to David and his team. I'll look forward to the first issue in May.

B2B video-on-demand service

On days when I can't get to the gym, I'll sometimes use Cablevision's video-on-demand services on my television and take a yoga or Pilates class through "Sportskool" or "MagRack."
The services are essentially instructional videos, usually bearing some sort of consumer magazine title. Yoga Journal, for example, produces classes for video-on-demand.
I've often wondered about the potential for similar B2B services.
And now someone has done it....sort of.
Home and Garden Television, a unit of E.W. Scripps, will produce three-minute videos for professional home builders. But HGTV won't offer the video through cable television. Users can access the product only through the Web at
The videos are proving popular, according to the Associated Press, which says HGTVPro received 380,000 unique visits in its first 19 days of operation -- roughly half the number of the Web site of B2B trade publisher Hanley Wood.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

B2B magazine awards and psychology

About 18 years ago, when I was young reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal, I decided I wanted another job. So I took a drive to nearby High Point, N.C., to apply at Furniture Today.
The folks there gave me some sort of psychology exam, which I apparently failed. Because they told me that the test results indicated I wouldn't be happy as part of the FT family.
On the Myers-Briggs test -- my personal favorite among the personality inventory exams -- I'm an ENFJ. That means I'm creative, highly verbal and have a mentoring personality. A lot of ENFJs become writers.
But being an ENFJ apparently wasn't enough for Furniture Today.
Whatever was missing from my personality, I cannot argue with Furniture Today's decision. The magazine has been plenty successful all these years without me.
And today comes word that they are a Neal Award winner for news coverage.
Check out the full list of winners here.

Convergence and reluctant reporters

I had a wonderful time at the College Media Advisers meeting yesterday. I'm the newest member of the professional advisers committee -- which has the redundant-sounding job of advising advisers about trends in journalism.
Of particular note from our gathering was the considerable attention given to convergence in the newsroom. (I'll take a second here to offer my congratulations to my alma mater, which seems to be embracing convergence as the core of its journalism program.) Convergence was also a hot topic when I visited Northwest Missouri State University last week. And what I keep hearing is that students -- the journalists of tomorrow -- aren't crazy about the idea.
It seems that students of today are every bit as delusional as I was when I was a kid, thinking that they are already experts in some particular area of interest, and that there's no need to pick up additional skills.
Certainly convergence is already a reality in the B2B press (and the community press) because the jack-of-all-trades journalist is the mainstay of any low-budget, small-staff operation.
But what I try to get across to students is that convergence and multitasking is also the norm in the mainstream press.
At CNN we had no need of reporters who couldn't record sound bites, or upload video to a Web site. At Bloomberg, reporters carried digital recorders with their notebooks, and everyone was required to be available for television stand-ups.
In the new media environment, journalists are more than just reporters or just photographers or just designers.
And I for one want nothing to do with the prospective employee who would limit his job to some small slice of the industry. Because such a person would ultimately limit my publication.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

College Media Advisers

Well I guess I did pretty well at the professional advisory committee meeting last week at Northwest Missouri State University. Because someone who was there has invited me to join the advisory committee for the national organization that helps student-run media improve their operations.
I'll be heading over to the Roosevelt Hotel today for lunch and a meeting or two with the members of the College Media Advisers group, which hosts its annual meeting this weekend in New York City.
The hotel is about an hour from my home by I hope that gives me enough time to come up with something intelligent to say.
If anyone else says anything intelligent, I'll make sure to talk about it on this blog.

Magazine launch by Sosland

I did pick up one actual piece of B2B journalism news during my week in Kansas City. Sosland Publishing has launched a new, biweekly publication called "Food Business News."
Sosland, the 83-year-old publisher with offices in the Kansas City Board of Trade, is best known as the owner of Milling & Baking News. Sosland's latest venture reaches a bit beyond its traditional coverage of grain-based food companies, as the company tries to reach executives "throughout the food processing industry."
In some ways, Sosland is the archetype of a trade publisher. It's a family-run business (the last name of the top three executives on Food Business News' masthead is Sosland.) The company has its roots in the industry it covers, not in journalism. And Sosland is tied to the community where it's based -- funding charities and maintaining a positive corporate reputation in a small community while remaining invisible at the national level.
But despite the sort of old-fashioned feel of Sosland, it's a remarkably modern and professional company. The editors produce clean copy that's mostly free of the industry jargon and boosterism that plague many B2B publishers.
Also of note is that unlike many of its trade journalism brethren, Sosland seems at ease in the online world. The company's Web sites are crisp; Navigation is simple and intuitive. Even the print version of Food Business News seems to be a creature of new media: the front page features brushed-metal coloring and has a table of contents that resembles left-hand navigation.
So imagine my disappointment to find that Sosland named its new magazine Food Business News without buying the domain name That URL will take you to a site from the World News portal. To see Sosland's magazine, you'll have to visit

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

State of the News Media, part 2

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the "State of the News Media" report is its suggestion that the mainstream media seems ill-equipped to deal with the changes brought by blogs, RSS feeds, etc. There are "signs of frustration, lack of innovation and the caution of the old media applied to the new," the report says.
After my trip last week to the Midwest, I'll admit I share the report's concern.
It seems to me that too much of the media simply won't look at what is happening. Media folk, strangely enough, have managed to cut themselves off from information about new media.
At the conference at Northwest Missouri State, I met broadcasters who had never heard of podcasting; talked with advertising executives who weren't familiar with craigslist; and lunched with journalists who had never read any of the world's 7.8 million blogs, hadn't heard of Dan Gillmor, and were unaware of the ongoing argument that objectivity should be replaced with transparency.
That's akin to meeting a group of petroleum executives who had never heard of the Exxon Valdez. Certainly there's room for debate on these issues. But how can anyone at this date be unaware that the debate has begun?

State of the News Media -- be more like B2B press

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its 600-page, navel-gazing opus: "The State of the News Media." If you don't have time to read the entire report, at least glance through the "Five Major Trends" section in the overview.
The report suggests that the blogging phenomenon demands a new breed of specialist expert replace the generalist journalist in the typical newsroom. Such a move, the report says, would help journalists "inoculate their work from the rapid citizen review that increasingly will occur online and elsewhere."
I hope that is not meant to imply that the solution to the woes of the elitist press is more elitism.
Instead, I'd like to think the report is suggesting that mainstream journalists become more like trade journalists. Those of us in the trade press have long accepted that our role is less about "explaining" or "gatekeeping" than it is about engaging in an informed conversation among peers.
Good B2B journalism is about dialog, and dialog is a natural function of reporting in a world where sources, reporters and readers are equals.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Goin' to Kansas City. Kansas City here I come

I'll be in Kansas City for a week to visit friends, former coworkers and business associates. I'll also be visiting the campus of Northwest Missouri State University. It's time for the annual meeting of the Department of Mass Communications' professional advisory committee, of which I'm a member. With some luck, I'll pick up a few interesting tidbits to share on this blog.
While I'm away, I won't be updating this site.
So I'm going to ask everyone in the trade journalism world .... if it's not too much trouble ... don't do anything interesting until I get back.

Two ideas for design

I'm not a design person. I'm not even particularly visual.
But I know what I like in design.
Two new items (I'm not sure what to call systems? design concepts?) have emerged in the past few days. And they have captured my attention, if not my heart.
First, is the EmPRINT project from my alma mater, the journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I'm afraid I tend to agree with Adrian Holovaty, who dismisses the project as a "glorified PDF file." Nonetheless, I'm trying to keep an open mind and have signed up to participate in the field test.
Second is the print version of the April issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which is using a sort of Web-era, footnotes-like, text-can-be-like-hypertext format in its cover story. The writer is David Foster Wallace, the author whose work is most likely to be described as "sprawling." So footnotes of some sort are to be expected.
I'm not as excited by this as my fellow B2B blogger David Shaw. I find Wallace pompous and exhausting -- and my first reaction to the layout of Atlantic article is annoyance. But it's worth a look. If you don't have a subscription, visit this discussion about the future of books and click on the graphic for a peek.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Billboard, blogs and iPods

VNU's Billboard magazine has decided to cover the digital-music industry through a blog. That may prove a wise move as sales of Apple's iPods continue to rise, and as people increasingly look beyond conventional media in the search for information.
But what's most interesting to me about the blog is that it won't be run by Billboard's editorial staff. But before anyone begins to panic that the blog will be some sort of advertorial hybrid that blurs the lines, take a look at this article. B2B magazine is reporting that my friend Rafat Ali, editor of, will "direct" the blog, which is known as Billboard PostPlay.
Rafat is a quality journalist with considerable expertise, and his hire will certainly mean that VNU will get superb coverage of the industry.
Let's just hope this new assignment doesn't keep Rafat from updating paidcontent -- one of the most valuable sites in the B2B world.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Email newsletter about email newsletters

Direct, a B2B publication that covers the direct-marketing industry, has launched an email newsletter about the email newsletter business. In an article on the Direct website, editorial director Ray Schultz says the idea was born in an argument about appropriate story length for an electronic publication.
I got a kick out of that for several reasons. First, I remember having a similar conversation (I wouldn't call it an argument) with Ray and some of his staff when I was at PrimediaBusiness and online newsletters were still a novelty. Second, Ray says his recent argument -- in which he came to a new understanding of electronic journalism -- was with PrimediaBusiness' new media department. That "department" is really just a handful of folks guided by Prescott Shibles, who used to work for me. So I'm thrilled to see that Prescott is still fighting for quality work online.
FULL DISCLOSURE: The newsletter and some related projects -- all of which will soon move to the "Chief Marketer" brand -- are being developed under the guidance of Hershel Sarbin, the former president of Ziff-Davis and former CEO of Cowles Business Media. I've consulted with Hershel on his work with PrimediaBusiness and hope to expand that relationship.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quark vs. InDesign

If you've spent much time in B2B publishing, you've already decided whether you prefer Quark's QuarkXPress or Adobe's InDesign for your layout work.
But you may still want to read this piece in the Denver Post, which outlines the history of Quark and pays particular attention to the company's history of customer-service shortcomings.
Wondering where I stand in the debate?
I have both InDesign and Xpress on my computer. But I tend to be a creature of habit. And the design software I use most often is the nearly prehistoric PageMaker.

Trade pubs for the rag trade

B2B publications in the apparel space seem to be hot, presumably because changes in global trade laws are creating opportunities for clothing entrepreneurs.
Global Sources, which publishes newsletters about the industry, says it will launch "Garments & Textiles" magazine and a related website by summer. The products will serve apparel manufacturers and related businesses, primarily those that do business in China and India.
And Edgell Communications announced it bought "Apparel" magazine from VNU for an undisclosed amount. "Apparel" is an old-timer in the clothing and trade-magazine worlds. Originally titled "Bobbin," the publication entered the world the same year I did -- 1959.
But new and old publications alike must compete against the giant of rag-trade trade pubs: "Women's Wear Daily." No one else has the influence of WWD. No one else has the staff and stringer network to produce the detailed news and gorgeous photos that are the hallmark of WWD.
And WWD has the advantage of having Rich Rosen as managing editor. Rich is a friend of mine, a talented journalist and yet another of my fellow refugees from Bloomberg News.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Thomson Media changes its name

Thomson Media -- parent of such B2B publications as "The Bond Buyer," "National Mortgage News," and "Accounting Today" -- is changing its name. Henceforth, and presumably forevermore, Thomson will be known as SourceMedia.
As rebranding efforts go, I suppose this is a sensible one. The Thomson name is confusing. There's a Thomson Publications, there's Thomson the "world's leading information resource," there's also a DC Thomson Publications and god-only-knows-what-else.
Let's just hope that no one confuses SourceMedia with Primedia or The Source magazine.