Mental Floss Prints Special Issue Tackling 'Big Questions,' Promoting Print Reading
MediaPost: "In 2006, after 15 years in print, Mental Floss went digital-only. Last Friday, June 21, it slightly reversed course. Mental Floss, which focuses on making history and culture accessible and entertaining, published a print issue, now available at Barnes & Noble stores. The company teamed with Paper and Packaging Board and B&N, [the issue's] distributor, for the surprise print effort.The issue's theme — big questions — is one element in a multiplatform program between Mental Floss and P+PB’s “How Life Unfolds” campaign, which promotes the value of reading on paper daily. The push is to get people to read at least 15 print pages every day, which researches claim improve mental development and memory. The issue asks questions such as, 'Who was the female feudal lord who defeated a WWII invasion with good manners? Who invented the cardboard box?' The “Life” campaign also runs cross-platform, digital and social, on Mental Floss. That includes MF’s “Book Corner,” a popular section on the pub’s site and Twitter page. Mary Anne Hansan, president, Paper and Packaging Board, said she was pleased to see Mental Floss in print again, since 77% of those surveyed said that “they concentrate better when reading a printed book.” Mental Floss is a part of Minute Media’s portfolio of brands, which also includes 12up, The Big Lead, DBLTAP and 90min. Minute Media bought the publication from the Felix Dennis estate in fall 2018. MF's site claims 20.5M unique users per month. Its YouTube channel produces three weekly series and has 1.3M subscribers"...[A comment below this article notes that the issue is also being sold in Whole Foods.]
Justice Dept. Sues to Stop Quad, LSC Merger on Antitrust Grounds
NY Times: "In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4B purchase of LSC Communications... Quad publishes every Condé Nast title...most publications from Hearst Magazines...and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world; Penguin Random House books and more. Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust, said...that a combination of Quad and LSC would “raise prices and reduce quality at the expense of publishers, retailers and, ultimately, American consumers"... [In March,] the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked...because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art"... Quad and LSC Communications said the proposed merger was essential to their companies’ continued survival"...
With Hearst As Partner, REI Shelves Catalog For Quarterly Magazine
Ad Age: "REI is at it again: The outdoors retailer is discontinuing its print mail-order catalog and debuting a magazine.Called Uncommon Path, the print publication will run on a quarterly basis and include stories focused on the outdoors. Kent, Washington-based REI is partnering with Hearst Magazines on the project, which will be staffed by a team of roughly six in-house REI employees as well as a collection of freelancers and Hearst workers. “What this magazine represents is how we are trying to deliver some of our own content and environmental journalism to help people understand issues around the outdoors better,” says Paolo Mottola, editorial director. He concedes that print journalism is not exactly on the upswing, but predicts that the singular outdoors-focus of Uncommon Path should help REI succeed. Mottolo says the magazine is another vehicle to deliver REI content to consumers, and that it will exist alongside the retailer’s online publishing, podcast and documentaries.Hearst has a similar publishing deal with Airbnb for Airbnb Magazine, which has a distribution of 1M. REI is finalizing its retail strategy of the publication and expects to sell in some airports, bookstores and newsstands around the country, as well as in all 155 of its stores, with a cover price of $4.95. The first issue this fall, at 84 pages, will include a mix of editorial features and print ads.Sucharita Kodali, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, says the magazine is a smart move for REI because it will bring in additional advertising revenue and potentially be a profit center.“This enables them to expand broadly to advertisers and anybody that wants to reach this relatively affluent demographic,” she says, noting that other categories, like automobile, travel and insurance companies could be interested in advertising opportunities. “Typically, catalogs are break-even—they’re not money makers—but magazines can be,” she says, noting GameStop’s successful Game Informer video game magazine. That publication has 2 million subscribers, according to the company’s financial documents"...
Meredith Execs on Traditional Home's Future, Newsstand Dynamics
Business of Home: "“Another shoe drops,” wrote one designer in a Facebook comment when news broke two weeks ago that Traditional Home would transition from a bimonthly, subscription-based magazine to a quarterly, newsstand-only, special-interest publication amid widespread layoffs. The news felt to many like another blow in the context of myriad recent changes in the shelter publishing landscape. But there’s a silver lining for the industry despite the magazine’s shake-up: The Sept/Oct issue may be the last copy of Traditional Home to arrive in the mail, but according to editor in chief Jill Waage, who remains at the helm of the title, the magazine that readers and designers know and love isn’t really going anywhere. Waage is in the process of mapping out the projects she’ll be slotting into her four 2020 issues—and is moving forward with scheduled shoots this week and beyond. In the publication’s new format, she says there might even be room to showcase more projects than before. What will change is the economics of producing the magazine, which boasted a circulation of 850,000 and readership of 4M but faced insufficient interest from advertisers. Meredith is tapping into its deep expertise in the special-interest category—and made a similar recent transition with titles like Cooking Light and Coastal Living. (Waage will also oversee Meredith’s other home-focused special-interest publications, including Elegant Homes and Dream Kitchens and Baths. And she remains the editorial director of Magnolia Journal, which is published with its own dedicated team in Waco, Texas.)" Q&A with Meredith Magazines president Doug Olson and Waage follows. Olson excerpts: "A little over a year ago, we made the decision to go from eight to six issues per year with the hope advertisers would support a bimonthly—and many of them did, but not to the level we had hoped. To us, the next version was to give up on the advertising model and transition to a consumer-based model. Not one transition [like this] that we’ve made in the last two to three years was a case where consumers had moved on... [On the newsstand-only business model:] It’s a classic case where we have a brand that consumers still love, but the advertisers have not supported it to the level that makes sense. We have had success creating a more premium environment—larger trim size, [higher-quality] paper—with brands like Cooking Light, so it’s a model we are very comfortable with. Consumers contribute to support [the brand] at a higher price-point, versus a subscription that is subsidized by advertising... [Trad Home] won’t be ad-free, but there aren’t many ads. A lot of advertisers moved on or didn’t have budgets, but not all of them walked away. And advertisers that are willing [to opt in] at the new distribution and sell-through level will find a passionate audience of consumers that are willing to pay more for Trad Home... For our bigger brands like People or Better Homes & Gardens, the advertising-based model [is still strong]. But smaller to midsize brands are the first to come off of advertisers’ schedules. We want to continue to serve the consumer in digital, video and print, so this is an evolution to keep those smaller brands alive." Waage excerpts: "Meredith owns a tremendous number of pockets on newsstands and at retail. No other company has the ability to drive this consumer revenue business around premium magazines because we have so many pockets, we’ve been doing this for decades, and we already have the infrastructure, systems and know-how to do it... The development of Magnolia Journal happened in the [newsstand-driven SIM/Special Interest Media] group, as well... Another great thing that not many people know is that in the last two years, Traditional Home gained 5 percent market share at newsstand—and we did it by taking market share away from our competitors in a declining environment. It wasn’t by attrition, it was by taking it away from other brands. I take that as a pretty great sign of vitality: Our newsstand numbers have been stable, if not even going up and stabilizing that way, in a very challenging market. That says to me that the people who are already picking up Traditional Home at the newsstand like what they’re seeing on the cover. Now we have the opportunity for even more folks to pick it up as a premium experience... We’re still working that [size of newsstand distribution] out, but typical distribution can be anything from 200,000 on the low side to 500,000 or 600,000 on the high side—or up to 1M copies, in the case of Magnolia Journal. We model all of this [by] looking at what our content costs are, what we think the sell-through will be, and consumer feedback... Before I came to Traditional Home, [I had worked in the SIM group], so I’ve already brought a lot of the SIM secret sauce to the cover blurbs and the cover image at Trad Home. At this juncture, the plan is to carry the same design, fonts and feeling of the magazine into that quarterly experience... The same way that we announce and show the new cover [on social] when the new issue comes out to tease to what is in that new issue, we still get to do that. If anything, the messaging gets to be stronger. What I’ve already noticed on social, too, is that people are already saying, “I can’t wait to see the new format, I am going to go get it.” And as people talk about it on social, they’ve also been saying how much they still love that printed experience in their hand"...
Self Aims to Democratize Wellness
Glossy.com: "Since folding its print arm and going digital-only in September 2016, Condé Nast’s Self has worked hard to reposition itself as not just a fitness publisher but also a leader in wellness. Its take is that wellness, though seemingly rooted in privilege and exclusive to white women, should be inclusive and accessible to mainstream consumers.Self’s latest attempts are twofold. Its digital cover strategy, which began in June 2018 with body-positive, plus-size model Tess Holliday, continues to be a boon for the publisher. The covers, which are not pegged to a celebrity project and are not monthly, center on larger, wellness lifestyle topics.Its June 2019 cover, which debuts on Wednesday and is Self’s fourth digital cover, features 45-year-old musician Alanis Morissette, who speaks out in the issue on her third pregnancy, the challenges of modern motherhood and society’s expectations of women. Traffic to Self.com as of May 2019 had 18 million unique visitors, which was more than 138% year-on-year growth, thanks to its digital cover strategy. In 2015, when current editor-in-chief Carolyn Kylstra joined the brand as digital director, site traffic was just 3.5 million. This is concurrent with Self cutting its weekly content production of 150 stories in half to do more in-depth reporting. Self has also partnered with tangential, but also disparate media partners like The Players’ Tribune, which focuses its content on professional athletes and sports, on 10 editorial videos and 10 branded videos (with sponsors Visa and AT&T) to broaden its audience reach and its take on wellness. The Players’ Tribune is known for its male-focused, avid sports audience. The videos were shared by both Self and The Players’ Tribune on their websites and YouTube channels. Self’s median reader age is 33 years old, and women make up 68% of the audience, with men just 32%.“Everybody is a wellness brand right now; it is almost meaningless. Wellness isn’t just for skinny, rich white women. So when we were looking at the white space, we wanted to create something differentiated and accessible — content people couldn’t find anywhere else,” said Kylstra. “You’re not going to see stories on weight loss or getting a bikini body on our site. The topics we are talking about may not get larger play [by other outlets] unless a celebrity is associated, but they are huge conversation starters and affect who our audience is""...
Advertisers Starting to See Wisdom of Using Traditional Media Again
CNBC: "While Facebook and Google are part of a new alliance to create standards for what’s considered appropriate content online, set up by the World Federation of Advertisers, other media and content platforms like Conde Nast, Snap and Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League are pushing themselves as alternative places for ad dollars. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, those that sell online and bypass traditional retailers, are looking for alternative ways to reach people through advertising. “Everybody wants to pull dollars away from Google and Facebook,” said David Spector, co-CEO and co-founder of bra company ThirdLove, speaking on a panel Wednesday.There is “probably or potentially a limit on how much we should spend on some of those digital channels,” he told CNBC. “We want to be able to tell our story on other channels in just as efficient of a way.” Spector would like to be able to reach people via targeted TV advertising, which is in its infancy, but is also leaning more on traditional marketing after a ThirdLove press ad criticizing rival Victoria’s Secret went viral. Bobby Ghoshal, co-founder of teeth-straightening company Candid, which sells dental aligners online, said Facebook ads did great for selling $95 starter kits to people, but not so well in terms of upselling them to the full, $1900 product. Ghosal said the company spent about 85 percent of its marketing budget on Facebook in 2018 but in the past eight weeks had hit a “bump” in the road with Facebook ads.He is pushing the company toward more traditional media such as radio and TV, because “that’s where all the trust is built,” and is investing in long-form articles and videos providing information about how the product works. Candid has also put a “ton” of money into TV advertising and has run billboards in major U.S. cities, Ghosal said. Bobby Ghoshal, co-founder of teeth-straightening company Candid, which sells dental aligners online, said Facebook ads did great for selling $95 starter kits to people, but not so well in terms of upselling them to the full, $1900 product. Ghosal said the company spent about 85 percent of its marketing budget on Facebook in 2018 but in the past eight weeks had hit a “bump” in the road with Facebook ads.He is pushing the company toward more traditional media such as radio and TV, because “that’s where all the trust is built,” and is investing in long-form articles and videos providing information about how the product works. Candid has also put a “ton” of money into TV advertising and has run billboards in major U.S. cities, Ghosal said"...
Book Sales -1.6% in 2018
PW: Book sales "slipped 1.6% in 2018 vs. 2017, to $25.82B, according to final figures released by the Association of American Publishers' StatShot annual report. Units dipped 0.6%. The trade segments did relatively well, with the industry decline coming from the professional segment (-8.5%), higher education (-7.3%), and PreK-12 instruction materials (-4.4%). AAP puts religious publishing in the trade segment, and religious books had the largest sales gain in the year: up 14.7% to $1.22B. Sales of children’s/young adult nonfiction rose 11.9%, sales in children’s/YA fiction rose 1.6%. In the adult trade segments, the AAP reported that fiction sales inched ahead 0.4%, but nonfiction fell 1.1%, to $6B. The decline in adult nonfiction came despite a big year for political books. Sales of adult nonfiction rose in hardcover, but declined in all other formats... [Ebooks'] 2% decline was the smallest since ebook sales started falling in 2015. Downloadable audio had the largest gain, with trade sales jumping 28.7%, to $1.1B. [But] mass market paperback...sales tumbled 25.9% [to] $530M.For trade books, online retail revenue grew 7.1% in 2018, to $6.7B. This offset a 3.1% fall in sales through physical retail, which dropped to $3.8B. Revenue from sales via the intermediary channel (primarily wholesalers and distributors) declined 1%. Physical retail and intermediary now each represent 23.7% of the trade market, the AAP reported"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Amazon Stretches Prime Day to 2 Days
RetailWire: "It turns out 36 hours simply isn’t enough time for Prime Day. Amazon.com has announced that it will hold the sales promotion event for not one, not one-and-a-half, but two days this year.The event, which will begin at midnight Pacific time on Monday July 15, will offer Amazon Prime members limited-time offers on a wide variety of goods. As in the past, people who are not Prime members can sign up for a free, 30-day trial membership to get in on the deals. “Our vision is that Prime Day should be the absolute best time to be a member — when you can enjoy shopping, savings, entertainment and some of the best deals Prime members have ever seen,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, in a statement. As part of Prime Day, Amazon plans to offer special deals at its Whole Foods locations. Wilke also promised “thousands of new product launches” and entertainment to bring more attention to the annual event. In a press release...Amazon emphasized its continuing shift to one-day delivery for members. “Amazon’s announcement that its annual Prime Day promotion now requires ‘pluralizing’ as it will be two days this year, running July 15 and 16, following 2018’s 36 hour ‘day’, will make an already acutely-competitive retail environment even tougher,” said Charlie O’Shea, vice president of Moody’s, in an email to RetailWire. “This is yet another example of the flexibility Amazon has to push the pricing envelope, in this case to broaden and deepen the benefits to Prime members, which creates a conundrum for all retailers, with the smaller, financially weaker retailers the most at risk,” said Mr. O’Shea. “Making this even tougher, Walmart and Target will react, further turning up the competitive heat""...
FTC Urged To Investigate Discrimination Based On Data
MediaPost: "A consumer advocacy group is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate allegations that dozens of companies -- including Home Depot, Walmart and Hotels.com -- are discriminating against consumers based on data about them.The organization, a Consumer Education Foundation initiative called #Represent, takes aim at what it terms “secret surveillance scores.”Those scores, according to the group, are generated based on data about consumers collected by “a shadowy group of privacy-busting firms that operate in dark recesses of the American marketplace... This petition highlights a disturbing evolution in how consumers’ data is deployed against them,” leaders of the group “#Represent” write in a 38-page complaint to the FTC. “Major American corporations, including online and retail businesses, employers and landlords are using Secret Surveillance Scores to charge some people higher prices for the same product than others, to provide some people with better customer services than others, to deny some consumers the right to purchase services or buy or return products while allowing others to do so and even to deny people housing and jobs,” #Represent's petition states.The petition is signed by #Represent policy director, Laura Antonini, and president, Harvey Rosenfeld. “Discriminating against Americans based on Secret Surveillance Scores contradicts and undermines the bedrock principles of competition and fairness that have long served as a foundation for the nation’s marketplace.” Antonini and Rosenfeld draw on a host of published reports about how retailers are using data in controversial ways, including by charging different prices to consumers based on information about them. Researchers from Northeastern University said in 2014 that retailers including Home Depot, Walmart, and Hotels.com charge different online prices to different web users. The advocates also used a Chrome extension created by researchers at Northeastern University to conduct new research into price discrimination by online retailers. Antonini and Rosenfeld said their own research confirmed that some e-commerce sites display different prices to different users. For instance, the price extension tool allegedly revealed that Home Depot displayed a price of $101 for five gallons of Glidden Premium satin latex exterior pant to some people, but $119 to others. The advocacy group says the discrimination isn't limited to differential pricing. Some companies also have rejected returns from customers based on their “secret surveillance scores,” the complaint alleges. Additionally, some companies allegedly use data when deciding customer service strategies, including how long to keep particular customers waiting on the phone.The watchdogs allege that using “secret surveillance scores” to determine pricing, customer service and the like is illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act"...
H-E-B Opens Tech Hub in East Austin
MNB reports that "H-E-B has opened a new tech hub space in East Austin, Texas, to serve as “an office space for the grocery chain's digital team and headquarters for Austin-based Favor, the delivery service app H-E-B acquired in February 2018.”The converted warehouse is described as being a “81,000-square-foot, open-concept space, complete with more than 50 meeting rooms, state-of-the-art video and technology capabilities, events space, lounge area, and coffee bar.”Because it is a tech hub, the new office also has all sorts of amenities designed to attract tech workers, like a “wellness center featuring a rock-climbing wall, curated fitness classes, bike parking, and showers.”
C Stores' Makeovers Accelerate
CNN: "On Monday, 7-Eleven said it would start delivering to "hot spots," including parks, beaches and other public locations through its year-old 7-Now delivery app. 7-Eleven's move, which is similar to Domino's beach delivery launch last year, is the latest sign of convenience chains reshaping their businesses for the digital era.Chains such as 7-Eleven, Wawa and QuikTrip are sprucing up stores, adding online delivery and offering craft beers and meal kits to woo customers... Shoppers who visit convenience stores tend to be younger and more diverse than the overall population. Nearly a third of Millennials shop at convenience stores at least once a week, according to Kantar data. And younger, time-strapped customers are demanding healthier foods, analysts say.Dollar General (DG) and Target (TGT) are also targeting urban customers with new small stores, while Kroger has partnered with Walgreens to test "Kroger Express" mini-sections at select Walgreens locations. Other grocers such as Hy-Vee and Whole Foods are testing out convenience-style formats, too.Meanwhile, Amazon reportedly has its eye on opening up to 3,000 small, cashier-less Go stores by 2021. And startups such as GoPuff and Cargo are attempting to disrupt the industry with speedy delivery and snacks in ride-sharing apps like Uber... [C store chains are responding...] In recent years, top chains have focused on expanding their fresh food options to appeal to health-conscious customers looking for breakfast, a quick snack or a prepared meal for dinner, according to Euromonitor analyst Bob Hoyler. 7-Eleven has launched private-label meal kits and tested keto and paleo snacks at 125 Los Angeles stores, while QuikTrip has introduced made-to-order sub stations in two markets. Wawa, which has more than 800 convenience stores along the East Coast, has added custom salads, artisan sandwiches and organic coffee.Chains are also adding new drinks to their stores such as Kombucha, cold-pressed juices and wine. 7-Eleven debuted Voyager Point, its own line of vino under $12, and launched Quake private-label energy drinks on Wednesday... 7-Eleven's lab store in Dallas, which it calls an "experiential testing ground," has a growler bar stocked with local craft beers, a bar with frozen yogurt and ice cream and patio and inside dining areas.Wawa remodeled 50 stores last year, spending $1M per store to freshen them up with new layouts and hand-spun milkshake machines... Chains have also beefed up their home delivery and buy-online, pickup-in-store options to keep up with competition.7-Eleven offers delivery in 27 metro areas through its 7-Now app, while Wawa partnered with Grubhub and Uber Eats...These moves were direct counter to GoPuff, a "convenience store delivery app" that has expanded rapidly in dozens of cities, said Lang. GoPuff offers $1.95 delivery on more than 2,000 items from its own fulfillment centers.In response to Amazon Go and Walmart's cashier-less store test, 7-Eleven started piloting a self-checkout feature on its mobile app at 14 stores in Dallas. 7-Eleven's scan-and-pay option allows customers to ring up Slurpees and snacks without waiting in line"...
Google's 'Neighborhood of the Future' Takes Step Forward
MNB cites a Wired report that "Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, has released detailed plans for its Toronto project, where the city has given the company access to an undeveloped section of the waterfront and, in essence, offered it the opportunity to create the neighborhood of the future.According to the story, “The four-volume plan highlights ambitious and sometimes flashy innovations from Sidewalk Labs, which has pledged to spend $1.3 billion on the project if it goes forward. The company hopes to construct all the buildings with timber, which it says is better for the environment, and build an underground pneumatic tube system for garbage removal. It wants residents to lean on public transit, walking, and biking rather than personal vehicles, and plans to build streets with autonomous vehicles - perhaps from its sister company, Waymo - in mind.“Delivery robots might trundle down its wide sidewalks. The strategic use of very large, umbrella-like coverings might make outdoor spaces comfortable all year round (no small feat in lakeshore Canada). Sidewalk wants to designate 20 percent of the apartments as ‘affordable’ and another 20 percent as ‘middle income,’ for those who don’t generally qualify for social programs.”However, Wired notes that there is a very Google-like, data-centric sensibility at the core of this development: “Sensors would stud the Quayside development, tracking everything from which street furniture residents use to how quickly they cross the street.“ This data collection is the most controversial part of Sidewalk’s plan. The company says the data is essential to building a new kind of urban space, where traffic, pollution, and noise levels are calibrated to keep residents happy. In this, it follows a new strain of tech-influenced urban planners, who believe a more rigorous approach to city planning might create places more pleasant for all. But advocates in and outside of Canada have questioned how the private company - which generates the vast majority of its revenue selling advertising - intends to safeguard the personal data it collects.” The story says that Sidewalk Labs has “pledged to create new methods of protecting data collected in public areas, where residents and visitors aren’t actively consenting to its collection. It said all information would be depersonalized and disaggregated, to shield identities and sensitive information. It said it would never sell data to third parties. And it promised to create a transparent process through which it might allow others access to its collected data.”The plan needs to be approved by the Toronto City Council and Waterfront Toronto by late 2020 in order to move from concept to implementation."
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: