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Nancy Silberkleit, a friend who is Co-CEO of Archie Comics, is a firm believer that comic books, or graphic novels as they are sometimes called, can teach and inspire.
The iconic Archie series is often about teenage puppy love and the angst of growing up.
But Nancy has used the Archie platform, as well as the comic book medium in general, to help young readers deal with issues like bullying and self confidence. She even formed a foundation called Rise Above Social Issues to help kids deal with the issue, and she is a frequent speaker through out the U.S. and as far abroad as India and Africa.
Nancy also believes comics can inspire positive action. She recently added a teacher's guide to an Archie story titled "Get Drastic with Plastic," where Archie's pals Betty and Veronica, after hearing a speaker at school talk about the environmental impact of plastic, got their school and the community to do more to recycle. Nancy made the lesson plan available at no charge to teachers.
Hats off to Nancy Silberkleit for showing how a medium many see as simply light entertainment can be used to inspire and promote responsible action.
We keep hearing how print is dying, but it looks like that doesn't apply to magazines.
Data from a media research firm that tracks some 200 magazines, reported recently in Media Daily News, shows print magazines had a combined increase in audience of 1.1 percent -- up some 20 million readers from a year ago. The combined print audience is now 1.19 billion.
Total audience of digital-only magazine readership went up 37 percent to 23.2 million. Digital-only is still a small piece of the total audience pie for magazines, but it's growing.
Some of the biggest gainers are familiar names: The Atlantic, up 42 percent; Esquire, up 29.5 percent; Harpers Bazaar, 25.2 percent; Fitness, 21.6 percent; Forbes, 20.5 percent; Travel & Leisure, 19.3 percent; and yes, The New Yorker, up 18 percent.
Magazines in print are still alive. That's good news.
The younger generations are constantly online, socializing mainly via social media, as they share every little details of their lives with friends and strangers online. And they don't read magazines and rarely watch TV. That's what we boomers and Gen Xers tend to think, if you put any faith in the stereotypes we constantly see when we think of Millennials (Generation Y) and the younger Generation Z.
(An aside here: This is the first I've seen of Gen Z, which is used to categorize the teen children of the Generation Xers, who are themselves the kids of the boomers. Got that? And I wonder, what will the next group be called after Gen Z? Do we start back at the beginning with Gen A?)
But back to those stereotypes...
Two separate studies, reported in MediaLife and Media Daily News this week, show those stereotypes may not be so accurate after all.
More than half of Millennials say they prefer to socialize offline, and 63 percent say they communicate face to face more than they do online. They're active on Facebook, but teens are not as interested. It's something teens have grown up with, so there's no "wow" factor for them, and it becomes even less cool as they see their parents and grandparents on FB.
Teens seem to be a bit more careful about posting personal information online, with just under half saying they share nothing or close to nothing personal online. They're also realizing how long personal information can stay online, and the get the importance of maintaining privacy. Looks like they've learned from the older generations' mistakes online.
Teens (Gen Z) are online a lot, up 37 percent last spring as compared to a year earlier. Online time for other groups, including Gen X, remained fairly steady. The study says much of the increase has come from the growth of tablets and smartphones, whose prices have been coming down and thus more accessible to younger people. Teen ownership of smartphones, for example, grew last year from 35 percent up to 55 percent.
The study had another finding that belies stereotypes. The younger generations, especially teens, like magazines. More than two-thirds of teens say they prefer printed magazines over digital e-zines. That's encouraging news for publishers.
One would think traditional TV is dying, if we believe all the articles we see. But more than half of the young people surveyed say they prefer watching TV or video on a traditional TV set, rather than on a laptop or the so-called second screens of mobile devices.
I got an email a few days ago from my friend and former business partner Alan Hirsch, pointing me to a story in The New York Times. He wrote, "It will change your mind about the U.S. having a free press."
The articles tells how Dick Metcalf, one of nation's most respected gun journalists (The NYT's assessment, not mine -- I wouldn't know.) has been fired from his post as a columnist for Guns & Ammo Magazine. His crime -- writing a column that debated gun laws, where he wrote the following line that made the powerful gun lobby go ballistic: "The fact is, all consitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be."
After the column ran, The Times reports, two gun makers who are big advertisers in Guns & Ammo demanded that Metcalf be fired or they'd pull all future advertising. So, Metcalf's name is gone from the masthead, and a cable show the magazine produces has also dismissed him as a contributor.
Clearly, as my friend Alan decries, the line between editorial and advertising was crossed in this case. But does this threaten the integrity of the free press in this country? Sorry Alan, but I'd say, hardly.
Although it's technically a consumer publication, I'd put Guns & Ammo in the category of a trade pub. It's closely allied with -- actually a part of -- the gun community, which is very protective of its right to bear arms. As we know, they'll go to almost any length to stifle discussion on gun control.
If the publication in question was The New York Times, USA Today or any major market daily paper, my reaction would be different. But most trade publications rely heavily on advertising support from the industries they cover. I've seen many trade pubs blur the line that separates editorial and advertising. Readers generally see and understand that, and I'm not sure how much credence they give to editorial copy that's favorable to the company that's running a full-page ad on the facing page.
Slanting copy to keep advertisers happy is, for some trade publications, fairly routine. It doesn't threaten the free press, in my mind. It's just business as usual.
One of the new "big things" of the past few years is content marketing, which includes sponsored content.
Content marketing isn't anything new in the world of PR. It's just another name for one of the things we do -- generate exposure for clients in the media. In PR, we generally don't pay to have our content run. Instead, it's our challenge to take the information our client wants us to promote and make it worthy of being used on its own merits as information or news that our target audience may find useful. To succeed, we need to think like a combination of a marketer and a journalist.
Sponsored content, on the other hand, is often material that's used because a sponsor is paying for it to appear. In newspapers and magazines, paid content that is made to look like it's part of the publication is usually called an advertorial, and any reputable publication will clearly indicate to readers that it is paid for an ad or advertorial.
On TV, they're called infomercials... long-form ads that are made to look like reak TV programming, often simulating a talk show or interview format. On TV, such content marketing is also clearly marked as paid programming.
The internet, however, is a whole different story. It's still the wild west online. There's no big capital outlay for printing presses or TV transmitters and no license needed to broadcast over the public airwaves. Anyone with a computer can create a site online. Anyone with a computer can use social media to promote products for pay.
On many sites, the lines have become quite blurred between legitimate content and sponsored content. So-called mommy bloggers were big on crossing the line, although most have cleaned up their act in recent years. But it's happening enough that the government is stepping in.
The Federal Trade Commission has had some nonbinding guidelines regarding sponsored content, but enough marketers are crossing the line so that the FTC is convening a workshop in December to begin taking a closer look. The workshop will bring together ad people, publishers, consumer advocates and government regulators, and hopefully they'll be able to come up with a plan that can put a stop to abusive content marketing practices.
The key here is that anything that's been paid to be online should be clearly identified as paid content. It's the right thing to do so the public can trust what they read and see in the media, whether on TV, in print or online.
An interesting aside here is the potential impact on public relations. Tighter controls over identifying sponsored content may create more opportunities for marketers to turn to PR to get their message out there.
27 titles began, while 9 closed in 1st Qtr of 2013
Media Daily News reports that new magazine launches were down
nearly 50 percent from a year ago.
Twenty-seven magazines began publication during the first quarter of 2013, while nine titles shut down.
Among those that closed was one of the pioneering free alternative weeklies -- The Boston Phoenix, which had been published for 47 years. An edition of The Phoenix serving coastal New Hampshire and Maine -- particularly Portland, where there's a big music and bar scene -- will continue.
A year ago, 52 magazines launched and a dozen closed.
Media Daily News says for the full year of 2012, 227 titles began and 82 closed. Total ad pages dropped by 8.2 percent last year, continuing a decline that totals 39 percent over the six years since 2006.
Besides the drop in ad pages, more people rely on the web for news and features, resulting in fewer subscription and newsstand sales.
Despite ongoing news about the demise of printed magazines, publishers keep trying.
Crain's New York Business reports that 155 new print titles were launched in the U.S. and Canada during the first three quarters of 2012. That's just about even with last year's 151 launches at this time.
The good news is that "only" 55 titles folded during the period -- half the amount of a year ago.
The report also found that 26 digital-only magazines launched, while six shut down.
The category showing the most growth was luxury lifestyle publications. Even in this tough economy, the wealthy seem to have money to spend and high-end marketers are still spending to reach them.
The numbers don't look so great on the employment side of the magazine business, however. A separate report from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, reported in Media Daily News, shows employment in the magazine business has dropped by 29 percent over the past ten years. A little more than 111,000 people now work in magazine publishing, down from 156,000 in 2002. The number of companies listing themselves as magazine publishers is down 13 percent from five years asgo.
It looks like we can still find a magazine to read on the newsstand, but maybe not a job working at one.
A new Harris poll, reported this week in Media Daily News, shows consumers prefer TV as their source of news and information.
The Harris poll says 50 percent of us prefer TV for news. Online news sources are the prefered vehicle for 36 percent, and only ten percent say print is their first choice for news.
The fact that print gets only ten percent is discouraging, although it should hardly be a surprise as more people go digital and use mobile devices. It really is becoming a "news whenever and wherever I want it" world. We know how newspapers and magazines are struggling to stay alive and relevant by putting content online, even as they try to figure how to get paid for it by subscription and/or advertising.
Also interesting from the poll is the demographics of who is interested in news. Men, it says, are twice as likely to be interested in news than women -- 17 percent vs. 9 percent. While the gender gap is suprising, what troubles me is that only 17 percent of those polled say they have a "serious" interest in the news.
The poll also shows that news consumption is more a habit of older consumers. Thirty-one percent of millenials -- the 18 - 35 age group -- say they are not interested in news. (Are they too busy keeping up with all the personal trivia on Facebook?) Among the Gen-x group (36 - 47), 23 percent say they have no interest in the news. Only ten percent of boomers (48 - 66) have little interest in news, and six percent of those over age 67 say they are not interested in the news.
Now that is really scary and depressing, to see that such a high percentage of young people have little interest in what's happening in the world around them. It does not bode well for the news business, but also for us as a nation in general.
Despite all the gloomy forecasts and continuing talk of the demise of print media, new titles keep coming out.
Crain's B to B reports that 62 b-to-b titles launched in 2011, nearly twice as many as the 34 that came out last year. The number of b-to-b titles that shut down was 38, down from 47 last year.
When you add in consumer titles, the totals still look pretty decent. A total of 239 magazines began publishing this year, 24 percent more than the 193 titles that launched in 2010. On the negative side, the number of magazines that shut down this year is 14 percent lower than last year -- 152 in 2011 vs. 176 last year.
Dire predictions aside, people keep trying. To me, that's good news.