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According to the Associated Press, a recent study places the number of books published in 2004 at 195,000, "a 14 percent jump over the previous year and 72 percent higher than in 1995." A report issued by R.R. Bowker, a New Providence, N.J.-based company that compiles statistics on books published in the United States, "follows…

Even More Books

According to the Associated Press, a recent study places the number of books published in 2004 at 195,000, "a 14 percent jump over the previous year and 72 percent higher than in 1995."

A report issued by R.R. Bowker, a New Providence, N.J.-based company that compiles statistics on books published in the United States, "follows a survey released last week from the Book Industry Study Group, which estimates that the actual number of books sold in 2004 dropped by 40 million from the previous year. The industry study group predicted better sales for 2005, but an essentially flat market after."

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 31 2005 • Books

Is This Heaven?

No, it's Iowa. This is a pretty interesting move made in the magazine publishing world this week. It certainly makes Meredith, a major player in the game, much larger. Corporate headquarters for this magazine powerhouse? Answer: Des Moines.

According to reports by Folio, the industry trade journal, "Gruner + Jahr USA abruptly announced  the sale of its stateside magazines—including Family Circle, Parents, Child and Fitness—to Meredith Corporation for $350 million in cash.  The deal marks G+J's departure from the U.S. magazine market." The deal is to close June 30.

"With the acquisition, Meredith becomes the second-largest consumer magazine publisher in the United States. The company’s portfolio includes over 20 magazines with a combined circulation of nearly 30 million. The deal puts Meredith’s publishing revenues at $1.2 billion, an increase of $300 million, and pages at about 13,000, a gain of 60 percent," write Folio reporters Matt Kinsman, Bill Mickey and Dylan Stableford.

Even more interesting in the deal is the fate of Inc. and Fast Company magazines. Meredith, it seems, has the option to buy the titles, but according to Folio G+J will sell the titles on their own. However, if it can't sell them in the next five weeks, Meredith has agreed to take the titles for resale, according to reports in the New York Times.

Of the two properties, Inc. seems to be the most valued. Experts predict that Fast Company will be folded into the buyer's circulation. According to Folio's reporting, Robert Crosland, managing director for media bankers AdMedia Partners, had this to say about Fast Company: "I would suspect that Fast Company would be the one that you just put a bullet in its brain. There’s not a heck of a lot left.” Personally, I would miss Fast Company. It takes (took?) an interesting view on business, celebrating the individual creative passion that can be exersised on the job today. I will miss it if it goes, yet I can also understand why it is in trouble. That ship has passed.

One could argue there are many issues as to why this came to pass (circulation scandals, Rosie magazine folding, etc.) They simply couldn't make it work. (One has to wonder about G+J's relationship with Brown Printing located in my backyard, so to speak, Waseca, Minn.) While the company is said to have gotten full price for the other magazines, with Fast Company G+J is certainly going to take a loss on the transaction.

"Gruner & Jahr bought Fast Company for $550 million in 2000 from Mortimer B. Zuckerman, and bought Inc. the same year for about $200 million from the privately held Goldhirsh Group," writes Johnston, a reporter from the New York Times. "It paid $325 million to The New York Times Company in 1994 for Family Circle, McCall's and several other titles ... When the deal closes, Meredith will own three of the six remaining so-called Seven Sisters magazines. Meredith publishes Ladies' Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens and is adding Family Circle. Hearst owns Redbook and Good Housekeeping, while Hachette Filipacchi Media owns Woman's Day. The seventh, McCall's, was transformed by Gruner & Jahr into Rosie, named after Ms. O'Donnell, in 2001 and shut down the next year."

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 28 2005 • Journalism

Journalism Education

This is an interesting story from the New York Times. Five major journalism schools have set out to raise the status of journalism education to better prepare journalists. I believe the real purupose behind the $6 million project is to raise the status of journalism itself in America. Reporter Kathrine Seelye writes "their goal is to revitalize journalism education by jointly undertaking national investigative reporting projects, integrating their journalism programs more deeply with other disciplines at their universities and providing a national platform to try to influence the discourse on media-related issues."

Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, represents one of the schools taking part. (The others are Harvard, Northwestern, USC and Columbia.) "Journalism as a whole is clearly in something of a crisis," Mr. Schell said. As journalistic scandals crop up with more frequency, surveys show trust in the news media eroding, newspaper circulation declining and young people disengaged from newspapers and television news. Those of us who run journalism schools are confronted with the prospect of ever fewer distinguished media outlets - especially in broadcast - to which we can aspire to send our students to work."

The effort has three purposes, Seelye writes: to develop national investigative journalism projects, to gather data on media issues and education, and develop more innovative curriculum by pairing journalists with other scholars such as economists, scientists and historians. (I think this is a great idea; it's why my master's degree isn't in journalism). Here is the site for the new project. And great commentary by the Poynter Institute about the study.

This is very interesting. Share your thoughts.

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 26 2005 • Journalism

Missing Readers

I didn't intend this site to be the constant bearer of bad news as it relates to reading, but I can't help report what I find. We all know the trends. According to a   released this week by the Book Industry Study Group, the number of books being published each year continues to rise while the number of readers continues to decline.

"The number of books sold dropped by nearly 44 million between 2003 and 2004, even as the annual number of books published approaches 175,000," writes Hillel Italie of AP news. "The Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit research organization, reported estimated sales of 2.295 billion books in 2004, compared to an estimated 2.339 billion the previous year. Higher prices enabled net revenues to increase 2.8 percent, to $28.6 billion, but also drove many readers, especially students, to buy used books."

Yet, the a report issued by the group in April might run counter to the current data. It seems that many book sales may take place "under the radar." Here is a press release: "Under the Radar: A Breakthrough, In-Depth Study of the Book Industry’s Underreported Segments and Channels shows that--contrary to conventional wisdom--small and midsize publishers generate enough business in the aggregate to challenge assessments of concentration.

“Since so many smaller publishers operate under the radar of traditional tracking mechanisms, it’s been tempting in the past to think of them as “regional” or “niche,” and to assume that they’re responsible for a small fraction of book sales in the market.” said Jeff Abraham, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group. “Our new study shows that this kind of thinking won’t fly in the future.”

"Under the Radar reports that approximately 63,000 publishers with annual revenues of less than $50 million generate aggregate sales of $14.2 billion, and that a subset of that population--roughly 3,600 publishers with annual revenues of $1 million to $49.9 million--generates $11.5 billion of that amount. By comparison, the older, more visible segment of the industry measured by conventional tracking systems generates annual revenues of $23.7 billion to $28.5 billion, depending on the source of the estimate.

"Smaller publishers also have impressive track records with marketing strategies and tactics that industry giants now see as the wave of the future.

"Through its dozens of tables and charts, the new study shows that:
• Small and midsize publishers have been multiplying, and often prospering, while the largest publishing companies have been consolidating.

• Small and midsize publishers have been using routes to readers beyond the bookstore world, and often selling more books outside trade channels than within them, while the largest booksellers have been claiming more of the traditional bookstore market. More specifically, the study findings indicate that small and midsize publishers do more than 50% of their business outside book-trade channels and inside sales channels designed mainly to serve other industries that the book industry has not monitored.

“The fact that these publishers are doing billions of dollars worth of business outside trade channels sheds new light on concentration in bookselling,” said Judith Appelbaum, chair of the Book Industry Study Group’s Publications Committee and managing director of Sensible Solutions, Inc. “It could mean that people in the government, the media and various segments of the publishing industry will need to reassess their judgments.”

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 19 2005 • Current Affairs

Literature of American History

imageDavid McCullough has a new book coming out next week. I am a huge fan. Here is what the publisher has to say about it. "In this stirring book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence -- when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

"Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known. But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle.

"The darkest hours of that tumultuous year were as dark as any Americans have known. Especially in our own tumultuous time, 1776 is powerful testimony to how much is owed to a rare few in that brave founding epoch, and what a miracle it was that things turned out as they did.

"Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history."

There's an interesting column by Rutgers professor David Greenberg about the kind of history that McCullough writes and that of academic historians (he dubs the more popular variety 'heritage' as opposed to 'history'). He states something to the effect that reading such a book is similar to visiting a memorial; readers are looking for an uplift to their ideals rather than serious scholarship.

"[1776] will drive many academic historians up the wall," writes Greenberg. "Our exasperation will stem partly, to be sure, from envy of McCullough's undeniable gift for storytelling and of his smashing popularity. But my academic colleagues will (or should) raise legitimate objections to the approach of a book like this—the surfeit of scene-setting and personality, the meager analysis and argument, the lack of a compelling rationale for writing about a topic already amply covered. McCullough's fans won't care. They typically have little use for what they regard—not always wrongly—as the narrowly focused, politically correct, jargon-clotted academic monographs that dwell on arcane issues instead of big, meaty topics like politics, diplomacy, and war."

In fact, he argues that the two types of authors are really after two different types of readers. On some levels I agree, but I also think that a single reader can be interested in both types of work. I can speak from experience. Greenberg finds middle ground. "Here's my best shot at an answer: The key to attracting more readers without sacrificing rigor lies in the ways that historians define their topics. If a book is conceived with only historiography in mind—with academic disciplinary debates and research agendas dictating the focus and the form—it's unlikely to succeed in the public realm. If it's conceived without historiography in mind, it's unlikely to succeed as scholarship. I'd propose what might be called a Goldilocks approach to historiography." It's a good argument. I'm still going to buy McCullough's book.

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 19 2005 • Books

Wide Influence

"Fortunately, however, the chief damage done will be to the author himself, who thus dishonors his own physical nature; for imperfect though the race is, it still remains so much purer than the stained and distorted reflection of its animalism in Leaves of Grass, that the book cannot attain to any very wide influence.”

--Review of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
The Atlantic Monthly, January 1882

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 10 2005 • Books

Stop the Presses?

It's an obvious statement, but the way that we follow the news is changing. Everyone can see this is happening, but for many who work in the traditional media the question is what to do about it. What does it mean for the media whose real purpose (if they want to pay the bills) is to deliver corporate advertising messages to the public. The more important question is: What does this mean for our democracy if the information we use to make our informed decisions is varied and unique to the user? It's a question we will all need to consider, debate and act on in the coming years.

At first, many pundits and scholars argued that the decline in the use of traditional media meant that interest in news has waned (Much of this discussion also fallls along stereotypes that the older generations were the better news consumers. While there is plenty of data supporting such claims about traditional media outlets, the truth of such a statement is still in question when new media is considered). I believe there is still a great interest in news. In fact, my own position  has changed in recent years: I believe there might even be more involvement with the news, particularly with the advent of blogging.

With regard to traditional media usage, fewer people are consuming it. In an article in last Tuesday's New York Times, reporter Eric Dash writes about the current state of newspaper circulation. "The industry reported yesterday a 1.9 percent drop in daily circulation, and a 2.5 percent decline on Sundays, over the last six months, compared with the period a year ago," writes Dash. "The weak numbers for 814 daily newspapers, reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, represent the largest circulation losses for the industry in more than a decade, and indicate an acceleration of the decline."

John Morton, an industry analyst, predicted in Dash's story that the trend started long before the Internet came on the scene. "I don't see any bright spots and I don't see any reasonable expectation this is going to change anytime soon," he said. Colby Atwood, a media analyst for Borrell Associates hit the aforementioned culprits in his quote in the article: "The underlying forces at work have not changed. That young people aren't reading newspapers is a pretty fatal formula for any business. If all your customers are dying off, you've got to be concerned, and that's what is happening in the newspaper industry."

According to Dash's reporting, circulation is down everywhere: "The Los Angeles Times, owned by Tribune, reported daily circulation fell 6.5 percent, to 907,997, and Sunday circulation fell 7.9 percent. The Chicago Tribune said its average weekday circulation fell 6.9 percent, to 573,743, and Sunday fell 4.7 percent, to 953,815. The Dallas Morning News, which is owned by the Belo Corporation and which also had a circulation scandal, did not report numbers but said it expected circulation to fall 9 percent daily, and 13 percent on Sunday." Interestingly, circulation  for papers with national circulation were actually up a bit, according to the latest reports. This group included The New York Times.

A report issued by the Carnegie Corporation of New York reaches many of the same conclusions held by popular wisdom. "In short, the future of the U.S. news industry is seriously threatened by the seemingly irrevocable move by young people away from traditional sources of news."

At the Web site, you can find more information about the research. In a summary of the research, Merill Brown writes on the Web site, "Clearly, young people don't want to rely on the morning paper on their doorstep or the dinnertime newscast for up-to-date information; in fact, they—as well as others—want their news on demand, when it works for them. And, say many experts, in this new world of journalism, young people want a personal level of engagement and want those presenting the news to them to be transparent in their assumptions, biases and history."

The study was commissioned in May 2004, to examine how people ages 18-34 use the news. What they found makes perfect sense on some levels. "For news professionals coming out of the traditions of conventional national and local journalism, fields long influenced by national news organizations and dominant local broadcasting and print media, the revolution in how individuals relate to the news is often viewed as threatening. For digital media professionals, members of the blogging community and other participants in the new media wave, these trends are, conversely, considered liberating and indications that an “old media” oligopoly is being supplemented, if not necessarily replaced, by new forms of journalism created by freelancers and interested members of the public without conventional training."

According the the Carnegie Research, the rate of traditional media decline is also accelerating: "From 1972 to 1998, the percentage of people age 30-to-39 who read a paper every day dropped from 73 to 30 percent. And in just the years between 1997 and 2000, the percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds who say they read yesterday's newspaper dropped by 14 percent, according to the Newspaper Association of America."

Quoted in the Carnegie study: “Young people are more curious than ever but define news on their own terms,” says Jeff Jarvis, who is president of Advance.net, a unit of Advance Publications, and who publishes a widely read blog, Buzzmachine.com. “They get news where they want it, when they want it. Media is about control now. We used to wait for the news to come to us. Now news waits for us to come to it. That's their expectation. We get news on cable and on the Internet any time, any place."

This is a fascinating study. Not only will this shift to alternate technology and media continue, it will accelerate. Not only will the marketability of traditional media come under continued scrutiny, but "the dramatic shift in how young people access the news raises a question about how democracy and the flow of information will interact in the years ahead," writes Brown.

Of course, traditional media denies such a trend is as bad as everyone in cyberspace makes it out to be. New York Times reporter Katherine Seelye wrote last week that "Print insists It's Here to Stay." The Newspaper Association of America has hired some advertising big guns (as did the Magazine Publishers of America) to get the message out: We are not going anywhere.

"The medium is very strong," said John Kimball, chief marketing officer of the newspaper association. "There are lots of ads in the papers, and not because those people think they're making a charitable contribution. They're investing in the medium because it's delivering results."

The data from the Times' story: "Of the $141 billion spent on all forms of advertising in 2004, about 17 percent went to magazines, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Newspapers captured 20 percent of that, network television 18 percent, cable television 12 percent and the Internet 6 percent. But the newspaper share was down, the magazine share was flat and the Internet was growing fast. Advertising Age predicted last week that the combined advertising revenue of Google and Yahoo this year would rival those of the big three television networks, marking what it called a "watershed moment" in the evolution of the Internet."

What such a watershed moment means for the market is clear. Perhaps the interest in news remains. Maybe the consumers for such news haven't died off, but simply migrated away from daily ink and paper. I am among that group. I wouldn't be counted among a single circulation figure aside from random newstand sales. Yet, I read three newspapers every day online. Already the advice given to the newpapers by the marketing professionals reflects this trend. According to Seelye's reporting, they have been told to stop calling their product a newspaper, but rather the "newspaper business."

What this watershed moment means for democracy is another story. How traditional media has responded to its predicament has further eroded the public's trust, and has played into the hands of those wishing to undermine traditional media's credibility for political purposes. At the same time its audience began to disappear or migrate to other outlets, media companies began demanding huge returns on its investment. News organizations' expenses were slashed in search of corporate profits. As a result, major news organizations (particularly television) went for the cheap and easy in order to secure market share. It went for what I dub single-story journalism: OJ, Diana, today's Runaway Bride--stories where the cast of characters has been established, and no expensive newsgather is required. While good for the short-term, such stories have proven disastrous over the long-haul. We can see its effects. Yet, the major news media has no choice. It can't take a risk on expensive in-depth news in the hopes of finding or luring an audience when its structure has changed to essentially operate as an entertainment division.

On a third front, justifiably or not, conservative pundits and strategists siezed the opportunity in the 1990s to brand most major media with a "liberal bias" repeating the phrase enough that it simply becomes accepted without debate in many circles. While the Internet benefits from a demographic in search of the latest news on  demand, it also benefits from those looking for a break from the so-called "liberal media" to news with a spin of its own. These three perspectives about traditional media (it's bad, it's biased, it's old technolgy) create a perfect storm. Any one of these problems could be solved if they were all that plagued the media. Taken together ... it's soon going to be a different world.

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 08 2005 • Journalism

Ethical Journalists

According to a story written by Associated Press reporter, journalists are more ethical than the average person. "Recent research by Wilkins and Renita Coleman of Louisiana State University may provide some vindication for members of a profession that's taken a beating in recent years with high-profile blunders," writes reporter Matt Sedensky.

Researchers surveyed 30,000 people, representing a variety of professions. The data showed "journalists are significantly more ethical than the average adult, eclipsed only by seminarians, doctors and medical students," writes Sedensky. The study also showed no difference between print or broadcast reporters, men and women, or between managers and the rank and file, he writes. The findings conflict with public perception of journalists.

"A Gallup poll of 1,015 people taken in November showed that only 23 percent of the public rated the ethical standards of TV reporters as high or very high," writes Sedensky. "For newspaper reporters, it was 21 percent."

Posted by Joel Schettler on May 06 2005 • Journalism