FinePrint - August 2010

In this issue:

14th Annual Minnesota Publishing Excellence Awards

The entries are in, the jury is out, and winners will be announced at the Excellence Awards Gala on November 4th. Mark your calendars now—you don’t want to miss this opportunity to schmooze with your fellow publishing professionals and perhaps take a bow.

New categories

The Excellence Awards continue to recognize outstanding achievements in editorial, design, circulation, and marketing. However, Web delivery will get a bigger spotlight this year with awards for Best Website, Best e-Newsletter and Best Blog. This is also the year to introduce a new award, Magazine of the Year. This award will be presented to a magazine with a consistent history of excellence based on past and current entries.

Judging 504 entries, a substantial increase over last year, is a big job. The majority of the 90 volunteer judges come from within MMPA. Judging is carefully assigned to ensure objectivity and make the most of a judge’s expertise. The Excellence Awards wouldn’t happen without these volunteers.

New venue

In addition to new categories and a new award, there is a new venue. This year’s gala will be held at the beautiful (and centrally located) Nicollet Island Pavilion. With the river outside and the Minneapolis skyline as a backdrop it’s the perfect place to celebrate our vibrant publishing community.

This is an evening you don’t want to miss!

July Editorial Roundtable: The Latest Info on Mobile Platforms

by Jim Tarbox

Who knew? It turns out The Who knew! They were “Going Mobile” long before the digital revolution rocked the publishing world.

Out in the woods
Or in the city
It's all the same to me …
When I'm mobile

Now it appears there’s no turning the car around, but we can still get a ride.

Kevin Dunn, Director of Digital Operations at MSP Communications, noted at July’s editorial roundtable that e-readers are virtually outpacing our ability to keep up with developments, and it will take a savvy business model to keep from slipping behind. According to Dunn, there is no single “killer app” or device currently available, and that the marketplace is—and will remain—fractured. He did, however, cite Apple’s iPad as the currently dominant format that is “informing what the others will do.”

We editors, writers and publishers should find some solace in the fact that while 38 percent of the reading audience owns some kind of mobile device, magazines remain the number-two most wanted content, second only to books. The other (relatively) good news is that those readers expect to—and will—pay for that content. This applies to both subscriptions and a la carte material, even if at only about half the newsstand price.

Dunn cited a recent Forrester Research report that advised publishers to take to the mobile road: Don’t wait. Accept the immediate limitations of the format, and find a partner that’s “platform agnostic”—i.e., one that can meet consumers’ demands for content delivery via any channel they choose. “Portability among devices and mobility is the future of media consumption,” he noted, adding the cautionary note: “As the number of devices and deliverers increases, so does the challenge of keeping up.”

I gotta dig out that old Who’s Next record and get it on my iPod.

Jim Tarbox is the editor History Channel Magazine.

Proposed Postage Increase Puts Squeeze on Periodicals

On July 6, 2010, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced a proposal to increase postage pricing. Facing a projected $7 billion budget deficit, the USPS hopes to put the increase into effect on January 2, 2011.

The increase must be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which has 90 days to respond. The USPS asserts that the rate bump will only add 13 cents to the monthly budget of the average American household, mostly in the form of a 2-cent increase on first class rates for letters and postcards. The impact on the magazine industry, however, promises to be much more significant.

The new postage proposal includes a 5.6% average increase for standard mail and an 8% increase for periodical postage, which has prompted outrage from heavy mailers, such as magazine publishers, direct mail companies and non-profits. In fact, over 100 magazine publishers, printers, paper producers and other groups have formed a coalition called the Affordable Mail Alliance. The alliance is calling on the PRC to reject the proposal, claiming that such a steep increase will actually drive postal revenue down even further, as customers will respond to the squeeze by mailing less and relying more heavily on online resources.

The Affordable Mail Alliance also contends that the increase is not legal. According to the Postal Act of 2006, an exigent rate hike cannot exceed the rate of inflation without demonstration of extraordinary circumstances. However, the PRC Chair, Ruth Goldway, has already stated the commission’s opinion that periodicals have not been pulling their weight and that the rate hike is justified.

The USPS expects the net benefit of the rate increase to be about $2.3 billion in the first 9 months, an amount that will only reduce the agency's anticipated 2011 deficit to about $4.7 billion.
The PRC has until October 4 to respond to the USPS proposal. Meanwhile, stay on top of developments as they occur, by following this topic at the Friends of the MMPA group on LinkedIn.