Drive by blogging from the Folio Show

As someone who reads this blog knows I should be writing something for them that is past its deadline, I only have time post this link to whatever Rebecca Fox heard at the Folio: Show. As for me, I finally met one of my favorite B2B bloggers, Paul Conley, “off line” today. Then I bumped into Jeff Jarvis. We were all speaking at different sessions. (Paul and Jeff, you need to meet each other…you both ponder some of the same stuff.)

I took some rough notes of Mike Lafavore’s keynote speech. Lafoavore is now editorial director at Meredith and was, when at Rodale in the late 80s/90s, the founding editor of Men’s Health. (By the way, he started out in magazines by spending five years being a truck driver — fascinating story.) My notes don’t do justice to his comments — but here is my unedited list of:

Eight things Mike Lafavore says he’s learned about magazines over the past 30 years.
(The rough-notes version)

1. The reader is in charge. Magazines survived TV while the big circulation magazines retreated. On average, consumers now spend 2.5 hours online and a couple of more hours on other media each day. Only 1/2 hour on magazines. Publishers should be in the information business — not the print on paper business.

2. We’ll always need editors. “Fact is, we do need editors.” So much information is clogging the web. If nothing else, a good editor can provide a filter. Used as examples, Drudge and Gawker. Will continue to need editors to make our way through all this. There will be lots of magazines that can be filters. We’ll always need good writers. “I think we’re never going to be tired of writers who can transform us and help us see the world in a way we didn’t before.”

3. There’s always room for another magazine. There are 2,500 consumer magazines on newsstands. But there are always new ones appearing that succeed. He gave a shout-out to Bauer for its newsstand sales prowess. He suggested to deconstruct those covers and see what it takes to sell on the newstand.

4. Editorial will face increasing pressure from advertising. He faulted the Internet where there are banner ads and ads embedded in edit. There are very few advertisers who buy pages, but they want “packages.” “Eventually, we can end up with magazines that make editorial decisions because of advertising.” For example, if there’s a pet column in a magaine it’s likely because pet food marketers won’t advertise in magazines that don’t have pet columns, he said.

5. There’s money to be made overseas.

6. No you can’t lower the median age of your average reader. It’s nearly impossible (given the fact that your existing readership gets older every year) to lower your median age. Should look for new products to launch, not try to re-tool existing brands.

7. You can never spend too much time worrying about the cover. He said: If you have a newsstand magazine, write the coverline before the story is assigned. That’s probably the smartest way to do it. Usually it’s the last thing we do. If you take the celebrity magazine out of the mix, newstand magazines sales were down 30% last year. All we can do is produce better covers. And that if very, very hard work. “Hot buttons” sell magazines. Pre-plan covers. Don’t get cute. No one goes to the store to buy the magazine — you have to sell it with the cover. If you look at top ten magazines in newsstand sales, they all have common formula. They are not shy.

8. If something works, keep doing it until it stops working. Find a way to keep doing the same story until it stops working. John Mack Carter used to put Pricess Di on the cover of every issue of (Good Housekeeping?). When are you going to stop? someone asked him. “When she stops selling magazines,” he responded. Added Lavafore about Men’s Health’s cover formula: “I was tired of abs after 12 years. But abs still sell Men’s Health.”

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