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BoSacks speaks out: Are huge September issues dead?… Does it matter?

It’s an age-old question. Does size matter? The answer usually depends on what you are measuring and what are your comparisons. For the sake of this discussion let’s just stick to magazines. What does the size of the September issue of Vogue mean to Yoga Journal? Is there a meaningful relationship between the size of Harper’s Bazaar September issue and Kalmbach Media’s Discover Magazine?

The obvious answer is none, there is no relationship at all. As Mark Twain said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” They are completely unrelated events. Each magazine rises and falls in its own independent niche and no sector represents an entire industry.

Mark Twain also said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

I’m not sure if that is too metaphysical for these pages or not, but I’m referencing all the absurd talk about the death of print we read in so many trade magazines and blogs. What the print industry is going through is not about death. It is about a loss of dominance. This loss of dominance is not equivalent to death – it just feels that way. Don’t compare your company or your titles to anything other than your last and next issue. Industry averages and how other titles are doing is bullshit. The only thing that matters is how your book is doing.

Bragging rights to the size of September fashion issues is apparently now relegated to a quaint custom from the days of irrational exuberance. Perhaps the hubristic approach this industry once took when comparing size is the ghost our previous vanities. Who needs to brag other than a bully?

We are as an industry no longer the dominant media species that we once were. We have to share more of the advertising dollars than ever before. We clearly aren’t used to that and it still hurts. We must accept that and get over it. Once we do, the talk of our demise will evaporate.

As we aren’t dead nor near it, we should be living/working and creating fully to the best of our abilities, and thereby fear nothing but a lack of creativity. With creativity I believe that there are ever-present and super opportunities today in an on-going era of great publishing expansion. That would be the expansion of our media world delivered by multiple methods to various devices, only one of which is paper.

We have at our disposal something very few on-line competitors have. Trust. We have spent generations of slow-speed fact-checking of our editorial products. The result of that hard work is a still standing sensitivity by the public to the integrity in our printed products and brands.

I say that today, right now, is the next golden age of publishing. Let the past go and get on with the here and now. Think like an entrepreneur and adapt to the conditions you find yourself in and not how you wish they were. We don’t need a “thump”, as that is no longer relevant. We need the sound of “ka-ching”, and that is an achievable goal.

Bo Sacks, President, Precision Media Group

This commentary originally appeared on Bo Sacks daily newsletter and is re-published with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here

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