They’ll always be the Magazine Publishers of America to me

October 1, 2010

Vanity FairThe Magazine Publishers of America said on Friday that it is renaming itself the MPA — The Association of Magazine Media. The notable difference is the omission of the word publishers. Why?

“MPA is underscoring the fact that magazine media content engages consumers globally across multiple platforms, including websites, tablets, smartphones, books, live events and more.”

“More” presumably means “printed magazines,” but nobody in media is all that hot on associating themselves with words like “publish” and “print” because to young people (or young “consumers” in the parlance that people use when their sole desire is to make money from you) and investors those words smell like death.

When magazine publishers like Conde Nast and newspaper publishers like Advance Publications (like Conde Nast, owned by the Newhouses) have been forced to cut hundreds if not thousands of jobs and stop publishing some of their products, it doesn’t do much good in the public relations department to accentuate the part of your business that is fading, even if it still produces 80 to 90 percent of your revenue. Fortunately, Time Inc CEO and incoming MPA Chairman Jack Griffin manages to refer in passing to “print” one time in the press release quote.

My question: Why do this so soon after magazine publishers devoted $90 million in advertising space to the MPA just this year for its “Magazines, the Power of Print” campaign? I’m lined up to talk to someone at the MPA to ask that question and will update when I hear it. The ad campaign, in the unlikely case that you missed it, tries to convince advertisers that print still is worth spending money on. It’s interesting at the very least to segue into a whole new message so soon afterward.

Also, read my friend Jack Shafer’s blistering review of the campaign at Slate, not to mention his darts tossed at a similar campaign by the Newspaper Association of America. If the words, “newspaper industry’s no-confidence vote in itself” don’t rouse the schadenfreude in your cold, cold heart, nothing will.

Perhaps this PR strategy makes sense, even if the business they engage in day after day will be just the same after the new association name debuts on Oct. 4 at the American Magazine Conference. Stick to your PR strategy long enough, we have seen over the years, and people can accept all sorts of things.

* PS: I should add that today’s announcement depended on a PR strategy developed when print still mattered in popular perception. Everyone got the press release sometime around 10am New York City time, except The New York Times. The MPA gave it a copy, along with interviews, a day ahead of other media. That gave the Times the privilege of running the story first. That tradition of handing PR-braised scoops to papers like the Times and The Wall Street Journal exists because once upon a time they were considered more prestigious news outlets than others. Now that most people read their news online and shun print editions, you might think that the inherently democratizing role that Web searches play in where people get their information would change the PR strategy. It has not. All that might leave you wondering if anyone will bother to read this far because they already read the news in the Times. I’m wondering the same thing.

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What a disgrace for homeowners around the country to find out that their lenders are foreclosing on their homes with bogus documentation.

Always request a public legal audit of everything done and contact your local Attorney General.

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