MediaFile

Mental Floss, a magazine that also sells products, expands

One of the hottest T-shirt designers on the market is a magazine.

Mental Floss, the 160,000 circulation magazine owned by publishing magnet Felix Dennis, derives one-third of its revenue from e-commerce, one-third from subscriptions and newsstand sales, and one-third from advertising.

Its T-shirt business represents about 40 percent of its e-commerce revenue.
On Tuesday, it unveiled its latest effort, T-shirt Tuesdays, where every week Mental Floss will reveal a new design to capitalize on one of its best selling products. Last year, Mental Floss sold about 40,000 T-shirts for $24.99 a pop.

Indeed, as the media industry struggles with a severe decline in advertising publications like Conde Nast’s Lucky and Gawker are delving further into the business of e-commerce. The idea is to tap into loyal audiences and subscribers and turn them into a ready-made market.

Mental Floss, a quirky publication covers such diverse subjects as sunken treasures to paper back books to operas based on Richard Nixon, is considered a pioneer of editorial merchandising, selling its readers products for the past decade.

Mental Floss founders Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur Said in an interview with Reuters that the magazine’s T-shirt business already generates seven figures in revenue, but declined to be more specific. Some top selling T-shirts include “I’m no Rocket Surgeon” and “I’m an English Major, You Do the Math.”

Google: We’re no media company – but read our magazine

Earlier this week, New York Times  media columnist David Carr asked the question that is on the minds of moguls  everywhere: Is Google a media company?

Google flat out rejected the description. Here’s Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, explaining the rationale to Carr: “We are in the business of media distribution, but I don’t think that we would be very good at media creation. I think it’s one thing that we have astutely avoided in the last 12 years.”

Umm, well, not exactly.  The search behmouth  just unveiled an online magazine called “Think Quarterly” that has a very high brow, old media vibe to it.  The idea behind the quarterly publication? It’s best said by Google (and sounds suspiciously like old media):

Time Inc creates sports and news divisions

Just before the Christmas holidays, newly appointed Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin put the finishing touches on changes in the executive suite with the formation of two new divisions, one for news and one for sports.

Mark Ford has been promoted to executive vice president of Time Inc. and president of the Sports Group, responsible for the Sports Illustrated franchise.

Additionally, John Q. Griffin (no relation to Jack Griffin) has been named executive vice president of Time Inc and president of the News Group, responsible for Time, Fortune and Money properties.  He was previously president of publishing at the National Geographic Society. Within that group, Kim Kelleher will become publisher of Time and Brendan Ripp, currently the publisher of Time, moves over to become publisher of Money.

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

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.

Wither traditional media?

AMAZON-KINDLE/Pity paper and ink. Over the next five years magazine and newspapers’ advertising and consumer spending (read: subscriptions)  growth rate is expected to decline, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. The firm released its annual Media and Entertainment Outlook for 2010-2014 and that is one of the more striking, if not predictable, data points in the forecast.

In fact, magazines and newspapers fork in the opposite direction of other traditional media like radio.  PWC predicts that television,and radio, along with the Internet, video games and out-of-home are all expected to pocket advertising and subscriber dollars  with  growth rates increasing over the 2010-2014 period.

Another category  that has taken a beating but is expected to rebound? Books! PwC estimates the consumer and educational book publishing industry will advance 2.5% in the five year period to $35 billion.

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

Talking with Thomson Reuters chief about print

Covering Thomson Reuters Corp for almost two years has taught me that people like to cast my company in a recurring role in media deal parlor games. Now that the company’s arch-rival Bloomberg LP will buy BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw-Hill, lots of my pals in the media world are wondering: Will Thomson Reuters buy a mainstream news or business news magazine? Or newspaper? Why not Forbes? Why not the Financial Times?

Keep in mind that Thomson Reuters likes to remind people when they ask these questions that Thomson Corp, before buying Reuters, got out of its Canadian newspaper empire for a reason. (See below)

I asked our chief executive, Tom Glocer, a question along these lines on a Thursday phone call he had with reporters to discuss the company’s third-quarter financial results.

FCC: There might be something amiss in media

Newspaper advertising is a joke, local TV stations are struggling to get ads of their own, journalists are losing their jobs and media executives are calling 25 percent revenue declines an improvement. It sounds like something might be amiss in the U.S. media world.

But don’t take our word for it if you’re the Federal Communications Commission, and you’re about to revisit media ownership regulations and see if they need some changing. See this item from Inside Radio:

[FCC] Chairman Julius Genachowski hires internet entrepreneur and journalist Steven Waldman to lead an agency-wide initiative assessing the state of media. Waldman will lead a team to conduct what’s promised to be an “open, fact-finding process” looking at how the economy is impacting media outlets and make recommendations for policy changes.

Target makes the scene with a magazine

You know how it is when you take a trip to Target: You’re going to buy just that ONE THING that you need, and you’re going to keep it cheap. As you leave the store, you wonder how you dropped hundreds of dollars on things that you didn’t realize you needed until you walked into the store.

Target is hoping to spawn a similar phenomenon on its website, where it has begun offering a magazine newsstand. Rather than starting from scratch, it has signed on Zinio, a digital publishing company that offers magazines and books from more than 350 publishers.

Zinio will sell electronic versions of magazines on a page on Target’s website, either as single editions of current and older issues, or as annual subscriptions – usually at a discount. People can read them in a Web browser version or through an application that Zinio offers for download. This is similar to what they’ve done on other websites, like the one operated by Barnes & Noble.

Conde Nast: Flushing brides, extra food

Your Reuters media writers got a little flushed on Monday morning when we saw that Conde Nast was going to close some magazines. Would we see The New Yorker and Vanity Fair pulped? No such luck for us vultures who were craving a big murder-in-the-first-degree story. This appears to be more of a mercy killing.

Instead, here’s what we get:

    Consolidation in the bridal business. No more Modern Bride, no more Elegant Bride. Instead, we get a monthly edition of Brides magazine, the kind of phonebook-sized tome that it seems will pay for itself. After all, people love to get married, and many these days like to do it twice. Calorie cutting in the food format: Gourmet magazine gets purged, while the brand lives on. Or, as Media Memo’s Peter Kafka put it, it survives “Zombie-like” on TV and the Internet. Bon Appetit survives, meanwhile. Speaking of food, no more Cookies. Cookie magazine, the “stylish parenting magazine for the new mom,” dies. So much for news-you-can-use stories like “Parents and pot: Do you think it’s okay to smoke weed at a play date?”

Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times got an interview with Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend, who gave her the details of how this is going down. Since we’re not sure if Chuck will have time for us today (we’re hoping the phone rings presently), here’s what he said:

None of the about 180 employees of the magazines, including the Gourmet editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl, are expected to stay with the company… The employees will receive severance packages this week and be out by the end of the week.