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.”

The New York Times and print pressures

In a moment of dubious etiquette, venture capitalist and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen said at a New York Times conference this week that the company should dismantle its print operations not in ten years, or five, but “as soon as possible.” Cue print lovers’ outrage.

Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, speaks at the Iab Mixx Conference and Expo in New York, October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Of course, those paying attention to the newspaper business shouldn’t be surprised to hear anyone, let alone Marc Andreessen, speculating on the eventual or imminent demise of print. At least 14 metropolitan dailies have closed since Newspaper Death Watch (a sobering site if ever there was one) started keeping track in 2007, and another 10 are working on a digital-only or digital-print hybrid. In May, New Orleans’ Times-Picayune said it would be reducing its frequency to three times a week. Gannett and McClatchy are both struggling with falling ad revenue and rising pension costs, and earlier this week, the Tribune Co. – in its fifth year of bankruptcy – announced plans to sell off some or all of its papers.

HuffPost launches live streaming with live comments

The Huffington Post on Monday launched its latest foray into video with a twist: Live programs that are intended to get people to talk about the segment in real time.

HuffPost Live “airs” its programs in real time -- some examples include Mitt Romney’s veep choice of Paul Ryan and  how white supremacy groups are using music as a recruiting too — though the videos can be watched even after they have been shown live. It is streaming 12 hours of programming, five days a week from its  studios in AOL’s New York headquarters, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

“When we starting thinking about this we wanted to make this the most social video experience possible,” said Roy Sekoff president and co-creator of HuffPost Live and founding editor of the Huffington Post. “People are about real time. They want to tweet about something as it is happening.

Intel’s facial-recognition freaks out potential customers

Mine and Yinka Adegoke’s story today on Intel’s proposal to use facial-recognition technology with a virtual TV service and set-top box has raised legitimate concerns about allowing Big Brother into consumers’ living rooms.

People’s reluctance to have a camera keep tabs on who is sitting in front of their TV may be a hurdle that Intel has underestimated as it struggles to convince media content providers to hand over their shows.

When I bought a Kinect for my Xbox last year, I felt paranoid for at least a couple of weeks every time I sat down on my sofa in front of my TV. Each time I turn on my Xbox, a camera — connected to Microsoft and the Internet — sees everything I do.

As Gannett’s brand morphs, print still top of mind

Gannett's Detroit newspapers

 

For a handful of years now,  several newspaper companies have attempted to re-brand themselves into something — anything! — that doesn’t associate them with newspapers. Gannett is one of the latest examples trying to put some distance between itself and the industry despite the fact that it is still the largest newspaper chain by circulation in the U.S.,  it still derives the heft of its revenue from ink on paper, and it still is  a bellwether for other companies that count big iron as an asset.

The USA Today publisher  trips all over itself with its description.  Here is part of the boiler plate the publisher and broadcaster uses:

“Gannett Co., Inc. is an international media and marketing solutions company that informs and engages more than 100 million people every month through its powerful network of broadcast, digital, mobile and publishing properties.”

Discovery Channel upstaged by murderers, stalkers

If the low ratings at Oprah Winfrey’s OWN weren’t evidence enough of viewer disinterest in programming that inspires, then perhaps the massive ratings growth at Investigation Discovery, a network whose shows are almost exclusively populated by murderers and stalkers, can provide convincing.

Investigation Discovery, the crime-themed cable channel that launched in January 2008, is not just getting better ratings than OWN, it is also doing better than the Discovery Channel itself. Over the last two weeks, ID averaged 275,000 total viewers, or 8,000 more than the 267,000 viewers that Discovery averaged, according to Nielsen. OWN, which launched in January 2011, only averaged 180,000 total daily viewers during the fourth quarter.

Given those ratings, who needs to spend millions on shows like “Planet Earth” when you can just air cheesy non-fiction crime programming like “I (Almost) Got Away With It” and “Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry. Those kind of shows have the fingerprints of ID president Henry Schleiff all over them. After all, Schleiff built Court TV into a cable network powerhouse on the back of similar programming.

Race On: Will the media outpace U.S. GDP growth as Veronis forecast?

Athlete Alyson Felix in training for this year's Olympics. Will U.S. economy keep pace? (Photo: Reuters)

 

The world is a wonderful place if you’re in the U.S. media business, according to the mid-term update from Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

The private equity firm forecasts the U.S communications industry–which includes everything from Hollywood and cable to education publishing and Yellow Pages–will grow faster than the U.S. economy in 2012. The total communications industry is project to grow by 5.6  percent compared with 4.4 percent GDP growth for the United States.

Top Patch editor’s “bittersweet” exit

In case you haven’t had your fill of AOL news this week: Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham surprised employees today by declaring he will be out the door May 4.

The once-mighty Internet corporation stunned Silicon Valley just days ago by announcing it was unloading the majority of its patents to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. Now, Farnham’s imminent departure raised questions about the future of a once highly touted hyper-local news and community site that reportedly lost $160 million in 2011 alone.

AOL’s media business now also spans TechCrunch, Engadget, and the Huffington Post — all under the auspices of Arianna Huffington.

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.

from Paul Smalera:

What real Internet censorship looks like

Lately Internet users in the U.S. have been worried about censorship, copyright legalities and data privacy. Between Twitter’s new censorship policy, the global protests over SOPA/PIPA and ACTA and the outrage over Apple’s iOS allowing apps like Path to access the address book without prior approval, these fears have certainly seemed warranted. But we should also remember that Internet users around the world face far more insidious limitations and intrusions on their Internet usage -- practices, in fact, that would horrify the average American.

Sadly, most of the rest of the world has come to accept censorship as a necessary evil. Although I recently argued that Twitter’s censorship policy at least had the benefit of transparency, it’s still an unfortunate cost of doing global business for a company born and bred with the freedoms of the United States, and founded by tech pioneers whose opportunities and creativity stem directly from our Constitution. Yet by the standards of dictatorial regimes, Internet users in countries like China, Syria and Iran should consider themselves lucky if Twitter’s relatively modest censorship program actually keeps those countries’ governments from shutting down the service. As we are seeing around the world, chances are, unfortunately, it won’t.

Consider the freedoms -- or lack thereof -- Internet users have in Iran. Since this past week, some 30 million Iranian users have been without Internet service thanks to that country’s blocking of the SSL protocol, right at the time of its parliamentary elections. SSL is what turns “http” -- the basic way we access the Web -- into “https”, which Gmail, your bank, your credit card company and thousands of other services use to secure data. SSL provides data encryption so that only each end point -- your browser and the Web server you’re logging into -- can decrypt and access the data contained therein.