Saturday, November 09, 2002

November 9, 2002
Yesterday was overcast all day. Sprinkled some, but no rain. This morning there is a warm blanket of clouds hanging over the Cave Creek valley and it’s not very cold, but I started a fire in the studio stove anyway because I want to hear it pop.

Yesteday, I trimmed some articles for Feb.-Mar. issue and added to others. Here’s how it happened. I grabbed a trade publication, Advertising Age, and went to the bathroom. While seated on the throne, I was scanning all the gloom and doom in the industry (postal rate hikes, broken distribution models, declining ad sales, declining direct mail stats, declining newsstand, etc.) when I stumbled upon a letter to the editor from a guy at Rolling Stone mag who had attended last month’s magazine convention in Phoenix and thought it was all “a pile of bull.” Here’s part of his letter: “Come up with a great editorial concept that stirs the passions, curiosities and needs of a group of readers and they’ll buy it. After you’ve earned the reader’s attention, you can sell a portion of this attention to advertisors...paper prices are at the lowest point in 40 years. Postage rates have increased at the rate of 3% per year for the past ten years and have actually gone down when adjusted for inflation. The newsstand is the greatest sampling device ever invented; the sample takers actually pay for each sample. Magazines are the most measured of any media. Advertisers will pay three to five times more per impression than TV. So stop whining. Rejoice, strategize, work hard, keep reader satisfaction your primary concern—and make money!”

I flushed, washed my hands, walked into the production area and said (while still holding the magazine), “We are going to make some changes. The Gamut page is still not working, so let’s hold it until next issue and add that page to Westerns, which is real estate I feel confident about and the readers are really responding to.”
Robert Ray smiled and said, “That’s why you’re the boss.” I know he was only half-serious (plus he hated the Gamut page), but it felt good to be firm and confident. Kent Brownridge, the guy who wrote the letter, is right: “Stop whining!”

Speaking of Robert Ray, he’s been out sick for almost a week and we miss his leadership. We did the postcard for the April issue while he was gone and he was bugged today when he saw the finished results. The head is too small and you can’t read it as well as you should be able to. He’s right.

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
—Walt Disney