7 Missteps That May Prevent Publishers From Jumping to the Second Curve

The following article appeared in our most recent Ads&Ideas Newsletter.

By Tony Silber

All companies, and all industries, face the existential challenge to adapt. In futurist Ian Morrison’s “first-curve-second-curve” model of business economics, the most treacherous curves are hidden. It’s the unforeseen competitor. It’s new skillsets, capabilities and distribution methods that become essential, but seem marginal when they emerge—“edge” activities. 

The challenge of the “first-curve-second-curve” model is that “edge” activities suddenly become central, and companies often realize it too late. Things always look best just before a company (or industry) goes into decline. Revenue is surging and profits robust. Once a company knows it’s in trouble, once the red flags emerge, the die is cast. Publishers seeking to reach the second curve need to succeed at what they’re doing and at what they’re trying to become simultaneously. Once a company hits a revenue stall, according to Matthew S. Olson and Derek van Bever in their 2008 book, “Stall Points,” it has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering.

Here, says James G. Elliott Co. President Jim Elliott, is where many magazine companies falter, especially in the advertising sales discipline. He and his team have developed a list of the most common missteps around advertising that may prevent publishing companies from reaching the second curve. 

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American and European Publishers Learn from Each Other as Advertising Models Converge

The following article appeared in our most recent Ads&Ideas Newsletter and was published by FIPP at https://www.fippcongress.com/american-and-european-publishers-learn-from-each-other-as-advertising-models-converge/

In March, I attended the FIPP Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin and left with the realization that advertising-related problems in Europe are the same ones we’re facing in America: media fragmentation, a failing business model, fraud, and the emergence of social platforms that distribute our content for free and control the ad spend. This led to a decline in ad dollars for virtually all content creators. The myth perpetuated by the platforms was if you build a social presence-, the audience—and business model—will come. It turns out the only business you built was theirs. 

The roots of this situation go back years. It’s taken us 25 years to understand it. Consumers need to pay for content. And that’s not what Google and Facebook want. They alone account for more than 60% of all digital ad dollars spent. But now, at events like the Digital Innovators’ Summit, we’re seeing signs of new approaches. 

I spoke with FIPP CEO James Hewes about the media and advertising environment. Here’s a transcript of that conversation, edited for length and clarity by Ads&Ideas® Editor Tony Silber. 

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Data Bridges the Gap Between Magazine Platforms

During the ACT 9 Experience held at the Magazine Innovation Center of Ole Miss this May, Jim Elliott moderated a panel: Data Bridges The Gap Between Magazine Media Platforms.  Panelists were from very diverse backgrounds: Alan English, VP of Communications for the Military Officers Association of America, John French of French LLC, Michael Marchesano of Connectiv/SIIA/AM&P, and Kevin Shirin of Focus on the Family.

Watch the full panel below:

Are You Selling Products Your Advertisers Don’t Want?

Are You Selling Products Your Advertisers Don’t Want?

With a little bit of research and planning, any association can raise its game to ensure its media products sync with what their market really needs. 

In the association media business, new-product development is an insular process. It’s frequently driven by association executives who rarely speak to advertisers and don’t understand timing or the pain points in the market. They just know they’re under pressure to produce revenue for the association, so they push out a flawed idea. 

Suddenly, the association sales team finds itself selling a media product developed with the association’s needs in mind — not the advertiser’s. Jim Elliott and Jack Semler (Owner and CEO of Readex Research) talk to Signature Magazine in this article from the April/May issue:

FaceTime with James G. Elliott and Readex Research

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Announcing Magazine Media Quarterly - A Business Magazine For Magazine-Business Executives, Coming This Spring!

Introducing Magazine Media Quarterly, a magazine for magazine-media executives and the aspiring entrepreneurs who want to be part of it.

MMQ is dedicated to the premise that new kinds of information are needed to help publishers prosper in a new media landscape. It's produced by the University of Mississippi's Magazine Innovation Center and intended for managers, directors and executives in sales, marketing, content creation, web development, data management and more.

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Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS)

Jim Elliott and Stephanie Holland, Director, Global Advertising Sales & C&EN Marketing, American Chemical Society presented Case Study: What American Chemical Society Learned About Launching a Content Lab at BIMS this November.

Their session went beyond the window dressing to offer an insider look at what’s really required to create a cutting-edge marketing services business, including the required resources, infrastructure and investment, as well as the reality of customer expectations. You can watch the video here:

ACS: Case Study at BIMS

Outsourcing Your Ad Sales: Why To Do It, And How To Make It Work

The ad-sales business has gotten much more complex in the last decade. Media companies are scrambling to adapt as marketing budgets get smaller and ad campaigns get shorter—even as media product lineups have vastly expanded, forcing salespeople to master new technologies—and sell more stuff. 

But in ad sales, as elsewhere in life, you are what your numbers say you are. For companies seeking continued revenue growth, and looking to impose tighter cost management, one alternative is to partner with a proven outside sales firm. 

Outsourcing your ad-sales operation is a big step. But it’s also one that’s fairly common. If you decide to outsource, there’s a playbook available to ensure your decision succeeds. Dennis Connaughton, general manager of the James G. Elliott Co., and I recently discussed approaches, insights, and principles on the ad-sales outsourcing process during a Q&A with our newsletter editor, Tony Silber.

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Print Ad Spend is Down in 2018, But There’s No Surge in Digital


Tony Silber interviews Todd Krizelman of MediaRadar

What does it mean when more than 20,000 advertisers stopped placing ads in print media in the first four months of 2018? Perhaps it’s more ad spend flowing to digital channels and the Facebook/Google duopoly, right? You might conclude that it’s bad news for print media and part of the rise of digital. 

Wrong. It’s something more complex, and it serves as a clarifying moment for print-media companies and their sales teams. 

There were 151,825 advertisers in print in January-April 2018, according to an analysis by MediaRadar, down by 13 percent from the 172,155 print spenders in the same period in 2017. But the catch is that those advertisers didn’t move to digital. Rather, they stopped advertising altogether.

This intriguing analysis doesn’t support the narrative of a decline of print media. Here’s a transcript of our conversation with Todd Krizelman, edited for length and clarity.  

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An Interview with Steve Grossman

Steve Grossman, a well-known Chicago-based sales consultant, first contacted my company to measure our interest in taking over ad sales for a group of consumer titles, which eventually happened.  It seemed odd that this important role had been assigned to someone outside of our industry; we tend to work mostly with publishing specialists.  However, as we worked together, I realized that most of the challenges I hear about from both small and large publishers are not really unique to publishing sales.

Yes, there are some distinctive characteristics of the ad sales business, such as multi-channel sales points with client and agency involvement, but Steve had run into similar problems in other industries.  I thought that our readers might benefit by exposure to sharp thinking from someone who is not “in the bubble” with us.  Steve agreed to share his thoughts:

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Here’s Where Publishers Will Be Investing in 2018

FOLIO: talked to ten publishers and industry partners (including Jim Elliott) to see how they plan to get the job done in 2018.  Here's an excerpt:

Jim Elliott, President, James G. Elliott Co., Inc.

Investment planning must grow out of each individual publisher’s specific situation, reflecting their goals, resources, history, skill sets, market environment, and much more, so there is no single best strategy. However, there are some general considerations that pertain to each of the major publishing sectors, as follows:

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Time Inc. and Meredith Merger Raises Important Questions for Magazine Media

FOLIO: got reactions to the merger from industry experts, including Jim Elliott:

"Jim Elliott, founder of James G. Elliott Co., an outsourced media ad sales company, shared with us a similar sentiment. “I think Meredith is a best-in-class publisher,” he says. “What I think this means is they see value in print and always have. And they see value in a print brand. I think that’s a good thing. I think it sets a tone.”

Read the whole article here: 


James G. Elliott Co., Inc. appointed to handle all advertising sales of SIERRA MAGAZINE and related digital products nationally.

Official press release:


SIERRA, the national bi-monthly magazine of the Sierra Club, expanded its audience by more than 30 percent in 2017, cementing its place as the largest environmental magazine in the United States.   A key factor in this growth was the recent membership surge of the Sierra Club, which resulted in related growth in SIERRA subscriptions from approximately 525,000 to more than 700,000. The award-winning print magazine inspires and engages Sierra Club members, as well those just becoming interested in environmental protection. Its readers are active outdoor advocates, changemakers, environmentally conscious consumers, and influencers.

SIERRA’s online edition, videos, and digital edition complement the print edition with breaking news updates, relevant commentary, and green lifestyle and outdoor recreation tips sought after by a growing number of Americans. Sierramagazine.org posts original stories daily and attracts hundreds of thousands of readers who aren’t Sierra Club members.

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An Interview with John French

This interview is also featured on FOLIO: (http://www.foliomag.com/john-french-interview). This is the complete version:

At the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience in Oxford, MS in April, 2017, John French delivered one of the best speeches I have ever heard on publishing industry issues. John is the former CEO of Cygnus Business, former CEO of Penton and former President of Business Magazines, PRIMEDIA.  The title of his talk was “Life Lessons in Adding Value.” He now shares his experience as an advisor to publishing executives and investors. I encourage you to learn more at johnfrench.com.

JIM:  So John, I was very moved by your speech at ACT 7. It was an inspirational overview of the business and how to properly run a business. You’re in a unique position because you’re really a turnaround expert. You come in where there are problems. You have to be an expert on business—period—because you know how to spot a business that’s really headed into trouble.

JIM:  What do you do to turn around a publishing company that’s in trouble? What steps do you take?

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Jim Elliott Receives Lifetime Achievement Special Award

Jim Elliott, President of the James G. Elliott Co., Inc., received the First Annual Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award from Association Media & Publishing on June 26, 2017, at the 37th annual EXCEL Awards Gala in Washington, DC. This special award honors an industry service provider who has performed outstanding service to AM&P  and whose accomplishments have spanned a career in association media and publishing. The award was founded in 2016 in honor of loyal AM&P member Mitch Mohanna, who passed away in 2015.

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Google Plans to Clean Up the Web with Chrome Ad Blocker

Google will introduce an ad blocker to Chrome early next year and is telling publishers to get ready. The warning is meant to let websites assess their ads and strip any particularly disruptive ones from their pages.  See full story on The Verge:


Jim Elliott slated to receive the Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award from Association Media & Publishing

Association Media & Publishing Honors Emerging Leaders and Lifetime Achievement Special Awards

Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) is excited to announce the recipients of its special awards – the Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award and the four Emerging Leader Awards sponsored by Imagination. The awards will be given at the 37th Annual EXCEL Awards on June 26, 2017 at the DoubleTree Crystal City as part of AM&P’s Annual Meeting.

James G. Elliott, president of James G. Elliott Co. will receive the AM&P Mitch Mohanna Lifetime Achievement Award. This special merit award honors an industry service provider who has performed an outstanding service to AM&P and achieved accomplishment spanning a career in association media and publishing. It was founded in 2016 in honor of loyal AM&P member Mitch Mohanna, who passed away in 2015.

Click here for full press release: http://associationmediaandpublishing.org/

A Broad Perspective on the Print Landscape

President's Letter by Jim Elliott

Tony Silber has been a keen observer of the magazine industry for a long time. His perspective is not limited to just one sector, but includes all significant developments across the entire industry. In his position as Vice President of FOLIO:, he frequently talks with senior people about their challenges and opportunities, their views and their concerns. Tony graciously agreed to share his thoughts with the readers of Ads&IDEAS®.

ELLIOTT: Tony, of all the people I know, you have the broadest perspective on the print landscape. You often interview senior people in the commercial B2B, consumer and the association print world. So what are the hot trends this year in each of these three sectors?

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How Can You Sell Them if They're Too Busy to Listen?

Interviews in the following article from Digiday, ''It's brutal': Junior agency employees feel the squeeze from low margins (http://digiday.com/agencies/brutal-junior-agency-employees-feel-squeeze-low-margins/) explain some of the reasons that agency people are working longer hours and still have more to do in less time.

This is in complete agreement with findings in the 2016 Study of Media Planning & Buying, conducted jointly by Kantar Media SRDS and the James G. Elliott Co., Inc.  We found that agency planners and buyers are responsible for an ever-increasing amount of work to be done in less time than ever before.  To learn more about the impact these developments have on advertising sales and a link to download your own free copy of the study, see http://www.adsandideas.com/research-1/

Understanding the Buyer/Seller Dynamic

Special Announcement from Jim Elliott

In 2012, Steve Davis, President of Kantar Media SRDS, and I agreed to undertake a research project to help both of us–and our clients–understand more about the workload and practices of media people in agencies.  Since 2013, Kantar Media and the James G. Elliott Co., Inc. have conducted three studies of advertising planning and buying. 

For 2016, we added a Sellers component to the third Study of Media Planning and Buying to help publishers and salespeople identify differences between the way they view the buying/selling process and the way agency buyers do.  Comparing responses shows several disconnects between what each side thinks is happening. We prepared an overview, the Publisher's Guide to Understanding the Buyer/Seller Dynamic, to help you understand these disconnects so you can minimize their negative impact.

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