The Magill Report Turns Five
By Ken Magill
Hey everybody! The Magill Report turns five this month!
You know what that means? It means that five years ago this month, the most obnoxious newsletter in the history of email marketing made its debut.
Here is what I wrote when I launched explaining why I launched:
With few exceptions, the state of marketing journalism is utterly abysmal.
For one thing, company bloggers who can’t write anything controversial for fear of irritating a client or prospect are driving a large portion of the online marketing-and-advertising discussion.
And at trade publishers, advertisers are getting increasingly demanding. As a result, the business side of publishing has dug its hooks deeper and deeper into editorial—or at least the portion of editorial that hasn’t been fired or alienated.
The unspoken but understood attitude toward editorial is: “Shut up and write what we tell you. Just be glad you have a job.”
And this isn’t just a problem in the trades.
For example, when it looked as if a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit lions wasn’t going to sell out during the 2009 season—and, therefore, not be broadcast locally, leaving Cincinnati’s local Fox affiliate unable to sell ads against the event—Fox led its “newscast” with a segment on the joys of going to Bengals games.
St. Louis magazine’s advertising rate card explicitly states certain sections offer “story inclusion w/ad buy.” The Dallas Morning News on Dec. 3, 2009 announced it was reorganizing so section editors would report to sales managers, now called general managers.
Think of it this way: Now when an editor and a sales manager at the Dallas Morning News disagree over editorial, the editor will be defending his/her stance to a boss rather than a peer. Poof! There goes editorial integrity.
Meanwhile, just as troubling as advertising’s influence over editorial content is the slashing of editorial layers. Copy that once would have had to pass under three sets of eyeballs now maybe gets a cursory glance from one beyond the writer’s. The “non-revenue-producing” editors—for example, copy editors—have been eliminated.
At the same time, volume demands on content producers have gone up dramatically. Too many trade advertisers think in terms of tonnage rather than qualified readership. As a result, it’s all about page views as opposed to lead generation and conversion.
Add it all up and we’ve got a recipe for some pretty thin gruel.
We are in the midst of an incredibly transformative era in marketing. Yet, one wouldn’t know it by all the “so-and-so partners with so-and-so” crap that is being passed off as news in the trade press and the oh-so-prevalent “three-marketing-resolutions-you-should-make-today” fluff.
I believe there is a market for independent, insightful and entertaining advertising-and-marketing-related news [real news, mind you, not “so-and-so-partners-with-so-and-so” drivel] and commentary aimed at a smart readership. I also believe that such content can be used to build a highly qualified, responsive audience that sophisticated advertisers will want to reach even if they can’t dictate the discussion.
Whether I’m right or not will be apparent soon enough.
Boy, I can be a self-important ass when I put my mind to it, can’t I? In the intervening five years, I didn’t get rich publishing this thing, but I haven’t missed a mortgage payment, either.
I also have toned down my criticism of the marketing trades. MediaPost is a trade publisher to be reckoned with, for one example.
In any case, to everyone reading this: Thank you for an incredibly fulfilling five years.