Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And Then There Was One- How the Death of Tuff Stuff Impacts The Hobby

Krause Publications, and later F+W Media is the victim of a problem facing many, many media companies and one I am all to intimately familiar with personally, having been a victim of a layoff from a media and publishing company last April. My dislike and distrust of Beckett Media aside, I think I can bring some perspective and shall we say, calculated logic, to the discussion of the pitfalls facing both of these hobby media resources.

Declining print ad revenues across all forms of media, both B2B and B2C are

something that traditional publishing companies have been struggling with since the invention of the Internet by Al Gore in the early 90's. (I'm STILL convinced that is why he lost the election, what an idiot but I digress). Regardless of if you are a major publishing icon like Rupert Murdoch or a niche publisher like F+W, the inability of publishing companies to effectively monetize an online strategy has effectively served as the demise for numerous publishers.

The ability, or in some cases, inability, to grasp the importance of social media has further plagued traditional media companies and publishers who have long relied on an antiquated business model of disseminating information and waiting for readers, users and consumers to come to them. The world doesn't work that way anymore. if you aren't bringing me the information I want, chances are I have little time or interest in seeking it out.

A great example of this in the blogsphere is my friend, Adam Gellman, at Sports Cards Uncensored. I have asked him repeatedly to set up a Twitterfeed for his blog. Why? Because most of the time, it's the only way I will know a blog I value, follow, or have interest in has published new content. He still hasn't done so and to this day I can say I read his post less than I used to because he is not pushing that information to me.

Now look at Krause/F+W Media who of all Hobby related entities needed to get ahead of the curve when it came to social media and instead languished in an archaic information dissemination model. They proved how incapable they were of adapting to new media just last year when, having been pressed on a particular issue, columnist forced blogger, T.S O'Connell turned off comments on his blog. In my humble opinion, no act more symbolized the disconnect and lack of understanding about the developing age of media than that act and the fiasco that resulted.

Now, looking at my friend and yours, Beckett Media LLC, we see a much different story. Have they capitalized on the mistakes of Tuff Stuff and avoided the same pitfalls? Yes. To a degree. Now in all honesty, the following will obviously be subject to conjecture but I will try to approach this with some calculated reasoning. The removal of Tuff Stuff's Sports Card Monthly from the equation, leaves potential advertisers only one place to spend their print ad budget and that is with Beckett, obviously. However, in my opinion, there is little doubt that even with this event having transpired in the market place, that Beckett's publications could NOT survive as a stand alone business property. The decrease in ad revenue across ALL print media simply can't be replaced regardless of the number of print or OPG subscribers they add. No, the publications will continue and might even at some point return to profitablity as the result of them being only one cog in a machine.

The Beckett brand name will forever be tied to their publications. That brand awareness and recognition serves as a "traffic driver" of sorts for their other properties; Beckett Select Auctions, Beckett Grading Services, and The Beckett Marketplace. Diversity has been the key to Beckett being able to weather the media storm and to their credit they have been much better at developing online revenue streams and embracing, instead of resisting, social media.

While I am obviously not privy to their balance sheet, ad rates are public. Keep in mind also that most advertising sales reps. never, ever, ever, ever sell at rate card but instead discount those rates as an incentive to buy. So if you take their listed rate card pricing and count the number of ads you see in an issue and multiply out the math from subscription $'s and their circulation numbers, you can see that when you account for employee salaries and benefit costs, variable and non variable expenses, etc. it would be very hard to see profiting solely from their publications.

Media is changing, and the demise of Tuff Stuff is sad for the simple fact that, right or wrong, in the mind of many collectors, old and new, Beckett will continue and now even more so, serve as the sole voice of an industry.


dogfacedgremlin said...

I was going to write something about this when I saw O'Connell sign off for the last time the other day. I just haven't had the time. Now I won't have to.

Very well written...except for the last sentence. In my opinion, WE, as in the bloggers and collectors, are the voice of the industry.

The only reason that Beckett is still succeeding to a degree is that they made an effort to listen to us on occasion because they had to. They are only relevant because of their attempt at trying to connect to the public through "social media" as you pointed out. But with more and more of us taking to our keyboards, smart-phones, messaging devices, etc. I think their days are numbered too.

mike said...

I agree with the article written and with the Gremlin. What I wonder is where the "standard" will be kept in terms of reference. Since the beginning of democracy way back when bones were traded for tools, etc., there has been a value placed on items. While I feel Beckett took their ability too far in setting prices, someone is going to have to take over that role in determining "worth." It's human nature to need to know worth, and if its not Beckett, someone else will take the reigns if The Hobby continues to exist. Otherwise there would be no need to collect, as there would be no intrinsic or extrinsic worth for the customer's dollar.
Social media or otherwise, even if eBay starts moderating such a thing or one of the major players in the blog world does it, I think that is where you will see the next "Beckett" come from, if Beckett doesn't find a way to reinvent themselves before someone else takes their flag.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Similar sentiments were also left as comments on the Facebook posting of this.

While I agree that collector generated content has had a tremendous influence on usurping the the viability of traditional hobby media, I was more referring to the uninitiated collector who still relies on Beckett, as their only form of information. Forum users, blog readers, this would not apply too but I do believe represent less than 50% of collectors as a whole.

As far as value goes, I am an adamant believer that if you want a gneral idea of what your item is worth do a completed listing search over the last 60 days and throw away the low and high and avergae the rest.

Something is ONLY worth what someone is willing to PAY at the TIME that you want to SELL

Jay said...

To much bullshit spam / advertisement associated with Social Media, thats one thing you fail to bring up.

Then again Im one of those fools that mutes the sound when commercials come on.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to see Tuff Stuff gone. There are way too many hobby magazines out there. The sports card industry seems perennially trapped in the '90s, and the glut of magazines is one reason why.

Pablo said...

I really miss Tuff Stuff's Sports Collectors Monthly. I read it for the articles, hobby news, player addresses, sales, events, and collector stories. I always looked forward to reading it every month when it came in the mail, and now its gone. So is Wizard magazine.

The biggest with the magazine was that it did not list enough card prices in its price guide like Beckett does, which is why Beckett still exists today. Plus, the prices did not match Beckett's and dealers did not ever use Tuff Stuff's prices. I don't hate Beckett. Beckett exists for a reason: It is to be used as a guide for buying and selling cards. Yes, anybody can buy any card on Ebay but, it helps to not get ripped off.

I don't know about you guys but, I much rather read printed word (books, magazines, etc.) about our hobby than look at some computer screen. Some of us stare and read computer and cell phone screens all day at work. Enough already! Support your favorite publication before its gone too!

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