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Archive | December, 2009

Top Scrapbook News Stories of 2009

It’s time to say goodbye to 2009…here’s a look back at the top scrapbook industry news stories of the year.

Paris Hilton Does CHA

The CHA crowd is used to having the likes of Vanna White and Martha Stewart grace the show with their presence. But the show has never quite seen a spectacle like happened at CHA-Winter 2009 in Anaheim when Paris Hilton strutted onto the show floor trailed by a posse of burly bodyguards and foreign paparazzi.

paris-arriving-webWell, now I can check “getting elbowed by German-speaking paparazzi” off my bucket list at least.

Creative Memories Files Bankruptcy

Although the bankruptcy of Creative Memories was technically filed in late 2008, the disposition of it continued into 2009. The court approved the company’s bankruptcy plan on January 9th, but former company officers still face legal action from former employee shareholders over their actions in regard to the bankruptcy plan.

CK Media’s Financial Problems

Stories stemming from the underlying thread of CK Media’s financial issues were a recurrent theme in the scrapbook news in 2009. First Digital Scrapbooking was shut down, and shortly afterward Simple Scrapbooks magazines was closed as well. Scrapbook Update broke the news in February that CK Media had called in turnaround/bankruptcy firm CRG Partners to settle its debts with its creditors under threat of a bankruptcy filing.

In early July, the sale of CK Media’s remaining publications to New Track Media became final, triggering major layoffs at the company.

CHA Craft Supershows

There was something else new at CHA-Summer 2009 besides the venue – the addition of a consumer event that operated the weekend after the trade show. Although controversial when first announced, the Craft Supershow was a massive success in Orlando, and CHA is continuing the event in conjunction with CHA-Winter 2010 in Anaheim.

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Big Names Depart from Creating Keepsakes

As the company foundered this year, a lot of big names departed Creating Keepsakes and its parent company to work on other projects. The departures went all the way to the top of the company, when Creating Keepsakes founding editor Lisa Bearnson announced she was giving up her role with the magazine. Other popular well-known names who departed the company included Becky Higgins, Ali Edwards, Cathy Zielske, and Jessica Sprague.

Stampin’ Up Angers Demonstrators With New IDA

In early fall, Stampin’ Up issued a revised IDA (independent demonstrator agreement) to all of its demonstrators that included new restrictions on their online activity. Stampin’ Up originally interpreted the new guidelines as meaning Stampin’ Up reps couldn’t link to anyone online who linked to anywhere else that sold or promoted non-Stampin’ Up products. Many reps threatened to resign rather than live with restrictions that would force them to remove themselves from a large portion of the online community, and Stampin’ Up was forced to loosen the guidelines.

Memory Makers Ceases Publication

In early May, Scrapbook Update broke the story that F+W Media was planning to shut down Memory Makers Magazine with the Sept/Oct issue. This news was confirmed by the publication the next day. The magazine’s remaining subscriptions were picked up by Northridge Media for digital fulfillment with an all-access pass to its titles.

Melody Ross Departs Chatterbox, Company Shelved by Ultra Pro

In early July, Chatterbox founder Melody Ross revealed that she had departed the company back in April. At CHA-Summer, a rep for Chatterbox parent company Ultra-Pro confirmed to Scrapbook Update that the Chatterbox brand’s product lines were being discontinued. Ten years ago, the company was revolutionary in the industry. Now, it no longer exists.

Lenders Attempt to Force Wilton Brands Bankruptcy

After holding company Wilton Holdings breached covenants of loans it owed, the parent company of EK Success and K&Co was called into bankruptcy court by lenders who filed a petition to force the company into bankruptcy. The issue was eventually settled out of court by the lenders and Wilton. Later in the year, Wilton’s CEO resigned, saying that the new ownership should have an opportunity to select their own management.

Gypsy Introduces New Era Of Scrapbook Electronics

Shortly before CHA-Summer, Provo Craft started executing a viral marketing campaign to raise buzz on its new electronic accessory for the Cricut called the Gypsy.

The campaign was successful at raising buzz on the Gypsy, which is a handheld device that lets users create designs from their cartridge library and then cut them via their Cricut machine. Probable future plans for the device include the ability to purchase individual cut designs from an iTunes-style store, instead of having to purchase entire cartridges.

The Gypsy debuted with an HSN package and a 30 day exclusive run at Michaels. Although the MSRP is $299, over the holidays the street price seems to be hovering around $250.

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2009 Favorite Finds

Editor’s Note: This post marks past guest blogger May Flaum’s official debut as a Contributing Writer at Scrapbook Update. Welcome, May!

One of my favorite year end traditions is to look back and reflect on all that happened this year: what new authors I discovered, life events, changes made, and good things that have happened. This year I thought it would be fun to look over my crafting stash and share some of my new scrapbook discoveries from 2009.

As I sat down to write this I decided that the companies and products I selected must be new to me this year. In other words, they either didn’t exist or I had no knowledge of them or the specific product type prior to January 2009. I also decided they had to be something that I turn to and utilize on a regular basis and consider true additions to my crafting life this year.

In no particular order, here are six things that I consider great finds of the year:

coredination

Core’dinations cardstock: I discovered them in the spring, and it was love at first touch. The core is a different color than the cardstock’s front, and this makes for exciting sanding, embossing, tearing, and distressing opportunities.

The Jenni Bowlin Embossed Pack and the White Wash Collection are among my favorites from them – but to be honest I’ve yet to pick up a piece that I don’t love.

webster

Webster’s Pages: This is a company that has been a sleeper for me. You see, I’ve received random single sheets of paper or stickers in kit clubs this year as well as picked a few up in a store but I never really thought about the company. When their latest releases hit the shelves (and I wanted all of it) I realized I’d underestimated the amount of creative love I have for them – and that they’d been flying under the radar for me.

The ribbons, papers, cameos, letter stickers, and everything else they offer is so beautiful – my hands are itching for more already.

girl loft

The Girl’s Loft: This kit club started this summer and I was intrigued from first sight. The kits always have unique items and unexpected pairings – not to mention I find them very easy to work with. I don’t usually pay much attention to new kit clubs, but this one caught my eye and has held it with interesting kits and a very talented team of designers and great ownership.

Margie and her daughters, the owners, even came out with an e-book for Ella Publishing called Vintage Hip Christmas Crafts that is filled with their brand of crafty inspiration – and I hope we see more from them in future.

smooch

Smooch Ink: Clearsnap is one of those companies that has been around but I really don’t know much about or pay much attention to. One day cruising my local on-line store I came across Smooch Ink- and I needed to know more. It resembles closest my liquid eye-liner in consistency and in how the brush works. I use it for edging, doodling, detail work, even to hand-color images to stamp. It is so much easier for me to use than ink or paint in my detail work – and I’m totally addicted!

Taffy and Molasses continue to be my most used colors, and Gold Lame and Nautical Navy top my wish list. There is a whole rainbow of colors and even packaged sets available for purchase. How do you decide which to start with?

MM

Making Memories Vintage Findings - I discovered this first on an end cap at Michael’s, and eventually saw them showing up in my favorite stores as well. I can not get over how happy the little packages of put together vintage inspired bits and pieces make me. It is my most sincere hope that we see a new batch of this product in stores in 2010 because I have yet to get my fill.

My favorite kits from this line include: Love, Girl, Nature, Bienvenue, and Christmas.

lily bee

Lily Bee: Finally, this company suddenly started showing up all over my radar last summer. They are new this year, though the owner (kit-club owner) has been in the industry a long time. Their rub-ons and the French Couture paper line¬† caught my attention and they’ve held my rapt attention ever since. The products are great quality and always bring out the best in my photos – what more could a girl ask for?

The new tulle flowers, recurring damask patterns in patterned paper, and beautiful lines overall will keep me checking back in – and hoping for more lines that continue to grow in product types and offerings in the new year.

That wraps up six of my favorite new companies and products of 2009, and now I’m inspired to get out some of my favorites as my husband spends time watching bowl games and more NFL football than I can imagine. I know my list is not a complete one, so tell me: what are some of your picks from this year in crafting? I’d love to hear from you about your favorites from 2009, and about your hopes for what 2010 will bring too!

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May Flaum Joins Scrapbook Update

Scrapbook Update is pleased to announce that May Flaum is joining the site as a Contributing Writer effective immediately.

May’s work is familiar to many in the scrapbook industry. She has been published in numerous magazines and is the co-author for Memory Makers of the book Paper + Pixels: Scrapbook Layouts. She is a Big Picture Scrapbooking instructor, design team member for Scarlet Lime kits, and a freelance writer & designer. Until recently, she was also the education coordinator for the Fiskars Crafts website. Over the course of her career she has taught classes around the United States as well as managed a scrapbook store and worked with numerous scrapbook companies. You can read more about her and her crafting adventures at her blog, Confessions of a Chocoholic.

may_studio

As the Editor of Scrapbook Update, I am pleased both personally and professionally to welcome May to the site. For five years, Scrapbook Update has been a single-author website (outside of the occasional guest piece). However, due to changes in the industry and the needs of our readership, I believe the time has come to expand the content and perspective on the site to beyond that possible from a single writer. May will bring to Scrapbook Update both the incredible creative perspective of an industry-leading designer, and a wider perspective on trends and issues in the industry. Scrapbook Update will of course continue to deliver industry business news as it always has, but our ability to deliver information on trends and the creative side of the industry will be greatly enhanced by May’s addition to the site’s staff.

May will be attending CHA as a representative of Scrapbook Update, so keep an eye out for her (and your trusty Scrapbook Update Editor) on the show floor in Anaheim. If you’d like to contact May, she can be contacted via Scrapbook Update’s contact page which will be updated shortly to reflect her addition to the site.

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Becky Higgins Project Life Moving To Amazon.com

Becky Higgins said today on her blog that she will be stopping taking orders after midnight tonight (Dec. 28th) on her popular Project Life kits so that fulfillment of the kit orders can be moved to Amazon.com. Higgins warns that due to this transition the kits will be unavailable for ordering for several weeks, but promises that kit fulfillment will be a much smoother process for everyone than it was previously after the move is completed to using Fulfillment by Amazon.

For kit orders placed through Dec. 28th, Higgins promises that they will be fulfilled by early next week. Unfortunately, she reports the digital version of the kit has been delayed into January a week or two.

Editor’s Note: If you haven’t heard of Amazon’s Fulfillment services before, I highly recommend checking them out if you are in the business of selling product like Becky Higgins does. Their service has a great reputation with both buyers and sellers.

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2009 State of the Scrapbook Magazine, Part 3: Alternative Business Models & The Long Tail

In part one and part two of this series, we talked in detail about the precarious health of the news stand scrapbook magazines. Bearing in mind that this is not necessarily due to the scrapbook market itself but to the overall decline in the publishing industry, it is a good idea to look beyond the news stand to other business models that are operating in the scrapbook publishing segment.

Several publishers are operating on a model of selling publications at a premium price point in bookstores and specialty stores. Most notable among these publishers are Northridge Media and Stampington & Company. Northridge is the publisher of titles such as Scrapbook Trends, Cards, Simply Handmade, Bead Trends and a line of idea books. Stampington publishes Somerset Memories, Somerset Digital Studio, Artful Blogging, Where Women Create, Somerset Studio, Stamper’s Sampler, Stamper’s Sampler Take Ten, and many more titles.

Most of the titles from both publishers have a cover price of at least $14.99, with the exception of Stamper’s Sampler at $7.99. Northridge offers discounts off the per-issue price for subscribing. Stampington sells subscriptions at the per-issue price.

A few important things differentiate these publishers from their news stand rivals. The primary area of difference is their content. Where the news stand publications have to try to appeal to a much wider range of skill level and interest, the premium publications are much more highly focused in their content. These publications focus on offering a lot of one kind of content. Northridge Media’s Cards title offers nothing but page after page of large examples of cards for inspiring card makers. There are no product galleries, no text-filled articles. Scrapbook Trends usually consists completely of single-page scrapbook layouts. Stamper’s Sampler Take Ten is completely cards (with an occasional exception) that are mostly vintage in style.

Although both Cards and Take Ten both focus exclusively on cards, they are so highly focused that the cards they contain even have a distinct signature style in both publications. This is in direct contrast to the news stand publications, where the style of the content tends to be very diverse in an attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Another important difference between the news stand and premium publications is their look-and-feel. Both of the premium publishers I cited above are producing magazines on heavier weight papers that provide a richer feel in the hand than their less expensive news stand counterparts. While the weight of the paper may seem unimportant, it is one important component in making the customer feel like they are receiving a premium product for the premium price. The magazines’ design also contributes to the premium impression. Stampington uses an extremely clean white layout that resembles an artist’s portfolio. Northridge goes the opposite direction with its design, creating a lush feel by using elaborate photo sets (often with rich colors) as backgrounds for its published items.

Another part of the premium feeling of the Stampington and Northridge titles is the relatively low amount of advertising content and its arrangement concentrated in the front and rear of the publications. This makes the publications feel more similar to the idea books from publishers like Creating Keepsakes and F + W than like a periodical, and also helps sell the higher price point to consumers. Scrapbook Trends has been maintaining a paid advertising percentage around 20% in 2009. Stamper’s Sampler Take Ten has been publishing the past two years with an average of around 3% paid advertising per issue.

How do these magazines survive with such minimal advertising compared to their news stand counterparts? It is because their business model is entirely different – they aren’t intended to get their revenue as heavily from advertising. Instead they get their revenue largely from their cover price (rarely discounted for subscribers) and then supplement it with ad sales. In the case of Stampington, there is also heavy focus on promoting the company’s own line of stamps and artist papers that are sold in the company’s online store.

How can these magazines still reach an audience with such focused content? Stamper’s Sampler June/July 2009 issue only circulated 19,000 copies. Stamper’s Sampler Take Ten circulated just over 27,000 copies of its Summer 2009 issue. They are only intended to appeal to a small niche market of readers – a very similar approach to that of the content online that is largely killing the print publishers on the news stand. They have carved out a select niche market and focus with precision on serving up content tailored closely to that smaller market, instead of having to use the scattershot approach required for content aimed at serving a larger group. The larger your audience, the harder it is to make everyone happy. The premium publishers have focused on building smaller, extremely loyal audiences who are willing to pay a premium cover price to get exactly what they want in the publication.

If a scrapbook magazine can survive by being high-priced, how about at the other extreme – by being free? Canadian magazine Scrapbook & Cards Today is operating on a very web 2.0 model of free distribution to consumers. In a recent phone interview, founder and publisher Catherine Tachdjian explained to me how that works.

Scrapbook & Cards Today is a quarterly 68-page publication that is distributed through approximately 200 independent stores. The stores must be advertisers in the magazine’s store directory to distribute the magazine. They receive some free copies as part of their advertising package, and may also purchase additional copies if they wish. Stores may not sell the issues they distribute, but the copies may be offered as an incentive with a purchase, as a benefit for club members, or as part of a kit.

For readers who don’t have a distributing store near them, the magazine is also distributed free via the magazine’s website in PDF form.

How does this work financially? Scrapbook & Cards Today is maintaining a healthy 40% ad content. Tachdjian says that because of the distribution method used by the magazine, many manufacturers view advertising in her publication as a store outreach project instead of as advertising, which helps Scrapbook & Cards Today sell their ad space.

Despite the disparity in their price points, the premium magazines and Scrapbook & Cards Today actually have a surprising amount in common that contributes to their success:

  • the narrow focus of their content on a specific niche
  • extremely lean & efficient staffing models
  • relationships with a well-known group of ongoing contributors
  • a luxury feel to their materials and layout

All of this, put together with the recent statistics of the news stand publications, says a lot about the future of publishing in the scrapbook industry. Print publications across all industries are facing challenging times. Those challenges, brought about by the mass consumption of internet content, are not going away. In dealing with these challenges, the mass-market news stand publications are actually chasing the so-called “long tail” magazines in their fight for survival. (If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the “long tail”, you should read the excellent book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson. It is very pertinent to marketing in a niche like scrapbooking.)

While it might seem that the larger circulation news stand magazines have more ground to give in the battle for survival than the smaller magazines do, their audiences are not as loyal and their business model requires massive circulation numbers to survive. Their business model is dependent on securing large amounts of advertising, at a time when advertisers (not just in scrapbooking) are fleeing the print market in favor of highly targeted online campaigns. The smaller magazines are less dependent on advertising, and they can offer a more highly targeted audience to the advertisers they do need to attract.

The past was mass market, appealing to everyone and selling as many copies as possible. The future of scrapbook print publishing is smaller: more targeted, more lean, and more premium. The internet is, basically, going to turn print into a luxury experience.

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News Notes: Maria Thomas Leaves Etsy; Tim Holtz Joins Sizzix

Etsy Gets New CEO

Etsy has announced via their blog that CEO Maria Thomas, who was the keynote speaker at CHA-Winter 2009, is leaving the company. She will be replaced as CEO by company founder Rob Kalin, who was the company’s CEO before Thomas took over in mid-2008 after serving as COO for several months. Before that, Thomas was at NPR.

The announcement of the change in executives took pains to stress that the company is now a profitable one. There was also mention of Etsy’s plans to launch a German site in January.

Palin founded Etsy in 2005. He had adopted the title of CCO (“Chief Creative Officer”) during Thomas’s tenure as CEO and has been working on the company’s charitable foundation as well.

Tim Holtz Teams With Sizzix

Perennial scrapping and stamping favorite Tim Holtz announced today via his blog that he will be designing a new product line for Sizzix called Tim Holtz Alterations. Holtz describes the line as “my own signature line of dies, texture/embossing folders, and yes, a new machine.” The line will debut at CHA-Winter 2010, with peeks revealed in the coming days on Holtz’s blog.

Tim Holtz Alterations Logo

Scrapbook Update’s first thoughts on the idea of a new Tim Holtz die cutting line: Die cutters are typically marketed with a very “cute” or graphic type of style. The Tim Holtz signature style is very vintage in design. This could help Sizzix (and retailers who sell their products) appeal to a new category of scrapbookers for die cut equipment with this product line.

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