An Aniversary That Celebrates An Industry

In September, VideoAge celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Now, one could ask, “What's so special?” Hundreds of magazines celebrate their silver and gold anniversaries every year.

VideoAge, however, is unique for several reasons, and this anniversary is special because it celebrates and industry and three generations of executives.

Video Age First Cover
VideoAge’s first cover, from September 1981

First of all it is the only publication in its field (television trade, that is) without a sales force.

Second, it is the publication that introduced the concept of market dailies to the TV industry.

Thirdly, VideoAge was basically conceived by the TV industry itself, which decided to support Italian-born Dom Serafini in the launching of a new trade publication starting in New York and, later, with offices in London, U.K., Los Angeles and Milan, Italy.

Finally, it has remained independent amidst a wave of big media consolidations.

When VideoAge was born, the sector had five publications: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Broadcasting, TV/Radio Age and, in the U.K., TV World. Both TV/Radio Age and TV World were closed in the late ’80s. Today, the television trade counts at least 10 publications that cover all aspects of television, especially international TV. In addition, there are many more which cover specialized TV fields such as mobile video, Internet-TV, cable and/or satellite TV.

However, whereas, in the early ’90s TV trade magazines could count on a client base of 500 companies, today the sector survives on some 80 TV production and distribution companies.

Of course, VideoAge must be doing something right, useful and necessary, as it has been at it for the past 25 years. But, it has been a challenge –– an evolving challenge: editorially, graphically, technologically and sales wise, without counting all the related TV industry’s upheavals.

At all the TV trade shows -- where companies concentrate most of their advertising budgets -- VideoAge focuses on reporting, both for its monthlies and for its market dailies, while its competitors are concerned with ad page sales for their next issues. And, at these trade shows, the impact of an easily available early-morning editorial vehicle is not diminished by online services.

VideoAge’s premise is simple: Deliver an excellent editorial vehicle, and an even better distribution and circulation operation, and the ad sales take care of themselves. On the other hand, publications that struggle with these two essential elements have to be much more aggressive in their sales approach.

Dom Serafini, a former international editor of TV/Radio Age, created VideoAge with a unique formula: The key companies in the TV business upfronted the money in exchange for ad pages. Among the first 20 supporting companies were: MGM, MIFED, Rusconi Editori, CBN (Pat Robertson), Canale 5 (Silvio Berlusconi), ABC TV stations, Eastman Kodak and Brazil’s Globo TV.

In early 1983 VideoAge introduced, at NATPE in Las Vegas, the industry’s first trade show daily (subsequently branded as The TV Executive) by using Polaroid pictures for the photo-page. This was an era without one-hour photo developing, without easily available fax machines and, in lieu of yet unfamiliar cell phones, bulky walkie-talkies and pagers were used. The now popular yellow VideoAge T-shirts were then worn as a way to identify reporters on the trade floor.

Among the first companies to support VideoAge’s dailies were: Enter-Tel, France’s TF1 and Telepictures. Today, the concept of dailies has been rendered more valuable by online services, which, in the hectic market schedules, are limited to e-mail checking, while trade news is more convenient in the printed format.

But this doesn’t mean that VideoAge neglected the Web. Indeed, it was one of the first trades to enter online services in 1997, first with its English site (www.VideoAge.org), followed by the Spanish-language site (www.VideoAgeLatino.com) and its Italian-language version (www.VideoAge.it). Today, VideoAge Online serves the industry with its daily E-Beat, e-mail press release round-up and its weekly Paper Clips (e-mail based press sampling service).

And VideoAge is still at the forefront of new technological initiatives. Starting in October 2006, advertisers will be able to run 3-minute audiovisual promo on a DVD that will be distributed with the print version, and placed as a streaming media video clip on VideoAge’s website.

In its 25 years, VideoAge has served the Baby Boomers, Generation X and now is pleased to serve the flip-flop crowd and its offsprings. But, being a creature of the ‘80s, VideoAge doesn’t find redeeming values in vertical integration, consolidation, monopolies, cartels, deregulation, and dominant positions. VideoAge loves the film and television industries, and values competition, fairness, opportunities for all, innovation and equal playing fields.

What the future holds for VideoAge is hard to predict, but it is determined to continuing to serve the industry with its biting editorials and aggressive distribution.