2010 Hall of Fame: Bill Amstutz
Sometimes it seems someone was simply destined for something—a child obsessed with watching the constellations and the moon shift in the night sky becoming an astronomer, or with an unquenchable thirst for writing becoming an author. For Bill Amstutz, that destiny, was, interestingly enough, being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He was a student at RIT, which co-hosts the Printing Impressions/RIT Hall of Fame—held in conjunction with the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame—recognizing excellence in printing and manufacturing. "I remember the Hall of Fame … [and that I] thought about being a Hall of Famer," recalls Amstutz, who is now director of publishing operations and strategic planning for New York-based NewBay Media. "It means something coming from RIT; there were pictures on the wall of the printing building where the Hall of Famers were, and I remember thinking that that was cool, and it was an honor to be a part of it."
Today, Amstutz can consider his aspirations fulfilled as a 2010 inductee into the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame.
Fun With … Scitex?
Amstutz's first magazine publishing experience was as an editor for RIT's weekly magazine. But the lure of the print production process quickly won him over. "We were doing a lot of creative things … at that time. Because digital publishing had just begun, we were able to use the old Scitex [printing system], where we could manipulate photographs, and produce four-color magazines or black and white …, and it was really fun, and I decided I wanted to be in magazine publishing. So I switched my major to printing, got my degree, and you know, the rest is history."
History, as it turns out, led Amstutz, postgraduation, to San Francisco, where he worked for a prepress house, whose customer was magazine publisher Miller Freeman (MF), owned at the time by global media company United Business Media (UBM). "… A job opened up there," he explains of his transition to MF, where he worked from 1991 to 2006 in various capacities, including running production operations in New York, and then on Long Island for newly acquired b-to-b media company CMP Media.
There, Amstutz met Steve Weitzner, now CEO of Ziff Davis Enterprise. "Bill … emerged as one of the best people and business managers in the company," says Weitzner. "His people skills became immediately obvious in the merging and consolidation of two very large staffs with disparate cultures. When I became COO and later CEO of CMP, Bill was a trusted lieutenant and confidant. He added expertise in audience development to his portfolio and had a hand in nearly every operational aspect of the business, which was quite large and complex at that point."
In fact, Amstutz counts the integration of CMP and Miller Freeman, and this year's integration of several Reed Business Information titles NewBay acquired, among his greatest achievements. That and, he says, "the reinvention of the production process—the whole digital thing. For so many years, it was a thorn in everyone's side."
Constant Change: 'Super-fun'
"The whole digital thing" and today's need for "reinven-tion"—from production to business models to skill sets—is, for Amstutz, decades after aspiring to be in the Hall of Fame, nothing shy of an "amazing time to be working in the industry," he says. "So much is changing … and it's just so not static, that it's super-fun," he laughs.
"… And now with all the channels of digital media, the stakes are greater because we're looking at our business models and the way we can reach audiences and … fulfill advertisers' needs in new ways—super-fun," he says.
Embracing Multimedia, But Not Print's Bad Rap
Aiding his adaptability is his perspective on publishing itself. "I think it's less about the publishing side of things and more about servicing our advertising customers who may want to market to a specific demographic … or community—they can come to magazines for that, and [publishers] can provide not just a print presence, but also the other media channels," says Amstutz.
"Bill's vast understanding of modern media, both strategic and tactical … defines his value to NewBay and the broader publishing community." says Steve Palm, NewBay's president and CEO.
What concerns Amstutz the most, he says, is "the bad rap that printed magazines get. People [keep saying] that print is dead …, but I think … that [it is] still important. Maybe I've listened to Steve Palm too much," he laughs, "but I think that there's a way to build your business focusing on print."
A Noble Endeavor
In addition to believing in print's continuing value, a pinch of idealism has helped Amstutz through difficult times in his career. "I've always sort of felt idealistically about magazine publishing as being an influence on the culture, the community, and … I try to keep that mind-set even when you get into the weeds," he says. "I kind of always like to think what we do is somewhat noble."
Perhaps this is part of what inspires him to share his knowledge with others, serving on the editorial advisory board for Publishing Executive and as president of the Publishers Production Forum for 10 years and counting. He has spoken at numerous industry events and was co-chair of the 2008 Publishing Business Conference and Expo. He was the first chairman of American Business Media's (ABM) production technology committee in 1996.
For those who know Amstutz, however, one of his greatest assets is his unique sense of humor. "Bill has a wry sense of humor and an almost perverse hatred of my beloved Yankees," says Weitzner. "He is an unrepentant Cleveland Indians fan, and that makes him almost lovable."
However, "in all seriousness," notes Weitzner, "he is so deserving of this honor. I can't think of anyone else in the publishing business with his combination of technical knowledge, management skill and cultural acumen." PE