A Publishing Legacy, Remembered
The phrase "legacy publishing" tends to be cast in a negative light in the magazine industry, used to allude to bygone ways of doing things. But it's all too easy to forget we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. The many achievements of print-centric, twentieth century magazines paved the way for the dynamic, data-driven, multi-platform magazine media companies we see emerging today.
There's a reason I bring this up. A few days before we were to send this issue to the printers, the founder of North American Publishing Company (NAPCO), parent of Publishing Executive, passed away. Irvin J. Borowsky, 90 years old at the time of his death, founded NAPCO in 1958.
Borowsky left a publishing legacy in the best sense: a solid stable of niche B2B publishing brands, an ingrained dedication to serving the respective audiences, and a strong company fabric to hold it all together into the foreseeable and unforeseeable future. He balanced all that with extensive philanthropic endeavors, such as founding the American Interfaith Institute in 1982 and the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia in 2000.
I didn't have the to opportunity to know Borowsky personally (he stepped away from day-to-day operations in the early '80s), but looking back at this legacy, there are hints as to which characteristics were material in building a successful publishing company. As evidenced by his first foray into publishing in 1948 with TV Digest, a publication of local TV program listings, Borowsky was keen to new trends. (There were only about 50,000 TV sets in the Philadelphia region at the time and many thought radio would win out.) Yet Borowsky was able to capitalize on the then-nascent technology, and TV Digest was acquired and eventually became TV Guide.
Dave Leskusky, president of NAPCO, compared Borowsky's foresight in regards to TV Digest to someone envisioning where personal computing was headed back in 1972. "He was really good at seeing opportunity where others didn't," says Leskusky.
NAPCO's first magazine title was Printing Impressions, a still-thriving publication for commercial printers. A printer himself, Borowsky wanted to help other printers navigate the industry. "Most of them were family owned and he wanted to help these guys run their businesses better," says Leskusky. "Everything he did was about serving, whether it was a marketplace or a community."
Interestingly, when we approached some publishing all-stars to contribute to the Big Ideas issue, we weren't sure what we'd get. But a theme emerged: Amid an industry stabilizing itself after tremendous disruption, in a world of information overload, with new tools and platforms emerging almost daily, the essentials of publishing haven't changed much. Connecting content to dollars may be more challenging, but information gathering and presentation-and trend-spotting, service, education, and community building-remain the publisher's guiding principles.And those principles are a publishing legacy that we should carry as an inspiration, never as a burden.
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.