Jameson Publishing CEO Jim Roddy: On the Recession, the Value of Beer and the Power of Print
Jim Roddy, CEO of Jameson Publishing, is not your ordinary CEO, and the company is not your ordinary business-to-business publishing company. Among the best business decisions Roddy says he made in recent years involves "buying beer" and offering to help his overworked employees. The company, which was launched in 1980, has ranked twice in the top 10 on Publishing Executive's list of "Best Magazine Publishing Companies to Work For," and in any conversation with Roddy, it's easy to see why.
But Jameson Publishing also has demonstrated a keen sense of serving its audience—both readers and advertisers—with value and offerings that shift as the audience's needs change.
Jameson Publishing produces four print magazines—Business Solutions Magazine, Field Technologies Magazine, Integrated Solutions for Retailers, and ECM Connection—as well as 15 websites, a number of buyers' guides and e-newsletters, all for the IT industry.
Here, Roddy talks about his company's efforts to grow despite the recession, to what he attributes the company's success, where the company is investing most heavily, its MarketConnect online advertising and lead-generation program, and his desire to launch additional print publications to serve new audience segments.
The Revenue Picture
Noelle Skodzinski: What is Jameson Publishing's fastest-growing revenue segment?
Jim Roddy: Both print and online sales are growing at a double-digit rate. Our growth has been across the board.
Skodzinski: To what do you attribute that?
Roddy: Several factors. The economic conditions for our customers are much better than they were the past two years.
But the better economy is only part of the picture. We're gaining traction in print in part because we continued to invest in our product (audience quality and editorial quality) during the recession. Many other publishers slashed their circ budgets, and so the quality of their readership plummeted. Our audience development director is aghast when she looks at some of their BPA statements. They replaced readers with junk. We didn't dare do that.
Our Web product is also a competitive advantage for us. We're not just buttons and banner ads. We have the ability to syndicate content for our advertisers, promote them to our audience, and can then capture leads for them from that content syndication. We brand it under the name MarketConnect. Our customers don't really care what we call it—they're just thrilled with the results.
Most important to our success is this: We're not the biggest publishing company in North America, but I'd put the quality of our employees up against any other b-to-b publisher. Our team did a phenomenal job during the recession. They understood the need to do more with less. And they didn't just hold down the fort; they innovated and positioned each of our products to take advantage of growing sectors in their industries. Our customers love our employees, and so do I.
Skodzinski: Have you held any virtual events or webinars? If so, do these provide significant supplemental revenue, or do you expect them to in the future?
Roddy: We produced several webinars in 2010, and we expect to produce more in 2011.
We don't have plans for virtual events because our Web product, which we've branded under the name MarketConnect, simply provides way better value than what we've seen virtual events do. There's no reason to add that product to our offering now when our combination of magazines and MarketConnect is so effective for our customers.
Skodzinski: Where is Jameson Publishing investing most heavily?
Roddy: You're probably expecting me to talk about something cutting-edge here, but that answer wouldn't be accurate. We're investing most heavily in our people. We've learned over the past 30 years that the core of a publishing company is its people.
All publishers have desks and computers and websites and print a book every month. What separates ordinary publishing companies from world-class publishers is their ability to connect with their market, adapt to the market's needs, and innovate to make your product indispensable to both your subscribers and your advertisers. Desks and computers don't do that. People do that.
The amount of training and support we offer to both incoming employees and our longtime employees is abnormal. And we're thrilled to be abnormal in that regard.
Skodzinski: Has the way you serve marketers/potential advertisers changed in the past year or two, or is it changing now? If so, how?
Roddy: For sure. The product offering is more complex. For about 100 years, you sold space in a magazine and had some unique print offerings. Now every publisher offers at least a dozen different products, plus potential advertisers can conduct their own marketing activities (e.g., social media, e-mail marketing) without your assistance. We kind of marvel when we look back just a few years-things used to be so simple.
Skodzinski: Where do you see Jameson's print publications fitting in to the company's long-term strategy?
Roddy: Jameson's print publications will continue to play an important role. We'd like to launch more magazines in the appropriate markets. Our magazines continue to help our customers achieve their marketing goals, so there's no reason for us to slow down that activity at all. We plan to accelerate our involvement in print where appropriate.
Skodzinski: What are the company's biggest challenges?
Roddy: Trying to establish best practices throughout the entire company with the landscape changing so quickly. Publishing employees could spend their entire day reading up on the new activities and products other publishers are delving into.
Even More Interesting Stuff
Skodzinski: What is something your company did right to survive through difficult economic times?
Roddy: Because our team is so important, we communicated with each other frequently. There was no guessing where we stood financially and what our challenges were.
Because our team communicated so well with each other, we fought the battles together and overcame a lot of daunting challenges. We kept working instead of worrying.
What also helped was periodically giving our operations manager a couple hundred bucks to go buy beer for the staff. We'd shut down the office for part of the afternoon, drink a little, and then come back the next morning and work our tails off.
Skodzinski: What are you most excited about this year?
Roddy: Seeing the efforts of our team come to fruition to an even greater degree. We said to each other during the Great Recession that we knew we were going to work harder than we ever had before for basically no reward. You were just fighting to keep what you had. We also said that we knew our efforts would pay off down the road with sharper skills and growth. We're hoping 2011 is our best year ever. Our team certainly deserves it.
Skodzinski: What is the best business decision you have made during the past year or two?
Roddy: First, buying beer for our team, and second, asking them as often as possible, "How I can help you?" Everyone on our team is professional, talented and hard working, so serving them is the smartest thing I can do.