Magazine Industry Conference ‘Strikes Chord’ With Publishing Executives
Not even a George Clooney sighting could disrupt the 2006 Publishing Executive/PrintMedia Conference and Expo, which took place March 20-22 at the Hilton New York. The celebrity was filming his latest picture just feet away from the conference’s registration area and—predictably—attracted all sorts of ogling from attendees and passers-by, but it was the conference and expo that proved the stars of the week.
Much like the industry it serves, the conference found itself in an unprecedented state of evolution when it kicked off on Monday, March 20. Amid revolutionary changes in the world of magazine publishing, this year’s conference expanded with the theme “How to Manage the Evolution” to include entire conference tracks addressing publishing management and interactive media for magazines in addition to its traditional focus on magazine publishing, production and manufacturing. The industry took notice, as registered attendance rose 41 percent over the previous year, and sitting in on a number of sessions actually meant standing.
“The outstanding growth in attendance this year demonstrated that the topics and the speakers lined up really struck a chord with our audience,” says Noelle Skodzinski, Publishing Executive editor in chief and director of the conference’s educational program. “We expected a significant increase due to our expanded focus and more in-depth programming, but this surpassed our expectations.”
Publishing executives continually find themselves juggling heavier workloads and toting around lengthier job descriptions, all the while trying to navigate the uncertain future that is the publishing industry. The 2006 Publishing Executive/PrintMedia Conference set out to help alleviate this apprehension. Many months of preparation went into lining up speakers from some of the industry’s most successful companies, such as Consumer Reports, Time Inc., Hearst Magazines, Forbes.com, Style.com and TechTarget. Panelists presented and debated such hot-button topics as new business models, advances in workflow technologies and managing production workflow, integrating media for profit, and environmental sustainability, among others.
“[The conference offered] clear, concise and informative content that directly helps our business,” says Jonah Spegman, business development manager, Lorman Business
The expo drew increased interest this year as well. Vendors offering solutions and services from printing to prepress, e-publishing to paper, crowded the Hilton’s exhibit hall. New exhibitors came out in droves, with 27 companies setting up shop for the first time at the show.
“I found [the expo] to have a steady flow of qualified traffic,” says Ken Wollins, vice president of sales and marketing, Green Point Technology, a business process and data-services company. “I met with several high-level decision-makers who were genuine in their interest to consider new vendors.”
“As usual, [the 2006 conference] was everything we expected—and more,” says Megan Giuffrida, marketing coordinator, Thomas Technology Solutions, Inc., a systems integrator and publishing-services company. “Our leads increased from previous years, and we found the leads to be not only ready to purchase or looking to purchase, but the individuals with recommendation or purchasing power. We were busy throughout the entire show, with very little down time, which is a good thing. We are very excited for next year’s show.”
Post-show surveys showed that 65 percent of conference attendees said they found new publishing solutions at the expo, and 88 percent intend to use the information they compiled in their upcoming purchasing decisions.
magazine publishing: the new business model
The conference’s programming kicked off on Monday with a star-studded panel addressing “Magazine Publishing: The New Business Model.” The discussion, moderated by Bob Sacks, president of The Precision Media Group, focused on some of today’s most successful business models. The panel featured Ned Borowsky, president and CEO of North American Publishing Company; Mike Federle, group publisher, Fortune Small Business; Don Hawk, co-founder and president, TechTarget; Jeff Price, president SI Digital, Sports Illustrated; and Mike Smith, general manager, Forbes.com.
The panel’s moderator kicked off the session noting, “Today, the magazine industry prints 10 copies to sell four. That’s not very efficient, and in a digital world efficiency is everything.” Sacks went on to champion the importance of publishers embracing this digital world. “In talking about the successful future of publishing, I think you’re really talking about electronic publishing or, as I like to call it, El-CID: electronically coordinated information distribution. We must no longer consider ourselves as just print publishers, journalists and media professionals, we are information distributors. It doesn’t matter how you do it—print, online, PDA-—it’s content that’s king.
“El-CID is our ability to deliver information to multiple platforms, in an instant and on a global basis. That is what your business paradigm must be if you intend to survive,” he said.
Hawk’s company took the unconventional route to publishing industry success. He co-founded TechTarget as an online-only content provider in 1999 before adding print publications, and asserted that content—not necessarily distribution channels—is key to being a successful publisher. “Publishing as an industry has often been focused on the distribution vehicle, first and foremost. And successful publishing companies today … start with [asking the question], ‘what does the audience care about?’ and work out the distribution platforms after that.”
Forbes.com provides an interesting model in that the magazine is made available online with “completely unfettered access the night before the magazine hits newsstand,” said Smith, and several days before the printed issues reach subscribers. But the majority of Forbes.com’s 15 million unique visitors each month aren’t logging in to read the magazine, Smith says, but rather to view the site’s extensive online-specific content. Forbes.com has a unique model in that it is an entirely separate company from the magazine and therefore employs separate editorial and ad staffs.
“Ironically the magazine content is not what is read a great deal online,” Smith says. “The magazine is read in print. … It’s the newsroom that we have at Forbes.com that’s covering the markets and covering business stories every day that’s principally what’s read on our site.”
Other Conference Highlights
Attracting the conference’s traditional production and manufacturing audience was a particularly popular session on Wednesday titled “Production Workflow Overload!” Dora Braschi Cardinale (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), Jane Chero (North American Publishing Company), Jim Delahanty (BusinessWeek) and Paula Jaworski (The Humane Society of the United States) spoke to a full room about managing increasingly challenging workloads.
A highlight of the conference’s "interactive media for magazines" track came on Wednesday as well, when a panel of online experts led a double-session on “Models for Revenue-Generating Web Sites.” Gordon McLeod (Time Inc.), Christopher Peacock (CNNMoney.com), Jason Purdy (Journalistic Inc.), Dee Salomon (Style.com) and Stacey Vollman Warwick (SI Digital) spoke about the multi-pronged approaches to generating online revenues their companies are employing.
Plans for the 2007 Publishing Executive are already underway, with content to help publishing executives enter what Sacks calls “the golden age of publishing.”