NAPCO CEO Ned Borowsky: 'Our total audience increased by 25 percent in 2011'
Founded 53 years ago by Irvin J. Borowsky, four employees and a magazine, Printing Impressions (today the industry's best-known magazine for printing and graphic arts worldwide), North American Publishing Co. (NAPCO) has grown to become a formidable force in publishing, with 15 magazines (including Publishing Executive), 20 e-mail newsletters, subscription services, several trade shows and a number of virtual shows, and more than 120 employees.
One of the Philadelphia-based company's strengths is its aversion to debt. It has, for half a century, remained debt free and free of shareholder pressures. It has continued to remain entrepreneurial, launching several new publications and products over the past decade, and more in the works. It also has acquired several online sites, including Gadgetell.com, Gamertell.com, Appletell.com and TeleRead.com.
Ned S. Borowsky, president and CEO, joined the company 28 years ago to ensure continuity of management and growth in the coming decades, and has steered the company through several of the most challenging periods in publishing's history.
Here, Borowsky talks about his outlook on print (hoping for a flat 2012), NAPCO's biggest challenges, its growth areas and focus on audience development and data as it forges ahead in a highly transitioning industry.
The Revenue Picture
Noelle Skodzinski: What is your overall financial outlook heading into 2012?
Ned Borowsky: 2011 has been a very challenging year for many businesses and particularly business-to-business publishing.
At NAPCO, we expected the revenue gains in 2010 to continue into 2011. Accordingly, we budgeted 2011 aggressively for growth, which we now see was unrealistic. Ad spending particularly in the second half slowed in response to economic pressures. We were also affected by the tsunami in Japan, which wiped out four to six months of Japenese ad spending that would have otherwise occurred. Now the flood in Thailand is slowing down key manufacturing sectors, which in turn will slow down related ad spending.
We are seeing a bounce in December, and while it is still early in the cycle, we are also seeing a moderate increase in bookings for 2012 versus last year at this time—both positive signs.
Skodzinski: What are your biggest growth areas?
Borowsky: Growth areas include webinars, lead gen, custom publishing, live events, virtual trade shows, online advertising—virtually every revenue area except print registered growth in 2011.
Skodzinski: What is your financial outlook on print?
Borowsky: We operate with four groups [the Printing & Packaging Group (publisher of Printing Impressions, among others), the Consumer Technology Group (publisher of E-Gear, among others), the Target Marketing & Publishing Group (publisher of Target Marketing and Publishing Executive, among others), and the Promotional Products Group (publisher of Promo Marketing, among others)]. Print declined in two of our four groups in 2011. Certain brands in the other two groups saw an increase in print. We are hoping that print overall will be flat in 2012, so the net revenue gain outside of print will translate to growth overall.
Skodzinski: You currently produce the largest in-person event for book and magazine publishers, the Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo, as well as several other events and virtual events. Are events a growth area for you?
Borowsky: We project continued and strong growth in our trade shows—Publishing Business and CEA [Consumer Electronics Association] Line Shows. Publishing Business saw a large increase in paid conference attendance in 2011, which we expect to continue into 2012. CEA Product Line Show is now the mainstay of CE Week, so other publishers and organizations can co-locate events during the week. In 2012, we have doubled our venue size in response to selling out in 2011.
Skodzinski: What do you have coming down the pike?
Borowsky: We have several new products and services being launched in 2012 in each of our four groups.
We will be rolling out a new integrated website for our six consumer enthusiast sites, which will now be accessible through and branded by our consumer magazine [E-Gear] for this space.
We are aggressively launching niche … events both in-person and online.
We will be launching a lead-gen platform for our advertisers that will be integrated with our data warehouse.
We also will shortly announce a new launch for an entirely new market.
Skodzinski: What defines NAPCO moving forward?
Borowsky: We hope to become a company that is driven by our data warehouse—an enormous undertaking in several respects, from data integration and normalization to training and usage throughout the organization.
[In our] data warehouse, we have every type of engagement in the record of each member of our audience—from print to online subscriptions to webinars, conferences and trade show attendance, all controlled as well as paid activities with our company—enabling our marketers to pinpoint the right audience for our messaging as well as targeted lead gen for our advertisers.
Software development is becoming more critical to each market segment, along with creating customized online products.
[Also, our] company culture. Getting everyone focused on being creative and engaged in new initiatives. In this environment, growth is defined by new initiatives. If you simply rely on recurring revenue streams, it is unlikely you will grow or even maintain revenue.
Skodzinski: What are you focusing on to achieve that vision?
Borowsky: Companywide focus on the data warehouse, audience development, e-commerce and marketing services. We have picked our spots, and now the challenge is to bring everyone on board with training and companywide programs. We recently, for example, started to distribute to every member of our team where we stand in total audience by brand and group for the month, including growth for that month and how we are tracking to goal.
Skodzinski: Can you point to an important early sign of success?
Borowsky: Our total audience increased by 25 percent in 2011, and we are seeking a 33-percent increase in 2012—all without any increase in total circulation spending. Our 2012 goal is admittedly lofty. What we have accomplished so far reflects great content and the hard work of our entire editorial team. We are shortly equipping them with next-gen hardware and software platforms to enable our content creators to be more efficient and hopefully gain time to be more engaged in social media, which we feel will drive the growth we are seeking in audience.