PrintMedia Conference & Expo Draws Top Executives
Despite a run-in with a snowstorm for the second year in a row, the PrintMedia Conference and Expo, held in conjunction with the BookTech Conference and Expo, drew nearly two thousand publishing industry executives to the Hilton New York on March 7-9.
A New Setup
The Conference and Expo started with a new twist. Day one, which in past years featured the keynote and the opening of the exhibit floor, was set-up day for Expo exhibitors this year, while conference attendees filed into the meeting rooms for day-one sessions.
The first session of the conference was a hit among magazine and catalog publishers, as it addressed a challenge every print buyer faces: analyzing printing bids. The speaker, publishing consultant and PrintMedia columnist Steven W. Frye, has negotiated contracts for dozens of major magazine and catalog publishers over the years, and he had many experiential tales to share with PrintMedia Conference attendees, as well as a step-by-step plan for obtaining accurate, organized bids and selecting finalists before choosing the print provider that best suits your company's specific goals and needs.
Some quotes from Frye's presentation that attendees took with them to help analyze printing bids:
• When you hire a printer, you hire the other half of your company.
• Even if you love your printer, when your contract comes up for renewal, go shopping. Things change, the market changes, prices change.
• Only negotiate prices with the company you want to do business with at the end of the process. Nickel-and-diming makes things more complicated and makes the printer defensive.
• Ask for samples from a prospective printer that are printed at the same plant, on the same presses and on the same paper as your publication.
An afternoon track conducted by IDEAlliance, a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advancing user-driven, cross-industry technology solutions for the publishing industry, focused on how standards and best practices simplify an end-to-end supply chain in the publishing environment.
"We're happy to have a partnership with IDEAlliance to develop content on standards and best practices in the industry," says Mark Hertzog, publisher of PrintMedia magazine. "[IDEAlliance] discussed standards in the industry that were of interest to magazine publishers, book publishers and ad agencies."
PrintMedia Conference's 15 Minutes of Fame
The doors to the expo floor opened on Tuesday morning, shortly after the conference made its national television debut on the CBS "Early Show." The PrintMedia staff was joined by dozens of exhibitors and speakers in the "Early Show" plaza at 7:30 a.m. to promote the conference to a national audience.
On the show floor, almost 120 exhibitors displayed a panoply of tools and resources ranging from workflow software to color-management solutions to cross-media publishing solutions. Printers were also on hand, offering full-service programs, and paper companies offered leading-edge paper products.
Major players in color-proofing systems all displayed their latest technologies, including Creo, DuPont Color Communication, Enovation, Hewlett-Packard, Integrated Color Solutions, Kodak Polychrome Graphics and Serendipity Software Pty.
Among the many workflow solutions on display, Savvis Communications launched Wam!Net Content Submission Portal, a service that offers companies a simple and secure way of receiving editorial content and photographic images through a single, customer-branded, Web-based submission portal. Publishers that receive their data through multiple sources, such as CD, e-mail and file transfer protocol, can streamline the process and receive that same information from one source through a portal customized for each publisher's need.
"Publishers spend too much time gathering digital images from multiple sources, which [then] need to be sorted and organized," said Melissa Fox, director of marketing with Savvis Communications. "Typically this content has no information or metadata associated with it, making the review process even more challenging. With our Content Submission Portal, digital images are submitted with identifying metadata to one location where [the images are] reviewed, organized and distributed."
The online, subscription-based service integrates into existing networks, Fox said, eliminating the need for additional hardware or software requirements.
Every Picture Tells a Story
Prior to the opening of the exhibit floor, William L. Allen of the National Geographic Society, addressed hundreds of attendees with the conference's keynote in the Hilton's Sutton Parlor. Allen led off with the statement, "Print is increasing as the dominant face in the industry," adding that this is what he'd like to believe.
Allen spent 38 years with National Geographic magazine, the past 10 as editor-in-chief. He explained that there are many challenges that keep the publishing industry from being the "dominant face"—one of those challenges is that other forms of media have cut into the demand for magazines and books, creating a society that is reading much less than it did even 10 years ago.
National Geographic is a magazine that tells stories through the use of beautiful imagery as well as concise, well-written editorial. So the primary focus of Allen's keynote was on photography, the major component that causes readers to pick up the magazine at newsstands or subscribe to the publication in the first place, he said. He explained the lengths the magazine's photojournalists go through to produce the images seen every month in the publication. From staring down a charging elephant in a remote part of Africa to staying a few steps ahead of a swirling tornado in the Midwest, National Geographic photographers often risk their lives to meet the demanding requirements the magazine stipulates.
"We could publish a very good magazine with the photographs we don't use," said Allen.
Surprising to some attendees was the fact that only about 20 percent of the magazine's photographs are digital, but Allen explained why: The magazine has yet to figure out the logistics of storing as many as 40,000 2MB image files in a content management system at a reasonable cost.
Allen said, however, that National Geographic expects its use of digital images to increase to 30 percent or even 35 percent by the end of this year.
With the publication of the March issue, Allen stepped down as the magazine's editor-in-chief, and will devote his "free time" to other projects such as a vacation—something he hasn't taken in 10 years—and to writing a book.
Top-of-Mind Issues Addressed by Industry Experts
Many of the conference sessions held through day two and three of the PrintMedia Conference and Expo addressed issues that are on the top of the minds of the printer's customer. One session focused on the most pressing challenges in magazine workflow today—with panelists such as Bob Wiemers, operations director of the Boy Scouts of America's magazine division, and PrintMedia columnist and industry consultant Bob Sacks of The Precision Media Group, discussing new technologies and best practices on the horizon for magazine publishers.
Variable data printing and digital soft proofing were among other topics that drew significant interest from attendees. Industry experts were on hand to present case studies demonstrating effective examples of personalized print production projects. Eve Asbury, executive vice president and director of print and digital production for Saatchi & Saatchi, was among the panelists leading the presentation about how soft proofing has played a critical role in speed and overall efficiencies, major factors in today's print market.
With the final hours of the show on Wednesday, March 9, plans for the PrintMedia Conference sessions and Expo exhibitions were already under way for next year's event, scheduled for the Hilton New York, March 20-22, 2006. For information on the 2006 PrintMedia Conference and Expo, visit www.PrintMediaExpo.com.