Special Report: Thriving in the New Media Universe
The 2011 Publishing Business Conference, produced by Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines, saw its highest attendance in its history. Held at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York, April 4-6, the conference and expo drew more than 1,200 publishing industry executives to its educational sessions and exhibition hall of leading publishing technology and solutions providers.
The educational programming focused on providing strategic information for senior-level executives in book and magazine publishing, with 40-plus sessions throughout the 2.5-day show and tracks dedicated to each publishing audience. This year's theme was "Thriving in the New Media Universe."
"We designed the theme around the idea that publishers are ready to take charge of their futures and move forward successfully amidst the changes surrounding the publishing markets," says Noelle Skodzinski, program director for the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, and editorial director for Book Business and Publishing Executive magazines. "We always aim to provide practical advice attendees can take right to the office to implement, and this year, the caliber of speakers who shared their insights and the mix of attendees who contributed to integral discussions about publishing's future were so inspiring and informative."
"The 2011 Publishing Business Conference & Expo was an excellent conference and definitely worth the investment of attending," said Jennifer A. Mojave, corporate services manager for Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. "Each session I attended exceeded my expectations, and I gained vast knowledge about the industry, best business practices, future predictions ..., etc. I can now share the information I learned with my team and move forth in improving our own business practices, and offer our Castle Connolly publications to our customers over multiple platforms we are investing in."
The conference opened with two high-profile morning sessions on cross-platform publishing and social media strategy, followed by a welcome address by Esquire Editor David Granger. Granger's comment suggesting that most of what he does he does out of "desperation, despondency and despair," rather than simply the desire to innovate, got laughs from a roomful of approximately 500 industry executives.
However, he also explained that he pushed his staff to innovate by saying that the printed magazine's form has essentially never changed, unlike the ketchup bottle, which now has the "brilliant" plastic squeeze bottle form, he stressed.
He explained his quest for pushing the boundaries of what a print magazine is, reflected in the magazine's electronic-ink cover in 2008 (which earned it Publishing Executive's Publishing Innovator of the Year award), fold out windows, mix-and-match cover images, augmented reality, etc.
Granger also explained that he and his team applied the same philosophy to Esquire's iPad app, which recently won a National Magazine Award for Digital Media for the mobile edition category. The app features moving cover images, such as Liam Neeson punching the "screen" and "shattering" it.
One of Granger's main messages: Print is still alive and well, and many opportunities exist for magazine brands to expand with digital content. He stressed his theme "Everything is possible," several times.
Most media coverage of the event focused on Granger's announcement of Esquire's new online retail venture, Clad—an effort to bring the consumer closer to (and able to buy) what is featured in the magazine.
After Granger's speech was a keynote address by The Onion President and CEO Steve Hannah, who not only showed videos from the satirical news media's website and new television shows (launched earlier this year), but also told the story of how The Onion started in a dorm room and evolved to "the most powerful media empire in the world." With books, online news and videos, e-newsletters, more than 2.8 million Twitter followers, shows on Comedy Central and IFC, and newspapers, it's covering all of the media bases.
Hannah also explained The Onion's relatively recent initiative to license the newspaper content out to major newspapers in various cities worldwide, so that The Onion would retain control of the content, but the licensors would handle ad sales and include local events listings and the like in the back of the paper. As Hannah noted, The Onion is about content-that's what they do best; why not let someone else sell the ads?
Hannah was followed by special guest speaker, consultant David Aldea, who spoke on digital transformation and prioritizing financial investments going forward. Monday also featured the Fourth Annual Digital Magazine Symposium, now a staple of the show and featuring several panels of leading innovators in the digital magazine arena.
Tuesday was packed with high-profile events and hardline tactics for adapting to today's publishing marketplace. In a special event called "All About Growth," Apprise Media Chairman and CEO Charlie McCurdy (who buys media companies, grows them and sells them) and Spanfeller Media Group President/CEO (and former Forbes.com CEO) Jim Spanfeller shared their insights into evaluating company weaknesses and pain points, and building on the most promising areas, as well as the secrets to building an online audience.
An all-star executive roundtable featured Frank Anton, Hanley Wood CEO (also co-chair of the conference); Samir "Mr. Magazine" Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center @ The University of Mississippi; Don Hawk, TechTarget president; and Hugh Wiley, Bloomberg Businessweek publisher. The panel discussed the major challenges they are currently facing and how they are addressing them, their greatest opportunities in a new media environment, and how they are building on their print-brand foundations.
Wednesday featured a half-day social media workshop, presented by social media expert Sundeep Kapur, author and digital evangelist, NCR, which was run in cooperation with the Online Marketing Summit. Kapur engaged the audience with success stories and tactical strategies, and provided specific solutions to audience members' social media hurdles.
Social media strategies were also addressed in-depth by Jim Hopkinson, Wired's "Marketing Guy." Hopkinson explained the strategies used to build Wired's Facebook followers to 186,000+ (at the time of the conference) and Twitter presence to 776,630+, among other topics.
"[This was] probably one of the most useful conferences on social media strategies for publishers I have attended," said Rob Whitaker, senior vice president, group publisher at SourceMedia.
Many attendees commented on the practical nature of the content, and the mix of big-picture and hands-on, how-to strategy.
"The Publishing Business Conference & Expo is without a doubt one of the best professional events I have ever attended," commented Barbara Dimauro, Circulation & Marketing Director at The Warren Group. "I came away energized, excited and full of new ideas from the many top-notch sessions. There is something for every publishing professional at this event, and I highly recommend it!"
Jack W Perry, owner of 38esno Publishing Services, noted, "[It's an] excellent mix of what is happening in both the digital book and magazine world."
"The Publishing Business and Conference & Expo is an annual must-attend event for anyone working in publishing," stressed Hal Garstein, director of manufacturing and distribution at The Deal LLC. "A comprehensive range of vendors and educational seminars provides attendees with important business, tech and trend information."
The event also drew attendees from around the world this year. "Frankly speaking, I am very impressed," said Ismael Olivar, manager, IT Consulting, Editorial Televisa, México City. "Overall, very interesting and fantastic information. It is [a] worth[while] conference."
The Expo: Solutions for All Walks of Publishing
Monday and Tuesday also drew traffic to the expo hall, filled with 70 exhibitors of a wide range of publishing technologies, services and solutions. "It's very helpful if you're looking for an all-in-one publishing show," said Stan Tracy, director, Capital Cities/ABC. "I found several vendors I will be contacting."
According to the post-show survey distributed to show attendees, more than 60 percent of attendees found new, prospective vendors in the expo hall.
With those figures, overall, vendors were quite happy.
"The Publishing Business Conference and Expo is the way to get in front of the industry's top publishers," said Chris Bryan, co-founder of EmailDirect.com. "The speakers are interesting and the attendees are engaged. Overall, this show is a fun learning environment (lots of raffles!) and a great place to network with the who's-who of the publishing business."
"Publishing Business is a critical event for us to meet face to face with our customers," said Jessica Aslanian, director of sales and marketing for digital solutions provider BlueToad, Inc.
Ben Hoffman, senior account manager for MoFuse Inc., which exhibited its mobile website management solutions in the expo, said, "The Publishing Business Conference & Expo is an excellent opportunity to learn about innovative technologies in the field of publishing, as well as meet those who are leading these transformations."
Jeff Soto, co-founder of MagAppZine, commented, "As a new company in the publishing world, The PBC expo was a great way to meet people in the industry, learn about what they are currently doing, and hip them to the new world of digital publishing."
Editor's note: Additional coverage of the conference can be found on PublishingBusiness.com. And mark your calendars now for the 2012 Publishing Business Conference & Expo, March 19-21, in New York. PE