Special Report: Publishing Business Conference and Expo
With a trying 2008 and 2009 behind us, most publishers who attended the 2010 Publishing Business Conference & Expo, March 8-10, seemed, at the very least, less worried about the future than they were last year and, in fact, most were quite optimistic. The conference theme, "Publishing at a Tipping Point," was the unifying force behind more than 60 educational sessions presented by 150 speakers from all walks of the publishing industry. The presentations and discussions focused on industry shifts and practical information to help publishers adapt and thrive.
The show, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, Times Square, drew more than 2,000 registrants, and registrations to the conference program were the highest in the show's history. The exhibit hall was filled with leading technology, solutions and services providers serving the publishing industry.
"Two-thousand eight and 2009 were really difficult years for the industry, and I think that this year, publishers realized that they really needed to come together to address the major issues we're all facing and to develop concrete plans for moving forward successfully," said Noelle Skodzinski, editorial director of Publishing Executive and the Publishing Business Conference director.
Skodzinski also commented on the generous support from the industry in pulling off an event that exceeded expectations. "The support we received from industry thought-leaders, our conference chairs, our advisory board, our exhibitors and sponsors, and our attendees was amazing. It proved that there is a strong need for this type of strategic, hands-on programming, integrated with the industry's largest trade show showcasing vendors who can help publishers not only save time and money, but also to move into the next wave of publishing technologies and media. People (including me) were excited to be a part of it."
The conference was chaired by Chris Foster, President & COO, GIE Media, and Samir Husni, aka "Mr. Magazine" and founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center. Speakers hailed from companies and magazines such as Hearst, Hanley Wood, Hoffman Media, Food Network Magazine, Readers Digest, Dwell, FierceMarkets, Popular Science, The Week, Questex, Consumer Reports and many others.
"With so many examples of innovative things publishers are doing today, shared by both presenters and attendees, I left the show, as did many attendees who have called and sent e-mails, feeling completely revived about our future," said Skodzinski. "Sure, there is a lot changing around us, and change is scary; but there is also a lot of opportunity for publishers out there that didn't exist before."
"I got quite a few questions answered that had been nagging our company … and left with some ideas that we should implement here at Ogden," said Bill Uhler, general manager for Ogden Publications. "What more can you ask for from an event like this—answers and direction!"
"[It was an] excellent program [with] great speakers," said Fran Fox, senior director, production/manufacturing for Dwell.
"… Great content from great experts—relevant to my business goals," said David Basler, editor-in-chief, Meeting Professionals International.
For those who missed this year's event, here are a few highlights:
Tuesday's Keynote: Steve Forbes Sees
Publishing's Future in Audience Segmentation
"In the early days of TV, [soap company] advertisers came up with 'soap operas' as a way to showcase their products to homemakers," said Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, during an expansive Monday keynote event—where Forbes was interviewed by Esquire Editor-in-Chief David Granger—that touched on everything from U.S. monetary policy to the iPad. The soap operas themselves were not devoid of "editorial" merit; they were not advertorial in the main, Forbes said, but their reach and specific audience allowed special advertising opportunities that producers were able to capitalize on.
Unlike many publishers at the show, Forbes did not believe publishers would be able to make up advertising dollars lost throughout the last decade by charging customers more, but he exposed opportunities similar to those that drove the success of soap operas in greater audience segmentation for new media.
"We have to get over this mentality that everything is corralled," said Forbes. One key to his strategy is to segment and repackage an audience, and the content that reaches segments of that audience, in ways that advertisers can get behind, and then provide metrics that prove the investment is paying off for them.
"Marketing is not one-size-fits-all," said Forbes. "Now you're going in like a consultant," trying to find an advertising solution that's a fit for that client (a sentiment echoed by Cathy Black, below). For example, Forbes recently sold the exclusive sponsorship of an editorial content segment to an advertiser in a deal not unlike the old-time TV version of sponsorships. "It's not enough to have eyeballs anymore. Now you need to be able to break it down," he said. "We may have a smaller audience for certain pieces, but they may be very valuable to certain advertisers."
Proving the value of the investments advertisers make in your publication is essential, according to Forbes. "More and more, marketers want to know what they're getting," he said, and in order to prove that value, publishers must have the metrics set up ahead of time and be ready to educate the advertisers on their implementation and value.
Cathie Black: 'We Have Become an
Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, wanted to make it clear to the world that, despite the difficulties of the past year, magazines "don't have a consumer problem, we have an advertising problem."
Black spoke at the Tuesday "Reinventing Today's Publishing Company" special event with Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road Integrated Media (and former president and CEO of HarperCollins), and unveiled a magazine industry marketing initiative that will put ads promoting the value of magazines in front of 750 million readers before the end of the year.
"My great worry was that the relentless negative coverage of newspapers today would bleed on to magazines," said Black. But where newspapers have a readership problem as many migrate to the Internet for primary news gathering, Black sees the magazine industry's problems as more an extension of advertiser skittishness. Although she said it was unlikely for the industry to see another "2007" in ad revenue, she also pointed out that Hearst anchor publication Cosmopolitan's cover price went up over the year, with even more ads. Much of Hearst's growth came from outside the U.S., where readers still are heavily drawn to print—20 percent of 2008 revenues came from overseas.
Black stressed that magazine publishing is not an either/or business, but an "and" business, where people will prefer to read in different mediums, including e-readers, tablets and on the Web. However, she said, "The great problem we're all dealing with is that today digital advertising is still pennies to the dollar," compared to print. Digital revenue was actually up 20 percent for Hearst, but that represented only a fraction of print revenue.
So, like Forbes, Hearst has become more active in working with advertisers to customize multimedia campaigns, rather than just selling ads. "We have become an advertising agency," said Black. "When we are talking to an advertiser about a program, it has 70 or so bells and whistles associated with it."
Editor's Note: Audio and video downloads of sessions from the 2010 Publishing Business Conference & Expo, including the Forbes/Granger Keynote address and the special event with Cathie Black and Jane Friedman, are available for purchase at Napco.webcredenza.com. You can buy individual sessions or bundles to get more sessions for a greater value.