Publishing Executive September 2009
As the head of an organization that counts both media owners and media buyers as members, I find myself in an interesting position to witness the mind-sets at both ends of the marketplace. For years, media buyers have been clamoring for access to standardized circulation data via an easy-to-use online tool. If the old "customer is always right" adage holds true, why not give customers what they are asking for?
In August 2008, at a time when many magazines were folding, L. Londell McMillan—an entertainment lawyer, real estate developer and part owner of the New Jersey Nets—snapped up the ailing brand The Source with plans to revamp the New York-based "Bible of Hip-Hop Music, Culture and Politics." He went to work quickly. By December, McMillan's efforts had won back major advertisers such as Sony, Warner Music Group, the Army and the Navy. In February, the magazine announced that it had eliminated $3.75 million in outstanding debt—a sum that McMillan, who is co-owner and executive publisher of The Source, personally secured in financing to free the brand from this burden.
Widely regarded as the print industry's most prestigious event, the 2009 Gold Ink Awards received more than 1,000 entries across 45 competitive categories, including Consumer Magazines, Magazine Covers, Magazine Inserts, Specialty Magazines (Web), Trade Magazines (Sheetfed) and Trade Magazines (Web), to name a few. In all, 132 entries were selected for Gold, Silver or Bronze honors.
While overseeing production and manufacturing operations has never been easy, its difficulty level has seemingly increased tenfold in recent years. Not only are meeting deadlines and quality standards paramount today, but cost-cutting, managing an ever-increasing workload with fewer and fewer resources (i.e., automating anything and everything), and adapting to the realities of digital publishing are now neck-and-neck for first priority.
From computer-to-plate to conceiving ad portals to workflow automation and beyond, he has the smarts, the charm and the energy to do whatever it takes," says Alan Snyder, prepress operations manager at Fry Communications Inc., of 2009 Publishing Executive Hall of Fame inductee John Blanchard. "He has no fears of what-ifs, and can easily asses a value in a process—or opportunity."
Testifying in front of a congressional committee is unlikely at the top of most business executives' lists of career goals—especially these days—and yet it was this act that probably best distinguishes Mark W. White's career to date. Standing in front of the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, on Oct. 30, 2007, White delivered a brilliant, surgical argument on behalf of publishers everywhere that forced the various interests to rethink their positions and promoted efficient mailing to benefit both the USPS and publishers alike. It is for contributions like these that White, U.S. News & World Report's vice president of manufacturing and distribution, is a 2009 inductee into the Publishing Executive Hall of Fame.
Today's production department bears little resemblance to the analog world of film and FedEx of not so long ago. As digital and multimedia are layered on top of a print process that is undergoing rapid change, "doing more with less" has become a common refrain among production people—and in their case, it's far more than a tired cliche.
Shona Burns, upon entering college, was "bored rigid" with her business studies major. "I had met a couple of fellow students who were getting a publishing degree and found what they were talking about a lot more interesting …," she says.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and it seems that in our industry's case, necessity has prompted many magazine publishers—faced with declining ad revenues and other financial hardships, or simply greater competition in the marketplace—to be increasingly inventive in their approaches to publishing and the partnerships they are mustering up.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded of Bob Garfield's 5-year-old book, "The Chaos Scenario," in which he explained that various converging forces will doom mass media and mass marketing. Garfield argued that the style of old media will continue to be under stress and that this stress will change what we, as producers and users, have grown accustomed to expect from our media.
NOTE: This month's column isn't written to you, dear publisher. It's written to your advertisers. Please pass it along with my regards. It will help them be more successful with their online ads and get better return on investment (ROI) with limited budgets. In the end, it will help you, too: A happy advertiser is a repeat advertiser.