Sam Williamson: Advantage Computing Systems
Executive Vice President, Chief Product
Manager | Advantage Computing Systems
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE MAGAZINE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FOR 2007?
I think the outlook for the immediate future is really good for savvy publishersâ€”those who are investing in their own credibility and trading it for the readerâ€™s time, ensuring an ease of doing business by making their Web sites user-friendly, and developing good customer relationships through a fully integrated CRM system. Among our customers, those are the publishers who are getting the reader to focus on them and, as a direct result, growing the most.
WHAT ARE THE MOST CRITICAL ISSUES AFFECTING YOUR SEGMENT OF THE BUSINESS IN THE COMING YEAR?
Advantage Computing Systems writes fulfillment software for customersâ€”mostly for in-house fulfillment, but large publishers and service bureaus also use our software. Our most successful clients, based on growth, are the ones who adapt quickly and move at lightning speed. They are constantly reviewing their Web sites and making them easier to use. And theyâ€™re demanding
the most from their fulfillment systems. Theyâ€™re always pushing for more functionality. Those publishers are also demanding integrated systems and the highest quality reporting tools to analyze their information across all products and all customer activity. In addition, an active investment in the electronic worldâ€”in customer self-service, e-publishing, and e-commerce, for exampleâ€”is a critical issue facing our customers.
WITH THOSE ISSUES IN MIND, HOW ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS ADAPTING?
Many of our customers are integrating more and more of their data into one robust CRM system, such as Advantage. They used to have magazine, book, and, say, advertising data in our system. Now theyâ€™re adding conference and online subscription data, so itâ€™s all in one place. Then, they need sophisticated analysis tools that provide much broader customer information than was available in the past.
Publishers need to be able to ask all kinds of â€śwhat ifsâ€ťâ€”by list used, product sold, price point, premium offered, etc. And when a promotion doesnâ€™t work, the publisher needs to know why. Today, by putting historical data into a modern tool, the comparative information is available.
WHAT SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES ARE MAGAZINES FACING?
Everybody seems concerned about the competition between online and print. Frankly, I think people will continue to read print magazines for a long time. Online is a supplement to print, not a replacement. The challenge for magazine publishers is to figure out a strategy to supplement their print products, to give people richer experiences, and to make their sites easy to use.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH?
In the past, in-house software developers viewed service bureaus as key competitors. Last year, we signed an agreement with Palm Coast Data, whereby they can use Advantage software to service their clients. Having a service bureau as a key partner in providing excellent service to publishers is a huge opportunity for us.
In the magazine world, publishers who are the quickest to take advantage
of all the available tools and information and who are the most nimble in
providing user-friendly sites and service are the ones who will succeed. They
realize that the customers have many different avenues for doing business
with them and are figuring out ways to make them all work.