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Welcome to the Magazine Spin Zone, Part Two

The semantics of a 'cancellation.'


Dylan Stableford By Dylan Stableford
02/27/2009 -16:25 PM






On Wednesday afternoon, I was told by a publishing CEO that American Business Media’s Digital Velocity conference, scheduled for March 3-4 at McGraw-Hill’s Conference Center in New York, had been cancelled.

Thinking this was an important story—given the cancellation of the American Magazine Conference the week before—I shot an e-mail to ABM and called a couple of the event’s organizers. No response. Our publisher e-mailed three of the event’s scheduled speakers. Each wrote back saying the event was cancelled; two added they were told ABM was “working on a way to recreate the content as a series of Webinars.” Meanwhile, a couple of the event’s exhibitors said that they were told not to send their booths to New York.

On Thursday morning, we posted a story with this headline:

ABM Cancels Digital Conference
Second publishing association event pulled within week.

Shortly thereafter, I received a call from ABM, which was upset about the word “cancelation.”

This is not a cancelation, they said. We are just moving locations (to ABM’s offices), shortening it (to a half-day) and are going to broadcast the sessions on the Web, they said. This way, we will be able to reach thousands of people on the Web instead of a few hundred—around the globe!—they said.

More than a few phone calls and e-mails later, reluctantly, I changed the headline to this:

ABM Digital Event Downsized
Two-day event now half-day, held in association's conference room.

Still, I’m not convinced.

When a publishing conference goes from a 250-attendee, two-day event to a half-day series of Webcasts, produced in a conference room, with less than 50 live attendees expected, can you really call it a “conference”?

ABM can. I can’t.

And I don’t get it. What’s wrong with saying your publishing event is cancelled? In this economy, it’s not like it’s a surprise, or an embarrassment. It’s reality.

The same goes for the sugarcoat-y spin the MPA and ABM try to put on their on monthly advertising figures (“Welcome to the Magazine Spin Zone”). It's like listening to an Alex Rodriguez press conference—in press release form.

More than that, I think what the MPA and ABM are doing is smart: trying to salvage something of value for their members in what’s becoming a brutal, brutal year in magazine publishing.

Just call it what it is.

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