For media service providers, the mandate in the last decade has been upgrade or become obsolete. That dynamic is particularly acute for providers that have their roots in print-based services. Accordingly, fulfillment provider Palm Coast Data announced this week it has earmarked $2.6 million for tech and service enhancements in 2014.
The announcement broadcasts the company’s commitment to advancing its platform. In other words, it wants customers and prospects to know it isn’t sitting idle.
"We’re not stuck in the mud," says Rory Burke, Palm Coast Data’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, responding to what he describes as a fear-based competitive sales environment. Legacy service providers don’t necessarily inspire confidence among a digitally-focused publishing community, after all, unless there’s a clear path to modernization. "We’re making very clear-headed decisions with the future in mind."
The $2.6 million is coming out of existing capital, says Burke, who adds that the company is operating with EBITDA at about 10 percent. In its last fiscal year, PCD’s EBITDA was $5.3 million, he says.
According to company financials for PCD parent company AMREP Corp., fiscal first-half revenues in 2014 for the Media Services Group, which ended October 2013, were up almost $1 million to $41.8 million compared to the same period a year prior. That, says the company, was primarily due to the December 2012 acquisition of FulCircle, which had first-half revenues of $3.2 million. (The Media Services Group includes the PCD operation under parent company AMREP. Also included in the Media Services Group are newsstand distribution and product and packaging services.)
Operating expenses for the Media Services Group jumped from $33.4 million to $35.5 million during the same period, again as a result of the FulCircle deal.
Burke says PCD will be hitting product upgrade benchmarks over the next 18 months. Six months from now will be the first, a shopping cart solution provided through a partnership with e-commerce software provider Elastic Path.
Supporting this has been a developing partnership with IBM’s Cognos business intelligence platform, which, says Burke, will drive the core offering of PCD—a centralized customer information database that will allow for dynamic offers triggered by customer data.
Burke claims the centralized database will indeed be a single repository—not several systems that relay data back and forth. "This issue—adjoining all the data in one environment—doesn’t exist elsewhere. We all talk about it, but the fact of the matter is we’re toggling between one system and another to create a comprehensive view."
Other updates will include a streamlined credentialing process that will support existing customer log-in systems, and a digital metering platform.
But Burke acknowledges that service providers can’t necessarily provide a closed system, especially since publishers are constantly looking for ways to have multiple technology platforms talk to each other. "We understand that we may have a set of services that are comprehensive, but our clients may have other needs. We are creating a system that will be open enough to create partnerships with other third parties."