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Tony Silber

Time in Which Content Retains Value is ‘Rapidly Compressing’

Tony Silber Audience Development - 02/08/2010-16:00 PM

Last week, I attended the Fulfillment Management Association’s annual President’s Panel, which features the leaders of the major fulfillment houses talking about the business. It’s always a great and informative session.

I was particularly struck by comments from Ray Butkus, CEO of ARGI. Media companies are in crisis, Butkus acknowledges, and because of that, their supplier partners are as well. But the crisis, he said, has nothing to do with readership and circulation. Online or off, the readership is there. “The crisis has to do with the ability to make money off [readership and circulation],” Butkus said. “You create content, but the time within which content retains value is rapidly compressing.”

According to Butkus [pictured], database and fulfillment partners need to facilitate a media company’s ability to create content products based on knowledge of what the market needs, and the traditional two-week window for reports and other information is no longer good enough.

Butkus’ point is important. Fulfillment providers need to think differently about what they do for media companies. They need to help media companies generate revenue in the new world of digital media. And that means providing real-time intelligence on the audience, and creating a software infrastructure that enables transactions based on content.

Butkus said it this way: “Bringing the financial transaction together with the person who wants it, when they want it, requires a moment of truth. It’s altogether fitting and proper for that to reside with us.”

Tony Silber

Demand Media Can Go To Hell

Tony Silber Editorial - 02/04/2010-16:36 PM

EARLIER: The Value of Online Content: Practically Nothing

I used to scoff at what newspapers paid freelance writers for stories. Then I heard about Demand Media.

In the magazine industry, somewhere around $1 per word has been the going rate for most magazines for at least 20 years. Write a 1,500-word story, get paid $1,500. Large consumer magazines pay significantly better, going as high as $4 per word for the large magazines. There’s been no increase in fees in 20 years, but you can make a living.

Newspapers traditionally were much worse, paying $250 or so for that same 1,500-word story.

But Demand Media trumps newspapers for cheapness. Demand pays its contributors $15 per story, or 3 cents per word on a 500-word story. Demand, a four-year-old company, creates a huge amount of content that goes on various how-to sites, and is designed in part to attract Google ads. In a story yesterday on, author Matt Pressman describes the process.

He says Demand Media employs 7,000 writers, editors and videographers and produces 4,500 pieces of content a day. He adds that writers are flocking in droves to Demand Media. Pressman quotes Steven Kydd, Demand Media’s executive vice president in charge of content, as saying that writers have the benefit of steady reliable work and a quick turnaround on payments.

Please. Spare me. Getting a quick turnaround on nothing is meaningless because it’s still nothing.

Demand Media isn’t really a new idea. Sites like and Themestream relied on freelancers and non-professional enthusiasts. There’s a site used by the newspaper industry called Helium that pays writers something like $25 per article. Kydd, who spoke at an MPA lunch this week, wants to partner up with magazines.

I hope no magazine ever partners with Demand Media. In fact, I hope Demand Media and any site like it goes out of business. They demean and abuse professional content creators, leveraging them to generate revenue from Google ads.

They’re sweatshops. No magazine should accept content from a company that treats content with such disrespect. In the end, too, you get what you pay for.

Tony Silber

A Death Knell for the Newspaper Business?

Tony Silber B2B - 12/11/2009-17:13 PM

Trade magazines can be a barometer of the health of an industry. Journalistically, they cover the health, troubles and trends in an industry. As businesses, they sell advertising to an industry’s suppliers. In a complex symbiotic relationship, trade magazines rely on suppliers to an industry for their own health, while suppliers rely on the business health of the readers of a trade magazine.

When all is in harmony, it’s a virtuous circle. Businesses thrive as the industry’s trade press provides rich information that fuels still more success. This creates demand and interest among still more suppliers, who grow as they find new customers. As the suppliers grow and proliferate, they spend more money on marketing in the trade press, which thrives, and which then provides more information to the market.

Yesterday, Nielsen Business Media reported that Editor & Publisher was shutting down.

Clearly, Nielsen concluded that the supplier community serving the newspaper industry can no longer sustain a media business that reports on the newspaper industry. When you get to the point where the suppliers have dwindled—or not enough of them believe in the value of using a third-party media source for the marketing—you’ve got a problem.

And that tells us a lot about the state of the newspaper industry.

Say what you will about the value of newspapers, and in their heyday—virtually the entire 20th century—they were all powerful. Even now, the journalism produced by newspapers is unmatched. As a force for democracy, and an essential ingredient for a thriving society, newspaper journalism is as vital as ever and lives on—just online.

As a technology, however, it’s all over. Newspapers are dinosaurs. Take the “paper” out of “newspapers.” The world has passed the technology by. What used to be fresh at the doorstep in the morning is now, at best, several hours old. The Web does all the things newspapers used to do, circa 1920, but better, plus a hundred other things too.

This process of transformation is causing enormous disruption and pain. But in its wake come thousands of small entrepreneurial businesses as well as leaner, better old-line newspaper companies that are Internet-centric.

One victim of the transformation is Editor & Publisher, which is a bit ironic, given that E&P itself transformed into an online-centric business several years ago. In recent years it has been an award-winning, game-changing media brand. Just not enough of a business for Nielsen Business Media. But its editor, Greg Mitchell, is well regarded, and what didn’t work for Nielsen perhaps could work for Mitchell in another context.

Great editors, after all, are brands unto themselves.

Tony Silber

When Corporate Cultures Break, They Can’t Be Easily Fixed

Tony Silber B2B - 12/02/2009-16:51 PM

The corporate culture at Cygnus Business Media is toxic. So, perhaps, is Advanstar’s. And Nielsen Business Media’s. The Prism part of Penton Media used to be.

These places and many others have become nasty cauldrons of resentment. It gets expressed every time FOLIO: writes a story about them—expressed in the hundreds of comments from past and present employees.

I’m not blaming the employees. The reasons for their unhappiness are obvious. These companies have been through too many cycles of change in ownership, changes in management, downsizings, layoffs, salary cuts, loss of talent, loss of spirit, loss of camaraderie.

It doesn’t matter anymore who’s in charge. CEOs come and go, and always talk about how “thrilled they are to lead a company with strong assets and proven brands.” That’s called whistling into the wind, my friends. Job one should be fixing the culture. It’s scary that so few of these leaders recognize that, especially given the profoundly unsettled condition of the print-based media industry these days.

Let me take you through some of the evidence. I’ve elected to use recent examples only from Cygnus, but it could easily be one of the others.

A few weeks ago, the latest CEO, John French, announced a management restructuring. Three senior executives departed. The story, as all Cygnus stories do, generated an avalanche of comments. Consider these verbatim snippets:

“What goes around comes around. I agree about the Interactive and IT divisions. With few exceptions, they are a total disaster. Unprofessional, unskilled, mired in red tape and playing favorites. Zero help from these groups. Zero leadership, zero communication. Got what they deserve.”

“He [Edit note: I removed the person’s name.] was in over his head certainly and he knew it. He fell into the Idea of protecting his turf rather than working for everyone else. Although the team was mismanaged when he got it, he didn't know how to restructure. His political tactics were designed to punish everyone else and he cut himself off from the world to avoid further exposure. For Cygnus, the mistake cost dearly in time and resources. Too bad it took so long.

“You are so on the money. The culture that [he] and others represents is one of mistrust. They literally came on board and said "we don't trust you." Everything they did said "we don't trust you." How can you build a team without trust? Theirs was a culture of intimidation! Yes, HR got behind this negative culture—and so did the sitting President! This culture was destined to fail.”

Then, back a bit earlier this year, Cygnus filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Here is a bit of what some of what the commenters thought:

“The System Works? Wow, what a great system: A bunch of fools invest (throw away) tons of money buying b2b magazines, proceed to strip them bare, lay off as many editors and sales peoples as possible, eliminate middle management so that the magazines have no relationship to their industries, and then try and sell them off another bunch of losers. Then failing that, they declare bankruptcy. Wow, what a system. Glad it’s dying.”

“We’ll know when they emerge from this, if they are serious about their business: Get rid of the dead-weight management, bring actual talent back, re-establish the core values that have been lost some time ago, and do business based upon principals that leave room for integrity and ethics, as well as profits. The only thing that seems to be certain is this: If they leave the two clowns [a reference to the co-CEOs whom French replaced] in place, it will continue to be a circus, and we’ll sit in the cheap seats and listen to the drum rolls as they perform another high-wire act without a net.”

“Cygnus properties were third-tier when they bought PTN. They’re still third-tier unless they’ve re-defined the tiering system to add a fourth tier.”

As part of the bankruptcy process, Cygnus released financial projections, which foresaw a 35-percent revenue decline in 2009, and which FOLIO: wrote about. The reaction:

“Hah! I love it. Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization...and RENT! How about EBITDARS—add salaries in there too! What, isn’t rent a REAL operating expense? Finally the air gets let out of this poor old balloon full of fourth-tier, under-funded, properties (that’s not to blame the hardworking staff that has been bled to death for years). So what is “interactive” revenue—oh, I remember, back in 1998 that’s what we called online revenue. I’d like to see Cygnus increase “interactive” revenues by TEN MILLION dollars next year as it is projected above - sure, no sweat. It’s dollars to dimes people and when we get right down to it the dimes are becoming pennies.”

“Cygnus’ tipping point was the moment the owners brought in [the former co-CEOs] to save the company. The two whiz-kids from out East “streamlined” Cygnus by firing a lot of experienced, talented, knowledgeable people, and then what did they do? They created countless high-paying upper management positions for each and every one of their little friends. Suddenly rank-and-file employees were inundated with orders and commands from people they had never heard of before, with jobs that never existed before, and it all went to crap. The mammoth effort to “go interactive” has been a textbook study in mismanagement. The CEOs really thought that replacing $5,000 print ads with $500 Web ads would save the company. A lot of good people have been screwed over, are being screwed over, and will be screwed over before the dust settles. Note to businesses everywhere: Never hire two CEOs who share one brain.”

When Cygnus hired John French, the commenters—presumably the same people who beat up the former co-CEOs, went crazy. A few samples:

“Why don’t these old publishing houses start looking at younger more experienced, Web-oriented publishing professionals that are capable to pull a company like Cygnus out of the rut and into the future? Look at the people outside the inner circle for example? There a many highly qualified, forward looking, quick successful B2B publishers that can manage to the bottom line and create good morale which translates into success. Every time.”

“John French “left” Penton a year ago. Now, he returns, a savior, to Cygnus, using the same “skills,” to “stabilize” Cygnus? Wow.”

“The last we heard from John French, in B to B’s “Who’s Who,” July 14, 2008: “Earlier this year, when French saw that Penton would not hit its year-end revenue goal, he acted quickly to make some difficult and unpopular choices, including instituting salary and hiring freezes in April and eliminating 42 positions in June. In memos, he told staffers the moves would help position Penton for future growth.” B to B, three days later, said this: “Penton Media, one of those troubled B2B media companies, is seeing more upheaval: John French, the CEO, is resigning. He will continue to stay on Penton’s board and will work with Wasserstein and MidOcean, the two joint PE owners of the company, on new media opportunities.”

So, can we expect the same kind of behavior? Come in, lay off people, exit? Expect another wild ride at Cygnus.”

In these difficult times, you need vision, adequate resources, and especially, motivated, talented people who support each other, believe in each other and their managers. At many traditional media companies, that’s gone. And so, those companies themselves might be gone too.

Tony Silber

The Last Samurai

Tony Silber emedia and Technology - 11/23/2009-13:11 PM

My friend Ted Bahr, CEO of BZ Media, blogged on this page recently that he’s retained his belief in the power of print media in b-to-b communications. Not only does he believe in its continuing power (a lot of us believe in that), he fights to assert its primacy.

“More and more marketers start conversations by letting you know that they’re not doing print as a matter of fact,” Ted wrote. “Many of my competitors and fellow high-tech publishers have given up, letting the river flow, and you can see the results in the steadily eroding group of high-tech titles still in print. I can’t quite explain why, but I refuse to yield. I refuse to bend to the times, to just accept the advertiser’s misguided notions that print is dead and not even worth talking about. I’m not giving an inch.”

Ted, in my opinion and many others’ opinions, is one of the bright leaders in our business. Whenever I spend time with him I learn things. He’s just really smart. He’s a big believer in FOLIO:, and a real supporter.

But I’ve got to say, I’m mystified at his position in this instance. What does he see that others don’t? Print advertising is in inexorable decline. This is a fact, and has been for some years now. New forms of media have emerged that perform the core function of b-to-b media—connecting buyers and sellers through the use of valuable content—better than print. The evidence is overwhelming. It’s something to be embraced, explored, exploited. Not resisted. Just look at the ravaged condition of so many print b-to-b magazines. So many are barely limping along, shadows of their former selves, thin, pamphlet-sized ICU patients.

Marketers are voting with their dollars on other forms of media. You can’t stop it. The fact that we haven’t figured out yet how to replace the money spent on the print ad with money spent on our online businesses, dollar-for-dollar, doesn’t change the more important fact that we need to figure it out.

Print will always be part of the mix because it’s still hard to beat in impact. It’s extremely valuable in establishing awareness as well as the important, hard-to-define element of prestige. It’s also still good at generating leads.

But e-media is better at too many things to pretend the scales haven’t tipped. We need to not fight the battle that radio executives fought in 1948. We need to move on.

In the movie, “The Last Samurai,” an American Army officer on assignment in Japan becomes entranced with Samurai warriors, and takes up their code. The movie ends with the Samurai wiped out by a modern Japanese army with guns and artillery and backed by Western countries. The scene symbolizes the inexorable march of progress and how technology changes, the new replaces the old, cultures clash, and the traditional ways can’t be held forever.

Image via

Tony Silber

The Media Company of Tomorrow: One Executive’s Take

Tony Silber B2B - 11/06/2009-14:37 PM

One of our keynote presentations at the virtual FOLIO: Show Virtual last week included a panel of leading executives in the industry, including F+W Media CEO David Nussbaum.

Nussbaum gave one of the most provocative responses during the hour-long discussion, essentially saying that print advertising is an irrevocably declining source of revenue, and that companies that don’t recognize that do so at their own risk.

As it turns out, Nussbaum jotted down some notes to the questions I asked the panelists to consider in advance. Here are Nussbaum’s notes, with the questions that prompted his thoughts.

Q: When will the industry see some recovery?
A: This is totally unclear, but there is a sense that we have found the bottom of the market. However, with consumers still under siege (credit difficulties, high unemployment, no or low salary increases), it is hard to see what the impetus will be for growth.

Q: What will the recovery look like?
A: I don’t think it will be ad driven. But rather, we’ll see an expansion of marketing budgets looking for “non-traditional ways to reach buyers.” That will mean everything from custom content solutions, to one-to-one marketing, and expanding our portfolio around our core brands to create new, profitable products and subscription services, like Webinars, which are a growing part of our business.

Q: Will we see the robust industry health of 2005 to 2006 again?
A: I really don’t know.

Q: How will the business be different going forward?
A: In a few ways.    

1. Print advertising will continue to be a no growth-to-declining business.
2. Events will rebound, but event producers will need to find a way to mitigate the high costs of exhibiting.
3. High quality and unique content, always at a premium, will be even more important as the Holy Grail of dollars for content will become even more intense.
4. Staff size will be kept lean, with those making it through the recession owning a wider variety of skill sets than those who came before. We need to be bringing new talent to the industry from outside our standard recruitment channels, and producing new ideas across e-commerce, retail, social media. There’s no limit to what we can learn.
5. Online advertising rates will continue to erode, but engagement will be at a premium.
6. Social networks, location-based marketing, custom content selection—these will all be critical for future media providers. And those who aren’t already building their communities may get left behind.

Q: Are media companies being disintermediated on the reader side through social media and blogs?
A: Yes and no. Yes in that there is much more competition for community building, for content presentation and for lead generation. No in that media companies are becoming strong participants in the blogosphere and in using social networks to both build community and drive traffic to sell stuff. F+W and other enthusiast media companies have a unique advantage in that our communities already exist, created around a common interest or goal. Being of and in the community, and respected and trusted though our own blogs, positions us well. Social media interactions are the key.

What are the most important things media companies can do now? Adjust organizational structure? Change their approach to content creation? Layoffs? Debt reduction?    
A: Media companies need to find a way to focus as vertically as possible, make community building the core of existence, ensure that staff is cross-trained, fleet of mind,  and willing to adapt to radical change comfortably. Portfolio management is critical. Organize your resources around the core communities and properties with the most opportunity for success.

Q: What will the media company of 2012 look like?
A: Community focused, really good at demographic analysis, excellent at nurturing around verticals, diverse in terms of product offerings and delivery systems, Web centric, advertising will be considered gravy, customers pay for content and contribute to the creation of content.

Q: What is the most important lesson og the 2007-2009 recession?
A: The sheer desire of people to adapt and to participate in tomorrow. I have really been impressed with the willingness of people to learn and to change.

Tony Silber

Magazine Innovation Center Offers Valuable Discussion

Tony Silber Association and Non-Profit - 10/12/2009-11:38 AM

When Samir Husni launched the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi in August, he said its mission would be to “amplify the future and power of print and its place in the media realm of the 21st century.” He declared that the American publishing model is dead, but that print is not.

Husni [pictured] was no doubt referring to the emergence of online media and the corresponding decline in print.

But in the Magazine Innovation Center’s inaugural event, the question of the relevance of print was framed in a completely different context: The meeting, held in late September, was a strategic retreat for the Arthritis Foundation, which like all associations, needs to balance its information-dissemination role with the fund raising role.

The two-day meeting, which included key executives from the Arthritis Foundation’s publication and association leadership, plus representatives from several other major associations, was a rich discussion on the role of print, its costs, its effectiveness against other media and more.

It analyzed the association’s marketing efforts and posed the question of what would happen to the association and its mission should it not have its respected publication, Arthritis Today. The print magazine, like all print magazines, provides valuable brand-building attributes, authority and revenue-generation potential.

And the discussion was guided by Husni, an indefatigable advocate of print, who likes to offer aphorisms such as, “Our business model failed when we began to count customers, not seek only the customers who count.”

The Innovation Center, with its academic ambiance and its pro-print ethos, proved in its first event to be a valuable place to work through the key questions facing both individual publications as well as the big macro issues as well.

Tony Silber

'Customer First,' Not 'Web First'

Tony Silber emedia and Technology - 10/06/2009-15:02 PM

I've been reading a lot lately about media companies going "Web first." I suppose it signals a recognition of the real-time value of Internet information, plus the invaluable online network of linkable relevant information, both inbound and outbound, plus the multidirectional conversations and communities the Web enables, plus the measurability of online marketing initiatives.

I suppose it means that staff needs to be redeployed to serve online initiatives and businesses, and not be solely focused on print.

I suppose that being "Web first" these days is better than being "print first."

But in a larger sense, what does "Web first" really mean? Does it mean we're bound to evolve into online-only companies? Does it really mean that our print magazines are secondary? We're ready, then, to walk away from the impact and power of the printed page, to consign it to a siding, a dead end, a vestigial appendage?

I don't think so.

And too, I wonder if all this "Web first" talk is just nonsense. When print makes up 50 percent to 75 percent of a typical magazine company's revenue, can it possibly be "Web first in a fundamental way?

The answer is no. No CEO is going to walk away from that kind of revenue in the interest of being Web first.

So what's really meant when companies say they've gone "Web first?" I think they're trying to say they've gone "customer first." I think they mean that the Internet has attributes that are so compelling and powerful that you'd be crazy not to make them the strategic core of your business.

I think they want print to play a role that online-only companies only wish they could do too: To deliver impact, thought-leadership, stature, the final result and the critical ingredient of perspective, none of which are the Web's strongest characteristics.

I think print publishers recognize that in the marketing game, no one really thinks of himself as a lead, and that without the crucial steps early in the buying process of knowledge of a supplier, awareness of its message, trust in its solution and staying power, a lead is worthless.

Tony Silber

Do We Really Need Two Audit Bureaus and Two Associations?

Tony Silber Association and Non-Profit - 10/01/2009-16:10 PM

Heard around the industry in the last few weeks, mostly in quiet conversations, but in increasing frequency: Is the magazine industry, in its troubled state, best served by two or more audit bureaus and two or more major industry associations?

In the case of the audit bureaus, the argument goes that with a declining membership for all audit agencies, there's less need for two or more. In addition, it used to be that ABC served paid consumer magazines and BPA served non-paid b-to-b magazines. But that line has been blurred to the point that the distinction is almost meaningless. Now the key point of differentiation is that ABC has newspapers (good luck with that) and BPA has a significant international portfolio.

Also playing into the question for audit bureaus is that marketers are buying direct, in effect disintermediating ad agencies, which have historically been the key consumer of audit bureau data.

But the main thing affecting the audit bureaus is that their traditional reason for existing is declining. Audit bureaus have built a business for 100 years on putting the third-party stamp of credibility on print circulation. For a decade or more they've moved in the direction of integrated solutions, including trade shows and Web sites. But their bread-and-butter always was and continues to be, print.

And in an age when print has declined from 80-plus percent of the b-to-b enterprise to more like 60 percent or less, and from 100 percent of the consumer-magazine to 90 percent or less, the writing is on the wall.

In the case of the two main industry associations, American Business Media and Magazine Publishers of America, the argument is more compelling. They've always been split by b-to-b and consumer, but the truth is they should be split by large-publications and small ones.

The associations are valuable for a few reasons: They create a forum for like-minded publishers to share information. They lobby the government, especially on postal matters. They provide for networking.

Small consumer magazines have much more in common with b-to-b than they do with behemoths like Time Inc. and Hearst Magazines, and they'd be right to ask themselves why they're in MPA.

The challenge for both the associations and the audit bureaus is real. Membership in the associations is not cheap, and every single thing they do costs more money. And while being a member of an audit bureau is not too expensive, qualifying can cost tens of thousands or more.

Tony Silber

Five Things One Executive Has Found to Be True

Tony Silber Consumer - 10/01/2009-07:17 AM

At the recent Niche Digital event in Minneapolis, keynoter and Network Communications Inc. CEO Dan McCarthy offered a wealth of takeaway quotes. Among them:

■ There are two indisputable realities in the media world these days, and we need to adjust accordingly. First, readers and users of our products are increasingly distracted and have abundant alternative sources of information. And second, advertisers want to spend less money.

■ The world is post-digital. If the IT person or the CIO is driving your Web strategies, you're going for a ride. The truth is that technology just works. We don't care how an iPhone or BlackBerry does what it does, we are not engaged with the technology behind devices, we just assume they will work. Instead, consumer behavior is the real driver and that's what company leaders should focus on.

■ A true premise, from which business strategy should evolve: "If you increase the channels of engagement with a market, you enhance yourselves and offer more marketing solutions."

■ One new approach to serving a market, is the Sharing Model. It starts, McCarthy said, with the notion that "Anything I'm interested in, people who are interested in me will also be interested in." Based on that, then share what you have, as you get it. "Go into the market," McCarthy said. "We have people who are knowledgeable. Let them go find things out and share them with greater frequency. It's a level of confidence. Instead of having everything you learn go into a funnel to be produced in a magazine or as a Web site, share as it happens frequently, in an unproduced manner."

■ There is a meaningful increase in brand vibrancy just by building a digital network. It doesn't take costly Web design, or expensive SEO. Use Facebook, Twitter, and use the entire workforce, whether sales, editorial, production, circulation or more. Instead, use high-frequency content updates by all staff.

Tony Silber

Jack Kliger: ‘At Least I’m Not Running a National Magazine’

Tony Silber City and Regionals - 06/02/2009-08:54 AM

NEW ORLEANS—The City and Regional Magazine Association’s annual conference concluded here Tuesday. (You can read FOLIO:’s coverage of the show here.)

Some leftover but timely quotes from event:

Author and speaker Orvel Ray Wilson, in a session on guerrilla marketing, quoting David Nour: “In social media, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Former Hachette Filipacchi CEO Jack Kliger, who spoke in the last session on the second day: “That’s where I always wanted to be—speaking at the last session of a conference where all the attendees are struggling through a recession and after they took a tour of Hurricane Katrina sites. I never followed Katrina before. Still, my opening line is good: ‘At least I’m not running a national magazine.’”

Famed designer Walter Bernard was asked what he’d do if he were art director of the New York Times. “I’d look for another job,” he retorted.

Question to one vendor: “How was this event?” Answer: “Pretty bad. I’ve had the least amount of conversations and interactions I’ve had at a show in some time. I feel like a printer!”

[PHOTO: Tony Silber]

Tony Silber

Overheard at IMAG

Tony Silber Consumer - 05/22/2009-09:19 AM

BOULDER, Colorado—The IMAG conference—a gathering of some of the best and brightest independent (and independent-minded) magazine publishers—wrapped up earlier this week. Here are some leftover notes, quotes, and erstwhile inspiration from my notebook.

•    In opening remarks, conference chairman Andy Clurman told attendees that the event would be a worry-free zone. “After all,” he said, “you are in Boulder, Colorado, or as we like to say, 25 beautiful square miles surrounded by reality.”

•    Bob Sacks of Precision Media Group gave a great luncheon keynote, but he didn’t necessarily adhere to what an earlier presenter, Len Burnett of Uptown Media, described as the five “Bs” of preaching: “Be brief, brother, be brief.”

•    Rick Jones, president and CEO of DLG Marketing, told attendees that he does not like being called a vendor. “That denigrates us,” he said. “We want to be seen as a partner.” To which Clay Hall, CEO of Aspire Media, later responded: “Mr. Jones says, ‘Don’t call me your vendor. I want to be your partner.’ And I say my partners share my risk. And then the vendors shut up. Then they’re happy being a vendor.”

•    The opening reception was held at the Colorado University stadium, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Perched prominently on one of those mountains is the large all-glass home of John Toomas Cabell, CEO of Cue Ball, an international magazine and media licensing firm. Cabell and a pre-event party he hosted at that house became the topic of conversation at a cocktail reception, as the sun glinted off the house. The stairs in the house had to be an exact replica of the stairs in Apple stores, noted one attendee. Another attendee wondered at how the house got zoning approval in Boulder, which he said is meticulous about what it allows to be built in the hills around the city. A third noted that Cabell asked him why he moved from Boulder to a presumably less glamorous locale. His response: “So I didn’t have to hear anymore people say how smart they were to move to Boulder.”

•    From a conversation with a supplier after a session on the online magazine-on-demand site “Wasn’t that just a commercial? Hey, I’d do that.”

•    Publishing entrepreneur extraordinaire Dan Weisner on the old days of publishing: “I miss the days when you could go write a few stories, sell a few ads and off you go.”