CEOs Share Business Stories and Successes at FOLIO: Summit
Each panel of the day-long event was filled with useful perspectives.
In the past few weeks I have been to a series of outstanding publishing conferences. In six weeks I have been to Cleveland and the Content Marketing World Conference, The CDS Global Showcase at the Hearst Tower in New York, the FIPP World Congress in Toronto Canada, and then last week in New York for the Folio: Show.
My longtime readers know it is my practice to deliver honest criticism of any event, company or industry news. Criticism, of course, can be negative or positive, and from my perspective these last few events have been terrific, different from each other, but well worth attending.
The Folio: Show opened with a CEO Summit, and, as advertised, it was a room full of CEOs. The entire event was moderated by my friend Frank Anton, the longtime CEO and now Vice Chairman of Hanley Wood.
Frank opened the event by giving a rundown of the changes in the industry. He said, in the old days there were pages, trade shows and conferences with ads, booths and sponsorships. He went on to say that in the old days there were metrics that were well understood by everybody. There was a rhythm to the business, a regular and predictable schedule. The competition understood and played by the same rules. Margins were 40 percent for a good magazine. Trade shows could be 70 percent. It was easy and profitable for a century. Then the world changed and in an unsettling ways for the traditional publisher. It became no longer as easy nor as profitable.
I agree with all he said, except for the very last sentence. It is still easy for many an entrepreneur to make a fair profit, but definitely not for most traditional businesses with a traditional overhead. The new start-ups have no legacy infrastructure nor an overly expensive distribution system to have to support.
When I say that a start-up is easy it sounds like an overstatement, and it is. One old rule still applies. Not everybody who starts a business becomes successful. The success part of any business adventure is not a slam dunk. But the process of the attempt at success with a digital content project is much easier than it has ever been, and potential global reach is beyond any of our grandfathers' imaginings.
Each panel of this day-long event was filled with useful perspectives. Proof of that observation was the publisher sitting next to me, whom I have known for at least five years, and who was delightedly taking copious notes and would every now and then lean over to me and comment how useful this was for him. He will be taking back to his company a lot of new revenue ideas.
When Tim Hartman, CEO of the National Journal Group, was asked how he had achieved the current success, his answer was to change the culture. He said that businesses must build new cultures that challenge their older traditional cultures in order to make the business competitive. Have the revised culture compete with its core brand. He said his company decided that it was digital or nothing. That was the only path to survive. "We erred on the side of the future."
Culture Change has been a common theme of several conferences I have been to lately including the FIPP conference. Print is good but our future is clearly digital.
There were many other CEOs sharing experiences and thanks goes out to Tony Silber, Vice President, Folio: at Access Intelligence for putting it all together.
Here are some highlights from my notes:
Don Peschke, Founder, CEO, August Home Publishing
1) We don't have ads anywhere, so we don't worry about ad blocking. We sell content!
2) Content leverage—can you repurpose your content? Re-sell the same content in different ways?
3) We sell individual articles from already distributed products.
4) We re-purpose and sell back issues, woodworking plans, Tips, SIPs, tapes of the seminars we hold, DVDs of our TV show on PBS , Back issues from our library on-line, Video tips, Products, and we turn video editions – into a magazine.
5) We don't do budgets; we do forecasts.
6) We raised the price on exclusive members' editions where we gave them better paper and added another signature, and the renewal rates are off the chart.
Bottom line from Don was: If you focus on your content, your content is better.
Jim Spanfeller, CEO, Spanfeller Media Group, reminded us that consumers' needs and desires haven't changed, what has changed is the delivery (technology) method. He said digital is a non-linear experience while the analog form factor is very limiting. Also there are time limitations for TV and page (space) limitations for print. And here is an interesting observation Jim shared: It is only in the digital world were people buy from people they don't know and from companies whose location they don't know.
It's getting rather late tonight so my report must end here.The rest of the CEOs also had impressive observations, and I will try to cover them in a part two next week.
But I think it only fair to note the other executives in the room:
They were Aaron Oberman, CEO, Omeda; Todd Krizelman, CEO, MediaRadar; Dan McCarthy, CEO, Taunton Inc.; Dan Brogan, President, Editor-in-Chief, 5280 Publishing Inc.; Andy Clurman, CEO, Active Interest Media; Scott Dickey, CEO, TEN: The Enthusiast Network; Bill Carter, CEO, ALM; Kayvan Salmanpour, Chief Revenue Officer, The New Republic; Peter Goldstone, CEO, Hanley Wood, LLC; Bonnie Kintzer, CEO, Trusted Media Brands, Inc.; Brent Reilly, President, CEO, Randall-Reilly; Alex Ford, Co-Founder & CEO, Praetorian Digital; Kelley Damore, EVP of Content and Brand Director, InformationWeek, UBM Tech, UBM.