Archive for the ‘ industry news ’ Category

By Keith J. Kelly- NY Post

March 4, 2014

Print, long bashed as a relic of a bygone era, seems to be making a comeback with an unlikely bunch of backers — digital-content
companies.Unencumbered by the old legacy structures that boosted ad-rate bases with low-quality subscriptions, the new digital-to-print
movement for the most part seems to be narrowly focused in specialized niches.
“Many print assets have enormous brand equity, and these have been grossly underleveraged in digital,” said Joe Mohen, a digitalmedia
executive who has looked at a number of print brands in recent years.
“However, what is entirely new is the phenomenon of exploiting digital-only brand equity in print,” Mohen said. “This could turn
out to be successful, but the management team really needs to know exactly what it is doing in order for that to work.”
Much was made of last year’s relaunch of Domino, the much-beloved print magazine that Condé Nast folded in 2009.
When it was brought back to life last year, much of the attention focused on its Web presence and the fact that it had venturecapital
backers and only a partial ownership by Condé Nast.
The new company is called Domino Media Group.
This week, the second print edition since the relaunch is hitting newsstands. And its chief revenue officer, Beth Brenner, concedes
that 90 percent of the revenue is still coming from print.
“Despite the fact that everyone wrote about our shiny new penny that was our digital side, we are still making a big investment in
print,” Brenner said.
In recent weeks, Politico has introduced a small quarterly magazine, and Capital New York last week mailed out its first print
version. Both are small circulation.
Gone are the days when major publishers pushed out expensive launches and raced to get to 1 million circulation.
Domino, for instance, had a circ of more than 800,000 when it folded five years ago. Now it distributes only 200,000 copies to
newsstands and has only just begun soliciting paid subscriptions.
Advertisers seem to like the new version. The latest has 36 advertisers.
“They want to see how their message can work across all platforms,” said Brenner, who was also the publisher at Condé. “But print
is not the finish line. It is the starting line. And I don’t think print can be a mass vehicle.”
That might come as something of a shock to her old Condé Nast colleagues, who still sell lots of annual subscriptions on an oldschool
model where most of the subs are priced under $20 and don’t even offset the cost of mailing.
The attraction of smaller-circ is not lost on Jim Impoco, the new editor in chief of Newsweek, which on Friday relaunches a print
edition of the magazine that Barry Diller and Tina Brown blew about $40 million on last year at IAC/InterActiveCorp before selling
it to small digital publisher, IBT Media.
Since the sale, it has survived as a Web-only publication — with some overseas licensees still cranking out a print foreign edition.
Impoco insists the return to print is not just a vanity play or a publicity stunt.
“The problem was everyone was playing with the old model,” he said. “They had a rate base, and everyone tried to jack it up as high
as you could so you could get more for the advertising. It’s the same way some of the content bombs in digital chase clicks.”
Newsweek will only distribute 60,000 to 70,000 copies. It will only go to newsstands, and Impoco insists it will be profitable.
Old Newsweek once boasted a circ of more than 3 million.
“I think we are going to be making 80 percent of our revenue from print by the end of next year,” he said.
Jason Binn, an entrepreneur who sold Niche Media in 2006, launched Du Jour Media two years ago and was one of the first
converts to the new print playbook.
Binn worked with Gilt Groupe and initially expected his new company would offer only a digital-only publication. But when he
launched two years ago, he added 250,000 print copies — distributed quarterly to high-income buyers — in addition to the
monthly PDF version.
He says he expects an upcoming BPA audit to show he has 2 million “opt in” subscribers from the print and digital side.
“We were profitable within the first six months of launching,” Binn said.
Perhaps the biggest digital-to-print success story is, which was founded 15 years ago and was sold by financially
ailing Reader’s Digest to Meredith Corp. two years ago for $175 million.
Last year, Meredith launched it as a print edition:, the magazine. Print revenue has a long way to go before it can
catch up to digital ad revenue, based on its status as the top food site, with 22 million unique visitors in the US.

After taking a call from the BBB and listening to a long, rambling sales pitch, I decided to reprint this article.
“The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a scam, and hundreds of thousands of unfairly targeted small business owners have known it for years. Now, new publicly available evidence confirms that suspicion for the rest of the world, too.

The original “complaint forum”, the BBB has long represented itself as the impartial moderator of business disputes. Consumers with complaints about businesses would lodge their complaints with the BBB, and the BBB would send a letter to the business. If the targeted business responded to BBB’s satisfaction, then no damaging report would be made. But if the BBB was dissatisfied with the targeted business’s response, BBB would gladly provide that information to anyone who asked for it, and attach a rating of “A” through “F” depending on BBB’s own biases.

Many businesses live or die on their BBB rating. This is ridiculous, since the BBB has no actual authority whatsoever. Yet, for some reason, the public has long considered the BBB to be a reliable indicator of the experiences of the public with particular companies.

Now, the truth – long suspected by so many small businesses – is out. According to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the BBB’s rating system (“A” through “F”, like a report card) can be manipulated by offering financial incentives directly to the BBB.

Example: One small company – Bayless Custom Homes – had an “F” rating with the BBB. Owner Gary Bayless had never been informed of the one complaint that led to the rating. Bayless says he contacted the BBB about the issue, and they agreed to change the grade to B+, or to an “A” if Bayless would join the BBB organization, which includes the requirement that Bayless pay the BBB.

Example #2: Deciding to test the theory of BBB irrelevancy, some L.A. business owners created a fake business name – Hamas, after the terrorist organization – and submitted a membership application to BBB. This fake business doesn’t exist and has never done business. Yet the BBB saw fit to give it a rating of “A-” with no more justification than the $425 application fee.

Note that the problem is not ONLY that the BBB is exchanging “good” grades for money. The bigger issue is that anyone trusts this utterly irrelevant organization to begin with. Bayless’ example is instructional there as well: The BBB targeted Bayless’ company and exerted undue and unwarranted negative influence over him without so much as a notification that they’d chosen to accept some random complaint against him. They then offered to accept what I believe is a tantamount to a bribe to remove their bogus negative rating that never should have existed to begin with.

The Better Business Bureau is an irrelevant, antiquated and probably fraudulent organization. “


It has always been my opinion and practice that unless you had patented technology or processes, it was beneficial to all industry parties to share practices, ideas and methods. In the last 4 or 5 years, I have switched my viewpoint in the polar opposite direction. Perhaps it’s because we in the industry are under such daily duress. Maybe it’s a case of trying to hold on to any edge whatsoever. Whatever the cause, I do believe I am doing a disservice to the company I work for and ultimately jeopardizing the jobs of all employees by sharing operations information of any sort.
I will no longer allow a competitor to tour the plant, nor will I allow a broker to do that either. People talk, use information against you and will try and emulate your processes and steal your clients. The industry was not like that (at least as prevalent) in the past. It is now. That calls for counteraction – close the doors and keep it that way. Sad but necessary.

We live in a society where a trend has developed that is very disturbing. I see it in the Federal Government, in the workplace and in the culture in general. It has been evident in the print industry as well. We seem to live in a world where everything is someone else’s fault, or someone else’s responsibility. “I should not have to commit to signing that document. It’s someone else’s fault I wasn’t productive today. And of course, it’s someone else’s responsibility to be sure I am successful.” Of course, people will not necessarily actually utter those words, but by their actions, that is what they are saying. What happened to us being accountable for ourselves? What happened to realizing that you alone are responsible for your productivity and actions? What happened to making decisions and living with the outcome – good or bad?

We’re in a huge flux in the printing industry. Things are changing every day and sometimes it’s hard to know where to focus. That also makes it easy to get overwhelmed. Many printers are desperate and will give a client anything they want, regardless of whether it is a rational business decision. BUT that does not negate the need for employees and customers to take personal responsibility and be accountable for decisions they make. Nor does desperation give you the right to make stupid business decisions. If you are faced with someone who fails to take personal responsibility, then you have an incompetent employee or a bad customer. Both have to be addressed-before you get burned.

Our company has been in business since 1953, and the industry has changed dramatically and undergone revolutionary technological changes during these last 59 years. However, not since the invention of moveable type has our media seen such dramatic changes, as during the last 10 years. Technological changes within the industry and outside of the industry have dramatically altered most printing business models. Printers that have not or did not alter their business strategies/models are either going to close or have already closed. What are the major causes of such a downturn in the industry? Allow me to list a few of the major reasons:
1. Over Capacity.
Every new press runs faster and the make-ready labor is less. Theoretically, that is a good thing. In reality, it has created a very high amount of underutilized equipment across the nation. Komori, MAN Roland, and Heidelberg “shoehorned” presses in printers’ plants on leases that eventually broke the printer and/or added to the industry-wide capacity problem. Much like Scitex did in the early 90′s, they saturated the market. As you can see, Scitex is no longer around, MAN and Heidelberg have been on life-support for 5 years or longer….Under utilization creates falling prices, as firms slash prices to try and build utilization.

2. Not Understanding Cost Accounting.
The sad truth is that there are ignorant printing companies that have no idea how, when and why they show a profit or a loss. Some are managed by marketing people who only think in terms of increasing revenue without any regard for cost or price. I have worked for a few of them…they left a trail of broken companies behind them.

3. Kindles, iPads and Nooks
Large publishing plants are consolidating or closing because of decreases in circulation or the elimination of a title. Reading devices are the major cause.

4. Advertising Revenue Decreases in Print Budgets
As advertising goes, so goes the printers’ clients that depend on ads. The printing slice of the ad revenue pie has been decreased, with larger amounts diverted to New Media.

What does the future hold?
How do YOU Survive? Well, you need to think about these three issues:

a. How do I become a low cost producer? What do I reduce? Materials? Labor? SGA? Buyouts? You better “slash” hard somewhere.

b. How do I make money (monetize) my digital product offerings?

c. How do I develop/educate my Salesforce so they can engage with a client in more than just print? If price is the only reason you hold onto an account, they will eventually move the business to a cheaper plant, even a foreign plant if it works for them. (Chinese printers are all over the printing industry marketplace, using Social Media as an entry point.) How can my Salesforce learn to engage with a client in digital/e-media products? Essentially, print Salespeople need to learn how to become Agency Account Executives – as printers become more like Ad Agencies.

We live in an age whereby Printers do not survive unless they invest in technology, employees juggle many duties and there is an emphasis on being a low cost producer. If a printing company has high prices – guess what? They go out of business. If their presses are 30 years old – guess what ? They go out of business. You get the idea – it’s really not rocket science.

But when we move from the private to the public sector, the dynamics change. “Government efficiency” is considered an oxymoronic concept. We are shocked when someone in the public sector seems to care about our problem, is competent and has a sense of urgency in their duties. That is very, very sad – but even more so, very destructive. The U.S. Postal Service is the poster child this year for a government agency no longer able to survive in the modern age.

Attempts are being made at restructuring, but what is the long term outlook? Yes, they have labor unions to contend with. But they also have other major problems with far superior competition (UPS, FedEx), and a huge volume decline; not to mention a computer infrastructure that is a joke.

For example, have you ever used the USPS tracking system? I have many times – and 90% of the time, the package is delivered while their system still
says “A label has been generated. No further information is available.” That is a workflow process that does not scan often enough (hardware issue?) or a database that never syncs with field data. Either scenario is from a flawed, and broken system. Compare the tracking to their competitor, UPS, whereby they can tell me on my Droid (with their own app) each and every step in the shipment. AND when it is delivered, I can see the signature in an email within 5 minutes after delivery. Now – is it any wonder that UPS Ground is a better choice than Priority Mail?

Have you ever visited a Post Office, and there is a like-new credit card reader sitting on the counter, but you cannot use it? It even has a sign on it that says “Do not Use” . The Postal worker has to take your card and scan it themselves – once again a broken system. AND taxpayer dollars were wasted on a project that did not deliver on its’ promises. Was anyone held accountable for the waste or cost? Why not? In the private sector, people lose their jobs when
millions are spent on failed projects. They actually have to have an acceptable ROI.

Why is the USPS broken ? I think it’s simple – no U.S. government agency can compete in the private sector, where efficiency and competency is required for survival. Capitalism is Darwinian, eliminating waste and rewarding smart capital decisions. Government agencies tolerate waste, bad decisions and Capital project cronyism. It’s not rocket science…

Embracing New Media

There seem to be two schools of thought among printers regarding “New vs. Traditional” Media. On the one hand, some printers fight anything that has to do with digital media, viewing it as a threat to their business that they have to treat with utter disdain. And then there are printers that are trying to determine how to add digital to their product and service offerings in order to build more effective and ingrained customer relationships. I submit that the latter school of thought will work and the former will be an utter and bitter failure.

One has to, first of all, believe that print media will always serve a purpose in our society, which I believe it will. And yet, digital media will not be defeated considering the cost of getting a digital message to the marketplace. Second, there is the learning curve for the printer. New software and hardware is needed, new applications have to be learned, and salespeople have to understand how to use a digital product to their advantage. Third, there is the fear factor to overcome. Fear in the customers’ mind is usually based upon the unknown of what a digital product is and how to create and use it. If ad sales reach the point whereby a printed product is unsustainable, clients sometimes look to a digital replacement, in order to keep the title alive. But clients, like printers, have to learn how to launch a digital product, the types of e-media/books available and most of all, how to sell their advertisers and make it profitable for them. They many times fail to do the simple things, like buying an iPad to learn what the craze is all about, and how it can be used for their title.

Printers and their clients have to learn to embrace digital media and determine how they can use it to make their clients more effective in their product sales and/or advertising. The alternative is to keep “kicking and screaming” until the sheriff shows up and lots of people are out of work…

Is Customer Service a Lost Art?

As I write, I have been on hold with Adobe for 29 minutes…I had a very simple, simple question which I needed answered. In order to get that answer I had to provide my name, software serial number, email address, version of Acrobat X, version of the problem software (Firefox 5). I also had to previously wade through a menu that did everything it possibly could to discourage me from talking to a live human being. When I finally did reach a “warm body”, the usual occurred: first, the impression that I am in a boiler room in Calcutta; then interrogate me for 5 minutes to verify my identity; ask me to define the problem; rifle through papers so they can find a canned script to fire back at me; put me on hold to discuss the problem with their “service team” (code for they are clueless how to fix the problem). Then, after returning to my call, ask me a few of the same questions I already answered. Bottom line: there is no fix for the problem yet. (Firefox 5 does not allow you to create a pdf from within the browser, as it did before with Acrobat X….). He could have simply told me that in the first 60 seconds after I identified the problem, if he was knowledgeable.

In commercial printing, if you “jerk people around” like that, you are out of business eventually. Why? Because I can hang up the phone and call another printer for a price or schedule or design help. Customer Service is very important for survival in this age of printing. In some cases, it is the only thing that separates you from your competition.
What about quality? Everyone prints well these days…
What about service? Deliver jobs in 3-10 days or your shop will quickly be empty.
Price? This industry is so cheap already I am amazed at pricing levels. With technology, prices have plummeted. A job that would have cost $10,000 in 1980 will now cost $3,000. Name me another industry where you charge 70% less for your product and you still survive (maybe electronics?).

Treat your customers well, and they will come back…and your customer service can be the difference maker, and possibly the only thing that separates you from your competitors.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The owners of North America’s two largest makers of coated paper are discussing a deal that could result in one of them having a significant ownership stake in both manufacturers, according to a published report. NewPage’s owner, Cerberus, and Apollo Management, which has a controlling interest in #2 maker Verso Paper, are discussing what to do about NewPage’s high levels of debt, PPI Pulp & Paper Week reported recently. Apollo is also the largest holder of #1 NewPage’s $800 million second-lien bonds, the publication said. “One mutually beneficial scenario could see Cerberus retaining a diluted equity stake by sharing ownership… with Apollo through debt equitization,” the publication said. “Debt equitization” means debt held by Apollo would be converted to an ownership stake.
Apollo’s apparent “loan to own” intentions for NewPage came to light early last year when it and two other hedge funds snapped up more than 50% of the second-lien bonds, apparently under the assumption that NewPage’s inability to make debt payments would eventually give them control of the company.
Magazine publishers, printers, catalog companies, and other major buyers of coated paper would certainly cry foul if two companies controlling more than half of the continent’s coated paper capacity tried to merge. But it’s not clear whether Apollo would trigger any antitrust alarms if it obtained a sizable equity stake in NewPage by swapping debt for equity.
Analysts and industry executives have touted consolidation as the path to reasonable profitability for paper manufacturers. The tactic has worked well in the North American uncoated freesheet market but not so well in the newsprint market. UPM is trying it in the European coated and supercalendered markets with its proposed purchase of Myllykoski.

After reading this article below, I was not sure I wanted to scream or laugh…or pick up the phone and ask Rep. Corrine Brown if I could have the job of adding Constitutional citations to bills, and I would ONLY charge her $285,000! I would save the taxpayers 50% ! Seriously, this is just another example of our beloved leaders being clueless and downright ignorant of what things cost. In the printing industry, no customer in their right mind would pay $570,000 for 3 or 5 lines of copy per job. In this economic climate, I would do it for free to get the job. And then to claim that there are extra delivery fees ? What ?? Politics and printing have been mixing for centuries….but ask Ben Franklin how much he would pay to set 4 or 5 lines of copy – I bet you he could tell you, which is the difference between the elitist politicians of today and one of our beloved Pennsylvanians: a firm grip on reality, unabashed honesty and the love of country.

Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown said a GOP requirement that lawmakers cite the Constitution in each bill they introduce will cost $570,000 in additional printing costs.The Florida Democrat, who is in her ninth term in Congress, said the extra costs are attributed to “supplies, labor and delivery.”
Democrats have complained about the new House GOP rule, which requires all legislation to include a citation to language in the Constitution that authorizes any bill they introduce. Democrats see the new requirement as an unveiled accusation that the last Congress exceeded its constitutional authority. Brown’s argument seems designed to appeal to Republicans. She argues the new rule will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in Congressional Record printing costs to be paid for by taxpayers. In her extension of remarks attached to the January 7 Congressional Record, Brown said the Republican rule only requires a “perfunctory statement without explanation,” which lessens the value of including the statement in each bill. “Committees need not consider the statement, no Member will ever vote on it, and Senate bills can be considered without one,” she said. Brown reiterated other Democratic arguments against the new rule, including that it is the job of the courts to decide when Congress has overstepped its bounds.
Democrat: Citing Constitution will cost taxpayers $570K By Pete Kasperowicz – 01/10/11 12:07 PM ET