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Friday, April 22, 2005

They Is 

On the road with wisecracks and historical oddities

Sorry, but the grammarian in me (which I try to suppress) had to shout out to:

Museums and tourist spots often seem like dead, airless places, as flat and static as postcards, but Vowell makes you realize that they, and history itself, is a lot more dynamic than that.

They is a lot more dynamic than that!

I look forward to reading the book. But the Chronicle needs some help.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Trade Show Marketing Report 

It's always nice to have your blog called a "gem," and I thank Rich Westerfield of the Trade Show Marketing Institute for the kudos. (I tend to think of this blog as a pile of aggregate, mixed together with a cement composed of ranting, mildly illogical thinking, and a bit of baling wire.)

I'd like to return the compliment--I like Rich's blog a lot, and have added it to my links and news reader.

Rich has an interesting post about the frustrations of growing a client's business dramatically--but just not as dramatically as the client wants. Since this post is a week old, I'm sure he's down to the short hairs. But if you have ideas, or consolation, for Rich, you can email him.


Dave Jung on B2B Advertising 

B2Blog: How sucky are these B2B ads?

Fellow blogger Dave Jung posts on a Readex study of advertising in BtoB magazine. He rated only two of the ads as winners, and has some cogent commentary on the rest. I liked the one I've posted here from Hoovers. I wonder if that was Dave's second choice?

Grab from Dave's post: But you figure the exhibit booth vendor would at least have a picture of a show booth in their ad. Or the company selling ads in elevators would focus on explaining their product.

The embarrassing thing here is that a lot of the ads are from magazines trying to sell themselves, and doing a poorer job than the ads that run in those magazines. As a b2b publisher, I've long been held hostage to complaints from advertisers who say that a given magazine doesn't work. Of course, maybe they ran one ad, with terrible design and copy, lousy pricing, and no call to action. But it was my magazine's fault they didn't get a response.

But it doesn't help that publishers (self included) don't spend the time and effort to do their own advertising right. I give props to the publishers who advertise in BtoB--at least they're advertising! Most publishers spend their lives selling the value of advertising and don't bother to advertise themselves.

Postscript: as an industry, we need to continue to support American Business Media's CEBA awards, which honor good B2B ads. I wonder whether marketers like Dave Jung like the kind of ads that win CEBAs? I think a few shown on the ABM website look good, but do they work?


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Vatican and B2B 

The business trip I was on last week is relevant to today's big news, in that I was in Rome, at the Vatican, coordinating some of the coverage of the Papal election for my client Religion News Service (the only secular wire service focused exclusively on religion news).

We had originally intended to go to Rome to attend a Vatican media conference, put together by my friend Gunther Lawrence, where senior Vatican officials and Amerucan newspaper reporters would discuss various and sundry issues, but really, I think, intended to expose the American media to the Vatican and vice-versa. With the death of the Pope, most of the agenda was thrown out, but it was still an interesting conference--a chance for a Church in transition to meet with media people who, given their American roots, might not be very sympathetic with a variety of the orthodox positions of the Church. I think both sides learned a lot.

My wife, Rene, accompanied me as a photojournalist for RNS--with the goal of building the RNS photo library with Vatican images. Kevin Eckstrom, our talented associate editor, and Catholic beat reporter, was also there, filling in his awesome work on the death of John Paul II, and preparing our correspondents in Rome for the Conclave and the new Pope.

We had some amazing opportunities--covering a protest of Cardinal Law's memorial mass by a group which represents children abused by priests, and watching (and shooting) the president of that group being escorted off the grounds of St. Peters, as well as meeting the Gammarelli family, tailors to six Popes, and the ones who created the outfit that new Pope Benedict XVI wore today. We chatted with American Cardinal Keeler, a wonderful man, and chased Cardinal Egan--who's more than a little media shy--until we felt like religion paparazzi. We toured inside Vatican city, where Cardinals were milling about--the city was lousy with 'em!. And Rene had the opportunity to shoot one of the memorial masses inside St. Peter's, with every voting Cardinal in the world in attendance (see her pic, above--and others at RNS's photo website). A sea of red in a pretty impressive cathedral.

Of all my clients, RNS is the most unusual, in that it's a consumer newswire. But our customers are media businesses--newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, websites. So my role is a b2b one, marketing and selling this service to media people. It's a wonderful news service, which faces interesting biases wherever it turns. Because it covers religion, it's viewed with suspicion by many consumer editors, who expect us to be whackos. And because it covers all religion equally, it's viewed with more suspicion (and some threats of eternal damnation) by certain religions who don't think other religions are valid.

But through it all, RNS and its fine team of editors, correspondents and businesspeople, provides something unique and quite wonderful.

And for my wife and me, last week was a historic journey to the heart of a religion which commands the faith of 1/6th of the world's population (we're not Catholic, by the way).

More of Rene's photos will be posted to RNS over the next few weeks. And RNS will be covering the implications for the Church of the new Pope in the weeks ahead. There's a free e-newsletter you can subscribe to if you like; the link is on the RNS home page.


Penton Financials 


Slight revenue increase, 31% increase in adjusted EBITDA, and some confidence in liquidity for Penton. See financials, linked above.

As you know, I hold about $1.30 in Penton stock. But even without that conflict of interest, I'd like them to survive and prosper.

But the company still has more than $100 million more debt than it has revenue.


Monday, April 18, 2005

I'm back 

Sorry I haven't been posting for the past week and a half. Between a business trip, which I'll blog later, two family crises, a kitchen remodel and several major projects coming due, I kinda lost track of this blog.

Thanks to the several readers who emailed me to wonder what was up. It's a pleasure to know that someone reads this stuff!


Postal Rates... 

USPS Files for 5.4% Rate Increase

...will probably go up again. And again, I wonder at the logic of raising rates to support a declining service. Rather than fix the underlying problems of a (mostly) terrific service which is hamstrung by the requirements of universal service and flat pricing on first class mail, rates will go up and:

1. More mass mailers will move to electronic delivery
2. More regular folks will pay bills online
3. Magazines will continue to unlock different ways to deliver their content (for a take on digital editions of magazines from Rafat Ali, click here)
4. General volume and revenues will go down
5. Rates will increase again and...
6. We start the process all over.

I suggest the following, before levying a general rate increase:

1. Lower rates for the heaviest users of the postal service, to ensure a steady revenue flow and to slow the migration of these users to electronic delivery
2. Privatize rural delivery
3. Develop delivery alliances with newspaper delivery groups and with FedEx and UPS
4. Force senators from Hawaii and Alaska to subsidize universal service with state, rather than Federal, money.

There are other big issues of course: labor and pension, workforce size and so on. Those are the real 'third rails' of this problem, and as controversial as Social Security reform.


Hear, hear 

News Aggregators Versus News Producers

From "In the long run, it's in the portal/aggregators best interests to make sure the news producers survive -- and thrive."


Digital Magazines 

Digital editions turn a page

Nice article from BtoB on digital magazines, with insight into some of the audit issues surrounding them.

I like the digital magazines I've experimented with, and I like the possibilities for bonus content, and inexpensive delivery. I also still like holding a magazine in my hands. But paper prices and postal costs will have a lot to say about how long I'll be able to do that.


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