While the themes in the MediaXchange conference rooms had a lot to do with dealing with the storms and darkness dealt by the global economic downturn, exhibitors were spruiking a different kind of Cloud as a less-expensive way of keeping up with technology.
DTI and Saxotech were among those offering Cloud computing solutions, while Tera says it is testing an application based on the same technology.
MediaXchange, which opened in Las Vegas on Monday and replaces the NAA’s Nexpo event, is a great place to network and compare notes … whether it’s of a 50 per cent fall in advertising, a 70 per cent drop in share price, or the ‘postponement’ of capital projects.
And there was a strong note of ‘belief in the product’ in the advice of consultant Jim Chisholm – author of the ‘Opportunities out of adversity’ NAA report – that US publishers raise their prices.
“American newspapers are the cheapest in the world, and that has to stop. People will continue to pay for quality news in print,” he says.
And the bright ideas kept flowing: Pili Linares of NAA had upgraded her ‘50+ big ideas’ talk to some 75 ways to eplout Web 2.0. She emphasised people and participation, listing tools which enable users to tag, blog and comment, and modify, augment and rank content. The return for newspapers is loyalty, she says.
Apart from favourites including Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, SlideShare, she nominated JustSell and prospectiung and research resources including RedBooks, Outside.in, LeTip, Goliath Business News, Blurtit and Technorati. Check them out!
There was no ducking the problems from NAA president and chief executive John Sturm, but his welcome address included an emphasis on positive strengths, among them newspapers’ dominant local reach with multiple products.
But, he says, “dominance is no longer a birthright”, and the new-format conference promised a range of solutions for executives who needed to “keep talking, learning and finding new ideas” to drive their businesses.
Kicking off that theme was Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer of US shoe, clothing, cosmetics and housewares online retailer Zappos.com. “We want our brand to be about the best customer service,” he says, quoting examples which included hassle-free returns for a year after purchase, free shipping both ways and a 1800 customer service number. “Customer service shouldn’t be a department, it should be the whole company,” he says.
As with previoius Nexpo events, there was round-table discussion of management strategies which had brought benefits across departments: Hugh McGarry’s theme in one session was ‘breaking down silos’, a strategy which had repositioned organisational structure at the Milwaukee ‘Journal Sentinel’.
Analysis of revenues and structure in 2007 showed “a lot of issues” with the existing structure. A weekly forecasting meeting – attended by revenue managers from advertising, commercial printing, delivery and circulation departments – had helped break down silos. The cross-fertilisation brought cooperation: One department helping out to cover another’s shortfall.
Amy McSwain, director of marketing and audience development at the Florida ‘Times-Union’ told of realignment in the marketing department to focus on revenue and audience growth, and Ottaway Newspapers’ senior vice president of print and distribution Don Waterman said a change to revenue-driven strategies in circulation and operations had led to revenue and market growth. A focus on contract printing now sees it bringing in $4.4 million from printing and delivering publications for 50 of its neighbours.
And a different kind initiative – a hybrid print and digital model – was described in another session by Dave Hunke, chief executive of the Detroit Media Partnership. The company had partnered with Plastic Logic to explore leasing its e-reader, expected by the end of this month.
The Cloud computing area was represented by systems vendors including DTI and Saxotech. DTI’s newly-recruited marketing vice president Steve Nilan says its Cloud option offers applications for circulation, advertising, content publishing and financials. New signings include the ‘Telegraph Herald’ in Dubuque, Iowa, which will use the circulation suite.
Saxotech says about 50 of its customers including the New York Times regional groupand Ottaway Newspapers have moved to cloud computing from a traditional hosting environment.
Chief executive Anders Christiansen says the option solves problems with cost, deployment and upgrades. Cloud provides a “resource pool” of processing, storage and networking with capacity on demand.
Tera is understood to be experimenting with Amazon EC2 and plans hosting solutions later this year.
Despite the strongly systems and online emphasis, exhibitors in the heavy metal area – from which Goss and Ferag were notable absentees – were generally upbeat. Wifag had a new press at the Naples ‘Daily News’ to talk about, and Schur – which recently acquired Idab Wamac – was involved in mailroom equipment at the same site. Some of the talk was also about centralised production facilities, and the reconfiguring of equipment.
KBA had just completed an installation at the Reading ‘Eagle’ and has the big compact Commander CT installation at the New York ‘Daily News’ starting in July.
And reminder that ‘a stitch in time’ could be a boost to circulation came from Tolerans, which makes the inline equipment used on many presses. The company quotes newspaper design guru Dr Mario García on the benefits of stitching as a a tool to attract ‘new’ as well as those impatient readers who want to go directly to an interesting article.
“When navigation becomes more and more of an important factor in newspaper marketing, and when all ways of making the paper more attractive for the readers and advertisers must be addressed, stitching is a quick and economical road to travel,” he says.
“Most editors are trying to be green and to join the ecological brigade but let me give you just an example: Look at a New York subway station and you see newspaper pages all over the place.” And this in a time when stitching could drastically reduce the amount of waste.”
García says stitching newspapers creates a more effective and better navigation with distinct sections which benefits both the reader and the advertiser.
“Instead of a big mess of pages the reader will find a neatly held together newspaper that has a longer life time, which will encourage both at second and third reading.”
And at a very reasonable investment cost, he says.
Bring it on!
Peter Coleman and reports