Print finds defenders at ABM regional meeting

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Defenders of print, some more vigorous than others, were prominent at American Business Media’s Second Annual Chicago Regional Program last week. That was somewhat ironic, given that the event was held at the local offices of Internet icon Google.

In each of the program’s three sessions—on multimedia, editorial and sales—panelists sang the praises of print along with its continuing power to engage readers and help marketers sell products and services. At the same time, each session acknowledged that print was only part of the solution for marketers—maybe even a small part—as digital and in-person event revenue streams continue to grow in importance.

“I don’t think print is dead,” Bob Drake, president of Drake Creative, told the 120 attendees during the “Multimedia Case Study” panel. Later, he added: “It goes against everything we’re hearing, but we can engage people for a long period of time (in print) and they stay engaged.”

Drake discussed the integrated program his agency helped create for HallStar Co., a formulator of ingredients for the automotive and cosmetics industries. Susan Nutter, HallStar’s communications manager, and Justin Bill, the company’s e-business manager, were also on the panel.

The three discussed a marketing program for a HallStar product called SolaStay, an ingredient in sunscreen. In rolling out the product, Nutter said she was intrigued by the advice of Allured Business Media, publisher of Cosmetics & Toiletries, that HallStar spend less in print and more online.

Targeting the scientists who devise sunscreen formulations, HallStar used print, trade shows, online advertising and webinars to market SolaStay. The ultimate goal was to drive inquiries about the product, and print was effective in achieving that goal, Nutter said.

“People called us the minute they saw it [the SolaStay ad] in the magazine,” Nutter said.

In the second panel, “Developing a Multimedia Editorial Strategy,” Bill Wilson, editor of Scranton Gillette Communications’ Roads & Bridges, described how the Internet has changed his job over the past decade. He noted how additional print supplements, daily Web posting, online videos and social media have added a new layer of responsibility for the editorial staff, which has fewer people than 10 years ago.

“The staff is being spread too thin,” he said, adding that a human resources manager informed him of the current philosophy: “We’re going to be doing more with less.”

Despite the changes, Wilson said, an online poll found that print was considered the most important medium for the vast majority of Roads & Bridges’ audience. “The print product is still the one,” he said.

Another panelist, Bruce Plantz, VP-director of content at Watt Publishing Co., described how that company has created a central copy desk of six staffers, who enter every story in a “Web-first” content management system, which also preps the copy for print.

He said that with the rise of the Web—including online video, blogging and social media—the job of a trade magazine editor has been transformed almost overnight. “Editing a trade magazine was the best job I ever had,” he said, “but it’s not there anymore.”

Changing job responsibilities have introduced new challenges in keeping the editorial staff motivated, “Asking someone to do something when they don’t know what they’re doing is one the major ways to have them not motivated,” Plantz said.

Watt President-CEO Greg Watt, who moderated the panel, said he was concerned that the transformation of editors’ jobs would eventually lead to turnover. “When the job market improves, people will go elsewhere,” he said.

The final panel of the day, “Sales Evolution: Sales Is Changing—Are You Ready?” focused on how the evolution of b-to-b media has affected sales. Kelly Cutler, CEO of Marcel Media, said customers are bombarded by so many sales calls and new, confusing technologies that it’s hard for them to determine why they may or may not need a new product or service. “We try to keep everything simple,” she said. “It’s a confusing world. We don’t talk about technology as much as how it’s going to help you.”

Another panelist, David Miller, market leader-group publisher at Penton Media, echoed the comments of earlier sessions on the staying power of print, noting that the medium still accounts for 75% of the company’s revenue.

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