Trade Show Exhibitors Association launched a quarterly publication last month, the first 38-page installment of what its publisher said will become the encyclopedia of the events industry.
"We see this as a publication that people will keep and start to collect," said Stephen Schuldenfrei, TSEA president and publisher of About Face—The Journal of Face-to-Face Marketing. "We're talking about the nuts-and-bolts kinds of things that exhibitors do. We won't talk about the latest whizbang gadgets. It's not very library-conducive."
TSEA rolled out the peer-review journal about two years after the association replaced its Trade Show Ideas print magazine with an electronic newsletter, Schuldenfrei said.
"There's a swing back to print," he said. The association will keep the newsletter to distribute timely items, but the journal will offer a scholarly take on trade show basics that have a longer shelf life. The first issue focused on listening skills, return on investment and booth design.
The magazine has the potential to help fill a void in the marketplace, said Curtis Love, who teaches trade show and meeting management at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
"There are very few options," he said. "The more research out there, the better."
The magazine's credibility will hinge on its ability to conduct independent research and attract editors and reviewers with the right credentials, he said, adding that an affiliation with a major university is also important.
"You need that third party," he said.
About Face is not affiliated with any university. Bob Dallmeyer, past chairman of both TSEA and the International Association for Exhibition Management and former director of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, reviewed the first issue, as did Schuldenfrei and Susan Friedmann, author and trade show coach.
The key audience of a publication that focuses on timeless basics likely will be junior managers, Love said.
"The rank and file are going to read this," he said. "Your average CMO wants an executive summary."
However, the association is banking on the fact that chief marketing officers will read its pages. The publication went to Fortune 1,000 CMOs in addition to 2,500 association members and events professionals.
The move drew criticism from Candace Adams, a trade show consultant, industry writer and member of TSEA.
"All of us are having our feet held to the fire," she said. "These are the people who are loosening up the marketing dollars. I don't know a CMO who has time to read a journal."
But Schuldenfrei said the strategy behind the move is simple: "It's an effort to get these C-level people to stand up and take notice of this industry. That's a target that none of us are really talking to. They are in fact the bosses of our members and prospective members."
For the time being, he is relying on CMOs not only to read the publication but also to realize the validity of spending on events.
"It may be a little too subtle," Schuldenfrei said, "but that's what we're trying to do."
Time will tell if he is on the mark.
"What keeps chief marketing officers in their jobs are new ideas that have return on investment," said Mark Rothman, CMO at American Business Media. "Any magazine that offers that will be well-received."