Thomas Publishing launches new brand, business model

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This week, Managing Automation Media, a division of Thomas Publishing Co., will debut Manufacturing Executive,, a paid-membership online community for leaders in manufacturing worldwide. While the business unit's Managing Automation (MA) magazine and website target executives at U.S. manufacturing companies with IT and operations functions, Manufacturing Executive has a broader mission. It will serve top-level executives across all manufacturing company departments—C-suite, finance, marketing, talent management, M&A and so forth—on a global basis.

“We're absolutely inverting the business model with paid membership,” said David R. Brousell, editor in chief of Managing Automation Media, explaining that MA has always been a controlled-circulation publication monetized by advertising. To access the Manufacturing Executive website, members will pay an annual fee of $249; the site will be monetized via advertising and sponsorships, as well.

“We're also turning around the traditional media model by having the industry, not editors, create most of the content through articles, forums, blogs and the Experts Exchange, a crowd-sourcing tool where members will be able to ask questions and share expertise within a private, gated online community,” he said.

Another key networking feature of is an area called Community Connect, where members can set up profiles and develop networks by searching out peers based on such criteria as job function and vertical industry.

Community members will also receive the bimonthly Manufacturing Executive Leadership Journal, modeled on publications such as The Harvard Business Review that have highly regarded industry practitioners writing most of the articles.

The print edition of the Journal will be mailed only to paid members of the community. There will also be a digital edition. “Our standard for the digital edition is to make sure it looks absolutely beautiful on the iPad,” said Mary Zagrobelny, VP-product marketing at Managing Automation Media.

While the online community content will be editorially reviewed and moderated, editors will not be setting the direction for Manufacturing Executive. “This [online] destination has a purpose, what we call a ‘leadership agenda,' ” Brousell said. “The site is designed to encourage collective problem-solving and to provide tools that drive innovation and industry transformation.”

“B-to-b publishers are looking for new models,” Zagrobelny said. “We think the timing is right for this site because Web 2.0 technologies are becoming accepted on a global basis, and they are more user-friendly than ever before.”

The vision for the community is set by a Leadership Board made up of well-known manufacturing executives, academics, researchers and analysts. The board, handpicked by Manufacturing Executive editors, currently numbers about a dozen people, and plans call for this elite group to be kept to fewer than 20 people. Board members do not pay membership fees.

A few hundred manufacturing executives will be invited to join the Manufacturing Leadership Council; membership will cost $2,500.

Board and council members will be able to take advantage of a slate of exclusive, face-to-face events, from a multiday leadership retreat at a five-star property to a series of regional “Dinner and Debate” events for about a dozen people.

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