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Magazine Publishers of America has hired Boston Consulting Group to help the industry association figure out where it should be devoting its resources.

MPA Chairman Edward Lewis, chairman-CEO of Essence Communications, is overseeing the project; Times Mirror Magazines President-CEO Efrem "Skip" Zimbalist III is heading up the steering committee. The hiring of an outside consultant to conduct a strategic evaluation of the group's mission was initiated earlier this year by Rick Smith, editor in chief and president of Newsweek and former MPA chairman.


"The magazine industry is not coming at this from a time of crisis. We feel this is a propitious time to look at ourselves and see how we've been doing and where we are going," said Mr. Lewis.

But some MPA members have been quietly grumbling in recent years about the organization's effectiveness. And MPA has been unable to lure some high-profile non-members, such as Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, into the fold. It came close to signing Wenner Media as a member earlier this year, but those negotiations eventually collapsed.

"There's been so much criticism about where they spend their time and our money that they wanted an outside source to give an objective opinion," said Steve Florio, president-CEO of Conde Nast Publications.

Also driving the evaluation is the pending retirement of MPA President Donald Kummerfeld, who's expected to step down some time in the next two years. One goal of the evaluation would be to decide on the qualifications of his successor. Mr. Kummerfeld has been in the post since 1987.

"He has not told me that," Mr. Lewis said of Mr. Kummerfeld's retirement schedule, although adding the MPA board is aware it needs to be prepared for when he does step down. Mr. Kummerfeld was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment.


Part of the strategic evaluation involves a survey of members and non-members to determine how MPA and its staff are serving the needs of the industry and on which priorities the organization should focus.

While MPA staff will be participating in providing information and interviews to Boston Consulting, the final report will be delivered to the organization's board, which initiated the project.

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