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The Water Crossing

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Do you ever feel like this, a herd of animals rushing to cross the water? You are in such a hurry, driven by instincts and madness, it’s your turn to jump in. To the left you see another member of your herd being trampled, they stumbled and none of the other animals waited or tried to help him get up. To the right out of the corner of your eye you see five or six massive crocodiles picking members of the herd off one by one. Your’e frozen with fear, but the fear of being trampled and not following the crowd is even greater, so you jump in and start kicking as fast and as hard as you can to get to the other side. Whack, the animal in front of you kicks you in the face as they too are frantically kicking to get to the other side, you feel your nose start to bleed and you hope it doesn’t make you a target by the crocodiles patiently waiting on both sides. As you get to the middle of the river you can no longer touch the bottom, but you gain some confidence as you tell yourself you are half way there, just keep kicking, you can do this. 

Screaming, that is all that can be heard now, the animal in front of you is in a fight for it’s life, a crocodile has him by the leg. Not sure whether to help, you again become paralyzed with fear, but you keep kicking. Finally you can touch the bottom again now, and the other bank is within feet of being reached, safety, food, calm, all within your grasp. 

Pulling yourself up on the bank into safety now, you take a look behind you, you see nothing but chaos, the chaos you just survived, and as you look to your right you notice something that shocks you. About 50 yards up stream, there is one lone member of the pack, he has yet to cross the river like you just did, but you can see as he begins his decent down the bank and into the water he is calm, taking his time, no crocodiles even notice him as they are all focused on the chaos at hand. He walks up the other side of the bank, unscathed, and as you look down into the grass you see nothing but bright red, your own blood that is dripping from your nose.

Now I am sure if you invested in Facebook’s stock when they first offered you feel exactly like this, bought into the hype and now feeling the punches! 🙂 However, if you are in the publishing industry you probably feel like this every day.

I pads and tablets will kill prints experts are screaming, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. Postage, fuel, and paper costs are on the rise, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. I have to reduce my costs, I am losing advertisers, subscribers, members, the herd rushes to cross the river to get to the other side. By this time the crocodiles, the trampling of each other has threatened the herd close to extinction, and then you realize your fear has become the greatest enemy to you. Your nose is bloody, but when looking over your shoulder you see a select few that crossed the river once, and they are far in front of you, calm, safe, and full.

I recently had the privilege and honor to have the opportunity to attend as well as speak at the National Plant Summit. This was a convention that my client, The American Rose Society, hosted several horticulture societies across the country to discuss their ailments, successes, and band together to help one another. By realizing they needed to come together to ensure their future, they took the first steps into the river, not following the herd of chaos in front of them, but far away from the danger. 

While speaking at this Summit, I had many things I wanted to say, but as I listened to them speak I decided to throw away my notes. My notes originally were the different in house capabilities, customer service, and quality the printer I work for possesses. Sure we have that, but then I thought to myself “How many times have these guys heard exactly that same thing by five other printers that called them last week?” They didn’t want to hear that stuff, and to be quite frank I didn’t want to talk about that either. They had me inspired, and I too wanted to get out of the chaos of the constant water crossing, so I went with what I felt in my gut, the truth. 

As I began, I stated what my old boss always said to me “Business is supposed to make sense, and be fun!” If you are losing money on your international subscribers or members, then why send magazines to them? Instead, only offer them a digital magazine, but utilize a digital magazine that has translation software so that they can read it in their own language and enhance your readership in that country. 

If you offer a digital magazine that is readily available on your website for all to view at no cost, while charging for a subscription to your printed version, then ask yourself what you are saying about the content you are putting out there. Is it the content or the vehicle you utilize to distribute the content that you are charging for? De-commoditize yourselves! Offer a few teaser pages of your digital magazine, if they want to see more then they must subscribe. Are you charging more for advertisers to be represented in your digital magazine? Would you charge them to have a banner on your website? Then why wouldn’t this added benefit of being represented on your website via a digital magazine be of value?

Invest and re invent yourselves, never stop trying to become better at what you do. Whether that is looking at re designing the image of your publication after 10 or 15 years of having the same look, upgrading the quality of your printed publication, utilizing a digital publication that offers rich media, developing an app for the i pad/ smart phones, or simply engaging your followers on social media there are many ways to do this. Do this out of wanting to invest in your future, not out of fear for your future. 

There are so many multi channels of marketing to take advantage of now. It will continue to grow, technology is here to stay. It doesn’t make your publication any less relevant, and sure there is more white noise than ever before to fight through, but not following the chaos to get to the other side of the river and instead banding together will ensure your success. Print, digital, social media, and yes even radio are still alive and can all come together.

I implore you all to never forget this one last thing, talk, not type, put it on your schedule once a week to talk to one another!

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June 10, 2012 Posted by | Catalogs, Digital Magazine, flipbook, Printing, Publishing, Sales, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time to Realize Value

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“You can hate me, choose not to work with me anymore, that’s ok, but I have to say this guys” my Father In Law, Jeff Zuelke (whom we call PJ which stands for Papa Jeff), said as he took on a more serious look than his normal natural easy-going and fun ways.

I shot a quick look at my wife, then at my four-year old son, concern grew through me as I knew he had something very important to say.

“I need you to start seeing the value in these homes I am showing you. I am taking on a completely different message from my prior stance of, be comfortable with your decision” he paused  “to see value in your decision,” PJ said now waiting for our reaction.

At first I was a bit taken back, why would that statement make me angry? Why would that make me want to fire my father in law as our real estate agent? It didn’t, but I wasn’t sure what he was getting at so I filled the air with “Well PJ, I know we lost on three homes now, but I don’t think I would have been comfortable going any higher than we did,” he stopped me right there after those words escaped my lips.

“Noah, if I could show you how to take a dollar and make it into a $1.30 or even $1.50 within five years, wouldn’t that be of VALUE to you?” I nodded my head to agree “Then Noah, the three homes we lost on, there was value to them. You made a decision based on being comfortable, and we lost. The value is, that those homes would have had a significant return on your investment in the very short-term, even if they were a bit more than what you were comfortable with.”

Before you all start shaking your head and saying “yeah right, what housing market is this guy in?” keep in mind the majority of the homes we have been looking at are short sales and very good deals to be had!

PJ was right, I was still kicking myself over the last bid war we lost on, but I was caught up in nickle and diming and feeling like I got the best price possible that I completely failed to realize that even at full purchase price the house was still a great deal because it had value…..unfortunately someone else was able to see that, and we lost out on the house.

This entire time PJ was waiting for me to come to this resolve myself, but when he saw that I was getting too caught up in “best price possible” and not seeing turning a dollar into a $1.30, he knew he had to say something.

That very moment, as we walked out of the house we were viewing, I came to a stark realization, I was a hypocrite! I have been through so many bid processes for catalogs, brochures, and especially magazines as of late only to have lost it by a very slim amount (sometimes more, sometimes less) that I don’t understand it as I am confident I have shown the Publisher or Print Purchaser how working with us will change a dollar into a $1.30.

I understand it now, sometimes we all get polarized by the day to day events of our lives, the economy we live in, or just trying to get the best deal possible and nickle and diming everything they can.

Friends, I come to you today to repeat a message my Father In Law, Jeff Zuelke, said to me this very night……” I am taking on a very different tone with you, you can hate me, choose not to work with me, that is fine, but it needs to be said. It is time to start making decisions because they hold value, not because you are comfortable or because they are the cheapest deal.”

In the end, when you find a printer that shows you value, you will be very comfortable. Consulting on digital, print, and advertising vehicles, not leaving once the sale is made, establishing relationships, friends, is their value you to that? If so, don’t be like me and realize it before it is too late!

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Books, Catalogs, Digital Magazine, Mailing, Printing, Publishing, Relationships, Sales, Social Media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media Through The Eyes of a Child

 “Dad, when are you going to be done with the computer? I want to go on Youtube!” my 9-year-old daughter said with annoyance in her voice. “Yeah dad, get off the computah, I want YouTube and watch Goosebumps, hurry up” my soon to be 4 year old chimes in right behind his big sister.

This literally happens every day in my household, several times a day. I never thought I would be competing with my kids for computer time, because when I was a kid I was playing with GI Joes and Monster Trucks. Oh, how times have changed!

“Guys, you like YouTube?” and both of them shook their heads while jumping in the air as if the Packers just won the Super Bowl all over again.

“What is it that you like so much about YouTube?” They looked at me as if they couldn’t comprehend the question, as if it was “the world’s dumbest” question ever asked!

“Well duh dad” my 9-year-old daughter began, ” I can watch i-carly clips, Lemonade Mouth music videos” ….”Don’t forget Goosebumps, I like that” my son with hand raised was squealing through his wide smile.

“Well guys, what if I told you I was on YouTube?” They both looked at me as if to say “Yeah right dad, you’re not that cool!” It’s a sad day when your kids stop believing your cool 🙂 ! So I pulled up a video I had made on YouTube, and hit play.

Their faces said it all, my son screamed “you’re a star” and my daughter asked “How did you do that? I want to be on YouTube!” The astonishment they both were feeling made me feel happy, because I once again became cool!

But there is more to learn here than “How to get your kids to still think you are cool!” So I took it a step further, and asked my son and daughter, “What if I told you I was in a magazine?”

I was half thinking they wouldn’t care, but they both again told me to “prove it” with the same excitement. I pulled out a magazine that used some of my quotes and had given me credit for them, and showed the two miniature YouTube experts that were standing in my office. They couldn’t believe it, and were just as excited.

The next day I came home from work, on the fridge hung the magazine article I was mentioned in cut out, and pasted to an orange paper background that had hearts all over it. When I walked into the living room I could hear my own voice, but I wasn’t speaking. So I walked into the office, and there were the two of them watching me on YouTube.

Sure my kids were proud of me, but that isn’t the lesson I am looking to point out here. What I am saying is the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Change is inevitable, I never would have thought kids would be so caught up in things such as social media. I recently read a blog that stated 72% of internet users are on social media, I can’t believe it isn’t more than that!

However, because there is change, doesn’t mean that things from our past aren’t as relevant as they ever were before. Maybe even more relevant? Studies have shown print still offers the highest credibility to your message and ad.

Take it from my two YouTube experts, seeing their dad on YouTube was pretty cool and “in the now” trendy, but being in the magazine solidified that I was still their cool dad!

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Publishing, Relationships, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What my graduation taught me about technology!

Tassle on the left side check, ok Noah, remember, take diploma with left hand shake with the right hand, don’t fall, don’t walk too fast.

“Melissa Karger, summa cum laude” the speakers boomed through the auditorium, one person left in front of me then it was my turn to step up onto the stage.

Where is my family, man there are alot of people here, why are my hands shaking, oh man I am sweating so bad…. thoughts were running through my mind like a run away freight train.

“Mark Knable” the speakers boomed, I was up next, and then I saw them in the sea of people, my wife and children waving frantically at me as if they had been trying to get my attention for some time. A kiss blown from my wife now landed on my cheek, the look of pride in my childrens eyes filled me with strength, and in that very short moment, my journey to what brought me to this very step flashed before my eyes.

Ten years prior I was a high school graduate beginnig my first semester at college. More scared, and nervous than excited, because unlike many other kids, I had no idea what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. Two years of college, and feeling like I may be the only one at the university without a hint or a clue of what I wanted to do, I dropped out and entered the work force.

There was no going back now, and a few years passed. Feeling the regret of not finishing college, I heard of something I had never heard of before, you can go to college online! Wow, this was new and exciting to me, now having kids and a full time job I may be able still get that degree! Who knew you could go to college online, well it turned out this was something that many colleges had just started expirementing with.

So I jumped at the opportunity, and enrolled with a renewed confidence in knowing where I wanted to go in life. Life was good, and I found a new home with my current employer. I began traveling to meet with people, but dragging these heavy text books and laptop everywhere I went so I didn’t miss an assignment or posting was becoming quite the hassle!

Then came along this wonderful new thing, called a Kindle. I quickly found out that many of my textbooks could be downloaded right to the Kindle itself, making my business trips much less cumbersome. Then another new thing, there was an app for Blackboard (online program) and I could access it from my smart phone (or i pad if I had one) no more lugging around the laptop.

Technology helped me out tremendously, and made my life much more convenient on those trips. Every time I got home though, I always went for the printed textbook, and the laptop.

“Sir” the days and months that just flashed before me were gone and I was again back in the auditorium, “do you pronounce the K in Knoble?” the speaker asked and I shook my head violently yes. “Noah Knoble” boomed the speakers and my name echoed throughout, shake with right grab with the left, check, walking slow, check, smile and breathe….check!

The moral of what college and graduation taught me about technology is that it is very convenient and makes many of our lives much easier. However, it’s also nice just to have the “real thing”  and finding that balance is the key.

Believe me when I say while I was looking at the pride that filled my children’s eyes that day, I too looked back at them with just as much pride in them. Bonds are what hold us together, something physical, but technology will allow us to keep those bonds strong when they eventually reach the day that they hear their name being called through the speakers.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Publishing, Relationships, Social Media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free, Fast and….WHAT!?!?

You take your family out to eat, to a nice restaurant, and the food was so amazing, you don’t even care how much the bill is, and you add a $10 tip on to it! You get home, look at the bill, and start to think, what can I do to eliminate paying for my food, but still enjoy that great taste!

Quickly, you jump on the internet and find out you can order the food to be delivered to your home. They have a 15 minute guanrantee, and best yet…..it is FREE! You don’t have to pay one single dime, no tip, as long as they deliver the food to you, it is 100% free.

What if the world was like this? People would probably stop dining out and start ordering in in a heart beat!

I am here to tell you the world is like this, at least in the publishing industry it is! (OK, now stop shaking your head no, rolling your eyes, and read on Yoda)

How many of you are printing a publication, have a cover price of $4.95 for newsstand and $25.95 for subscriptions (The room raises their hands). Now, how many of you are producing a digital magazine and giving it away for free? (Faces turn red, but hands remained raised!) Why are you doing this? Is this not playing into commoditizing yourself?

Think back to my restaurant scenario. Are they selling food, or are they selling a place to sit?….Of course they are in business to sell food (that’s their content)!

“Well Noah, digital is about 10-20% of the costs for a printed product, so we can afford to give it away online for free.” I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were selling print (I thought I was), I thought you were selling content? After all, isn’t that what publishing is about, content?

With the many free digital magazines, but with costs to have a printed magazine, leaves me pondering, what is driving consumers to digital? Is it the convenience and “now” factor of it? Or is it that the consumer has simply become savy enough to know how to get your content for free?

Publishers, never forget what it is that you makes your business successful, sought after, and recognizeable ….it is not the delivery vehichle of the content, it is the content itself. This is what makes you, you!

No, this is not a blog against digital magazines, in fact I support them! I think they are a great way to supplement your printed magazine, and help you increase your market share. I do think, if you are charging for your printed magazine, then it would only make sense to charge for your digital magazine. Many digital magazines have subscriber options, with teaser options that allow the reader to see the first few pages, and if they want to see more then they have to subscribe.

This blog is for you Mr/Mrs. Content Provider, because when I see you starting to forget what makes you valuable, it is my duty to tell you that it isn’t how you deliver the content, its that great taste, feeling, education, you give me from your content itself!

Don’t ever forget that.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Supplementing your magazine with a book!

I know what you are thinking, I haven’t heard from this guy in three weeks, and now all of a sudden he is telling me to do twice the work and publish a book in addition to my magazine! Hey! Get off my back, I had fallen and couldn’t get up. Truth be told, things are so exciting right now that I have been “catching” myself up on many things, it’s a great time to be alive! Secondly, yes, I want you to do twice the work…..hard work pays off!

I have been speaking to many publishers across the country, there has been a resounding idea, so I can’t take credit for it, but I know a good thing when I hear it! Here is the basis behind the idea: publish a book to supplement your magazine. For example, let’s say your magazine is a city regional magazine, why not publish a book about the history of the city, the main attractions in the area, or just to tell your own unqiue point of view about the city. Or, if you have a pet publication, publish a book about the different breeds of dogs/cats, give tips on training them (by the way does anyone have good potty training tips for a Black Lab?), or write a story about a featured animal in your publication. If you are an association, write about the history of your profession (members take pride in their roots), or simply feature the many events you will hold annually.

These are just some thoughts, but I think you get the idea.

Now, here is why I have bought into this strategy:

1. Readers hold on to books! – I still have books from when I was a kid on my book shelf. Books I bought two years ago and read immediately, I am now going back and reading again. For some reason I get a new message from them, the story and message hasn’t changed, but my point of view has!

2. It can be inexpensive.- There are printers that will print on demand so you don’t have to hold inventory. Otherwise, printing a small quantity is typically an efficient way to test if it will work for you before jumping all in.

3. It transfers easily to digital.- With the Kindle conquering the book publishing industry, you may not have to print very many. Here is a quick story for you: I was on travel for business this week and was watching CNN in my hotel room. Anderson Cooper comes on and is doing a story about how the Kindle is taking over the printed book, he goes on to say “printed books are supplementing the Kindle”. I shake my head in disbelief, shut off the tv, and head to the airport thinking this guy is fabricating the story…must be a slow news day. I get to the airport, minding my own business when I see out of the corner of my eye a women, probably in her 40’s, looking like she is reading. Me being the nosey guy that I am, look over to see what the book is, and it is a Kindle! Already being pissed off at Cooper from the morning I had to ask her what was so special about the Kindle and how she liked it. Big mistake on my end! She ranted and raved about how great it was because, it stored books for her, it fit in her purse, it was light, easy to see, flips pages easily, and best yet it was cheap! (Now I know who Anderson Cooper interviewied for his story I thought to myself), but then she handed it to me and said “see for yourself”, she must have noticed I was looking at her quite skeptically. I flipped through with ease, could actually read the screen (no glare), and when she showed me all the books that were stored on it, and how inexpensive each download was I was sold! Please, someone tell Santa I want a Kindle for Christmas! Anderson Cooper I owe you an apology!

4. Several options available.- There are several options available for your printed book, it doesnt have to be a hard cover with opaque or offset traditional style trim book. Make it a glossy book, with uv coating, pictures, oblong trim, or if you like the more traditional style that’s fine too!

5. It can be interactive (No, I’m not talking about the Kindle).- How about adding Augmented Reality into your book, much like a QR code but an actual short commercial or movie that plays both before (introduction) and at the conclusion (recapping) of the book.

6. Profit Center.- Not only can you easily sell the book for a profit, you can also easily tie it into your magazine supplementing your profits for your publication as well.  For example you could say, Subscribe today and we will offer you our special book on “how to become a millionaire” at half price today. You can polybag the book in with the magazine, or sell it seperately.

7. Books spread across many demographics.- We all love books! From a very young age we are taught that reading is good.

8. Credibility.- Print still offers the most credibility out of any marketing channel available. Use this resource to enhance the readshership of your publication. Who doesn’t want to be an author? We all do! Why? Because we know that it offers us credibility in our field, think about how you can use that to attract more readers and advertisers alike.

There are a lot of ideas and tips here, only you can decide if supplementing your publication with a book would work for you. It doesn’t have to be a monthly thing, make it special, maybe bi-annually. If you want my advice, in a saturated market, utilizing credibility and uniqueness to stick out is never a bad thing! You don’t have to have 200 pages to publish a book, you just need to be a resource.  Finally, it doesn’t have to be hard to get started, ask your printer about how to get started and for some options. If your printer can’t print it, chances are they know someone who can, utilize your resources!

 The older I get, the more I want to re-read the books I got years ago, so they will always have a special spot on my bookshelf! I think many others feel the same way.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Books, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What does your digital magazine do for you?

There are many digital magazine providers in the market, so how do you choose one that is right for you? First, you should assess what your goals are for a digital reproduction of your printed publication. Are you looking to replace your printed product at some point in the future? Maybe you are wanting to supplement your printed product…for example, some readers and advertisers are demanding it, but you don’t see the printed publication going away? Or maybe it’s to eliminate your foreign mailing? We all know how expensive that is!  Are you just giving it a try to see what all the hype is about, or attract a new market segment? So you asked yourself these questions, and you have your goals in mind, now you are ready to move forward!

What now? You research digital magazine providers on Google, up comes 20 different digital magazine providers and you have no idea where to start. No, I am not going to mention any digital magazine providers in this blog, because this is about picking the right one for you, not me endorsing what I think is best.

 Let us say you are looking at replacing your printed product with a digital reproduction at some point in the future. Are you thinking you want to pick a digital magazine that is what I call a “page flipper” ?(example:… the reader clicks on the corner of the page and it flips, that’s it…which by the way are the most abundant type of digital magazine out there) Probably not, why? Because if you are planning on transitioning to a digital magazine only, wouldn’t you want your brand to transition from your printed piece to your digital piece? How are you planning on doing that with a regular page flipper? The simple answer is that you can’t, and if you believe you can you are probably going out of business. Instead, my suggestion would be to pick a provider that offers rich media (videos) that you can add into the digital reproduction, offers Google Analytics (so you can track your readership and clicks on the URL’s within the digitial magazine), embedded links (so readers can be taken right to your advertisers websites), archivability (so that readers can still read past issues), and audio (maybe an advertiser wants to speak right to the reader), these are only some of the many qualities that you would want to look for. Sure, it’s going to cost you more than a page flipper, but if this is now becoming your brand, I suggest you invest in yourself!

Now let’s say you are only looking to supplement your printed publication with a digital magazine. If you see the value in a more interactive version of the digital product, by all means go for it! However, if you think the value isn’t behind the increase in cost, a page flipper might just be what the doctor ordered! These days, many page flipper providers offer embedded links, my advice is to at least make sure you have this. If you are looking at cutting your foreign mail with a digital magazine, make sure your provider offers translation tools, your foreign readership just might grow!

What I look for in a digital provider is someone that can offer both options. A company that has the best of both worlds, is able to help with your ipad app needs (if this is a direction you are looking at), someone that can help you grow and consult you. These are the type of providers I look for.

I am a true believer that digital magazines are here to stay, but I also don’t see them taking over the printed industry like so many are forecasting. Should you be supplementing your printed publication with a digital magazine? I believe so. However, if you are worried about giving away your content for free, rest assured that many providers offer a “teaser” option where the reader can only read the first few pages, if they want to read more they have to subscribe. Should your goal be to stop printing? My answer is no, this would be a big mistake. Print still has value, from being beautiful (a work of art), having credibility, and still offering advertisers the highest amount of action per ad.

So from a printer’s stand point, jump into a digital magazine if you think it will help you with your goals. I certainly think it will help, but my suggestion is to supplement not evict a printed piece. Call me crazy but I actually think more readers will subscribe to your printed piece if you do!

 So,Chicken Little, the sky isn’t falling, it’s just a digital magazine.

PS….If your printer is offering you the opposite advice, you may want to ask whose interest they have in mind.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Publishing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments