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A refocus can help a company grow, says veteran publisher Fraser Lang.

"Follow-Up" reports on the status of newsletters founded about two years ago, which is the critical time frame for success or failure since the publisher has gone through two renewal cycles.

A newsletter veteran believes there are times when a newsletter publishing company's focus has to be reset to keep it growing.

So that's what Fraser A. Lang, president of Manisses Communications Group Inc., of Providence, R.I., did earlier this year by selling off one newsletter.

He told NL/NL he sold off the May 1998-founded Children's Services Report (26x, $367/year) because "we were having trouble finding a market for it. So we had to do some refocusing."

Lang said he sold it to another newsletter company who then folded it into one its newsletters.

"We're now serving the market of professionals working with children through another two publications, The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter and The Brown University Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Update," he added.

The newsletter had been targeted to managers in the field that involves the rapidly growing trend of integrating children's social services in mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice and protective services for children at risk.

"We are exclusively in the behavioral health field," Lang said.

Lang--who operates his company with his wife, Betty Rawls Lang, who holds the title of publisher--serves his subscribers with two weekly and five monthly newsletters, a bimonthly magazine, and an online weekly newsletter--for a total of nine titles.

In a telephone interview Lang said the internet and e-mail have had little influence on his publications, but that each one is available electronically to subscribers at no extra cost.

"We distribute electronically a free weekly newsletter to our subscribers, which usually contains one story in depth, and in which we invite discusssions of current issues," he said. "We also sell banner ads in it."

When asked about the promotional techniques his company uses, Lang said it employs direct mail, e-mail, some forced free trials, and it works with professional conferences and partnerships with associations.

"The forced free newsletter, however," he said, "works better for weeklies than it does for monthlies."

He added that about 35 percent of his annual budget goes into promotional efforts.

And when he was asked about electronic distribution, Lang said he doesn't believe print newsletters will ever go out of business. "The subscriber continues to want something he can hold in his hand," he said.

"We serve a 'price conservative' market," he said, "and to get new subscribers we use a discount offer to bring them in. Some of our monthly newsletters are priced down to $99 a year for the first year for a new subscriber."

Lang, who has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Brown University, spent time in Iran as a member of the U.S. Peace Corps before he became involved with newsletters through the help of James J. Marshall, publisher of NL/NL.

"Jim Marshall brought me into the newsletter business," Lang said. After he had worked for other newsletters for a time, including a stint at Phillips Publishing International in the Washington, D.C. area, he and his wife decided to form their own newsletter company in the mid-1980s.

To do so, they raised venture capital from several private investors. Lang said, "We have raised about $1.5 million in venture capital from our investors."

Some of the company's newsletters are published in conjuction with Lang's alma mater, Brown University--such as those mentioned above, as well as The Brown University Gero-Psych Report and The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory and Application.

"If we were to start over we might select another field for newsletters, but the behavioral health field has been a good one for us," he added. "We have a high profile in the mental health field."

In addition to their newsletters, the Langs also publish a magazine, loose-leaf reference books, and special reports.

"We are currently thinking about staging conferences in the behavioral health field," Lang said, "but we haven't yet come to a decision."

What does Lang see as the future for newsletters?

"The newsletter industry at present seems to be biding is time; it's waiting out the changes," he said.

The changes he referred to include the move into electronic publishing, subscription prices, and the availability of qualified editorial and marketing employees.

"It's getting tough to get qualified people," he added.

Four of Manisses's key people include Gary Enos, who edits Behavioral Health Care Tomorrow, a bi-monthly magazine with a subscription rate of $74/year; Brion McAlarney, managing editor of the weekly newsletters; Linda Watts Jackim, managing editor of the monthly newsletters; and Karienne Stovell, managing editor of the book division.

And what does the name of the company-Manisses--mean? Lang said it was the Indian name for Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, where the Langs 1ive in the summer
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Author:Steward, Hal D.
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 31, 2000
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