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Braving the new world of publishing.

Associations embrace new publishing technologies in their quest for information management excellence.

The brave new world of association publishing: For each association, what it is, what it means, may hinge on how it envisions the larger picture of information delivery.

Some associations are just now dipping their metaphorical big toe in the waters of desktop publishing. Others have already set their sights on utilizing newer technology, such as compact disk-read-only memory, or CD-ROM, to produce membership directories and buyers' guides. And some are exploring the simpler route of fax publishing to meet members' on-the-spot demand for information.

"The impetus for using these new technologies is coming from the membership. It's an increasingly competitive environment," notes Kenneth B. Allen, president of the Information Industry Association (IIA), Washington, D.C. "To maintain our position, we need to be more responsive to members. They want more timely, accurate, comprehensive information."

In the vanguard are association executives who view publishing solely in the context of total information management. Carol Hurlburt is communications director for NPES, the Association for Suppliers of Printing and Publishing Technologies, Reston, Virginia. She says, "We're telling our members this is the future of publications: People producing materials will want the option of outputting in different ways |distributing the same data through various media~. And that has an impact on how you prepare materials in the beginning."

Many associations find their own members' expectations to be the most convincing argument for implementing--and staying on top of--new electronic publishing technology.

"From a technical point of view, to remain a leader, we had to take advantage of the latest technology," says Mary Alice Crawford, publisher and editor-in-chief at American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), Arlington, Virginia.

Beyond the printed page

One technology already being warmly welcomed by some members of the association community is CD-ROM--compact disk-read-only memory. IIA, for example, will include a CD in registration packets for its 25th annual convention being held this month in Washington, D.C. CD-ROM readers will be available on-site and in the exhibit hall. Allen cites three goals for the project: to communicate information, to demonstrate the benefits of compact disk, and to use it for advertising.

Next year, Allen expects to furnish IIA's membership directory on CD as well, although he emphasizes the association is not abandoning print in any way. NPES is also considering copublishing a buyers' guide on CD-ROM.

Ray Roper, CAE, president and CEO, Printing Industries of America (PIA), Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, says some of his members are embracing CD-ROM as a market niche. One, a software publisher in the Northwest, expanded to CD-ROM production and anticipates overall sales will surpass $60 million this year, compared to $18 million in 1991.

David G. Wilson, Jr., senior vice president and general manager, journals division, William Byrd Press, Richmond, Virginia--a vendor of CD-ROM services--says his company "has seen a tremendous surge in interest level |in CD-ROM~ and willingness to look at it as an alternate way of packaging information, and not as a threat to printed copy." He predicts scientific, technical, and medical associations will be the most involved in the new technology.

Rose Blessing, editor of Publishing & Production Executive, Philadelphia, endorses Wilson's observation. "Scientific information often has long-term value, making a CD-ROM with 10 years of information on it a very marketable product."

Tom Jones, vice president and principal of Wickham and Associates, a Washington-based design firm handling nearly 40 association magazines, envisions a future for photographic CD. His firm has adopted this technology for manipulating photographs to create personalized illustration. Digital photography makes it possible to capture images (data from a camera) and store it digitally in the computer's hard drive.

An evolution of an older technology, xerography, has led some associations into on-demand printing for some publications (see "The On-Demand Difference," ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT, April 1993). At a lower cost than conventional printing, and with near-offset quality, publishers can produce smaller quantities of frequently updated materials. These systems even make it possible to convey changes in content electronically. Binding only what's needed or sellable in a reasonable period of time reduces printing and storage costs.

Commercial access to on-demand printing began three years ago when Xerox unveiled the Docutech production publisher system, which soon was followed by Kodak's LionHeart. These machines combine high-speed copying, laser printing, scanning, document composition, and network computing.

Docutech is most efficient for runs of 500 to 1,000, notes Hurlburt, of NPES. She predicts that most associations will probably defer acquiring the system while using printing companies that also offer it as a service.

Fax publishing, or fax-on-demand, is another avenue for assuaging members' demand for information. Made possible by the explosion in the market for facsimile machines, fax publishing enables a member or subscriber to obtain association information by fax at any time of day, without first requesting it through a staff member. IIA is exploring this option as a revenue generating member service, according to Allen.

Bruce Butterfield, CAE, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Forbes Group, Fairfax, Virginia, predicts that fax publishing is an interim technology, but one ideally suited to association newsletters.

ASIS offers an on-line, interactive data base to association members that includes digests of editorial information. Available by subscription and administered through the ASIS membership department, the data base includes the magazine index, summaries of articles, and the editorial calendar.

Education information is also available on line, and members can use the service to register for meetings. However, only a small percentage of the membership--about 1 percent--subscribes.

Getting desktop right

Associations focusing their efforts on bringing desktop publishing in-house, take note: Publishers and vendors alike say success is contingent on acquiring proper hardware and software. That task requires ongoing research and finding knowledgeable experts.

"In our industry--for prepress equipment, design work stations, and software--the shelf life can be as little as 18 months," notes Hurlburt. "This makes a tremendous demand on the person making systems decisions, who must stay apprised of the trends so the association doesn't end up with a system that will be obsolete," she adds.

In the case of Security Management magazine, Crawford's acquisition of a Macintosh-based production system in 1991 coincided with ASIS's mainframe upgrade. She believes her magazine's switch to electronic publishing got off on the right foot because she worked with her typesetting firm and a knowledgeable consultant.

"Taking one person's word for what you need is a mistake," she says. "We did well by having a lot of people look at our situation, including one who had no vested interest in selling us products or tying us in with a particular service bureau." She purchased equipment through her typesetting firm, with which she intended to continue to do business, and a consultant who could also train her staff.

However, she concedes her staff may have underprojected equipment needs in the production end. She recently purchased a fourth production unit--a dedicated file server that can interface between production and editorial. That it was acquired soon after identifying the need "made me look like a hero," Crawford says, looking forward to having a Mac for herself in the next fiscal year.

Getting an association's chief staff executive--not just the publishing division--on board and informed at the acquisition stage is also critical. "We try to give them a realistic expectation of what the equipment will do, what kind of equipment outlay makes sense, and step by step, what they can expect," says Eric Hoss, director of training and support for Black Dot Graphics, Crystal Lake, Illinois, a major supplier of prepress services. "I like it when CEOs ask, 'Why do I need a utility program?' 'Why do I need to protect against viruses?'"

Association publishers also have to remember to budget for software upgrades, Hoss points out. "Programs change all the time because of enhancements that allow you to use them faster, so you need training updates all the time," he says. "Some will begrudge a $195 upgrade charge, but that upgrade may allow you to do a task twice as fast."

Adds Crawford, "From a managerial point of view, when employees come to you and need an upgrade or something else to do their jobs more effectively, you need to understand why they want these things--that they're not being extravagant."

Expertise through training

One subject underpinning discussion of any particular electronic medium is the need for training, which is clearly the linchpin of any successful conversion to electronic publishing.

Blessing notes that when Publishing & Production Executive recently interviewed publishers on the subject of training, the biggest point of agreement was the need for application-specific training. "It's best when someone sits beside you to train you to do jobs you usually do--training customized to your needs."

"There definitely is a learning curve on the production side," adds Crawford, whose staff members attend daylong courses as needed.

Serving a membership composed of companies involved in printing equipment and supplies makes it easy for NPES staff to stay informed of technological changes, according to Hurlburt. Staff members regularly visit printing companies, attend their own trade shows, and are encouraged to read key magazines in their industry.

Working together

PIA's Roper urges association publishers to view their printer as a technical consultant. He notes that many printers are setting up training programs for customers "on the electronic front-end," adding that "time and money spent on training will be returned many times over, with less cost and greater efficiency in the final product."

In the near future, Byrd's Wilson hopes association publishers and printers will look jointly for ways to streamline processes that are too cumbersome, costly, or duplicative, with the help of production management systems.

"The association keeps track of a lot of information, making logs for pages of color, press imposition, ad tracking, distribution, and so on. Then the printer writes it down again. Why can't it be sent electronically so there's interdependent communication?"

The larger issue for Wilson, though, in this new age of publishing technology, is the need to examine the entire process to develop new disciplines governing how publishers and printers work together.

"We must throw away things we think are sacred or absolutes and completely reengineer a vision of what could be."

Picturing the future

After unfavorable reviews when one of his plays opened, George Bernard Shaw contended, "The play was a success, but the audience was a failure." Associations on the cutting edge of publishing technology perhaps will feel the same way.

Many associations are now contemplating how delivery of information to members fits into their strategic planning. NPES's Hurlburt advocates considering where the association wants to be at least five years out.

She says the most critical factor, which will be different for each association, is "knowing what you need to do with your products and audience, and the most effective way to achieve the communication goal."

Associations of the future may have subscribers rather than members, predicts Butterfield. "There would be subscription fees up front, and then you get only what you want. It begins to resolve some of the debate about nondues income and ways to generate new income."

One thing is clear: Vendors of prepress and printing services want to see associations succeed with electronic publishing. But they--and their successful association counterparts--have strong advice.

Do your homework before, during, after. Hire intelligently and keep training. Expect to have to update hardware and software with some regularity. Don't expect too much too soon. And when you need help: ask.

What About Advertising?

Will advertising migrate from the printed page to newer electronic media? Opinions differ.

According to Rose Blessing, editor of Publishing & Production Executive, Philadelphia, "Any new medium will invent ways for people to advertise in that medium."

Tom Jones, vice president and principal of Wickham and Associates, Washington, D.C., says advertisers are taking to CD-ROM and anticipates its appeal to "a specialized group of technoids who have to have the latest |media~ toys."

On the ad production side, Eric Hoss, director of training and support for Black Dot Graphics, Crystal Lake, Illinois, predicts there will be more advertising delivered digitally. Electronic ads are easier to update than film, because with the latter, a simple change, such as a new phone number, necessitates creating new film.

On the other hand, Mary Alice Crawford, publisher and editor-in-chief at the American Society for Industrial Security, Arlington, Virginia, does not foresee a great rush of interest. "Our industry advertisers don't need more places to spend their money. What they are looking for is value-added."

Ray Roper, CAE, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, who sees a bright future for CD-ROM in the printing industry, particularly for reference journals, nevertheless observes, "Right now, it's harder to capture quality with electronic media the same way you can enhance a printed ad."

Katherine L. George, CAE, is president of Catalina Communications, based in Haymarket, Virginia.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Special Section: Publishing; includes related article; information services for associations
Author:George, Katherine L.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Books to beg, borrow, or buy.
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