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Convergence of new media and "back to basics" marks annual NEPA conference in Washington.

Two ostensibly contradictory themes emerged from the 26th annual International Newsletter & Specialized Information Conference held June 2-4 at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. While many publishers said tough economic times were forcing them to relearn and apply a lot of basic management and marketing practices, the plethora of choices among the new media is also forcing them to keep a keen eye on emerging technologies.

That puts publishers simultaneously looking around the office for cost-cutting opportunities and looking to the internet for new channels of revenue--including the hiring of sales people to sell online advertising and site licenses. Wayne Cooper of Kennedy Information Inc. nicely summarized the dual mission. Asked what his greatest management challenge was this past year, he said, "We've done our best to keep our key people in place, and even counterintuitively we have hired people in this buyer's market."

Greater diversity of publishing and geographic backgrounds

The conference also saw a much greater diversity of publishing types (and countries of origin) than in past years. New faces among the approximately 520 conference delegates included personnel from AARP, Forbes, DuPont, and the American Hospital Association--and newsletter publishers from Spain, Mongolia, Poland, and Romania for the first time. Germans abounded, too: seven from Bonner Academy of Journalistic, Bonn; four from FID Verlag GmbH, Bonn; twenty from VNR Verlag fur die Deutsche Wirtschaft AG, Bonn; and six from Verlag Praktisches Wissen GmbH, Offenburg.

Among the increasingly diverse delegates were, of course, online publishers with no print newsletter background. While they came looking to print publishers for ways to make money with their online products, print publishers were looking to them for new revenue and marketing avenues.

Many hybrid and complicated distribution models were discussed, and publishers trying to choose among them were repeatedly advised, in the words of Advanced Interactive Media Group's Peter Zollman, "The key to profitability is multiple revenue sources." Another publisher quoted hockey great Wayne Gretsky, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."

If delegates were overwhelmed by the new technologies and even new vocabulary (see Reporter's Notebook, p. 3), one speaker sorted it all out with the observation, "The internet is not anything more than a new delivery truck."

On the sluggish merger and acquisition front, investment banker Eugene Simonoff said, "I'm hearing from people (once again) who want to buy, but the sellers are experiencing flat sales. The multiples aren't there anymore. Publicly held large corporations, however, are willing to pay the multiples and are willing to wait longer than the private companies to turn a profit."

25th anniversary

NEPA celebrated its 25th anniversary at the conference. A number of the 18 founding members of the association sat at a head table at the Monday luncheon, including Kenneth Callaway, James Marshall, Thomas L. Phillips, and William F Bland. Thirteen newsletter firms were singled out as 25-year-member companies still active in NEPA.

Foundation auction

The Monday luncheon also featured the auctioning off of four past presidents of NEPA. To raise money for the Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, the highly entertaining Andy McLaughlin, of Paperclip Publications, auctioned off the one-day, on-site expertise of:

* Helen Hoart, president of Consumer Health Publishing Group,

* Jim Muntz, president of WD&S Publishing,

* Jim Sinkinson, president of the Infocom Group, and

* Robert Williford, president of EB Practice LLC.

Bidding began at $1,000 for each person. McLaughlin rapidly and humorously coaxed bidders up and up--once including two competitors at opposite ends of The Mayflower Hotel grand ballroom, but from the same company.

At another time, Harvard Business School Publishing was reluctant to stay in. "C'mon, HARVARD, "McLaughlin said. "You have the largest endowment in the country and you're worrying about $3,000."

The auction brought $15,800 to the Foundation. We commend all involved--an impressive amount of money donated in less than 30 minutes.

Also to be commended are conference chairman Robert Jenkins, the dozens of speakers and moderators, and NEPA executive director Patricia Wysocki and her staff who swimmingly ran Control Center.

A number of publishers and editors told us that they cover many conferences in their respective industries, and NEPA's ranks right up there with the best of them.
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jun 15, 2002
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