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Mark Ziebarth talks about his first three years as an owner-publisher.

In March 2003 Mark Ziebarth explained his decision to become publisher of Bongarde Media Co. and move his large family from Lenox, Mass., to Penticton, British Columbia: "I figured that I had been doing this (managing newsletters) for 15 years for other people, it was time I did for myself."

NL/NL checked in with Mark to see how things were going. "It was absolutely the right thing for me to do, Fred," Mark explained before going on to paint a happy picture (a pleasant occurence in 2006).

"A critically important thing is to choose your partners wisely. Most of my experience was with Phillips Publishing, but Tom Phillips didn't need a partner. Then I went on a wild ride with George Gilder (NL/NL 10/03/02,) but even besides the collapse of NASDAQ, George was just a terrible businessman."

"My partners here are Wayne and Marshall Cooper, who had owned Kennedy Information, and Giles Goodhead. They have a private equity fund called Greenhaven Partners. They aren't sharp-elbowed venture capitalists, they are good at specialty publishing. They have other properties besides Bongarde, all in the information business and, while they are totally involved in strategy and planning, I am 100 percent in charge of and responsible for operation on a day-today basis."

Worker safety and human resources

Bongarde publishes newsletters and other materials in the compliance and human resources area--similar to Clement Communications in the U.S. (NL/NL 5/17/06)

Mark continued in our telephone interview, "I don't really want to blow my own horn but in the three and a half years I've been here we've been able to increase revenues 100 percent. We've launched newsletters and other services in our existing markets and expanded into related markets in the areas of compliance, human resources, environmental regulations and health."

Interestingly, Mark commented that while Bongarde's business is currently split about 50/50 between U.S. and Canada, "Our greatest growth is clearly on the Canadian side. We're using plain old FFTs with great success but my suspicion is that our aggressive marketing style is somewhat new in the Canadian marketplace."

Finding the hidden pony

"To our great good fortune Brownstone Publishing in N.Y.C. has been selling off divisions and good people have become available. We've added four exceptional editors. One has moved here to B.C., and another, Wayne Demby, has opened a satellite office for us in Stamford, Conn. These people know how to write about legal matters in ways comprehensible to laypersons.

"We've launched four new 'content platforms' (what we used to call newsletters) that are Canadian specific. Each is available in both electronic and paper versions, but the great demand is for the paper version. Most of our profit comes from paper, which we are using to build our electronic business. If he were in my business, James Carville might have said, 'It's the paper, stupid.' I like to say we'll see the paperless office at the same time as the paperless bathroom."

"This year we've launched four new free e-zines and an electronic online exchange. We're planning what I call a "Safety Wiki' that will be written and edited by our subscriber-members."

"Nonetheless the 800-lb gorilla in the room is the electronic business. Our customers are going to demand 24/7 access to information wherever they are. My job is to convert us from a plain old print publisher to a firm that is ready to meet the needs of the 20-year olds currently wandering around campus with baseball hats on backwards when they become thirtysomething executives and information buyers."

"I have found that being 'publisher' is one of those things that is easy to think about ahead of time but difficult to do every day. To be responsible for a payroll for 60 people every two weeks. To be responsible for hiring, motivating and firing if necessary" Mark said.

"One technique I borrowed from Phillips. At Phillips at the end of every business day, a sheet of paper landed on your desk cataloging the results for that day for the products you were responsible for and, believe me, you looked at it carefully. Tom called it the Green Sheet because 'green is the color of money.' I still do it here although I have to explain why it's green because Canadian money isn't."

Bongarde Media Co., P.O. Box 428, Oroville, WA 98844, 250-493-2200, fax 250-490-9735, www.bongarde.com
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Article Details
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Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 18, 2006
Words:740
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