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NEPA conference attracts 514 newsletter publishers, editors, marketers, and vendors.

Titled "Winning Profit Strategies for Specialty Publishers," the 29th annual International Newsletter & Specialized-Information Conference sponsored by the Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Association, held in Washington, D.C., June 5-7, drew slightly fewer delegates than the previous year's 536, but actually about the same paid attendees considering that this year's meeting did not include the 20 university students who attended last year for free.

Gone were the last few years' post-9/11 pessimism, followed by "cautious optimism" and then "optimism." Now it's once again business as usual--although conference attendees often debated just what that business is. That point was underscored by the various phrases bandied about describing the industry--specialty publishers, newsletter and specialized-information publishers, electronic publishers, etc.

In fact, the association this past spring surveyed its members about a possible NEPA name change. Executive director Patti Wysocki told us that the board wanted a name that would be more inclusive--more attractive to, say, online content providers and conference hosts. She said that 53 percent voted to keep the current name; second place went to Specialized-Information Publishers Association. But many members felt strong about keeping Newsletter in the title. An option not given on the survey but one that Patti said would probably have won is Newsletter & Specialized-Information Publishers Association.

The board will return to the question at its strategic planning session in October.

Industry trends

Conference chairman Tom Hagy reported the results of NEPA's industry survey, stating, "While specialized-information publishers are seeing continuing recovery from the doldrums of the early 2000s, they still face the age-old challenge that has always ranked among the top of their list: acquiring new subscribers." Eighty-nine percent of respondents listed it as either their leading (64 percent) or their second-leading (25 percent) challenge.

Hagy said that respondents listed new product development as their second leading challenge, with 55 percent giving it either a first-place or second-place rating.

Technology came in third as respondents' third-largest challenge--with 50 percent rating online systems management as either their most important or second-most important challenge.

For the first time in the survey's history, respondents said that the revenue they get from print newsletters dropped below 50 percent of total revenue. IOMA president David Foster echoed that stastistic in describing his own company.

"Until 2000, 88 percent of revenue was newsletters, and our only ancillary was list rental. In 2005 newsletters are now only 45 peercent of revenue," he said.

Similarly, Tom Hagy said of his company, LexisNexis Mealey's, "For a long time we were 100 percent print newsletters. Now we have 16 revenue streams--one third each for print newsletters, conferences, and electronic offerings."

He parenthetically added that Mealey's funded its first website with the $40,000 it won from a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Regarding the rise in online revenue, David Foster observed "change in the information industry: What customers want they want now. We no longer try to get prospects to subscribe to one of our newsletters--rather, we we try to get them any way we can and then introduce the newsletter."

Number of launches dramatically up

Tom Hagy also said that the survey revealed that nearly half of the respondents said they had launched new newsletters in the past 12 months--"another indication of publishers' confidence," he said.

The biggest growth in new titles came in paid electronic newsletters, increasing from nearly 14 percent in 2004 to more than 30 percent this year.

Audio conferences a fading star

While many popular conference sessions were devoted to audio conferences, many attendees reported that audio conferences had reached a saturation point.

Lauryn Fronzoni, for example, went on record as saying, "NEPA members are all wrong. Audio conferences are not the way to go--webinars are."

Another publisher reported that he went from producing three audio conferences per market per month to just one now per market per month.

Controversial keynoters get mixed reviews

As reported in the NL/NL March 31 issue, the choice of two speakers from far outside the publishing field spurred debate and controversy. As far as we could tell, their presentations made few converts out of those opposed to them and underscored their defenders' stance that publishers have much to learn from other business leaders.

Fred D. Adcock, executive vice president of Subaru of America Inc., described his auto company's focus on niche marketing by focusing on and exploiting its customers lifestyles--a pertinent analogy not lost on many publishers.

His hour-long presentation included, supposely for illustrative purposes, a number of Subaru television commercials.

One delegate summed up many people's response, "This is not good. Too much Subaru, too much auto detail. The 'niche strategy' could have been described in five minutes."

D. Wayne Lucas, the champion thoroughbred horse trainer, described his up-by-his-own-bootstraps life and his award-winning career in the barns and on the race tracks.

The entertaining, often humorous, energetic and even intense Lucas told the conference delegates to be "dedicated, focused and disciplined."

"We keep it simple," he said. "Keep the tension out of the workshop. Tension comes from not being prepared to do what's asked. It's got to be a happy place or it's not going to work."


Reflecting the focus of most of the conference panels, workshops, speeches, and roundtable discussions, conference chairman Hagy observed, "The industry is moving from product-centric to marketing-centric."
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Title Annotation:Special NEPA Annual Conference Issue
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jun 23, 2005
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