Thursday, March 10, 2005

Are Publishers the right Man for the Job?

In talking about business models here is one worth discussing.

If you were going to go sailing in treacherous waters, who would you want captain your ship? Perhaps the travel agent that sold you that trip? I don’t think so.

Where is it written in stone that a best practice for a business is to put at the helm of the ship a person with little knowledge of that business? It has been a mystery to me the continued predilection of the publishing community to take very successful salespeople and anoint them with the title of publisher.

A publisher is in charge of the whole enchilada. They should be fluent in the disciplines of circulation, accounting principles, manufacturing and production. I have lots of friends who are publishers and most have agreed privately that although it’s good for their ego, and the fact those advertisers like to see upper management, the publisher. But that it takes a long long time to learn the other disciplines of the business environment. What do you think?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's face it. Exactly as you say, the publisher's role in today's wacky magazine industry is to be the one with the huge expense account to wine and dine at Four Seasons the latest graduating class of media buyers. Everyone in the industry has lost sight of the fact that each magazine is an individual business enterprise, the financial health of which will be determined by making a good product (editorial), getting the word out that it is good, and available for purchase (circulation) having it manufactured at a fair price by a dependable vendor, who is paid on time, and then - and ONLY then - going to the market place to find makers of other products who want to reach those customers, and who will pay to do it (advertisers). But we won't get there until more people in the business recognize that it is a system, not individual departments, that must work smoothly together to make it all happen...

chip said...

it has ever been so...most pubs are glorified ad salesmen with no ink under their fingernails and no knowledge of circulation or the editorial process...i used to argue that the title 'publishr' should mean something other than a wedge to get in the door of a media buyer, but i gave up around 1975

Anonymous said...

If advertising is your main revenue stream, I'm sure buyers don't want to be w&d by someone w/ cyan ink on their shirt cuff. But what would the publisher know about cost control, process improvement, supply chain mgnt?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought about ee relationships and problem solving, general business sense, marketing (which is very different from advertising) and the entire gamut of day-to-day issues that arise in any business having nothing to do with ad revenue? It's the rare person who has been "locked up" in a world of telephone calls and preparations for face-to-face meetings with clients that will have the facility to suddenly face having to review employees on their production in areas other than those specific to ad sales. What about understanding the production pressures...not only those of a deadline, but a myriad of other areas. What about understanding the need for technological growth? Could we go on forever with this subject? I suspect so. But, the underlying pricipal as I see it is that the best fit for a publisher is to have come up through the ranks working in various segments of the industry and in various capacities. In fact, one need not even have had to have been in the publishing industry at all if you really think about it! How many Fortune CEOs have been plucked from entirely different industries than that for which they are picked? That's because the person has proved him/her self able to understand the big picture, be able to delegate when required and be willing to listen carefully to others.

Anonymous said...

We shouldn't paint all publishers with the same brush. There are publishers who understand the circulation, production and editorial processes of their publications, but only those who have studied. The sad fact is that most are merely elevated ad directors. It becomes even more apparent recently when that same publisher needs to defend the business practices of his publishing house to his advertisers. Unfortunately many of those same publishers are getting the crash course in circulation and economics they should have had long ago.