Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's Happened with Industry Mentoring?

What's Happened with Industry Mentoring?
Marketing, Management and Economic Notes from Dr. Joe Webb

05/16/2007 -- Publishing guru Bob Sacks has written a provocative piece called "Where are Today's Mentors?"

"...there is one aspect in this new world environment that has me worried and concerned. It is the area of mentorship where, it seems to me, we have fallen behind and by that loss as an industry we have been greatly diminished.

What has happened? When and where did we lose the skill set and the will to teach the younglings? Have we so trimmed our business models and our work force that there is just no time to teach and mentor? Have we lost sight of the power of the properly groomed apprentice? Is there just not enough time now with the diminished workforces to add the burden of schooling for the future?"

I wrote back to Bob and this is what I said...

Today's mentors? You mean you want young people to learn from the upper- and mid-level executives who dismissed the Internet, desktop publishing, cross media, and ran bloated, bureaucratic self-protective organizations? Okay. I guess we need to cultivate more narrow-minded bonus-focused executives to discourage the young people below them so that, in frustration, those young people can they out on their own and start their own businesses. If that's what we want, then mentoring is a great idea. Everyone can learn a lot from viewing a bad example. Many successful businesses were created by inspired executives who could not make headway in the organizations they were in.

Seriously, mentoring comes from age diversity in organizations, not just a plan. In many job cutting schemes, middle-management is cut the most, which creates a discontinuity in organizational succession. When companies stop growing, as many big publishing companies have, there can be a serious age-imbalance that interrupts traditional passing of knowledge as one generation looked out for another. What this means is that managers start making old mistakes in new ways because there is no one there to stop them.

Industry growth can cover a multitude of sins; industry decline exposes them and creates new problems. The lack of mentoring is one of them.

There is another issue. Many young people are in a marketplace for which additional education is quite common. For example, one-third of all business students will have MBA's about 10 years after they graduate. Much of what was passed in the mentoring process is now passed in additional outside educational endeavors that were not available in the past.

Technology has also changed things, and standardized them. Desktop publishing has standardized trade practices that were sometimes unique to organizations that would have otherwise required a mentoring process to impart.

I've reflected on my comments a bit more, and I have a couple of things to add. Colleges may emerge to be more about networking than ever. In the past, distance became a primary reason for no longer staying in touch with fellow graduates. The first graduates who have FaceBook, MySpace, instant messaging, and the like, are only now being granted degrees. This could get interesting from a mentoring perspective.

Businesses are getting smaller because of the large varieties of support services that they can buy from others. For example, the ratio of graphic designers who work for design firms compared to those who work as freelancers was a ratio of 3:1 in 1997. We are getting to a stage where that ratio may become almost reversed by 2010 when my analysis of Census data indicates it will become 2:3.

Who mentors a freelancer? Because communications have changed, the networking that used to occur as a result of proximity is now expanded. Those freelancers may be more plugged in than ever... and the mentoring process that was intrinsic to working for a firm in years past might become more powerful among connected freelancers.

McPheters Nixes

McPheters Nixes
Wednesday, May 16, 2007 8:00 AM ET

REBECCA MCPHETERS IS CANCELING PLANS to launch a new service, called, because of a lack of interest from publishers and an insufficient financial report, according to a report posted online at Mediaweek. In the article, McPheters said her company had raised less than half the $5 million necessary to launch the new service, which counted on support from both media-planning agencies and publishers. McPheters added that many publishers were apparently deterred by the threat of greater transparency in their audience measures. However, she reaffirmed her own belief that greater transparency is ultimately in publishers' best interests. Her plans for the new service were originally announced in October 2005. Funding shortages delayed rollout twice--first to the beginning of 2006, then the beginning of 2007.

Thomson Seals Reuters Deal

Thomson Seals Reuters Deal
by Erik Sass

THE THOMSON CORPORATION WILL BUY Reuters Group PLC for $17.2 billion, the companies announced Tuesday, in a deal that will create the world's largest news and market-data organization. The deal received approval from the Reuters Founders Share Company, a special custodian council empowered to veto deals that it believes endanger the company's mission. It must still clear regulatory hurdles, including antitrust statutes. The new company will be headed by Reuters' chief executive, Tom Glocer.

Provided there are no layoffs, the deal will combine Reuters' roughly 15,500 employees with Thomson Financial's 9,300. (Thomson Corp. has 32,000 total employees, working in divisions covering legal, health care, scientific and tax and accounting news.) Thomson raised some of the funds for the deal with last week's sale of its educational division, including its textbook publishing business, for $7.8 billion.

The buy comes after several strong years at both companies.

In 2006, Reuters' revenue rose 8% to a total $6.6 billion, as profit rose 7% to $1.3 billion on a year-over-year basis. In 2006, Thomson Financial saw revenue rise 6% to $2 billion, while profit increased 13% to $379 million. Together, the companies will control roughly 34% of the news and information market, edging out competitor Bloomberg LP.

The upsides: Thomson strengthens its financial-reporting resources, and Reuters gets exposure in Thomson's other specialty areas. Plus, the companies expect to save about $500 million a year through efficiencies resulting from the deal--again, no word on layoffs.

Both companies' bread-and-butter is still subscription revenue for their business and professional-information products, according to Patrick Quinn, president and founder of PQ Media, which tracks various business information markets. But as price competition with Bloomberg heats up, they may begin incorporating advertising to offset subscription costs. All the elements are there, Quinn noted--including desirable audiences of engaged, well-heeled professionals, high potential for contextual targeting and the digitization of content delivery.

"They really set the tone for leveraging static content into the digital, interactive format over the last decade," Quinn recalled. "As the overall B-to-B information service categories continue to overlap more and more--from digital content to magazines to events and trade shows--there are going to be more opportunities for value-added marketing programs, including targeted advertising."

Quinn says we're not seeing that at the moment, because the companies don't need the extra revenue--they currently get a premium price from their institutional subscribers. "But if price becomes more of a challenge going forward," he says, "I could see them adding that to the model."