Early bird, no worm

Two months ago, the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) canceled its annual conference and announced that it would instead host a summit on publishing innovation. This week, the registration page went live, and I clicked over to see what I’d be getting for an early-bird commitment. The answer so far is: not much.

The landing page tells us a little:

“The Magazine Innovation Summit is MPA’s first magazine event devoted exclusively to Innovation in the publishing space. The event will feature speakers, panelists and case studies addressing technological, business and creative change in the magazine industry. It will focus on understanding and harnessing the power of disruptive technologies and transformative business models to affect positive change for magazine brands.

“Day One of the Summit will be held Oct. 14 at the Grand Hyatt New York and features topics and discussions geared for a wide variety of magazine professionals including publishers, ad sales executives, marketers, lawyers, public relations managers, digital leaders and editors. Day Two offers business-specific break-out sessions devoted exclusively to advertising, consumer marketing, government affairs and editorial.”

There’s a link to a page with more information. An agenda? A list of confirmed speakers? A high-profile keynote commitment? Well, not really. It’s the same content with a call to register before early September and save $100. It’s a reasonable marketing tactic, but it feels contrary to the commitment MPA made earlier this year to help its members best use scarce resources.

I wish that were the most pressing concern, though. MPA is planning a summit dedicated to innovation, but the agenda is silent on two significant issues that cry out for innovation: newsstand sales and shorter lead times for production and distribution. Supply-chain management (and the related ability to manage total cost) may determine the success or failure of both magazine and book publishers, but it is missing from the program.

Instead, MPA promises two day-two breakout sessions on “Magazine Marketing Coalition Rally” and “Government Affairs” and two others on “Consumer Marketing” and “Editorial”. What am I supposed to take away from a list like that?

When MPA canceled its annual meeting, I wrote: “These days, we need to gather to have our frameworks challenged, to essentially treat conference content as if we were an in-person peer-reviewed journal. The days of just showing up for an annual dose of received wisdom are over.” I’d like to attend an innovation summit, but not one that dedicates half of its resources to rallies and government affairs. There are much bigger problems to innovate around.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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