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DECISION POINTS 2006 — FORBES TO TELL ALL

April 2006 BY MARY GARNETT
STEVE FORBES has been described as a media mogul, a Web-savvy ideologue, a simplified tax advocate, a publisher and, more relevant here, the keynote presenter at next month’s Web Offset Association (WOA) meeting in Orlando, FL.

Not only does Steve Forbes know our business, he lives it. Forbes Inc. is an 88-year-old publishing company riding the cusp of the Internet and new media challenges. Having invested tens of millions into the Internet, the president and CEO of Forbes Inc. and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine continues to be very optimistic about the power of print. In addition to his intimate dealings with the printing industry as a magazine publisher, Forbes will offer viewpoints on many national topics near and dear to those attending the WOA conference.

Forbes and I recently talked about his favorite topics. First and foremost was the magazine and publishing business. He relayed that readership for Forbes magazine has remained about the same over the recent past; they have not seen a loss of readers in the broad sense. Even so, he admits marketers have really become enamored with new media.

Forbes believes that newspapers are in a more challenging position (in comparison to magazines). The reason: people’s habits are migrating to an early morning review of Websites for the latest headlines that did not make the overnight editions. Newspapers will adjust to this by publishing more feature stories. Forbes used the example of The Wall Street Journal carrying a feature on Larry Summers’ departure from Harvard in addition to the headlines of his leaving. “News is more of a commodity and the role of print is going to be in value-added and not tied to fast-breaking news items.

“The cult of personality is also doing just fine,” according to Forbes. We talked about Martha Stewart Living as an example. Forbes compared the similarities of online retail and brick-and-mortar stores to print and the Internet co-existing. Publishers realize that they must do cross-marketing.

“Cross-media or cross-platform is the name of the game,” he says.

Forbes magazine salespeople don’t call on accounts just trying to sell ad pages anymore; they serve as consultants discussing all of the platforms that can be used to fulfill customers’ needs.

“We talk about how we are different from ‘Brand X,’ ” Forbes adds. The same is true for printers—clients are looking for consultants to improve their business objectives and bottom-line results. Customers of printers and publishers are looking for results and are closely watching their marketing budgets.

Postal costs are impacting their decisions. According to Forbes, the postal system may look to the privatization that is going on in Europe. More market-oriented programs may be the way of the postal service. E-mail and mail lines will be blurred.

Knows of Industry Issues

Forbes is also aware that the printing industry faces ferocious margin challenges. “Print does have a commodity element, but the real margins are in value-added.” He is optimistic that good, creative printers will rise above the commodity image.

When asked about other topics for his keynote, he restated his favorite issues. Forbes will be talking about the economy and how it drives our fortunes. He will look at interest rates, healthcare, politics and, of course, taxes.

On healthcare, he reiterated his own company’s successful changes. Forbes is a proponent for getting consumers more in charge (i.e., health savings accounts and AHPs). On politics, the former presidential candidate will opine on the “who to watch list” for upcoming elections. And he will announce his role in the 2008 presidential race.

Taxes is also one of his favorite topics. His book, entitled “Flat Tax Revolution...Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS,” details his and others thoughts on flat taxes. Every presidential administration has increased the tax code even when attempting to simplify it, Forbes points out.

Join other printers and suppliers to hear Forbes and other notables for Decision Points 2006 during the 54th WOA Annual Conference in Orlando on May 22-24. Check out www.gain.net or call Teresa Rees for more information at (800) 910-4283, ext. 804.

About the Author
Mary Garnett is executive director of the Web Offset Association, which serves all web offset printers in PIA/GATF with products and services to enhance profitability and professional development of personnel.
 

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