By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
At the risk of appearing self-congratulatory, this issue marks my first anniversary at the helm of Connections Magazine. Normally, I would let such an event go by without fanfare, however, since so many readers have taken the time to ask, “How are things going?” I think it is appropriate to update you on the status of the magazine. Some of these inquirers seemed to be concerned about me personally, as if to say, “Are you happy you bought Connections?” or “Is this working out for you?” Others, realizing the unique position and role of Connections in the industry, appeared to be seeking assurances of its continued survival.
First, let me say that Connections is healthy and on track to meet our business goals and objectives for the year. This is due to the support of our loyal advertisers, faithful readers, generous authors, and the strength of a professional publishing team that pulls it all together. To all of you, a hearty “thank you!”
When I bought Connections Magazine last year, I did not know print media advertising was in the middle of a severe slump nor that many magazines had ceased publication. In fact, in 2001, more than 100 magazines printed their last issue due to falling advertising revenues.
Also, when I signed the purchase paperwork last year, on September 10, I had no way of knowing that our world would soon be forever changed. The next day, terrorists commandeered passenger planes, as missiles, to attack the United States. I spent the rest of that week not giving much attention to my new business, but rather drawn, in shell-shocked numbness, to the unfolding events on my television screen. The following week, I was convinced that my best and most patriotic response would be to attempt to return to normal life. Therefore, I tried to refocus my attention on business in general and on Connections specifically. I soon learned that our advertisers, already skittish about the economy and worrying about their own sales numbers, now had the added concern of how this act of terrorism would affect them. At the same time, they wondered whether the new guy at Connections could maintain the publication or would end up ruining it. As a result, advertising revenue for our first issue was off nearly 20 percent. It was not an affirming initiation for me.
Fortunately, with one successful issue under our belt, advertising rebounded for the following issue. Within two issues, we were back on track – our advertising revenue had returned to pre-Sept. 11-levels. The feedback from readers was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. I am still deeply touched by all of the notes and words of encouragement and support I received, especially during those first few nerve-racking months. It was and continues to be both affirming and inspiring.
As a business manager, one of my strengths is ongoing optimization, incrementally tweaking something to make it better with each iteration. That is exactly what my goal has been with every issue of Connections Magazine. Based on your feedback, it seems that we have been successful in that effort. My pledge is to continue to focus on that objective in order to make Connections the best possible tool and resource for the teleservices industry.
I am also effective at innovation, thinking outside the proverbial box. This, however, does not come as easily for me and requires a bit more focus. Nevertheless, new initiatives have occurred. More content has been added to the magazine, the website expanded, and fresh new services offered (such as the client newsletter, the outbound list serve, and the telemessaging locator site – see the sidebar for more information).
One area that is not a personal strength is original creativity and pure entrepreneurialism. I never would have tried to start a magazine from scratch. It is only because of the strong platform and sound legacy provided by Steve Michaels, the magazine’s founder, and the team at TAS Marketing, that we have been able to do what we have done. Steve, Chris, and Wilma from TAS Marketing served as consultants and more importantly as mentors during the initial issues. Even now, Steve continues to provide much-appreciated advice and feedback. (To answer another frequently asked question: Steve has not retried; he and TAS Marketing continue to be active in the industry as business brokers and facilitating the sale of used equipment.) I have been privileged to receive many compliments on the changes to Connections over the past year. As I respond with heartfelt thanks and gratitude, I am quick to realize and point out that I am merely building upon the foundation already established. As the saying goes, one man plants, and another waters. I am simply tending to the crop that Steve Michaels planted. As a result, we have seen our advertising base stabilize and the print publication and our website grow.
Since its inception, Connections has been a bimonthly publication. I have received numerous suggestions and requests that it be published monthly. This is a huge undertaking as doing so causes production cycles to overlap. This means that you must begin working on the next issue before the current one is done! Even so, in April, we took our first step towards that by publishing a special ATSI Convention issue. In December, we will present you with our first annual Buyer’s Guide. So, in addition to our normal six issues, this will make a total of eight for 2002. Next year, we plan to do 10 issues (monthly, except for combined issues in January/February and July/August). Will we ever go to 12? I do not know; 10 seems like a good number for now.
Although I have been writing for various publications for more than 20 years, I did not know too much about the publishing industry as a whole (and I still have much to learn). Interestingly, my lack of knowledge has been beneficial. I was not influenced by “standard operating procedure” nor discouraged by believing that “it can’t be done.” Without the shackles of conventional publishing wisdom and historical tradition, I have been free to be pragmatic and contemplative about how Connections is managed and produced. Indeed this has allowed us to be a lean organization with low overhead. We can keep costs down, while improving quality.
That is not to imply that we publish a perfect magazine. We still make typos, do not always cover things as well as we could, and definitely feel the pressure of “crunch time” as the deadline for each issue draws near. However, with a great team leading the way, our loyal advertisers behind us, and you, our readers, faithfully cheering us on, we will continue to strive to make Connections better and better.
[From Connection Magazine – November 2002]