Why Penton Cut Workweek

Here’s a comment I wrote in response to the 4/28/2009 Folio article  Penton Cuts Workweek, Reduces Pay.

No offense to the Folio editorial staff but I find the comments to this story to be more thoughtful, interesting, and entertaining than the original article. There are opinions about the best experience base and background to run Penton and its business units, a discussion as to whether B2B is truly a sales or editorially based business, and even speculation as to the source of some of the anonymous comments. Just think about how many good questions and ideas come from these comments.

In what I find to be an ironic twist, the article and comments demonstrate one of the core issues facing Sharon Rowlands, Penton, and every other B2B publisher. We didn’t have to wait to read this article as three-week-old news in a print publication delivered on a publisher’s schedule compounded by the vagaries of the US Postal System. I originally saw this article via Twitter. And the comments. How many letters-to-the-editor would there have been for the same print story? Not too many, and personally, I doubt I would have read them.

Think about our collective expectations as readers and information consumers. I still look forward to picking up the (threatened) Boston Sunday Globe and I rip open Guitar Player and Golf magazines when I get them in the mail, but my expectations have changed. I’d estimate that 80% of what I read is online. And I expect to see comments, I read the comments, and sometimes I even write comments.

For me the printing press is gradually being replaced by a networked infrastructure leading to my desktop, laptop, and/or mobile device with the content coming from sources who aren’t always professionally trained editors and journalists. Trust me that I’m not an apologist for Penton, but the positive sign from the furlough/pay cut is they recognize that they need to keep their people balanced against the financial reality of running the business. 

But the underlying question remains. After this economic tsunami passes, what does the core publishing product look like and how is it supported financially and organizationally? I’m guessing that Sharon Rowlands is trying to buy as much time as possible in a dismal business environment to figure out answers to these questions. I wonder if she’ll read any of these comments?

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