Friday, August 25, 2006

One small step for publishing

The Magazine Publishers Association of Singapore (MPAS) Founders' Night on Monday was my first experience at an association function and the event was a quirky but interesting one.

The mood at the event, held at ARIA Bistro & Wine Bar sans the usual tables and chairs, was quite positive at the beginning. Publishers such as Andrew Smart from Fairfax, Gerry Ricketts from Ink Publishing, Greg Duncan from Asia City, James See from Aboutwe Publishing, Gilbert Cheah from Edipress Group and so on mingled comfortably before the presentation.

In total, I estimated around 70 or more print and online senior publishing practitioners turned up.

The event took off with GCF’s SK Ho giving everyone a summary of what the MPAS is about and some of the Pro-tem committee members took turns to talk about aspects of the association such as the state of publishing here, the MPAS mission and values, how to get involved and what involvement means, as well as the controversial topic of audit (oh no here we go again).

The MPAS, in my opinion, takes a balanced position on auditing. The members are convinced of the benefits of auditing and how it will boost the credibility and profitability of the publishing business. However, they are careful not to limit membership to those publications which are audited – what’s the point of excluding the majority when such an association is meant to be a voice for everyone?

Ho said the association will act as a facilitator and educator for publications which do want to get audited but do not know how. But it will not force those who are not interested.

That was when members of the audience started sharing their comments on the issue. Jim Livingstone from Pinpoint Media Group asked that the MPAS be firm and make it a prerequisite for MPAS members to become audited in say, two years of joining the association. The committee said at one of their previous meetings, publishers debated the topic and were split on whether to insist on the issue or not so they decided to take the encouragement’ stance.

Another gentlemen (I cant remember his name), asked the committee to show more clearly what benefits publishers will get from membership and the answer was that, amongst other things, MPAS will lead in better educating students on the business (through the tertiary institutions) and lobbying the government (through the MDA) to make publication auditing mandatory.

By the end of the night, standing in a surprisingly stuffy room, I was surprised to see about less than half the crowd remaining, and even more left before the committee handed out forms for publishers to declare if they support the formation of the association or not.

An email I received the next day read that a total of 33 companies are in favour and “many have indicated to fax their PR-form in the next few days”. “The Pro-Tem Committee will meet in early September to discuss the next stage and course of action.”

To play sceptical reporter for a bit, I’m not sure how far this association can take its cause considering it’s hard to make the majority of publishers set aside personal interests and to spend money to support their industry, and even harder to effect pivotal mindset changes in a controversial issue such as auditing . This is simply the truth about the business.

Regardless, Marketing mag and Human Resources mag have voted in favour of it.

Seriously, despite some publishers’ reservations about the whole thing, at least guys like SK are doing something instead of just talking. It’s for the better of the industry for goodness sakes!

Thanks to Aaron Koh of MediaConnect Asia for sharing his pictures.


Honest.One said...

C’mon Deb, do you believe for an instant that would ever happen?? Limit industry membership to only those companies with audited publications?? Hah!! Count the membership on one hand!! And conduct their meetings in a cubicle!!

But then again, listen to this theory. Rumour has it that because God (read, the MDA) earlier refused to administer industry guidelines relating to magazine auditing, a subversive movement has taken up the challenge to enforce proceedings. It’s called the MPAS (Must Pledge Audit Somemore).

Interesting strategy, though. Recruit and muscle the small-fry strugglers of the industry into mandatory audits for their magazines, in the hope that the big boys will be shamed into submission and then compelled to comply...

Nah, can’t see it happening, myself. The publicly-listed stronghold that controls the majority of Singapore magazine revenue would never fall for that. My money’s on the WANKERS (Why Audit, Nobody Knows Everything’s a Real Swindle).

Justin Randles said...

It's a shame that the MPAS has been hijacked by the 'mandatory circulation audit' debate so early in its life. Publishers' associations in Australia, the UK, and North Amercian do not require their members to audit their magazines so I'm not sure why the MPAS should do so, especially when it's a contentious issue that threatens the success of its first membership drive.

A lively and effective association representing the concerns of all magazine publishers in Singapore could achieve great things, such as:

- Promoting the unique relationship between readers and their chosen magazines, and what value that represents to advertisers;

- Forming a buying bloc to negotiate better print, paper and distribution deals for MPAS members;

- Coaching publishers to better sell their advertising, without resorting to deep discounts and editorial support; and

- Communicating with the education sector - explaining where they are coming up short in developing young journalists and suggesting improvements.

I am sure all publishers would support these initiatives but the MPAS can only hope to achieve them if it has the active support of the majority of publishers in Singapore. It has to walk before it can run.

Whilst I bemoan the fact that circulation auditing here is the exception and not the rule, I believe that the mandatory audit debate should, at least for the moment, remain in the background in favour of the initial objective of high MPAS membership which would allow the Association to pursue initiatives that would benefit the entire industry.

So, fellow publishers in Singapore, it's up to you. You can either whinge, moan and do nothing, or you can cough a few hundred bucks and give SK and the guys a chance to make a positive difference.

Debbie said...

naah, i never said membership should be limited to audited pubs. i think it's quite clear i feel the MPAS's balanced approach is the best for the situation.

seriously, like justin said, without publishers' support of the MPAS, there's not even HOPE for proper change.

Tan Peh Ling aka MediaPlanner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Honest.One said...

Wha liao, 'mediaplanner', get out of the wrong side of the bed did we...??

What the hell has someone's so-called association with an alleged connected company got to do with the setting up of an independent body of 40 or 50 companies for the overall betterment of the magazine and online publishing industry...??

Let’s hope you don’t let your irrational personal feelings get in the way of professional ‘media planning’ for your clients (if that’s what you really do…), because that would certainly tarnish the “reputable and respectable” name of the media planning profession, wouldn't it...??

Suggest you stick to the point, and take your petty and irrelevant little axe to grind somewhere else…!!

Justin Randles said...

Interesting piece of gossip, mediaplanner, but hardly relevant in this context and not very fair to SK either.