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.