Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

June 2014

During its 30 years, our magazine, like every busi- ness, has been challenged to keep up: keep up with technology. What originally required a dark- room, stat camera, typesetting machine, chemicals, light table, boards, waxer, X-acto knives, and color separations is now digital Xs and Os.

In the beginning the big tech question was “What’s a FAX?,” which gave way to “What’s your FAX number?” and has evolved into emails and text messages. Things we tried in order to keep up. We launched Business Travel Guides each February and August, using advertising from the magazine’s regular issues and editorial content targeting business travelers. It’s distributed in various ways, including as part of in-room amenities at hotels that host business travelers.

In 1992, our insert dedicated to the environment featured recycled paper, vegetable ink, and editorial on eco-friendly best practices.

The Business Travel Guide works, the eco-insert was good enough to be tried again. But not every idea that glitters is golden. After enduring foot pain standing in front of a trade show booth answering the big five questions: What do you do? What’s new? Any specials? Where are you located? You got a card? I thought a simple five-screen presentation could be put together in an online, 24/7 exhibit hall where all of our clients could have a “booth.” It was called “Electro-Expo” and we gave away booth space for free!

Something for nothing? What a concept, right? Could not fail. It did. Why? Although it was “free,” it was not without cost to our recipients. It required time and effort for them to write the words, take the pictures, answer the questions. It was new and different, meaning it needed to be explained, promoted, and sold also requiring time and effort. No commissions are normally paid on non–revenue producing activities, so rather than wear out our sales staff’s welcome with our clients’ staffs, I let it go: Fail.

Well, maybe not fail, exactly, but it morphed a few years later into a link from the magazine’s website to a featured business’s website. To be a featured business requires a monthly advertising contract in the magazine and having your own website. Turns out, everyone who has is anxious to find out ways of attracting qualified viewers to their websites. Our featured business program does that.

Another program that was perhaps a bit early was Modem Operandi, a project jointly inspired by the first siren song to early adapters from the dot-com movement and the O.J. trial. The name was inspired by the term “modus operandi,” and the content of an insert in the magazine was focused on “the way the Internet works.”

You may wonder about the inspiration from the O.J. trial. Back then — 1995 — the O.J. Simpson murder trial was a big deal. CNN’s Larry King claimed that if he had God booked for an interview but found out O.J. was available, he would pass on God and do O.J. O.J. was a bad guy with a bad modus operandi, I thought. And modem was kind of like modus.

Turns out Modem Operandi didn’t pass the test of what business people wanted to read. Tom Pierce told me he pulled the section out of his copy of the mag because it interrupted his enjoyment of the magazine. Perhaps this was some indication that the insert was messing with the “brand.”

Whatever. You can’t win if you aren’t willing to lose. Thanks for nothing, O.J.