I guess the big news for the supply side this month is the cancellation of SIBO. Even bigger than it looks. This is going to one of those delicate things where folks are going to say I am attacking and being self-serving, but if you look at it, you will see there are facts and they are relevant. In this case, it’s a relevant fact that CCI, the owner of SIBO, chose to put 100 percent of its outside marketing push into our competitor, Woodworking, and ignore our readers entirely. Correlation does not prove causation, so make of that what you will. We had to stick that on the table in plain sight to avoid being accused of hiding an agenda.
The thing is, the death of SIBO could not have happened at a worse time. Trade shows, associations and media, the three critical communications elements for any industry, are on hard times, and now the coronavirus, whether it affects the health of the general population or not, is hammering commerce.
Already, two of the biggest shows for our magazines’ industries in China each March have been postponed – Interzum Guangzhou and Domotex Asia/Chinafloor. But we have to be careful not to ascribe all the fault to coronavirus. January’s edition of Domotex US – the Hanover Fairs version of its popular flooring show – suffered badly in this, its second year, to the point Steve Kleber, with Kleber and Associates voiced some concerns: “While the inaugural event in 2019 welcomed some 280 exhibitors from 25 countries,” he said, “this year’s show floor was surprisingly sparse. Only around 90 exhibitors displayed their products and solutions, and booth traffic was tepid during the opening day of exhibits.” Domotex US, also, did not approach the Canadian market through our flooring magazine, Coverings.
The fact is, there are two business models in play across the manufacturing sectors in North America. One, the one sustained by popular opinion, has a visible history of wreckage for over a decade, and the engineers at the switch can’t see a way out. For the most part, they are trapped running on the same track, hoping to retire or find a new line of work before they join the pileup.
In a nutshell, the two models that associations, trade shows and media have to choose from are, simplistically, audience-focused or supplier-focused. SIBO’s demise brings this into relief. According to Harry Urban, SIBO and WMS show manager for U.S.-based CCI Canada: “After a substantial investment in this important market segment, we were not able to generate sufficient participation from key potential exhibitors to ensure a successful event….” Darn you exhibitors.
To be clear, the advertiser-focused versus audience-focused models are diametric and mutually exclusive. I can explain all day how original content got suppressed when commercial speech got elevated under amalgamation during the ՚80s and ՚90s, and why it has taken this long for the cancer to win out, but you can see a synopsis in my speech last May to the American Society of Business Publication Editors, here.
There is another option than paying up or walking away. Suppose I told you that there would be 14,000 owners and managers selling into a growth market, looking for equipment and supplies to expand? I assume you’d be all over it. SIBO could make no such claim.
The same is true for associations. Suppliers would jump to be associate or supporting members if there was energy, loyalty and response from enough members. Shelling out another $10 grand for another golf tournament is tired.
Media are right in there. Jumping all over themselves to “add value” for potential advertise, you can scarcely find a news release that is not supplied by a paying advertiser, a new product that does not echo an ad or a “profile” story that does not feature an advertiser’s or potential advertiser’s product. In one case, all you have to do is take three recent issues of a magazine and start counting how many “new” product release are cut-and-pasted from one issue right into the next. If nothing else, it sure saves on editorial costs. It also declares out loud that the readers don’t matter because they don’t exist and nobody is likely to catch it. Lazy.
“Tired” is the right word. The attendees, the readers and the members are tired. Tired of being ignored. Tired of being sold. Tired of being abused while the shows, the media and the associations doze at the wheel and pull action plans out of rusty file cabinets and retired emails. Magazines were never designed to be catalogs, yet that is what they have become, by definition. There is scarcely a credible publication left, and those are the ones that retain a readership.
The crying shame is that the Quebec market does not deserve this. Neither does the U.S. or Canadian market, for that matter. Your customers – my readers – deserve better.
Do I think advertisers are at fault for not “supporting” SIBO? Not a bit of it. It is the JOB of the provider to provide a working product. If you sell routers, you can’t sell them if they don’t spin. That’s what routers do. Shows show, associations provide strength in numbers and media provide quality, original, credible information.
When I become honest like this, the providers on the other side start a whisper campaign, including telling potential advertisers I don’t know what I’m talking about. That, of course, is one option. It’s a bit hard to maintain if you look at respective resumes on LinkedIn, experience in the U.S. and Canada, performance over time and that all-important metric called who gives a damn? We supplied a partial list of comments we have received a few months back and are happy to provide a more comprehensive one on request. However it should be sufficient to say that our readers speak for us, and we challenge others in media and events to do the same. What it boils down to is this: I say you are wasting your money with the old-style beseechers; they say you are not. You get to choose.
So … what is it that we say? We say that industry supporters need to speak to the end user, not each other. Your customers know it, they see it when we do it and they like it when we do.
Everybody’s a publisher these days, eh? Therefore, our other “magazines’” managers have decided they can’t tell the difference between a magazine and a newspaper, and they decide that since they can bomb their lists daily with repurposed (stolen) copy from the web that they should, and suddenly being fast and shallow is the way to go. It is not. You have all heard the drill. They can give you clicks, unique page views, impressions and 32 other buzz-words-for-hire that do nothing.
I’m sure everybody knows by now that we have been on the receiving end of outright attacks from organized groups of suppliers intent on putting us out of business so they can control what’s left – SIBO, for example. My offense, put in simple terms, is that I will not do as I’m told. I only do what I think it best for the industry, even when it costs me. And they lost.
Do I sound angry? Likely. But I’m not angry over competition or over CCI’s decision to put all its eggs in Woodworking’s hands. Our business does not live or die by a few trade-show ads. If I sound angry, it’s because this industry deserves better and I keep getting counseled to lay still and be quiet while untrained and ineffective pilots watch warning lights as though they are Christmas trees, over and over again, expecting different results. Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia may have said precious little worth repeating in his short, addled life, but he did make one worthwhile admonishment: “Casey Jones, you better watch your speed.”
The industry deserves better. Quebec deserves better. Our readers, your customers, are largely family owned businesses across the continent, and they deserve better. They want to hear about costs of compliance, labor issues, economic challenges, marketing ideas and other business topics W.I. Media is uniquely qualified to provide and does provide. Real original content. They deserve associations that identify national challenges and address them, and they deserve trade shows that provide value, energy, opportunities and unity as an industry. It simply will not work to go to you, the suppliers, and promise “we will try if only you will pay.”
One good example is Xylexpo. You have noticed that Xylexpo and the Italian Trade Commission (ITC) have worked with Wood Industry every cycle to get energy, loyalty and response from the Canadian market, and every cycle it has worked. Xylexpo and the ITC are not trying to “kill” anybody, to “control” the market or to claim “king-of-the-mountain” status. They want Canadian energy at their show, and they get it.
We talked IWF into letting us once again present our signature Canada Night event. We will handle the promotion, and we will handle the night. We are looking for sponsors, and we will add their names to the story as it comes out over the next few months in our e-letters, web and print publications. I initiated Canada Night to show you, the suppliers, that Canadians are a functioning market within the IWF milieu, and it worked. It worked so well my compatriots in the supporting industry tried to steal it. As with their other initiatives, it didn’t work.
We also expect to introduce some new ideas to drive energy, loyalty and response in the industry. I mentioned in a letter in January that we can increase the value of the industry in Canada by 30 percent over the next five years if we can only get past the obstructionists. Those of you that have benefitted from our energized, loyal and responsive audience already know we can move the market, but we need a cease-fire. This idea of shutting out Wood Industry to try and keep an ancient train from derailing until tomorrow has to stop.
We have lost SIBO, and I don’t think it can be revived. Not by CCI, for sure. In 2008/2009 and following, we lost all the media in the States, but one. Was that the one with the most innovation, the best reader engagement or the strongest business content? Nope. It was the one that held its breath the longest.
Tough talk? Sure. But not as tough as killing Wood Industry to nap at the wheel. The response should be easy. Tell us where we are wrong. Or vote.
As usual, if you want to sponsor Canada Night or talk about promotions, call Stephen King at +1(416)802-1225 or [email protected]. Steve is once again sojourning in Florida for a month, so I don’t mind if you call him several times.
If you supply supplies for suppliers, and if you have read this far, you’re caught. As the old bill-board adage holds: if you are reading this, you know advertising works. Ads in Supply Side are only $250 and I don’t see yours here.
The March/April issue of Wood Industry closes for sales on Monday. Steve’s number is still +1(416)802-1225 or [email protected].
BTW, we have, in round numbers, 14,000 loyal, energized and responsive recipients for our print magazine, plus whatever pass-along there is.