Three Beliefs for the Future of Magazines: CDS Global CEO Malcolm Netburn's FMA Hall of Fame Remarks


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On Oct. 9, I had the opportunity to enjoy the Fulfillment Management Association’s annual FMA Day in a much different way than I have in the past. In the presence of family members, colleagues, co-workers and friends, I humbly accepted my award as this year’s inductee into the FMA Hall of Fame.

This is a distinction that I don’t take lightly. It is a humbling experience to be honored by the industry of which I am so proud to be a part – especially in front an audience of people I highly respect and admire. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to attend FMA Day, my good friend and colleague Bo Sacks has written a fantastic recap of the event.

I used my opportunity to speak at FMA Day to not only thank those who have shaped my life and career, but also as a platform to deliver a message to the industry that I find to be incredibly important. A message of three core beliefs that will help us create a future of growth and success.

Belief #1 – Everything has Changed
Belief #2 – Nothing has Changed
Belief #3 – Courage, Audacity and Optimism Bridge the Gap
I am providing the text of my speech here, in hopes that sharing these thoughts will be useful to everyone in our industry.

As always, I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation because lively dialogue is where answers are found. Feel free to comment below, and we’ll keep this dialogue alive.

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Three Beliefs for the Future of Magazines: CDS Global CEO Malcolm Netburn's FMA Hall of Fame Remarks

  1. 1. 3 Beliefs for the Future of Magazines: Remarks from my FMA Hall of Fame Induction Malcolm Netburn Chairman and CEO of CDS Global
  2. 2. Malcolm Netburn © 2013 CDS Global.All rights reserved. October 2013 2 3 Beliefs for the Future of Magazines: Remarks from my FMA Hall of Fame Induction On Oct. 9, 2013, I was honored as the 2013 inductee to the Fulfillment Management Association (FMA) Hall of Fame. During my acceptance speech, I had the opportunity to recognize those who I receive inspiration from every day: my family, my colleagues, my friends. I was also able to share my core thoughts on the future of our industry. Below is a reformatted version of those remarks. The honor of being named to the Fulfillment Management Association’s Hall of Fame is both humbling and appreciated. Receiving this distinction has allowed me the opportunity to reflect on our industry and how we tie together our past and present and create a better future. This reflection has shaped three core beliefs that I hope will help our industry grow and succeed, and may be of value to you and your companies. Three Beliefs • Belief #1 – Everything has Changed • Belief #2 – Nothing has Changed • Belief #3 – Courage, Audacity and Optimism Bridge the Gap Belief #1 – Everything Has Changed Let’s not kid ourselves. As consumers, we know deep down just how much information consumption and print has changed. Just count the number of magazines vs. devices on an airplane – one of my favorite “I’m bored to tears” traveling games. Go out and search for a magazine-rich newsstand. Or any newsstand for that matter. Look for the racks of magazines at the checkout counter. Watch your young friends or children and see how they learn, read, entertain and communicate. Our industry is going through seismic change. To the work that many of us as members of the FMA do. We are pushing our models and our efforts to wring out the very last drops of value in the ways we have done things before. Too many of us are using our prodigious talents in pursuit of the miniscule when we should be searching for the next big thing. And it’s not just the products and consumer habits that have changed. The companies we work for have changed – or are changing as we speak. If they are not, we have an even bigger problem. Every day we are less about circulation, fulfillment and magazine, and more about audience, distribution platforms and brands. Our measurement tools – honed over years of direct marketing and modeling – are outdated, measuring the last decade’s efforts and not the next one.
  3. 3. © 2013 CDS Global.All rights reserved. Malcolm Netburn 3 October 2013 But even still, I can hear a little voice in my head saying, “Really, has it changed that much? Isn’t most of our revenue coming from where it has always come from? Aren’t I rewarded the way I always have been rewarded? Aren’t the electronic reports of today still similar to their green bar ancestors of yesterday?” I wonder how many others hear that voice. Well, it’s a very dangerous voice. It’s the voice too many people at Blackberry heard. And too many people at the iconic, we’ll-be-around-as-long-as-people-listen-to-music record labels heard. It’s the same voice the wooden wagon wheel maker heard when the sputtering Model T Ford appeared on the streets with strange rubber tires. Belief #2 – Nothing Has Changed The essentials have not changed, both in terms of what our collective mission is and what makes us great. As a publishing industry, we entertain, inform, teach, communicate and engage audiences. We’ve been doing that since humankind drew pictures on cave walls. To communicate has been a human need as long as there have been humans. And our industry should be proud of how we have taken that thread and weaved gorgeous tapestries. In this time of change, there has never been more need for sorting out useful information from all the noise around us. Storytelling, truth and engagement are enduring – they do not change with technology’s latest shiny new object. As members of the FMA, we have worked ceaselessly to create a great relationship with the consumer, delivering great service. To the marketers in the room, we have always tried to unlock the value equation of the products we are promoting – translating their magic value into digestible, easy-to-understand concepts and images, piquing interest in the consumer and getting them to take action with their time and dollars. We have always been the glue that brings content to audiences – and we always will. We have always focused on consumers’ experiences – and we always will. And what makes us great has not changed, with all due respect to technology, including wearables, digital platforms and my new disgusting favorite, digestibles. I’ve read the neuroscience stories of our brains being rewired by the technology around us. Maybe true, maybe not. But I am not buying it. In a rich and diverse career in and around fulfillment, here’s what I’ve seen as the best indicators of success: hard work, a drive for excellence, loyalty, staying in it for the long run, trust, fairness, honesty. Characteristics and behaviors that have powered the very best in our history and our heroes. It’s what great, enduring companies are almost always known for. Values are constants, and they will always win. The tools at our fingertips are different, but our fingertips are the same. Understanding the consumer and creating seamless relationships, treating everyone with respect, focusing on value – these are the foundations of our work as FMA members.
  4. 4. © 2013 CDS Global.All rights reserved. Malcolm Netburn 4 October 2013 Belief #3 – Courage, Audacity and Optimism Bridge the Gap So, in a time where everything has changed and nothing has changed, how do we make sense of the intersection of these two contrary forces? How do we now weave our paths as professionals, creating great value for our companies while working at peak performance? Will we be paralyzed by this unstoppable force of change crashing into the unmovable object of simple and enduring truths? That, I believe, is the risk of our collective work – the risk of being unsure which way to go and defaulting to the path we know, the path all too well worn. In the face of this risk, I have no pat answers. No chapter in the book that you can skip to. And Hall of Fame recognition, while so appreciated, does not come with special insights or a bag of extra neurons. But let me offer a suggestion: The ability to navigate through these contradictory times will require at least three overarching approaches to how we work. They are courage, audacity and optimism. The courage to put our jobs at risk, to tell the emperor he or she is not wearing clothes. The courage to say, “I don’t know the answer,” and admit one’s weaknesses. The courage to take action and to make mistakes, knowing that our greatest risk is not making mistakes, but rather treading in familiar and increasingly stagnant waters. The audacity to go where we haven’t gone before. (And by the way, we’re going there anyway.) To go big, and then bigger. To go fast, and then faster. To say that the outrageous of today may very well be the commonplace of tomorrow. To begin dreaming again, and then having the audacity to implement those dreams. And optimism. Bringing to our work, to our colleagues, suppliers and partners a belief that every question has an answer, every cloud the proverbial silver lining. Without this, answers are too often missed in the haze of what’s wrong, rather than in the clearness of what’s right. An optimism that will propel us to face the daunting challenges of everything has changed with a clarity about the equal truth that, in fact, nothing has changed. An optimism that will propel us to a future much brighter than our past, limited only by the breadth and scope of our imagination. It is a humbling honor, being inducted into the Fulfillment Management Association Hall of Fame. And I hope that with courage, audacity and optimism we will have no limits as to our collective success and contribution. Thank you so very much.