Earlier this summer, WhatTheyThink and Printing News joined forces. This was a big move for both organizations, and in addition to continuing excellent reporting and coverage of industry trends, the combined company was looking for new and innovative ways to serve the industry. A brand-new and quite unique publications being unveiled at PRINT 18 is the first new product that has been developed by the combined organizations. We spoke with Eric Vessels about @PRINT18 to get some insight into how and why the publication was developed, what the objectives are, and what they plan to do in the future with this project, which is internally named @Event.

Cary Sherburne:  Eric, WhatTheyThink has primarily been an online only resource, and of course, the Printing News family of publications does both online and print. What was the purpose of the @Event project and its first publication, @PRINT18?

Eric Vessels:  First, just let me say that I am extremely proud of the team being able to pull this 48-page publication together in a very short timeframe. I think PRINT 18 attendees will find it valuable. Our goal was to develop a different kind of event-oriented magazine, and I think the concept we came up with is a real game-changer. We designed a piece that has content specifically relevant to the topics being discussed at the show. It’s not what you would normally see in the regular issues printed magazines distributed at a show, or the newspaper-like show dailies, both of which have a completely different purpose. Our goal was to put together thought leadership content that would help show attendees be more informed as they speak to exhibitors on the show floor and attend conference sessions. We included content about what’s happening in the industry, what’s happening at the event, and content of value when they take it home. We believe we accomplished that in spades with this first attempt, and we expect these publications to only get better over time as they are rolled out at other conferences and events.

CS:  Since it is a piece for a printing industry trade show, I’m sure our members would be interested in how it was produced. Not every piece has the same cover, for example. Tell us more.

EV:  We printed 16,200 magazines, and there are 24 different cover variation. Our initial thought was to produce the entire publication using production inkjet, and Canon jumped on board early and offered both technical advice and support for printing. Ultimately, though, we had to balance the timeliness of the information with the production timeline, and on the advice of Mark DeBoer of Darwill, who was doing the actual printing, we determined we needed to produce the inside of the magazine, which is static content, with offset, and use production inkjet to produce the customized covers. The covers were printed on a Canon Océ ProStream Series production inkjet press on Sappi Opus Gloss cover.

CS:  Can you explain the different versions of the cover?

EV:  Sure. Kudos to Bobbi Burow of CreativeTank, our graphic designer, who took in a lot of crazy ideas and came up with a stunning design. We used stock images of nine different people as a basis for the “generic” versions, with a CMYK image in the eye to reflect a vision of the future of print, and we produced 1,600 copies of each of those nine. Then we had some fun with the remaining copies by using images of 15 different industry people, producing between 40 and 160 each of those. While we believe the entire publication will be a collector’s item, the versions featuring our industry experts will truly be collectibles!

CS:  And who were those 15 lucky people?

EV:  From the WhatTheyThink team, myself, Adam Dewitz, Kelley Holmes, Frank Romano, and David Zwang. From our sister company, Inkjet Insight, Elizabeth Gooding and Mary Schilling. Of course, we included Seth Godin, who is a keynote speaker at the event and well-known marketing evangelist, and Thayer Long, the CEO of APTech. Including Francis McMahon from Canon was a shout-out to all the help and support they provided as we worked our way through this process. And finally, we included Deborah Corn, Amy Machado from IDC, Don Lowe of Franchise Services, Warren Werbitt of Pazazz Printing, and Jay Mandarino of CJ Graphics.

Some of the special covers created for @PRINT18.


CS:  How do you think this content will help attendees at the show have better conversations with exhibitors and peers?

EV:  Let me use a couple of examples to give you an idea of what we did here. Jennifer Matt’s piece about how to approach a print software vendor provides great tips for getting the most out of these meetings. It includes a print software procurement checklist. Jane Mugford contributed a great article about selecting and implementing print MIS software where she asks us to envision a spectacular failure and then gives advice on how to work backward to prevent it. Your article on textiles as an opportunity for commercial and sign printers opens up opportunities for new revenue streams, and Elizabeth Gooding authored a piece on a strategic approach to buying production inkjet. Of course, we covered the RED HOT Technologies being recognized at the show, and provided an update on new membership strategies for APTech, the show organizer. That would be enough on its own, but it barely scratches the surface!

CS:  How was this funded?

EV:  We had a much better than expected response from sponsors/advertisers, who really took a leap of faith with this first effort, and we sincerely thank them. We believe there are many others who, once they see the publication, will have wished they were included as well! I think because this is such a different publication, it was hard for people to visualize what we were doing. Now we have a real-world example we can share for future editions. We’re certainly looking forward to getting feedback from exhibitors and attendees during the show! We're at Booth 4016.

CS:  Does this compete with a show daily?

EV:  Not really. Both have their place. But @ magazines we expect will have a longer life. A show daily type publication primarily provides news and vendor contributed content on a daily basis, as well as covers the events of the day. Our magazine is a thought leadership piece that people will take home and refer to in the future. They are also a great information resource for sharing with colleagues back at the shop.

CS:  What’s next for @Event project?

EV:  We have a number of conversations underway and expect that you will see event-specific editions during the balance of the year and into the future. And, by the way, it’s not just trade shows. We can create these custom publications for any event—franchise conferences, company meetings, and customer events, just about anywhere people are gathering to talk about print. And we are not limiting ourselves to print—we’d be happy to work with any event planner to add this kind of value to their events. Our talented writers have a pretty broad knowledge base, and they know how to research, so we’re looking to work with other industries in the future as well.

CS:  Any plans to print more of this specific edition or make a PDF available for those who weren’t at the show?

EV:  Obviously the primary audience for the magazine are people at the event, but we will publish a digital edition online at PrintingNews.com once PRINT 18 starts.