Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contents - ▶ By Marc Wil­son colum­nist p

– once billed as “the largest an­nual gath­er­ing of news me­dia ex­ec­u­tives” were treated to a float ride on the way to the New Or­leans Ad­vo­cate of­fices.

Me­di­aXchange – once billed as “the largest an­nual gath­er­ing of news me­dia ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing pub­lish­ers, jour­nal­ists and ad­ver­tis­ers” – is no more.

The News Me­dia Al­liance – un­til 2016, the News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica – has can­celed its ho­tel reser­va­tions for its planned 2018 Me­di­aXchange in Wash­ing­ton.

In­stead, the NMA is likely to hold its an­nual meet­ing in con­junc­tion with next year’s Key Ex­ec­u­tives Mega Con­fer­ence.

The Key Ex­ec­u­tives Me­gaCon­fer­ence – spon­sored jointly by the In­land Press As­so­ci­a­tion, South­ern News­pa­per Pub­lish­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, and the Lo­cal Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion – is sched­uled for Feb. 26-28 at the Manch­ester Grand Hy­att in San Diego.

The Me­gaCon­fer­ence was it­self a con­sol­i­da­tion, be­gin­ning seven years ago, of three sep­a­rate late win­ter con­fer­ences held by In­land, SNPA and LMA (then the Sub­ur­ban News­pa­pers As­so­ci­a­tion). That con­sol­i­da­tion breathed life into the win­ter meet­ing, and has proved to be a fi­nan­cial bonus for the three spon­sor­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions. At­ten­dees and ven­dors have ap­plauded the con­sol­i­da­tion.

Me­di­aXchange was birthed out of a once-huge con­ven­tion known as Nexpo, which be­came “Con­nec­tions” be­fore fi­nally set­tling on the name Me­di­aXchange.

For many years, it was the largest gath­er­ing of news­pa­per ex­ec­u­tives in the United States. The con­ven­tions at­tracted top speak­ers. For ex­am­ple, in 2012, at the Me­di­aXchange in Wash­ing­ton, both pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Barack Obama and Mitt Rom­ney were key­note speak­ers.

The As­so­ci­ated Press has long used the con­ven­tion as the site of its an­nual busi­ness meet­ing, fur­ther at­tract­ing key ex­ec­u­tives and oth­ers to Me­di­aXchange.

For ven­dors, Me­di­aXchange was a “must show” for many years, even though reg­is­tra­tion and other costs were high. Back 20 years ago, or so, the ma­jor hard­ware ven­dors even set up presses, fold­ing ma­chines and other heavy equip­ment on the trade show floor.

The NNA had lit­tle trou­ble at­tract­ing spon­sor­ships from newsprint, ink, print­ing press pro­duc­ers and other com­pa­nies that once made for­tunes serv­ing the news­pa­per in­dus­try.

I’ve at­tended many of the Nex­pos, Con­nec­tions and Me­di­aXchanges, in­clud­ing what ap­par­ently will be the last one, which con­cluded in early May in New Or­leans. Signs of dis­tress were easy to see: 1. At­ten­dance was clearly down,

a con­tin­u­ing trend.

2. Few com­pa­nies sent more than one

or two rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

3. Al­most no edi­tors, cir­cu­la­tion man­agers, clas­si­fied man­agers were present (un­like 15-20 years ear­lier). 4. The trade show was small, and the

ven­dors gen­er­ally un­happy.

5. The ma­jor spon­sors were the New Or­leans Ad­vo­cate, Face­book and Google. No “big iron” or newsprint or ink com­pany money was avail­able. David Chav­ern, CEO of the News Me­dia Al­liance, told me he although the “con­tent and en­ergy (at the con­ven­tion) were good, the at­ten­dance was off as part of a clear long-term trend.

“I told my board that rather than fight the mar­ket, we should re­boot and look at what peo­ple re­ally want.”

Chav­ern added that his or­ga­ni­za­tion will be­gin spon­sor­ing “smaller, very fo­cused events…and not try to have one big event that tries to deal with ev­ery trend in the in­dus­try.”

Chav­ern, who came to the NMA from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, said the gen­eral trend, re­gard­less of in­dus­try, is away from big trade show/con­ven­tions.

Be­cause of changes in com­mu­ni­ca­tions – he cited we­bi­nars, video con­fer­enc­ing, and other high-speed com­mu­ni­ca­tions – there isn’t as much need to big trade shows to act as sales chan­nels. He said this trend is es­pe­cially true in the news­pa­per field be­cause of on­go­ing rev­enue de­clines.

“I still think there is room pos­si­bly for one big trade show,” and he said he hoped his or­ga­ni­za­tion could ally it­self with the Me­gaCon­fer­ence.

I think Chav­ern and his board and staff have made a wise de­ci­sion.

We need con­sol­i­da­tion of ef­forts. I hope In­land, SNPA and LMA will wel­come the News Me­dia Al­liance into the fam­ily at the Key Ex­ec­u­tives Me­gaCon­fer­ence.

Let’s all show up to­gether next Fe­bru­ary in San Diego.

Marc Wil­son is ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of He can be reached at mar­

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