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Issue Date: Vol. 49, No.1, January 2009, Posted On: 1/14/2009


NEW YEAR, NEW LOOK: Necessity Is The Mother Of Reinvention


Alicia Lavay
Alicia@vendingtimes.net

Who in their right mind would launch a magazine in the midst of a recession? Well, Henry Luce (who founded Time in 1923), for one. He established Fortune in 1930 and Sports Illustrated in 1954. Time Inc. went on to launch People in 1974 and Entertainment Weekly in 1990. Time Inc. can attribute a great deal of its success to magazines launched in recession years. They proved that you can innovate in a down market. Moreover, a fresh approach can be attractive during a slowdown, perhaps just what the doctor ordered.

VENDING TIMES isn’t exactly launching a new publication, but we are reinventing ourselves to keep pace with an evolving industry. Our new slogan, “the industry is changing and we are, too” will be evident in all we do. But make no mistake about it—we certainly plan to keep on doing what we always have done best. The redesign will be complemented by our well-respected coverage of the vending, coffee service, contract foodservice, music, games and bulk vending industries, and will deliver all the news to which you are accustomed.

SO, WHAT’S NEW?

Actually, when I did a little digging in our archives, I discovered that VENDING TIMES has changed the size of the publication twice before, in 1969 and again in 1990. The magazine always got better as a result, and we’re sure it will get better this time, too. The fact is that the world has changed much more dramatically between 1990 and 2009 than it did between 1962 and 1990. I know – you’re thinking, but what about the microprocessor and the debut of the Internet? But those things were novelties when they were first introduced.  The past two decades have been shaped profoundly by the maturation of those inventions, which has had consequences that no one could have predicted. Those consequences now are producing new consequences.

As business owners, we can’t simply assume that our past successes will enable us to continue meeting new challenges. We have to think again about what we’re trying to do, and find out how to do it in an unprecedented environment that is new to all of us. To this end, we’ve spoken with operators and advertisers, we’ve bolstered our research capabilities and we’ve undertaken a number of online initiatives.

Our readers have spoken and we have listened. Operators have told us they prefer a magazine that is more portable and easier to read. They said they want more features and tools to help them succeed in today’s uncertain business climate. Suppliers want and need more integrated programs that incorporate the print and online products, and more research services to help traverse today’s and tomorrow’s uncharted waters.

Today, we all need more measurable solutions and more ways to help grow our businesses. And so, you hold in your hand the new and improved VENDING TIMES. We know this is no longer your granddaddy’s coin op-industry – nor your father’s (or my father’s), either – and it was time we underwent a facelift, too. We needed a younger, fresher version (who doesn’t need a nip and tuck now and then?), but with all the experienced, responsible and informed reportage you have come to trust us to provide.

VENDING TIMES was established in 1962 in tabloid format, primarily for technical reasons (my dad knew a printer with a tabloid press who needed work, and offered us very attractive terms). But time marches on, and the conditions under which we launched the magazine have vanished beyond recovery. Postal rates keep going up, and paper prices are going up faster. Tabloid publications have been resizing to “standard” format for more than a decade. VT has been one of the few magazines resisting the shift to 8-1⁄2x11 – again, for technical reasons which have become steadily less compelling. It could be argued that we resisted longer than we should have.  I know people in all the segments of the industry who never liked the tabloid format, and who have told me that they welcome the change; and others who feel we should not break an age-old tradition.

We think the tabloid format did have substantial advantages for photographic display and creative layout – especially when you consider the multi-faceted industry we cover. My dad was sure proud of our old slogan “the big, the bold, the beautiful VENDING TIMES.” And, of course, “VENDING TIMES is bigger than Life!” But we also recognized its disadvantages: it was a bit awkward to handle and store. Letter-carriers do not like the format; they are inclined to leave tabloids in a corner of the post office for their substitutes to deliver later. And, on a personal note, there are very few fashionable handbags that will accommodate an oversized publication!

What was right for one era often is unsuited to another, and I believe that this change is necessary now. As we’ve seen, change has been required several times before, and it surely will be needed in the future. So the fundamental reality is that we are continuing a great tradition!  And as we all know – “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

The difficulty, though, is that not all change is good, nor is innovation always praiseworthy. We are now living through the consequences of creative changes to the financial services markets (think “sub-prime” mortgages), and some of us have learned the hard way that excessive concentration on short-term performance can produce very undesirable long-term outcomes.  Suffice it to say that, in many areas of the economy, we have now hit the wall.

The trick is to recognize, and resist, changes for the worse, while embracing changes for the better. Most people seem to be better at resisting than embracing, but both are equally important.

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE

The forces bearing on our industry can be turned to our advantage if we keep this in mind.  Vending, foodservice and coffee service operators surely must recognize that they are retailers first and foremost; music and amusement operators know that they are retailers of entertainment. At the same time, suppliers must recognize that these businesses have evolved to meet their markets in unique ways. Now that everyone is right-sized and enjoying economies of scale, it’s time to renew the understanding that our industry’s segments can offer great benefits to purveyors who comprehend their specific needs, value their traditions and appreciate their channels of communication.

We believe that our new, handier format will benefit our readers and our advertisers, and we hope we will inspire you to revisit your own business to see if there might be room for improvement.  You cannot preserve something simply by leaving it alone.  Hard times are never easy (that’s why they’re called hard times), but you have to trust that they, too, will pass. Our entire team is dedicated to the industry we serve and committed to continuing the legacy that is VENDING TIMES. We will never lose sight of why we are in business in the first place.


Topic: Upfront with the Publisher

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