Staid publishing business evolving quickly

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The recently announced closure of long-time plastics print publications Modern Plastics Worldwide and Injection Molding Magazine stirs a lot of memories and emotions. Of course, we’ve been vigorous competitors for years, often scrapping for news scoops and advertising dollars. But as a journalist, I hate to see well-known, once-powerful publications disintegrate. Additionally, those titles employ some good people who I consider friends, some of whom lost their jobs, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

So how did this happen, and what does it mean?

For some context, when we launched Plastics News as a weekly newspaper into a crowded North American market in early 1989, Modern Plastics had already been publishing for 63 years, had been owned by McGraw-Hill for a quarter-century and was the undisputed voice of the industry. We were the new kids on the block, while Modern had four former executives in the Plastics Hall of Fame.

The plastics industry was big and growing and at the time was supporting several publications, including Plastics Technology, Plastics Engineering, Plastics World, Plastics Compounding, Plastics Design Forum and Plastics Machinery & Equipment. Of that lot, only PT and PE still exist. Others, such as Plastics Auxiliaries, later came and went.

In 1993, four years after PN’s launch, entrepreneurial industry veterans T. Peter Sullivan, Peter Zacher and Suzy Witzler started Injection Molding Magazine, which for several years was our strongest competitor.

Our publications served very different niches — PN with weekly breaking news and materials pricing, and the monthly IMM offering well-written company profiles and practical, how-to articles for molders. We competed hard with them during the day, but could share a friendly drink together in the evening.

In 1998, IMM’s owners sold the publication to Canon Communications, which in turn was acquired by merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson. VSS also purchased Modern Plastics in 1999, which set in motion the series of events that lead us to where we are today. Canon has now had four owners in the past seven years.

During the past decade, the Internet rose, the market shifted, the recession battered us all and publishing changed. The latest Canon experiment begins with eliminating two of the plastics industry’s best-known print brands and cutting half a dozen jobs — but saving the expense of creating print publications.

We’re still competing with Canon for news scoops and advertising dollars, but our products remain significantly different. And consider that almost everyone in the plastics industry learned about MP and IMM shutting down from Plastics News — in print and online — and you’ll get a feel for why we think we offer the kind of independent news and information that managers need to compete in a challenging global market.

We believe in our time-tested approach, and will continue to pursue a multichannel strategy that includes print publishing, digital products and in-person events. We trust you to tell us which formula works best for you.

Grace is editorial director of Plastics News Global Group.