English / Never Say Never

Never Say Never

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Autor:  anton  14 November 2010
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Words: 2130   |   Pages: 9
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"Ok, so let me see if I've got this straight."

I was on the phone with my friend Bob. I've known Bob for years. He's a former Navy guy who now does electrician work at Disneyworld. He's seriously bright, but doesn't know squat about computers. And he was trying, once again, to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life.

"You're starting another Notes publication?"

He stretched out the word "another" so it seemed that he was entirely incredulous of my actions.

"Well, yeah," I responded with some enthusiasm. "But this one's on both Notes and Domino."

"I think I understand Notes. It's this kinda email, database, group-think thing from IBM, right?" I hadn't heard it described exactly like that, but he was certainly in the ballpark. "But what the heck is Domino? Didn't Kim Basinger play Domino in Never Say Never Again? You're writing about a Bond girl?"

I shook my head. Of course, he couldn't see that through the phone. "Uh, no Bob. We're not doing a journal on James Bond, as cool as that might seem. We're doing a journal on Lotus Domino, a very cool server technology, and on Notes. They work together."

"So you're not writing about Claudine Auger, who plays Domino Derval in Thunderball. And you're not writing about Kim Basinger, who pretty much remakes the character as Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again," Bob was spouting Bond flick facts with a scary degree of finesse. "You're just doing another techy journal on this Lotus Domino thing?"

"Yep."

"But haven't you done this before?"

Bob was right. We had done this before. In fact, we'd created no less than four Lotus journals, and a book. Back in 1993, I wrote a book called Lotus Notes 3 Revealed! It was the second book ever on Notes and was quite popular. Based on the success of the book, we did our first journal, Workspace for Lotus Notes. Since we were new to the whole journal publishing business, we partnered with The Cobb Group division of Ziff Davis. Ziff, as you probably know, is the largest independent publisher of computer magazines, and Cobb is their division that produces journals and newsletters.

The other part of the "we" in this, by the way, is Managing Editor and Vice President of Publishing, Denise Amrich. While I've been responsible for the overall direction and technical vision of the publications (the editor-in-chief), Denise has been responsible for making it all happen. She wrangles the authors, sometimes coaxing, sometimes threatening, to get articles in on time. She's responsible for making everything come together on deadline each month. Together, she and I have made a pretty hot little journal-running team.

Making Workspace work was a challenge. Ziff liked reaching mass readership, so we aimed Workspace at all Notes users, not just administrators. The problem was, it was tough reaching end-users because most Notes installations of the time were installed through business partners and Lotus. There just wasn't a master list of Notes end-users. And, of course, the Web wasn't really there yet.

So while Workspace was a critical success and an incredibly high quality publication, it wasn't really a commercial success. Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that cc:Mail was an enormous market force. We'd been approached by the cc:Mail people in Mountain View to do a new journal aimed squarely at cc:Mail. Cobb approved the idea and we were away. The Insider for Lotus cc:Mail was launched. It became pretty successful. So successful, in fact, that compared to Workspace, it was a screamer. Cobb decided to shut down Workspace and migrate the readers to cc:Mail.

We thought we were out of the Notes publishing game for good. We were wrong.

Two interesting things happened. First, Lotus had this funky little CD-ROM publication called The Notes Enthusiast. It was a quarterly CD-ROM with tips, techniques, and a bunch of databases. They'd done a deal with another division of massive Ziff-Davis to jointly publish the thing. But they had nobody to run it.

Who, they asked, inside the Ziff organization knows how to do Notes publications? Well, they found us. Strictly speaking, we weren't in the Ziff organization, since we're an independent company. But we'd partnered with Ziff on the other journals and we signed up to manage the Notes Enthusiast through it's run of contract. So for another year, while running Insider for Lotus cc:Mail, we were also producing the editorial content for the Notes Enthusiast.

It was a fun little magazine, but when the contract was up, we again figured we were out of the Notes publishing business. Hee hee. No chance.

A little over a year ago, we got a call from our good friend Bob Artner at The Cobb Group (not the same Bob as above). He sounded a bit sheepish. "Uh, would you possibly be interested in running another Notes publication?" he asked.

"Another Notes publication? Didn't we decide it wasn't a big enough market for Ziff?" I asked, shocked.

"Well, yeah, but see, we just acquired the newsletter division of IDG and there's this Notes publication. We want you to run it for us."

It turned out this Notes publication was The Notes Report, the grand damme of the Notes publications. In fact, we competed with The Notes Report when we had Workspace. It was a very cool publication. But, apparently, it wasn't the focus of IDG's attention and so readership had dropped off pretty tremendously. And at over a hundred bucks a year for a subscription, only those with very rich blood were interested in signing up.

What the heck. Denise and I thought about it and signed up. Then the other shoe dropped.

"Um, David, we've got a bit of a problem. We don't want to skip any months for readers. So do you think you can produce the first issue of The Notes Report pretty quickly?"

I had a bad feeling about this. "How quickly?"

"Within two weeks."

Two weeks? TWO WEEKS!! Well, ok. We'd make something happen in two weeks. We had had a nice stable of authors for the other Notes publications. We'd ring them up, rattle their cages, and see what fell out. Hmm.. Ugly metaphor. But pretty accurate.

And so once again, we were doing a Notes publication.

But 1997 was quite different from 1994. The Internet was taking it's toll on cc:Mail. Cc:Mail was really a proprietary, LAN-based email system and most Internet mail was based on SMTP servers and POP3 clients. You could get Eudora Light and Outlook clients for free. And you could also get nice, reliable SMTP servers that cost little or nothing. The market for cc:Mail began to collapse. Lotus would support cc:Mail, but their focus would be Internet related tools like Domino. Of course, with cc:Mail moving into legacy mode, the cc:Mail journal was no longer viable. And since there still wasn't a large list of Notes end-users Cobb could mail subscription offers to, The Notes Reports days were numbered.

In 1998, the Internet also took it's toll on the Cobb Group. Where they produced printed journals with subscriptions ranging from $50 to $500 per year, content on the Web was free. Where they took months to get a story from a writer's keyboard, through the paper printing presses, and into a reader's hands, it took hours on the Internet. Ziff told employees of it's Cobb division in Louisville that it was shutting down, relocating less than 15 of it's nearly 200 employees to Rochester. Our monthly, journal-producing relationship with the Cobb Group was over.

And we pretty much figured we'd never do another Notes publication.

Taking a lesson from my book The Flexible Enterprise, I and my editorial team took stock of our strengths. The Internet had decimated the print-publishing oriented Cobb Group. But I'd been online for 20 years, had a huge base of software technology, and Denise and I had solid editorial management experience. Why not, we reasoned, take what works from the Cobb/Ziff formula and translate it to the Web? Why not create a specialty journal publisher for the 21st century?

In January 1998, we introduced our first all-Internet publication, PalmPower Magazine, aimed at enthusiasts of the wildly popular PalmPilot connected organizer. Like the print journals, PalmPower (at http://www.palmpower.com) includes detailed tips, techniques, success stories, and insider information. Unlike the print journals, PalmPower is free, supported solely by advertising. In addition to timely monthly issues, PalmPower also includes a daily news update, a weekly tip mailed to over a hundred thousand individuals, and a very active community of PalmPilot users on the PalmPower PowerBoards.

Each month, PalmPower feeds between one and two million individual web pages to readers. In PalmPower's first eight months, over 750,000 people have read the publication and thousands of messages have been posted on the PowerBoards. More important, unlike most Internet ventures, PalmPower is profitable. And breaking an Internet record, where most Web publications sell only about 30% of available ad space, PalmPower sells nearly 100% each and every issue.

This was a publishing model that really worked. We wanted to do more publications like it. Casting about for topics to cover, we again thought of Notes. We had wonderful relationships with the Lotus people, we had strong relationships with the great PR folks at Lois & Paul (Ted Weismann deserves special kudos), and we knew lots of Notes authors.

We also knew what didn't work for Cobb. Cobb's formula was simple: send a subscription offer through snail mail, put a coupon in the product box, and charge for subscriptions. But there just weren't that many people to send an official, through-the-post-office direct mail to. Notes users were scattered all over.

And we knew what worked for PalmPower. Make it great. Make it available for free to everyone. Register with all the search engines. Build our own mailing list of readers and send them monthly announcements. Above all, make it accessible, fast, and fun.

We could do this for Notes. And we could do this for Domino. Reasoning that not all Notes users were online, but, by definition, all Domino administrators would be, we decided to target the publication at both Notes and Domino administrators and users.

Our content mix is pretty eclectic. We have lots of great tutorials (like Richard Echeandia's 9 Steps to Get Ready for Domino 5), as well as some outrageously intensely technical articles, and some articles aimed squarely at the newest users. Each week, we send out a fun and useful tip. And every day, we track all the news that goes on in the world of Notes, Domino, and their competitors.

We think we've figured out a way to make a solid, successful Notes tips & techniques journal. We had no concerns about the content. But we needed readers. Since we weren't selling subscriptions, anyone who wants to can read DominoPower. That meant we knew how to get readers: from Lotus. The people at Lotus have been wonderful.

Special thanks to Jeremy Sacco, Claire Rizzo, John Petrucelli, Jeanette Medlin, Perry Hewitt, Brenda Kelly, and Eileen Ruddin for sharing our enthusiasm and helping us reach Notes and Domino readers. Most of you will have found us from links directly off the main Lotus pages. Also, extra special thanks go to Ted Weismann, Lucie Mann, and Richard Wadsworth at Lois & Paul. The Lois & Paul guys are the PR folks who coordinate with Lotus to meet our needs. And they always do. To the people at Lotus who oversee the Lois & Paul relationship: these people are priceless. Cherish them.

Because we're much smaller than Ziff, and because we're growing this from the ground up to work the way people who use Notes and Domino work, we've got a great chance to make this a long-term, successful publication. So now we have links off the various main Lotus pages. We have a stream of readers. We have active advertisers. We have great articles and the very latest news.

It looks like we're back in the Lotus Notes and Domino business.

Never say never again. Now if only I could figure out how to get Kim Basinger to write for us. I'm sure I could find an opening on the editorial staffЙ [ouch!] Sorry. That was the sound of Denise hitting me.

P.S. If you'd like to help make DominoPower a success, visit our Link to Us page and put DominoPower links on your web site, tell your friends to subscribe to our Tip of the Week, and have a lot of fun!

P.P.S. My friend Bob tells me that the Bond flick title "Never Say Never Again" was based on an interesting story about Sean Connery. Apparently, he'd previously hung up his 007 hat and had said he'd never make another Bond film. When he'd finally been talked into doing the remake of Thunderball, they decided to name it "Never Say Never Again" in part because of his decision to do another Bond film, despite the fact that he'd previously said "Never again".



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