At the recent MMPA (Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association) Summit & Expo, focused this year on digital publications, I attended a session on how to enforce trademark and copyright laws when much of the public feels that anything found online is free for the taking. According to our speaker, a patent attorney, if you find that someone has misappropriated your information (not an easy job in itself), you can take him to court … but unless the offender is rich, the only ones likely to benefit financially are probably the attorneys.
As he asked for “one more question,” I raised my hand and asked, “If the internet is destroying the concept of ownership online, is the answer for publishers simply to go back to print publications?” He paused, gave me perhaps a bit of an “there’s one in every crowd” expression, but then said, simply: “Could be.”
With the “ongoing innovation” theme this issue, it’s worthwhile to ask if inventing a new or improved process or product is worth it, if as soon as it comes out and gets publicized, it’s likely to get pirated as well. That is a possibility (see p. 60), but it’s also the basis for the “ongoing” part of the theme: innovation applies to process as well as to product, and to employees, vendors, competitors and customers.
We organized the articles in this issue to try to cover as much of the supply chain and the process as we could, from company organization and hiring policies to vendors (and values) and manufacturers with an eye not only on being ahead of the competition, but staying ahead of it. There are three statements, especially, that seem to encapsulate our theme:
• “My grandma and anyone else should be able to read it. You shouldn’t need technical expertise to understand how the product could provide significant improvements in end-user protection or comfort.” (Matthew Decker, W.L. Gore, p. 36.)
• “The best customer is aligned with our values, has a partnership mind-set and has the potential to be a market leader.” (David Smith, Milliken Engineered Performance Products, p. 39.)
• “Be open to doing things a different way—but also be open to doing things the same way.” (Jennifer Mitchell-Hakala and Richard Mitchell, NOMAR, p. 26.)
Do hot, high-tech products capture customer attention? Absolutely. But so does a product, or a company, that makes the same product as other companies—but does it better. Do I prefer print magazines to digital publications? Absolutely. But both have their unique advantages, and can work together effectively, if you know what your goals are, and who your audience is.
For long-term success, writer Katherine Carlson tells us (p. 51), an innovative company needs to consider not only the next generation of product, but the next generation of user. Are you as good a customer as you are a manufacturer?