Congratulations to Our Special Excellence Award Honorees

 Keith Oelke

Keith Oelke

Hedley Donovan Award

Congratulations to Keith Oelke, our Hedley Donovan Award honoree. Through his work at Quad Graphics, Keith has been an invaluable partner to nearly all of our members. He was one of the founding members of MMPA and served on the board for six years. The MMPA has been an important conduit to support the publishing community in Minnesota and Keith has helped many members achieve their goals.

 Gayle Golden

Gayle Golden

Greg Carey Award

Congratulations to Gayle Golden, our Greg Carey Award honoree. In Gayle's role as educator, mentor and champion for magazines, she has nurtured and honed the talents of dozens of new professionals to our industry.

Both Keith and Gayle’s work have proven significant to our media community and we look forward to commemorating and celebrating them and their work at the Excellence Awards Gala, November 1.

MMPA Excellence Awards 2018 Finalists

mmpa aria.jpg

61 different print and digital publications will be recognized at this year's Excellence Awards Gala November 1.

Check out the list below and join us to celebrate.

2018 Artisan Home Tour Guidebook

American Craft

Archery Business

Architecture MN

Beverage Dynamics

Cambria Style

Cheers Magazine

Colorado Meetings + Events

Corn+Soybean Digest

Delta Sky Magazine


Experience Life

Food on Demand

Franchise Times

Geosynthetics Magazine

IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems

Illinois Meetings + Events

Independent Banker

Independent School

Lake Bride Magazine

Lake Minnetonka Magazine

Lake Time Magazine

Lavender Magazine

Legacy Medical Bulletin

Midwest Home Magazine

Minnesota Alumni

Minnesota Business Magazine

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

Minnesota Golfer

Minnesota Good Age

Minnesota Medicine

Minnesota Meetings + Events

Minnesota Monthly

Minnesota Parent

Mpls.St.Paul Home & Design

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

NEXT: The Magazine of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Northwest Meetings + Events

Perspectives Magazine

Powder and Bulk Engineering

Powersports Business

Pull USA Magazine

Rider Magazine

Sidewalk Dog Media

Snow Goer

Specialty Fabrics Review

St. Olaf Magazine

Star Tribune Magazine

The Growler


TrustPoint Magazine

Twin Cities Business

Twin Cities Pride Magazine



USA Hockey Magazine

Viking Magazine

Virginia Golfer


Woman Rider

Woodworker's Journal

Rockin' with Randal Acker

It’s like starting an old truck, with some interviews. Pull the choke knob, turn the key, baby the throttle, ease into it. With others, it’s like pushing a button and hanging on as the engine revs, seemingly on auto pilot. And you need to shift down a gear to control the direction.

 Randal Acker - President of the Exhibitor Media Group

Randal Acker - President of the Exhibitor Media Group

Randal Acker is that revving engine. He knows where he’s going and he’s happy to share that direction. The president of the Exhibitor Media Group, Randal Acker (or is it Randy, I didn’t get a chance to ask that) has been in leadership at Exhibitor for 16 years and had a five-year spell with the company in the late 90s (I didn’t get to ask about that either). For many of those years, Acker has been a teacher, literally, serving as adjunct faculty at Bemidji State University. And figuratively, Acker is a teacher in his work at Exhibitor. That’s where we started our conversation.

MMPA: Editor’s Note: I honestly don’t remember the question I asked, or if I asked one.

Acker: How do we make a difference in our career? How do we share what we know as leaders? You could live in your own little silo, or complain about quality of talent today, but why don’t you do something about it? Get into classrooms, become mentors. Help things get better. Working today is about more than a career, and that’s part of our reason to be members of

MMPA. I’m a pretty loud voice about make a difference.

MMPA: Okay, let’s expand on that, the reasons you’re a member of MMPA?

 Acker is an adjunct faculty member at Bemidji State University

Acker is an adjunct faculty member at Bemidji State University

Acker: It’s multifaceted. If I have staff that want to be involved, I want to give them that opportunity. We can all get so entrenched in our own day to day, but MMPA gives you the chance to gauge work by getting feedback from a knowledgeable and professional peer group. And when your peers say, ‘You do good work,’ that has great value for morale and more.

MMPA: Let’s get to the beginning. Who is and what is Exhibitor?

Acker: Why we exist – in 1982, we started as the educational content source that helped people do trade shows and events better, because there was a great need for improvement and consistency in all aspects of events and exhibits. Lee Knight started Exhibitor Magazine in 1982 and launched the Trade Show in 1989. He did so to tell stories and share best practices. Exhibitor became a trusted and credible source of content, and the magazine helped prove the value of the trade show. It all started with that trusted and credible content. Today, trade shows are part of a $90 billion industry. It’s grown, and the people have evolved. From admins to designers into professional trade show marketers. We’re the essential education and information hub of the industry. And now we have a Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM) program, including rigorous course work to show that you’re a professional. It’s like a trade-show master’s program.

MMPA: Who is your audience, and why do they need you?

Acker: Imagine you work for a small to mid-size company, and company leader assigns you to handle a trade show, and you don’t know how to do it. You would find Exhibitor and learn how to do it right. For many companies, marketing “generalists” are often thrown into leading one or two shows per year, and they come into an event with multiple plates spinning in the air. Sure, many companies do multiple shows per year, and we can help them too.

Nobody else teaches this like we do. You can learn through the school of hard knocks or learn from our experts and our programs and our content. The CTSM program extends our content to the extreme. We’ve had people tell us, “You’ve saved my life,” from a professional perspective. We can make a difference for people. We make it strategic, it’s not just logistics, tips and tactics.

MMPA: How do you prove that worth? Or measure success?

Acker: The bulk of what we do drives toward the face-to-face experience. Whether on the website, or through the magazine, we work to prove that we are a credible source, a trusted teacher. And we value and listen to communities that help us prove this.

The voice of the customer rings loudly through our organization. We have full time editorial staff, and they go to dozens of trade shows annually. They’re immersing themselves in these marketing channels, and they’re watching, learning, building relationships personally. We also have advisory boards and councils – editorial, show, advertising, and more – and we’re always asking – What do you like about what we do? We do surveys, we’re BPA audited; listening and learning is important to us.

We always look at metrics, and we survey our audiences in a variety of ways, but it’s face-to-face community interaction that gives us great value.

MMPA: Exhibitor magazine has been named an MMPA Magazine of the Year in 2011, and in 2017. So how does digital content compare to print for you?

 EXHIBITOR magazine wins Magazine of the Year at last year’s Excellence Awards ceremony

EXHIBITOR magazine wins Magazine of the Year at last year’s Excellence Awards ceremony

Acker: We’re still very tied to the print component, but everything we do in print winds up in digital. We have an international community – multiple countries – and digital delivery is the most effective for that audience. If international marketers are going to do an event in America, they look to Exhibitor online.

Both print and digital fill roles, and we learn that from listening and from surveys. We still do a print Buyer’s Guide, and we know customers value this print tool, even though we also have a mobile phone version.  

For example, it’s interesting that every show you attend has a mobile app for attendees and exhibitors. And we’ve seen adoption of no more than 40 percent of attendees using these digital tools. Mostly the digital natives are not using these one-time or one-event apps.

MMPA: How about video? I noticed – on YouTube anyway – Exhibitor has posted many videos but not consistently. Is that because of video itself, or just YouTube?

Acker: I think many people are struggling with video, from publishers to marketers. The consumers watch how-to and other videos, but it’s not always adopted or accepted en masse. When we look at that, we ask, why are we continuing to do this? Our audience currently isn’t using video enough, not consuming it in large ways, and we are doing less video for now.

MMPA: Attending a wide range of trade shows, I’m sure you go to some that are more interesting than others. Are there events you attend for personal reasons?

Acker: I restored a 1968 Camaro, so I’m a car guy. And I would love to go to SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association, an automobile aftermarket group) and look at all the cool cars. I could also just go professionally.

A lot of that show is about community. The majority of show organizers are working to build community, and we already have a community. We work hard to make a difference for that community.  

A Personal Invitation to Young Publishing Professionals!

Join us for a fun networking event at the Bull’s Horn Bar and Restaurant (an Andrew Zimmern recommended hot-spot) this Thursday, October 11.

This event is a chance to network, to hear about career building opportunities and to let the Minnesota Media & Publishing Association know what sort of enrichment opportunities would be useful to you. 

You don’t have to be an MMPA member to attend.  And there’s free food.

Come this Thursday at 5:30pm to Bull’s Horn … a great low-key location (with beer) run by award winning chef Doug Flicker and his partner Amy Greeley. 

We are hoping that folks young in their careers will attend, but in truth all are welcome.

Networking is critical both for career building and career advancement. And if you can enhance your career and have fun at the same time (there is beer), what is stopping you? If you have an interest, please accept this as my personal invitation to attend and enjoy a fun evening. (Did I mention there will be beer?).

Rob Johnstone, MMPA Board Member 

Gibson Named President of Hanley Wood Marketing

Minneapolis-based Hanley Wood Marketing has announced the promotion of Dobby Gibson to president.  

“Dobby has been an outstanding strategic leader in our development of a powerful marketing platform,” said Peter Goldstone, Chief Executive Officer of Hanley Wood.

 Dobby Gibson - President of Hanley Wood Marketing

Dobby Gibson - President of Hanley Wood Marketing

“He has been at the forefront of designing and delivering high-performing brand strategy and content marketing solutions to our growing roster of Fortune 300 clients.”

As the agency’s Senior Vice President of Strategy, Gibson helped HWM broaden and strengthen its client roster, which includes FedEx, Sherwin-Williams, and 3M, among many others.

Gibson has been working directly under the leadership of Jeanne Milbrath, who recently announced her retirement as president and will be transitioning day- to-day agency management to Gibson.

Hanley Wood Marketing is one of three operating platforms working in conjunction with Hanley Wood Media and Metrostudy, a Hanley Wood residential construction data company. The marketing platform specializes in brand strategy and content marketing and is ranked as the #11 largest advertising agency in the Twin Cities by Twin Cities Business Journal.

Media People on the Move

 Tammy Galvin - Publisher at Greenspring Media

Tammy Galvin - Publisher at Greenspring Media

Greenspring Media has a new leader with the announcement that Tammy Galvin has assumed the role as publisher. Galvin, who joined Greenspring in 2014, has more than 25 years of media leadership experience, developing franchise and custom publications, digital media and event solutions for some of the country’s preeminent publishers (including Lakewood and Ehlert in Minnesota). Galvin will spearhead the overall strategic plan and tactical deliverables for Greenspring’s multifaceted business. She replaces Jamie Flaws who resigned to pursue other interests.

 Arthur Morrissey - Director of Marketing, Events & Partnerships at Greenspring Media

Arthur Morrissey - Director of Marketing, Events & Partnerships at Greenspring Media

MMPA is pleased to announce that Greenspring Media’s Arthur Morrissey has been named to its Board of Directors. Morrissey joined Greenspring in 2017 as the Director of Marketing, Events & Partnerships. He leads the development of strategic brand marketing and overall customer experience.  Morrissey previously worked for 11 years at Morrissey Hospitality Companies.  He’s a graduate of St. John’s University and will head the Excellence Awards committee for MMPA.  

 Jared Pfeifer - Publisher at Foodservice News

Jared Pfeifer - Publisher at Foodservice News

Jared Pfeifer has joined Foodservice News as its first full-time publisher.  Foodservice News is the news and information source for the foodservice community.  

Pfiefer was Publisher, then Group Publisher for Grand View Outdoor overseeing both consumer (Bowhunting World) and B2B (Archery Business) brands in the outdoor market.  Even though most of his recent experience has been in the outdoor market, he does have an affinity for the foodservice industry. “In high school I sold knives door-to-door,” he says, laughing. 

In addition to the print product, Pfiefer will be looking for ways to increase the digital footprint for Foodservice News, adding new opportunities to help boost advertisers’ digital presence, through web banners, email offerings, social media and “native content.”

Married with two young children, Pfiefer says he doesn’t have time for a lot of hobbies, although he ticked off hunting, work and family. “I’m more excited by this opportunity than I have been in a decade of work,” he says. “Foodservice News already has a terrific team in place, and I look forward to helping grow the brand even further.”

The Evolution of Survey Research

During more than 30 years at local survey research company Readex Research, Steve Blom has had a front-row seat to the publishing industry’s seismic shifts in the way content is produced, distributed, consumed and evaluated.

 Steve Blom -Director of Sales and Marketing at Readex

Steve Blom -Director of Sales and Marketing at Readex

Though much has changed since the day he started as a project director in 1987, Blom, now the director of sales and marketing at Readex, says the needs of many publishers has stayed the same. At the top of the list: the need to ensure content is valuable to readers, and to convince advertisers of the value of readers.

Blom spoke with MMPA about the evolution of survey research, and how Readex is addressing the challenges publishers face today.

MMPA: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your field during the last three decades?

Blom: When I started here, our method was mailed surveys. We didn’t do phone surveys, we didn’t do in-person interviews. This was 1987—there was no Internet.

You roll forward a few years and the Internet appears, so we started to do online data collection as well. Most of our work was still mail, but over time, more and more work moved online.

People’s expectations or requirements as it pertains to quality research or response rate gradually changed, too. If you had called me in 1987 and wanted to do some sort of editorial study or an audience profile study, and I didn’t feel we could get a 60 percent response or greater, we weren’t even pursuing that business because we were big advocates of response. As soon as the Internet showed up as a means for capturing and executing surveys, response rates as an important attribute got pushed to the side.

Typically online surveys are going to yield a lower rate of response and in some cases much, much lower. So that was a real change in mindset. We often get 10 percent, 20 percent. Today publishers are content with that.

MMPA: With so many survey tools available today, how does Readex set itself apart?

Blom: That’s another big change I’ve seen during my time in the industry—the advent of do-it-yourself tools. As those developed, some of our traditional customers were of the mindset that they could do things in house, on their own, and what we have been left with to a certain extent are situations in which the customer needs us for an unbiased, third-party project, or the survey effort is too complicated and they can’t do it themselves.

It is when you’re thinking about more complicated methods or a mix of methods that we can provide the expertise to help. We have some people that want to do a print component as well as an online component and then they have different audiences and circulation files that fall into it. We tend to get the stuff that often times people simply can’t or don’t want to handle.

I suppose it’s much like a backyard mechanic. Some of us can change spark plugs and tires and things like that, but when it gets too complicated, you hand it over to a professional.

MMPA: Is mail still a relevant survey method today or have you moved almost entirely online?

Blom: The thing that is kind of ironic is that our mail survey business is actually growing, not necessarily in the sense of units, but in the sense of size. We do some very large mail-out works and often we’re hired by another research company that no longer has mail or print capability.

The reason mail works, in some cases, is because that’s the only way that some of our customers can get to their audience. If they have a subscriber base, for example, and they don’t have a high incidence of email addresses, mail is the only game in town. There are some of our customers who have older audiences who are just more comfortable with print.

When we’re talking about printed magazines, for example, it kind of goes without saying that there is a land address, so we know we can get to that audience. It kind of dovetails off the response rate issue as well. Typically we’re going to get higher rates of response from a mail, printed survey than we would from the equivalent email or online survey.

MMPA: What are some of the key challenges you’re addressing today, or trends you are seeing?

Blom: In some ways it’s not a lot different than it was when I started here in that many times we get hired to support sales and marketing initiatives. What that means is trying to describe and quantify the nature of the audience: who they are, what they do, what they buy. In those cases research is the foundation or the bedrock of a marketing campaign or media kits, things like that.

That continues to be something that we do frequently. I think I find a little bit more interest in what I would describe as editorial or content-based research more than what we saw many years ago. I think our core customers understand that they are competing not just with a couple of other publications in their niche, but all kinds of other communications channels that are vying for eyes and attention.

In the end, it’s about trying to provide relevant, useful content in a way in which readers want to consume it. So again, flashing back 30 years, we used to ask, “What do you want to read?” Now, it’s asking what they want to read via what channels and at what frequency.

Key challenges publishers face today are associated with the audience of interest. It used to be that we’d survey a sample of those who receive the publication in the mail. Now you have those people, and potentially people on an email list for an e-newsletter, then you have different e-newsletters. They might have some sort of contact information associated with social media.

So it’s really trying to define, quantify and conceptualize the audience that we’re trying to survey, so you can make some sort of accurate extrapolations—what those survey results mean and who specifically they represent.

MMPA: After more than 70 years in business, what does the future hold for Readex?

Blom: From the outset, we have constantly tried to think about expanding our markets. We’ve grown from fairly structured and rigid ad readership studies that were sold from a rate card to providing custom research solutions to the publishing community to conducting member satisfaction surveys for associations, etc. We’re trying not to put all of our eggs in one basket and looking at surveying a variety of markets and offering a variety of solutions.

MMPA Elects Two New Board Members

MMPA is pleased to announce it has elected two new directors to its board, effective January 1, 2019.

 Ali Jarvis - Founder and CEO of

Ali Jarvis - Founder and CEO of

Ali Jarvis is the Founder and CEO of Founded in 2008, Sidewalk Dog Media is a cause-based media company with a simple mission: to promote thriving relationships between dogs, their people and the community we share.

A regular on TV and radio, Ali’s numerous awards include Woman of Influence (Pet Age Magazine) and Business Owner of the Year (National Association of Women Business Owners – MN Chapter).

As a MMPA board member, Ali will serve as liaison to the communications committee.

Paul Kolars is the Founder and Managing Partner of TriMax Direct. Founded in 2001, TriMax Direct is an outsourced data, research and marketing agency based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 Paul Kolars - Founder & Managing Partner of TriMax Direct

Paul Kolars - Founder & Managing Partner of TriMax Direct

Paul has more than 30 years of experience in list and data acquisition, and he tailors custom solutions for a wide range of marketing challenges. Paul is a frequent guest speaker on b-to-b marketing and data solutions at the University of St. Thomas’ Opus College of Business and has been a presenter at a variety of marketing conferences.

As a MMPA board member, Paul will serve as liaison to the membership committee.

MSP-C Wins CMI's Agency of the Year

MSP-C, a division of MSP Communications (publisher of Twin Cities Business and Mpls. St.Paul magazines), gets a huge win as CMI's Agency of the Year.

Last week MSP-C was named the Agency of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). Each year, the best content marketing projects, agencies and marketers in the industry are recognized during CMI’s Content Marketing Awards, the largest content marketing awards program in the world.


The Agency of the Year (100+ employees) award—the highest award honor a content marketing agency can achieve—is presented to the organization that has distinguished itself by creating content marketing strategies that serves as a showcase for the entire industry.

Judges look at the agency’s overall strategy, individual projects—in both print and digital—and performance over the past year, as well as the innovation behind consistent multiplatform publishing. 

MSP-C was also a finalist in five other categories:

Minnesota Brand Publishers Prosper


As MMPA continues to grow by reaching out to an ever wider variety of publishing sub-cultures, brand publishing is a significant focal point. 

Our regional publishing scene is home to numerous brand publications, some produced directly by brand owners (General Mills, University of Minnesota, Target), some produced by agencies and/or custom publishers on behalf of brands (MSP-C for Delta Air Lines, Touchpoint Media for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Greenspring Media for Lunds & Byerlys, Hanley Wood Marketing for Sherwin-Williams). 

This article from FIPP, the international media member organization that has long roots in magazine publishing.  Like MMPA, they are shining a more intense spotlight on the high quality content marketing work their member companies produce for world class brands.  And, as the article points out, the print channel still has legs.

Pulp Non-Fiction

How a series of unlikely events may lead to a truly stinky outcome

While it is true that more and more of the publishing world is moving away from paper, it is also true that print remains a significant and powerful medium. And as alluded to, print requires paper. Which brings us to this remarkable tale of unlikely events.

 Rob Johnstone - Publisher of Woodworker's Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

Rob Johnstone - Publisher of Woodworker's Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

Not so long ago, before the word tariff gained such notoriety, a paper mill in the great northwest of the United States brought suit against one of its prime competitors in the newsprint market, claiming that the Canadian company was enjoying unfair advantage due to subsidies from their national government. This in and of itself is not a rare event, but the outcome of the suit, that the Canadian mill was indeed at fault, was unexpected.

Meanwhile in China, the government took stock of the paper recycling industry — a primary source of paper in China — and decided that the chemicals used were detrimental to the environment. Again, an occurrence at odds with historical norms. The result being that China moved into the wet pulp market in a big way.

Canadian newsprint mills, generally annoyed with the lawsuit decision looked at the new Chinese market and found that the expense of shipping to China actually cost less via boat than shipping to the United States via truck and train, and they decided to sell virtually all their pulp to the far east. Great for China, great for Canada, bad for newsprint buyers in the United States.

Meanwhile in Siberia (yes, Siberia!) - perhaps due to the historic rise of anthropomorphic climate change or maybe it was just a fluke of nature — temperatures were extremely warm all winter long in 2017- 18. So warm in fact, that the ground did not freeze and trucks and loggers were not able to harvest lumber for paper pulp, which in turn caused a huge shortage of paper pulp on the International market. This at the same time that China decided to buy more fresh pulp ... which caused an even tighter market.

Back in the United States, buyers of newsprint took note of the situation and started buying in bulk to ensure that they had sufficient supplies. Which put pressure on an already tight market, driving prices much higher. And some companies that ordinarily bought newsprint decided to move to a heavier weight and higher grade of paper, which caused a chain reaction of companies jumping grades and driving prices higher.

So for paper in general, there have been price hikes in recent months, and another for September of $2.00 per hundredweight is in the offing. As with most commodities, these increased prices will likely lead to increased production, and prices will probably moderate in months to come. But for now, our margin suffers.

While I can almost hear some online-only publishers sniggering at traditional print publishers in the fold, I can only say this. I hope that you are not parents of very young children. Because as you know, disposable diapers are also a product made from pulp. And so the unlikely sequence of events described above will also increase the price of baby poop management. A stinky mess indeed.

Rob Johnstone is the publisher of Woodworker's Journal, the director of content marketing at Rockler Press and a current MMPA board member. 

Resources for Niche Publishers

 Kim Mateus - Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems

Kim Mateus - Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems

A recent MMPA survey confirmed  that Kim Mateus' audience development  presentation was a big hit at this year's Summit in April. 

Kim works with Don Nicholas at Mequoda, and the work they do with niche publishers who are similar to so many of our own members is outstanding. 

Here's a Mequoda blog about additional information resources for niche publishers.



Sarah Elbert Talks Travel Journalism is a a technology company that provides analytics for digital publishers about their content - audience engagement, sharing, device usage, retention and more.  Their analytics empower publishers to optimize audience reach for their content, and presumably the financial benefit that follows. 

As a significant tech brand serving the media industry, is no stranger to content marketing on it's own behalf. 

 Sarah Elbert - Editor-in Chief of SKY magazine

Sarah Elbert - Editor-in Chief of SKY magazine

The following is a terrific interview with Sarah Elbert, editor-in-chief of SKY, Delta airlines in-flight magazine published by MSP-C.   

Windmill Designs Trust

A design battle raged in the late 1500s among mathematicians. What’s the best visual representation for “is equal to.” Lovers of classical Latin liked “æ” – a shortened form of aequalis meaning “like, equal.” But Robert Recorde, a Welsh mathematician, scribbled out two parallel lines – “because no 2 things can be more equal” – designing the equals sign that has gained increasing significance nearly 500 years later.

No, your website design will not last 460+ years. But it can make your content easier and more enjoyable to read. That’s design in the world of content marketing, publishing and websites.

 Kathy Mrozek - Principal and Creative Director of Windmill Design

Kathy Mrozek - Principal and Creative Director of Windmill Design

When considering website design and your own site, ask, “Do people want to read this? Will people want to stay here, click on anything, take action?” These are some of the questions Kathy Kassera Mrozek, principal and creative director of Windmill Design in Minneapolis, asks when she and her team design a website. And Windmill is behind the design of the new website.

Web design is not the same as “user experience” or UX. “A lot of UX happens before visual design,” says Mrozek. “Wireframing and site architecture is more UX, but it can be hard to differentiate the two because UX is the design of the user experience. When we get into colors and fonts and images, most of the display of the site’s content, that’s more visual design.”

Back to that first question – do people want to read this? – a strong web-design trend today leads to “content first” design. Mrozek describes this as a site with few visual distractions. “A few years ago, many website designers used complicated backgrounds in an effort to make their sites stand out. But your brain can’t focus on all that many things at once,” she says. “Keep your design focus on what you want people to see and engage with on your website, and what you want them to do next.”

If that sounds to you like basic design philosophy, you’re right; it is. And it’s not all that different from designing content for a printed page. “Keep in mind the basics of design,” says Mrozek. “Good design principles make you more trustworthy.” She offers these basic-but-overlooked design tips:

  • Use subheads to break up long pages of content
  • Use proper leading and margins. (Yes, old print terms like “leading” are still used in web design, though “line height” is used in CSS language
  • Keep it simple. A web page with too many things going on will send readers away

Is Web Design About Simplicity?

 One of the many websites Windmill has designed

One of the many websites Windmill has designed

“Yes and no,” says Mrozek when we asked Is Simpler Better? “We are careful of the visual load on a page, as well as the actual load time for any web page,” she says. “Even though everyone’s devices are getting faster, web pages must load quickly and design impacts load time.

“There’s nothing wrong with Arial,” says Mrozek (to the delight of this editor who despises font choices). “You want to limit visual distraction and keep load time quick. And if you choose a variety of fonts, they all need to be downloaded when someone clicks to a page, and they slow load time. Plus, you need to consider the cost of font licenses. Unless a particular font is necessary for branding, keep it simple. Use Google fonts, and limit your font families to 1-3 per site.” She points to a base font such as Arial, which is most likely already downloaded on a user’s computer, including the bold, italic and other styles.

6 Questions for Mrozek

MMPA: Is it all about mobile right now?

Mrozek: Everyday, the use of mobile websites increases. All about mobile? No, but everyone with a website should pay close attention to the site’s mobile functionality.

MMPA: Do people read long-form content on mobile devices?

Mrozek: I do, all the time. As long as the design basics are covered, long-form can work well.

MMPA: How do you best design for video content?

Mrozek: The title screen needs to be enticing so people click. But you also need to make sure people can find it. Make sure to set up a video with a transcript that Google can find. For maximum searchability, make the content visible.

MMPA: I see more posts with notes such as “4-minute read.” Is that necessary?

Mrozek: Necessary? Probably not. But there is so much competition, and information like that can give people an idea of the time needed. It’s nice, I think.

MMPA: Stock photos: your thoughts?

Mrozek: Use custom images whenever possible. Having actual pictures of your products, office, and team can go a long way toward creating an authentic brand. If you have the budget, bring in a professional photographer. This can have a very positive effect on your site and create a truly custom look.

MMPA: Any homepage trends to watch?

Mrozek: We’re seeing a trend of homepage sliders going away. Analytics show that these are not really all that useful – people are skipping over the content in a slider, rather than getting immersed in multiple messages, as often intended. This design is one that pleases the stakeholder, but not the viewer. We monitor website analytics closely to gauge strength of a design and user experience. Everyone should be monitoring analytics.

StarTribune Magazine Wins Awards


StarTribune Magazine earns accolades:  The national Society for Features Journalism has given the Star Tribune's new magazine an honorable mention as Best Niche Product and an Arts and Entertainment Feature award for Chris Riemenschneider's cover article titled "Prince Inc."  

The magazine also earned awards from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists for its "Photos of the Year" issue design and its Michele Tafoya, Christopher Ingraham and Eric Dayton profiles.


Media People On The Move

colleen w.jpg

Twin Cities PBS has announced that Colleen Wilson will join the organization in September and oversee its two national digital publications - and  Wilson joins the TPT team from KQED in San Francisco where she has been executive director of their digital products and has served as chairperson for the PBS Digital Media Advisory Council.  She will report to the new TPT President/CEO (yet to be named) replacing Jim Pagliarini who is retiring in December.


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Industrial  Association Fabrics International has named Amy Collins as its new marketing director and a leadership team member, according to Steve Schiffman, IFAI president.  Collins has an extensive background in events, media and sales, most recently as vice-president at EPG Media, LLC.  She has also worked previously at Penton Media and Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.



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Former Minnesota Monthly and Midwest Home editor, Rachel Hutton, is joining the features team at StarTribune  as a general assignment reporter.  Hutton had also previously been a food writer for City Pages, where her criticism and features regularly garnered awards and appeared in Best Food Writing anthologies.

Rob Johnstone -- On The Record

“When I was in high school, my mother created the Eden Prairie News, and once a week I would help lay up the paper. We used our ping pong table for production. I was the sports reporter covering Eden Prairie High School sports. And my father owned a cabinet shop and woodworking business. That’s where I got my first real job, after sports reporter.”  -- Rob Johnstone

(Editor’s Note: Writing about woodworking. That’s Johnstone’s perfect occupation. But it’s so much more than that.)  

MMPA: Fast forward to now. What’s the 30-second evolution of your career path?

Johnstone: I understood the power of stories even as a kid. I believed when you had a good story you could make people believe stuff. You could influence people. I watched my mom do it with the Eden Prairie News. The power of narrative. Plus, I’ve always been a reader. That’s why I ended up in publishing.

Today in the editorial world, you need to be an editor, artist, storyteller and movie star (maybe just a little). But in the end, it’s just story. There are new disciplines but they’re just extensions.

MMPA: Did you always want to do this?

Johnstone: I thought I might be a doctor, until I ran into organic chemistry. After college, I went to work for my dad’s woodworking business, then I started my own. And I worked all the time. It was hard to be a good dad, and hard to make my small biz work at that time in the ’80s. Following an interesting contract as a technical editor for Cy Decosse, I decided it would be fun to find out what magazine publishing was like.

I found a good opportunity to write about what I know – woodworking. Also, I found some bad info out there, and I’m one of those guys who likes to explain the world to people. I don’t know if there’s anything else I could have been writing about. I’ve done everything from framing houses to building guitars. I think I have a scope of experience and knowledge that I can share. And I’ve always like telling stories.

  Rob Johnstone, Publisher of Woodworker’s Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

Rob Johnstone, Publisher of Woodworker’s Journal and Director of Content Marketing at Rockler Press

MMPA: Creating stories for a magazine is one thing, but what about content marketing for Rockler Companies, Inc.(35+ retail woodworking and hardware stores)?

Johnstone: People get nervous around this – are we journalists or marketers? I think we can be both. As long as there is value in content we’re delivering.

MMPA: Value to whom?

Johnstone: To be successful, consumers must value the content. Whether they purchase from a company or not – that’s irrelevant. The narrative is key; there must be quality story building and the right delivery.

Yes, if Rockler is paying the bills, I need to put their products in a position for best display. I have a responsibility to the company to tell a product story well. And I have a responsibility to say “No” when I think the content is compromising story truths. I’ve had those honest discussions with marketing people. Any business doing content marketing needs someone who truly understands “content” along with the “marketing.”

MMPA: The Eden Prairie News bit, is that for real?

Johnstone: Yes, my mom, with her college education, took a mail order course to become a graphic artist. I remember her doing this ‘homework’ when I was a school kid. Then she got a job with the Sun Newspapers. It was just The Sun then, and eventually she decided she wanted to make her own newspaper. She bought an IBM Selectric typewriter – seriously, we used one. And she started writing stories. The newspaper celebrated an anniversary recently, and they had my mom in for a photo shoot and story.

MMPA: What’s Rockler’s history with content marketing?

Johnstone: Today’s Woodworker was a magazine Rockler created to support its products. After a year or two, it became clear that the P&L wasn’t working out – there was no advertising. Then the Woodworker’s Journal magazine came up for sale.

I was an editor at the time, and we told Rockler management that a magazine like this had to be independent of Rockler business to get advertising. In this niche, that was the only way. We set it up as a separate corporation. We did our own tool reviews, and I would even tell Rockler, ‘Sorry but your router bits are going to come in 5th in this comparison review.’

I always said we should be like the Dutch Uncle – like the guy giving advice over the fence rail in a firm but neighborly style. If we tell stories from a base of expertise, and if we’re willing to share without expectation, we could be that Dutch Uncle that everyone respects and trusts.

MMPA: There is a trend toward content marketing that shares opinions and political views. Is that Rockler?

Johnstone: No, definitely not. They will plant trees on Earth Day and make it all about wood. Or maybe do special content for Veteran’s Day that can be turned into a fund-raiser specifically for veterans. They keep their enthusiasm focused on woodworking. That’s their DNA. This is something I need to stay aware of. I love the political content, personally, but my readership doesn’t want to interface with political discussions.

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I did that once. Sam Maloof was a famous woodworker, and he’d built furniture for Jimmy Carter. I had the chance to get the two of them on the cover of Woodworker’s Journal. I was very excited, it was a great story, but I got such blowback. My readership did not care for it. I tried to introduce something they did not want to see in the magazine.

MMPA: What are you reading?

Johnstone: I’m reading Jon Meacham’s “The Soul of America.” I read both fiction and non-fiction, and I like science fiction. But I’ve been leaning toward non-fiction. I read simply for the joy of reading. I love great writing, powerful metaphors, ironic twists. And when I read something great I think, ‘I wish everybody could read this.’

The whole idea of narratives that people form. I was reading a piece in the Washington Post about evangelicals and support of President Trump, and the writer just let the people speak. He presented these narratives in an honest and compelling style. When I read something like that, I consider it to be important journalism, maybe even a little more so than how to turn a wooden bowl. 

(Note:  Rob was elected to the MMPA board of directors as of January, 2018)


Programmatic Advertising Holds Promise for B2B Publishers

For many publishers, digital advertising is a source of frustration. Too much inventory, not enough revenue. And B2B publishers can be at an even greater disadvantage without the scale to take advantage of the digital tools available to their B2C counterparts.   

Scott Roulet heard about those challenges again and again when meeting with BPA Worldwide members at the onset of the global assurance company’s creation of the B2B Media Exchange, launched last year as a private marketplace for audited B2B media. Roulet, vice president of the B2B Media Exchange, says when discussing digital revenue, the conversations generally weren’t positive.     

“We learned that in most cases they were seeing a decline and initially they weren’t really sure why,” he says. “But when they go back and start asking the questions, what they’ll find is that it’s not that the advertisers’ digital budgets are declining—in fact they’re growing. The issue is that they are shifting the way in which they engage with publishers and buy inventory. And that is the larger umbrella called programmatic.”

The concept of programmatic advertising—which is essentially a data-driven, automated way to buy and sell advertising inventory—emerged in recent years as a solution to the surplus of ad inventory following the boom in online publishing. Platforms have been created to help publishers, ad networks, agencies, and advertisers work in harmony to complete digital transactions in the blink of an eye.

But as the technology took off, specialty buyers and sellers were alienated, while marketers began asking for more authoritative media validation and audience targeting, Roulet says. As validation is the cornerstone of BPA, it seemed fitting for the organization to deliver a solution. Through the B2B Media Exchange, invited advertisers can now access a large pool of audited B2B media inventory. Publishers gain efficiency, the scale to attract large advertisers and agencies, and they maintain control over the process.

A second phase will allow publishers to transact with their direct advertisers and develop a data cooperative with enhanced insights.

“This is more than simply creating a private marketplace where advertisers can come in and buy inventory that publishers have not sold,” Roulet says. “That can be a possibility, but it’s much more fundamental than that. And it really is providing an enablement tool to help publishers compete in the digital space.”

So far, 170 publishers are signed up to participate, Roulet says. Among the onboarding steps is an inventory audit including technology scans, education tailored to a publisher’s needs, and a couple of hours of implementation.

The initiative is still fresh, but Roulet expects publishers and advertisers to see a mutual benefit and future growth in programmatic opportunities.

“This is our first step in creating an environment so that we can start applying verification in the digital ecosystem,” Roulet says. “As we look into the future, what’s going to be important is a verification of the audience. In the short term, in terms of revenue, what does it mean to me as a publisher? I tell publishers to expect whatever you put into it.”

For more information about the B2B Media Exchange, go to

Franchise Times -- Video for the Right Reason

 Mary Jo Larson -- Publisher/Vice President at Franchise Times

Mary Jo Larson -- Publisher/Vice President at Franchise Times

“We had a specific case for using video,” said Mary Jo Larson, Publisher/Vice President of Franchise Times, “we had a specific reason. We didn’t just use video because we think video is cool. It’s easy to think you should do it just because everyone else is doing it.”

The specific reason, according to Larson, if the company’s brand message. “We want to be the hub for franchising information,” she said. Larson and her team created a video plan around the company’s spring conference – The Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference – in Las Vegas. With a schedule of 60 individual speakers in overlapping presentations during the three-day event, the conference included too much informative content for attendees to witness first hand. Videos of each presentation would add value for attendees, and for Franchise Times staff. “I was at the conference and couldn’t see all the presentations live,” said Larson.

Franchise Times has held this particular conference (it hosts others as well) for more than 20 years. But in recent years, according to Larson, the conference “wasn’t meeting the true needs of attendees.” The video formula, refined and improved for the most recent conference, was an important part of the solution. “This video content let us enhance the conference experience and better unite attendees – the franchisors, franchisees, lenders, investors, and more,” she said. “Franchise Times is the industry publication for successful business owners in franchising. We want to be seen as the deal makers’ magazine in franchising. The conference is a big part of that, and our video content helps even more.”

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The content delivery includes video recordings of every presentation in its entirety, including the speaker or speakers, plus the on-screen presentation they gave, delivered in a split-screen viewing format on the Franchise Times website. Some videos included special guests or extended interviews with speakers.

The end result? Conference attendees could watch presentations they weren’t able to attend, or to re-watch ones they did. Magazine readers could experience the event through video presentations, hearing a speaker’s tone of voice and seeing facial expressions and personality. And presenters were able to share these videos through their own media tools, helping extend the benefit of presenting at the conference. “We think video enhances the benefits for all involved with this conference,” said Larson.

 Franchise Times hosts a larger conference annually in the fall, and they use video sparingly there. “We want people to attend and interact at that conference,” she said, “and sharing video after the conference is of less value.” 

“We have received a lot of interest from other franchisors who want to be involved next year,” Larson said. “And we’ve heard from readers who appreciated the information shared through these videos.”

 For the 2019 conference, Larson hopes they’ll have 90 speakers and presentations, and they plan to record all on video. “It was a ton of work this year,” she said, “and we’ll need to outsource some of the post-production work so they can get all 90 videos posted as quickly as possible.”


Authenticity at Touchpoint Media

When I reached Dave Jensen on the phone, he was on his way to the airport to attend the Clay Target League National Championships in Michigan. The USA High School Clay Target League is a client of Touchpoint Media, and Jensen is Touchpoint’s Senior Vice President. I knew that already, but I wanted to tell you because we need to catch up with Jensen who is quickly into an explanation about the growth of target shooting as a high school sport. He does this authentically and passionately, not with a salesman’s bent, and all while he’s looking for a parking space at MSP.  And in the spirit of authenticity, we couldn’t just take Jensen’s word on Touchpoint Media. We spoke later the same day with Jessica Disch, Director of Sales & Client Strategy for Touchpoint Media – “the quarterback of all our non-sports clients,” says Jensen. We merged the two conversations.

 Dave Jensen -- Senior Vice President at Touchpoint Media

Dave Jensen -- Senior Vice President at Touchpoint Media

MMPA: The Touchpoint Media Blog has a recent post about “authenticity.” How do you ensure this in content creation, and then repeat it?

Dave Jensen: We have an outstanding staff that does much more than just gather content and re-purposing for multiple distribution methods. We create original content that speaks directly to readers to meet the needs of our clients. We spend a lot of time putting together content that each client views as valuable. That’s been our focus from the beginning of printed pieces, and through print and digital today.

Jessica Disch: We make a big effort to actually speak with members and with readers to get their stories, to learn what’s important to them, and to discuss problems and solutions for them. Authenticity is being true to the brand and being honest with those who read and use the content we create for that brand. That’s what we do with a magazine we produce for Blue Cross Blue Shield, telling real stories about seniors and people who use Medicare. We worked hard to learn what these readers want, to get to know their needs and desires. So many others are just trying to put out content, they’re trying too hard to just deliver a quantity of information without focusing on what’s truly valuable.

MMPA: Can you measure authenticity?

Jensen: With digital we can, yes. We track a variety of analytics closely and can make adjustments as needed. And with print, we do surveys, and more. Several of our clients are member-focused associations, and this content is an important part of that membership. So we can gauge memberships in part as a measure of our content’s effectiveness.

 Jessica Disch -- Director of Sales & Client Strategy at Touchpoint Media

Jessica Disch -- Director of Sales & Client Strategy at Touchpoint Media

Disch: These content plans are often long-term plays for return on investment. It’s important for us to talk up front with our clients about goals for the content. We help them manage expectations through an honest conversation about objectives – whether the goal is overall branding, or sales, or something else. Some of these things are easier to track than others. Email marketing can give us great analytics quickly. But with a magazine and blog work, it’s a longer play. Then we communicate regularly with clients to discuss feedback and engagement, and we can adjust as needed.

MMPA: Is email marketing a hot topic for your clients today?

Disch: We find that targeted and specific email content works today, in a time when some people feel inundated with email content. We can tailor and create specific content within any campaign. Like with USA Hockey, where we can break a larger email list into specific groups and send them targeted content.

Jensen: All our clients are different. And we listen and provide different solutions to problems. That might be print, might be email, might be digital. Each client we work with is unique. There can be benefits to any type of distribution, but it all depends on client need.

MMPA: Shifting gears, why are you in this business?

Jensen: I absolutely love this business. We started as a niche publisher for USA Hockey, and Minnesota Golfer. And USA Hockey remains a client. We’ve evolved, combining digital with print. Today, we’re a marketing company that specializes in content. We give our clients custom content they use to reach their customers as it best fits them. For many of our non-sports clients, we sold them on the idea of content marketing and custom publishing. Because they believed in us that it works.

After I finished playing hockey (editor’s note: Jensen played hockey for the Gophers, and for the United States in the 1984 Olympic Games. He went on to play with the North Stars and professionally in Europe) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, beyond sales. So I found this printing company, and they said they needed help with a magazine. We turned a small printing company into a publishing company, and I bought that business (TPG Sports), and helped build it into Touchpoint Media.

I’ve been with Touchpoint Media for more than 20 years. And some people might think, Oh 20 years with the same company. But I don’t look at it like that. Each day is something new. And we’re part of telling amazing stories, like this clay target event I’m heading to. We produce valued content that encourages and supports this activity that is making a difference in kid’s lives. Anytime you can help a kid feel like they’re part of the community, that’s special.

Jessica Disch was a huge addition to our staff beginning about five years ago, and she has done an outstanding job as quarterback for our non-sports clients.

Disch: I like the diversity of clients. One day I’m on a video shoot for Ecolab, and one day I’m talking with sources for thrive (the Blue Cross Blue Shield magazine). This makes it a real challenge and keeps it exciting. I came from a journalism and print background. A lot of our people did here, and we know how to ask questions and find the story. That’s very exciting for me.