A Little History
So what? ISA buys a website. This is a really big deal, and to understand it, you have to understand some history of ISA in the publishing business. Back in the 1990s, ISA had had a flourishing publications business, running three magazines out of its for-profit subsidiary ISASI, Inc., publishing books, a technical journal, and publishing standards. If the business had been standalone, it would have been very nicely profitable and growing.
So, what happened? The dot com bubble burst, and 9-11 happened. The ISA Show, which had generated most of ISA's profit and covered almost all of its overhead (there were something like 150 staff in 2001) declined precipitously, and the contribution to overhead thus applied to Publications increased dramatically...so on the books, Publications looked like it was losing money. The previous administrations, both staff and volunteer, decided to pare away at publishing until finally, InTech and books were the only things left.
Publishing As A Service
In 2004, I made an overture to ISA that Putman Media (the publisher of CONTROL, for which I was editor in chief) take over publishing as a service. For many reasons, I was ignored, but by 2009, the situation had deteriorated to the point that the same thing was offered to Automation.com.
Rick Zabel and his team have done a fantastic job for ISA.
ISA Breaks the Walls Down
Now, in a move that has seriously shaken up the automation publishing world, ISA has returned to big time publishing by simply acquiring Automation.com. Brilliant and ballsy move. ISA has now got over 100,000 eyeballs a month, most of whom are NOT ISA members, and many of whom serve in industries where discrete automation, machine builders and hybrid automation reign. It should be noted that Automationtechies.com and the headhunting business has been retained by Alan Carty, who was president of Automation.com.
The Key Take Aways
ISA has finally broken out of the process automation box.
Also brilliantly, they've left Automation.com as a standalone entity with Rick Zabel running it. Just like ISASI, Inc., this will give the entity the distance it needs, and allow it to remain a for-profit subsidiary of ISA, producing revenue, profit and value.
All the Better to Support Standards Making
To those who've forgotten the days when ISA was a serious contender in automation publishing, and are worried about the fact that a standards organization is running for-profit magazines, I say, this is what ISA should have continued to do all along.
Being a standards organization is a losing proposition. The last estimate I saw, when I was on the Executive Board (in 2003) was that it lost more than $650,000.00. Because of cutbacks in staff, and changes in the way standards are distributed and the activities of the standards foundations, it is likely that the loss isn't higher, but it is probably not much lower either. Ya gotta get the money somewhere. The profits from ISA's for profit publishing ventures basically pay for the shortfalls in standards activity.
So What Happens to the Rest of the Automation Press
What is this going to do for the automation press? The fact is that people advertise in InTech because it is ISA they are supporting, not for any other reason, really. Now, some of that association luster is going to land on Automation.com as well. AutomationWorld and PackagingWorld having just been sold to another association, PMMI, it looks like lots of people have been thinking along those lines. Every little advantage helps, in the world of advertising-supported publications.
This bodes well for Automation.com/ISA to become the most powerful force and voice in automation publishing. I'd say that most of my colleagues are "re-evaluating."
The INSIDER, of Course Is Different!
The INSIDER, on the other hand, is both delighted and amazed that ISA's leaders went so far "out of the box" and did this. We, unlike every other publication in the automation space, do not depend on advertising for our revenue. We are entirely subscription-supported.