Is the PPA now the Print Publishers Association?

Congratulations to Barry McIlheney on his appointment as Chief Executive of the PPA – the association for the “UK’s magazine and business media industry”. I have written before about the really important role that media trade associations have during the current transition from an analogue to a digital networked world.

Barry has a background in consumer magazines and is clearly a very experienced and respected media professional. However, some of the comments made in this Media Week article following his appointment worry me greatly.

“I think this is an excellent appointment. His knowledge of print is second to none and he has a terrific enthusiasm for print.” Evelyn Webster, Chief Executive, IPC

“Barry is an out-and-out print man. He has print running through his veins. I can’t imagine a better ambassador.” Mike Soutar, Chief Executive, ShortList Media

Uh oh? Looks like a concerted campaign here to get back to a ‘periodical publishing’ yesteryear.

While print magazines are still hugely important in the overall mix would you really want to be part of an association with that as its sole focus?

The root cause of the PPA’s problems was an inability to adapt to a changing media landscape. The PPA had a position as the association for the business of media. This position was lost through its dogged concentration on one channel as their member firms’ businesses diversified.

I sincerely hope that the board of the PPA haven’t compounded this mistake.

Until we have heard from Barry directly I’ll hold judgement on his appointment (it’s interesting that the news hasn’t even made the PPA website).

The signs don’t look too promising to me I’m afraid.

Postcript 22/01 – in the comments below Andy Cook from the PPA points out that the news was posted on the PPA’s website – under the press release section. Apologies Andy, I missed it.

Postcript 2 25/01 – Barry has (indirectly) responded to this post in the comments below.

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14 responses to “Is the PPA now the Print Publishers Association?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Is the PPA now the Print Publishers Association? « Rory Brown --

  2. “Periodical” might as well mean “print”. Thinking of publications as periodicals means viewing content through the lens of print manufacturing and distribution cycles. Do you know of any successful online only publications that update their sites monthly? Not so much. These are some deeply-entrenched ways of looking at the business that are hard to get out of. Trade associations should be leading the way, not reassuring people that things will stay the same comfy old way.

  3. Rory Brown

    Hi Mitch,

    The media trade association landscape has splintered in the UK – mainly due to the inability of the PPA (Periodical Publishers Association) to move on from its print heritage.

    I’m worried that the comments associated with Barry’s appointment – which look as though they have deliberately co-ordinated – suggest a further step backwards.

    We were members of American Business Media and I know they had similar issues of relevance but it seemed to me that they were addressing them head on.

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  5. Hi Rory,

    The Press Release was issued on the PPA site at the point of announcement on Tuesday


  6. Rory Brown

    Thanks Andy,

    Apologies. I looked under news.

    Care to comment on the direction the association is likely to take?

    I understand the need to let Barry get his feet under the table but it must have been discussed during the course of choosing a suitable leader.


    • Thanks for the offer. It is understandable that Barry wants to get his feet under the table and talk to the staff first rather than let them hear 2nd hand.

      Could you change the link and line in the main story as the comments only come up if you expand them?



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  8. Pingback: Rory Brown: Is the PPA too focused on print? | Editors' Blog

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  10. Barry doesn’t start his new role until Feb 1, but I spoke to him briefly and these were his key points:

    He is coming in to lead a PPA that is committed to protecting and promoting the interests of all its members, on whatever platforms they may deliver their content, information, and services. His own area of expertise is in providing compelling content to the relevant audience, not in any one particular method of delivery. Indeed, every title he has edited or published in the last 15 years has supplied its content across a number of platforms, from print through web to mobile.

    The PPA conference on April 29 will have a strong digital focus, and will feature speakers and attendees from across all our communities and platforms.

    Barry will be going out to all PPA members from day one – digital, b-to-b, and consumer – to engage with them on how best the PPA can continue to help them in achieving their key objectives.

  11. Rory Brown

    Thanks Andy. Barry’s comments are reassuring and I appreciate you taking the time to post them here.

    With the recent distancing of the relationship with the AOP it will be interesting to hear from Barry about the positioning the PPA intends to take.


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