The Mathematics of Influence

Once, while at a party, I made a new friend. She was pursuing her PhD in Mathematics. Her course work was finished and she was focusing on her dissertation. Interestingly, at one point in my life, I too wanted a PhD in mathematics, but she was the first person I’ve met who was actually doing it!During a career, the average teacher will directly influence 500 to 5,000 students—a profound amount of influence that one person can make. Click To Tweet

Aside from the math part, another intriguing aspect is what she’s researching.  At the risk of over simplification, she was studying the teaching techniques used by the people who teach the math teachers.

Consider, depending on the circumstances, that during a career, the average teacher will directly influence 500 to 5,000 students.

And, again depending on the circumstances, during a career, the average teacher of teachers will directly influence 500 to 5,000 teachers—and thereby indirectly influencing 250,000 to 25,000,000 students.

Now, if she can help these teachers of the teachers be more effective, say 500 to 5,000 of them during the course of her career, the span of her influence will be vast and pervasive, beyond what is reasonable to calculate. That is a profound amount of influence that one person can make. There is the very real possibility that she could improve and even change the way math is taught to the next generation.

And if you’re one who struggled with math in school, that should be some welcome news!

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

So Long Summer

summer to fall

Summer is officially over (for those north of the equator), lasting from June 21 to September 22 this year. For me, summer effectively covers a slightly different span, starting on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day, regardless, we must move from summer to fall.

Each summer, I have a mental list of things that I want to accomplish, some fun, some relating to home improvement, and some regarding work. Each year, summer ends before the list is completed. Even so, this year I did better than most—regardless of when I mark the end of the season. So long summer. Hello fall. Click To Tweet

The weather, of course, is another transition that occurs on the migration from summer to fall. We usually start fall with highs in the seventies and lows in the fifties, even forties. (Of course we end fall with snow and below freezing temperatures.)

So with summer over, I need to review my to-do list. Some items will be moved to my non-summer list, while others will be put on hold until next year, and the remaining items will be discarded on the junk heap of good ideas and mercifully forgotten.

So long summer. Hello fall.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Is Your Website Working?

There was a local coffee shop that I frequent, which given that I don’t drink coffee seems a bit strange. Even so, it was a great place for meetings and I generally found myself there at least once a week.If site is still under development you would not prominently advertise it. It would be like publishing a phone number knowing it was not working. Click To Tweet

I noticed a free newspaper there.  Actually, calling it a newspaper was generous; “news sheet” might be more accurate. It was a single 11 x 17 piece of paper, printed on both sides and folded twice. On each side was a center column of random news trivia, with a column of local ads on each side. Presumably, they had not sold all the space, as many ads were repeated on both sides, along with a couple of “your ad here” fillers.

Ever curious, I checked their Website and was treated to a “Website coming soon message.” Assuming the site was down, I called them only to learn that they were still working on it. The owner was not embarrassed by this fact, but was rather nonchalant.  Three weeks later, the site was still “coming soon.”

You would think that if your site was still under development you would not prominently advertise it. That does not send a positive message to potential advertisers. It would be like publishing a phone number knowing it was not working. What right-minded business owner would do such a thing?

Upon further investigation, I found that the content of the “news sheet” is syndicated and distributed to local, exclusive franchises who sell ads and distribute it.

How do I know this? Because the franchiser’s website was working.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Seventeen Years Ago

Seventeen years ago I entered the publishing world when I bought Connections Magazine from its founder, Steve Michaels.

The transaction was done in parts, that is the documents for the sale were not signed at the same time or at the same location, but on different days via fax and mail. As a result, I don’t know what day the sale was official, but what I do know is that the package of publication’s records and files arrived on September 10, 2001.As we remember the events of 9-11 and the people who innocently lost their lives, we can also celebrate the resiliency of our country and our ability to prevail and succeed. Click To Tweet

Early that next day, I dove into the treasure trove of information that would set my career in a new direction. I was understandably excited and wanted to quickly grasp the nuances of my new business.

My morning bliss, however, was interrupted by my bride who uncharacteristically popped into my office to inform me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center building. Assuming that it as a novice pilot in a single engine plane, I dismissed the news and resumed work. But not for long.

Soon I was drawn to the TV and the horrific events that would forever change life in the United States. For a time, my labors no longer mattered; ceasing all attempts to work, I watched the news in shock. I wondered what this would mean to the future of business and commerce—and the magazine operation I had just bought. Would I end up being a victim of bad timing?

For the rest of that week, I did only the work that was absolutely required. Then, life slowly began to reclaim a degree of normalcy, even if normal no longer existed.

As we remember the events of 9-11 and the people who innocently lost their lives, we can also celebrate the resiliency of our country and our ability to prevail and succeed. Personally, I can also celebrate Connections Magazine and the new path it has provided.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Why Work Is Cyclical

In theory, my workload should proceed as a steady flow of predictable effort year round. In reality, it doesn’t happen that way.work

It takes five weeks from start to finish to produce one issue of one magazine, and Connections Magazine is published six times a year. Medical Call Center News and Answer Stat releases every other month, while TAS Trader releases every month. This means I’m typically working on two or three issues of one publication or another at any given time.

This results in a steady, expected ebb and flow of activity. In addition, are blogs which are updated weekly, and scheduled monthly duties. It would seem that my work should smoothly move from one day to the next, evenly paced throughout the year.

The reality is that my effective workload is quite cyclical. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, things are slow. Between Christmas and New Year’s, it’s extremely slow. It’s also slow during the summer. After Memorial Day, things drop off. And after the Fourth of July, it’s as if someone turned off a switch; it stays that way until Labor Day.

The times between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day, as well as Labor Day to Thanksgiving Day are my “busy times.”Secondary email messages result in a huge productivity drain Click To Tweet

Ironically, I have the same amount of work to do throughout the year, but it takes twice as long to accomplish it during my “busy times.” The reason is that during my “busy times,” I receive more phone calls and email messages (mostly email). These communications don’t directly relate to my work of publishing magazines or websites, but they are tangential to it.

The flood of these secondary interactions is so much so that during my “slow times” I can generally do all required work in 3 to 6 hours a day, whereas during my “busy times” it takes 6 to 10 hours to accomplish the same amount of essential work. In fact, during my “busy times,” some Mondays are so bad, that all I do is respond to email messages. Some Friday afternoons are like that as well.

My conclusion is that these secondary email messages result in a huge productivity drain—in my case about 50 percent. If I can just curb non-essential email, I could reclaim a great deal of lost productivity.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Side Effects of Discounts

discountI recently shared my experience with my office supply chain’s enticing coupons offers. The result was a short-term increase in my buying habits, followed by a prolonged lull.

In like manner, years ago, my Internet hosting company embarked on a similar strategy. Their approach was offering discounts. Depending on the offer, it would be 10 to 30% off for a specific product purchase or for a certain level on spending. Each discount offer was time-sensitive, lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks.Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money. Click To Tweet

They had sent me 10 such offers for four weeks; that averages one discount about every three days. Whenever I needed to buy something from them, I know there was a discount that would apply.  I simply picked the best, most applicable one and saved money—on every purchase.

Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money, as I would had made every purchase anyway.

While I was enjoying the savings, I was left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

The Side Effects of Coupons

A couple of years ago my preferred office supply store embarked on a creative strategy to sell me more stuff. And it worked—for a while.

COUPONSThey started emailing me coupons that offered nice discountsif I spent about 50% more than what had been my typical historical purchase. Not wanting to pass up a good deal, I used their coupons, buying what I needed now and stocking up for the future. If anyone were tracking the results of their marketing efforts on me, they would have been pleased; there was at least a 50% boost in my spending with them, likely more.

The problem was that my growing stock of office supplies would already cover me for the next several years. Aside from ink cartridges and batteries, I’m nicely provisioned. I had enough printer paper, file folders, highlighters, paperclips, staplers, rubber bands, pens, and what not to last me a good long time. In fact, I don’t think I would needed to buy file folders or paperclips for the rest of my life.

So, after enticing me to increase my purchasing for a couple years, they were paying the price of that short-term gain. I was buying next to nothing.A coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow. Click To Tweet

When I received my $15 reward certificate, I had trouble finding anything I neededeven though it would be free! Of course, that just further forestalled me from actually buying something from them.

If you multiply my experience by the thousands of others who received similar coupon promotions, I suspect that corporate was scratching their collective heads over what happened; it wouldn’t surprise me if careers where made and lost over this whole ordeal.

The lesson to be learned is that a coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Opt-in Email Marketing: Proceed with Caution

Companies that use opt-in email marketing need to do so carefully. Years ago, two companies that I “opted in” to receive messages did it wrong—so I voted with the cancel link and opted out!

email marketingI had happily bought from both and eagerly accepted their requests to opt-in to receive promotional emails. I don’t know how often they were sending messages, but it seemed like a reasonable amount.  If I were to guess, I would say it was once or twice a month.

When Christmas season approached, there was a definite increase in frequency to about once a week. Still, that was okay. One sent a coupon for a 20% discount and the other an offer for free shipping. Using these promotions, I placed orders with each. I was pleased with the results.

As Christmas approached, the flow of messages increased even more, as did the urgency to act. I assumed I would need to tolerate their push for Christmas sales until after December 25th, when things would return to normal.

Things didn’t go back to normal. Soon I was receiving a message every day from both companies. When my irritation hit my breaking point, I opted out. Relief at last.Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Click To Tweet

I would likely have ordered from both in the future, but it might have been months. Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Unfortunately for them, they are now off my radar screen, so if a competitor shows up at the right time, I could end up buying from them instead.

I’m sure that each time these companies sent out an email blast, they were rewarded with orders. However, if many otherwise-satisfied customers reacted as I did, the cost of these short-term sales will be a long-term loss of customers.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Computer Rage

computer trafficWe’ve all heard of road rage—and I suspect have on occasion had that split second impulse to ram our car into an offending driver. (Please tell me that I’m not the only one.) Fortunately, common sense and civility prevail and actual vehicular assault is rare, being caused by limited number of drivers who should not be behind the wheel.Computer rage, it's when our computers cause us so much infuriating irritation that we want to hurt them. Click To Tweet

I think that road rage has a corresponding technology affliction called computer rage. It’s when our computers cause us so much infuriating irritation that we want to hurt them; and there was a time, I had it bad.  All three work computers had issues, which were stubbornly hard to resolve. Fortunately, it was a slow week for me, as I needed to devote most of my work hours towards their resolution.

One of the three problems was fully resolved, the most debilitating one was resolved to a functional level, and for the third, there was an easy—if not irritating—work around.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Green Publishing

green publishingA growing trend in magazine publishing is “going green.” Green publishing means different things to different people and includes many facets. The most common and visible result of green publishing is digital editions. Digital editions are issues that are not printed on paper but read on a computer screen or reading device, such as Amazon’s Kindle.

For my magazine, we offer two options for digital reading. One is a PDF file of the complete issue, exactly as it will be printed. The other is a list of links to each article on our websites. This is a basic, first step that I have taken, while awaiting for the more advance digital publishing technologies to shake out and for a reader preference to emerge.Green publishing means different things to different people and includes many facets. Click To Tweet

Our digital editions are available a week prior to the magazine being printed and mailed, so our on-line readers get a huge jump on everyone else. We’ve been doing this the longest with Connections Magazine and some of our readers receive digital issues.  New subscribers tend to opt for digital over print. This is certainly a trend that we will see more and more of, which is being accelerated by the current recession.

Here are some reasons, courtesy of Folio magazine, from PennWell Digital Reader Surveys, about why magazine subscribers go digital:

  • easy to save
  • environmentally friendly
  • the ability to search issues
  • easy to forward
  • more timely than print
  • prefer reading on a computer

As for me, there is something about holding the magazine in my hand and not being tied to my computer that I just can’t shake.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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