The in-house production of the Register celebrates a 30-year anniversary and magazine redesign with three original staffers.
Cynthia Conner, Jim Largess, and Dan Rieder have been with ASA for 30, 35, and 40 years, respectively, and have been instrumental in keeping with change, and keeping our magazines alive.
Flipping through this issue of the Register, you have hopefully noticed some changes. ASA Publication, Inc., is incredibly excited to introduce these updates to the Register, which aim to make the contents easy to read, find, and to keep our publication as modern as the breed we represent. Our staff has been hard at work finalizing these updates, and we hope you, our membership, find them as exciting as we do.
ASA is extremely fortunate to have several employees who have been with the Publication for decades and through many major changes. Cynthia Conner, Jim Largess, and Dan Rieder have been with ASA for 30, 35, and 40 years, respectively, and have been instrumental in keeping up with change and keeping our magazines alive. Our two main publications, the Register and SimTalk, are now staples of ASA and an important resource for members and the larger beef industry.
In the Beginning
The evolution of ASA’s publications has mirrored many of the changes the Association has gone through in the last 52 years. In the 1970s, there were a number of publications, but due to a lack of revenue, only the Simmental Shield remained. This publication was founded in 1972, purchased by Joe Monforton, and later sold to Chester “Chet” Peterson, who published it from his home in Lindsborg, Kansas. The Simmental Shield was designated the “Official Publication of the American Simmental Association,” and ASA provided editorial material, a periodic mailing list of its members, and had a working relationship with the publication. Under the contract, ASA had four pages of editorial space that could be used for advertising or information to distribute to the membership. This publication was not mailed to the membership and was only sent to paid subscribers. Peterson’s staff sold all of the advertising.
Finances again started putting a strain on the publication, and as Dan Rieder recalls, “At one time, Mr. Peterson reported that 40% of his advertisers were delinquent and uncollectable.”
Peterson attempted to sell the failing publication to ASA several times but was turned down and it eventually came to a stop. The Register was born as ASA’s first organization-owned publication, starting as a six-times-a-year tabloid. Dr. Butch Whitman, Director of Performance Programs at the time, wrote the scientific and technical editorial, while Rieder, Director of Public Relations, wrote informational editorial and oversaw printing and distribution. This publication was distributed to all members and anyone who had purchased an animal in the last two years.
In 1987, ASA saw an opportunity to turn the Register into a monthly publication. With this development, ASA Publication Inc. was established, a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary of ASA. The production was established in Kansas City, Missouri, and at this time, the mission was defined as “providing Education, Communication, and Information to the membership.” During this time, the use of field representatives was put in place to sell advertisements and attend sales. Each received a commission, expenses, and a salary
By 1989, the Register was in the same financial position as its predecessors. The cost of keeping field representatives on staff was not sustainable, and these employees were let go. A single in-house salesman was hired for the first time, Dave Zeller, which helped the magazine get out of debt to some degree but not entirely.
When Brian Kitchen was hired to replace Earl Peterson as ASA’s Executive Vice President, he made it a condition of his employment that the Register be brought in-house. At this time, Rieder was hired as Editor, which is a position he held for decades. Robin Roberts was hired as general manager, and Jeff Thomas and Keith “Sundance” Ruff were hired as salesmen/field staff. Jim Largess, who had run the in-house print shop and overseen the mailroom for five years, was asked to also start helping produce the magazine. Cynthia Conner was hired to serve as the leader of the art department. Roberts quickly resigned, and Rieder was named Managing Editor. Jeff Thomas transitioned to become the General Manager of the Publication while continuing in his role as sales/field staff. Steve Sellers and Warren Garret were also hired in a sales/field staff capacity.
Jerry Lipsey was hired in 1996. He made the decision to expand SimTalk, which up until this point had just been a repackaging of material from the Register that was distributed to commercial buyers — for a short period of time, this publication was called Let’s Talk. During these transitions, publishing on deadline had been a constant issue, and Lipsey moved Jim Largess into the position of Publications Production Manager. As Rieder recalls, “He had instructions to stay on deadline — no exceptions no matter how big the ads or important the advertiser.” SimTalk’s large circulation meant that most advertisers were focusing on placing ads there to reach a larger audience. SimTalk became a reliable outlet to reach commercial producers, and the Register naturally became an avenue to reach the membership.
By the early 2000s ASA Publication had accumulated a substantial amount of debt from years of operating in the red. To address the financial direction, ASA Publication was restructured, with the sales/field staff moving on to new opportunities and ad sales moving in-house. During that time, Linda Kesler had accepted the position of chief financial officer and was a key component in helping to resolve the financial issues.
Wade Shafer, EVP, explains, “Though the traditional sales/field staff model had proven to be unsustainable at a number of points throughout ASA’s history, it was felt that an ASA presence at sales, state events, field days, etc., was needed to further member interests. To facilitate that need while maintaining fiscal sustainability, in 2013 a new model was adopted that tapped into a large number of highly skilled and experienced consultants who represent ASA and ASA Publication on a contractual basis. The contractual consultants were dubbed ASA Specialists”.
Rather than the traditional “field staff” model where full-time employees primarily focus on sales and marketing, each ASA Specialist’s major role is education. As such, Specialists are selected based on their ability to educate — several are former professors and extension specialists — as well as their location. Given that there is a Specialist in most areas with significant ASA member numbers, the new model allows for more local representation, as well as dramatically reducing travel costs and time. Since its inception, the model has evolved to include a platform that financially facilitates representation at events, which is triggered by advertising sales, as well as representation by full-time staff and Board members. Shafer continues, “It is safe to say that any ASA member, regardless of size, now has the latitude to secure ASA representation through the various avenues available to them.”
The last 20 years have seen a massive financial improvement, as well as better organization, increased ad sales, and generally speaking, a better outlook for ASA Publication. Loans were repaid, and to date, the department continues to make a profit. During this time, longtime staff-member Nancy Chesterfield became the head of advertising sales, and has helped make both magazines valuable tools for producers and advertisers. Rebecca Price was hired as an advertising assistant in September of 2010. Joel Coleman, who has now been with ASA Publication for 16 years, was hired as a designer. The Sire Source, which continues to be published yearly, was introduced. For six years, the American Simbrah magazine was published, but due to a lack of ad sales, it did not survive. In January of 2017, Rieder decided to retire, but stay on as a consultant, which he continues today. Paulette Cochenour proofed editorial for years, and also assisted Dr. Bob Hough in writing Simmental’s American Journey. Emme Demmendaal and Lilly Platts, both with bachelor’s in English from Montana State University, became part-time employees of ASA Publication, and now serve jointly as editors. In 2018, EVP Wade Shafer added Drs. Rachel Endecott and Jackie Atkins as managing editors.
Electronic media has also come to the forefront, as more readers stay up-to-date online. Kathy Shafer is in charge of simmental.org, in addition to running social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The editorial staff produces content specifically for online publication, and the website now houses an archive of editorial material so that readers can easily access important updates, tutorials, and much more.
Education, Communication, and Information
The three pillars designated years ago — education, communication, and information — continue to be at the forefront of ASA Publication’s goals. How these goals have been accomplished has changed dramatically over the years. Before the internet was commonplace, simply getting an announcement out to the membership took a lot of work. Rieder recalls, “We put out a lot of mail in those days. We had mailouts at least once a month, stuffing envelopes. We had a couple of full-time employees to do that.”
Largess adds, “Every time we wanted to say something we had to send out thousands of letters because we had thousands of members. That is why I was initially hired — I printed the letterhead, the letters, and the envelopes.” Today, there are nine yearly issues of the Register, four issues of SimTalk, the annual Membership Directory, Sire Source, weekly eNews, simmental.org, webinars, social media, and eBlasts. If ASA has an urgent message to get out, that can be accomplished within the hour.
Transferring the art department from Kansas City to Bozeman was another major transition. When Brian Kitchen said that moving the magazine in-house was a condition of his hire, it meant that the change needed to happen immediately. In September of 1990, the drafting tables and computers were shipped to Bozeman from Kansas City. Conner and Largess took on the task of learning how to use this equipment. Largess recalls, “I had never really used a computer and said we needed to hire Cynthia full time. She had an art background, knew how to layout material, and use computers. They printed the October issue out of Kansas City, and we were to print the November issue out of Bozeman.”
Conner, who still serves as the head of design, recalls, “When Jim and I started, the magazine was partially computer and partially the old-fashioned way of using a drafting table. If you wanted a color ad, you would have a thick piece of board that you would put the ad material on with all of these different layers. It was very time-consuming. We shipped it all to the printer. If you wanted four-color pictures, we had to hire a local company to turn it into film. It was complicated.”
For several years, Conner and Largess would come back to the ASA office after dinner just to make the publication of each issue happen in time. Finding a printer was an additional challenge of the move to Bozeman. Printing the magazine in Bozeman wasn’t feasible long-term, and the team eventually chose Publisher’s Press because they were the best equipped to handle the transition to digital. Today, the magazines are printed in Louisville, Kentucky.
Compared to today’s entirely digital process, the previous system was much more tangible. The layouts were waxed on boards, and often, a local business had to create film. The physical layouts were shipped to the printer and then turned into magazine pages. The introduction of digital processes and the unreliability of the new technology meant that the files had to be safeguarded. Largess was in charge of backing up the files, which was also cumbersome because the storage drives had very little capacity.
"The three pillars designated years ago — education, communication,
and information — continue to be at the forefront of ASA Publication’s goals".
Largess also remembers the transition to digital and the introduction of Photoshop. “We made that transition pretty easily. But by that time we were getting more savvy with computers. Cynthia and I had a lot of help along the way, but there was a big learning curve all of the time. We just had to go from zero to full speed, and Cynthia really helped make that happen.”
Today, everything is done on computers, from the creation of content to the transfer of files to the printer. Conner, Largess, and Rieder saw the publications through all of these transitions, and have kept up with an impressive amount of change over the years. They, along with the rest of the staff, also remained dedicated to the company through many challenges, including the 90s, which were full of financial hardship. Conner and Largess put in many hours to keep production up-to-date, while other staff members, like Linda Kesler, were working behind the scenes to pull through financially. Wade Shafer recalls, “Linda Kesler transitioned to the CFO position in 2003, which was a critical component to righting the ship with the Pub.”
With the leadership of Dr. Lipsey, they were able to recover. Largess remembers that the termination of lifetime memberships and introduction of the Annual Service Fee was a major factor in this improvement, which allowed the Publication, along with the Association, to continue at a profit. Rieder recalls, “By then, Jerry had recognized the problems. We expanded SimTalk, and it’s been on a steady incline ever since — the magazine and the Association.”
During this time, Largess also became the General Manager. This position requires making sure that everything stays on deadline and is sent to the printer on time. Keeping content and advertisers on deadline has been an important factor in making the Register, SimTalk, and other yearly publications like the Membership Directory relevant and useful for readers. Largess says, “We are fortunate to have a crew where we all know what needs to be done.”
‘"Embrace the Past, Imagine the Future,’ a phrase that was used to celebrate ASA’s 50 years,
is also an apt summary of how ASA Publication has developed over the years".
Reflecting on her 30 years at ASA Publication, Conner says that throughout the changes, challenges, and improvements, she has always seen the customer as the priority. “I’ve always thought that we heavily emphasize customer service,” she says. “We bend over backward to satisfy our customers — it’s always been a high priority.” ‘Embrace the Past, Imagine the Future,’ a phrase that was used to celebrate ASA’s 50 years, is also an apt summary of how ASA Publication has developed over the years. Communications platforms continue to evolve, and our staff is committed to staying up-to-date with these changes. We hope that a look back at our history provides some interesting insight into how we got where we are, and also gives you confidence that we can and will continue to make communication a priority.
- Created: 25 November 2020
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