Tuesday, November 9, 2010

9 Differences Between a School System and a Publishing Company: Lessons for Cathie Black

One is full of spoiled brats. The other has lots of children.

That's one of the differences between publishing companies and school systems that Cathie Black of Hearst Magazine will need to keep in mind as she makes the transition, announced today, from a career running newspaper and magazine companies to becoming chancellor of New York City Schools.

Here are eight more subtle distinctions between a publisher and a public school systems she'll need to keep in mind:
  1. School systems are not-for-profit agencies by design. Newspapers are no-profit organizations despite all their efforts to be otherwise.
  2. For schools, the largest inflow of funds is from state and local governments that always seem to be screwing them out of some money. For magazine publishers, the largest outflow of money is for postage, which also involves an indifferent bureaucracy that always seems to be screwing them out of money.
  3. For a school system, a new student means more state and federal aid. For a publisher, a new subscriber means less net revenue (because the subscription agent charges more than the subscriber pays).
  4. Schools have math classes that make kids feel like idiots as soon as they open a textbook and try to understand algebra. Magazine publishers have blow-in cards that make newsstand customers feel like idiots as soon as they open a copy and see they could have saved 90% by buying a subscription.
  5. Public schools offer free education to all. Publishers charge some customers for their content, then give it away to others on their Web sites.
  6. School systems issue diplomas of dubious significance. Publishers issue statements of “paid” circulation.
  7. Schools are often judged by meaningless metrics, such as how their sports teams do and what proportion of the students take SATs. Publications have their own meaningless metrics, like awards and newsstand sales.
  8. Schools are run by principals. Publications are run by advertising salesmen, who have no principles.
Other Dead Tree Edition articles that slander the publishing industry unfairly include:

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