Thursday, July 15, 2004

33 Contingent Workforce Strategies

I went to work as a “temp” back in 1976 when my husband lost his job in the Spring and was out of work for three weeks. I don’t recall if I panicked (in those days we didn’t have any savings to speak of) or if it looked like a way to get out of the house. I do remember that the temp business was booming, and there were several agencies located in our community. Even though I had a master’s degree, I did strictly clerical stuff, and ended up with a terrific neck strain from typing on a Mag 3 typewriter for 8 hours at a stretch. Definitely not worth whatever I made.

The Publisher’s letter by Ron Mester in Contingent Workforce Strategies says the days of the “temp” are long gone--at least they aren’t back-up and emergency employees anymore, being called instead, “contingency” employees for “organizational flexibility, speed and capability.” Staffing Industry Analysts, Inc. which tracks, researches, analyzes and reports on contingent staffing is the publisher, and they have been in the business for 15 years, enough time put together a quality product, I think. A big issue for this industry will be benefits--some people hate their jobs, would probably love being part of a contingency workforce, but are tied to health and retirement plans.

The glossy, full-color magazine features interviews with key thinkers and corporate leaders, case studies and reports of best practices, strategies, tools, analyses, metrics, and new research exploring the effective use of a contingent workforce. The first issue went to 15,000 industry people, according to Wooden Horse. The economy is booming and that’s a good growth time for contingency workforce people. Mester says:
Whether you’re the CEO, an executive responsible to an entire business unit or function, an HR professional advising hiring managers, or a procurement professional ensuring that your organization is getting the most out of its significant contingent spending, [this] will provide you with the case studies, best practices, guidelines and benchmarks you need to take action and get results.
Contingent Workforce Strategies
March 2004, Number 1.1
ISSN: Pending
Publication schedule: 8 times a year
Subject: Contingency workforce, temporary employment
Staffing Industry Analysts, Inc.
881 Fremont Ave.
Los Altos, CA 94024
Dist. to qualified executives
Single issue: $26; $96/year
Publisher and CEO: Ron Mester
Managing Editor: Alan Kay

Sunday, July 11, 2004

32 Grok

By September 2000, the date of the print special issue Grok, my portfolio was tanking--it didn't wait for the Bush Administration, despite what the current ABB crop of economists try to tell us. Grok was the spin-off from The Industry Standard, my favorite morning coffee house read in 1999 and 2000.

In his book Starving to Death on $200 Million James Ledbetter writes:
On a regular basis, it [The Standard] would publish a "special report" on a single topic, such as the role of the Internet in health care, travel, advertising and marketing, and the like. Because these were scheduled months in advance, the ad department could sell to businesses in those fields; during The Fat Year the special reports became huge moneymakers. Essentially, the idea behind Grok was to isolate the special reports and make them into their own magazine. Hence, the first issue of Grok, to debut in September 2000, was devoted to the entertainment industry, the second to education, and so on.

Like too many magazine ideas cooked up by already-successful publications, the motivation for Grok seemed entirely ad-driven. And in fact, Battelle had told people that we were creating it "because we need another bucket," adopting the lingo of IDG without any apparent irony. In retrospect, Grok seems like a profoundly stupid idea.

Figuring out the genealogy and life span of Grok is a little like trying to map my husband's genealogy. After collapsing in 2001, The Industry Standard was resurrected this year as an on-line magazine. There was an on-line column, then e-zine called Media Grok [b. Sept. 1998] that may have been ressurrected twice, evolving into Grok Unspun. The piece in hand apparently had a 5 issue run. It is a glut of expensive ads, even though by the fall of 2000, The Industry Standard had lost about half its size compared to the spring issues. Most of the companies with ads in Grok burst in the dot com bust of 2000. It's like browsing a cemetery list.

Bob Cohn, the editor, wrote in the premiere issue:
"Helping readers make sense of this explosion [of the internet economy]is the mission of our weekly magazine [The Industry Standard]. But as the Internet seeps into every corner of the economy, we're finding it impractical to deliver in-depth coverage of so many topics and still meet our commitments as a newsweekly.

That's where Grok comes in. Each month we'll focus on a single aspect of the Internet Economy. (This month: entertainment. Coming soon: education, wireless, retain.)"
Grok; special reports on the Internet Economy
[first issue] September 2000
Ceased after 5 issues, in 2001
ISSN [Industry Standard] 1098-9196
Publication schedule: not listed
$4.95; [no subscription price for Grok--mine came with Industry Standard]
Subject: Internet Economy, special reports
The Industry Standard
315 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94111-1701
Editor in Chief: Jonathan Weber
Editor: Bob Cohn
Chairman, President, CEO [The Standard]: John Battelle

Saturday, July 10, 2004

31 Wired

The Premiere Issue of Wired magazine in 1993 just about knocked my eyeballs out. I didn’t like it at all. Strange colors, floating margins and side bars, and ads indistinguishable from serious articles. Now it is one of my favorites. The editors weren’t looking for me--they wanted the Digital Generation, according to Louis Rossetto, the editor/publisher:
“Why Wired? Because the Digital Revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon--while the mainstream media is still groping for the snooze button. And because the computer “press” is too busy churning out the latest PCinfoComputingCorporateWorld iteration of its ad sales formula cum parts catalog to discuss the meaning or context of social changes so profound their only parallels probably the discovery of fire.

There are a lot of magazines about technology. Wired is not one of them. Wired is about the most powerful people on the planet today--The Digital Generation. These are the people who not only foresaw how the merger of computers, telecommunications and the media is transforming life at the cusp of the new millennium, they are making it happen.

Our first instruction to our writers: Amaze us. Our second: We know a lot about digital technology, and we are bored with it. Tell us something we’ve never heard before, in a way we’ve never seen before. If it challenges our assumptions, so much the better.”
Looking at this issue almost 12 years later, most instructive is the article “Libraries without walls, for books without pages” by John Browning. I should have read it then instead of tossing the magazine into my growing pile of first issues--I’d have had a clearer idea of where my career was going. His brief overview of the history of libraries and technology mentions Fred Kilgour and the Ohio College Libraries Center (now OCLC in Dublin, OH). When I arrived at Ohio State in 1967, OCLC was in its infancy on the third floor of Thompson Library where I was a cataloguer of Slavic material. I think there were 3 staff people, and I used to go to lunch with one woman who was also new to the area. So maybe Rossetto was looking for me, and I didn’t catch on.

But in 1993 when this journal appeared, Marc Andreesen was an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I’d attended school and worked in the 60s. He was working on a project for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) developing the graphic interface browser called Mosaic. When Browning wrote his article, he was imagining just text and its digital future. As visionary as Browning's article was, he probably could not have foreseen what libraries are able to do today.

Yet the final article of this issue is on HDTV--the complaint being we didn’t need better resolution, but better programming. And we still don’t have either--at least not in my home.

Premiere Issue, 1.1 [March April] 1993
ISSN: 1059-1028
Publication schedule bi-monthly
Subject: Technology and Social Change
Wired USA
544 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
$4.95; $19.95 6/year
Editor/publisher: Louis Rossetto
President: Jane Metcalf
Executive Editor: Kevin Kelly