Wood Industry attacked

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

As most of you are aware, last year a small group of suppliers to the industry succeeded in killing Canada’s wood-industry trade show in Quebec, SIBO 2010. This effort was resisted at the time by Wood Industry magazine, trying to preserve our national shows. Now they are coming after Wood Industry. This is in no way allowable. I spend years in your house. Today, I invite you into mine.

Let’s be fair. Any supplier can exhibit or not exhibit at a trade show for any reason or none, and any supplier can advertise in a magazine or not. However, when you get together as a group, confer on a course of action, and then take collective action, it is no longer an individual business choice, and it starts to look more like a conspiracy.

The group that worked so hard to kill Canada’s SIBO 2010 show is a group of seven machinery suppliers, and its chairman, known as the Canadian Woodworking Machinery Dealers’ Association, or CWMDA. On February 5, 2010, CWMDA sent a news release announcing it was not “supporting” the SIBO show or its sister show in Ontario, the Woodworking Machinery and Supply show (WMS), setting in motion the machinery that would ultimately bring down SIBO 2010 and threaten WMS. At that time, I sent a letter to other industry media pointing out that this effort by CWMDA was a fight between exhibitors and shows, and likely not important to our readers. My feeling at the time was that the use of the media to publish disputes as public service announcements has to stop, and Wood Industry did not publish the release.

Almost a year later, on January 12, 2011, Wood Industry associate publisher Mike Neeb made a scheduled sales stop at CWMDA member Taurus Craco Woodworking Machinery’s office, and there was confronted by CWMDA President Wes Love and CWMDA member and owner of Taurus Craco, Peter Feindel. According to Neeb, Taurus Craco said it was taking all its advertising resources and moving them over to Wood Industry’s competitor, Woodworking. Then, Neeb says, Feindel pointedly asked whether any other advertisers had done the same. In fact, three other CWMDA members have, and possibly one or more non-CWMDA-member dealers, making it clear this was not simply a Taurus Craco decision.

Neeb says Feindel then added the reason for the “punishment” was not for anything related to the magazine. It was not our rates, our circulation, our editorial or any other business reason. He said we were being punished for a company administrative action. Wood Industry, it appears, was not taking orders and would be taught a lesson. In Feindel’s words, everybody needs to learn to eat s*** once in a while, and that Wood Industry needed to learn that.

Actually, good magazines don’t need that skill. The more successful a publication is, the more people want to direct it. The “takeover” is not a new strategy with punishers. Taken to its logical conclusion, the magazine is killed and any surviving magazines, shows and associations are taught a severe lesson: don’t stand up against the punishers. At the moment, it is not clear whether all members of the CWMDA are participating in the punishment effort. It may be only a few pretending they have the blessings of the group. In addition, there may be non-CWMDA members that are supportive of the efforts of the association as they relate to shows and media.

The crux of the matter, however, is that you, the readers, want magazines to be the gatekeepers. As recently as last October you answered a Wood Industry survey and overwhelmingly said that you do not want advertiser-directed magazines. (See Nov./Dec. 2010 Wood Industry, page 6.)

Readers like advertisers. Suppliers provide you with products to increase your efficiency, your value, and your cash flow. It is not “advertisers” that are the problem. Advertisers are more like the solution. They pay the load for getting the magazines to your shops and offices, just as they pay the load for association events and trade show attractions. Successful advertisers don’t like the punishers, either. The punishers give all advertisers a bad name, and it is not deserved. The punishers will ultimately use their control of a magazine against their peers and competitors even more quickly than they did against the magazine. After all, that is the point of the “takeover.”

Canada’s need for a national wood industry association, as we have mentioned before, is desperate. We have regional disputes, the cabinetmakers have separate concerns from the millworkers, and so on. Of interest, members and employees of the CWMDA also sit on the board of the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association (CKCA), as well as others. Where there is no strong association, as with no strong magazine, somebody will try to move in and capture resources.

According to Neeb, Feindel says he supported an effort by the CKCA’s board to force Wood Industry to abandon its editorial policy of publishing only exclusive, fresh columns, and make us use retread articles submitted to Woodworking, which effort Wood Industry rejected. We don’t share content.

So the circle is complete, and some members of the CWMDA, in possible conjunction with some other machinery dealers, are trying to use the associations, the magazines and the trade shows to advance their own agendas, yet they don’t own a magazine, an association or a show.

For years, the punishers have thought they held the hammer, saying “he who pays the piper gets to call the tune.” However, they totally missed the point. It is you that have the money, and every nickel they flaunt came out of your pocket. You pay the piper; you call the tune. Wood Industry has known this all along, and the proof is in any issue for you to see.

As you can guess, Wood Industry will come under criticism for publishing this story. Punishers are punishers. Already we have received the first letter from a lawyer hired by the punishers, warning us of the risks of defamation. Our response was that the lawyer sounds like a lawyer for a cartel, and we will not be intimidated. Somebody has to stand up and say, “enough,” and the card fell to us — a little trade magazine in Canada. Not fair, you might say, but there it is. Our salesman was browbeaten and our punishment was read out like a verdict on the public square. Our revenues, whatever they may have been from that group, are being redirected to Woodworking.

To see the effect, go look at the January/February 2011 issue of Woodworking. To me, it appears every word is under outside control. For example, every new product release is the product of an advertiser. The only one you may not recognize is Oneida Air Systems, but that one is distributed in Canada by Felder.

Bert Kleiser, publisher of Woodworking was contacted to comment on this story, and replied, “I am not interested in discussing my business with you.” Since I told him point-blank my question was about working with CWMDA members in punishing Wood Industry, the only way I read the cooperation is that they intend to kill our magazine.

In the October survey, you correctly identified Wood Industry as a reader-focused magazine. Little could we imagine how significant that perception would be, and how soon. Now we have taken the position that the punishers must stop. They don’t own a magazine, an association or a show. We do, and violations of widely held business standards are going to be reported, starting right now. One reference for business standards, if you are interested in following the story, is Best Practices of the Business Press, by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, published in 2004.

If you, the readers, are as irritated as you should be, you may also want to know what actions you can take.
1) All magazine rates are subject to circulation, and no magazine can keep you in its database if you opt out. You can take an opportunity to call us or stop by our web site and opt in, and you can register your opinion with Woodworking at (416) 819-4123.
2) Advertisers world-wide will now be watching. Nobody wants this abuse of readers to happen, and editorials such as this have consequences. You should call or write your suppliers and voice your support of them for holding to Best Practices, or send them a copy of this story.
3) We are going to lose revenues. Hopefully, we will gain what we lose in advertisers that reject the Worst Practices ideology and want to vote with the readers. However, you may want another option. Therefore, you may subscribe on our web site for $40. This will also allow us to claim “Paid” on our circulation audit form. Nobody is going to lose a free subscription because he or she doesn’t pay. The magazine will remain free to qualified subscribers. The $40 subscription is a vote for quality.
4) Join our weblog at www.woodindustry.ca and add your two cents to the discussion, which will begin immediately upon the mailing of this issue.

To repeat, we have been attacked, along with the shows, and we have been warned of legal retaliation in addition to revenue loss if we don’t shut up and protect the interests of the punishers. This will not stand. We may be a small trade magazine in the frozen north, but we will do the right thing.

Importantly, Wood Industry, for the first time ever, will be hosting a Canada Lounge at AWFS in July in Las Vegas. Stop by and see us. We value your opinion.

Finally, Wood Industry is the official magazine sponsor again this year of WMS, which has moved to the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. Regardless of the pressure of a few, we will again be anchoring the show from the floor, and will greatly appreciate your stopping by.

Wood Industry will continue to be Canada’s business-to-business authority for the manufacturers of wood products, and we only answer to you.

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