2 Syndicates Join Pagination Competition

By: Dave Astor

Two major syndicates are getting involved in electronic pagination of comics for newspapers. Universal Press Syndicate just started selling PageGeni, which is slated to launch in May. And United Media began this January to market pagination provided by Canada’s Southam Editorial Services (SES).

This means Reed Brennan Media Associates (RBMA), which is marketed by King Features Syndicate, has a pair of new rivals. But it may take a few weeks or months for things to shake out.

“It’s too early to tell” how many clients PageGeni will have, said Universal Director of Communications Kathie Kerr. United Vice President and General Manager Lisa Klem Wilson reported that about 35 papers — including some RBMA clients — are testing SES pagination, but it’s not yet known how many will sign on. (The 1998-founded SES has 21 mostly Canadian pagination clients already on board.) RBMA President Tim Brennan said none of his 360 clients has left the firm, although one did give notice.

Brennan added that RBMA has always had competitors — now “we just have two more.” He explained that all the firm’s clients are potential competitors because they’re capable of paginating their own pages. “If we can’t do it cheaper and better, they won’t use us,” Brennan said.

Wilson thinks more pagination options will lead to “better service at a more reasonable cost for newspapers. They will definitely gain from the competition.”

Universal stated that PageGeni — developed by the syndicate’s uclick online division — will be “more cost-efficient and client-friendly than any page-delivery service in the market today.” Brennan said that claim isn’t specific enough to rebut, but added that RBMA offers good service and has instituted only one small rate hike in its eight-year history.

In-House Pros and Cons

Wilson said United got involved in pagination after a number of papers told the syndicate they’d consider another service if it was offered. She added: “We looked into doing it in-house, but decided to seek out Southam to see if we could represent them [in the United States and elsewhere]. We heard from Canadian papers that the service was excellent.”

A syndicate and pagination service under the same ownership can lead to the perception or reality that the syndicate’s comics might be favored by the service, said Wilson. For instance, if the syndicate found out early about a comic dropping out of the service’s paginated pages, it might have an edge selling a replacement.

But Brennan said the Hearst Corp.-owned King doesn’t control the Hearst-owned RBMA. “King is my sales team,” he said. “They don’t direct my management. They report to me. I don’t report to them.”

Universal said the fact that the syndicate, uclick, and PageGeni are owned by the same company can be advantageous to clients when it comes to such things as customer service.

King, Universal, and United all will cooperate in providing comics to rival pagination services, according to Brennan, Kerr, and Wilson.


AAEC Blasts Keyes Column

MSNBC Host Disliked Rall Cartoon

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) criticized ex-presidential candidate Alan Keyes for saying some cartoons may not merit First Amendment protection.

Keyes, in a column posted on MSNBC.com, wrote: “[I]t is worth remembering that when serious and sustained attempts to undermine public opinion on a matter genuinely essential to national life cannot be resisted by other means, governmental action may be necessary.”

The MSNBC show host was reacting to Ted Rall’s controversial Universal Press Syndicate cartoon decrying the alleged selfishness of some Sept. 11 widows.

The AAEC said of Keyes: “It is puzzling that a person who has railed against the left and its attempts to stifle speech it finds offensive would advocate … press censorship.” Signing the letter were AAEC President Scott Stantis of The Birmingham (Ala.) News and Copley News Service, and AAEC Vice President (and 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner) Ann Telnaes of Tribune Media Services.


United Names Two Editors

Goldstein and Gladstone Appointed

United Media named Marianne Goldstein executive editor.

She was formerly deputy features editor/news at the New York Daily News, a reporter for the New York Post, an online editor, a free-lance magazine writer, and an adjunct journalism professor.

Also, United promoted Neil Gladstone from assistant managing editor to managing editor. Before joining United last year, he worked as a magazine editor.


Et cetera …

“Edge City” by Terry and Patty LaBan of King Features Syndicate is in the midst of a two-week Passover series that began March 18. Religious references in comics are usually Christian. …

The March 25-30 “Six Chix” comics by six female King cartoonists commemorate the National Women’s History Project (http://www.nwhp.org). …

Tribune Media Services editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes received a Planned Parenthood Maggie Award for commentary on reproductive and health issues. …

Frances Moore Lapp? — co-founder and editor in chief of the late American News Service — and Anna Lapp? co-authored Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (Tarcher/Putnam). …

Sports Publishing released StockcarToons: Grins and Spins on the Winston Cup Circuit, the first collection of the NASCAR-themed cartoon by Mike Smith of United Media. …

Give Us A Big Hug, a “NETroplex” comic collection by Tim Bedison and Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, was published. …

PR Newswire will supply content to users of Palm handheld devices. …

AccuWeather introduced AccuWeather.com Mobile for users of personal digital assistants. …

Cyberwalker Media Syndicate launched the SMSglossary.com guide to Short Messaging Service lingo for mobile phone users. …

Mark Bonham joined Clickability’s board of directors.

To see the last 10 “Syndicate World” columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Astor” in the “Author” field.

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