Nexpo Opens In Chicago With New Challenges

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By: Mark Fitzgerald and Jim Rosenberg

Production executives leaving their hotels for the opening session of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Nexpo in Chicago Saturday morning might have spied a headline of the free alternative paper New City.

?Life Without Newspapers,? it read. ?Is the Daily Dead??

Welcome to Chicago.

The Nexpo that opened with a ribbon cutting on the show floor comes at a time of particular challenge to the newspaper industry–and reflects that sense of crisis.

This Nexpo represents a big break with the past for an equipment show that over the past decade has reflected the tides of the newspaper business — for better, sometimes, but too often for worse.

This is the first time the show has been held in Chicago, and the first time it?s being held concurrently with the NAA annual convention of publishers and senior newspaper executives. The combination is expected to pump attendance up to the level last reached in 2000 in San Francisco, when Nexpo was held at the same time as NAA?s various federations.

This year, too, Nexpo kicked off with a speech by a figure far outside the newspaper industry — Clyde Fessler the retired chief of business development at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Fessler discussed how he helped turn around the motorcycle maker that a quarter of a century ago resembled the newspaper industry in many ways, with a product stuck with a not-so-attractive image and a customer base with a fairly narrow demographic.

There were no figures available Saturday morning on attendance figures, but a Friday symposium on computer to plate drew dozens of production executives who clearly were in a buying mood.

Nexpo ends Tuesday with a session on ?Publishing in a time of crisis,? the reference being to the crises Mother Nature deals out, not the industry?s existential angst. Among the speakers will be New Orleans Times-Picayune Publisher Ashton Phelps.

Also Tuesday, new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin will speak about cross-ownership, which has been stalled by courts and commission inaction in recent months.

NAA said more than 280 exhibitors were on the floor at the McCormick Place show floor. There were no figures yet on attendance.

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