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Interview: NEMOA's Janie Downey

Like many in the industry, we here at RKG were delighted to hear Janie Downey has recently accepted the position of Executive Director for NEMOA. This is a truly exciting step for NEMOA, one of the finest associations for catalog and online marketers. Janie recently found some time to answer some of our questions about her new role. Many many congratulations, Janie! Can you describe your new role at NEMOA? Thanks for the kind words, Alan. The NEMOA board has been talking for a long time about how we could be more strategic about growing our organization. With an all volunteer board, we are usually maxed out just trying to get everything right for the next conference - so long-term planning tends to get put on the back burner. Last summer, we held a separate strategic planning meeting and made the decision to hire an Executive Director to tackle some of the work that we could never get to as a board. Our thought was that we need someone with 100 percent focus on NEMOA - working behind the scenes to find our best options for up-coming conferences, spending time with the member and prospect database, working on advertising and PR projects that help us get the word out to more catalogers about what a great organization we are. And at the conference, making sure to connect with our members to make sure that our presentations are meeting member needs. So I'll be busy doing all of that! For those not familiar with NEMOA, can you give a brief history of the organization? That's a great question - because NEMOA is celebrating our 60th anniversary this year. In 1947, a group of catalogers based in the New England area started meeting on an informal basis to share ideas about what was working for them in what was then a start-up industry. And NEMOA is still about folks in the business of direct mail trying to help out others with hard-earned industry expertise, as well as new ideas for how to solve old problems. Today, most of our members have extensive websites, and many have retails stores. So the business of direct mail has changed - but the exchange of information at NEMOA has remained constant. What do you see as some of NEMOA goals for 2007 and beyond? Our number one goal for the next three years is to bring in more catalogers to NEMOA. In your view, what is NEMOA’s greatest current challenge? Our greatest challenge is to continue to find great ideas and great resources for catalogers and to bring those folks in to present at our conferences. We know that bringing in the best quality speakers we can find is what gets folks to NEMOA in the first place - and what keeps them coming back year after year. Filling up an A-rated conference slate twice a year is a big challenge! NEMOA conferences have always been small, friendly, and chock-full of networking and information. How do you plan to keep those great aspects intact as NEMOA grows? Well, that is a big challenge. Our conferences continue to grow in the number of attendees, which we love. At the same time, part of my job as Executive Director is going to be to figure out how we keep the intimacy NEMOA has always been known for. One way we have tackled this is by hosting smaller, Peer-to-Peer sessions for catalog members. These are regional breakfast meetings of from 10-15 catalogers with one specific topic to cover. This have been very successful both for content, and because our members have the opportunity to chat in detail with a smaller group of catalogers. Then it's fun to see our Peer-to-Peer attendees find each other at our next large conference and really connect up again. We are also making sure we continue to include round-table breakfast meetings and the smaller School House sessions. We know how important it is to our members that they meet others in the industry and to have those really "good" conversations. While we have you, as one of the industry’s leading printing experts, can we ask for your view of the printing and paper market for 2007 and 2008? What advice would you give catalogers moving towards printing contract negotiations? The industry is really changing for print, postage, and paper. RRDonnelly has made some major acquisitions this year of the next "tier" of offset printers which will tighten up the market as far as who catalogers can turn to for bids. At the same time, the three largest printers, RRD, Quebecor, and Quad Graphics all have great systems set up now for co-mailing. They are using their large volumes of printing to help even the smallest catalogers save on postage which is great news. As well, the postal regulation changes are going to impact the market this spring. When catalogers can mail in the same streams as magazines - the savings could really start to add up. On the paper front, the Asian market is starting to have an impact on the US market. Right now, that is working to the catalogers benefit with pricing holding steady or even dropping - which is also great news for catalogers. As far as print contracts go, I am not in that business any more - but I'd still encourage catalogers to continue to review their print contract options. A print bid is a great way to make sure you are running your catalog business in the most efficient way possible! There’s a “five things” meme bouncing around the blogosphere recently. Along those lines, what are a couple of unusual facts about Janie Downey (that you’re comfortable sharing!) that most folks don’t know about you? Oh, let's see. I just finished up on a local run of the Wizard of Oz. Most of my work was making Munchkin costumes - NEMOA members may remember how much I like to make weird hats - but I also did a little singing and dancing. What else... I grew up in Washington DC and am a museum fanatic. And I am working on a Masters Degree in History at the University of Maine. Many thanks for your time, Janie. We wish you and NEMOA the best of luck going forward. Thanks!
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