A publishing company on the move

by Josh Sosland
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Devoting this page at the start of the new year to an annual review of developments at Sosland Publishing Co. has been a longstanding tradition with a twofold purpose. The update to our readership on what is occurring at this publishing business provides a glimpse into the privately-owned company that for 92 years has been a trusted source of critical information. Additionally, a review of happenings at S.P.C. invariably serves as a mirror to changes occurring within the industries and companies we cover. In many ways, it could be said that there is no more accurate measure of how grain-based foods as an industry is doing than the performance herein related.

Two moves undertaken by this company in the past year fit this pattern. In early December, our headquarters was moved to an office building at 4801 Main Street in Kansas City. While the distance may not be far from our previous location (4800 Main Street — across the street), our new offices represent the company’s first tenancy in a building not directly tied to the industries we cover. Our move from the Kansas City Board of Trade followed a steady exodus of dozens of industry-related tenants during the past 30 years, culminating with the sale of the Board of Trade itself to CME Group in 2013. When the new landlords negotiated an early termination of our lease late in the summer, there were fewer than a handful of remaining tenants directly tied to grain trading or milling. The same kinds of technological advances obviating the need for an open outcry futures trading pit also have eliminated the desirability of the industry’s leading companies being officed in the same building.

Along similar lines, a decades long tradition was broken when the annual Purchasing Seminar was moved to the Sheraton Kansas City hotel at Crown Center, having been held at a single hotel (with multiple brands) on the Country Club Plaza of Kansas City since the 1970s. To our few readers who may not be familiar with the seminar, the idea of moving such a meeting from one hotel to another may seem like a strange, perhaps trivial, change to note. Those who have attended the event, numbering thousands over the years, understand that the three intense days each year near the start of June on the Plaza had become the industry’s classic rite of spring. Only the event’s extraordinary growth significantly beyond the hotel’s capacity necessitated this venue change, which survey results wistfully indicate was executed with great success.

The growth and increasing diversity of registrants at the seminar over the years relates to another milestone at Sosland Publishing Co. — the 10th year of the publication of Food Business News magazine. Launched in 2005 as a bi-weekly companion to Milling & Baking News, F.B.N. reflects the reality of consolidated milling and baking industries and the large number of companies, suppliers and manufacturers, in businesses that are not flour-based. Especially given that most new publications simply fail, the achievements of Food Business News during its first decade have been extraordinary. In 2014, Food Business News media products grew to a total reach of more than 200,000 food industry professionals. The Food Business News web site was visited nearly 1.3 million times in 2014, with more than 2.5 million page views. By contrast, Milling & Baking News remains a niche publication targeting influential readers in grain-based foods. The print and digital editions reach more than 5,000 of the top executives in the industry, while more than 37,000 unique visitors view bakingbusiness.com each month.

Developments at other baking publications of S.P.C. also reflected the dynamics of the industry. Advertising revenue at Baking & Snack rose 6 per cent, an especially positive achievement coming on the heels of a Baking Expo year, which in the past invariably was a peak sales year for this operations oriented publication. Bake magazine, stylistically the most innovative publication of Sosland Publishing, broke new ground in 2014 with the introduction of a food arts book titled “twentyfive.” A magnificent showcase of the most admired bakers, pastry chefs and cake decorators in the United States, “twentyfive” also may be viewed as a full-throated celebration of a flour-based foods industry under siege as never before.

Other publications showed growth as well, including Meat & Poultry, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2015, scoring a sales gain in a crowded marketplace. World Grain, with sales up 9.5% for the year, redesigned its web site, www.world-grain.com, and has enjoyed increased page visits and total audience numbers.

Company-wide, web page visits exceeded 6 million in 2014, a 21 per cent increase for the year. The importance of digital media are captured in steady readership growth in this arena. During the past year, the company’s print only readership totaled 39,985; print and digital readers numbered 60,982; and digital only reached 206,318; for a total audience of 307,285.

Nothing raises confidence more than successfully navigating change, and the experiences of 2014 suggest a bright outlook for this company and the industry it serves.

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