Adventist Publishing Operations
Review Continues

Pacific Press, Review and Herald focus of study; General Conference buys property from RHPA

BY ARIN GENCER, Adventist News Network

The Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to examine its publishing operations in North America, with a new panel meeting recently to study the issue.

The March 2011 launch of a General Conference subcommittee comes nearly two years after another publishing commission examined the efficiency of the world church’s two historic publishing houses: the Nampa, Idaho-based Pacific Press Publishing Association and the Hagerstown, Maryland-based Review and Herald Publishing Association.

The subcommittee is part of the General Conference-North American Division Publishing Strategic Planning Committee—led by General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson and North American Division president Daniel R. Jackson, and formed late last summer at Wilson’s request.

“The group was essentially commissioned . . . to look at the publishing houses—how they’re making it financially—then looking at ways and means whereby the North American Division could assist them,” Jackson said. “There are major issues confronting both presses in terms of the future. . . . How much can the North American Division do to strengthen and help them grow? I think probably a great deal.”

“If we work together, we can maximize our efficiencies,”said Mark Thomas, Review and Herald president and a committee member.

LAND SALE: In December the Review and Herald Publishing Association sold nearly 47 acres of its Hagerstown, Maryland, campus to the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at a price of $11.6 million to help retire a bank loan, said Robert E. Lemon, world church treasurer. [PHOTO: RHPA]
The new committee represents an effort to do just that. It also seeks to include the associations in the North American region’s ongoing strategic planning process. The committee first met late last year and consists of General Conference and North American Division administrators, publishing professionals, and other world church officers, Jackson said.

One of its subgroups, which convened in March, is specifically looking at the North American region’s relationship with the world-church-owned publishing houses. The group is expected to share its recommendations for facilitating that relationship at the committee’s next meeting, said Ken Denslow, Jackson’s assistant.

“I do believe that one of the great strengths that this latest committee is already bringing out is a positive renewal of thinking and planning in North America for more utilization of literature in the churches,” said Pacific Press president Dale Galusha, who serves on the committee.

Thomas is similarly optimistic: “When this group is done, we think that they will be helping us move forward in a better way,” he said. “This will allow us to perhaps do some new marketing techniques, some newer ways to promote our products in more efficient ways to reach the world in today’s digital format.”

For the North American Division the discussion stems in part from a desire to involve lay church members more in literature ministry, without returning to “the publishing ministry of yesteryear,” Jackson noted. Electronic publishing is also an area of interest for the future, he said.

“We want to intensify the connection with the work of the gospel. . . . We want to pursue that in collaboration with the [publishing houses],” he said.

“From our perspective, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about ‘Let’s go out and do a bunch of orders with the presses so they can survive,’ ” Jackson said. “The press must be the servant of the mission. The mission must never be the servant of the press.”

The commission that preceded the new strategic planning committee reported its findings to the General Conference Executive Committee two years ago during the 2009 Spring Meeting. At that time the report indicated that the two houses faced several financial challenges, including a surplus printing capacity in North America and a declining door-to-door literature evangelism program in the United States.

The commission went on to highlight several issues for further study, including the cost of producing in-house versus the external printing market; the current marketing and distribution system, which primarily involves Adventist bookstores; and the “question of how many publishing entities are needed in the life of the church,” said Lowell C. Cooper, a General Conference vice president and Pacific Press board chair. 
Cooper, who cochaired the earlier commission, is now a member of this committee.

Cooper said the issues the commission identified were passed on to the boards of both publishing houses.
In response, the Pacific Press board “has been dealing with certain aspects of the report at each board meeting,” Cooper said. Pacific Press also invited Review and Herald to a joint meeting, though this hasn’t yet happened.

Thomas said leadership from both organizations already meet annually—most recently in February—to discuss marketing. Additionally, vice presidents for editorial, marketing, and manufacturing from both houses were already meeting, he said.

“We welcome any type of working together,” Thomas said.

IDAHO HEADQUARTERS: Pacific Press, founded in 1875 and based in Nampa, Idaho, prints Adventist books and magazines and is the lead printer for the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, the church’s lesson quarterly. [PHOTO: PPPA]
One joint effort—inspired by a commission recommendation to pursue the convergence of media to advertise their products, Galusha said—involved a first-time, camp meeting-like sale in 2010 that brought together the use of print, television, and the Internet. They plan to repeat the event, Galusha said.

Incorporated in 1861, Review and Herald is the church’s oldest publishing house, printing books and magazines, including Adventist Review and Adventist World. Pacific Press, founded in 1875, also prints books and magazines and is the lead printer for the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, the church’s lesson quarterly.

The historic publishers are two of the now 63 publishing houses in the denomination worldwide.

While Pacific Press has seen its net worth increase during the past decade—along with a consistent operating gain of 5 to 6 percent for the past two decades, according to Galusha—Review and Herald has struggled in recent years. In 2010 the association underwent a major reorganization and staff cuts in an effort to stem its losses, which were projected at $2.4 million last year and have been a problem for several years.

In December the association sold nearly 47 acres of its Hagerstown campus to the General Conference world headquarters for $11.6 million to help pay off a bank loan, said Robert E. Lemon, world church treasurer. The purchase served in part to avoid losing money on valuable land, Lemon said.

“We have no intention of keeping the land,” Lemon said. “We just were not willing to have a fire sale from one of our institutions and sell it at less than market value. . . . It’s a raw piece of land in a spot that’s very desirable, next to a shopping center that has a wish to expand.”

He added that the General Conference could hold on to the land for two to three years, until it finds a better time to sell.

Review and Herald has received 80 percent of the money, Lemon said, with the rest to follow once the title is transferred over to the world headquarters. The association also must have the land subdivided, he said, a process that could take four to eight months.

Thomas said the “drastic” changes the organization made last year to correct the years of loss “are starting to make an impact on our bottom line.”

“Our first markers are looking good,” he said, while also cautioning that it’s early yet. “We’re budgeting to come from quite a big loss to a positive bottom line in 2011 and then grow in 2012 and 2013—and keep on growing.”

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