August 12, 2014 Last Updated 1:10 pm

Adobe MAX: Los Angeles conference packed with useful sessions for digital publishers

With publishers cutting back on travel and training, conference attendance is too often limited to the wrong people – executives rather than designers and journalists

I am always contacted by events in the hope that TNM will preview or promoted the event to you readers. Some, such as the Digital Publishing Innovation Summits, seem worthwhile and so I agree to some sort of promotion deal.

But most, I am afraid to say, are really just revenue streams for trade publishers who no longer serve their readers but hope to profit from them through silly awards banquets and other meaningless gimmicks. Others are association conferences which feature programs that provide a mix sponsored talks and talks by members. I used to get invited to such events, but once I started complaining about these conferences the invitations dried up (no surprise, media organizations hold grudges in ways brands do not).


Adobe Systems, which employs a very professional public relations firm to handle their publicity, will soon start promoting its Adobe MAX event in Los Angeles, scheduled for October 4-8. Rather than wait for the press release I thought I’d mention it to readers of TNM now as this is one event worth attending (or, at least, sending staff).

The event is not cheap, $1250 if you sign up now, but it is one of the few events I can think of that is worth an investment. The reason is that the quality of the speakers (instructors, really) is high, and the topics are current and vital to digital publishers. Whether you are in the book, magazine or newspaper industry, there is something of value – and more importantly, the ability to cross-train is exceptional.

For instance, an art director who is learning about digital magazine editions can pick up valuable information on ePUB and web design and production. A book publisher producing standard plain jane products can see what is possible in interactive publishing.

I will be attending Adobe MAX, thanks to Adobe, but they did not in anyway encourage me to write this post – and, in fact, I hope they are not mad at me for doing so. But I thought it important to point out that there are still worthwhile events to attend, and this is one of them (especially if you are on the West Coast).

But the other reason to mention this is that it used to be the case that the publishing industry trade associations used to include more useful sessions in their own conferences. They were not always altruistic, they felt that sessions on desktop publishing would encourage publishers to send their staff to the events, increasing attendance and encouraging the next generation of publishers to get involved.

Today, however, industry conferences are little more than opportunities for media company owners to meet with investment bankers and sun by the pool. Most start with golf and end with a meal. Employees and the press are not invited or even wanted.

I think this is why we are seeing most digital publication start-ups coming from either independent designers and journalists. While it would be easier, and cost effective for existing publishers to be launching new titles, individuals and new small companies are doing the majority of the heavy lifting. These new publishers are the ones most interesting in their craft – digital publishing – the same way traditional publishers used to be interested in the craft of print publishing. (Rarely do I see a printer or distributor on the agenda of these events, either, proving that the real purpose of these events is not education but distraction.)

In any case, if you plan on attending Adobe MAX let me know and maybe we can get together and discuss your latest project.

Note: One session I know you should attend comes near the end of the conference and will feature Konstantinos Antonopoulos who designed our Tablet Publishing magazine app (live this month again in the App Store). He will be representing Al Jazeera English and discuss how he uses Adobe Muse to deliver web content.

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