HWT workshop

Last week, I went to a HWT Industry Data and Technology Workshop. These conferences in general I find both extremely interesting and physically draining as they tend to start at 8:15am (note in my experience, only conferences where newsagents go, start so early) and finish pretty early in the morning when at 3:00am you decide to leave the party.

Another issue is that as soon as the waiters discover that HWT was picking up the tab at a restaurant, the drink waiters tend to circle me like a vulture and as it was a nice place with good alcohol its would be hard for even the strong willed, which is certainly not me to say no.

Anyway the themes at the conference was subagents and subscriber data and technology and then how to better use technology to distribute newspapers.

Subagent data

Its clear that HWT intends to enforce their contracts which states that they should get the daily supply, sales and return figures for the newsagency and all its subagents. This means that a newsagents shop has to be added into the subagents systems as another subagent. They also want a lot of extra details on each of the subagents.

They put up a very good argument, I thought, for why they want this information when they quoted from a huge industry survey that they did, that showed some pretty bad statistics. One was that many people reported that they went to buy a paper and there was not a paper in the shop. 1/3 then bought no newspaper. That is a lot of lost sales.

HWT blame it on poor subagent handling by some newsagents. What they want to do now is address the issue! To do that, they want historical data from newsagents to help make an extensive computer model that will be used to help calculate the subagents orders. They have hired themselves an expert from England (The wise man from the North) whose profession is now, doing exactly that in England, Italy and a few other countries. Soon HWT intend to issue suggested orders for the subagents. Now let us say HWT suggested ten papers be given to a subagent, say you thought it was a bit much and only dropped off eight. You would be a bit of a hero is the next day you found they only sold six but what happens to you, if the guy sells out and complains! So although HWT strenuously deny it, my prediction is that soon this "suggested order" will become the "order" as newsagents slowly stop calculating subagent orders.

Subscriber data

This has been an issue since day one when the newspaper companies and newsagents started reporting differences in the information supplied. Yet again as in previous conferences everyone expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of subscriber data. Newsagents and HWT reported major problems matching up the customers in their systems. HWT were however more then willing to make changes here. Tentatively, we decided to adopt the Australian Post standards with their delivery points as a standard. Exactly how we are going to do this I am not sure, but what we don't want is for every newsagent to have to buy a copy of the Australia post delivery points data. What is more practical is for HWT to buy one licence, then the newsagents send the data to HWT to process. HWT then processes it and send it back to newsagents to put into their system.


After the mess that I felt had occurred before with the magazine companies and us, when I felt that we had been dumped halfway though the project and left with a pile of unpaid bills, one point that I pressed which everyone quickly agreed too was that we require before we can proceed an *exact* specifications. One persons comments here I liked very much was when he stated "without a specification, we have nothing to discuss, afterwards we will have plenty".


The other issue is that HWT want to promote a new system of customer payments called Easypay. Its an account system for buying newspaper products. Its been tried overseas quite successfully. There are many good points to this system, one that I am sure many of my clients will like is that they may not be changed any fees as they are now with credit/debit cards.


All this involves data transmission which is where today technology changes are extremely rapid. So it was inevitable that our DOS system would come up. As usual, many delegates in the newsagency industry, expressed major dissatisfaction with our policy of both supporting DOS and our policy of supporting old computers systems such as the 386s. I noticed Rayma Creswell from the ANF was prepared to get into the act when Gerard Attwood from Sorronto Newsagency made butted in, with his comments that some DOS systems out there are fairly extensive. I was pleased that none of the HWT representatives made any comments to join them.

At that point, it was taken off the agenda for a later off-workshop discussions although the HWT director, made it quite clear that he expected a certain technological standard from their agents. Then he quoted an example of P3s which is about 3 years old technology. I thought to myself "Oh, oh - here is comes" but nothing happened.

So later off several of us went for an all out discussion with the HWT director to discuss the DOS systems. The HWT director, obviously had no time to desire talk to us on this issue then although he did state that they may consider a partial certification for DOS depending on what exactly were their requirements. I suppose it really depends on what the expert wants. My understanding of HWT position is that they can demand that their agents to provide this data, how the newsagents does it, is the newsagents problem.


It was an interesting conference. Magpies like me always like to come. I had a great time and learned a lot.