Customer Portrait: Agora Publishing, Inc.
Agora, Inc. is a holding company for more than 20 publishers of financial, health, travel and special interest books and newsletters -- each offering unique ideas, information and insights. Altogether, Agora companies publish more than 300 books and 40 newsletters, reaching 1 million readers from around the world.
Based in the historic Mount Vernon district of Baltimore, Agora is housed in a collection of 19th century mansions. They also have offices in London, Bonn, Paris, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Waterford, and many of their titles are available in French, Spanish, German and Italian.
The company's name has its origin in history. The Agora was a lively marketplace for the ancient Greeks, where people came not only to buy and sell goods but also to meet to exchange news and ideas. That same philosophy is what drives Agora, Inc.
As Agora founder and president William Bonner explains: "Agora is a publishing company. We offer our customers ideas, information, and insights. But we do so in a manner very different from that of the traditional publishing house. Rather than being centered on the medium—whether a given publication is, say, a book, a magazine, or a newsletter—Agora is centered on the ideas themselves. When we have something to say about a subject—whether it be speculative investing or natural health—we offer our ideas in many different ways, including books, newsletters, Web sites, conferences, tours and special reports.
The medium is important from a business perspective…but it is not as important as the message itself.And what is the message? We publish ideas on a variety of subjects. Some of these ideas are very practical—such as how to get the best price on an airline ticket. Others are rather abstract—such as our discussion of man's relationship to the state. But all of Agora's messages have something in common. They all celebrate the virtue of thinking independently and taking responsibility for your own life."
Agora became an Advantage client in 2000. The evaluation team wanted a better integrated system for their newsletters, supplements and list business. They were also looking for a system flexible enough to accommodate the fast-changing needs of their growing business. Daryl Berver, President of the Publishing Services Division, says: "We need our fulfillment system vendor to be a true partner, almost an extension of our staff, and we have that with ACS. Since we went live in early 2001, Advantage has been instrumental in Agora's continued evolution and growth."
Agora puts its publishing philosophy into practice in its business operations as well. Independent thinking and taking responsibility are watchwords of the business and technical staff, not just editors and writers. Currently, electronic marketing is a major focus, and Agora is looking to pave new ground in this area.
Tara Rebak, Vice President of Fulfillment Systems, has this to say: "When our business needs shift, we always know that ACS is going to be supportive of the new endeavors we want to pursue and they work with us every step of the way. We just completed a major implementation of the new customer service letters feature that will enable us to electronically reply to customer correspondence in a more efficient and timely manner. This was just another example of the partnership we've developed with ACS and why we'll continue to develop the functionality of the software."