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Let me start by wishing you a Happy New Year!

2008 was a tough year for many industries. Here in Michigan, countless businesses and households have been hit hard by woes of the big-three automakers, in addition to the general challenges of a struggling economy. While ACS is not unaffected by the economic conditions, the list of prospective clients interested in Advantage remains steady and we are doing okay. Among the Advantage community, I hear with some frequency of publishers and associations cutting back on staff, reducing issue frequencies, and merging titles. Unfortunately, many of our clients serve market segments that are significantly affected by the current recession.

Nevertheless, we continue to see promising signs among our user community. It is our goal to help all discover new ways to utilize Advantage functionality and ACS services to deal effectively with the new challenges that we'll face in 2009. With increasing frequency, we are seeing success among our clients in combating slow circulation and book sales by broadening traditional print offerings to embrace online content delivery. Another successful endeavor is honing business intelligence through more sophisticated data collection and analysis, for use in making more informed and up-to-the-minute marketing and operations decisions. We've also seen some publishers increase their revenues through our Teleservices module or by offering conferences through our Conference and Event module.

At ACS, we're excited by our expansion in Europe and the UK. Important new British publishers have joined the Advantage user community in the last several years, and in France we are continuing to see great promise for new publishers joining the user group. We recently completed a pilot project in Denmark, and are hopeful that we'll be starting an implementation there soon. In December, we started an Advantage implementation at Vidal, our third Parisian client. Phil Montgomery and his project team are now busy with another pilot project for a major newspaper publisher in France. Next week, when I am back in Paris for meetings with our clients, I will be meeting with a French business consultancy to continue our work setting up an ACS office in Paris.

Our work with publishers, associations and service bureaus around the world has enabled us to add functionality to Advantage that offers our user community everywhere an even more powerful tool set for growing their business. I remember in 1998 how excited we were to introduce the ability to have multiple addresses for every customer in Advantage. Today, Advantage has grown significantly to provide multi-language, multi-office, and multi-local functionality. ‘Multi-local' is terminology Philippe van-Mastrigt, our ACS representative in Paris, has coined to describe Advantage's capacity to allow a publisher with multiple international offices to interact with local users in their own language, using local regulations for distribution, taxation, payment cards, etc.

We're also excited about progress with the new Advantage Business Intelligence module that will help you analyze trends, target opportunities, and increase your revenues? important functionality for tough economic times. It is fortunate that our full-blown implementation of Business Intelligence technology for Advantage comes at a time when Microsoft has introduced a great suite of tools for this purpose, at a reasonable price. There was a product forum on the new BI module held at ACS/Ann Arbor in the Fall, and we received valuable feedback from many of you that has further shaped BI module development. We're looking forward to presenting a BI forum re-cap at the Advantage User Group conference in Orlando January 21 ? 23.

As many of our clients face a growing demand in 2009 to produce more with less, I thought it would be helpful to mention three areas of significant enhancement to Advantage that target helping you meet more stringent compliance requirements, reduce costs, and grow your revenues. These are all projects designed to help you optimize business operations, while gaining strategic advantage in your respective market segment.

Compliance

  •  Consolidation of credit card and direct debit information to a single secure table
  •  Increased capabilities in credit card storage, masking, and encryption
  •  User session activity recording and reporting
  •  Revamped user security that mirrors MS Windows with domain-level authentication
  •  Daily reconciliation of subscription liability, earnings, and accounts receivable

Cost Reduction

  • Significant improvements in job scheduling and automation to free up staff resources that would normally be required to manage nightly processing
  • Core Advantage offline processes optimized to run 24x7
  • Highly customizable workspaces for easily tailoring Advantage views to your organization structure, facilitating faster data entry and customer service transactions
  • Powerful data entry scripting tools to improve data entry speed and facilitate various types of data entry functions

Revenue Growth

  • An SQL query builder tool for easily and rapidly creating list selections against your data
  • Data warehousing tools for analyzing circulation, product order, accounts receivable, and financial data
  • Significant improvements in the Advantage e-commerce modules

In addition to developing these new software features, ACS has introduced important new services over the past year, all designed to help publishers, membership associations, and service bureaus do more with less during difficult economic times. At the Advantage User Group Conference later this month, we'll be describing some of these special projects and new services our clients have taken advantage of. Here are some examples:

  •  More comprehensive support for new company acquisitions, in-conversions, and division consolidations
  • ACS system administrators managing your Advantage offline processing
  • ACS engineers developing custom revenue modules
  • ACS web site developers creating custom e-commerce websites.

We expect that 2009 will continue to be challenging for the publishing industry. How are your Advantage operations doing? During times of ‘tightening the belt', are you finding ways to meet new challenges of reduced budgets while not jeopardizing current core business or compromising efforts to exploit opportunities for expansion? Let us know if there is something more ACS can be doing to help you meet your goals this year.



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