Mainstream Customer Newsletter
CEO Speak from Scott Calder
Much has changed in the four months since I sent my last Mainstream customer newsletter.
Most sobering, of course, is the fact that hundreds of millions of lives around the world have been disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic and hundreds of thousands of our society’s most vulnerable have been lost. At this writing, there is no obvious short term solution to the crisis, and while we hope that we are now seeing the earliest signs of recovery, the most likely scenario is that this will take months–if not years–to resolve itself fully.
So, the questions we all ask ourselves now–in addition to the obvious one of how to come to terms with the enormous human costs of dislocation, suffering, and death from the Coronavirus–are 1) what the impact will be, long term, on society, 2) how this will change the face of global commerce, and not unimportantly, 3) what effect this global calamity will have on our own businesses.
I just participated in a web conference of 2,500 alumni of the Harvard Business School, many of whom are senior company executives and policy-makers, led by Dean Nitin Noria on the subject of the Coronavirus pandemic. When this large group was surveyed about recovery from the effects of the pandemic, these were the tabulated expectations of the group:
- We will not see a return to normal social interaction, work and school schedules, and an end to international travel restrictions until the first or second quarter of 2021
- 39% expect a further decline of from 10% to 20% in major stock market indices by September 1, 2020, with another 11% expecting a decline of more than 20%
- 90% expect a global economic recession of at least one year in duration
These are sobering thoughts, to be sure.
Our children and our children’s children will undoubtedly feel the reverberations of this crisis and its aftermath. Most obvious reactions will be individuals’ and society’s conscious and unconscious efforts to de-risk their personal and business lives. Masks in crowded spaces including airplanes will become de rigueur; physical distancing, a given. I’m not sure if Coronavirus signals the death knell for handshaking, but I am absolutely certain that there is a bright future for hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer dispenser manufacturers! There will be (at least for a short period) a dramatic reduction in the number of new business startups as entrepreneurs seek the perceived employment safety of established businesses.
On the other hand, enterprises that provide low risk technology alternatives for traditional means of doing business will prosper. Welcome to ZoomWorld, a dystopia where computer and mobile phone videoconferencing displace flesh-and-blood business meetings, and where businesses are cocooned in hermetically sealed virtual environments devoid of human touch. I realize that I am overstating, but I genuinely hope that the essential values of true friendship, trust, and intimacy upon which we at Mainstream Data have built our business do not become casualties of “progress” and paranoia.
You can rest assured that we look forward to actually seeing you soon–face to face!
With regard to how Mainstream Data and Newscom are getting along, the simple answer is that we are doing well. In order for us to be certain that we would be prepared as a company if the global pandemic made working remotely necessary, we executed a practice day on March 9th on which all except our most essential workers (who man our 24 X 7 X 365 Network Operations Center-NOC) worked away from the office. It was intended as a “dress rehearsal” to make certain that we had all of the most crucial systems and procedures in place if it did become necessary for our employees to work from home for an extended period of time. The practice went extremely smoothly, and we found that the preparations we have been making over the years paid off.
We didn’t have to wait long for the worst to happen, unfortunately, and on the following Monday, March 15th (the Ides of March for those Shakespeareans out there) I gave the order that all non-NOC employees, both in our U.S. and U.K. offices would shelter in place and work from home until further notice.
I will be interested to hear your responses, but my perspective on the last two months is that things have gone remarkably smoothly. While everyone misses the camaraderie of seeing friends and colleagues, we have received very positive reviews both from employees and customers on our ability to do business successfully. In fact, Gary Howard, our V.P. of Technology, unashamedly told me the other day that our software development group–by far our largest department at Mainstream–has been more efficient and productive since we decided that everyone must work remotely.
Apparently I have been a problem; it is now much more difficult for me to interrupt the programmers than it was when I could just cruise over to their offices and bother them at will. They can now be more productive as they are bothered less…ah, the things we learn from serendipity!
I continue to come into our Salt Lake City building every day, but, as you can see, this picture, taken this morning, gives you an idea of how deserted our office is:
While I don’t understand all of the details of your business or how you and your company are coping with the Coronavirus pandemic, I do want you to know that in times of crisis like the current one it forces us at Mainstream (and probably you as well) to think very carefully about what is most valuable and most rewarding in life. For us the answer is our families and friends–with both relationships perfectly describing how we also feel about you, our deeply appreciated customers.
Please feel free to contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customer Solution – Newscom
You probably know that Mainstream Data owns Newscom, a company that we promote as the largest multi-agency library of digital media in the world. Newscom’s archive includes approximately 200 million images, graphics, video clips, and text articles from 150 news and photo agencies around the world.
It adds as many as 100,000 new images daily and includes real-time imagery and video plus a very large collection of historical content from the world’s elite agencies. Newscom customers are a Who’s Who of global media brands needing a single source for the content they use to tell their compelling stories on the web, on television, or in books and newspapers.
Newscom began life in 1985 (coincidentally the same year that Mainstream Data was founded) as a technology solution for two of the largest American newspaper group owners to share photos with other papers in their company. The Tribune Company (Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times) and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy Newspapers (Miami Herald and Sacramento Bee) started competing companies leveraging this concept (called, respectively, Newscom and PressLink) but merged them into one entity in the 1990s.
As the newspaper business shrank, Tribune and McClatchy lost interest in Newscom and sold it to Mainstream Data in July, 2007. Our focus on Newscom derived from three factors: 1) Newscom’s archive scaling technology was useful for Mainstream’s software business, 2) Newscom gave Mainstream an intimate view into its principal customers’ business–licensing content–without being competitive, and 3) Mainstream, by partnering with its software platform customers (news agencies) could now help them build their revenue as well as provide them with excellent content licensing technology.
Newscom has been profitable every year since Mainstream acquired it and has provided the company with a unique window into the content licensing business. Unfortunately, however, like the shoemaker’s child who goes barefoot, Mainstream has been slow to update Newscom’s technology because of other, more pressing Mainstream customer needs. That situation will be turned around, however, when Newscom unveils its new platform, Newscom 2020, this summer.
The new Newscom incorporates the latest technologies from Mainstream Data’s flagship digital asset management suite, MediaSphere(™) and allows Newscom to license its 50,000,000 royalty free (RF) imagery in addition to the 150,000,000 rights managed assets that have been the company’s principal offering.
In addition to allowing royalty free licensing, Newscom 2020 has a greatly improved user experience, looking and acting more contemporary and advanced than Newscom 2.X. Furthermore, because of its updated architecture, Newscom 2020 will facilitate regular version updates that add new content licensing revenue models, advanced AdTech, next-generation search technologies including visual search, machine learning, social media integration, and intra-application user collaboration.
Best of all, the technologies that we are integrating into Newscom 2020 will all be available for our content licensing platform customers, assuring them an ongoing, continuous stream of innovations that benefit not just Newscom, but our software as a service customers as well.
Meet Mitch Rasmussen, Mainstream Data Senior Vice President/CFO
Mitch Rasmussen is the consummate Chief Financial Officer. A native of the State of Utah, Mitch earned his undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and then continued his education at Utah State University where he completed his Master of Business Administration with a focus on Corporate Finance.
Following graduation, Mitch worked as an accountant at public accounting firm Touche Ross & Co., earning his CPA in 1988. Exiting public accounting, Mitch joined what he whimsically describes as a “high-tech dairy cooperative” for three years after which he joined Mainstream as its Chief Financial Officer in 1990.
Mitch’s responsibilities include the usual CFO tasks–financial accounting, compliance, reporting, and control–but he has also recently added to that Mainstream’s Human Resources Department, Technical Operations, and Satellite Operations. Asked about juggling as many important functions as he currently does, Mitch laconically notes that it is a lot less nerve-wracking than being held at gunpoint by drug cartel thugs or being stuck in the middle of bus fare riots during the years he spent in Columbia in the late 1970s (have him tell you the stories sometime…).
On the pandemic, Mitch notes, “A crisis this significant brings out the best and the worst in us. Even if it isn’t our fault or of our own choosing, we need to own the problem and move forward. That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.” (Thank you, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche!)
In addition to being an extraordinarily talented CFO, Mitch is also an avid outdoor sports enthusiast, renowned within Mainstream as an elite waterskier, a fact memorialized by a computer desktop image of himself laid out nearly horizontally, slicing and dicing a placid Pineview Reservoir near his home shortly after sunrise one summer morning (when the water, he says, “is like glass”). During the Utah winter, when our lakes are heavily encrusted with snow and ice, Mitch feeds another of his passions; snowmobiling. In an unguarded moment he once confided to a business colleague that one of his “sleds” was fully capable of reaching 140 miles per hour, but that he really hadn’t taken it much above 120…
An apparent risk taker on water (liquid or frozen), Mitch is anything but that in his business life. Rather, he is the poster child for rational financial conservatism, taking pride in the fact that Mainstream’s finances are run with the same, disciplined, precise approach that he employs in his own life (which, by the way, starts at 4:30am with his daily weightlifting and then typically finds him in the office–except during the Coronavirus pandemic–by 6:00am). The senior partner at Mainstream’s public accounting firm confided to Mainstream’s CEO at one point that the accounting firm actually aspired to catch a mistake attributable to Mitch, but that it wasn’t going to happen.
But if you were to ask the people who work alongside Mitch every day, they would tell you that the dominant trait that characterizes him (in addition to his discipline, hard work, and pure competence) is his overriding sense of personal integrity. That might come in part from his Danish and English ancestors who made their way to Utah in the 1850s by sailing ship, then walking and pulling handcarts with all of their earthly belongings to the unsettled West of the United States. In the words of Mainstream’s CEO, “Mitch is the absolute image of integrity; I would literally trust him with anything.”
If you need to reach Mitch, you can email him at email@example.com.