Malcolm Netburn is the CEO of Des Moines-based CDS Global Inc., where he has worked for 6 1/2 years. He recently was named to the Hall of Fame of the Fulfillment Management Association (FMA), a trade organization of the publishing and media industry area of subscription fulfillment, consumer marketing and customer relations. Netburn has served on multiple boards, spoken at industry conferences and has written papers on topics such as digital disruption and consumer experience in the publishing industry. Netburn started his career on a lettershop floor and has worked at the National Wildlife Foundation, Scholastic Inc. and The Christian Science Monitor.
What was your reaction when you heard of the FMA nomination?
I was surprised and really quite humbled. I’ve spent most of my working career in and around the magazine industry and order management and fulfillment, but it was a real surprise when I heard that I will be inducted in October. And humbled because, while it’s trite, I don’t think I would have gotten this recognition if it wasn’t for so many people in my career. It’s not every job where we’re allowed to do our very best work. (CDS Global) is such an incredible company that it has allowed me to do it.
How much change have you seen in the industry in your time at CDS Global?
I think it’s fair to say we are in probably the most transparent and informative period for the media and information industries. It’s a huge transformation from a very successful model of printing words on paper, whether it’s newspapers, magazines or books, and distributing them in the way in which people would get some analog product, which will be in your mailbox or bookstore or at the newsstand, to all of a sudden the really ubiquitous explosion of people being able to consume information at any given time. Not prisoners to other distribution forms, but free to read anytime, anyplace, anywhere, on any device, at any speed and with any frequency. So you talk about blowing up the model. It’s been a lot of change.
Has the industry started to figure out how to deal with digital?
I think the answer is really unequivocally yes. I would not have even said that two years ago. I think somewhere maybe three or so years ago, rather than seeing it as a threat – which on one hand it is because it upsets the traditional model of selling advertising on paper with ink, and people subscribing to get a magazine once a week or month – then the industry realized that, wait a second, content is more important than ever because you can pour so much more content out into the marketplace. The Web has got this incredible, fungible availability. So I think when the industry stopped seeing it as a threat to their business model, but began to see that “Wait, who’s better to fulfill the insatiable appetite for content?” Well, one of the places best qualified to do that is going to be the people who have been doing it for 150 years. There’s a flexibility in this industry, kind of having to reinvent and produce – year in and year out, month in and month out in some cases, week in and week out, day in and day out – new stuff. It has allowed the industry to be adaptable.
What is the biggest challenge facing CDS Global?
I think the biggest challenge is sort of the evolution from becoming an operation support company to a strategic partner to clients. What’s occurred, as digital has exploded, is the relationship with the consumer becomes critical. We’re in the middle of that relationship. And so part of the product you are delivering now is actually how you distribute it and how you are in relationship with your customer. Our vision for the future is to be this truly strategic partner marketing company. And I would say from an external point of view, you are always a prisoner of your own success. So if you have looked at CDS Global as being a flawless operational supplier, we are going to have to really prove to that same client that we are a talented innovative strategic partner.
What do you do outside of work?
Work is intense, so I always put this on the top of the list, and that is gardening. I get dirty and sweaty, and the world just slips away. I’m a big believer ... that the most effective people in business are the ones who know how to take one day off a week and sort of release themselves. It is a 24/7 job... so I try to leave some space at least once a week where it’s sort of not scheduled.