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IN THE BEGINNING: Back when I first entered the electric sign industry in 92', I entered it with a thirst to learn more, and I had come in an age before the internet. My employer knew I had such a big thirst he had offered me his collection of Sign Builder Illustrator magazines for me to thumb through and read about all the new trends, the "How To's", I read them from cover to cover and even the adverting ads were inspiring to me. I always had so many questions for him daily because "I wanted to know" I could never learn enough, fast enough, and most of the time the others I worked alongside with didn't care. To them, this was just a daily job they clocked in and out of, and by days end they left work behind them without further thought. To me, my goal was to open my own sign business and this was a means to it, s stepping stone. So at about 94' I broke loose on my own and surrounded myself with any as many knowledgeable individuals who were masters of this trade as I could. I had a thirst that I could not fill working for someone else. 94' was probably about the same time I also went to my first Sign Show (NESA), somewhere up in the Anaheim, California which was about an hour and a half or so away from me. I brought my friend who was working for me at the time, who was actually my first salesman. I was probably about 20 years old or so. The show was medium sizes, not too small but not as large as a ISA show. Being I was limited and exposed to a local side of my trade (San Diego) and only able to read about what was outside from magazines, seeing the brand new sign cranes, vinyl plotters and other heavy machinery blew my mind away. To me, it was probably like being in Disneyland with so much to see. I was picking up brochures from just about every booth I went too, and attended as many seminars as I could. I listened to as many people as I could to get an understanding about what was going on outside of my local. I was a sponge for years to come. Fast forward a couple of years I started to notice that what I was being told, either from a supplier, magazine,or manufacturer did not equal out too what WAS. This progressed for a couple of years. It was almost like their was a divide between the individuals that I surrounded myself with who were true masters of our trade separated from the Suppliers, Media (Magazines) and Manufacturer reps (Outsiders). Maybe it was my thirst for knowledge that made me see another side of this trade that others did not. Maybe they did but didn't care, maybe they were just going to roll with whoever shaped their road, maybe they never though to question anything at all. Fast forward again to 2005 when I started The Sign Syndicate and here was the internet. It was already here years before the SS but I sure did see a rapid growth and number of people I could communicate with waaaay beyond my local. In some ways this site was a blessing for me, as it continued to fill my thirst but it also sort of killed that "magic" that I had with opening up our trade magazines and that feeling of excitement that I had walking into a sign show. I was finally able to identify the sales pitch that was being thrown at me all these years. Not to say it was all bad, but what I read, and was told, again very different than what "is". This is when the world and trade that I was in, just didn't add up anymore. I became more cynical and always questioned everything I was been told and read. This was about the time where LEDs were being pitched as the new up and coming trend. I had been used to Neon for so long I was interested to see and learn what the new fuss was about. My impression was a little tainted at first I have to admit because a lot of the claims again....didn't add up. I never had failures with Neon, I also didn't ever have to worry about starting a fire, but the marketing points that rolled down almost made me hate the product because of the way it was being packaged, marketed, & sold. It wasn't until I started to learn more about LEDs away from the hype from a few manufacturers and also the start of our own tests here on the SS that I found respect for it and developed the like for them. But the way the product was being pitched, conditioned, and sold created a whole dislike for our industry's trade magazines which became a vehicles. I hated the mis-information and mis-characterization that came from our media and I observed the stand by and "do nothing" mode/stance from our leadership (International Sign Association) for years to come. Not a peep, did I ever hear a "second" side to the portrayal, nor a movement to rebutt the accusations/attacks on our industries grand heritage and tradition that is Neon. The manipulated projected view thrown out there for public opinion was almost sinister, and Neon & Fluorescent became a "dirty" word almost overnight. Government R&D money was rapidly distributed to a few LED manufacturers which transmuted to big advertising money was thrown at our trade magazines and soon the large 1 and 2 page ads came. New memberships were also quickly added into out Sign Trade Associations and new relationships rose. There was a sudden boost of "new" money and there was no coverage of Neon any longer, and it soon spread to Fluorescent lighting as well when it came to our media. The only words we heard associated to Neon were words like "Inefficient....Hazardous.....Dangerous.....Safety Concern....Fire.....Global Warming.....Contains Mercury......Light Pollution....Old" that wrongly mis-characterized our conventional light sources. The LED industry took a few major hits with large sign program failures but we never read about those or heard about it from our leadership and the beat just kept on. Just like that a veil fell over the eyes of this trade and if you didn't know any better, never questioned what you read or were being told, or if you came into this trade to work for a sign association or trade magazine and never worked with light sources in your life, you suddenly got manipulated and trained to a new manufactured "norm" . Never did it ever get discussed that possibly, maybe....all light sources have their own unique ability and have their own strengthens and weaknesses and that all these light sources have an application in everything we build. All this industry was retaught to think was.....Neon bad.....LED good. After all, if we didn't observe our leadership to discuss the realities of light sources by measuring them and if all we read was one side stories in our trade magazines well then.....if it's in print then it must be TRUE That was the belief especially for the newcomers of this trade. The only ones who knew the real truth was the older generation, the more experienced fabricators and installers who were "hands on". That was the Sign World of 2005 to 2010 BACK THEN: So.....to our poll. It's been a little over 4 years since we started the first poll http://www.thesignsyndicate.com/forums/index.php?/forum/158-trade-magazines/ I asked the question to our Electric Sign Industry on the subject of Trade Magazines, which at the time you could not call them that respectively because they were nothing more, and no better than something in print fresh off your local Sign Supplier Brochure rack. They were only useful to advertisers who advertised in them, and those advertisers who were component/light source manufacturers were given free reign to have printed whatever they wanted. We were not reading true journalism, we were only been spoon fed an infomercial. Trade magazines were also part of the three headed monster (maybe safe to say 4 Headed but that's a different topic) that helped kill the Neon Industry with aiding these component & light source manufacturers with spreading mis-informattion, mis-characterization & propaganda about the use & usefulness of Neon which was it's "dangerous, inefficient and bad for the environment". Neon is a HUGE part of this industries heritage & tradition if not the most recognizable characteristic to those outside this trade. Neon is this industries fingerprint. You don't have to produce, install, or even sell Neon, but you have to help protect our heritage & traditions if you want to preserve our trade. As part of the Three (Four) headed monster they have done nothing to help preserve what made this industry popular and iconic, in fact they turned their backs on it for something deemed "popular" and new. As many of you know this site for years has been the only real source that has been able to put both Neon & LEDs in the proper perspective, listing the strengths & weakness's in a fair comparison with the use of our multiple undisputed industry first Light Testing Projects starting with The Great White Hope in 2008, along with many members who serve this industry as Electrical Engineers for Light Source Manufacturers for Neon & LEDs. We have always been fair and unbiased in never picking one light source be it Neon, LED, or Fluorescent as a better light source over others and out testing has helped display that. The Sign Syndicate has helped restore that balance to this industry where our leadership (International Sign Association), our trade magazines has not. The Sign Syndicate has been that thorn in the side for those who don't want to serve this industry but to just use as a selling ground and so profit farm from. A lot of this is has to do with being afraid to loose relationships, advertising, and membership money doing what comes easy rather than doing what is right. I myself have made it a mission on behalf of this sign industry, and for the love of this industry that I love to be in, to target, and point out the Sign Associations by member or chairman, the trade magazines by columnist or editor in the articles they write along with the sign companies who they quoted at every turn when they were either enabling false marketing tactics or by means of omission do to what's right. I even made it a point to stay myself away from ever building a relationship with our leadership, with individuals who work for manufacturers for this exclusive purpose for ever building into "favoritism" it's even fair to say, I've lost relationships and friendships and even advertising here on the Sign Syndicate because of that stance and because it's more important to me to discuss those topics you won't ever read about anywhere else. I've chosen principle first, and industry first before myself, and I will never look back on regret in what it cost me. What we did here on The Sign Syndicate along with many well known industry electrical engineers as stated above in both fields was bring to the forefront the real numbers of Light Output, Light Degradation (Lumen Maintenance), and costs of operations for those light sources. Something sadly, our leadership nor trade magazines NEVER wanted to dip into themselves. In fact all we ever heard were ridiculous short term Return on Investment figures along with saving the planet themes, marketeers conjuring new fears and nothing more. It was at this point in time where Neon was considered "Dirty". You have to imagine and if you give it some real hard thought......if our leadership and trade magazines were allowing/ starting a new false status-qua in the minds of our industry and in public opinion with spreading & enabling mis-characterization & mis-information about Neon, LED, & Fluorescent lighting, what else were they doing it too in our industry? After all, it's always nothing but sunshine and rainbows from them. Could this also have heavily affected the print world when it comes to solvents? This mis-characterization & mis-information is not just on the surface that affects sales, it went much deeper into affecting legislature where government comes in and dictates to you and I how we do business, and dictates what we can produce and what we cannot. It also aids government in having the power to pick winners, NOT the consumer. I don't even want to bring up California's Title 24 and what effects it's had on the electric sign industry and consumers, that's for another topic but this all plays into it. WHAT IS NOW: The Signs Syndicate has made a huge difference in ways I cannot go into great detail with, part of that has been done by the Light Comparison Tests that we have been conducting now since 2008 (40,000 hours of operation or 11 sign years later), 6 years ago to content on this website which has measured light sources, real recordable information that aids in standards. Something which our leadership ( International Sign Association ) STILL to this day has yet to to ever come out with a program, seminar, or even speak publicly about when it comes to putting light sources that are produced and used in their very own industry on using these light sources in the right application or discussing the strength and weakness's according to application use. In fact, they've even tried to make some things for our Neon Industry much worse when it comes to codes and standards. It's taken specialty groups such as The Neon Group to bring it solely upon themselves to get Neon, recognized by U.L. as a "Green" product. I'm not a "Greeny" nor support that idea of Green because I don't believe in it....BUT, they did it to help in the arena of public opinion and in PR war where it's been deemed as a "Dirty" product and light source...and they did it on their own WITHOUT the help of ISA. Neon & UL Green Leaf Now we have seen the slow rise in demand for Neon, in fact it's not by the sign shop wanting to get into manufacturing and installation because most are already assimilated into the LED theory where Neon is "Dirty" and inefficient and too timely. Neon is back in demand by the consumer who misses it, and can't they get it from most custom sign shops because they now lack the knowledge from their vested interest to LED only low labor employees. Which means if you're a sign shop who can still manufacture & install neon then you know have the least competition when it comes to bidding out those jobs, and their big money jobs these days. You don't have to believe me but you can now read the countless articles written by those in the mainstream press on restorations as well as having those big business's who want the look of Neon back. As for the trade magazines there has been a change, musical chairs for some in fact. One magazine that has been getting it wrong since day one still continues to get it wrong and on a monthly basis. This is probably because they are just like our inner core leadership in the Sign Associations, unlike the outer core real sign volunteer base the inner core employed base that collect a paycheck for being there...they have no real experience in this trade upon which they serve. They have never worked for a sign company, never fabricated or installed a sign. Nor have they ever worked a day in their life, or for a company who is a contractor who has an accounts payable & receivable. Most are outsiders, and they have come from another field like the plastic industry or have had no other experience other than serving industry after industry as a turnkey non-profit enterprise where the industry in which they serve is not close to heart. So how can they care as much to make this industry better before they move on and serve another industry such as the pool and spa trade, or some other? One magazine started to be the first to make a turn for the best for this industry but told me that fact in their face still went against the status qua, and most importantly against the "Popular thought" that makes up their technical committee. Disappointing since I came into this sign industry reading their magazine first. Which now leaves me to Signs of The Times. For many who have read my harsh/hard hitting topics & posts when it came to Trade Magazines and how they report to this industry I've never hit any other trade magazine or it's editor harder than Signs of The Times, and for years. Namely because they are the oldest magazine, and we can say they have been a apart of this industries heritage & traditions stemming from the early 1900's, AND because probably their the widest distributed magazine. We can also say that because of their longtime relationship to this trade....they have a larger part of that responsibility to "get it right" than any other. because a lot of those other trade magazines don't just vest their time in this idustry, but they serve in so many other fields and the sign industry is just one of many. If I die tomorrow I want everyone to know, no matter how hard I hit, it's never been personal, never in the slightest. It was always about doing what's right for this electric sign industry first, and if I had to have a little fun to raise that awareness in my critique that a LOT of truth to back it up....then so be it. Signs of The Times since early 2012 has made a great change and turn. Those brochure articles have disappeared, the obligation pieces aren't present either. It's more balanced for all light sources and it's better for this industry It's not perfect, it still has some areas to go into which will take courage, but at least it has "journalism", and those that run SOT genuinely, "care" . I can open that magazine up these days (I hope it won't change) and say it's pretty much the best non-biased magazine and not appear brochure like when it comes to light sources. The days to come for Signs of The Times if they want to take that big transition so we can call it a complete "journalistic" magazine will take courage on part of the ownership and they will need to weigh what is best for this industry outside themselves. To stay as is and possibly follow and report this industry till days end as our custom trade becomes commitized & bastardized by outsiders plummeting it to the bottom of the barrel as the direction is has been going. Or do the hard part and risk relationship/ties loss when it comes to reporting on our leadership, and I'm speaking of the sign associations. I've seen some articles juuuuust touch that surface, just nick it and pull out. But soon enough this industry will need that "champion" to take up the "Sword" & "Shield", not just the shield, but sword too and surge forward. Right now this industry of our is in "shake and bake" mode by our leadership. Because again, their not from OUR trade. Some are, but their in too small a position to make a difference. But for now, I'm satisfied. Many of you know I haven't even started a topic about Trade Magazine issues in some time, maybe years. The SOT has given me that peace of mind, and I haven't minded it at all, in fact I've enjoyed that time away. I can at least say this.....for now. So, this brings me to today. It's been since early 2010 since our last trade magazine poll by you. Maybe some of you have seen a shift, maybe not, maybe some of you don't care. But I thought a new poll was in order since change maybe on the mind of some of you who would like to change their position. Here is the restart, and I've just listed my reason for change in my opinion along with what has changed in 4 years, and what has not. I've just closed the January 2010 Poll because I want to lock those results for that period and begin anew. This round I will be asking it in a slightly different format. Most importantly....ENJOY! I Look forward to the results and please participate as you will make it all the more interesting.
"...We're not afraid to get into the trenches when it comes to road blocks....As a matter of fact, that's how we get things done..." - Lori Anderson "The International Sign Association (ISA) is laser-focused on what's happening this very second within the sign and visual communications industry." "As we talk to member companies we hear two constant concerns: (1) The challenges of finding qualified employees and. (2) The issues of getting signs built due to regulations" -Lori Anderson, International Sign Association Hate to interrupt the magazine pep talk but I would think one of the biggest concerns that are on the minds of licensed sign companies which has been going on for yeeeeeeaaaars and that supersede any and all of those named above is trying to get paid and according to terms called out in a contract from some very large bad national sign companies, many of which are volunteer board/chair members of the ISA. Some have even received "industry awards" complete with a photo-op and hand shake published in similar sign magazines. In most cases not paying a subcontractor on time is illegal if not made within the 30 day time frame. Which means, volunteer board members and chairs are breaking the law, and can go to jail, pay a fine, or both! Since when has ISA's code of conduct become that relaxed that they allow members to be apart of their association who are breaking the law...let alone hand them and award of gratitude? Surely Lori Anderson has run into this issue/complaint time and time again? She can't possibly plea ignorance, or say she's never heard of the issue?? Curious....do any of you ever ask your local or International Sign Association membership/reps about this? Number two can be the fact the fact that ISA has tried to diminish the reason for having or obtaining a contractors license in states like Texas and just recently in Wisconsin. What's the incentive to even go legit and abide by the state safety standards and laws,m if anyone can just go around and subcontract a job that normally requires a license? A clerk from Home Depot soon will be able to subcontract a pole sign or plumbing jobs to whoever, and however. Is there and start and end? Just because membership monies may way more in favor of vinyl and t-shirt print shops whom just entered the industry, doesn't mean ISA should take the side to think that our "trade"...i did say "trade"... is no longer a trade and anyone with no experience should just be able to cut in line, take a short cut and decide one day, "Oh...I feel like I should start selling and installing large electric sign structures" I thought the idea of starting or having an association for a trade was to preserve it's heritage and traditions to keep it as a trade where you earn your way in and up, not buy your way in. Educate it from time to time. Where is the seminars in education for book balancing for payments to distributors and subcontractors? Abiding by the law? Making sure that what ever contracts your executing in states you're even licensed to do so, and abiding by those licensing laws? I've seen a "report" unlicensed activity programs from time to time and announcements. But what about reporting National Sign, and or National Service providers whom don't even have a contractors license in that state that their providing service in and on the backs of licensed contractors in that state? Their breaking the law, and their breaking the chain of accountability when it comes to contractors license laws, where the consumer suffers. The consumer needs to be protected, and so does the subcontractor who is illegally being subcontracted out by an illegal primary contractor who doesn't even have a license in that state nor understand it's laws. Number #2 should be Preserving our "trade" and continue to uphold that high standard that requires an individual to go through the proper channels, and NOT continuing to to bastardize it by turning it into a commodity But hey, ISA has a golf game at their expo this year....again. Wonder if they can do a buddy team thing this year and pair up a payer, along with the payees. Some pairs would love each other depending on who, some......just might be choking the other on out on the green. My Tuesday thoughts.
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I'd like to get some opinions of the various trade magazines we have for our sign trade. I'm referring this topic to the electric sign industry of our trade. Are you of the opinion that they are genuinely helpful? Or are they just used to promote products of their vendors and advertisers? Do we really see "Honest Journalism" that performs background checks, information checks into what they write BEFORE publishing. Do they preserve our sacred trade? Or are most articles intended to propagandize and sell first, integrity second? Have you ever seen a "whistle blower" hard investigative type articles from any of them? Articles that deal with product quality & integrity, industry monopolies, etc? Why have we never seen test comparisons of light products on Neon & LED's published like The Sign Syndicate.com has done for over a year now? With so many article used to promote products and the "anyone can do it, & sell it" attitude aimed at amateurs, what level of danger by inexperienced individuals does this affect? What effect does it have on the qualified individuals and companies? I ask this mainly because of all the surveys various trade magazines have been sending me. It seems they are not asking the right questions of why I would read one over the other or none at all, but asking me who I read or follow, and how often.