This is my last column as editor of Automatic Merchandiser. For the past year, my assignment has been to try to live up to the magazine’s journalistic standards during a historic inflection point for the vending and office coffee service industries. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to help guide the magazine and its online sister brand, VendingMarketWatch.com, through 2021’s COVID roller coaster ride. That responsibility weighed heavily, most days. It was not only challenging for the industry we covered, but also for B2B publishing itself. But as it turned out, it was a time of pronounced advancements for both.
Personally, it was a great honor to help steer the groundbreaking magazine (originally American Automatic Merchandiser) founded in 1958 by Ben Ginsberg and Mike Michaels through that period of prodigious change. The founders both hailed from the bottling industry, a forerunner to modern full-line vending. Today, AM is the only independent journal in the convenience services sector that delivers valuable information to audiences both online and in print.
I got to know Ginsberg later in his life, after he started Vending and OCS, a bimonthly trade published between 1991 and 2009. He served as its editor for 18 years. A longtime participant in and observer of the vending industry, Ginsberg was among the first journalists to identify the office coffee service business that emerged in the late 1960s. I think he would have approved of this issue’s OCS focus with Seattle’s Pot O’ Gold Coffee Service on the cover, BostonbeaN’s Kamden Mauser as Route Driver of the Year and a timely pantry advice piece.
He’d also agree that there probably hasn’t been a time in the industry’s modern history when the role of trade media was more important than now. Last year, we had the hard task of publishing two studies examining vending and OCS sales performance during the first year of the pandemic. And we got it right. AM’s annual State of the Industry reports showed sales in the vending and micro market segment down 45%, while OCS sales plunged more than 75%. After a decade of steady revenue growth, more than half of the industry’s revenues were erased in a 10-month period. Yet, most operators survived. Initially, we thought 2020’s losses would be a blip on the radar. But the effects of the pandemic and subsequent supply chain bottlenecks, rising inflation and labor shortages will likely dawdle for several years. Still, most operators will survive.
I’ve enjoyed informing you, challenging you, supporting you, channeling you and, occasionally, irritating you. Operators have a story to tell, and we give them a voice. That mission continues. Molly Rogers, a talented journalist at Endeavor Business Media, the owner of Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com, is the new editor. Rogers officially took over editorial responsibilities on March 1.