Newspapers and magazines have been scrambling to figure out how to make money online, but newsletter publisher LRP Publications has been charging for its content for years.
“We started making the transition long before the web,” said LRP President Ken Kahn. “Most of our publications have moved to the web, and everything is basically behind the paywall.”
LRP publishes specialized content that readers are willing to pay for. Its titles include Human Resource Executive, Special Ed Connection and Worker’s Compensation Report.
Kahn founded his company in the 1970s. He was working as an employment attorney in Philadelphia, and he was frustrated that the only way to find decisions by the state labor relations board was to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Kahn began publishing the decisions while still practicing law, and he soon decided to become an entrepreneur. The business grew, and Kahn moved to Palm Beach County in the 1990s.
“I always wanted to live by the water — I’m a boater,” he said. “The quality of life was much better. And a national publishing company really can be run out of anywhere.”
Name: Ken Kahn
Hometown: I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but moved away when I was three months old and grew up in New York City.
About your company: LRP Publications has 400 employees, 300 of them in Florida and 100 in Horsham, Pa. We’re a niche publisher. We have 10 major conferences and trade shows and two industry-leading magazines, Human Resource Executive and Risk & Insurance. We also have 80 newsletter titles. All our properties have three legs to them. One is print, one is an electronic side, and they all have related conferences and trade shows.
First job: My first job was loading trucks at a Nabisco bakery when I was in high school. I ate a lot of cookies from the broken packages.
Most successful thing you’re doing right now: Our trade show business is really the most successful thing. We have 10 major conferences and trade shows.
Biggest challenge: The sequester is hurting us. We’re the largest provider of compliance material for federal government civilian employees. We’re the largest provider of compliance material for education administrators in the country, mainly special education and Title I, which also are being affected by the sequester. The federal government has limited conference and training budgets, so it’s a lot harder to get approval to attend. The biggest item has been the indecision. Most of the agencies can adjust pretty well to a budget cut. But when they don’t have a budget, and they don’t know what their budget is going to be, their biggest inclination is to do nothing. Attendance for our Federal Workplace Conference was off 60 percent. It was in Washington, so people didn’t even have to travel, but that was in the middle of the budget debate. Registration for our Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in Orlando is off 50 percent. The declines in our public-sector conferences are being offset by increases in our private-sector conferences.
Biggest business mistake: Getting into areas where we were not going to be No. 1 or No. 2, just for the sake of expansion. We were publishing in a lot of different areas. We were more heavily on the legal side. We had a publication called Jury Verdict Research, and a lot of miscellaneous, litigation-related newsletters. I really decided that we were too spread out. I like to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the markets we serve, and we weren’t in those areas. We were going up against big, multinational competitors. So we sold that part of the business five years ago, and we reinvested the proceeds into the rest of the business. Over the past five years, we’ve really narrowed the scope of it, and grown what we’re good at. It’s easier to manage.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County’s economy? Things are looking up. The economy is starting to take off. The tax climate in Florida is really positive. The governor is providing really good leadership, and we are attracting a lot of companies from out of state that are recognizing where they are now is costing them a lot of money, both in taxes and in the climate for their employees. Palm Beach County is going to boom again and be a lot more diversified.
What’s the most important trait you look for when hiring? Work ethic. I look for intelligent people who want to work and achieve and get involved in their subject matter.