As the 100th issue of mivision lands in practices around Australia and New Zealand, we reflect on the evolution of one idea.
When co-publisher and business partner Todd Tai and I first discussed the idea of mivision we looked at what existed in the optometry communication landscape in Australia and overseas and realised that there was something missing.
In Australia there were only a couple of optometry publications. These focused on very specific areas of optics.
Australian Optometry was the official newspaper for members of Optometry Australia (then the Association) and Insight newspaper covered the politics of optics. These two had been around for decades and were considered institutions. Publishers had previously tried to enter the optical market but it was impossible against these stalwarts.
…after a few days of mixing prefixes I had
a ‘tipping point’ moment where everything lined up…
This being the landscape, we needed to find a unique point of difference. We weren’t going to bark at the industry, tell it what it should be doing and how it should behave nor did we want to regurgitate changes to government regulations. Instead, we wanted to complement and support the professions and help with communication between them.
At the time, social media was in its infancy and most of us received our news in print.
We spoke with key opinion leaders about what they wanted in a publication. Optometrists and ophthalmologists were vocal about what they didn’t want but, once we cut through those frustrations, the message was clear about what they wanted.
They wanted a publication that could make a difference: that would help bring the eye care community together for the good of the patient.
In the Beginning
From the start we’ve believed in the importance of a seamless patient pathway; one that enables optometrists and ophthalmologists to work together to provide best patient outcomes.
In order to achieve this, we believed it was important to try to improve communication within the eye care community.
Optometrists were a valuable resource to their local ophthalmologists as ophthalmologists were to optometrists… a two-way referral pathway that helped everyone, with optometrists at the core.
What struck us initially about optometry was that while optometrists spent all their time in the ‘bat cave’ at the back of the practice doing eye tests, they made 70 per cent of their turnover from retail sales.
It was that 70 per cent of the business which we initially focused on. Seriously, at the time you could have driven a Mack truck through the niche we found.
What’s in a Name?
We needed a name. We thought that’d be the easy part. We started with ‘Optical Today’, ‘Eyecare Monthly’, ‘On Site’, ‘Optometry News’, and a myriad of other self-explanatory titles. These weren’t unique enough and sat awkwardly on a masthead. From a branding perspective they’d be out of date as soon as the publication was taken out of the plastic wrap.
We liked the word ‘vision’ but if we wanted it to be registered as a business name and Trade Mark our name it needed to be distinctive and non-descriptive of optometry.
Todd and I discussed various prefixes and suffixes. We agreed on ‘Envision’ but discovered it was already registered. Then, after a few days of mixing prefixes I had a ‘tipping point’ moment where everything lined up.
I asked our lawyer whether ‘mivision’ was available: “one word with three i’s?” It was so clear right from the start. The word needed to be in a lower case san serif font.
The name ‘mivision’ reflected both our vision for our readers and our reader’s vison for the patient.
The look of mivision hasn’t changed much from our initial mock up. We wanted it to be clean, simple and always fresh. And, because we’re an industry publication that survives solely on advertising revenue we needed to incorporate third party branding on the front cover. That was going to be tricky.
Todd and I have worked in publishing for most of our lives and every industry publication has had ads sprawled all over the front cover announcing the latest and greatest something. We wanted to change this. We needed to incorporate these messages into the cover but it needed to be subtle – one image, with a logo and a tagline. Something simple and stylish that would connect with the reader and advertiser but also give each issue long-term currency.
Telling multinational organisations with global branding requirements that they need to follow the branding guidelines of a local optical publication is a massive call. Over the years it has taken a lot of discussion and diplomacy to get to a final design where everyone is happy. Standing by our guidelines has benefitted all parties: our readers, advertisers and our brand.
Building a Brand
In order to pay our way, we need advertising. We created a mockup and approached 12 companies who we thought would be interested in our vision.
Have you ever had an idea burning so bright that you can’t put it out? That the very mention of it to others causes them to buy into it? That’s what it was like.
Of the 12 companies we pitched our concept to, eight locked away yearly contracts.
We then spoke with a core group of optometrists and asked them if they’d like to write a column each issue for the first year. They loved the idea. One focused on equipment, the other lenses and another, contact lenses. We brought in a fashion writer as well as a business consultant to write a column.
That left the main story and feature. Back then, the only topics we saw discussed in the optical newspapers were on the politics of optics and the apparent ‘war’ between optometry and ophthalmology so we were slightly overawed at the idea of filling 44 pages every month much less the 92 pages a month plus website content, fortnightly email news and social media that we do now.
But then as we spoke to more people we realised that the politics made up only a small part of the industry, even though the ‘noise’ was loud. We discovered that here were so many stories to tell.
This was our starting point. Everyone was excited about what we wanted to bring to the market.
When our first issue was received by readers in April 2006, we were overwhelmed with how enthusiastic the response was. Readers said that finally a publication was here that reflected the professionalism of the professions.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic response came from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) who worked with us to ensure that every member of RANZCO received a copy of mivision. They suggested ideas for articles and became our first organisational contributor.
The state divisions of Optometry Australia then came on board. While they had their own publication they wanted to write for mivision to reach all the professions.
We have many writers who contribute to mivision each month. In total it will sometimes add up to the collective voice of a more than dozen people an issue who represent the voice of the professions.
When we receive an article from one of our contributors we take it through a rigorous editing process then send it back to them to check before we go to the printers.
We always want a balanced view in an article and speak to as many parties as possible to get an uniform perspective on a story. Even when we write the ‘hard’ stories that will most likely upset someone in the industry, we send the copy off to the relevant party to ensure we have our facts straight. At the end of the day this is a small profession with everyone working for best patient outcomes. There is no need to upset people or create division.
Living the Dream
Since the idea of mivision was birthed we’ve spent each year consolidating and refining our brand and business.
When Todd and I set up our business, we agreed that we wanted a good work-life balance. We’d seen the impact of people working seven days and not having holidays. We didn’t want that for ourselves.
We wanted to make a difference and have fun doing it. To do that we wanted to work five days a week and have four weeks off a year. But who gets to do that?!
What we’ve learnt is that you can do it if it’s part of your business plan from the start.
We have many ideas, such as publishing overseas, education, marketing for practices, brochures, websites and more… and every time we’ve had an idea we plug it into our business and look at how it fits into our work-life business model. If it doesn’t fit, we don’t do it.
Building the Brand
In 2008 we tried our hand at publishing overseas. We’d received requests to take mivision outside Australia from global lens and contact lens companies who have a large footprint in Asia. We produced mivision Singapore and it was very successful but we realised that as a small business, by focusing on a division overseas, we could easily drop the ball on our main game, so we wound up Singapore and poured our energies into Australia and New Zealand.
At this time publishers were increasing their digital or online content to complement their printed delivery, a way to increase sharing of editorial content and full integration of online, print and mobile platforms.
We invested heavily in a modular website which could be added to as we grew, and then tailored mobile platforms as smart phones and tablets became the norm.
Our website traffic is beyond our expectations. In November last year the mivision website, in one month, received nearly 75,000 page views, with CPD education and classifieds being the most popular sections. Similarly, results from our email newsletter are equally impressive.
Over the years eye care professionals have registered to receive mivision’s email newsletters. We send them out once a month to ophthalmologists and each fortnight to optometrists. Our email newsletters are read by 30 per cent of recipients within 24 hours of being sent. In the world of business-to-business email communication this is regarded as an incredibly high read rate.
By increasing the share of editorial content we were able to have a full integration of our print, online and mobile platforms.
As we saw the rise in importance of social media we set up our Facebook page to communicate to a global eye care community. To date we have more than 31,000 members on Facebook.
One of our most exciting and successful initiatives was the launch of the ‘mivision independent clinical learning centre’ in July 2011.
We set up our education centre to help meet the growing continuing education needs of optometrists registered to practice in Australia.
Each month we add modules worth two CPD points and today mivision’s clinical learning centre accounts for more than 10 per cent of the total CPD points accumulated by Australia’s 4,400 optometrists.
In 2014, we provided more than 18,000 CPD points to optometrists in Australia, an increase of 20 per cent on 2013. The number of optometrists participating in
our distance learning also went up from 986 to 1,218 – with each optometrist completing an average of seven and a half modules and earning 15 points towards their 40 point total. In the first two weeks of October last year a record 1,201 optometrists visited our learning centre to fill their quota of 80 CPD points leading up to the 30 November deadline.
Education is a growth area and something we’ll continue to focus on. As long as there is a need we’ll aim to fill it.
We’re proud of mivision. It has given us a launching pad to do some exciting things and to make a difference.
I’ve long held the desire to travel to remote Australian communities and overseas to cover aid work. To see the immediate difference a pair of glasses can make to a person living in outback Australia or East Timor has been life changing for me.
I didn’t want to mention any names in this article, except for one… Prof. Brien Holden. His work has been a great inspiration to us. His passion and vision for making a difference in the world has driven us to do the same. At Southern Regional Congress, only a month after we launched mivision he stood on a small platform and spoke about Optometry Giving Sight. He told the story of a mother who the team was able to give a pair of glasses to. Then he showed the video of her putting them on for the first time. She smiled, leapt around, danced… she hugged the glasses! She was able to see. For the first time she would be able to see the detail of her kids’ faces.
That change to a person’s life was what it was about. The difference a pair of glasses or an IOL can make. That ‘wow’ moment when a person’s life is changed forever.
That’s what we’re here for.
The Editorial Department
When Mark and Todd asked me to write for mivision my original thought was, ‘that’ll be a job that lasts a year… surely all the topics will be covered by then’ but I was in for a surprise.
Four years later I find myself here, each month working on a list of topics to cover that range from professional issues through to personal profiles, fashion, business and research… it’s challenging, rewarding and I love it!
Some of the more interesting stories I’ve written, the ones I hope have made a difference to the patient pathway, have focused on the impact of the ageing eye (looking at co-management of macular degeneration for instance), infant eye health (exploring retinoblastoma) and the management of regional and remote eye health – both in terms of resourcing regional and remote areas and managing patients.
Then there are the articles about the prospects for 3D technology and augmented reality, developments in bionic eye research, profiles of incredible Australians making a difference to eye health and of course the highlights from events I’ve reported on from Australia as well as overseas… all so fascinating to explore.
Every issue is different, every issue is engaging and every issue requires connection with people who work in eye health. I’m constantly surprised and touched by the generosity of those who are willing to share their views and expertise… and I’m constantly thrilled by the responses I receive to the stories we publish at mivision. At conferences, in optometry practices and at events, I’m always told by readers that mivision is read from cover to cover. That the articles are well researched, well-balanced and that the topics we write on are relevant, yet diverse. It’s a great honour to be part of this team, contributing to such a highly respected publication.
The workload ebbs and flows, the stories constantly change, but there are some things that always remain constant at mivision: the coffee must always be good; your colleagues will burst out in song at the most inconvenient moments; no matter how busy you are, there is always time for a laugh or spirited debate about ‘life, the universe and everything’; that you will speak with (and learn from) interview subjects and contacts who are unfailingly generous with their time; that the humanitarian imperative of the profession and the impact of the many eye health outreaches will repeatedly blow you away; that the enthusiasm of mivision to act as a voice to encourage and promote the eye care industry is real and sustained… and, finally, that you will learn the upside to presbyopia is that there are some seriously cool frames out there.
The Design Department
As a graphic designer, I enjoy the entire creative process; from interpreting a brief and developing the initial concepts, through to problem solving, design and technical skills required in the final production process.
I was lucky enough to be involved in the initial design of mivision, and then, years later when Mark and Todd asked if I’d like to join the team in a design production capacity, I jumped at the opportunity.
It’s been an enjoyable process coming full circle, and because of my initial involvement, I feel very connected to the team and the publication.
It’s also gratifying to see something you design pass the test of time and continue to work well over a period of years.
The Production Dept.
I’ve been the production manager with mivision for the past seven years and I love the team environment. I also love the people I talk to on a day-to-day basis – from working with advertisers and contributors to make sure the material they are sending in is on time and meets specifications, through to helping optometrists by providing information about the CPD distance learning centre and the education modules they’ve completed.
When we kicked off the CPD distance learning centre in 2011 I wasn’t sure about how it would go but over the past four years, the response has been incredible. The feedback I receive on a daily basis, from people who are so appreciative of the opportunity to do their CPD online with us, makes me realise that we really are making a difference.
In 2013, when I went to my first ODMA, I had a ball. It was great to finally meet the many people I’d been dealing with over the phone and by email – and it made those relationships even more enjoyable going forward. It was also great to hear, while at ODMA, people’s opinion of our publication. It’s these things that make my role at mivision so rewarding.
The Publisher’s Desk
mivision was not an overnight success. In fact, mivision is a product of decades of training. The mivision story really began in the mid 90s when Mark Cushway and I ran a small magazine consultancy. But it was long before then that we first cut out teeth in our own publishing ventures: Mark through his own music and youth magazines while I published the Taxi Guide.
We are both passionate about publishing. In the 90s we were guns for hire sales people… we sold on straight commission… If we sold nothing we ate nothing! And, nothing motivates you more than hunger.
Throughout the 90s and early 2000 our business flourished. We signed our first major contract with the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia to produce their member based publication Charter, a journal for accountants. It was our first ‘professional’ membership title and for us started a steep learning curve.
We then signed contracts with Australian Geographic (we still do some work for AG today); Wine Selector (the largest wine lifestyle publication in Australia); Open Road for the NRMA and kids magazine D-Mag. In every title we represented we learnt more about what made a successful publication.
In particular, Charter. The respect a chartered accountant had in the business community provided us with the opportunity to secure large advertising and sponsorship agreements. By developing strong corporate relationships we were able to produce a professional and respected business to business publication.
The skills we learnt in those days still keep us in good stead today. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are similar to accountants as a professional group… professionals who are trusted and respected by their community.
This background made it possible for us to create a quality journal that represents the ophthalmic professions.
The knowledge that we gained, from working with all these titles, we poured into mivision. Without this knowledge and skill, acquired over many (many) decades collectively, mivision
would not have been possible
Online Content Manager
I joined mivision late 2009. I was a first year student studying law at University of NSW. I’d never had a job before and I knew that I needed to get some real life experience in a field that was new to me. I was very much drawn to the world of publishing and so I began to embark on a mission to find a position with a renowned publication.
I was particularly interested in optometry, so mivision was the first place I contacted. I got some courage and contacted mivision to see if I could get some work experience during my holidays.
Mark gave me my lucky break! mivision took me on, and educated me with all the skills needed to create electronic content. In time I was entrusted to upload all the content to mivision’s website, not as a work experience intern, but an employee of mivision.
Now, five years later, I have graduated from law and work as full-time legal counsel. I still cherish my role with mivision and remain the online content manager still today.