Quality control

Mike Richman

PHOTO BY vic cantu

Every Friday at 11 a.m. for the last three years, Chico’s Mike Richman has been a star of sorts on webcasts for an online magazine called Quality Digest. As publisher and sales manager, he and Editor in Chief Dirk Dusharme have a lively, oftentimes humorous half-hour show called Quality Digest Live about manufacturing tools, technology and hardware. They review and discuss everything from calibrators to business quality standards to GM’s faulty ignition switch. Though the subject might seem tedious to some, Richman, 46, who admits he’s a bit of a ham, is able to make these sessions entertaining and educational for his viewers. The webcast is just one of several ways Richman has steered the 34-year-old company through the difficult change from a print magazine to Web-only status. The shows are mostly shot at Quality Digest’s 1,100-square-foot Chico studio, but Richman has traveled throughout the United States to film them. Catch his webcasts and find out more at www.QualityDigest.com or call 893-4095.

What is Quality Digest about?

We are in the quality-assurance business and help major manufacturers and service industries like health care, banking and education. We assist them in complying with and improving registered standards and measurements using both tools and tech hardware so the stuff they give to their customers is right.

How did you become the publisher?

I was the editor for a national New Age/alternative health magazine in Chico called Magical Blend. In 2004, I was hired as the managing editor of this other Chico-based national magazine called Quality Digest. The following year, the publisher left to focus on another business and I took over.

How was converting from a print magazine to the Web?

Very difficult. We’d been a physical magazine since 1980, and in the early 2000s advertising revenue for all print media dropped off as readers and advertisers turned to the Web. We had to figure out how to replicate our revenue on the Web. We drastically cut staff, improved our website and started an email newsletter that goes out to 40,000 readers. We also began our weekly webcasts with our Emmy Award-winning videographer partner Chris Smith. We eventually transitioned to Web-only in 2008.

What’s it like filming the webcasts?

The first couple of dozen shows scared the crap out of me. When that red “live” camera light goes on it can shock you. But now that I’ve done 150 shows—[we just celebrated] our third anniversary—it’s the highlight of my week. We cover industry news, audience emails and live product demos. Sometimes we have guests via Skype or they’ll fly in personally with their equipment. A few hundred watch us “live,” but we’ve had up to 11,000 watch past episodes.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned doing this?

That the only true control you have is letting go. Toward the end of our print era I thought we would go out of business. But there is a need for a third party like us to review products. I found you can use the few tools available to you to make a big presence. It doesn’t cost as much now as it used to. We’re more profitable now than in the last two years of our print magazine.