They say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and if you’ve dared to step out to your local big box store recently, looking to buy a few puzzles to occupy you and the kids while you are all stuck at home, you’ll know what we mean. You’ll know what we mean because the puzzle shelves, along with those selling toilet rolls and hand sanitizers, are completely empty.

knk recently interviewed Sam Minnitti, COO of Galison Publishing as part of knk’s continuing series of interviews with thought leaders serving the publishing industry and its supporting communities. Galison is a publisher of puzzles of all shapes and sizes , among other stationery and gift products. ( They also have a children’s division Mudpuppy ( that offers non-digital and environmentally friendly puzzles, games, and toys that facilitate creative play. knk asked Mr. Minnitti what he views as the publishing industry’s biggest challenges, especially in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sam observed that delivering meaningful content is key; consumers are getting much more demanding, not only in what the content should be, but also in the back story. They no longer want just a finished product; the consumer has become much more vested in the who, why and how of what is being put out there, what the thinking was behind it and how it affects the greater world we live in. And now during the COVID-19 crisis, the idea of a puzzle has taken on new meaning; it’s turned into a ‘self-care’ or therapeutic item. And with that, Galison has seen strong demand in its online direct to consumer business since the ‘stay home’ orders were given.

Mr. Minnitti says that it’s important to understand and publish desirable programs and products for various demographic groups, as within each group you will find different tastes and expectations. Sam told us that puzzles have become increasingly popular — surprisingly, with millennials — and the content of these puzzles differs greatly from that preferred by the museum puzzle customer for example. Millennials are ‘multipliers’ and are more likely to share their experience across social media platforms, and so the exposure of even just one puzzle sold is much greater with that demographic. During the COVID-19 crisis, everyone is spending more time on technology, especially social media, given the physical remoteness that social distancing drives. That means that a company’s products and services and how they are responding to the crisis are being played out across the social media stage now, more than ever before.

He also observes that it’s critically important to have firm control on the end-user experience, the various mediums and platforms that can be utilized to deliver product and content. These expectations are always changing based on the technology and as the competition continues to evolve. Mr. Minnitti believes that being able to serve the direct consumer at the highest level possible has become an instant priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of businesses strengths and weakness and there is a lot to be learned as we move through the pandemic, while thinking about what might change when we return to a new normal.

Galison sells to the broader market (Trade, Specialty and Mass) as well as Export and Online Direct to Consumer. Each of those segments requires distinct treatment around content, marketing and distribution. In online direct-to-consumer for example, the consumer experience is at the forefront. How does a publisher make this work and get the customer to come to them before other online competition, and come back again for their next order? What can they deliver – other than the lowest price – to get consumers involved and excited about their brand (often through social media), to keep them engaged and coming back? Also, how do we best publish and adapt content for our different audiences and their changing aspirations. Being hyper-aware of what your ‘fans’ want and getting that feedback is critical.

On the subject of unrealized opportunities that may present themselves to publishers, Sam says that due to the pandemic, we have become a temporary ‘homebound’ society. We need to carefully digest what we learn from this. For example, what products and services did we get successfully delivered to our homes, for which we previously went out to bricks-and-mortar? Will we be comfortable, continuing to have those items delivered after the pandemic? It’s likely that many companies will not survive this seismic shift in consumer buying. It will affect large and small companies who were challenged before the crisis and do not have a strong online selling presence or strategy.

Technology can play an important role in the recovery. Every company needs to consider building out their online platforms and expand their delivery options to be competitive in the post-pandemic world. We each need to become our own ‘Online Superstore’ and have capabilities to sell and deliver independently.

Sam Minnitti is COO of Galison Publishing LLC, operating under the brand names of Galison and Mudpuppy. He joined the company in 1994 as a Business Analyst. Those were successful yet modest times for the company. Over the years he worked with each department in different roles, making process improvements and the business grew to what it is today. When not attending to his duties at Galison Mudpuppy, Sam can be found spending time with his family and dog Nugget, with a fishing trip or two for good measure.

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash