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Issue for April 2020

Covid-19 and the Media Industry

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:41 PM

The latest news about how the novel coronavirus is affecting the publishing business.

Indie Magazines Form Subscription Bundle

With many physical newsstands and brick-and-mortar stores closed for business, niche indie print magazine publishers have had to find new ways to survive. One such solution: Magbox, a subscription-based curated collection service. Greg Dool of Foliomag.com reports that “the first box will be shipped in June, containing the latest issue of ROVA as well as Adventure Journal, Drift, Fifty Grande and Sandwich magazines.” Boxes will ship every two months with a different mix of titles each time. Read more here.

NYT Pauses Sunday Travel Section

With travel on the back burner until the Covid-19 pandemic eases, the New York Times is rethinking its Sunday supplement. This week, it replaced the travel section with a new “At Home” section to reflect the current reality. Read more here.

Payments for Publishers Delayed

The coronavirus has worsened a longstanding problem in the publishing industry: payment schedules. Publishers were already struggling with payment terms that stretched as long as net-60, but now, according to Max Willens of Digiday.com, those payment schedules have widened even further: “Through the first three weeks of April 2020, payment delays on invoices to publishers and media agencies have increased 20%, according to data collected by FastPay.... Separate research conducted by Oarex ... found that the number of firms that paid their invoices late rose 14.6%, to 55%, in the first quarter.” Even worse, Willen says, the problem is likely to magnify in the coming weeks and months, creating further cash flow nightmares for many publishers. Read more here.

Magazine Print Revenue Up

The news for magazine publishers during the pandemic isn’t all bad. Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post reported this month that newsstand sales were up last month thanks to Covid-19 panic buying. Sales slowed as March drew to a close, but the surge earlier in the month helped offset the slowdown. But tougher time may be ahead, Kelly warns: “Monthly magazines had already sold the ads for the May issues prior to the pandemic, so the slowdown is expected to start showing in the June issues. Some advertisers have pulled back completely, while others are trying to recalibrate their messages.” Read more here.

Membership Up at Daily Beast Inside

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, the Daily Beast has seen a jump in memberships to its Beast Inside product, reports Kayleigh Barber of Digiday.com. As some other publications have done, Daily Beast has kept content pertaining to Covid-19 and public health free to all. But, as Barber notes, “some of the growth has been driven by making more of its opinion and analysis coronavirus coverage beyond the paywall.” Read more here.

Cuts at Meredith

Meredith is making big changes due to the current advertising slump. Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the magazine publishing giant is cutting pay for 60 percent of its staffers until September and “instituting a hiring and wage freeze and a ‘significant’ reduction in using freelance writers for its magazines.... [I]t is withdrawing its fiscal 2020 performance expectations last communicated in February and is suspending its dividend.” Read more here.

Layoffs at Gannett and in Other Newsrooms

News publisher Gannett has laid off workers nationwide, but specific information about the locations and extent of the layoffs has been hard to come by. Kristen Hare and Ren LaForme of Poynter.org have been providing continuous updates in their dig for more information. It’s not clear whether or not the layoffs stem from coronavirus-related losses or the company’s 2019 merger with GateHouse, though one source tells Poynter that it’s the latter. Drawing largely from social media postings, Hare and LaForme have compiled, and continue to update, a list of states with known layoffs. Read more about the Gannett layoffs here. For a running list of newsrooms that have furloughed or laid off employees, click here.

Media Professionals Who Have Died of Covid-19

Poynter has compiled a list of media professionals who have died of coronavirus and has been updating it as things develop. The list includes prominent journalists and photojournalists from all over the world. Read it here.

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Covid-19 Situation Report -- Part I

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:41 PM

Top editors tell us how Covid-19 has affected all aspects of their jobs.

By the Editors Only staff

[Editorial Note: We've debated whether to go with COVID-19 or Covid-19 as a style choice. Most media are running the disease name in all caps: COVID-19. Some publications, including Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, along with news outlets Bloomberg and CNN, however, have adopted the initial-cap version (although CNN has been inconsistent). Our staff consensus is that COVID-19 is a little overwhelming to the eye, even if it is the scientifically correct version. We've opted to adopt "Covid-19" for EO style. It is the cleanest-looking option and will serve readers the best, in our view.]

We asked readers how the Covid-19 crisis has affected their publications. Here's what they told us:

Jenn Fiedler, editor, Township Focus

Covid-19 has greatly impacted the way in which we are communicating with our members. Our staple publication, a monthly magazine called Township Focus, has been back-burnered while we shift our attentions to providing near daily updates, guidance, and resources to our member townships, as they continue to serve more than half of Michigan's residents during this time.

We've created new email updates, new video updates, new web resources, increased social media posts, and expanded webinars to provide more immediate information to our members. Trying to figure out how to cover Covid-19 in our magazine -- which will hit mailboxes up to two weeks after any articles have been written -- has been a challenge, as information seems to change on an almost minute-to-minute basis. At the same time, we are offering non-Covid-related information in the magazine as well, so it's not "all Covid all the time."

We have heard from just a few advertisers who fear the impact on their business and wish to pull back on marketing spending. So we are also brainstorming new ways to offer additional exposure, opportunities, and benefits to our advertisers and other vendors who support our association. It has truly been a team effort to come together -- even as we are working apart -- during these past few weeks to ensure we are meeting our member needs. Based on their feedback, they are appreciative of our shifts in focus and our commitment to keeping them on top of the crisis, and the changes that impact our members as a result.

Jayne Haugen Olson, editor-in chief, Mpls.St.Paul magazine

Our May issue had about half of the budgeted revenue. We did not cut our editorial pages. We want to deliver as much editorial as we can. The June issue closes on April 23, and we anticipate the same trend. We are highly dependent on local advertising, and nearly all of our clients are closed (retail, restaurants, arts organizations, health and dental, etc.).

Our quarterly home and design magazine closed a few weeks ago, and was close to budget. As a local magazine, the local builders, remodelers, and designers want to keep up their advertising.

New initiative: Last week we have launched MSPtv and are delivering both live and prerecorded content via our social channels daily. Each day is dedicated to a different content silo -- health and fitness, local music, local thought leaders, restaurants, etc. The goal is three-pronged: All of these local businesses are closed, so we want to allow them the visibility to our audience. As a monthly magazine, we want to use our digital and social channels to be a part of local conversations and provide some service and entertainment to our audiences. And third, we will now approach potential sponsors. Since our event team is not involved in executing any live events, their team is working with editorial on the logistics, posting, providing tips and tricks lists to our guests on how to use the technology, and more.

Jan Ramsey, editor-in-chief, OffBeat magazine

We have stopped publishing our print publication and have gone to an all-digital format for the time being, which means a mindset change from publishing a "monthly" magazine to publishing digital content every day. We've seen about a 90 percent drop in advertising. It's made it harder on us, as we're doing most of the content ourselves and not having freelancers do it as we cannot afford to pay them. God, say a prayer for all of us!

Jef White, executive editor, The Shop magazine

We are a trade magazine for the auto aftermarket. Our in-house editorial team is just my online editor and me. We are both obviously working from home now. We immediately put together messages for our advertisers and readers, asking how this is affecting them and then sharing their status (open, closed, essential, etc.) and stories, along with the important small business information coming in to us from government and other sources. We have a Covid-19 section on the website that is updated daily, and we share those updates and other news in our Monday–Friday e-newsletter.

Meanwhile, my first fully-from-home monthly printed issue of the magazine will include a mix of Covid-19 news from the website; drop-in sidebar updates for some of the longer articles we already had planned for the issue, as appropriate; and some general articles that don't mention the coronavirus at all.

I would suggest that editors continue to make news gathering at this time a two-way street -- ask your readers (and advertisers, if appropriate) more than once for input and stories on what's going on and how they are dealing with things. Obviously there are tons of interesting stories to go with the serious/scary reporting that needs to be done, and I think everyone appreciates a good mix.

Our advertisers for the most part are taking a wait-and-see attitude. None have panicked or dropped everything yet -- it's obviously going to be a while until we all feel the full effects.

Rachel Grabenhofer, managing editor, Cosmetics & Toiletries

We're working from home 100 percent (we had several telecommuters, so it was only a matter of IT getting all the equipment together); weekly video conferences to reconnect with our entire team; a much bigger influx of email to sort through, which is taking 3x as much time as before -- a lot dealing with Covid19 but some not -- and we want to remain relevant but not Covid-19 folks to death with our news -- we try to focus on steps to move forward; added weekly meeting slots for meetings with sales and event planners; also working beyond and outside of regular core hours to fit at-home education into the mix of normal working hours. (Thank god for flexible management; it's appreciated.)

Tips for fellow editors: Be sure if you plan to do more videocasting and podcasting that you have all the services to do so and all the right permissions to make it happen; you kind of need to have the independence to see it all through and some level of flexibility from teammates to let you run with things.

We've seen a drop in advertising to some degree, mainly content like e-blasts pushing people to visit booths at shows that no longer are happening. We're seeing an uptick in all the digital formats (sponsored podcasts, sponsored videos, webinars, newsletter content, paid e-blast pushes).

Name withheld by request

I can't really talk about this for print, and I don't have numbers on advertising. But off the record, ads are down substantially, we are running fewer pages and less color, our staff was already a shadow of its former self, and we are all just doing our best to serve our community while working from home and dealing with rolling furloughs. Nothing positive to share here except great respect for our staff and their work.

Andrew Simpson, chief content officer, Wells Media Group

We are a small, lean company of under 40 employees. Wells Media is publisher of publications for the property/casualty insurance industry including Insurance Journal, Carrier Management, and Claims Journal. Our editorial staff is less than a third of that. We publish three daily digital newsletters and about a half dozen weekly specialty newsletters as well as two print magazines, 24 times and six times a year. We also produce regular video interviews and webinars.

We are fortunate to have an owner and CEO who care and put people first. Just as they did during the Great Recession, they have committed to do everything they can to keep everyone in the company all on the payroll. Just today they announced our first quarter profit-share bonus will be paid per usual.

The bottom line is we can't complain. We are fortunate in many ways. We also happen to serve an industry that is essential and still working, largely remotely. Our web traffic is off the charts. Subscriptions are up. Webinar registrations are exceeding system maximums. We also have an amazing ad sales team that has thus far succeeded in securing most major accounts or placements.

Working from home is not new to us at Wells Media. The entire editorial team of full-time employees has worked remotely for nearly 20 years. We have an office in San Diego, but for decades we have been largely a work-from-home company. We are very experienced with video interviews and Zoom meetings. The company supplies all the equipment and programs we need. So we did not have to make major adjustments.

The other side of this is we are busier than ever. There are multiple insurance issues in this crisis. They include business interruption, workers' compensation, workplace safety, medical liability, employer liability, wrongful terminations, reduced driving, auto insurance discounts, and more. Every day there are court cases and legislation to report at both state and federal levels. Our readers are themselves having to adjust as other small and large businesses have been forced to do, and they are worried that many of their customers may be out of business for good.

The news requirements and feature possibilities are seemingly endless. The volume of calls, emails, and tips is probably triple or quadruple what's normal. The challenge for our content team is being able to sort through it all and focus on what is important to our readers and leave the rest to others. I think everyone in every job is probably having trouble staying focused. It can be frustrating and exhausting. At the same time that more people are reaching out, the more difficult it seems to actually speak with people. More phone calls go unanswered. Many calls to offices are not forwarded to workers at home. Most conversations have to be scheduled. Email seems more important than ever. As a result, it takes longer to complete stories than it used to. But it's all doable.

Our writers, like others working at home, now share their formerly quiet domestic workspaces with their kids and partners. But they don't mind; they get their work done when they can. Editorial team members talk more on the phone with one another than they used to. We have made more of an issue of our team's daily phone call check-ins. The calls seem more important now and while we are still spread out across the country, we feel closer as a team now than ever. And we are busier than ever.

Again, bottom line for us at Wells Media, working at our company, covering this industry, we can't complain at all. We are fortunate.

Bradley Worrell, editor-in-chief, RV PRO magazine

As the coronavirus pandemic spread, my Colorado-based company took the precaution of closing its office in mid-March and mandated that everyone work from home. I totally agreed with that decision.

Still, after multiple weeks of working from home, I miss the daily interaction with my co-workers, I miss working at my work desk with all my things, and I really, really miss getting actual page proofs that I can hold in my hands and mark up with my trusty red pen. In place of that, I am proofing pages by posting virtual "sticky notes" on PDF pages that I view on my small computer screen. It's just not the same thing -- not by a long shot.

Assuming conditions continue to improve, the plan is that our headquarters will re-open in a matter of weeks, and personally, I can't wait to get back into the office.

Lisa Hurley, content director, Special Events magazine

Wish I could comment but we are slammed -- wishing you all good luck.

[More comments to come in the next issue of Editors Only.]

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A Tribute to Peter P. Jacobi

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:41 PM

Contributing over 275 articles and 25 years, Peter Jacobi offered a plenitude of lessons for EO readers.

By Denise Gable

Editors Only lost one of our own on December 24, 2019. Peter Jacobi, a monthly contributor since July 1994, passed away at the age of 89.

William Dunkerley recalls: "I first met Peter when I was a relatively young managing editor of a national association monthly. He presented a workshop on editing during a conference of the American Society of Association Executives that I attended. His presentation was outstanding and I learned quite a lot. First he introduced some principles and techniques and then had us write copy that hopefully reflected our new skills. I was very impressed with his authoritative style and use of humor. Decades later when I was looking for a regular contributor to Editors Only on the subject of writing, Peter was the first person I turned to. I continued to learn much from him as I read his EO articles over the years. His passing is a great loss to us all."

Peter was a valued member of the team, contributing 277 articles (he kept count) on topics ranging from story structure to using your voice to the element of surprise -- all with the goal of keeping readers engaged and happy. "Every consideration must take me back to the reader, what his or her wants and needs are likely to be," he wrote.

"If you are a regular reader of my monthly contributions, you know I quote a lot. That’s because, when I come across a morsel or two of advice or a sample of something I benefited from reading, I want to share it, having recognized that you’ll get information from someone I think is smarter than I am. Or from someone with a different and useful perspective. Or someone or some place that I never would have thought of as source and I believe you also my might not." You’ll find tidbits from his inspiring writing throughout this article.

In his last submission to Editors Only, he wrote about rhythm. "As I write this column during the last days of May, I am still thinking about the death, just a few weeks ago, of Mary Oliver. The news made me sad. She was and remains a poet who moved me."

Peter found inspiration in poetry and his beloved music, but also managed to find journalistic lessons in fundraising letters and, as he put it, not-so-important mail. "Somehow, life got in my path, and -- being a month short of 89 as I write -- I’m increasingly doubtful that trekking and dogsledding and kayaking through the wilderness are for me to accomplish. How I love the article’s details and sense of purpose, though. It got my mind to Alaska, if not the physical rest of me," he wrote when citing an AARP newsletter article.

After this article he requested a leave of absence to close down his longtime home and move with his wife, Hattie, into an adult living community. Sadly, he was unable to return to Editors Only: Hattie passed away on September 30, and he followed three months later.

Peter was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1930. He came with his family to the United States at age eight where he became a naturalized citizen six years later. He earned two degrees focused on journalism from Northwestern University in the early 1950s. He then served in the US Army from 1953 to 1955. Later in 1955 he joined the faculty at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism as a lecturer. Before leaving Medill he attained the rank of professor and associate dean.

In 1985 he began teaching journalism classes at Indiana University. He reluctantly retired in 2017 as professor emeritus. Two years ago he wrote, "I no longer teach my classes, since I dropped out two years ago when I was 85. By then, I had been officially retired for 16 years but was still teaching part time. It was long enough, I decided."

Peter was a member of the Association for Education in Journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Association of University Professors, and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He also wrote a weekly arts column for his local newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana; was a member of the Indiana Arts Commission, serving as chairman from 1990 to 1993; and is author of The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It and Writing with Style: The News Story and the Feature, both available on Amazon. In 2019 he was cited by Marquis Who's Who Top Educators for "dedication, achievements, and leadership in the field of journalism."

Peter and I corresponded through monthly emails for almost 20 years. Technology was not always his friend, and once Editors Only went digital, he politely requested that I print and send hard copies for his review and records. Between teaching, traveling, and writing, he was a busy man but would do his best to honor our deadlines: "The day is rain-soaked and gloomy. But getting another column done is like sunshine."

In our March 2017 issue, he wrote: "I convinced myself many years ago that I don’t believe in writer’s block. And when it comes to making deadlines when I used to meet (and still do) deadlines with news and feature stories for newspapers, with program material for radio and television, with putting together and out magazine issues, I always ended up following my belief that deadlines must be met.... Almost all I write is done so under the self-imposed pressure brought on by delay. The column you’re here reading is being written on the 29th of the month, and it probably wouldn’t have been started until tomorrow or the day after, if I weren’t scheduled for cataract surgery tomorrow, which has led me to the realization I better get this column done pronto."

In later years, the emails tended to concentrate on the challenges of aging and declining health. The last time he wrote, he said, "Such things happen when you’re 89! They show up unannounced and unwelcome."

In the coming months, we will be republishing a few of his classic articles as a tribute to his long association with Editors Only.

"Yes, writing is difficult, but think of other professions and think what your accomplishment can mean for those you reach with your words. Long years ago, between jobs, between being forced to put a magazine to sleep and being offered a short-term university teaching position, I spent a couple of weeks selling Christmas trees in bitter Chicago cold; with two young children, my wife and I needed the money. Now, whenever I get unhappy with my writing, I think about that experience; suddenly my discontent about writing alters into gratitude for what I’ve ended up doing most of my life: working with words rather than Christmas trees. Writing is not so bad, after all. I’ve come to love it."

Thank you, Peter, for all your words and lessons!

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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"RIP, Peter. I learned something from every single one of his articles. He will be missed." --Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, www.WriterRuth.com

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Free Assistance

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:35 PM

During this time of crisis, we stand ready to answer any specific questions our readers may have, time permitting. You can contact us at:


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Recovery Help

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 9:16 PM

When the national health crisis subsides, editors unfortunately should not expect to easily resume business as usual. Economists are predicting tough times ahead. In addition, the impact of the crisis may well result in different expectations of us on the part of our audiences. Editors Only will provide a series of articles to help you all through the period of recovery and readjustment.

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