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Issue for May 2020

Industry Magazines in the Covid Age

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:19 PM

In the news: How are industry magazines evolving to serve the needs of their readers at this critical juncture?

Industry magazines are adapting on the fly as the publishing industry absorbs the blows of the Covid-19 pandemic. Greg Dool of Foliomag.com sums up the challenges these magazines are facing: "Publishers of all sizes have been forced to make important decisions quickly to adapt to the moment and remain valuable to their readers, especially those whose magazines serve professionals in explicitly defined industries, many of which are facing unprecedented disruptions of their own."

And the focus isn't just on content planning and audience development. Many magazine professionals are having to adapt to their teleworking arrangements and resultant feelings of isolation, which Zoom meetings can do only so much to assuage. [C&En editor-in-chief Bibiana] Campos-Seijo tells Dool that "the shift to remote work has been relatively smooth.... Video conferencing has been useful not just for productivity, but for ensuring staffers' mental wellbeing and maintaining a sense of camaraderie that publishers can't afford to lose in all of the commotion. In addition to Zoom happy hours ... the C&EN team has had a Zoom graduation party, and even three Zoom baby showers."

Read more about the pandemic's effect on industry magazines here.

Also Notable

Adjusted Issue Schedules This Fall

Some glossy fashion magazines are adjusting their release schedules for the upcoming fall issues. "Some publishers are pushing back the release dates of their most crucial issues of the year from August to September, allowing more time for ads and samples to roll in," reports Kathryn Hopkins of Women's Wear Daily. "It will also give editors additional time to shoot models and celebrities." In other words, September issues of some fashion magazines will actually come out in September. Read more here.

"Presenteeism": A Burgeoning Epidemic?

In a recent Digiday.com piece, Shareen Pathak examines the pressure editors and other publishing professionals are feeling to be present at all times throughout, and beyond, the workday. "If your boss can't see you feverishly working, did you even log a 60-hour week?" she muses. "For many, it means showing up, figuratively, if not literally." Some editors told Pathak that they were bringing their phones to the bathroom so as not to miss office communications, and others were pressured by supervisors to attend "optional" video happy hours and meetings. As the Washington Post recently reported and Pathak notes, some companies are going so far as to spy on their teleworking employees with various software programs and through webcams. All this is creating a culture of fear and anxiety that is taking its toll on editors as they adjust to their new work-from-home realities. Read more here.

Editor and Journalist Rights During Protests

The arrests of CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and two of his colleagues on live television in Minneapolis this week has brought journalist rights during protests into sharp focus. In a 2014 piece originally geared toward the Ferguson protests and reprinted this week in response to the Minnesota protests, Kristen Hare of Poynter.org provides a crucial primer for journalists and editors covering demonstrations and civil unrest, highlighting constitutional rights and legal protections for the media in these situations. Read it here.

2020 National Magazine Awards for Print and Digital Media

The National Magazine Awards were held via livestream, on Thursday, May 28. Top winners were The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and Bon Appétit, reports Sara Guaglione of MediaPost.com. Per Guaglione, ASME intends to hold an in-person ceremony to honor the winners later this year and awards will be mailed to the winners. Read more here.

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To Edit or to Butcher -- That Is the Question

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:19 PM

Some thoughts about the writer-editor relationship.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Shakespeare once said: "I'll call for pen and ink and write my mind."

Do that. Let writers write their mind.

Remind them of their responsibility and your expectation, of course. But let them write their mind.

On matters of responsibility and expectation: these might well parallel what the late William Shawn of The New Yorker said he always looked for. "Honest writing," he called it. Writing that's more than effect, more than manners; writing that's straightforward, accurate, clear, truthful; writing that sees into a situation; writing of substance rather than merely attractive surface; writing with style."

But along with that, let your writers write their mind.

Don't Cramp Style

Fear not a writer's personality. Encourage it.

Certainly, copy the feel and mood of your publication. But be flexible. Permit a wider rather than narrower range for suitability. Demand quality, but accept variety of approach. Not all writing in a given publication should sound alike. (All too often, it does.) No piece of writing in fact, should sound like any other. If it does, the editor probably has gone too far, and formula has taken hold.

Be an editor. Be not a butcher or tinkerer. The butcher slaughters copy. The tinkerer fiddles with it endlessly and aimlessly or pointlessly. Be an editor. Build on a writer's strength. Pay allegiance to his ideas. And cut out stuff that seems to get in the way of her message.

The results of the writer-editor relationship should be an article that says what the author wants to say and in a way that the editor believes the reader would want it said. And as much of this with the knowledge of the writer. Let that lonely soul feel part of the editing process, buy into the editorial decisions being made.

A Collaborative Effort

As someone once put it, to be a writer is to be a talker, and to be an editor is to be a listener. That makes the writing-editing process a dialogue. The writer, through scripted words, does most of the talking. The editor, through reaction, does most of the listening. And if in the listening the editor fails to grasp, fails to get pleasure, fails to be convinced, then he has to talk back and make the writer listen. The best magazine articles and best magazines come from the collaborative cooperation of editors and writers.

Consider yourself the hired help whose task is to help the writer get everything right and bright and clear. Consider yourself a gatekeeper whose task, based on editorial policy, tradition, and intuition, is to invite and keep out. Consider yourself the maintainer of perspective. The writer is immersed in subject matter. The editor must stand back at least a step or two and consider thoughtfully what the writer's material means, what issues, what trends, what ramifications are involved. The writer deals in the currency of events. The editor deals in the currency of ideas.

Steven Gittelson, when he was articles editor for Chicago magazine, once told a class of mine that editors are "links between writers and readers." He said he always looked for articles that were "immediate, personable, and literate," for pieces "with a specific voice to establish a tone, for stories that unfold at a precise pace, and prose that unfurls with a precise cadence."

Gittelson labeled these sought-for components as fragile. "When editing a story," he said, "I must assume that the writer thought good and hard about each word, sentence, and paragraph. An editor must be even more sensitive to these elements. If you're worth your salt as an editor, you don't capriciously delete some sentences and rewrite others just because you would have said it differently. One of the best compliments an editor can receive is that he has helped an author say what was intended, but in a more clear and readable fashion."

Writer and editor collaborate in the fight to prevent the reader's ho-hum. It's a common attitude among those you consider your audience. They're neither pro nor con; they're non-committed, passive. To drive away the ho-hums and ignite the passion is the editor's grand challenge.

Perilous "P" Words

Watch for the dangerous "P" words. Warn against them. Weed them out.

The previous -- subject matter that suggests it was, so it shall always be in the pages of this magazine.

The predictable -- a lack of surprises in your publication.

The perfunctory -- work that shows evidence of having been forced out of writers or rather than having been there enjoy to originate and do.

The phlegmatic -- tired work.

The pedantic -- academese.

The pompous -- self-important boosting and boasting, phony loftiness.

The preachy -- soapbox or pulpit sermonizing.

The prevaricating -- speak the truth as you see it; don't lie.

The piddling -- cut stuff that's unimportant or likely to be interesting to the reader, even though it may be interesting to you.

The porous -- plug the holes in copy and coverage.

The precious -- material that’s simply too-too, that's unnatural.

The processed -- material that seems like fodder from an assembly line, lacking originality.

Advocate Exemplary Writing

Never forget as you evaluate copy, the reader must be served fully with every word, in every moment he or she agrees to share with you. Encourage discipline, the discipline to stick to subject, the discipline to make every word, every sentence fit, the discipline to leave out those words and sentences that don't, the discipline to remove those ideas and those pieces of information that prove non-essential, all this in your effort to inform and entertain the reader.

Strive in the evaluation/editing process for accuracy.

Strive for brevity, but completeness, too. What you offer the reader should answer all potentially proposed questions. Be aware of thoroughness in reporting.

Strive for clarity. As E. B. White once commented: "When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair."

Strive for flow. From sentence to sentence and idea to idea, let there be linkage.

Strive for structural integrity. Determine what sort of organization or plan best unfolds the information in each article.

Consider also the focus of the article under your mental microscope. That focus should point toward your particular readership and none else. It should make the article in every way appropriate for your reader. Determine whether everything in that manuscript is suitable for your magazine, the subject, and the reader.

Be alert for style, meaning the writer's personality hatched in words.

It is for you, the editor, to complete a writer's good work. That makes you colleagues. That makes you friends. Testy ones perhaps. But friends engaged in a common cause.

This article, first published in Editors Only for July 1994, was the late Peter P. Jacobi's first contribution to EO. We reprint it now in tribute to our longtime writer. Future issues will continue the tribute with a few more of his classic pieces.

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Covid-19 Situation Report -- Part II

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:19 PM

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

By the Editors Only staff

Readers continue to comment on how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted their publications:

Susan Buningh, executive editor, Attention magazine, director of communications, CHADD

Even before our office closed on March 16 and our entire staff began working remotely, the coronavirus crisis affected every aspect of our nonprofit's communications and publications staff. We are still publishing a bimonthly print and digital magazine, but we are between issues so I am uncertain of the immediate effect on our advertising. Advertising revenue has been down for the past few years. We publish a weekly e-newsletter, but only one of those issues carries advertising. No new ads were sold for the March issue, which came out the last week of March. I won't know the status for April until later.

In response to the crisis, we reworked our planned content for the magazine and newsletters. We began publishing at least three blogs per week with content tailored to the needs of our audience, which is more frequent than our usual one or two per month. We also increased the number and frequency of podcasts featuring experts; so far, in one month, we have recorded more podcasts in response to the crisis than we usually record over the course of a year.

My tip for other editors: Be nimble.

Yadin Roman, editor-in-chief, Eretz magazine

Most of the editorial staff is working from home. As we are a geographical-leisure-history magazine, advertising content has zeroed. Outstanding advertising has not been paid.

On the other hand: As people have more time to read, sales of new subscriptions and especially book sales have grown. I have the impression that one of the results of the crisis will be a surge in print material -- books and magazines. A large segment of magazine and print book readers are in the 64-plus age range; here in Israel most have a regular pension.

For this segment of the population, there will be a decline in many leisure activities, especially where groups of people gather together in crowded circumstances (theater, flying, large hotels, etc.). Some of the "spare time" thus created will be for stay-at-home activities (or long stays at B&Bs, for example). This will promote reading -- and the pleasure in reading -- a nice printed book or high-quality design magazines.

Name withheld by request

Right now, my editorial team is going about business mostly as usual, since we're a fairly small team, and many of us worked remotely before being ordered to do so. We put out daily e-newsletters and monthly print issues. Advertising for all of those is steady at this time, but I imagine there could be a trailing effect as those clients pare budgets. There will be no industry trade shows or events for staff to attend this year, although some are moving to virtual events that may work for getting content.

This is the first print issue we will do with zero physical contact or signing off of the pages, so we are using the comments tool in Adobe Acrobat to get across notes and corrections between editorial and production.

We have shifted to putting out more podcasts of interviews with key people in our industry, which includes a weekly sponsored email that promotes the new episodes. We also have done and will continue to do more in-depth sponsored video interviews or tours on a particular topic.

We are part of a larger company that puts on a lot of events, however, so the future is still not certain, regardless of the strength of our segment currently.

Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Trucking

Advertising has definitely dropped, although I can't tell you by what percentage. Most significantly affected were the events we had scheduled, which have all been canceled or postponed. I'm operating with a much-reduced editorial team, yet there's a lot of pressure to come up with more Covid-19 coverage -- both to serve our readers and because it's one area advertisers still seem to have an appetite for sponsoring.

Trucking is significantly affected by the pandemic. As an essential industry, trucking transports everything from medical supplies to groceries to, yes, toilet paper. At the same time, as the economy overall slows down, freight overall is scarcer. And there are global supply chain issues rippling through all this as well. Fleets want to know how to keep their drivers safe, need to stay on top of changing federal and state exemptions and guidances, and want analysis to help them figure out where we go from here.

So we're working very long days. The print product is taking a backseat right now to digital coverage, webinars, resource centers, photo galleries, and exploring new content types for us, such as video blogs, recorded Zoom conferences, and podcasting. We're doing a lot of webinars; we have shrunk what's normally a months-long process for producing webinars down to anywhere from 2 weeks down to 72 hours.

I would say a good 80 percent of our content focus right now is Covid-19 related, although we are still addressing many of the regular topics our readers need to keep their businesses running efficiently. We ditched our planned cover story for our May issue to instead focus on interviews with fleets and how they are handling the situation. Longer-term planning -- and, to be honest, meticulous proofreading -- have also taken a backseat.

We're reaching out to non-journalist industry experts for more guest content. We're also coordinating more closely with sister brands at our company where our audiences have some overlapping information needs. We've gone from monthly calls with that group to weekly ones, plus more email and Slack conversations as well.

And while I've worked from home for years, having to do so has been a challenge for colleagues who don't have a full office at home like I do. It affects your productivity when you're working from a kitchen table on a laptop with a VOIP phone app where callers can hear the clothes dryer tumbling in the background. We find ourselves working and communicating on evenings and weekends to try to work around some of those issues. Communication channels are varied -- office phone, cell phone, text, slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, email, and Asana.

Matt Whipp, Haymarket Media Group

I'm a product person rather than edit, but we are making some changes. As a B2B we are not sending print copies but switching to digital editions during the lockdown -- there is no benefit to anyone in sending a print edition to a closed office.

We are also producing a lot of Covid-focussed content for which we are removing access limits. As a trade journal we feel we have an important role to play in sharing experiences from across the industries we cover and giving a voice.

We've been introducing new polls on key issues for which we can analyze the job titles of respondents. This has given us some amazing insights and has led to some really compelling content, with many times the engagement of what we'd previously considered successful.

Rebecca Stauffer, managing editor, PDA Letter

My publication, as of the first week in April, has made access to all of our content free. Our publication audience consists of pharma and biotech employees, so we felt this was a way to help the industry we support by providing as much information available as possible.

We're also posting Covid-19-related content on a regular basis.

Rachel H. Pollack, editorial director, Scrap magazine

The novel coronavirus pandemic hit the United States as we were producing our magazine's convention issue. This issue is typically at least 50 percent larger than a regular issue, with substantial content devoted to the mid-April convention and exposition and a lot of related advertising. In mid-March, my association announced it was canceling the convention. We ended up removing from the issue all convention content and many ads, rewriting and re-editing other content that made reference to the convention or other canceled events, and adding new content about the pandemic and the resources the association is providing to help members address it. This resulted in a delay in production, less advertising, and a smaller issue, but we will save some money on printing and distribution.

Going forward, we of course plan to write about the many effects the pandemic is having on the industry we cover. We're also postponing stories that are less relevant today. For example, we had scheduled an article on innovative places to look for workers in a tight employment market, but now millions more people will be looking for work.

We're expecting budgets to be much tighter for our members, our advertisers, and ourselves; thus we're planning smaller issues, less use of freelance writers, and less travel. The pandemic and its response will also have a broader impact on the editors' development, as we use in-person events and member site visits as opportunities for education and networking. We are participating in video conferences and conference calls, but they don't foster the one-to-one connections that are so useful for developing sources.

AAAS Science International, Inc.

There isn't anyone available to comment as our priority at present is keeping the journal running smoothly.

Sharon Shinn, co-editor, BizEd

BizEd is a bi-monthly magazine, and for that reason we rarely cover extremely current events in print -- such news will be out of date by the time the magazine is in readers' hands. However, Covid-19 has been so all-encompassing -- and has had a direct effect on our readers -- we knew we had to cover it in some way. For that reason, we prepared a number of pieces that we could post quickly online. In some cases, we extracted less time-sensitive messages from our sources and then re-edited those online pieces for print.

We have seen a drop of about 30 percent in ads from our March/April to our May/June issue. Our response was to drop our page count by about 12 percent, so we're still providing about the same amount of editorial material to readers in a smaller package. We're not sure what will happen as we go to produce the July/August issue!

Tricia Bisoux, co-editor, BizEd

In the months ahead, we know we'll need to stay in close touch with our readers, advertisers, and advisors to learn what is happening with them and what kind of information they will most value as this crisis continues to unfold. Just as every other industry, magazine publishing is going to be negatively affected by the pandemic, often in unforeseen ways. Keeping our relationships strong will be vital in navigating that uncertainty successfully.

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Free Assistance

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:18 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: crisis-help@editorsonly.com.

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