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Editors Have Digital on Their Minds

Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 11:52 PM

We asked our readers to tell us what they dream of for their publications this year.

By William Dunkerley

A recent survey has told us where editors' thoughts and dreams are. They're mostly on digital.

We set out to see what editors want to accomplish before this year ends. We were looking for trends. The small sample we used isn't capable discerning fine distinctions. That said, the results provide a clear answer:

About three quarters of respondents cite digital goals; one quarter have their sights set on improving content quality.

Making Content Accessible

Half of those with digital goals seem focused on mobile readers. Jonathan Shaw, managing editor of Harvard Magazine, put it very succinctly. He wants to get his venerable publication, founded in 1898, "into the hands of readers on tablets and smartphones."

Jim Vick, staff director at IEEE Spectrum, reports, "We have a substantial digital distribution to students -- over 100,000. The open rate among them is dismal. Part of the problem is how we alert students that their monthly issue is available. They get an email from us. That's not an ideal way to communicate with this age demographic who thinks email is something only their parents still do. We will be experimenting with solutions to solve the problem."

At The Ensign magazine, editor Yvonne Hill says, "My main goal is to upgrade our digital presence, making all our offerings more accessible to tablet and smartphone users."


A number of the mobile-interested editors also speak about apps. For example, Marcelle Soviero, editor-in-chief at Brain, Child magazine, explains, "We launched our app last year, but we are still trying to figure out how best to promote it or bundle it with print subscriptions."

Audience Engagement and Circulation

Smaller percentages editors with digital goals cite two other related concerns: engagement/interactivity and circulation.

John Rizzi at Colorado Avid Golfer wants to generate "greater reader and user involvement through new interactive features." Meanwhile, at InformationWeek Government, editor Wyatt Kash is also looking for online engagement. How would he measure that? "By the number and quality of comments we see associated with each of our stories," he explains.

On circulation development, We magazine's editor-in-chief Heidi Richards wants to double readership of the digital edition to 400,000. But Beren Neale at ImagineFX admits he's "looking to discover the magic formula that halts the reduction of print sales and continues to increase digital!"

Other Goals

Then there are the editors who mention not the "D" word, but various quality concerns. Running Times editor-in-chief Jonathan Beverly says, "Our strength is in the depth of reporting and our knowledge of what is important to our core audience. Our social media efforts to date tend, like most, to emphasize news and quick, fun content. I believe we can continue to be fun and attractive while alerting readers to the availability of more depth and highlighting the editorial content that has continued to prove useful for years but can get overlooked in the rush for something new to attract attention."

And we'll end with the sage advice of legendary designer and communications consultant Jan White:

"Chill out on technological trickery. Return to useful ideas, clearly expressed and presented. Everything else is eyewash."

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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