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Advertising Sales and the Editor, Part II

Posted on Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 12:01 AM

There's more than one way to look at the matter.

By William Dunkerley

Very insightful commentary came from a recent EO anecdotal survey. It was on the separation between editorial and advertising.

Last month Donald Tepper (PT in Motion) and Joanne Erickson (Provider) kicked off the discussion of this long-running concern. They offered somewhat divergent perspectives to frame the debate.

Now many other survey respondents have chimed in on the matter. They provide thought-provoking takes on this very important subject.

The Survey Respondents:

--Deborah Wuehler, senior editor and director of production, The Old Schoolhouse magazine: "As senior editor I am concerned with not only the production side of each issue, but with the overall company's growth. Part of that is being concerned with meeting overhead of each production cycle. Therefore, helping the sales team and accommodating the sales team's requests whenever possible is part of the overall picture.

"I do not personally participate in selling ads, but I communicate with the ad sales team on a regular basis. That said, I do build relationships with authors and companies to help facilitate those sales whenever possible.

"I also make sure that ad sales are appropriate to our audience and have created vetting guidelines for that purpose."

--Linda Longo, editorial director, Bravo Business Media: "Personally, I hate spending my time helping the sales department do their jobs (selling ads) by devoting a portion of my time writing "sponsored stories" (which the salespeople get commission on, but editors do not) that are not necessarily important to our readership but done to make advertisers happy.

"We have monthly meetings with the sales department where we have to divulge the contacts for our editorial feature stories so that the sales department can call up anyone interviewed and ask for advertising support."

--Leslie Young, editor-at-large, Massage & Bodywork magazine: "We are in the business of association publishing, so we are creating and sustaining community. Ads in our magazine serve our membership base, so I'm fine with functioning in a publisher's role and supporting our advertising sales team.

"Here at Massage & Bodywork, the editor-in-chief actually supervises the advertising team. The editor's role is to support their efforts, but hold the line and ensure that advertising doesn't influence editorial in any way. The advertising team understands that blending advertising and editorial can lead to a loss of our publication's credibility. We do have an advertorial option, but it's not frequently exercised."

--Rick Pullen, editor-in-chief, Leader's Edge magazine: "I have traveled a lot with my editorial team. I'm used to opening doors for salespeople since there are a lot of people who will open the door to the editor but not salespeople. I couldn't sell an ad if my life depended on it, but I can sell my magazine simply because I believe in it. I talk to my salespeople at least weekly, if not more often, since ad sales determines the size of the book and various departments."

--Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Trucking: "We don't personally participate in selling, but may help educate advertisers or potential advertisers about the market, our editorial, our readers, trends, etc. Our editorial calendar is designed as a balance between the topics that we know readers want, while making sure we offer coverage of major topic areas that advertisers may be interested in appearing in the same issue. Communicating with the sales team is more often about things like educating them on these same types of things, and whether a client may have some good information for an article we're working on, questions about possible webinar topics that a client might want to sponsor, that type of thing."

--C. G. Masi, retired editor: "Editors and reporters can and should support sales efforts. They can accompany ad salespersons on meetings with actual and potential advertisers to discuss the publication's editorial focus, position in the industry, and trends they expect to cover in the future. They can also discuss how readers likely view products and services like those the client is likely to advertise. It should be made clear, however, that a salesperson should never attempt to close an ad deal in the presence of an editor.

"As chief editor, I communicated on an almost daily basis with salespeople about likely prospects and how they might be approached. Chief editors can also help guide salespeople on honing their pitches.

"Content editors and reporters, however, should only consult with salespeople when looking for leads to interesting stories. Salespeople can also sometimes be helpful in providing introductions to individuals who develop technical innovations. It must be remembered, however, that ad salespeople talk to marketing people, who are seldom the engineers and managers making technical innovations, who are the people reporters need to speak to."

--James G. Hill, senior news director, Detroit Free Press: "I feel like it is necessary for the editorial department to participate in all facets of securing a solid financial footing for the newsroom -- as long as ad sales don't influence editorial content.

"Our newsroom leaders have a weekly meeting with staffers in our sales, marketing, promotion, and subscription departments to discuss major projects, significant enterprise, and special events coverage that may present opportunities for ad or subscription sales to tie in to the editorial content."

--Dave Zoia, editorial director, WardsAuto: "We're willing to make ourselves available to discuss editorial philosophy, resources, current and upcoming stories, the news of the industry, etc., but editors do not get involved in discussions directly about specific buys or sales programs in general.

"In addition to traditional display ad sales we sell subscriptions to our products, one-off special reports, and sponsorships to conferences and exhibitions. Taking all this together, we work with sales teams regularly (certainly weekly) to make sure they have the background materials they need regarding the content we're planning in order to facilitate sales. But it doesn't go beyond that (in terms of your first question) very often."

--Karen Menehan, editor-in-chief, Massage magazine: "I edit a trade publication for healthcare professionals. I am frequently called upon to help build relationships with advertisers or potential advertisers. I view this as a necessary component of my job so that the magazine thrives, our editors have jobs, and we are able to present objective, high-quality journalism alongside softer pieces that support our advertisers (product rounds-ups and such).

"I am in contact with our sales team almost daily, about product- or vendor-related content, potential new advertisers, and special projects such as sponsored editorial."

--Keith A. Tosolt, managing editor, Concrete International: "Although the lines can get blurred, there has to be separation between editorial and advertising. I don't participate in ad sales, to maintain that objectivity

"The ad sales team operates fairly independently from editorial. I pass along possible leads about every couple of months."

--Jef White, executive editor, The Shop magazine: "I direct any sales inquiries or potential leads to our sales executives for follow-up. I am always happy to discuss our editorial policies and opportunities with advertisers, with the clear understanding that the two departments operate independently. As a trade publication, we have routine editorial interactions with current and potential advertisers. Most everyone we speak with fully supports an objective, independent editorial effort as vital to the long-term health of the publication, and therefore as a vehicle for their marketing efforts."

--Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief, Travel Weekly: "I'm never asked to participate in ad sales efforts. I'll sometimes send a note if I see an opportunity for them. I communicate with them regularly about how we are doing generally speaking, but we don't talk about specific ad efforts."

--Curt Harler, freelancer: "I recall being in the required advertising course for news/editing students at Penn State and having the professor say, 'We don't put ads in your newspaper. You put news in our ads-paper.' I cringed at the time. But in 40 years as a journalist, the truth of what he said has been brought back to me time and again. In this country, you can't fight money."

--Name withheld by request: "Candidly, I think talking about 'advertising' is a little out of date. Advertisers have fled print and, in terms of digital, look to Google and Facebook. As an editor I see our revenue opportunities in paid subscriptions and native content.

"The paid subscription route will take some time. For far too long -- and still today -- we give our content away for free. The music industry got smart about this business model some time ago. Still, we are starting to gate content. A good start.

"The greater opportunity lies in native content. Here I believe editors have a strong role. We can guide companies who are baffled why we 'won't just post' their articles to our paid native content options. I for one am happy to do just that!"

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

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