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The Daily Romp into Multimedia Content

Posted on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 10:13 AM

News Corporation's start-up could give us all a glimpse of where magazine editing is headed.

By William Dunkerley

So, you can edit. But do you do audio, video, and 360-degree photography? That's a question you may be asked on some future job interview if News Corporation's The Daily becomes the model for our future. The new launch promises readers a rich assortment of multimedia content. The concept of the publication also promises to remake the editorial office, as various new media presentation features become more central.

That's all to the good. Editors need to keep pace with the ever-emerging technologies for configuring and delivering content. If The Daily becomes a popular publication, it may serve to intensify reader demand for more up-to-date features from all the publications that they read. That could have a profound impact on how we staff our editorial offices and what skills are required.

There's some reason to believe, however, that the architects of The Daily may been more bedazzled by the new technologies than respondent to actual reader needs and interests. For example, number 3 on their list of The Daily's features is 360 degree photos. That feature certainly sounds appealing. But will it really rank in third place in terms of what will sustain reader interest in the publication? Time will tell whether The Daily is in tune with actual reader preferences, or just a publication over-embellished with bells and whistles.

Defusing Audience Focus

Most publications recruit readers based on attributes that are in consonance with the editorial focus. The Daily, however, will be on sale in the Apple iTunes App Store. That will make it easy for consumers to make impulse purchases of single copies and subscriptions, based on little understanding of a publication's focus. That's not a bad sale for Apple. But it may produce a disinterested or disgruntled reader for the publication. What's more, that reader may have little interest in the advertisers, too. Over time, that could make the publication less appealing to advertisers and result in a loss of pages or space.

Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

Apple plays a strong role in the concept of The Daily, and other publications that join in with an iPad app and App Store sales. The company sets limits on how much you can know about your readers. There's also an approval process to get your publication into the App Store. In all, some believe these factors constitute a loss of control for the publisher.

Google is now offering a competitive product to publishers that may not be quite so restrictive. But nonetheless, it inserts a big company with interests that may at times diverge from the interests of your publication, right between you and your readers.

All this leaves one wondering who is the customer and who is the vendor here. What's more, Yahoo has announced a tablet newsstand of its own. According to reports, it intends to gather content from its own website and create an assortment of digital publications aimed at the tablet computer users. Associated Press calls this an "attempt to lure advertisers away from print and broadcast media."

To me this seems to be pointing in the direction of the commoditization of content. Historically, magazines and newspapers, both print and online, have strived to customize content for readers. Now, a situation may be emerging wherein mega-companies seeking to control the means of distribution may regard content as a mere commodity, banking on impulse purchases instead of long-term reader satisfaction.

Some have suggested that this new tail-wags-dog relationship between publishers and their distribution vendors could spell war. Perhaps it should!

Will the iPad Last?

The Daily is a device-specific publication. Without an iPad, you can't read The Daily. In the future, versions may be offered for additional tablet devices. But, in any case, the tablet computer will be the substrate of The Daily. That raises the interesting question of how long the iPad, or the tablet-class of PDRs (portable digital readers) will be around. To date, paper and the ubiquitious computer screen have served as the substrates for print and digital publications. What will be the fate of The Daily and other such publications if tablet technology sometime is superseded by something else?

There is already a sign that the popularity of the iPad is waning as a substrate for magazines. During a period of triple-digit percentage growth in iPad sales, initial sales of digital magazines designed for the tablet computer have been plummeting.

Follow The Daily

We've focused on a number of possible pitfalls for The Daily. But the concept is certainly forward-looking and worth following closely. We all could learn a lot from its success or failure. Without question, The Daily could become a transformative publication in the evolution of our industry.

(Note: for a look at The Daily from a publisher's viewpoint, see "The Daily Quest for Online Profits" in the STRAT Newsletter.)

William Dunkerley is editor of Editors Only.

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Editing in 2011

Posted on Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 1:32 PM

Top editors discuss the challenges they face and how they will tackle them in 2011.

By Denise Gable

A new year brings new challenges to many in the publishing industry. The economy may be improving but many editors are still struggling with issues such as profitability, social media, and redesigning to better fit the needs of their readers.

Automotive Industries
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Automotive Industries (AI) is the world's oldest continually published trade publication covering the auto-making business.

Ed Richardson, editor, “The big challenge is to find ways of getting people to pay for the work we do—sourcing, analysing and packaging information. We know that, with few exceptions, online publishing is not profitable. Traditional print publishing is under threat from the Net and rising print and distribution costs. The immediate impact has been on the quality of content and ‘juniorisation’ of newsrooms. Editors have been replaced at the head of publications by salespeople, accountants, and business managers.

“As a result, the focus is on profits (or survival) rather than editorial excellence. Business and political leaders and individuals are making far-reaching decisions based on poorly researched and unverified information in all but a handful of quality publications. Trade publications are surviving by printing “advertorial”—a non-critical report on the company or its products. This type of information has its place, but should also carry a disclaimer or health warning.

“So, in response to the question of what I will be doing differently, it is simply whatever it takes to survive as a purveyor of information and (occasionally) knowledge.”

HME Business, 1105 Media Inc.
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Dedicated coverage of a range of home medical equipment niches, from adaptive automotive, mobility and rehab to respiratory, beds and support surfaces, senior aids, and other medical supplies that enable people to live safely and more comfortably in their homes and communities.

David Kopf, editor, “Top bullet point: leverage social media. It’s where our readers are going. My readership works within a heavily regulated portion of the healthcare industry. They provide home medical equipment to patients the majority of which have traditionally been Medicare patients. However Medicare funding for home medical equipment is undergoing massive upheaval to the detriment of my readers and their patients. Because the majority of my readers are smaller businesses, they are engaging in a phenomenal amount of grassroots organizing and lobbying and social media is increasingly becoming a central tool for pulling that off. Given the mutual loyalty between the pub (print and web) and the readers, we need to be there with them.”

The Herald-Times
Frequency: Daily
Description: Local news for the Bloomington, Indiana, area.

Bob Zaltsberg, editor, “Next year, we will look very carefully at our editing load. How are we dealing with sports agate and wire copy? Are we spending too much time on those things that we could be spending on local news gathering and presentation?

“We will continue our emphasis on ‘watchdog’ and ‘sense-making’ reporting and see if we can better promote the increasing number of these stories that are appearing in our newspaper.

“We will continue to see what we can stop doing. We're not very successful at this, but we must get better as we add new digital responsibilities.”

Remodeling magazine, Hanley Wood, LLC
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Monthly magazine with the best in management advice, popular design ideas, new products, innovative construction techniques, and effective marketing strategies.

Stacy Freed, senior editor, “We have done a redesign that will be rolled out in January 2011. My editorial role won’t really change. However, we will be doing shorter stories and more of them. We’ve changed story size in response to the market, the way people are reading, as well as for style reasons.”

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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The Scoop on Mobile Editions

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:28 PM

Smartphones may overtake computers in popularity as early as next year. Is it time for a mobile edition of your publication? Find out what other editors are doing.

By Meredith L. Dias

Should you consider a smartphone or iPad edition of your publication? The magazine industry continues to evolve at meteoric pace thanks to widespread integration of smartphone and tablet computer technology. What was cutting edge a year or two ago is fast becoming passé. You don't want to be left behind.

Changing Market Demographics

Computer sales have long been on an upward trajectory, but a recent RBC Capital Markets chart indicates that smartphone sales will overtake computer sales by 2011! This, for many, is a daunting thought. Even more daunting, research suggests that mobile devices will become the primary Internet browsing devices within ten years.

Magazines have already undergone recent technological metamorphosis. They have had to develop functional websites, adapt to online writing and editing standards, design digital editions, and crack the online profitability cipher. Now, all signs point toward mobile devices as the next Internet wave. If magazines are to keep their readers, they must align themselves with their readers' preferred technology.

If you are already taking steps to establish a smartphone edition, you are ahead of the curve. If the projections hold and smartphones overtake computers as Internet browsing devices, all online magazines will need to be ready with mobile content.

Mobile Edition Design

Keep in mind that a mobile edition of your magazine can take many forms, some of which are fairly inexpensive and low-maintenance. While some mobile editions are full-featured, interactive apps with pictures and ads, others are simple digests of an issue's key material.

Nick Batzdorf, editor and publisher of Virtual Instruments, says, "We don't make the iPhone edition a big production. It's basic text and pictures with no proper layout." Some publications offer up similar digests on extensions of their home domains (e.g., http://mobile.columbusparent.com, http://mobile.informationweek.com, http://mobi.mufranchisee.com/news/features/, http://mobile.washingtonpost.com, etc.), where layout is optimized for smartphones.

"Simplicity is key," writes Steven Snell in Smashing Magazine for January 2009. "Because of the lack of space on the screen and Internet connections that are often slower, it's important for visitors to have access to what is most crucial, and as little else as possible." Small screen size necessitates the use of white space, an important design element for magazines on any platform. Though publishers of mobile editions face potential design challenges, programs like Adobe Creative Suite (including Adobe InDesign) can help simplify the process.

Reasons for Developing Mobile Editions

This month, we talked to various magazine editors about their mobile editions. Batzdorf tells us that the mobile edition of his specialized music industry publication has been quite successful. When asked about his reasons for developing an iPhone edition, he says, "When you go to the industry trade shows, there are maybe three people without an iPhone. [Having an iPhone edition] makes sense."

Other publishers, even those with no current plans to develop iPhone apps or editions, recognize the mounting popularity of smartphones and tablets. "We don't have any deliberate plans to create apps for our pubs yet, because I'm just dipping my toes in with eBooks," says Bridget Struble, program director for publications at the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. "Apps have even less universality, and apps are so expensive. But if people start asking for these in 2011, we'll have to consider them."

Peter Meiers emphasizes the importance of smartphone editions in the September/October 2010 issue of Signature: "The smartphone is really the primary, non-print publishing channel," he says. "The ubiquity of use -- and if you set it up correctly -- the ease of the publishing cycle is pretty easy to do. ... With a growth of 38 percent a year, it's a good bet that you're going to find an audience that way."

Even if your publication has limited resources, a mobile edition is still practical. "The fact of the matter is that it's very inexpensive," says Meirs. And, with smartphone and mobile device use undergoing such astronomical growth over the next ten years, it may be an investment many online publishers can't afford not to make.

When a Mobile Edition Doesn't Compute

Still, although smartphone use is rising and, as a result, more and more magazine consumers want mobile editions of their favorite publications, it may not always be advisable to launch a smartphone edition. "At this time, we have a limited new-media presence -- on purpose," says Kathy Storring, editor of Grand magazine in Ontario. "Our readers and advertisers seem to appreciate the paper product as is, so until we have solid prospects for additional advertising online, we are targeting our limited workforce to our paper product. Our website (www.grandmagazine.ca) promotes the current issue, highlights a few articles, and lists our advertisers. So we have no plans for iPhone publishing."

That said, Storring's parent publication, the Waterloo Region Record, "has a very active website and the editorial team is hoping smart-phone publishing will be in place very soon." A mobile edition makes sense for the newspaper, as its online presence is already thriving. In the case of Grand, whose online presence is much more limited, an iPhone edition would be of limited value to the audience.

A Simple Solution

Batzdorf has some advice for editors and publishers considering adoption of an iPhone edition: "Make it simple to put together. It doesn't have to be as splashy as a real magazine. Ours takes only a few hours to put together." Most important is keeping smartphone users engaged with content that is easily accessed and read on their mobile devices.

If you are a large publication, you may have the resources to design a splashy mobile edition with full-color spreads and interactive features. If not, that doesn't mean you can't create mobile content of value to your readers. A simple digest of your publication's current contents, with clickable links to individual articles, can be a nice bonus for mobile subscribers. Whether they are on their lunch break, on a plane, or at home, they will have perpetual access to your magazine.

Meredith Dias is research editor of Editors Only.

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Managing Continuous Editorial Change

Posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 at 1:13 PM

The New Media landscape has put the job of editing into continuous flux. Here are 6 tips for coping.

By Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

A reporter once asked Dale Berra, son of baseball great Yogi Berra, and a major leaguer himself, if he was similar to his father. To which Dale replied, taking a page from his oft-quoted father, "No, our similarities are different."

I thought of this comment the other day when a client I had worked with several years ago contacted me about speaking at an upcoming leadership event.

"Sure!" I said, "I'd love to work with your organization again. But tell me, are you facing the same problems with organizational change as when I last addressed this audience?" He quickly replied, "Oh no, it's nothing like before. Sure, we are still trying to get people to embrace change, but the change is completely different!"

The Human Side of an Editor

Over 20 years ago, I began researching, writing and speaking about managing the "human side" of organizational change. At that time I thought it was a topic that would be a top priority -- for a few years (until we'd all mastered the strategies and techniques of change management) -- and then the focus would shift to more current organizational challenges.

I was wrong.

Two decades later, dealing with change remains the crucial organizational challenge. In many editorial organizations the situation is acute.

In a recent survey by the Conference Board, 539 global CEOs were asked to list their top concerns. In Europe and Asia as well as in North America, organizational flexibility and adaptability to change consistently ranked at the top of the list. Only revenue growth received a higher ranking.

What I overlooked in my assumption of change mastery is the radical way change would, well, change. Many leaders did become proficient in managing incremental change (continuous improvement) and the occasional (or annual) large-scale transformation. But managers today are facing a flood of continuous, overlapping, and accelerating change that has turned their organizations upside down. That's particularly obvious in the publishing business today. And managing people through that kind of change requires all the communication and leadership strategies we learned in the past -- and then some.

Editorial Practices Will Keep Changing

The shift from "a change" to "constant change" is more than just semantics. The increased difficulty lies in the fact that most people and processes are set up for continuity, not chaos. We're built to defend the status quo, not annihilate it. But the world is throwing change at us with such intensity that there is hardly enough time to regain our equilibrium or catch our breath. Nor is there much hope that the rate of change will ease in the future.

So, what does it take to manage people through continuous change? Here are some suggestions:

Tip #1

Realize that resistance to change is inevitable -- and highly emotional. This may not really surprise you, but understand that it is a very real result of our neurological makeup. Change jerks us out of our comfort zone by stimulating the prefrontal cortex, an energy-intensive section of the brain responsible for insight and impulse control. But the prefrontal cortex is also directly linked to the most primitive part of the brain, the amygdala (the brain's fear circuitry, which in turn controls our "flight or fight" response). And when the prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed with complex and unfamiliar concepts, the amygdala connection gets kicked into high gear. All of us are then subject to the psychological disorientation and pain that can manifest in anxiety, fear, depression, sadness, fatigue, or anger.

Didn't think as an editor you were hired to manage emotional turmoil? Think again.

Being aware of and responsive to the emotional component of change is now a prerequisite for effective leadership. This task is complicated by the fact that the emotional cycle of transition (denial, resistance, choice, acceptance, engagement) overlaps -- as one change begins while others are in various stages.

Tip #2

Give people a stabilizing foundation. In a constantly changing editorial organization, where instability must be embraced as positive, a sense of stability can still be maintained through corporate identity and collective focus of purpose. The leader's role here is to create stability through a constant reinterpretation of the publication's history, present activities, and vision for the future. And, by using the term vision, I'm not referring to a corporate-like statement punctuated by bullet points. I'm talking about a clearly articulated, emotionally charged, and encompassing picture of what the editorial organization is trying to achieve.

Tip #3

Help your staff/team/department realize that change really is the only constant. Never let people believe that once any single change is completed, the organization will solidify into a new form. Instead, help them understand that solidity has a much shorter life span than ever before. As processes temporarily manifest themselves in structures, we all should be getting ready for the next transformation.

Tip #4

Champion information access and knowledge sharing. As one savvy communicator put it, "My most important function is to feed back organizational data to the whole editorial organization. The data are often quite simple, containing a large percentage of information already known to many. But when an organization is willing to publicly present that information, to listen to different interpretations and to encourage the conversation -- the result is a powerful catalyst for change."

Tip # 5

Encourage the editorial staff to mingle. The new change-management fundamentals include an increasing focus on relationships and collaboration. Social networks -- not just Facebook and Twitter, but those ties among individuals that are based on mutual trust, shared work experiences, and common physical and virtual spaces -- are in many senses the true structure of today's organizations. Anything you as a leader can do to nurture these mutually rewarding, complex, and shifting relationships will enhance the creativity and change readiness within your team or throughout your organization.

Tip #6

Give up the illusion of control. Publication deadlines may be rigid. But, otherwise, the biggest obstacle to the organizational flexibility that top editors say they want may be their unwillingness to give up control. Rather than tighten the reins, leaders need to loosen their grip in order to align the energies and talents of their teams and organizations around change initiatives. No one likes change that is mandated -- but most of us react favorably to change we are part of creating.

A New Perspective on Change

Editorial leaders need to loosen their hold on information, as well. Transparent communication means disclosing market realities and the publication's inner workings to everyone -- not just to the upper echelon. It requires an unprecedented openness: a proactive, even aggressive, sharing of financials, strategy, business opportunities, risks, successes, and failures. Your people need pertinent information about demographic, global, economic, technological, consumer and competitive trends. They need to understand the economic reality of the business and why that reality is the driving force behind change. Most of all, people need to understand how their actions impact the success of change initiatives -- and how those initiatives impact the overall success of the publication.

I often tell audiences that "organizations don't change. People do -- or they don't." The similarities in today's continuous editorial change may indeed be different from change in the past. But here's one thing that has hasn't changed. People -- your editors -- are still the key.

Or, as Yogi Berra might have explained it: When it comes to the importance of the human element in change, "It's déjà vu all over again."

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., presents keynote addresses and seminars for management conferences and major trade associations around the world. She is an expert on helping individuals and organizations thrive on change. Carol is the author of nine books, including "This Isn't the Company I Joined -- How to Lead in a Business Turned Upside Down." She can be reached by email: cgoman@ckg.com, phone: 510-52601727, or through her website: www.ckg.com.

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Giving Up on Print

Posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Editors weigh in on the idea of eliminating print editions.

By Denise Gable

The advantages and disadvantages to both print and web publications are vast. While the Web has the advantage of offering timely information, print is more portable and many prefer the "reading experience." Print magazines aim for one particular target audience and can be costly to produce. Online editions are cheap, but tend to be less stable. While some publications, such as PC Mag, have completely eliminated their print publications and concentrated solely on their online magazine, most are opting to offer both. This month, editors shared their strategy in dealing with the print vs. online dilemma.

Powergrid International, Pennwell Corporation
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Since its launch in 1996, Powergrid International magazine has been the electric utility authority on power delivery automation, control, and IT systems.

Kathleen Davis, senior editor, "While we have a number of high-tech boys and girls among our readership, a lot of engineers are 'old school' and like the paper. They enjoy getting the physical form of the magazine, and they tell us so in surveys. There's just something grounding and more personal about getting a magazine in the mail with your name on it."

Maximum PC and Mac|Life, Future US
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Maximum PC: Magazine featuring the latest technology news, computer mods, computer news and the latest computer and notebook reviews. Mac|Life: Up-to-date news, reviews, and information on the latest Apple products.

Jon Phillips, editorial director, "Print still plays a major role in the lives of passionate enthusiasts. As editors, the key thing to remember is that people who buy magazines are looking for an entertainment experience, meaning they receive entertainment from learning more about subjects that really interest them. They don't buy magazines for purchasing information. They buy magazines because the sheer act of reading about an interesting subject is entertainment in and of itself. Magazines won't survive if they attempt to solely satisfy information needs. The Web does this better."

ADVANCE for Occupational Therapy Practitioners, Merion Publications
Frequency: Biweekly
Description: Biweekly newsmagazine serving 60,100 occupational therapists nationwide. Dedicated to securing the future of occupational therapy by preserving the record of its unique contribution to allied health, educating others to understand that contribution, and helping therapists enhance their impact on the healthcare industry.

E.J. Brown, editor, "Though we are moving many things to the Web, we have no plans to abandon print. Our magazines are smaller, but they are intact. Most of the editors here agree that until electronic reading devices change, print will not 'go away.' People like to 'curl up' with magazines when and where they want to, to relax and read. Although electronic readers offer 'pages' that look like printed paper pages, they are still cumbersome and heavier than paper, of course. They do offer the capability of storing much reading material in a single place, which means you don't have to pack loads of reading material to take on a trip. But I believe that many advertisers still prefer print, and contributors would rather see their articles there."

Les Nouvelles Esthétiques & Spa (American Edition), Les Nouvelles Esthétiques, Inc.
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Dedicated to up-to-date knowledge in the world of spas, well being, and beauty. Encompasses all aspects of the spa industry: skin care, body care, makeup, spa therapies, and business management, with a high fashion feel to complement its contemporary nature.

Denise R. Fuller, editor-in-chief, "Due to the specialty of being a trade magazine for therapists, we have found that our readers value a print magazine over the online version. Estheticians, massage therapists, and spa owners feedback has been that they love sitting down with their favorite beverage and learning the newest trends and techniques that our magazine has to offer. We will not be discontinuing our print edition; it is a valuable commodity for our readers."

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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Editorial Repositioning and Redesign Gone Awry

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Mistakes in the process caused Newsweek to plunge itself into failure.

By William Dunkerley

When a publication repositions and redesigns, you'd expect its fortunes to change for the better, right? But, that's not what happened at Newsweek. After a much-ballyhooed process of "reinventing" itself, things came to a screeching halt this past May when parent company Washington Post Company announced, "We do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management." Since then, the newsweekly has been up for sale.

What Went Wrong?

We don't know any of the inside secrets about what they did. But Newsweek did talk a lot about their repositioning and redesign. Based on those utterances, there are a number of things they seem to have done wrong.

First, it is important to understand why they were repositioning editorially. It wasn't that they wanted to gain favorability with their existing readers. Indeed, they voluntarily cut their circulation, dropped their rate base from 2.6 million to a target of 1.5 million. That would allow them to cut costs, and perhaps offer advertisers better rates. On the readership side, they wanted to keep readers who are most interested in news, have higher levels of education, and are of greater affluence. Basically, that's a sound strategy. Any advertising-driven publication, if it's going to be successful, has to do a good job of amassing a readership that will be responsive to the advertisers.

But in deciding how to reinvent themselves, Newsweek says it asked its readers. They reported in Newsweek, "Some of these changes spring from what we learned from all of you during extensive market research."

Simply put, they asked the wrong audience! As editors, we're pretty accustomed to asking our readers how our magazine is doing and what else they'd like to see. But, if a magazine is out to find a different audience, it is the opinions of that audience that should matter. It seems that Newsweek should have surveyed the prospective customers of the advertisers. That's the audience they apparently wanted to attract. That's the group for whom the editorial should have been repositioned.

What Else?

What's more, Newsweek reported, "Some of [the changes] reflect our own editorial goals and financial needs." Doesn't that sound like they were making changes to please themselves? Overall, the new editorial strategy was to include more "well argued essays." Also, it would bring more from regular columnists on "some of the most pressing issues of our time." The intent of the new editorial strategy is apparently "to be provocative, but not partisan." Outside observers characterized the move as a shift to opinion journalism. Is this what Newsweek's new target audience wanted? Or, is it just what the staff wanted?

The Result?

How did the readership market respond to the new Newsweek? A plot of Newsweek website activity shows a bump up around the time of the changes. Afterwards, things settled into a steep downward trajectory.

Aside from these apparent editorial-related missteps, there were others on the business side. I described them in an article entitled "Why Newsweek Magazine Failed." It appears in the July issue of our sister publication, STRAT (www.stratnewsletter.com).

Keep in Mind...

At any publication, a redesign can be a powerful aesthetic move. But it likely will never be anything more than skin-deep when fundamental strategic problems are ignored. Repositioning a publication is sometimes the choice to tackle those deeper issues. But efficacy may elude you if the process doesn't link advertisers with responsive buyers and isn't based on sound readership research. Newsweek seems to have failed to make its intended new audience the target of its research. Indeed, staffers may have pushed their own preferences to the forefront. That's rarely a good path to marketplace success. In the end at Newsweek, what might have been a brand-reviving move for the magazine became the death knell of the magazine as we've known it.

William Dunkerley is editor of Editors Only.

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Beyond the Buzz: Deconstructing the iPad

Posted on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Pondering the potential role of iPad in magazine publishing's future.

By Meredith L. Dias

We editors have been seeing significant changes in our daily routines. First, we had to learn how to edit for websites, then for smartphones and e-readers (e.g., Blackberry, iPhone, Kindle, etc.). Now, the mounting popularity of the iPad presents us with yet another possible change: learning to edit for tablet computer editions.

If this leaves you feeling overwhelmed, you are likely not alone. With new devices constantly appearing on the scene, it is a constant challenge for editors to keep afloat. We can never get too comfortable -- not when rapidly evolving technology demands constant readjustments and retraining.

The proliferation of iPad magazines raises some important questions: Will this new trend just create more work for editors already stretched to their limits? Or will iPad editions help to save thousands of editors' jobs, which have hung in the balance as lower ad sales have reduced editorial page counts? Are more changes in store for editors, their style guides, and their work routines?

Some Potential Problems

What will the iPad mean for magazines? Mediaite.com's Colby Hall predicts that what's "revolutionary from an editorial and design perspective is that magazine staffers -- now editing for print and the Web in separate work flows -- will be able to edit for print and tablets simultaneously." This is a compelling claim. Unfortunately, the article (a roundup of the recent American Association of Advertising Agencies' Transformation Conference) does not explain this idea further, leaving us with a cliffhanger.

What does separate print and Web editing, aside from differing copyediting and fact-checking standards, is the frequent updating of content on the Web. The print content can only be static, but the Web content can (and should) be dynamic. If the print and iPad editing processes are to be streamlined, and if the Audit Bureau of Circulations' expanded definition of digital editions still only includes editions mimicking the print edition's editorial and advertising content, can the iPad really be a game-changer?

Paul Michelman of the Harvard Business Review cautions magazines against becoming stuck in the past, rather than embracing the new modes of content creation made possible by the iPad: "If we lose sight of that and allow ourselves to assume the answer is from the past, our futures are bleak."

However, this is easier said than done -- if a publication wants its iPad readership reflected in its circulation numbers, it must offer the same editorial and advertising content as its print edition. Even if the layout differs in the iPad edition and includes fun extras (e.g., audio and video), how can magazines truly evolve if their digital editions cannot deviate from the print edition on any meaningful level? Print and online readers, after all, are not interchangeable. Each audience has unique needs and preferences, and the ABC ruling may inhibit editors' abilities to serve those audiences effectively on multiple platforms. Given that, it seems like ABC's concept of what a magazine is may be "stuck in the past."

What's more, there are some real limitations in the device's operating system that may inhibit the iPad magazine experience, including an inability to multitask. Perhaps most infamously, the device does not support Adobe Flash, an exclusion that has generated significant grumbling and may prove problematic for magazines that have incorporated Flash into their existing digital editions. The iPad may force these magazines to undergo expensive digital redesigns to replace unsupported content.

The iPad Reading Experience

Last weekend, I attended a friend's birthday party. When I arrived, there it lay before me, gleaming in the sunlight like a Twilight vampire (and surrounded by a similar halo of hype): a brand-new iPad. Finally, after months of reading articles and watching YouTube videos about it, I had the opportunity to test-drive one myself. Of course, I had to get in line; this gadget somehow managed to be the life of the party. When my turn finally came, the lightweight computer felt strangely heavy -- with expectation.

The iPad's reading interface is quite attractive. Unlike most traditional
e-reading devices, the iPad facilitates full-color publication, a feature of no marginal significance to magazine designers. The page-turning mechanism mimics that of the print reading experience and may pacify print readers reluctant to try digital editions. Moreover, the built-in motion sensor allows readers the option of reading publications in landscape or portrait view simply by rotating the device.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the iPad store facilitates quick purchasing through an iTunes account; with a mere tap of the finger and, in some cases, reentry of a password, users can acquire the latest issues of magazines available on the iPad. This solves a problem that has plagued magazine and newspaper publishers for years: how to facilitate quick payments with minimal barriers between reader and content. Chris Brennan of PCPro.uk sums up the magazine purchasing experience on iPad: "Buying magazines is easy: download the app and tap, tap, donk. ... Simple, easy and bank-account-emptying."

In other words, just what the magazine industry doctors ordered.

Magazines Currently on iPad

Several magazines have arrived early on the iPad scene. Editors are using this platform not only to present an attractive digital edition, but also to enhance otherwise static content with video, audio, and convenient menus for easy content access.

Vanity Fair, one of the early entrants into the iPad magazine marketplace, recently launched its inaugural iPad edition. Matthew Zuras of Switched.com wrote up a detailed review of the edition's strengths and shortcomings. The most important of the iPad edition's strengths was the photo quality, though he warns readers not to "expect to pinpoint the pores of Cristiano Ronaldo's godly abs." The magazine, he says, also features eye-pleasing ragged right text and a drop-down menu of the table of contents, facilitating quick access to desired content.

Zuras also cites layout issues that "wildly irritated" him, including orientation problems. "In portrait view," he says, "each article is squashed into a single, long column that's further compressed by the lead image, which takes up nearly half your screen." Also problematic is the price: the inaugural edition costs a steep $4.99, with future issues slated to be $3.99. The high price point, however, is the least of the problem here; according to Zuras, iPad Vanity Fair subscribers have no access to back issues.

Other iPad magazines include GQ, Time, and Popular Science.

Recognizing the iPad's Potential

DMNews for April 19, 2010, explores the subscription potential for publishers on iPad in "Publishers expect subscription lift from iPad." Nathan Golia cites the iPad's value-enhanced content and high audience interest as potential game-changers for publishers and advertisers. He quotes Peter Hunsinger, VP and publisher of GQ: "'Usually, in our business, you serve three copies before you get paid. With [the iPad], you get the money up front, and there's no bad pay because it's all credit card or phone bill. Also, you eliminate promotion costs -- people are subscribing because they want the magazine, not the football helmet phone.'" Teresa Perry, an SVP of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, shares Hunsinger's enthusiasm: "Editorial and advertising can both be positioned and distributed in easy, readable experiences."

Paul Michelman tempers the iPad publishing hype with a caveat for magazine editors and publishers: "I think the way publishers are approaching it so far all but obviates every one of its assets. How so? By assuming that two mature media -- print and desktop websites -- can simply be retrofit and forced onto this very immature medium." What's more, he criticizes the recent Audit Bureau of Circulations amendment of its definition of digital magazine, noting that the new definition still only rewards digital editions that mimic print, rather than offer dynamic, frequently updated content.

The Near Future

Regardless of whether or not the iPad single-handedly saves the publishing industry, the device has made waves and pushed publishers in a new direction. After all, it was the prerelease iPad buzz that, in part, prompted the Audit Bureau of Circulations to amend its definition of digital magazines.

We may not understand the reach of the iPad for years to come. Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, says, "It will take less than 10 years for [iPad] to become mainstream." This may constitute quick evolution in some fields, but with many magazines hanging in the balance, we don't have the luxury of waiting a decade. Editors' jobs are at stake. If the iPad is our future, it must somehow become our near future.

Meredith Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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The Dirt on Online Magazines, Part II

Posted on Friday, April 30, 2010 at 1:27 PM

With all the pro and anti hype, what's at the end of the rainbow?

By Meredith L. Dias

"The iPad: Print killer" was the cartoon caption in a recent edition of The Week. The cartoon suggested that print is dead and buried. By contrast, "The Internet is fleeting. Magazines are immersive" was the headline of an ad put together by a group of print publishers. And so rages on the war of hype and anti-hype campaigns on the subject of online magazines.

If you cut through the hyperbolic claims and counterclaims, however, there are some serious issues that demand consideration.

Reader acceptance. Novelty and trendy techno-gadgets aside, will readers really want to devour all your content online in the long run?

Profitability. Publishers talk of getting pennies on the dollar for online magazine ads. Others scramble to develop yet-unproven platforms to extract "micropayments" from consumers long accustomed to free online content.

Coexistence. Proponents and opponents tend to cast online vs. print in all or nothing terms. It's black and white thinking. When will the industry embrace the concept of coexistence rather than one vs. the other?

What the Readers Want

"Fewer members have switched from print to digital than we had anticipated," reported Donald Tepper, editor of PT in Motion at the American Physical Therapy Association. It seems that the development of a digital edition does not always meet expectations. As a result, Tepper adds, "we've experienced little savings in printing or postage."

"Members continue to value our print journal, as it is highly portable and marks them as experts in their field," remarks Bridget Struble, program director for publications of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. "One member has touted JPEN as 'the jewel in my crown.'" Nonetheless, Struble appreciates the practicality and social networking capabilities of their online edition.

What can we take away from stories like these? Simply put, a digital edition will not necessarily outperform its print counterpart. However, rather than taking a black-and-white position on the issue, there is value in both online and print presences.

Why Don't You Ask Them?

Instead of engaging in the abstract and polarized dialogue typical among some industry professionals, it may be wise to turn to research. Ann Mahoney, publishing director of ICMA (International City/County Management Association), is intent on dong just that. "We're going to survey members about the ways in which they want content delivered (and/or in what ways they want to engage in creating or adding to content). Part of the survey will be about what content they want, and part will be about in what ways they'd like to access or receive that content," she explains.

What is most important is analyzing your individual audience and responding to its unique needs -- not jumping onto the digital bandwagon because digital media pundits have sworn off print or because gadgets like the iPad are so seductive. And, perhaps more importantly, don't swear off online editions because a print campaign claims that the Internet is "fleeting."

Producing Digital That Pleases Readers

Are there concrete steps that editors can take to make the most of digital publishing? There are plenty of services out there to help magazines make the transition to online or digital. We recently spoke with representatives from several digital publishing platform providers, including Mygazines and Nxtbook Media, regarding the mistakes that magazines make when digitizing.

According to Randy Frisch, chief marketing officer of Mygazines, strong design elements must be in place before creating a digital edition. "Publications need to be already appealing to the eye before going digital. Content and most of its design elements will be retained so, if that doesn't attract print readers, it will probably encounter the same problem with a digital version."

Marcus Grimm, marketing director of Nxtbook Media, shares his list of top mistakes magazines make when going digital: "Not enough email addresses, no promotion of the digital magazine on the website, content not formatted for the screen, a bad interface, and no versatility." Not only must layout be readable on a computer screen, but it must also be optimized for e-readers and smartphones, which represent a rapidly growing market segment in the digital reading population.

No More Digital Denial

The cause of online magazine profitability received a real boost recently. The Audit Bureau of Circulation has decided to include online audience in its tally of a print publication's circulation. That means publishers will have a certifiably higher rate base and presumably will be able to charge higher rates for ads.

Before ABC's decision to broaden its definition of digital editions, the organization would count online audience only if a publication's digital edition was a mirror image of its print edition. That meant the format of the advertising and editorial content online had to be identical to the print edition format. That was quite a restriction, and left out virtually anything formatted for mobile devices.

This is a timely change. A recent survey by Pew Research Center, summarized in The Mygazines Blog, finds that nearly one-third of Americans use mobile devices to read news. What's more, 75 percent of news consumers rely on social networking sites and email to get their news content. As smartphones like the iPhone and Google Android become increasingly mainstream, this number may increase significantly.

ABC would have been doing a great disservice to the industry they serve if they had withheld a definition of "digital editions" that essentially vaporized a rapidly growing circulation segment.

What This Means for Print

In early March, five major publishers (Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Time Inc., and Wenner Media) launched a "power of print" advertising campaign to fight back against the digitize-or-die mentality. It is an undertaking of considerable proportions. According to the Wall Street Journal, the campaign involves $90 million of advertising money and approximately 1,400 advertising pages spread throughout several magazines.

This campaign is of particular importance to magazine editors. An increase in print advertising revenue could mean an increase in budget and editorial pages. As many of you know all too well, print magazine editors have had to make do with very little over the past few years. The recent publishing crisis has shrunken staffs, budgets, and the number of available editorial pages. In some cases, quality has suffered. If this campaign is successful, it could mean that, for the first time in several years, print editors may be able to breathe.

However, some feel that the Power of Print campaign takes its pro-print rhetoric a little too far -- particularly in a two-page spread featuring a photograph of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps on the verso page, and a written tribute to print magazines on the recto page asserting that "the internet is fleeting" and "magazines are immersive."

But on the Other Hand...

"Every media buyer knows that is pure bunk," asserts media analyst Bo Sacks in a recent Print CEO article. "It is the Internet that is immersive, and the kids that buy the ads and spend the advertising money know it." He cautions magazine professionals not to "tell [readers] that they live in a fleeting, soon-to-be-evaporated world. That is a lie."

All this polarity between camps raises an important question: Are print and online editions complementary or competitive entities, compatible or at odds?

What About Coexistence?

The Power of Print campaign pits print versus online. But the answer may not be so black-and-white. A smarter strategy may be to harmonize print and online content. Maintain brand recognition, and appeal to a broader reader base -– one whose reading preferences is likely diverse.

"We are not just publishing magazines any longer," says designer Debbie Bates-Schrott in a recent Editors Only article. She advises editors and publishers to ask themselves the following questions:

--What is the print magazine accomplishing for the reader?
--Can it be done online?
--Online only?
--Or can you provide something different online that can strengthen the brand?"

Print vs. Online -- Final Answer?

No doubt, online and digital publishing have gained considerable momentum, and will likely continue to do so with the proliferation of smartphones and e-reading devices.

For some publications, Editors Only included, online has proven to be most efficient. As we saw with Donald Tepper and Bridget Struble, however, there are audiences for whom print is still the preferred mode of delivery.

Contrary to all the buzz, online will not obliterate every print edition. Some publications will be online, some in print, some in both. In the end, success will lie in the coexistence of print and online. That's the real future. That's the end of the rainbow.

Meredith Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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"I work for a large software company and we produce both a print magazine and an online edition. The print edition is a high-quality piece, but the online edition leaves much to be desired. In fact, we're making all of the mistakes listed in this blog post. Thank you for pulling all the research together for me -- keep up the good work!" --Anne-Lindsay Beall, SAS.com. 05-13-2010.

Lawsuit Hits on Need for Ad/Edit Split

Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Trouble can lurk ahead if editors fail to uphold editorial integrity.

By Andrea Obston

Earlier this month, Calibra Pictures filed a lawsuit against Variety magazine for giving their film a bad review.

In its suit the production company claims that it agreed to pay about $400,000 for an "exclusive promotion partnership" to support its movie, Iron Cross. However, Variety's film critics seem to have had the temerity to pan the film. The crux of Calibra's claim is that Variety's advertising and editorial departments both promised positive publicity. And, Calibra said both departments claimed this agreement would help secure distribution for the film and a chance at one or more Academy Awards.

A Sale or a Sell-Out?

Wait! What? Variety's being sued for doing its job? Do I have that right? And do I also understand that they sold away their right to do unbiased movie reviews because the editorial department of the publication went along with this $400,000 deal?

As a business owner in the marketing communications field, it baffles me to think that any company would consider selling off its competitive advantage. (That is especially perplexing when others in the publishing industry are dropping like flies.) But, if you believe the charges in the recent lawsuit against Variety, that's exactly what they are being accused of.

Isn't the ability to be an unbiased observer the most important thing that any legitimate publication brings to the table? Isn't that what readers expect from it? Indeed, it is the reason most publications still exist, and is what they are supposed to do best. In my world, that's called a competitive advantage. It is something a company does that makes it stand out among its competitors.

The fact is that the competitive advantage that print journalism has over some blog-ified, twit-ified competitors is its promise of unbiased observation. It's why lots of readers still turn to magazines like Variety for the whole story, even though they peruse the blogs and check their Twitter accounts.

Drawing the Line

Unbiased observation comes from the "Chinese Wall" between the editorial and advertising departments. Yes, I know the economics of keeping a publication alive and journalists fed has been stretched to the limit. When journalists and critics can't do their jobs, however, because sales people have "promised positive publicity," that should make anyone who depends on them question their judgment.

The outcome of this lawsuit is probably years away. I'm sure this is just the opening salvo of publicity bombs slung by both sides. So there's no final lesson yet. Nonetheless, the fact that it's been filed should give us all pause.

Once advertisers believe they have the right to dictate editorial content, I believe many consumers who depend on journalists will stop turning to them for information. And when that happens, newspapers and magazines will have sold their competitive advantage down the river, with no ultimate rate of return.

Andrea Obston is the president of Andrea Obston Marketing Communications, LLC (www.aomc.com), a firm that helps businesses grow through a B2E (Business to Everyone) marketing communications strategy. The firm provides strategic marketing services, brand development and marketing, public relations through traditional and social media outlets, media training and websites. Its subsidiary, Andrea Obston Crisis Communications (www.crisismasters.com), is a reputation and crisis communications firm that offers workshops and seminars on a variety of contemporary marketing issues. Andrea's writing has been featured in the Hartford Business Journal, where the original version of this article appeared.

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The Future Is Digital - But Not Entirely

Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Recent industry event suggests that despite a technological revolution, the game's not over for print.

By Mary Shafer

"We don't have an editor that's not completely consumed with their digital presence," said Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black. She was addressing the Publishing Business Conference and Expo in New York in March. Black added, "We've created 25 websites and bought ten others."

However, Black refutes the widespread belief that digital technology spells the death of print magazines. She reflects that historically every new technology is always heralded with the premature (if not patently false) announcement that it has killed its technological predecessor.

Black drew an appreciative chuckle from the audience by observing that magazines and books are the original "mobile devices."

The imperative now for magazines is discovering how to best integrate all available technologies to maximize content and serve it to consumers in the way they want to get it.

"How do we move a reader through all kinds of content?" Black asks. Ultimately, she concludes, "We have to show enough innovation and creativity that we can charge for what we've got. We need to take resources out of underperforming areas and put them toward what's working."

Black points out that for some print editors, page count is up. She notes that, despite the recent economic downturn, some print magazines have achieved growth in terms of increased size, prices, and newsstand sales. "We've had a tough 18 months," she says. "Now, all of a sudden, it's like a huge sigh of relief. Our meetings are better. Our huge, multi-platform deals are better."

"We tend to be a legacy business. Cosmo sells 8-9 million copies on newsstands, and digital advertising revenue is still pennies on the dollar," says Black. Nevertheless, she adds, "We don't know where it'll go, but it's currently up by 20 percent."

"It's about figuring out what complex set of creative we can offer our customers," she explained, referring to advertisers who still very much want to reach the audiences of established consumer properties. "We've become a full-service ad agency," she admits.

However, Black is adamant that magazine publishers "do not want to be in the device business." She described a consortium called Next Issue Media, which guides magazines through digitization. On e-readers, Black says, "We're currently discussing how to serve the content. Magazine reading is an immersive experience." She adds that replicating that immersive experience in digital is a challenge.

Mary Shafer is the publisher of Word Forge Books and a freelance writer. Visit her website at www.MaryShafer.com.

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The Dirt on Online Magazines, Part I

Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 3:36 PM

How the online medium has changed the name of the editing game.

By Meredith L. Dias

If you're an editor having trouble adjusting to online landscape, you're not alone. Gone are the days when a publication could subsist on print alone. As my editor, William Dunkerley, says in his blog article ("Distressed Print Publications Making Mistakes"), "The print-only model for many is a relic of yesteryear."

These days, there is a lot of hype surrounding online publication. Comments range from "Print is dead" to "Web content is king." There are those who dismiss print aficionados as mere Luddites, and also those who believe that an online-or-nothing approach is the only appropriate publication strategy in today's industry.

However, while the Internet presents exciting new opportunities for publishers, everything in the online publishing world is not as rosy as the hype would lead you to believe. Editors must not only adjust to new software and technology, but also amend their editing procedures in order to accommodate this medium. As if this weren't enough of a challenge, there are still no uniform standards for editing Web content.

To Digitize or not to Digitize

Editors must be simultaneously innovative and careful when approaching the digitization of content. Some fall prey to the erroneous perception that an online-only approach is appropriate for all publications, including theirs. Kim Howard, editor-in-chief of ACC Docket, cautions against this: "It is quite an attractive financial prospect to kill the print version of anything. But before [management] makes a drastic decision, they really should ask the members first. At least you would be armed with good info." Carla Kalogeridis, editorial director of Signature, agrees, "I would tread very carefully here, and if after thorough research and surveying you do decide that a digital edition is right for you, be sure to get the help of digital magazine experts/consultants who can help set you up for success." In other words, do your homework before making any drastic moves, and always keep in mind the unique preferences and needs of your audience. What works for Time or Vogue won't necessarily work for your publication.

The Columbia Journalism Review Report

Recently, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published the results of their magazine survey in a report entitled Magazines and Their Websites. The report highlights the respective roles of independent Web editors, print editors, and publishers in the online development of their publications. Editors, particularly those concerned with journalistic integrity and content standards, should sit up and take notice of these statistics. For example, approximately half of the publications surveyed reported that their copyediting standards online are less stringent than in print.

The CJR study also reveals something even more alarming: fact-checking takes a serious hit when content goes online. Fifty-seven percent of publications surveyed use the same fact-checking standards in print and online. However, 27 percent fact-check their online content less rigorously than print content. Even more alarming, 16 percent of online publications do not fact-check their online content at all -- and, more alarming still, half of those publications (8 percent) don't fact-check their print content, either.

That is a lot of unsubstantiated content.

Online Editorial Standards

So why do editorial standards tend to be more lax online? The answer is complex. In many cases, an online presence necessitates frequent updates and, consequently, the articles often go through a much shorter editorial cycle. This is particularly true of publications whose print editors also shoulder the responsibility of online editing -- there simply isn't time for thorough, multiphase editing. The Magazines and Their Websites report observes that online content tends to be less academic and more conversational in tone, and hints that editors of online content are more concerned with producing traffic-grabbing text than meticulously polished prose. However, all these factors aside, it is alarming to think that as many as 16 percent of online publications don't engage in any fact-checking whatsoever.

There are other issues at hand. First of all, there may be a training gap across the board. There is a crop of editors who cut their teeth on print and have had to learn new technology along the way. Similarly, there is a crop of online editors who have cut their teeth on digital technology. They aren't necessarily well versed in grammatical and journalistic protocols. This creates a sizeable population of editors who have spent so long in print that they don't know how to produce winning online content. Alternatively, they may have focused so heavily upon digitization that they don't understand the basic tenets of their editorial responsibilities.

It doesn't help that online editing is still in its foundational phase. In the September 2009 issue of Editors Only, my article, "Errors Published Online," discussed some of the gaps in online editorial standards. Publications still play their online correction policies by ear -- some make post-publication changes to their online material without comment, while others still issue correction and retraction notices. Some correct grammatical and typographical errors without notification to the reader, while others (particularly bloggers) use the "strikethrough" function to alert readers of even the most marginal fixes. In the absence of a universal standard, online editing becomes highly subjective, sometimes with very little consistency between publications.

Making the Online Transition

The hype and buzz surrounding online publication is, to a point, justified -- it is nearly impossible for a publication to survive and thrive without some sort of online presence. However, it is also important to remember that online publishing is hardly a panacea for all that ails the industry. It is still, on many levels, untested. It has no history, and few norms.

Publishers and editors are still struggling to find the best online payment model, the most judicious means of producing content for a Web versus print audience, and the proper harmonization of print and online editions. They are still, in other words, winging it.

It won't always be this way. Eventually, editors will hit their stride and come to a consensus regarding online editing standards. In the meantime, all you can do is what you have always done -- represent your publication online with content as clean and accurate as your resources allow. Because some online publications are scraping by with minimal editorial acumen, you have a rare chance to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. Be engaging. Be factual. Be meticulous. Online readers are not dumb. They still recognize quality content when they see it.

In Part II of this article, we'll explore some of the perks and pitfalls of digital editions, the Audit Bureau of Circulations' recent revision of its definition of digital magazines, and comments from top editors and digital platform providers.

Meredith Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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Reflections on the Advancing Technologies

Posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Education may show us the way to the future.

By Mary Shafer

C'mon, admit it: You're thinking it. You didn't get into this field to become a techno-geek. You may have to stare at a screen all day at work. But when work's done, you wanna curl up with a good old-fashioned, fresh-ink-on-crisp-paper magazine or book. And you believe that most folks out there buying your titles feel the same way.

Well, relax. You're partly right. There are still a lot of readers who wouldn't even consider reading on a screen, not no way, not no how. But, in the next generation, people who've grown up with both models will switch easily between the two, and won't be hung up about it. And finally, the following generation, which is growing up with their hands on mice and their eyes on screens at home and school, may primarily leave print behind.

It'll be a lot easier on us if we at least try to have an open mind and face this revolution with some enthusiasm.

I'm choosing to see this evolution of our primary product from a historical perspective. Making history means things are changing, and change is never easy and seldom fun. But it's full of mystery and promise and potential, and that's exciting. I know there are those who are perfectly happy with the previous un-exciting times, but we don't get to choose when history will happen. It chooses us, picking us up in the swift current of time. We either choose to go with the flow and learn how to swim, or get dragged beneath the surface and drown.

Instead of clinging to outmoded technology, I suggest we all remember what our mission as publishers really is: it's about the dissemination of ideas in an interesting, creative way. It's not just about the packaging. Every industry that focuses on giving its customers what they ask for doesn't just survive, it thrives. Which will you choose?

Now it's time to decide whether you're going to sink or swim. If your backstroke's a little rusty, that's okay. Look to your left and right, and you'll see your fellow swimmers right beside you. We'll hold you up till you get your groove back.

Meanwhile, the Publishing Business Conference & Expo is being held in New York City, March 8-10. 32 breakout sessions will be covering everything from navigating the e-publishing terrain to new e-business models, from rethinking author contracts and copyright to a social media strategy guide. (Note: Editors Only readers can get a $100 registration discount. Use Discount Code "EDITORSONLY100" to save $100 off the Full Conference Pass. Register at www.PublishingBusiness.com when registering for the full program.) I'll be there and paying special attention to ways that this inevitable future can be our friend. Then I'll be back here to share what I've found. I also invite your comments if you'll be attending, too.

Mary Shafer is publisher of Word Forge Books. She can be reached via email at publisher [at] worldforgebooks [dot] com.

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Forget Micropayments

Posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM

Here's another proposed idea for monetizing content.

By Steve Outing

You're not listening; I can tell. Many people in the industry are already in full-fledged panic mode, and one of the recent responses has been a wave of calls to resurrect an online publishing business model that has not yet worked: micropayments.

Charging for content is a dead horse. Most news content on the Web has been free for 15 years, and attempts to charge for commodity content have failed again and again because, for example, what most news companies produce is easily replaceable, for free, with a few clicks elsewhere.

There is a better way for online publishers to get people to pay for their content -- and of the many recent articles about how the industry can get people to start paying for their content (since online advertising alone doesn't bring in enough money to support large newsrooms), I've yet to see any suggestions like a model that I learned about recently from a California start-up venture called Kachingle. I'm not sure if this company has the answer to save magazines and newspapers, but if Kachingle succeeds, it'll make a lot of digital publishers (from bloggers to newspapers to Time magazine) a lot of money.

Problems with Micropayments and Paywalls

The new wave of micropayment promoters -- while genuine in their desire to save the jobs of journalists and editors and to stop the decline in the quality of content resulting from layoffs, cutbacks, and bankruptcies -- is actually suggesting something that will dig an even deeper hole for the industry.

A significant problem with micropayments is that it walls off content and makes it difficult to share with others and spread it around the Web. If I like an article and promote it in one of my Twitter posts, many of the people will not read it if they encounter a pay demand even for 5 cents; it's a barrier that will turn many away, especially if to get to the article the prospective user first has to sign up for some content payment network account. If I've paid 5 cents to read an article and want to promote it to my social network friends or followers, will the URL that I share even work? Perhaps not if the publisher hasn't set up the system to account for that. Internet users from other countries may not be able to access the content at all because they can't sign up for the micropayment system.

And of course there's Google, and the various news and blog search services. Will they index your content if it's behind a micropayment pay wall? If Google can't point people to your content, you may as well not be on the Web. And you're out of business.

Paradigm Shift

Publishers have to get over the idea that they are going to get paid directly by the user. For the vast majority of a publisher's content, there can be no barriers before an article asking the user if he wants to pay a penny or a nickel, or buy a $2 monthly subscription, to read on.

The user must be given the option of whether to pay for a website's content (by financially supporting the site), or read it for free. I'm betting this one will be a tough pill to swallow for many industry executives with traditional media mindsets, but it's critical because it fits the culture, indeed the nature, of the Internet. Traditional micropayment schemes for online news content -- "pay up or go elsewhere" -- fight it, and thus are doomed to fail, in my view.

Executives also have to grasp the notion that few publishers will be able to get very many people to pay for their content specifically. Most newspapers, for instance, will only be able to charge online users directly for truly premium content that is not replicated somewhere else -- for example, e-books and other high-value content that's not typical fare.

Also perhaps hard to accept (but you have to): The online consumer samples many brands, from the New York Times to Joe's Blog. Most online users visit many websites on a typical day, bouncing around the world of free content. They'll have a few media brands and bloggers that they visit regularly, but they also encounter new ones frequently, via the serendipitous link spotted when reading something from a known media brand, to the recommendation of a friend on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail. Your once-powerful brand doesn't mean as much as it used to, and to get paid for content online, it must become part of a giant pool of content that's financially supported en masse.

Think of it this way and you'll understand the core concept behind Kachingle: Just as online users currently pay an Internet provider $30 or more a month for their computers to access the Internet, and perhaps a monthly fee for all the music they want from a service like Rhapsody, they'll also pay a monthly fee for all the news and blog content on the Web. Only the last fee is voluntary, and it will be up to publishers to educate the public on the importance of paying for content online. (National Public Radio has been doing this for itself for decades. Now commercial publishers and bloggers need to do it to benefit all of them, not just one entity.)

The next important point to grasp about the Kachingle model is that it allows individuals to financially support the online content providers that they like best. So if a publication wants to get paid for its content when a website visitor clicks through to one of its articles, it should ask that the visitor support the site via Kachingle.

Educating the Market

The power of the system is in its many participants. The trick -- and this is the part that traditional-thinking publishers will have trouble accepting -- is that you are not just asking users to support your content, you are asking them to support all the news, blogs, and other content online.

But if this bothers you, think about it for a minute. When you get your users to sign up for Kachingle and start paying for content, you're helping lots of other Web publishers. And as all those other Web publishers and bloggers encourage their users to sign up for Kachingle, they are helping your site earn more money. Call it the power of the commons. The winners are the blogs and websites with the best content and that attract the most visitors and fans. Publication sites can win at that game, right?

No one has tried the donation model applied in a user-simple manner across all manner of online content. If charging for news content on the web won't work, and micropayment barriers will just turn legions of potential readers (and viewers of ads) away, why not put heart and soul into this "crazy" new model and see if it can work to adequately supplement Web advertising?

Will Kachingle Save Online Publications?

Will Kachingle save giant news corporations and supplement online advertising income enough to maintain large buildings and newsroom staffs? I think that if Google used this same model, its size and power could in time get Internet users paying billions of dollars for online content.

Remember, the Kachingle model is just one revenue source that online publications should use. Many get money from participating in Google AdSense, for example; that has no effect on the rest of a site's business model. The main way that most news websites will earn enough money to survive will continue to be advertising. A main focus for them should be on reinventing their ad models, because selling banner ads and classifieds advertising is broken. Kachingle is just another revenue source.

The Editorial Angle

Recently, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller wrote in his column some answers from readers about why NYTimes.com doesn't charge for its content. (You'll recall its TimesSelect paid-content experiment with Op-Ed columnists and archives put on a subscription plan, which failed to bring in enough revenue so was scrapped for a return to free content, more readers and more ad dollars.) Keller said he favors the general idea of Times online content being paid for by consumers who value it, but leaves an open mind about what approach to take.

Keller also commented on the Walter Isaacson Time cover story, "How to Save Your Newspaper" (February 2009): "Walter doesn't really grapple with the main puzzle of a pay model: how to keep it from stifling traffic, especially search-driven traffic, so much that online advertisers go away. I'm not saying that problem is insoluble. Just that, as far as I know, no one has solved it yet."

I think that Keller and other editors, struggling to survive a nasty downturn in print revenues and unable to find a way to adequately replace them on the digital publishing side, would approve of the Kachingle approach. That is, if they can get their minds past the hurdle of the payment for their content being voluntary, and that their content payment is mixed up in the big pile of money with all sorts of publishers, down to the pajama blogger. Otherwise, the Kachingle approach addresses Keller's concerns about stifled traffic, search engines, and fleeting advertisers.

The Bottom Line

KISS -- keep it simple, stupid. Online publishers are more likely to convince people to pay a monthly "Internet content fee" if everyone is in it together and there's one ubiquitous medallion on every content site that an individual visits (which always remembers you). The publishers who make the most money will be those that produce the best content, and thus get the most people to support them via the Kachingle system. That should be to the advantage of publication websites' quality content, right?

So now you've got it, folks. This may be the model publications have been waiting for to receive money for their "free" content. And at least one company has the system built and ready to go today.

Steve Outing is a journalist, consultant, entrepreneur, and blogger at www.SteveOuting.com, and also former columnist for Editor & Publisher magazine. He can be reached at steve [at] outing [dot] us.

Editor's Note: About half a year after the above material was originally written by author Steve Outing (in articles on his website and for Editor & Publisher), he began serving as an occasional advisor to Kachingle and acquired a small financial stake in the company.

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Who Writes Your Articles?

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Freelancers or In-House Staff?

By Denise Gable

Editors weigh in on how often (if ever) they use outside authors or unsolicited material. They also share their advice on finding and keeping that "valuable" writer. Please add your comments at the end of this article regarding your situation and advice to fellow editors.

Official Board Markets, The Paperboard Packaging Group
Frequency: Weekly
Description: For the better part of the past century, Official Board Markets has been the most respected publication serving the North American board industry. Started by the integrated paper companies, the "Yellow Sheet" has been the pricing standard for both linerboard and various types of paper stock.

Mark Arzoumanian, editor-in-chief, "The staff consists of me and my managing editor, so OBM receives and picks up many items (about the industry) over the transom and through emailed news items. Breaking it down I would say 80 percent over the transom, 10 percent commissioned, and 10 percent written in-house.

"I do receive some over the transom submissions without prompting. The vast majority of those I reject as they aren't of any interest to my readers. My commissioned articles are only from people I know well who write columns for me -- I don't need to solicit articles. All of my writers are regular contributors. In these tough economic times I don't need any new contributors. Editorial space is too limited.

"My only advice for my fellow editors about recruiting authors would be: to read what the author has already written; gauge his/her expertise; and sit down with him/her and discuss possible topics for future articles. Finally, ask yourself one very basic question: Can I work with this person on a month-on, month-out basis?"

Top Crop Manager, Annex Publishing & Printing, Inc.
Frequency: Western Edition, 8 issues/year; Eastern Division, 7 issues/year; Potatoes in Canada, annually
Description: "Canada's magazine of crop production and technology" is specifically designed to help top crop producers whose goal is long-term sustainability. Editorial content focuses on information which guides growers in such areas as weed, insect and disease management, tillage, seeding and planting, fertility, machinery and new technology.

Ralph Pearce, editor, "We have one field editor on staff, another under contract, and six freelance writers. Almost all of our articles are commissioned. Since our publications (Top Crop Manager, Potatoes in Canada, and Drainage Contractor) are specialty/trade publications, ours is a very specific audience. Therefore, we never publish an article on spec; it must always pass through my hands or that of our field editor in Western Canada. Stories are assigned and written, not accepted on spec.

"Each spring, I invite researchers, government extension personnel, various industry stakeholders (private sector companies) and ad agencies to contribute ideas or story suggestions for consideration (with no obligation). Most of the material is then assigned among our eight contract/freelance writers. I also gather story ideas from farm organization meetings, conferences and workshops, field days and outdoor demonstrations. My field editor in Western Canada does much the same. The remainder is written by researchers/extension personnel or provided by advertising agencies (in total, that represents less than 10 percent of our editorial material).

"Most of our writers are regular contributors. Almost nothing comes from new contributors. Our audience is looking for the latest in agronomy, advancements in seed and from the chemical industry, as well as the latest in farm equipment, trends and technology, markets and business management skills. New contributors rarely show the experience or even familiarity with the topics we cover, and I haven't the luxury of being a teacher. Our regular contributors are very reliable, extremely thorough and professional.

"My advice is to never worry about welcoming new styles and new voices to your lineup (provided they meet your quality/audience standards). You can add diversity without taking away anything from your mandate. I did that when I moved into the editor's chair -- no longer able to rely on myself for the bulk of the writing, I had to welcome a new field editor, as well as two new freelancers, all of whom were familiar with our goals and target audience, as well as our subject matter. Their arrival heralded a new era for our magazine, with three new voices/styles that we didn't have when I was doing almost all of the writing. It didn't dilute the message, it strengthened it."

Special Events Magazine, Penton Media
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Special Events Magazine is a resource for event professionals who design and produce special events (including social, corporate and public events) in hotels, resorts, banquet facilities and other venues.

Lisa Hurley, editor, "We use two freelancers on a regular basis -- both are former staff editors. All of our articles are commissioned. Submissions over the transom come regardless. Some people pitch stories, others just offer their services for future assignments. Recruitment of authors is never a problem for us. So many magazines have failed or cut staff that many good writers are on the hunt for work."

POWERGRID International and Electric Light & Power, PennWell Global Energy Group
Frequency: POWERGRID International, monthly; Electric Light & Power, bi-monthly
Description: POWERGRID International magazine provides information about the latest automation and control technologies used in electric power transmission and distribution. The magazine's mission is to serve as a tool for today's utilities, providing knowledge on technologies that improve reliability and power system operations. Since 1922, Electric Light & Power has been the authoritative source of electric industry business news for electric utility executives and management.

Kathleen Davis, senior editor, "We use outside authors but we do not employ them. Usually they are hired by vendors or utilities or work on the staff of those companies' communications department. Most industry magazines work this way. They write for free and, if we like it, we publish it. They get a certain academic standing and we get fodder for the magazine.

"Probably less than two percent of submissions are of the pure 'over the transom' variety. It's mostly a combination practice. I send out editorial calendars each year that say what we'll be covering a month and I'll get a few queries on that which will work along to abstracts which we will then essentially commission without paying for. Sometimes we get questions, notes, or releases that spark an idea that I'll follow up on as well. If there isn't a query coming in for a topic, I'll go to regular contacts from companies I use that I know are good writers in that area.

"Probably 10 percent of my writers contribute regularly. Most of the material, however, comes from new contributors although I often work with the same press/media/PR contacts. They just gather new authors.

"When you find an exceptional writer who can make deadlines, always keep their contact info handy. That's a true rarity in this business. I never have trouble digging up new authors. But, new authors that respect my deadlines are few and far between. I think a lot of editors are looking for writers who know the subject or are subject matter experts. I'm not. A good writer can learn the subject. My recruitment strategy is much more about organization than it is about writing skill."

Metropolis, Horace Havemeyer III
Frequency: Monthly
Description: Metropolis examines contemporary life through design -- architecture, interior design, product design, graphic design, crafts, planning, and preservation. Subjects range from the sprawling urban environment to intimate living spaces to small objects of everyday use.

Martin Pedersen, executive editor, "Our magazine employs outside authors, but due to the recent economic downturn, less than previously. We receive over the transom submissions without prompting. In ten years I have only bought one unsolicited manuscript. We use new writers but they usually come with previously published work and a strong story pitch.

"We have a stable of writers who've been writing for a magazine for a while. We generally work new or younger writers in either on the website or with shorter front of the book articles. Nearly all are regular contributors. We're an architecture and design magazine and we're always looking for new projects. The best way for writers to break into our magazine is to live in a somewhat exotic city (Tokyo, for instance) and send us interesting and beautiful new projects.

"Recruiting writers has become both easier and harder. If you pay respectable rates (even the low side of respectable), you will have no trouble finding good writers today. Because the combination of a bad economy for free lance writers, the closing of magazines, and the dirt cheap rates for internet writing, you can get really good writers for about a buck a word. This is not necessarily a good thing, since it devalues an endeavor we're all involved in. That's the easier part. The harder part is purely economic. There was a time when I could recruit 'name' writers to my fairly small magazine because I could devise fun projects for them to engage with. Writers will work for less money, even well known writers, if they're engaged with the subject matter. These kinds of games are harder to play now, with ad pages and edit pages down."

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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"These are very helpful insights for freelancers looking for new markets." --Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, WriterRuth.com. 02-28-2010.

Maximizing Your Design Dollar

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Six money-saving tips for your publication.

By Lynn Riley

Controlling costs has always been a top concern in publishing. In the volatile economy of late publishers are trying to cut back even more in every way they can. Here are 6 ways to save money in the design of your publication.

Know What You Want Before You Begin

Make a firm decision on what format your project will take. Changing formats midstream, as from a postcard to a trifold brochure, can eat up design hours and end up costing you more. Clarify your goal for the piece and who the audience will be; these will be primary guidepoints for the designer.

Kick Off the Project with a Design Meeting

Meeting early on with the designer helps save headaches (and money) later. Clearly communicate all the points listed above. If you aren't sure what's the best format or what the piece can realistically achieve, your designer may have valuable input that will save you money in the long run.

Help the Designer Help You

Provide examples of what you do and don't like. This will give the designer a better idea of what you're envisioning. It will also help avoid endless revisions and "I'll know it when I see it" syndrome. Whenever possible provide art resources, images, and files to the designer so he doesn't have to recreate work from scratch.

Keep AA Costs Down

Provide fully edited copy to the designer that requires no further revision. (OK. OK. This should at least be the goal.) Many people catch copy changes only after the piece has been designed; avoid additional revisions (and fees) with careful proofreading beforehand.

Stick to the Schedule

Poor planning and delays can mean paying rush fees to bring a project in on time. Develop a schedule early on and stick to it in order to stay on budget. If planning is not your strong suit or you just don't have the time, ask your designer to map out a production schedule for you.

Put Out an RFP

Are you getting the best service and quality for a reasonable price? If it's been awhile since you casted your net in the pool of designers maybe it's time to solicit some fresh proposals. Many design firms are pricing their services to compete aggressively in the changing economy.

Communication is the underlining key to an efficient publishing process. The information you exchange with your designer will undoubtedly yield high returns on your bottom line.

Lynn Riley, of Lynn Riley Design, specializes in design for association publications. Visit the firm's website at www.LynnRileyDesign.com or email her directly at lynn [at] lynnrileydesign [dot] com.

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Editor and Publisher Magazine Returns

Posted on Friday, January 29, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Miracle, mixed blessing, or Hail Mary pass?

By Meredith L. Dias

What can magazine editors take away from the recent demise and subsequent resurrection of Editor and Publisher? While news reports associate Editor and Publisher with the newspaper industry, the publication is a trade magazine; therefore, news of the magazine's resurrection is significant to newspaper and magazine editors alike. Embedded in this saga are valuable lessons regarding the volatility of mastheads during uncertain economic times, shrinking editorial staffs and growing workloads, and the importance of editors getting involved in their publications' print and online decision-making.

About two weeks ago, the news broke that magazine publisher Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc., had purchased the recently defunct Editor and Publisher. The new owner plans to produce a February 2010 print issue; thus, despite the disruption caused by last month's closure, Editor and Publisher will not skip a single issue.

Like a lot of publications hit hard by the publishing crisis, Editor and Publisher's editorial department has taken a hit. With the promotion of editor-at-large Mark Fitzgerald to editor comes the dismissals of top editor Greg Mitchell and senior newsroom editor Joe Strupp. According to Mitchell in his January 19th Huffington Post article ["How I Lost My Job (Thanks for Asking)"], "This would bring the size of the editorial staff down to four from six."

The dismissals of Greg Mitchell and Joe Strupp raise an important question: How can editors safeguard their jobs in this uncertain climate? Perhaps the only thing they can do is get involved with their publications' print and online decision-making. If they can succeed in changing reader preferences that would lead to new sources of ad revenue, perhaps they can help bring their publications out of this economic Dark Age.

Many of you are probably all too familiar with editorial department downsizing. Few newsrooms and editorial departments have been immune to staffing changes during this joint global recession and publishing crisis. The downsizing of Editor and Publisher's editorial staff, however, accompanies a planned increase in editorial pages for the magazine. We spoke with new owner Duncan McIntosh via email, and he told us that "the cheapest thing we can do to improve the quality of Editor and Publisher is to give our editors the pages they need to write about the newest trends in production without cutting back on the newsroom. It comes down to a few extra pages on a printing press."

Thus, the new incarnation of the magazine will increase its editorial pages while reducing its editorial staff. This is hardly anomalous in today's publishing world, where editors everywhere are facing heavier workloads with smaller staffs.

There is some debate over what the change in ownership means for the future of newsroom and editorial coverage in the magazine. Various press releases have indicated that the magazine will shift its focus away from newsroom and editorial issues and toward business and technology topics. In his email, McIntosh tells us that "a lot of information being circulated isn't necessarily correct. ... The only changes you can expect to see is that there will be more information on the digital side of the equation, but not at the expense of the newsroom." However, the New York Times claims in its January 15th edition that McIntosh told them that "he wanted to shift Editor & Publisher's focus toward the business and technology of the industry, with less emphasis on what happens in newsrooms." Former editor Greg Mitchell chimed in on this same point in a late-January email to us: "Duncan McIntosh made it clear to me that they planned to focus almost entirely on the business and printing/tech aspects of newspapers," he said. Mitchell cites the discontinuation of the "newsroom-oriented blog, E&P Pub," as an example of this shift away from journalistic coverage.

Mitchell's implication seems to be that McIntosh thinks there's more ad money to be had with publishers than editors. McIntosh himself, however, tells us he believes that publishers aren't spending any more on equipment than editors right now. What's more, Mitchell himself points out that it is editors who are spending money and participating in purchasing decisions regarding computers and software, and on other products and services related to the move toward digital.

In Mitchell's late-January email to us, he states that the magazine's publisher, Charles McKeown, "has long claimed that newsroom people 'do not buy things' so they are allegedly no help in getting advertising. Of course, this is a tragic misreading, since editors -- especially Web editors -- have so much say in what gets purchased most today: software, other digital tools and equipment, everything related to the Web." The future of magazine advertising, he argues, lies with digital and Web products. "On the other hand: What do you think the future of the printing press looks like?" he asks. It is a question that all publication editors should be asking.

McIntosh's online strategy seems to be geared more toward ushering readers into the digital age. "We are redesigning and building a new website with an eye to allowing readers to post individual stories," he reports. "That site will take a couple of months to go live so in the meantime we're doing the best that we can to work with the very limited site that we have. The blogs are part of our plan as we go forward." What is most significant about this online strategy is the apparent introduction of user-generated content (UGC) to the website, the same concept that propelled YouTube, Wikipedia, Photobucket, Wordpress, and others to Internet superstardom. Promoting such a change in reader habits and preferences is important when the publishing industry is in a state of flux and struggling to keep up with current technology, and when more and more sites are employing various forms of UGC.

All eyes are on Editor and Publisher as it makes this transition. Can the revamped publication help rescue the industry it serves, thus saving thousands of editorial jobs nationwide? With the planned increase in business and technology content, will this iconic publication uphold its titular promise: to provide content of value to editors and publishers? Whether or not the magazine succeeds in these two areas, Editor and Publisher's roller coaster of a month has taught us a lot as editors. Our purchasing decisions, our insights and ideas, and our willingness to adapt to sometimes impossible conditions make us not only relevant to the future of publishing, but vital. Conversely, inflexibility on our part and an unwillingness to adapt can leave us out in the cold. The past month has also served as a reminder that even the most entrenched mastheads are subject to change. Even the best of us aren't invincible.

Meredith Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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Getting Readers to Pay

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2009 at 2:42 PM

There's a movement gaining strength among magazine and newspaper publishers to begin charging for online content that's now free.

By William Dunkerley

In publishing's print era, most general readers paid for content, while free, controlled circulation publications tended to serve niche markets. The Internet Age brought with it a pendulum swing that made free, advertising-supported content mainstream.

With recession-driven cuts in advertising expenditures, there are those who would like to push the pendulum back toward paid content. Innovative schemes are being devised that include collecting "micropayments." A micropayment, as defined by BusinessDictionary.com, is a "transaction in small amounts, costing a few cents to usually less than five dollars, typically involving sale of information on internet." Presumably, this would allow readers to peruse a table of contents, and then pay relatively small sums to read only those articles that seem interesting enough to warrant shelling out some money, albeit small change.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been especially outspoken in his belief that future prosperity for publishing will be dependent upon selling content. "The old business model based on advertising-only is dead," he resolutely proclaimed. Murdoch seems to believe that his new pay-as-you-go model will lead to salvation of the industry.

For those of us in the editorial business, the notion that readers will be paying to see our content can have a rewarding ring to it. Our editorial product would seem to have a higher perceived value if readers are required to pay. It's like receiving an economic vote of approval.

Reviewing the Various Plans

A number of variants are emerging for how to implement the concept of paid online content. Different groups of industry players -- big shots and small fries -- are separately developing schemes to create omnibus pads or platforms that can facilitate the implementation of some form of payments and micropayments. Will individual publishers be running their own e-commerce systems, or will middlemen step in for a cut of the revenue stream? That question is yet to be answered.

For the next few issues, Editors Only will be examining the pay-for-content movement from the point of view of what it will mean for you as editors. We'll start by describing one of the proposed solutions in this article. Future issues will look at others, as well as overall ramifications and concerns. And, finally, we'll conclude the series with our own analysis of the movement.

The Brill Pad

Steven Brill, formerly editor of the now-defunct magazine Brill's Content and founder of American Lawyer magazine, is promoting a plan for "preserving valuable journalism by restoring the value proposition." He offers the plan out of a belief that "the Internet has undermined the economic model" because of what he calls a "cultural virus."

Brill told a New York conference in June:

In the history of the world no one can point to any quality journalism operation that depended only on ad revenue and, while giving its content away for free, thrived as a profitable, independent business. Not one. Ever.

That bold assertion may come as an abrasive surprise to many of you who have produced quality controlled-circulation publications over the years. Nonetheless, it is part of the premise upon which Brill has built his proposed e-commerce pad, dubbed Journalism Online, LLC.

Brill's plan involves "creating an easy way for consumers to buy content with one account across multiple websites and eliminating millions in capital expenses for these hard-pressed publishers by supplying this robust, completely flexible e-commerce engine."

Journalism Online would market "all you can read" packages that might cost, say, $30 per month. They would be in effect a passport that would allow you to read everything that is offered by the publications affiliated with Journalism Online. Smaller payments would get you smaller passports, i.e., an ability to read only content from a single publisher, or stories on a single topic from multiple publishers. You might pay $10 per month for such limited access.

Brill says he expects his system will induce between 8 to 15 percent of a publication's online visitors to pay for at least some of the content that they view. The balance of page views would remain free in order to be supported by advertising revenue.

A consumer would register once with Journalism Online and then have access to all the publications that are affiliated with Journalism Online. Each publication would set the prices for viewing its own content. A payment could cover an annual or monthly subscription, or just one article. In addition to magazines and newspapers, Brill expects to include bloggers who produce original content.

Will enough publishers and bloggers sign up with Journalism Online for it to really take off? Brill says he doesn't believe that a critical mass will be necessary -- and besides, he reports that he has well-known attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson helping with negotiations. What's more, Brill adds, "If a newspaper or magazine doesn't think some significant portion of its content ... is unique enough to get some people -- maybe 10 percent -- to want to pay for it, then why are they paying journalists to produce it?"

Because of some of Brill's controversial-sounding rationales for his proposed e-commerce pad, we would have preferred that he describe them here in Editors Only himself. We invited him to do so. But after initial expressions of interest, he found himself unwilling to subject his prose to our standard editorial treatment.

William Dunkerley is editor of Editors Only.

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Editor and Publisher Folds

Posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 4:20 PM

The magazine publishing industry responds to the closure of a prominent trade publication.

By Meredith L. Dias

Last week, news of Editor and Publisher's demise sent the publishing industry into a tailspin. The magazine had been a standard bearer for newspaper professionals since 1884. The impact of its closing was so great that the publication became one of Twitter's trending topics as users tweeted and retweeted the various news articles and press releases. While there is still faint hope that the magazine will find a new owner to pick up the pieces, editor Greg Mitchell warns readers on the Editor and Publisher website that the next print issue "may still be the final issue of E&P, after 125 years."

With so many magazines and newspapers folding, the closure of any publication hardly comes as a shock anymore; however, the loss of Editor and Publisher carries a symbolic weight that is difficult for any industry professional to ignore. Inevitably, debates have arisen regarding the actual cause of death: an irreparable newspaper industry, poor business strategy, inability to become profitable online, etc. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that a valuable resource to publishing professionals has closed its doors.

Failure to adapt to the digital publishing environment may be reflective of poor business planning. William Dunkerley, editor of our publication and principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, believes that the failure of Editor and Publisher and other defunct publications can be traced back to "an unsuccessful business strategy." This may seem obvious, but with so much emphasis in the press upon the ailing newspaper industry, dysfunctional business models can sometimes fly under the radar. Publishers feel so defeated after reading the daily industry news that, in some cases, they fail to scrutinize their own circulation, advertising, and online strategies in sufficient depth.

Steve Outing, longtime writer for Editor and Publisher, issued his eulogy to the publication on Thursday, December 10. Though he confirms that "the staff will be out of their offices by the end of the year," he also notes that "things are up in the air in terms of what happens to the 'Editor and Publisher' brand." He remembers the early '90s, when Internet browsers first appeared on the scene; he saw the new technology as an opportunity for newspapers. His eulogy grows increasingly frank as he sizes up the news industry's failure to align itself with digital technology: "If only I'd realized that the newspaper culture was too mired in the muck of its own long history, and that its leaders would, for the most part, resist-resist-resist the rapid changes required by the evolving digital culture to do what needed to be done to survive."

Journalist Will Bunch writes in The Huffington Post on December 11, "Its passing was not completely unexpected; this was a publication that has largely flourished in the now comatose format of magazines, writing about the terminally ill business of newspapers, dependent on dollars from the morally wounded world of traditional advertising, including the nearly extinct paid classified ads." Still, despite the magazine's ultimate failure, he notes that Editor and Publisher closed its doors on a high note. He likens the years directly preceding its death to "a supernova, with a great burst of energy," a final heyday he attributes to editor Greg Mitchell, who took the reins in 2002. "In the remarkable way that they died," Bunch concludes, "Editor and Publisher showed the rest of journalism how to live."

Mitchell's appointment as editor was not the first radical change for the magazine during the past decade. In 1998, the magazine underwent a comprehensive redesign, a move celebrated at a Newseum publishing symposium. This redesign may have made the magazine particularly attractive to BPI Communications, the VNU subsidiary that purchased Editor and Publisher in 1999. Could this corporate buyout of a previously family-owned publication have cemented its demise, or was the purchase its only means of economic survival heading into the twenty-first century?

The failure of Editor and Publisher raises a chicken-or-the-egg question: Did the newspaper industry's leading trade publication somehow fail to help industry leaders adapt to the digital publishing climate, or did the collapse of the newspaper industry make it impossible for even the most acute industry publication to survive? An industry magazine is supposed to help companies and professionals to thrive. Did Editor and Publisher fail to become the ultimate sourcebook for editors and publishers wondering how to survive online -- or, as Steve Outing's comments suggest, did newspaper veterans simply refuse to heed its advice?

Plummeting ad revenues and constant press releases announcing publication closures (not to mention the frequently updated Magazine Death Pool blog) paint a bleak picture, but they have also driven even the most diametrically opposed industry veterans to a common, commonsense consensus: that they need to think fast if their publications are to survive long-term. Will the demise of a trade publication in print since 1884 represent a cautionary tale so bone-chilling that it will ultimately be remembered as a catalyst for real change? Will it spawn the brainchild that will solve the online profitability conundrum? Or will Editor and Publisher simply be a particularly notorious casualty of the publishing crisis, a tragedy that disrupted everything but, in the end, changed nothing?

Meredith L. Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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Ten Great Ways to Crush Staff Creativity

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2009 at 1:10 PM

How to hold on to your established editorial franchise in the face of a publishing sea change.

By Paul Sloane

As editors, you have much more power than you realize. You can patiently create a climate of creativity or you can crush it in a series of subtle comments and gestures.

Your actions send powerful signals. Your responses to suggestions and ideas are deciphered by staff as encouragement or rejection. If you want to crush creativity in your organization and eliminate all the unnecessary bother of innovation, then here are ten steps that are guaranteed to succeed.

#1. Criticize

When you hear a new idea, criticize it. Show how smart you are by pointing out some of the weaknesses and flaws that will hold it back. The more experienced you are, the easier it is to find fault with other people's ideas. Decca Records turned down the Beatles, IBM rejected the photocopying idea that launched Xerox, DEC turned down the spreadsheet, and various major publishers turned down the first Harry Potter novel. The same thing is happening in most editorial organizations today. New ideas tend to be partly-formed, so it is easy to reject them as "bad." They diverge from the narrow focus that we have for the publication, so we discard them. Furthermore, every time somebody comes to you with an idea that you criticize, it discourages the person from wasting your time with more suggestions. It sends a message that new ideas are not welcome and that anyone who volunteers them is risking criticism or ridicule. This is a sure-fire way to crush the creative spirit in your staff.

#2. Ban Brainstorms

Treat brainstorming as old-fashioned and passe. All that brainstorms do is throw up lots of new ideas that then have to be rejected. If your organization is not holding frequent brainstorm sessions to find creative directions, then you are not wasting time on new ideas. Instead, you are sending a message to staff that their input is not required. If people insist on brainstorm meetings, then make them long, rambling, and unfocussed with lots of criticism of radical ideas.

#3. Hoard Problems

The editor-in-chief and senior editorial team should shoulder the responsibility for all the major editorial decisions. Strategic issues are too complicated and high-level for the ordinary staff. After all, if people at the grassroots level knew the strategic challenges the organization faces, then they would feel insecure and threatened. Don't involve staff in serious issues, don't tell them the big picture, and above all don't challenge them to come up with solutions.

#4. Focus on Efficiency, not Innovation

Focus solely on making the current publishing model work better. If we concentrate on making the current system work better, then we will not waste time on looking for different systems. The current publishing model is the one that you helped develop and it is obviously the best one for the publication. After all, if the makers of horse-drawn carriages had improved quality, they could have stopped automobiles taking their markets. The same principle applied to makers of slide rules, LP records, typewriters, and gas lights.

#5. Overwork

Establish a culture of long hours and hard work. Encourage the belief that hard work alone will solve a problem. We do not need to find a different way of solving a problem -- rather, we must just work harder at the old way of doing things. Make sure that the working day has no time for learning, fun, lateral thinking, wild ideas, or testing of new initiatives.

#6. Adhere to the Plan

Plan in great detail and then do not deviate from the plan regardless of circumstances. "We cannot try that idea because it is not in the plan and we have no budget for it." Keep to the vision that was in the plan and ignore fads like new media and Twitter -- they will pass.

#7. Punish Mistakes

If someone tries an entrepreneurial idea that fails, then blame and retribution must follow. Reward success and punish failure. That way we will reinforce the existing way of doing things and discourage dangerous experiments.

#8. Don't Look Outside

We understand our publication better than outsiders. After all, we have been working in it for years. Other industries are fundamentally different, and just because something works there does not mean it will work in publishing. Consultants generally are over-priced and tell you things you could have figured out anyway. Freelancers don't have good ideas, either. We need to find our sense of direction inside the business by working harder.

#9. Promote People Like You from Within

Promoting from within is a good sign. It helps retain people and they can see a reward for loyalty and hard work. It means we don't get polluted with heretical ideas from outside. Also, if the editor-in-chief promotes people like him, then he can achieve consistency and succession. It is best to find editors who agree with the editor-in-chief and praise him for his acumen and editorial foresight.

#10. Don't Waste Money on Training

Talent cannot be taught. It is it a rare thing possessed by a handful of gifted individuals. So why waste money trying to turn ducks into swans? Hire good editors and let them learn our system. Work them hard and they can emulate the success of the editor-in-chief as he leads the publication forward into the future.

Paul Sloane is the founder of Destination Innovation (www.destination-innovation.com). He writes and speaks on lateral thinking and innovation. His books, The Innovative Leader and The Leader's Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills, are published by Kogan-Page.

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Book Review

Posted on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 2:32 PM

Magazine Editing: How to Develop and Manage a Successful Publication, by John Morrish.

Magazine Editing explores the multi-faceted magazine editing profession--including "the role of the editor both as a journalist, having to provide information and entertainment for readers, and as a manager, expected to lead and supervise successfully the development of a magazine or periodical" (Amazon description). It is written by John Morrish.

The book helps would-be editors to enter the industry and existing editors to polish their skills. Chapter topics include:

--How magazines work
--Editorial strategy
--Leader and manager
--Money matters
--The right words
--Pictures and design
--Managing production
--Where the buck stops
--Becoming an editor

The book also explores the ethical aspects of magazine editing, with appendices containing the National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct and Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice. Figures throughout the book offer insight into budgeting, scheduling, and production.

Magazine Editing is published by Routledge (288 pages, paperback) and is in its second edition. It is available for $31.69 on the Editors Only "Books" page under the "Books on Editing" heading.

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