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A New Opportunity for Editors?

Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:50 PM

In the news: Content services and editorial expertise.

Whether you work as an editor of magazines, newspapers, or books, odds are that you have worried about job security in the last three years or so. You have likely asked yourself how you might parlay your editorial acumen into a new career if presented with a pink slip, and worried that if your industry went belly-up, there would be a flood of displaced editors to a marketplace devoid of job opportunities.

But there are opportunities for editors beyond the traditional media outlets. Because publishers are shifting their focus from editorial products to editorial content (with many publishers dropping the magazine/newspaper/book label and dubbing themselves "content producers"), this means that editors are picking up skills that might be useful in content specialist positions. According to Jonah Bloom, former editor of Ad Age and current executive director of content strategy at the Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners agency, the shift from traditional editing positions to content-oriented ones can be a natural one. Last week, Folio: interviewed Bloom, and he offered his thoughts on the new opportunities for editors in the content service arena. Read more.

Also Notable:

Forbes and Techonomy Partnership

Techonomy Media and Forbes have teamed up in a strategic partnership. According to Folio:, Techonomy (founded by former Fortune editor David Kirkpatrick) began with the intention of offering "original reporting, opinion, aggregated content and contributed long form journalism, as well as a combination of publishing, teaching, consulting and partnerships." Read more about the partnership here.

Goodbye, Newsweek.com

Last year, Newsweek went under and was purchased for $1 by the late Sidney Harman. The magazine later merged with the Daily Beast website. Now users will be able to access Newsweek content on its own Daily Beast website channel, and the Newsweek.com URL will disappear. Read more.

Martha Stewart Living on the iPad

According to Gael Towey, creative and editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, "You have to invest in the future if you want to be in the future." To that end, his magazine has expanded its staff to facilitate smoother tablet publication. Print editors and designers also work on the tablet addition, but the company has added four staffers for video production, art direction, production, and editing. Read more.

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Byline Inequality?

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:07 PM

In the news: Is there a significant gap between the number of male and female bylines in magazines?

The publishing industry is taking great leaps forward as it adopts tablet and smartphone technology. But, according to some editors, it is still decades behind in terms of gender equality, and there is research to support this. Recently, Vida, an organization for women in the literary arts, published a series of pie charts showing the discrepancy between male and female bylines in various magazines in 2010. Harper's published articles by 25 women and 94 men. The New Yorker published articles by 163 women and 449 men.

So why the discrepancy? Some writers and editors claim this inequality plagues the entire magazine industry. The available numbers do little to disprove this. So are editorial managers giving preference to male writers? Are fewer females submitting work? A recent New York Magazine article online explores the implications of the recent findings. Read more.

Also notable:

Mounting E-book Popularity

One might argue that the book industry has made the most successful transition to digital publishing thus far. Some predict that, inside of five years, e-books will overtake print book sales. With sales skyrocketing (164 percent growth last year) and portable digital readers flying off shelves, it would appear that there's no turning back for books. But not so fast. Print books still account for a majority of book sales, and adoption of digital technology is an expensive undertaking for publishers. Read more.

Surveys on the Skids?

Joan Lewis, a research executive at Procter & Gamble, has predicted that, by 2020, social media will be the research tool of choice instead of traditional surveys. Because social media is interactive, she foresees a shift away from more rigid research methods like the survey. Read more.

Magazine Redesigns in the News

Both Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine have undergone editorial redesigns. Read writer and editor Andrew Losowsky's take here.

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The Daily, The Tablet, and The Editor

Posted on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Viewing News Corporation's launch from an editor's perspective.

By Meredith L. Dias

"New times demand new journalism. The devices that modern engineering has put in our hands demand a new service, edited and designed specifically for them."

With that statement, media mogul Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. has thrown his hat into the digital publishing ring. Earlier this month, he launched The Daily, a daily iPad newspaper. So just how "new" is the Daily brand of journalism? Is the "new service" really all that new? What is the role of editorial in tablet publishing?

The Daily Contents

The Daily, says Carl Bagh in a recent International Business Times article, "is an attempt to rekindle the old print-based newspaper on a different platform, the tablets." It is, in New York Magazine's words, "an iPad-only tabloid."

An editorial team, led by The New York Daily Post managing editor Jesse Angelo, creates each iPad-optimized issue and beefs up the text with photographs, panoramic images, HD video, and the ability to share certain content with social networks. Subscribers log in to the app daily to receive the latest issue. They can scroll through a "carousel" of stories and select the content that interests them, much like flipping through a traditional print newspaper.

Will readers latch onto this multimedia-enhanced version of a traditional newspaper? Some believe that its app-based subscription model could be the answer that has eluded newspaper publishers for years. However, for the time being, The Daily is available to iPad users only, so its reach is limited. Still, the newspaper constitutes a compelling tablet publishing experiment. Will 3D imagery, streaming HD video, and sharing capabilities be enough to shift reader habits away from free content and a 24/7 news cycle?

The Daily takes into consideration the twenty-first-century news cycle; editors can update the issue throughout the day to cover breaking news that arises. About that, James Poniewozick of Time.com says, "I haven't seen much evidence of that yet."

Editorial Responsibilities

The Daily presents a challenge to its editors. They are responsible not just for a collection of up-to-the-minute news articles, but also a multimedia experience. To quote The Princess Bride, "That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying." So much more is involved than just formatting articles in a grid. It's seeking out the photographic and video content that will engage the reader and turn the article into a rich multimedia experience. It's keeping the content relevant when there other online news outlets update constantly throughout the day. And it's generating attention-grabbing Facebook- and Twitter-ready headlines for social sharing.

A publication this media-intensive would be difficult enough to maintain on a monthly basis. So how will editors churn out issue after daily issue of multimedia news coverage? According to macstories.net, editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo's newsroom is powered by over 100 journalists. In a memo to his editorial team, reproduced on New York Magazine's website, he expresses his desire to move beyond web and wire reporting. He wants exclusives. He wants The Daily to become an original source, rather than an aggregator of wire content. He wants his "crack news team" to produce original, groundbreaking content on a daily basis.

The Element of Reader Choice

According to some media analysts, The Daily falls short in its failure to incorporate the concept of reader choice. Like a print newspaper, The Daily is a static editorial product -- readers cannot filter daily content to suit their specific preferences. Apps like Flipboard, on the other hand, allow readers to create their own magazine based on personal interests. "Thus," says Bagh in his article, "the choice before the user is to create their own customized content experience or to rely on a group of editors to define their experience."

However, readers can define their Daily experience to a point. The app allows them to personalize their subscription with local weather data and preferred sports team news.

A Compelling Experiment

Just how important is reader choice in today's digital publishing world? Vital, according to some. The Internet has empowered readers to seek out the content that interests them and ignore what doesn't. So how appealing will a digital version of the traditional print newspaper be to young readers who have cut their teeth on the 24/7 news cycle? Will they embrace this repackaged version of a classic concept, or will they continue to rely on tailored newsfeeds from their favorite sites? Can News Corp. and other publishing entities lure these readers away from constantly updated (not to mention free) news content from Google News?

The Daily has posted a YouTube video that demonstrates the newspaper's major features. Their iPad publishing vision: "Touch, swipe, tap, and explore to bring stories to life." If enough readers heed this intriguing instruction, The Daily may prove to be the first of many daily news publications edited and designed specifically for tablets.

Meredith Dias is senior editor of Editors Only.

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WikiLeaks Hits Home

Posted on Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 1:36 PM

How would you handle your own WikiLeaks conundrum? Many editors find serious ethical and legal implications in the scandal.

By Meredith L. Dias

What if you or one of your freelancers stumbled upon top-secret information of significance to your readers? Would you publish the information or keep it classified? The WikiLeaks scandal has raised this ethical question, and many others, for journalists and editors everywhere.

We recently approached editors with a hypothetical situation: What would they do if presented with classified/sensitive information that could make or break a story? Would the information involving foreign governments have any bearing on their decision? The response was as passionate as it was varied; editors discussed everything from the First Amendment to legal issues to journalism ethics.

The Measured Response

A lot of editors we spoke to didn't take sides. Instead, they pointed to a host of considerations a publication ought to take before releasing sensitive information to the public. "For me, the decision would be based on the content of the material," says editor and journalist Carolyne Gould. "I would need the information to in some way benefit humanity (i.e., save lives, prevent a war). If it were what we used to call 'yellow journalism,' I would not release it."

Other editors supported a similar approach. "It would depend on the content that was leaked, and what the repercussions of making it public would be," says technology industry editor and writer Charles Masi. "For example, recent leaks have provided information that would be embarrassing to certain governments. In that case, so what? They're big guys and can stand a little embarrassment. On the other hand, I believe some leaked information has included names of agents who might be compromised -- as in killed. I wouldn't want to be responsible for making that public."

Masi also emphasizes the importance of the public domain in the dissemination of information, noting that some leaked material was associated with published research. "The flurry of leaked emails regarding IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] scientific documents was highly embarrassing to the U.N., but, generally, all documentation backing up published research should be public domain, anyway. It would have been easy to decide to publish that content."

Ben Martin, editor-in-chief of The Father Life, takes nationality into consideration. "If it's a foreign government, I wouldn't think twice. Run that story! If it's my own government, that becomes more complicated. Are there legal ramifications? Are there national security ramifications? Those would have to be carefully weighed."

The Case Against Dissemination

Other editors who responded to our survey were vehemently against the publication of classified information. "Printing knowingly leaked classified material is fatally irresponsible," says one editor, who wished to remain anonymous. Another remarked, "I never went to j-school, so I've never been indoctrinated in the freedom of the press."

Some survey respondents tempered their opposition a bit. One editor associated with the U.S. government said that he "would always err on the side of not upsetting the interests of the [government] if there was some national security concern, due to my own values as well as my employer's."

David Gewirtz, publisher and editor-in-chief of Zatz Publishing, agrees. Like the anonymous editor above, he works with national security professionals. "I would immediately contact my colleagues in the U.S. government national security command authority, report the incident, and related details. I would not publish."

The Case for Dissemination

Other editors, however, note the ethical and constitutional roles of the press. "The proper role of the Press is to 'comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,'" says Curtis Phillips, senior technical editor of Wine Business Monthly and Wine Business Insider. "If more journalists were doing this rather than kowtowing to their corporatist masters, we wouldn't need WikiLeaks. Domestically, it is a straightforward First Amendment issue. Either we have freedom of the press or we don't."

Brian Carlson, editorial director and editor-in-chief of CIO Online, shares his case for dissemination: "As an editor and writer, and American citizen, I support the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. If the content I received was of interest and I deemed it to be important material to my reader base, and publishing that material was in the scope of my editorial mission, then, yes, I would release that information. It would be my duty and responsibility to my readership and the values and ideals of a free democratic press to do so. First Amendment rights of the press have a long history and precedence, especially in cases such as the Pentagon Papers; that protects my right to provide information to the populace. If I did suppress that information due to pressure from said government body, I would be negligent in my duties as an editor."

An Unanticipated Consensus

As illustrated in this article, there is no ideological consensus when it comes to hot-button issues like the role and parameters of the press and freedom of information. There are simply too many variables for that. The consensus lies in the reaction. Regardless of position, editors and journalists across the board were on fire over the WikiLeaks scandal.

We often discuss the changing nature of content delivery in Editors Only and our sister newsletter, STRAT. That discussion has taken on a new dimension with the WikiLeaks scandal. Editors and journalists have at their fingertips access to information previously unavailable to them (or, at the very least, information once difficult to obtain). But there are a host of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to publish. For one, is it something the public needs to know? Is it unethical to share leaked information in the press when average readers could access the information on their home computers? Is national security an issue? Does the benefit to your readers outweigh the potential cost of dissemination?

(And, by the way, editors: Is it WikiLeaks or Wikileaks?)

Meredith Dias is senior editor of Editors Only and STRAT.

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Tablets and E-readers: The Next Wave?

Posted on Monday, November 29, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Examining the results of the Harrison Group/Zinio digital reading survey.

By Meredith L. Dias

Editors everywhere are responding to the explosion of tablet computing and e-reading devices. Tablets and e-readers are poised to make an even bigger splash in the coming year, reveals a September 2010 Harrison Group and Zinio survey. "'We are forecasting that tablet-based devices and e-readers together will exceed 20 million units in the next year," says Harrison Group's vice chairman, Dr. Jim Taylor, "and they may well be the Christmas gift of 2010."

The survey results, however, tell a more modest story about digital readership that editors ought to consider before making any sudden moves. According to Harrison Group/Zinio, 28 percent of respondents read digital magazines or books. While this constitutes nearly one-third of the survey respondents, it means that over two-thirds of the 1,816 18- to 64-year-olds surveyed are not yet digital readers. The percentage of digital readers is likely to explode in coming years, but the survey results tell us that, for the time being, there is still a significant contingent of non-digital readers.

What's more, Harrison Group/Zinio quantifies the aforementioned 28 percent of respondents as "up from less than 10 percent in 2008." This is a somewhat misleading statistic. It is like saying that 2010 car model sales have boomed because more people are driving 2010 cars than they were two years ago. The digital technology has changed significantly since 2008. Back then, there were fewer e-reading devices on the market and tablet computing was still in its infancy.

In the press release, Dr. Taylor claims, "'[Tablets and e-readers] are associated with substantial increases in adult reading.'" However, the survey results simply tell us that 58 percent of tablet and e-reader owners "are reading 'more digital content than [they] ever thought [they] would,'" Does this mean that e-readers and tablets are creating more avid readers, or could it mean that avid readers are more likely to purchase the devices?

The press release also reveals that "33 percent [of tablet and e-reader users] acknowledge that they are spending more money on buying things to read." True, these device users are spending more on reading material, but the survey doesn't tell us whether they are actually buying digital, print, or both -- or even whether or not they actually read what they're buying.

In an October 6, 2010, article on Folio's website, Jason Fell leads with another statistic from the survey: "Consumers who own tablets and other e-readers generally spend 50 percent more time reading magazines (presumably on those devices) than consumers who do not own those devices.'" Can we infer conclusively from the data given that these readers are reading their magazines on their tablets and e-readers? The survey speaks simply to the increased time spent consuming magazine content -- but, again, not the mode of content delivery.

When developing a strategic plan for smartphone and tablet editions, it is important to look at the hard numbers and ignore any unsupported postulation. We can make assumptions based on available data, but we can't bank our publications' futures on them.

Meredith Dias is senior research editor of Editors Only.

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Sloppy Editing Leads to Global Tiff

Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 4:50 PM

Object lesson: what a misplaced paragraph break can do.

By William Dunkerley

An early October news story identified China and Russia as enemies of the United States. Media outlets quoted a U.S. foreign broadcasting official (Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine). To many, Isaacson's comments sounded quite outrageous. But, when I looked into this story, I found that it did not have a factual basis. There was no such statement as carried by news outlets. That may be hard to believe since many of us heard the comments with our own ears in broadcast reports.

To elucidate, I'd like to detail for you my findings. They indicate how a simple mistake can distort a story and result in misleading headlines appearing around the world. Here are a few such headlines that I just found in a search:

"News Head of BBG, Voice of America, cites Russia and China as enemies of America"

"Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman makes news by calling Russia's and China's official media America's 'enemies'"

"Globalist Mockingbird Media Attacks RT, Press TV as 'Enemies'"

"Russia Today television is on Washington's enemies list"

This all was the subject of an analytical report on Russia Today (RT, an English language TV service of the RIA Novosti press agency). It included a clip from an Isaacson speech that began, "We can't allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies. There's that Freedom House report that reveals that today's autocratic leaders are investing billions of dollars in media resources to influence the global opinion. You've got Russia Today, Iran's Press TV, Venezuela's TeleSUR, and of course, China is launching an international broadcasting 24-hour news channel..."

Is Hearing Believing?

The foregoing quote certainly seems to support the headlines. But then I found and listened to the entire portion of Isaacson's presentation. Here's what I heard:

"All over Afghan and Pakistan, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe are achieving great successes. RFE's very popular Radio Azadi is the leading source of news in Afghanistan, and it hosted, as all of you know, in August [2009], the first-ever presidential debate to feature an incumbent in Afghanistan's history.

"When Jeff asked me to speak here, I asked who spoke last year and he said, Richard Holbrooke, so I almost said, no, I'm not sure I want to follow in Holbrooke's outsized footsteps -- (laughter) -- but I did notice how we stressed the role of RFE and VOA in the struggle in Afghanistan. We can't allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies."

The speaker then went on to another topic, saying "There's that Freedom House report that reveals that today's autocratic leaders..."

Listening to the RT report, the "enemies" comment seemed to attach to the Russia-China commentary. Listening to the larger segment of the speech, it was clear that the "enemies" comment attached to the Afghanistan commentary. Isaacson was talking about enemies in Afghanistan. That attachment was clear from not only the speaker's pace and timing, but also from making more sense that way.

Who's the Editorial Culprit?

My first reaction was that whoever did the video editing of the clip at RT produced an unprofessional result. But then I looked further into that matter. I found a printed transcript of Isaacson's speech that was prepared by a private company called the Federal News Service. I read the segment in question, and it seemed like the "enemies" comment was again attached to Russia and China. Here's what the transcript said:

"...but I did notice how we stressed the role of RFE and VOA in the struggle in Afghanistan.

"We can't allow ourselves to be out-communicated by our enemies. There's that Freedom House report that reveals that today's autocratic leaders are investing billions of dollars in media resources to influence the global opinion.

"You've got Russia Today, Iran's Press TV, Venezuela's TeleSUR, and of course, China..."

Take note of the paragraph breaks. They clearly place the "enemies" comment with Russia and China, not with Afghanistan. I asked Isaacson's office whether they supplied FNS with Isaacson's prepared remarks complete with paragraphing, or whether FNS inserted the paragraphing. They claim the paragraphing was done by FNS. That makes sense because the sound of the spoken remarks seem at variance with the FNS paragraphing. FNS apparently transcribed the speech from Isaacson's audio, and they got the paragraphing wrong.

Where It Started

The Russia-China-enemies story seems to have been broken by Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy magazine (owned by the Washington Post Company) on October 5. He attached the enemies comment to Russia and China. Did he do that deliberately to mislead? Or was he merely working off of the FNS transcript, which presented a misleading version of Isaacson's remarks? I don't know. But it certainly seems plausible that Rogin, the RT producers, and others who covered the Russia-China-enemies story were working off the faulty transcript.

That one little mistake, a misplaced paragraph break, sure got a lot of bad press for Isaacson and the United States. The way in which this story emerged as so misleading is one for the textbooks.

The Takeaway Points

Lessons for editors? First, pay attention to little things. Even paragraph breaks. When done wrong, they can have a big impact. Second, try to get back to the original source. In this case, the FNS transcript was inaccurate. Relying upon the original video of Isaacson's speech would have been a better choice.

William Dunkerley is editor of Editors Only.

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Recently Tweeted

Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 4:48 PM

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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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Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:26 PM

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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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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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