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Mark Newman

Hiring—and Feeding—Competent Editors

Mark Newman Editorial - 12/21/2007-10:09 AM

Aside from Southern Breeze magazine, my company also publishes several travel guides loaded with beautiful color photography and editorial, not to mention a plethora of newspaper and magazine inserts (most with editorial). As you can imagine, there's always something for an editorial staff to do!

All these projects are tackled by me and my assistant editor and editorial assistant. In the past I often turned to my stable of gifted freelancers, but this year the majority of the writing has been done in-house. The difference? My staff.

Last year I only had one staffer whose experience included weekly newspapers and an internship at a mediocre local magazine. On paper, her experience was ideal. Reality was a different story. Rather than regale you with tales of her sour attitude, arrogance ("I didn't get a journalism degree for this!"), and ineptitude, I'll cut to the chase: she resigned a week before she was to be fired, thankfully.

When it came time to hire new employees, I found that I had an embarrassment of riches. From newspaper veterans in Louisiana to trade magazine editors in New Jersey to college seniors from all over the Southeast, my cup runneth over. This was a big change from the last time I hired which was in Manhattan in 1999 where one kid got a job for just showing up! This was at the height of the dot-com boom and we all know how that worked out!

I was determined to hire people who had a desire to prove themselves without the know-it-all attitude that comes after working a mere two years in the real world (I was there too, so I know of what I speak).

The first step, of course, was the interview while the second, more arduous step was an editing test. It took the applicants over two hours to complete and Catherine, my art director, called me a sadist after she saw it. I admit that I'm glad I never had to take this test but I was determined to get the right people for the job.

My new and improved staff now consists of an editorial assistant who began six months ago as an intern and an assistant editor with a spanking new M.A. in English. They both aced the editing test while, surprisingly, the candidates who did the worst were those who had been working in newspapers for a number of years, which proves experience isn't everything.

Since my new staffers have made my life easier, I am doing my best to reciprocate. Although I cannot fully control their salaries, I can control their work environment, especially since we all share the same office. It's not as cramped as you may think. Luckily my years as managing editor with a commercial buildings magazine came in handy and I repurposed the office myself, creating three separate work areas that allow for easy communication, but also for a modicum of privacy.

Aside from the physical work environment, I have established a trusting boss/employee dialogue in order to help them learn things about the magazine world; I share knowledge not just about the best way to conduct an interview or proper style, but also on the intricacies of the work world that the rest of us have become so accustomed to: office politics, etiquette, career growth, etc. I am trying to be the type of boss I would like to have; it's a variation on the "golden rule" we were all taught as kids: do unto others... Let's face it, all too often the mantra in the office is more akin to "kill or be killed" and not just in those Devil Wears Prada extremes.

Don't get me wrong: it's not all Valentines. When I close our office door, they know they're in for a "good talking to." So far, those incidents have been rare (I can only think of one off the top of my head), but they know I am serious and that if said mistakes are made again, there will be consequences. This also helps me communicate exactly what I expect from them and how seriously I take our mission.

Also, once a month we all go out to an "editorial meeting" which is simply a lunch at a local restaurant where they are free to discuss anything at all with me without any fear of reprisals. The lunch comes out of my own pocket but it is an investment I am more than willing to make. When the right staff comes along, you need to do all you can to keep them happy. Sometimes it's money, sometimes it's just being able to talk to them and treat them fairly. And honestly sometimes it's just a round of margaritas at El Toro!

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Henry Donahue

Google’s March to World Domination

Henry Donahue emedia and Technology - 12/21/2007-10:05 AM

Google's announcement last week of their new Knol product sparked speculation about which online publishing models were marked for death. Post-bubble comeback kid Henry Blodget mused on Silicon Valley Insider:

"Google continues to take a page from the early Microsoft play-book: Take someone else's cool idea, do it better, and steamroll the competition. Next up: a human-generated Wikipedia and About.com (NYT) killer."

Google is taking aim here at two sites that combine enormous traffic (mostly driven by search-engines) with user-generated content that ranges from marginally helpful to totally false.

You can picture Larry and Sergey as they circle the globe in their private jet:

Larry: "Why do we send millions of our users to these jokers every month?"

Sergey: "You're right! We could do the same thing they do, and keep all the page views and advertising revenue to ourselves."

[Cue evil chuckling and rubbing of hands.]

For publishers, the news highlights the vulnerabilities of two cornerstones of many online strategies: user-generated content and search engine optimization. The content is cheap but easily commoditized. The traffic comes from someone who is also an ad sales competitor.

If Google succeeds in dominating this space, it will reinforce the premium on site content that is high-quality and hard to duplicate, whether it comes from editors or readers.

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Frank Locantore

Green Predictions for 2008

Frank Locantore Design and Production - 12/20/2007-15:14 PM

The Green Predictions for 2008 can be summed up thusly: growing momentum. We'll see that the increased attention towards the environment over the past year will continue and gain build in 2008. This momentum will become increasingly evident when working with the following five stakeholder groups:

  1. Staff: Talented new staff will be looking for publishing houses that have strong commitments to the environment, while current staff will accelerate their efforts to green their offices from the amount of materials recycled to the environmental production of the publication. All departments from designers, editorial, marketing, production, and accounting will be developing sincere and creative ways to be environmentally responsible.
  2. Consumers: Magazine readers will look more closely at the masthead for signs of the publication's environmental responsibility. Expect more letters from readers asking if the publication is using recycled paper.
  3. Advertisers: Expect more advertisers to inquire about the environmental characteristics of the publication they are attaching their brand to. Aveda requires any magazine that wants their advertising dollars to fill out a survey detailing their environmental performance. Other advertisers have different preferences for magazines using recycled paper and the list continues to grow.
  4. "Charismatic Mega-Mag": Look for one or two large, prestigious magazine titles to publicly announce their recycled paper use in 2008. Watch how other magazines scramble to gain the mantle of environmental responsibility in their market niche in the wake of the announcements.
  5. Paper Company Support: While the dramatic paper price increases may not endear you to the paper companies right now, they are already showing signs of moving towards greater production of recycled papers. Some are expanding the capacity of their deinking units to process the recovered fiber they receive, while others are investing millions in building brand new deinking units. This expanded capacity will ultimately have a beneficial effect on magazines' use of recycled paper.

One Warning: Beware the paper supplier that tells you that burning trees and tree parts (biomass, or biofuels) is carbon neutral. They are selling you a bill of goods that will eventually harm your brand.

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Jason Fell

Wired Debunks Santa

Jason Fell Consumer - 12/20/2007-12:42 PM

Leave it to Wired to ruin Christmas.

In the December issue the editors call out Santa Claus in a three-page infographic. They spoke with business process consultants, surveillance experts, shipping professionals and even a former Navy SEAL to find out how the jolly man from the North Pole would really operate, without invoking supernatural powers.

Some of the unofficial findings:

  • Santa's elves have names like Mattel and Hasbro. Santa apparently sources production to a number of companies to mask the scope of his operation.
  • Santa knows if you've been naughty or nice. He taps into National Security Agency spy satellites to track bullies, vandals and other mischievous youngsters.
  • Forget the reindeer. In the U.S. alone Santa must hire an army of 2.7 million people (elves?) to deliver 34 million gifts in one night.

It's a fun piece that should go nicely alongside the lump of coal nonbelievers will find under the tree next week.

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Dylan Stableford

OK! Magazine Breaks 'Intimate,' 'Exclusive,' 'Major' Pregnancy Story

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 12/19/2007-18:55 PM

If you haven't heard, Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn spears, is pregnant. The story, first reported by OK! magazine, was picked up by, well, every media outlet in the entire world.

Here's the e-mail OK! publisher Tom Morrissy sent to advertisers this afternoon to remind them it was OK! who did the intrepid reporting, and that now is a good time to advertise in the magazine:

From: Tom Morrissy
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007
3:21 PM
To: [REDACTED]
Subject: OK! Breaking News

Dear Advertiser,

OK! Magazine does it again with another major scoop that is sure to be the hot topic this holiday weekend. Our exclusive, intimate interview with Jamie Lynn Spears discussing her pregnancy was the lead story on all the news outlets this morning including:

• Lead story on The Today Show
• Cover of the New York Post
• Lead Story on TMZ
• Cover of USA Today's Life section
• Lead story on People.com

This exclusive caps an extraordinary year of "gets" for OK! Between the first photos of Larry Birkhead and daughter Dannielynn, Eva Longoria's wedding, and Britney's photo shoot "meltdown," OK! proves once again that we are the source for breaking celebrity news around the world!

Don't Miss Our Next Hot Exclusive: Fast-Close Opportunity!

OK! has the exclusive interview and photos of Emmy-winner Katherine Heigl's wedding in our 1/14 issue (on sale 1/3). As proven with our Kate Walsh and Eva wedding exclusives, this is sure to deliver bonus circulation! Contact your OK! sales representative for a quick opportunity to kick off the New Year with buzz for your brand.

Have a great holiday!

Tom

Tom Morrissy
Publisher
OK! Magazine

NEWS. ACCESS. STYLE.
OK! Magazine | 475 5th Avenue | New York | NY | 10017


How the publication of a story that gets so much national attention–effectively rendering the buying of the magazine completely unnecessary–signals a good opportunity for advertisers to "kick off the New Year with buzz for your brand" is beyond me, although I suppose that's why I'm not the publisher of OK! magazine.

UPDATE: It appears the OK! servers are not handling the traffic crush too well, as the site is up and down (sort of like Britney's pop career?). It also appears that People.com bought "OK magazine" as a Google keyword, displaying a link under search results that reads "JAMIE SPEARS PREGNANT."

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Ted Bahr

Stop the Insanity!

Ted Bahr Sales and Marketing - 12/19/2007-12:22 PM

I’m given to rail against the state of the world in terms of the overreaction in favor of online marketing methods over print advertising. As with any sea change in the sales end of our industry, there are multiple players (publishers, clients, ad agencies) and plenty of blame to go around. A frequent target for publishers is ad agencies. Part of this is historical, as an agency can stand between the publisher and his/her client. And part of it is structural. Clients squeeze ad agencies, who have to run leaner and often assign inexperienced media buyers to select media.

Today, there are two beefs we have with ad agencies: one is the “RFP due by the end of the day.” The other is “we’re only buying online.” Clearly, there is pressure from clients on both fronts, but the hope is that the ad agencies—who are supposed to be guiding the client’s marketing efforts—would make a greater effort to help stop the insanity.

But I’ve discovered hope recently in the form of two of the most influential high-tech ad agencies, Just Media and Mindshare.

Just Media, in Berkeley, California, has a whole pile of accounts including EMC, the red-hot VMware, Quest, Fujitsu, McAfee, and others. Recently, CEO Dick Reed told me of the battles they are pitching to get these clients to truly embrace integrated marketing—with the print part of the equation being the biggest challenge. It was Dick that told me about ROMO—"Return on Marketing Objective"—and how his agency is using it to convince clients to use print in the mix. Dick also told me about having lunch with Pat McGovern this summer and railing on him about shutting down InfoWorld. A far cry from a 23-year-old media planner plunking numbers into a spreadsheet, this is the kind of involved, opinionated and non-isolationist ad agency we need.

Another agency that gets it is Mindshare, working with IBM. Experienced associate media director Larry Meisel is out on the front lines with publishers, pushing, cajoling and preaching about what IBM needs in print. And he is almost single-handedly keeping the IT newsweeklies alive. (A quick hand-count of 12/17 issues reveals: Computerworld, 21.5 ad pages, 4 from IBM; Network World, 19.5 pages, 6 from IBM; eWeek, 37.5 ad pages, 9 from IBM.)

They are out there. Find those ad agencies that get it. And let’s get them more business.

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Daniel Brogan

Another Voice for Long-Form Journalism

Daniel Brogan Editorial - 12/18/2007-18:56 PM

Following up my previous rant on the business of investigative journalism at magazines, I was happy to see this from Texas Monthly's Evan Smith:

Long-form is not the disease, it's the cure. What distinguishes us from other magazines is that we believe enough in the intellectual and cultural passions of our readers to give them 6,000; 7,000; or 10,000 words, when appropriate, on big subjects. Our circulation numbers are strong, which tells me that rather than going against the wishes of the people out there, we're actually speaking exactly to them.

Exactly.

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Joanna Pettas

Is This Cover Too Pretty?

Joanna Pettas Design and Production - 12/18/2007-18:41 PM

Art director Adana Jimenez says the cover of Scholastic Administr@tor’s October/November 2007 issue is “still too pretty” for her—it doesn’t reflect grossly enough the fact that most children seem to be eating junk in their schools. Our panelist Jim Nissen, publication art director at Switch Studio, agrees. “If it was sloppy and unhealthy-looking, they might have better set up an argument for change.”

Click here to read more. Then scroll to the bottom and take the survey to win an iPod Shuffle.

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Dylan Stableford

Readers Argue Where to Place Ascend Blame

Dylan Stableford B2B - 12/18/2007-16:33 PM

"Downfall." "Volatile." "Implosion." It's a story that has, as one industry insider observed, the appeal of "trainwreck." Tony Silber's account of Ascend Media's fall from grace, despite being published last week, is continuing to draw heated comments from a largely anonymous gallery.

Like these:

Submitted by Anonymous:

The founders of Ascend have the worst track record and as we know, history always repeats itself. There was no other possible ending to this story with these guys at the helm.


Submitted by Anonymous:

The demise of Intertec ... did NOT happen under Bishop's watch as commented by someone here. Cam fought hard at Intertec against a naive and greedy attempt by a board with no publishing experience to transform Intertec into a "dot-com" company, was ousted because of his resistance to what everyone at the company knew was a crazy and stupid plan, and was ultimately proven correct when the dot-com crash killed Intertec.

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Daniel Brogan

Philly Mag Editor Vetoes Congressional Bid

Daniel Brogan City and Regionals - 12/18/2007-15:20 PM

Given that I live in a city that elected a bar owner as its mayor, you'd think that nothing about politics would surprise me anymore. Still, I couldn't decide whether to be tickled or befuddled at the ongoing rumblings that Philadelphia magazine editor Larry Platt was contemplating a run for Congress. [FULL DISCOSURE: I've been drunk with the guy. Several times.]

As recently as last week, Roll Call was making it seem like a done deal:

Philadelphia magazine editor Larry Platt is planning a bid against Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) and an announcement is forthcoming next month, according to a Pennsylvania Democratic operative with knowledge of the race.

"He's certainly moving ahead and finishing his due diligence, but we certainly expect that he will be running," the Democrat said. [...]

Local Democrats are hopeful that Platt's connections in the wealthy Philadelphia suburbs will be the ticket to defeating Gerlach in a district that voted for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

Well, Philly Dems are going to have to make other plans. Platt has told his staff that he's out:

After being a prospective candidate for two days at the Pennsylvania Society last weekend, I was so sick of my own voice, so tired of hearing me talk about me, that I realized this life change wasn’t for me. When you’re a journalist, I realized, you’re interested in hearing and conveying other peoples’ stories. When you’re obsessed with your own story, you create your own little echo chamber inside your head. It’s not fun.

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John Brady

Scent Strips Stink

John Brady Consumer - 12/18/2007-12:33 PM

The latest entry from John Brady's Last Legacy Editor Standing ...

Is it just me, or do scent strips stink? You know, those perfume or cologne ads that run in Esquire, Vanity Fair, the fashion mags, with a sniffer sample of the scent being sold.

First of all, they all smell alike.

Secondly, when you put four or five of them in the same magazine, the scents merge and the whole publication smells like the men's bathroom between innings at Fenway Park.

Thirdly, I have never known anyone who made a purchasing decision on the basis of these strips. I think they are a bogus tool for selling ads and stinking up a magazine.

Whenever I sit down to go through a magazine with strips, the first thing I do is tear them out and toss them in the trash. Then I seal the trash bag tightly so that the scents don't contaminate the room. Whatever you do, don't run these strips through your shredder—you will have that Fenway smell in the confetti and the blades of your shredder for at least three years. (I think the half-life is a decade.)

Finally, never ever ever rub one of these stinkos on a wrist or behind the ears before heading out on a date. You may think initially that you have saved some big money for the latest trendy scent, but, if the evening heats up, a rash is sure to follow.

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Dylan Stableford

Facebook vs. MySpace

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 12/18/2007-09:51 AM

With all the talk of social networking in 2007-including the Beacon debacle-I've been following with interest the monthly traffic growth of Facebook and LinkedIn as they continue to chip away at MySpace's lead and market share.

It's a Web 2.0 pennant race!

Alongside the usual suspects, note that Flixster, the site that allows you to share movie ratings with friends, is having an enormous year.

AOL Hometown, down 22 percent versus November 2006, is not.

The latest unique visitors (in thousands), as provided by Nielsen Online.

Nielsen also provides the top 10 blogs in terms of traffic. The top five on this list-like Blogger and Wordpress-are not blogs, per se, but free blog hosting companies. The exception is TMZ.com, whose traffic was flat when compared to November 2006—the month, you'll recall, that Michael Richards' racist tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club was caught on tape and posted to TMZ.

 

UNIQUE AUDIENCE
6-Nov 7-Nov %CHNG
Myspace 53,596 57,390 7%
Facebook 11,634 21,975 89%
Classmates Online 12,236 11,466 -6%
Windows Live Spaces 8,824 9,504 8%
AOL Hometown 9,810 7,644 -22%
LinkedIn 1,576 5,443 245%
Club Penguin 2,224 4,398 98%
Reunion.com 4,743 4,085 -14%
AOL Community 6,035 3,455 -43%
Flixster 807 3,357 316%


UNIQUE AUDIENCE 6-Nov 7-Nov %CHNG
Blogger 22,562 33,638 49%
WordPress.com 2,937 12,043 310%
Six Apart TypePad 9,065 11,027 22%
TMZ.com 8,981 8,865 -1%
LiveJournal 3,662 3,422 -7%
Thatsfit 1,324 2,640 99%
Gadling 683 2,425 255%
Engadget 1,121 2,387 113%
Xanga.com 4,221 2,283 -46%
Gizmodo 1,078 2,101 95%

 

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