The Must-Have Skills You Didn’t Know You Needed Yet
Magazine industry is in perpetual transition, with new technologies and business opportunities around every corner. Those who can adapt quickly can position themselves better for future success. But what skills will be important three to five years from now?
Folio: asked six leaders in their respective publishing disciplines—editorial, sales, marketing, art direction, manufacturing and production and events—to offer their advise on what knowledge and skillsets junior staffers need to focus on to keep pace with the industry over the next few years.
Andy Hersam, vice president and publisher, Runner’s World, Rodale
“Outside of passion and knowledge of the consumer, there are a couple of key things—with the speed this industry is evolving, you have to be master of the media marketplace. You have to know it. You’ve got to understand everything going on in media in general. Regardless of the platform, you need to know the entire landscape, which also allows you to stay a step ahead of how things are evolving and changing in the overall media marketplace.
Some of best sellers I know are students of media—they consume all sorts. I read at least 30 or 40 magazines a month. I get my hands on as many as I can (and probably the same amount of Web sites, television, radio). I want to know what’s going on, what people are doing and essentially, what opportunities are out there for my brand in the platforms I am selling.
We are no longer in the age of the single-minded practioner. You need to be a generalist. No longer are you selling the page, no longer are you selling the clickthrough or the spot, you’re selling an audience. How do you capture that audience’s attention? How do you sell goods to that particular person? At the end of the day it is a person. It’s not a pair of eyeballs, it’s not a commodity, there’s a real person looking for that message.
The other thing that’s lost on many of us is that in the sales process, I don’t think there’s anything more important than follow-up. That is the foundation to all sales. If you promise something to a customer, you have to do it. It’s often overlooked. We demand of ourselves high call volume and sometimes salespeople put follow-up on the backburner. The reality is that follow-up is as important as the call itself. Media buyers want to know they can trust their investment.
There absolutely will be a difference in the way we sell three to five years from now. The overuse and miss-use of e-mail, that’s going to continue to grow. There are a lot of sales that go down and people haven’t even met each other. The relationship is purely electronic, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Will teleconferencing keep us off more airplanes? Probably. Face-to-face may not be in person but it’s still face-to-face. There’s opportunity to create a more free-flowing conversation, whether it’s face-to-face or over the phone rather than e-mail.
Newer salespeople often look for the lowest hanging fruit and sometimes the opportunity is a little higher up the tree. Categories that may not be recognized as purely endemic to your magazine still have a place in your environment. With Runner’s World, the discipline, focus and goal setting that makes a good runner are the same qualities reflected in a good investor. That’s reflected in advertisers such as American Express or Discover Card. Destination marathons have become a huge part of our business. The audience is young, mobile, professional and managerial. Running produces a fit body that runners are proud of, and we’re breaking health and beauty accounts like L’Oreal. People want to look good, and we’re breaking retail accounts like Eddie Bauer. It doesn’t have to be all running shoes and race ads.”
Tony Calanca, EVP Exhibitions, Advanstar Communications
“Junior event people tend to work in one vertical strip of event management: Sales, operations, marketing, conference, etc. At some point they do well enough that they are promoted to an overall event management position and find themselves managing people and processes with which they have no familiarity, much less any expertise. We as organizers need to recognize this and take the time and make the investment to develop these other skillsets so that when we need to promote someone to a position with broader responsibilities, they are prepared instead of being thrust into what may well be a fail-sure circumstance.”
Manufacturing & Production
Ellen Payne, Director of Editorial Operations, Hearst
“Manufacturing and production staffers should learn as much as they can about digital asset management, electronic workflow on both the ad and edit sides, color theory and e-publishing. They need to know the old world of ink-on-paper and press but they really need to understand as much as they can about how to digitize every aspect of the magazine workflow. They need to know about electronic insertion orders and the latest on book make-up. They need to learn about Web production—a lot of that isn’t so much designing the page but facilitating everything that comes in. What we’re doing now, there’s a short lifespan for that segment.
Think about what makes a good manufacturing and production person. It’s about maintaining quality. In the past it has been about understanding paper and ink and color. You still need to understand color for the Web. Color quality is not as rigorous online as print but you’re still responsible for making sure all the trains leave the station on time and on the Web, the trains leave the station on a non-stop basis. Understanding the process and the technology behind Web production is critical.
They need to develop more flexibility. To maintain quality, a good print production person has a checklist and does the same thing every month. Now technology automates so much of it, they need to give up unnecessary tasks. It’s okay with this technology if you don’t triple-check something. There’s an element of knowing when to trust the technology.
Constantly be looking for new ways to do things, which goes against the old job description. ‘Looking for new ways’ used to be on a different time scale. Maybe every five years you changed how you did things, now it’s every five months.
Production people need to develop a collaborative mindset so that print and online can work together. The more they know about any aspect of something like mobile or asset management, the more capable they will be to be at the forefront of what the next wave. We need great quality product regardless of where it ends up, whether that’s in print or digital.”
Alfred Edmund, Editor-in-Chief, Black Enterprise
“At least three skills will be key across the board for people in editorial. First, we’ll need to be better than ever at spotting and developing talent. A person you recruited for one job may need to be trained for another. Print journalists will end up needing to be able to help develop a television show, content for a Web site, podcasts and so on. We need to hire people who are not only technically skilled and talented but people who are coachable, not stuck in what they were doing before but with an attitude that will allow them to adapt to something totally different. It’s important to spot people with the right attitude and the right degree of intelligence and flexibility. You’ll need to have a certain degree of fluidity in your talent pool to succeed editorially for the next five years.
Second, because we’re being asked to do more with the same resources, it will be increasingly important for editors to have a general manager’s mentality. It’s like if the owner of a professional sports team tells you to accomplish this and that but without increasing the salary cap, so you have to put a team together that can still accomplish all the objectives.
The last thing that gets harder and harder to do in this world of so-called multimedia convergence is that somebody in the organization has to maintain the integrity of the content. Despite all the cross-pollination and multiple uses and repurposing of content, the consumer has to trust that—with integrated marketing and product placement and all things that come with diverse forms of media—someone is the guardian of the audience, saying that the information is credible. It was easier when people stayed in their silos of content production. As everything blurs and converges, it becomes harder and harder to make editorial integrity a priority. The ones left standing with the most credibility despite the complexity of their media offerings will be those that affirm trust in their brand. That’s the unique role that editors are going to have to play to stay in the long run.
On a personal level, editors are going to need greater stamina and a greater ability to manage the pressures of trying to always be perfect and on deadline. People who will succeed and excel over time will be dedicated to the prospect that what they do has value.”
Phil Bicker, Creative Director, The Fader
“What’s needed as much an intellectual property is a technical one. Designers need to be aware of the Web site—how to not only get people to go there but to make sure they stay there, to make sure they are encouraged to interact on a different level than in print—listening to music, seeing moving images and slideshows, and so on. People like to go online and be in touch with the latest, especially younger people.
In terms of technical skills, designers will need to have the same design sensibility—of hierarchy, emphasis, structure—but they will have to adapt it to different media. Online, it’s less linear but you still need to understand how you want your viewer to navigate around the page. Throwing everything onto a site, so crammed and packed with no way through, no map, is not going to work. The best sites will be those that work out their priorities: Position on page, size—the fundamentals of design.
It will be important, also, to have people on staff with an ability to use online software. I find that many print designers don’t have any expertise online. Sometimes this might mean hiring additional staff who have those skills.”
Andrea Hood, Vice President, Marketing Sunshine Media Inc.
“Marketing professionals will need to know how to promote niche content to a strategic market. They’ll need to know the latest Web technology and online marketing techniques in order to maintain a comprehensive Web strategy, while managing print quality. They’ll need to know how to strategically target a defined online market while leveraging technology including SEO, online advertising, social media, and viral marketing. They’ll also need to capture customer data, which will enable them to customize content and provide better solutions to help their customers make better and more informed decisions.”