As magazines continue to fold, editors can continue to lament the downfall of print media as they hold onto their jobs for dear life or take charge of their careers and do what’s necessary to make them invaluable to their employers.
Hopefully magazines and newspapers will learn to monetize their content on the web or rebuild their business models so they aren’t solely based on ad dollars which are based on inflated base-rates. I’ll gladly spend a little more to keep my favorite magazines from faltering and I’m saddened when I seen a subscription offer of “two years for $6″ as I know the writings on the wall for that magazine to shutter.
After spending a few years working for two of the largest print media companies in the world (Time Inc. and Hachette Filipacchi Media), I understand why they don’t get the online business. Each of these publishers has been putting ink to paper for at least 100 years. That’s why they’ve been successful because they’ve been doing this better than anyone for a tremendous amount of time. The same goes for long-time employees, many of who remain stubborn and arrogant about their roles editing a magazine. For many of them it’s been their only job since graduating from college.
I remember a team meeting between the digital department and a senior group of magazine editors from Metropolitan Home. One of the editors said “Why do we even have to have a website? I hate looking at photos on a website. I don’t get why we have to spend time talking about this, my team is very busy.” This meeting took place in 2008. The following year Metropolitan Home folded.
Regardless of how these media behemoths evolve, the digital revolution is here and print editors who want to keep their jobs or take on more responsibility in their next positions should acquire the following skills, yesterday!
1. Join the community – You say you hate Facebook and have no time for Twitter. Are you busier than Martha Stewart or Bob Vila. So they may have ghost writers but the important thing is they are visible on these two social media platforms and have thousands of followers. If you choose not to participate at least build a profile which will be indexed by Google.
2. Blog – Forget what you know or have heard about blogs. If you fancy yourself a great writer and a person of exceptional knowledge in an particular field, then you would make a great blogger. Being a great blogger will in turn build authority in your subject matter and broaden your audience and reach. Blogs are a central piece of any portfolio and a sharp looking and well-written blog will get you hired over clips and blurbs from random publications.
3. Adjust your style – The majority of successful blogs and websites are short-form and understand there is a limited amount of time to capture a readers attention before they move on to another website. You may write beautiful long form prose but save that for your book deal. Learn to write for the web and also consider keyword rich heds and deks that will translate to online stories. If you can summarize your article in 140 characters you are golden (if you know why this is important then you’re on your way).
4. Learn the online business – If you can show an employer you understand why pageviews per visit are important and can explain SEO you’ll be ahead of the game. Knowing just a little bit about how a magazine website makes money and builds traffic shows you are savvy to the whole operation.
5. Volunteer for online assignments – Create your own opportunities by approaching the online editor or producer with a special online series that you’d like to write. You’ll most likely be greeted with an enthusiastic response and show the organization how important online is to you. If you can tie it to a print story with inline slugs to URL’s that’s even better.
Bottom line – The editors I saw successfully move from print to online or those that just wanted to stay relevant within their organizations, embraced the digital side of publishing and adjusted their skill sets to not only keep from being let go but made them the most valuable members of their organizations and many were quickly rewarded.
Mark Zuckerberg may only be 24 but in the publishing world the 50 year-old editor who knows how to build a keyword rich article in the CMS and post it to Facebook will get the corner office.