Advertising Sales and the Editor, Part I

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 2:42 PM

Top editors discuss the divide between ad and edit at their publications.

By William Dunkerley

How cozy does your editorial department get with the ad sales team? A wall between editorial and advertising has long been an impervious dividing line at many, if not most, publications. At least, that's been the goal.

The idea is that editorial content must unequivocally serve the readers. Capitulating to advertiser pressures represents a corruption of that principle. The ad/edit separation is supposed to be something like the separation of church and state.

Is that concept still relevant as the publication field experiences the dramatic evolutionary changes brought on by the global digital revolution?

We've been sensing that the exigencies of today's publishing milieu may be knocking a few bricks out of that wall of separation. So we conducted an anecdotal survey to tap into editors' thinking. And the editors had a lot to say:

Item 1

From Donald Tepper Editor, Lead Editor/Writer PT in Motion

"I don't personally participate in PT in Motion's ad sales efforts. That's left entirely to an outside company. The staff liaison, technically "advertising manager," is in our organization's (American Physical Therapy Association) marketing department, although she used to be structurally on the magazine's staff.

"However, I (and we all) recognize that advertising is essential to the magazine. As a result, we ask for input from the advertising manager and, through her, the advertising sales company, for article topics and themes that might attract additional advertising. Ultimately, all these subjects must meet our editorial standards. And they're treated as editorial, not as advertising. For example, in recent years we've received feedback that advertisers are interested in articles dealing with technology. They're also interested in coverage of the private practice setting; those readers, after all, generally have purchasing authority. (Other settings include academic/educational, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, research, the military, and so on.) We sometimes receive requests for specific topics that may appeal to certain advertisers -- aquatics, for example.

"In addition, I and the other editorial staff will try to come up with topics that, though not specifically suggested, might be 'advertiser-friendly.' Recent examples include 'Group Purchasing and Other Buying Strategies,' 'How to Defend Yourself Against Scams and Cyberattacks,' and 'Travel PTs: Opportunities Today.' We develop an editorial calendar and then circulate it to different departments within APTA for their comments and feedback. The marketing department and the advertising manager have an opportunity to review it as well. (Their comments, when provided, generally have been along the lines of 'Can we have something addressing technology in the July issue?') But it's up to them to sell the advertising or develop packages based on the editorial calendar. "On very rare occasions (once or twice a year) I may talk directly to an advertiser to provide a description of what we're planning for a particular article. I also work with one or two PR firms (not even a company's ad agency) who provide some business-related case studies dealing with a particular topic (for instance, aquatics) but without even mentioning the client's name. It just can result in a more 'advertiser-friendly' publication ... though the item (these are short items, not full-length features) is fully subject to editing and must meet our editorial standards.

"And at some of our major conferences, I may receive an invitation from an exhibitor (that also happens to advertise in the magazine). I'll drop by the booth, shake hands, and take a look at whatever they're exhibiting. But I'm not trying to sell the company on advertising in PT in Motion. (And, frankly, booth personnel aren't interested in meeting me. They want to meet actual buyers.)

"Bottom line: My attitude and practice is not to participate in the magazine's ad sales efforts.

"How often do I communicate with anyone on the ad sales team about any sales-related effort? As described above: almost never. Maybe six times a year, mostly related to questions about the editorial calendar."

Item 2

From Joanne Erickson Editor in Chief Provider magazine

"I think it is pretty impossible to divorce oneself entirely from sales today. While I have always been -- and continue to be -- a strict enforcer of the hard editorial line, we do accept select articles from advertisers (with no self-promotion of product beyond their byline) that are pertinent and valuable to readers, almost exclusively from software companies and various consultants.

"The editorial staff also keep sales up to date on upcoming content and almost daily pass on leads as they cross our desks.

"Provider's sales staff also sells sponsored events, such as roundtables, interview lounges, and series of talks, and editorial staff participate fully in securing speakers, interviewees, and other participants and play key roles in the events themselves.

"As editor, I will meet clients who request a meeting, but I'm never involved in actual selling. That being said, I encourage editorial to support sales in any way that we can."

More to Come

These excellent commentaries serve well to frame the debate. In Part II we'll present additional comments collected by our survey. We encourage that you now add your perspective too. Please use the "Comment" link below for that purpose. We'll hold your input for the next issue.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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I Didn't Expect That and It Is Wonderful

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 2:42 PM

Surprise is most useful in our efforts to win and hold reader interest.

By Peter P. Jacobi

I've never come around to adding sound to my computer, so I do not spend time roaming YouTube. Fortunately, a friend clued me in to a YouTube piece he came across that, he said, I must see.

Several weeks later, while doing a presentation skills workshop where folks had all the right equipment, I got connected with the piece, which showed primary grade children gathering for lunch in a school cafeteria.

It shows the kids getting seated, when into their space comes one, then two, then three strangers, adults, who act out a scene of slight menace and more than slight absurdity. Their invasion, a chase, is given voice, voice of high volume and energy, through snippets from arias of operas by Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini, high-powered composers to be sure. The invading culprits are two tenors and a soprano.

The video is a perfect delight. The children are revealed stunned: their faces in a blaze of expressions, their body motions large scale, their noise turned to silence, their wonder evident, their applause at the end generous. They had been surprised by a happening many of them are likely to remember for a long time.

I know not the reason these entertainers were brought into the school: for the students just to be entertained, for them to be introduced to something unfamiliar, for the support of a music appreciation program, to keep the kids controlled during lunch, perhaps more than one of these or something completely different?

But the little feature story reminded me once again that when people, particularly children, are introduced to experiences of intrigue and value, they are likely to be affected and, perhaps, changed. Musicians and music educators understand that. Writers understand that, whether journalists, playwrights, novelists, or poets; whether writers for children or adults.

The Importance of Surprise in Writing

When I gave a keynote address earlier this summer, during a "Masterclass in Nonfiction " offered by the Highlights Foundation for adults interested in writing for children, I decided to begin my address with this YouTube charmer. I titled my speech "I Didn't Expect That and It Is Wonderful. " And such was my setup for a lecture on surprise: the importance of surprise in writing. Writers need to supply surprise. Editors need to make sure this significant element makes its presence felt in as many stories and ways as possible. Surprise is most useful in our efforts to win and hold reader interest.

To quote writer Anne Bernays: "Nice writing isn't enough. It isn't enough to have smooth and pretty language. You have to surprise the reader frequently; you can't just be nice all the time. Provoke the reader. Astonish the reader. Writing that has no surprise is as bland as oatmeal. "

Shock

For the body of my keynote presentation, I prepared a list of ways that surprise can enrich copy, emphasizing that shock, though certainly one through which the reader is sure to be corralled, is far from the only one. SHOCK does surprise, and when we have a shocking story to tell, then we should tell it. Yes, we should shock, cause shivers or shakes or trepidations, throw emotional bombs, whatever is applicable.

But, I added, surprise is a many-splendored thing. The unexpected can take on other raiment, other expressions, other means to capture our reader. Here are others, starting with a given that should never be forgotten.

Striking Prose

STRIKING PROSE can surprise. It is a basic splendor, a basic surprise without which not much else matters. What Anne Bernays termed "nice writing " does matter. I call it good writing: writing that, in its own language-respecting way, is compelling versus blah-inspiring or even disturbing. I mean writing that's well put together, accurate, brief as it can be, without wastage of words. Writing that is clear, correct, complete, so that -- even though the reader may be yearning for more information -- he or she doesn't require it because the necessary goods are present in the copy. Writing without holes: that flows from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, idea to idea, section to section, in other words writing I can follow. And, yes, writing that's grammatical with words spelled correctly and punctuation to help guide me from start to finish.

Without solid writing, the rest is immaterial. You will lose your reader, and all extra twists and turns and experiments on your part that you engage in to elicit attention through surprise will vanish. Remember my oft-repeated "Read your copy out loud and listen " advice to assist you in achieving copy that is good and solid.

Amazement

How else can you attract your reader through a form of surprise? Try AMAZEMENT. Share the unbelievable that is true, the factual that is stranger than fiction, as does Brian Doyle in an article on hummingbirds for The American Scholar: "Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It's expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be 200 years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old. "

The amazing hummingbird: stranger than fiction. Drinking in such nature-is-a-wonder details can surprise.

Details

And so, we come to details. DETAILS certainly should have a place on our list of surprise-causes. The power of details, used in appropriate fashion, choice, and extent, cannot be argued. Details are the jeweled substance for our work.

Mark Twain witnessed the 1868 San Francisco earthquake in powerful detail, some of which I share with you:

"There came a really terrific shock. The ground seemed to roll under me in waves, interrupted by a violent joggling up and down, and there was a heavy grinding noise as of brick houses rubbing together. I fell up against the frame house and hurt my elbow. As I reeled about on the pavement, trying to keep my footing, I saw a sight! The front of a four-story brick building on Third Street sprung outward like a door and fell sprawling across the street, raising a dust like a great volume of smoke!

"A streetcar had stopped. The horses were rearing and plunging. The passengers were pouring out at both ends, and one fat man had crashed halfway through a glass window on one side of the car, got wedged fast, and was squirming and screaming like an impaled madman.

"Every door of every house was vomiting a stream of human beings.... One woman who had been washing a naked child ran down the street holding it by the ankles as if it were a dressed turkey. " And so on. Details adorned by Mark Twain in his adroit and inimitable literary way.

So we have surprise as shock or suspense, as solid writing, as amazement, and as details. I'll complete the list with another six techniques next month, techniques that can cause you reader to say: "I Didn't Expect That and It is Wonderful. "

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 2:42 PM

Assessing the readability of a Yahoo.com excerpt.

This month, we'll measure the Fog in a sample from an August 28 Yahoo.com article ("Facebook Has Introduced a User Trustworthiness Score -- Here's Why It Should Go Further" by Sharon Coen). Here's the text with longer words italicized:

"While we do have biases in our thinking, most of us want to feel useful and valuable. Studies have now shown how people use social media as a kind of identity laboratory, constructing a particular image of themselves that they present to the world. Our own research shows how Facebook use is associated with our need to feel like we belong to a community and that we are worthy and capable individuals. In a way, introducing reputation scores that users can access would satisfy this need, while also making sure that people do not feel discouraged from flagging content for fear of being profiled and singled out by the platform."

Word count: words Average sentence length: 28 words (17, 27, 28, 38)
Words with 3+ syllables: 11 percent (12/110 words)
Fog Index: (28+11) *.4 = 15 (15.6, no rounding)

The Fog level is quite high in this sample. Sentence length emerges as a clear culprit at a glance. We have 110 words, a large sample for our purposes, split into just 4 sentences. The last sentence, at 38 words, comprises one third of the total word count. Here's our edit:

"While we do have biases in our thinking, most of us want to feel useful and valuable. Studies have now shown how people use social media as a kind of identity laboratory, constructing a certain image of themselves that they present to the world. Our own research shows how Facebook use is linked with our need to feel like we belong to a community and that we are worthy and capable people. In a way, offering reputation scores that users can access would fill this need. It would also ensure that people do not feel discouraged from flagging content for fear of being profiled and singled out by the platform."

Word count: 110 words
Average sentence length: 22 words (17, 27, 28, 14, 24)
Words with 3+ syllables: 7 percent (8/110 words)
Fog Index: (22+7) *.4 = 11 (11.6, no rounding)

Our first task was to split up the 38-word sentence that was weighing down the original. This got us part of the way there, but our work wasn't done. We decided to tackle the fraction of longer words and were able to cut 4 points from that part of the score. Overall, this allowed us to reduce the Fog by exactly 4 points, from 15 to 11.

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USPS Changes May Affect Magazine Distribution

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 2:41 PM

In the news: A recent report from the Office of the Inspector General hints at possible changes to the USPS's magazine and catalogue distribution system. What might this mean for magazines?

The inspector general of the USPS has recently called into question the effectiveness of the flats sequencing system (FSS), which handles magazine and catalogue sorting and mailing. Greg Dool of Foliomag.com discusses the recent IG report with Rita Cohen, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy at the MPA.

Cohen highlights some of the inefficiencies of the current FSS system, as well as the need for the USPS to reevaluate its pricing structure. Summing up the pricing problem, she says: "FSS costs six cents per mail piece, compared to two cents on the AFSM.... We've argued that we should not be the ones bearing the burden of changes the postal service put in despite our recommendations not to. Our mail has gotten more and more efficient; it's nothing we did."

Read more about the IG's report and Cohen's assessment of the FSS here.

Also Notable

BuzzFeed Reviews Launches

BuzzFeed recently launched its BuzzFeed Reviews site, which features reviews of various consumer products. Max Willens of Digiday.com writes: "The goal is to monetize BuzzFeed Reviews principally through affiliate commissions, though other revenue streams will include programmatic advertising and content licensing, where BuzzFeed might sell an endorsed product the right to use a BuzzFeed seal of approval in its marketing, or distribute the post with said endorsement to BuzzFeed's audience." Read more about the site here.

Digital Strategy Amid Leadership Change at Hearst

Earlier this month, Tony Silber of Forbes.com discussed the company's ongoing digital efforts with SVP and editorial director of Hearst Magazines Digital Media Kate Lewis. According to Silber, "Lewis' purview is large: All digital directors, a centralized newsroom, the editorial video team and the branded content team across 25 brands all report to her." In the interview, which was conducted right before colleague Trey Young was named president of Hearst, Lewis reflects upon her tenure at Hearst and some of the greater challenges of the digital publishing industry. Read it here.

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