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Issue for January 2020

2020: New Decade, New Plans?

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 12:05 AM

What publishers have in store for their publications in the coming year.

By William Dunkerley

We asked a sampling of readers to tell what plans they'll be rolling out for this start of a new decade. Here's what they told us:

--Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Trucking: "My biggest goals for 2020 are addressing productivity issues, including coordinating assignments better with related brands at our company. We have just launched our first podcast, HDT Talks Trucking, which is our big 'attempt at something new' this year."

--Dave Fusaro, editor-in-chief, Food Processing magazine: "Our most important goal is maintaining a respectable print presence -- because that is the mothership, the source of most content regardless of medium, the wide-angle look into our industry category (food and beverage manufacturing) that maintains our position as thought leaders in that market. It's proactive, not reactive; the physical reminder of the brand that is pushed out monthly to 70,000 people. Our value and utility to advertisers starts with that. As to new year: We are producing videos, both stand-alone instructive ones on our predetermined schedule ('what is high-pressure pasteurization?') and ones briefly describing the contents of a written story (embedded videos)."

--Donald Tepper, editor, PT in Motion: "Our parent association is rebranding -- a new logo, a new look, and a mission to make all elements of the association resemble the brand for a more unified look. This includes our state associations as well as groups within the association that represent members with particular skills or interests. It also means adopting a more coherent look for everything the association puts out . . . and that includes its magazine. As a result, we are going through a major redesign and rebrand as well as a name change. Our goal, therefore, is to accomplish the rebranding, renaming, and redesign of the magazine, thereby meeting the objectives of the association and better serving our readers. Now, we'll be shifting our content somewhat to put more emphasis on association-related products and services. Many of those are already in existence, but some are just being developed. This involves some agility -- we've already modified our editorial calendar to better align with the association's modified schedule -- as well as some creativity in presenting the information to our readers."

--Paul Fanlund, editor and publisher, Cap Times: "My primary goal for 2020 as editor is to improve our journalism by doing more investigative and enterprise work. It is vital that we do more local journalism of that type. My job as publisher is about driving paid memberships, and we are quite advanced in hosting events (see Cap Times Idea Fest at http://bit.ly/3aPSiCi)."

Does Everybody Have Plans?

Note that there is a question mark in the title of this article. Why is it there? The reason is that many editors declined to disclose what their plans are for 2020.

We just heard above from several editors who readily shared with us. From their comments we see a lot of willingness to adapt what they are doing to the changing circumstances that permeate the editorial business these days. They express continued concern for good content. And three out of four have ventured into some form of audiovisual content creation.

That represents a large change from last year when we asked editors to share their plans. Then editors were much more forthcoming. We reported on twenty editorial plans in particular.

But there was one large difference in the nature of the responses. Digital was the predominent theme in the dawn of 2019. Many editors had big plans for digital. That changed this year. No more big digital schemes.

We asked a few observers to speculate on the shift from 2019 to 2020. Why have so few agreed to share now? And why has a robust digital agenda disappeared from the scene?

Here are the theories we heard regarding the difference:

--Too busy to plan.
--Too busy to describe 2020 plans.
--Last year's digital plans embarassingly went bust.
--Distraction by the Washington political turmoil.
--Uncertainty in the election year economic picture.
--Got the secret sauce for digital success and are keeping it secret.
--Things are changing too quickly.
--Just don't know what to do next.

Do you have any insights into this? Whether it's from experience at your own publication or your best guess about things elsewhere, please let us know. Use the comment link below this article. Anonymity is okay. We won't publish any of the comments unless we check with you first. Primarily we'll use the input to guide our ever-emerging 2020 plans at Editors Only. Finding ways to best serve readers is a priority here. We believe that adaptibility to changing circumstances, reader needs, and interests is important to all publications, even EO!

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

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Following In Your Footsteps

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 12:05 AM

Whether it’s a promotion or retirement, when the time comes, who would you choose as your successor?

By the Editors Only Staff

Choosing a successor may be one of the hardest decisions a successful leader has to make -- especially when a great editor cares deeply about their readers. Finding the right person is not something to consider lightly. So how do you choose and what qualities should you consider?

It was some time ago that we invited comments from editors about the qualities they'd look for in hiring their own successor. Since then, respondents' positions and affiliations may have changed. Therefore, we identify them only as Editor A, Editor B, etc.

Subject Matter Background

One thing that came out clear has to do with the subject matter covered by the publication. You can't expect to run a publication if you don't have enough knowledge about the subject.

Editor A produces a publication in a sports field. He said, "You need to know the history of the sport, past and present, chapter and verse. You need to know where the sport came from and where it is today."

This is particularly important when it falls upon the chief editor to interview someone prominent in the field.

Editor B added, "Never try to deal with people in the industry when you don't really know enough about it and ask questions that are so obvious that they make you sound dumb."

Editor C has a publication that deals with alternative treatments in medicine. She told us "You can read books and become familiar with the jargon and language of the subject. But I think people who have become interested in our subject area are people who have been dragged into the experience through some personal problem they've had. Then they wind up being involved in it."

That suggests an additional element of knowing your subject matter. It gives you credibility that appeals to your readers. The more you know about something, the easier it is to win your readers' trust. That helps to keep them interested in what your publication has to offer.

"I think magazines read better and are livelier and more exciting when stories are created by people who themselves have gotten very excited about them," concludes Editor C.

Inspiring the Staff

The next quality your successor should have is the ability to inspire your staff. In order to produce a top-notch publication, the editor needs to work well with the editorial staff -- and give them the respect they deserve. Many times, staffers look to the editor for guidance, inspiration, and encouragement.

Editor A said that, for one thing, "I would never give anyone an assignment that I wouldn't do myself." This perspective, he believes, keeps members of the staff feeling like they are a valuable part of the magazine. In addition, it is a good idea to listen to the suggestions and comments of each editorial staff member. This promotes an atmosphere of teamwork and a focus on a common goal: a strong publication.

Inspiring staff excitement is important to Editor C. She explains, "To somehow do that is kind of tricky. I think every editor needs to figure out the chemistry with his or her staff and whatever it takes to do that. When people aren't inspired, the editor needs to take a look and see how to make that happen."

In other words, the editor has the responsibility to draw out the best work possible from employees and see that it is shaped in a manner that suits the aims of the publication.

"The editor needs to set an example of what he or she wants to have done," says Editor C. She adds, "The editor needs to set an example of what he or she wants. I would suggest that editors develop a rapport with the editorial staff by being a part of all that is going on. Editors can sometimes be a little removed. An editor has to find out what makes the individual people work well. And for every person that can be a different story."

The editors we talked to seem to share a common point: an editor must develop a good relationship with the members of the staff and behave in a manner befitting the position. The editorial staff looks to the editor for cues on how to conduct themselves, especially when working with others involved in the publication.

Leadership

A good editor-in-chief needs to be the driving force behind any strong publication. Possessing an ability to move the publication in the direction that will help its readership grow is very important.

It is important that you recognize new "hot" topics and get your writers working on them. You can be sure your competition is trying to do the same.

These days it is especially important that the editor is willing to explore whatever new technologies are available. It is a constant learning process.

Editor B looks at it this way: "If you come into work every day trying to learn something -- no matter how small -- I think that generates a lot of energy. Things always spring to mind. Keep your eyes open wherever you are. You can always be thinking, this might be a good story idea where this might make a good picture or layout."

In Summary

From the foregoing comments and others that we received from editors we offer the following attributes to consider when choosing your replacement. The ideal candidate:

1. Always knows the contents of the publication and is well-versed in the subject matter.

2. Is willing to guide and direct staff members without forcing his own suggestions on them.

3. Listens to input from staff and gives them the respect they deserve.

4. Knows what readers want and what will interest them most.

5. Tries to keep learning all she can and keeps her eyes and ears open for anything new that can be helpful.

6. Never stops improving upon what you have.

This article was contributed to by managing editor Denise Gable, based on work originally developed by Michelle Kocay, now assistant professor at Housatonic Community College.

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The Fog Index

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 12:05 AM

Assessing the readability of a TheAtlantic.com excerpt.

This month’s Fog Index sample text comes from a January 28 piece on TheAtlantic.com (“The Outsize Influence of Your Middle-School Friends” by Lydia Denworth). Here’s the text, with longer words in italics:

“The study revealed that instability rules, at least at the beginning. Two-thirds of the children entering their first year of middle school changed friends between the fall and the spring. Juvonen suspects that has to do with the structure of the school system. Students arrive from smaller elementary schools knowing a few other children from fifth grade. At the start of the year, they stay close physically and emotionally to those familiar classmates. But as they settle into life in the new environment, their social horizons expand. They gravitate to those with similar interests of the kind that begin to solidify in these years -- soccer, theater, robotics. Similarities, as always, attract. Earlier friends often fall by the wayside.”

--Word count: 118 words --Average sentence length: 13 words (11, 19, 13, 14, 16, 14, 20, 4, 7) --Words with 3+ syllables: 13 percent (15/118 words) --Fog Index (13+13)* .4 = 10 (10.4, no rounding)

As you can see from our calculations above, this piece falls well within ideal Fog range. (We’re looking for a score under 12.) What struck us as we were crunching the numbers was the high number of sentences in the sample. We often see samples of this length split into 6, 5, or even 4 sentences. Then we need to split up longer sentences because the low sentence count/high average sentence length is skewing the Fog score upward. But here we have 118 words split into 9 sentences. This, paired with a fairly low number of longer words, leaves us with the low Fog score we’re looking for.

Comment:

Here's an edited version of the passage (some of the edits were to eliminate duplicative material) that will reduce the Fog Index, by my calculations, to 7.69: "The study found that instability rules, at least at the beginning. Two-thirds of the children entering their first year of middle school changed friends between the fall and the spring. Juvonen suspects that has to do with the school system's structure. Students arrive knowing a few other children from fifth grade. At the start of the year, they stay close physically and emotionally to those classmates. But as they settle into life at the new school, their social horizons expand. They are drawn to those with like interests -- soccer, theater, robotics. Similarities, as always, attract. Earlier friends often fall by the wayside." --Don Tepper, editor, PT in Motion.

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Google Discontinues Print Replica Subscriptions

Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 11:50 PM

In the news: Google has finally phased out PDF replicas of print magazines.

Earlier this month, Google stopped offering subscriptions to digital replicas of print magazines. The format didn’t translate well on smartphones, a shortcoming that cemented its fate. Kim Lyons of TheVerge.com says the move comes as no big surprise: “The magazine section has not been visible in the Play Store for about a year,” she writes. “Subscribers can continue to access previously purchased issues via the Google News app, but they won’t be able to purchase new subscriptions.”

The print replicas were a vestige of a time when the industry hoped that tablet magazines would “save ‘old media,’” says Lyons. The PDFs were clunky to navigate and resize on the portable reading device that wound up winning the device wars -- i.e., smartphones, not tablets. Google is offering refunds to remaining subscribers. Read more here.

Also Notable

New Initiative Matches Editors to Newsrooms

Last week, a project called Investigative Editing Corps launched. According to Kristen Hare of Poynter.org, the IEC is “a project that pairs seasoned investigative editors with local newsrooms. The editors get stipends for their work through foundation funding that supports the project. The newsrooms pay nothing.” The initiative will cover multiple formats, she says, “including public radio, broadcast, print and online.” Read more about the IEC and how it works here.

Vox Pivots to Podcasts

In the coming year, Vox Media will invest at least $20 million to expand its podcast offerings, reports Kayleigh Barber of Digiday.com. The money will go toward some new podcasts, but Barber reports that, according to Vox Media Studios president Marty Moe, the focus will be on growing existing popular podcasts. Currently Vox has 200-plus shows in its roster, a huge perk because, as Barber notes, the “network already has an ingrained audience exposed to its programming.” Read more here.

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