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Tips for Survival

Posted on Wednesday, July 08, 2009 at 2:39 PM

How to weather this tough economic climate for editors.

By Meredith L. Dias

Perhaps most important during these uncertain times is alleviating staff anxiety. One editor tells us in no uncertain terms, "Stay calm and clearheaded and do NOT contribute to water-cooler paranoia." Though job insecurity is typical in today's publishing world, "the nose-diving morale eats away at everyone's ability to function, and then you actually play a part in bringing everyone's fears to fruition." So resist the urge to commiserate with your co-workers. Instead, invest all of that energy in problem-solving and innovation.

Communication with your sales department is also key. Donald E. Tepper, editor of PT Magazine, advises to "stay on top of your advertising sales people. Let them know, editorially, what's happening in the magazine so that they can sell better ads. But then hold them accountable." This is particularly true for journals, which rely heavily upon these advertising revenues. Daryl B. Lund, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Food Science and Comprehensive Reviews of Food Science and Food Safety, emphasizes the importance of keeping ad sales up. "It is tough to do," he admits, "but necessary for survival."

As staffs shrink, surviving editors are left with heavier workloads, longer hours, and little compensation to show for it. In order to beat the burnout, one editor advises to derive motivation from within: "We're given more work and no pay raises, no company contributions, no real incentives other than within ourselves. I've decided to focus on what I can do to help our readers deal with tough times."

Many editors are also restricting budgets however they can, by trimming page sizes/counts, reducing company travel, exploring cheaper postage and paper options, and switching from print to digital content. One editor is "focusing on slashing budgets, reducing travel, printing on both sides of paper." Patricia Harman, editor-in-chief of Cleaning and Restoration magazine, tells us, "We just changed printers and the size of our magazine by about a quarter-inch all around. The savings will translate into at least $2,000 per month and we publish monthly."

Therefore, despite the current bleakness of the industry, editors everywhere are rising to the challenge and implementing cost-saving and innovative measures to keep their publications alive. Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason, has the following advice for stressed publishing professionals: "Buck up! You wanted to live in interesting times, and now here they are. Readers value good journalism more than ever, so stop producing the mediocre stuff."

Meredith L. Dias is the research editor of Editors Only.

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