Staying Valuable In A Changing Industry

By Jeff Gelski

Jim Lucy sometimes jokes that he considers himself a company – J.L. Enterprises – as he works to keep his skills and value relevant in the ever-changing business-to-business publishing industry.

“If you do that, you’re probably going to do a good job for your employer, too,” said Lucy, who is chief editor of Electrical Wholesaling Magazine.

Speaking at an April 2 meeting of the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors, Lucy stressed the advantages of making new contacts, working on one new project a year and searching for paid content opportunities.

Conventions and other industry events are opportunities to meet people and dig for story ideas.

“Every time you do get that chance to travel, do it with a plan,” Lucy said. He said he still remembers one boss who would enter a convention room, go around the room clockwise and meet people, and then do the same counter-clockwise. To meet contacts, Lucy said, editors need to make that last booth visit, stay at the cocktail party a little longer and spend time in the hotel lobby.

“If I can come away from a show knowing that I met five to 10 people I can use for a story or as a contact later on, then I feel like I’ve done my job,” he said.

At industry events, he recommended, be ready to answer the question, “How’s business?” Have a 30-second speech prepared. Lucy carries a tablet device that allows him to quickly show examples of what’s new with his business, such as a newsletter or a PDF.

Every year Lucy works on one project that is outside his job responsibility.

New business opportunities may involve paid content. Lucy said his company is working on an electrical price index offering benchmark prices for materials such as wire and cable. Companies always are looking for credible sources, and may pay a subscription price for the information, he said.

When presenting a potential new project, keep it short, Lucy advised. Management likes that. If he has trouble keeping his presentation under 250 words, he may develop a PowerPoint with bullet items.

Lucy suggested that editors accept speaking engagements, which may position them as experts in the field.

Even for stories that go up quickly on websites, research always trumps re-purposing, or running somebody else’s content, Lucy said. He has no problem running perhaps a paragraph of another publication’s content, but he is a champion for original research, which means picking up the phone and getting e-mails out.

Jeff Gelski

Jeff Gelski

Jeff Gelski is an associate editor for Sosland Publishing Co. in Kansas City, Mo., where he mainly works for two brands in Food Business News and Milling & Baking News. A member of the Kansas City chapter’s board of directors for the ASBPE, he has worked for business-to-business publications since 1997. After graduating from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in 1985, he worked for daily newspapers until 1997.

Last Chance To Enter The Tabbie Awards

By Paul Heney

You have one last chance to get out your 2013 issues and decide on your best work over the past year. The Tabbies, the international B2B publication awards competition, is accepting nominations through Tuesday, April 1st.

I’ve always enjoyed the process of deciding on what to enter in competitions — be it the Azbees, Tabbies, Neals or something else. Sitting down with the edit and design staff and reviewing the prior year’s worth of publications is a great exercise in seeing where you are. What did you excel at? Where do you need to step up your game? Which team members produced some really compelling content for your readers?

Beyond all that, award competitions give you a great way to acknowledge hard work from your co-workers. And, should you bring home some honors in the competition, that’s great PR that your publication should encourage the sales team to spread to prospective advertisers.

So, if you’re pumped up on submitting something, here’s how. The Call for Entries is available at the TABPI website; download it and fill out the entry forms as described. The Tabbies encompasses 18 categories, and is open to English-language business-to-business publications around the world that are published at least quarterly, as well as B2B online-only publications. And publications are not required to maintain membership in any particular organization in order to be considered for the Tabbies — although ASBPE is a supporting member of the Tabbies.

Categories in the editorial division include: Best Single Issue, Department, Editor’s Column, Feature Article, Focus/Profile Article, How-To Article, Regular Column, Special Section, and Technical Article. Categories in the design division include: Feature Design, Front Cover, Digital Imagery; Front Cover, Illustration; Front Cover, Photograph; Front Cover, Special Issue; and Opening Page or Spread. The online division recognizes the most interactive, informative B2B websites, e-newsletters and the best use of social media.

Again, the deadline for entries to be postmarked is April 1st, 2014. A late fee applies after that date. Winners will be announced on or about July 15th, 2014.

Paul Heney

 

 

Paul Heney is TABPI’s president and editorial director at WTWH Media LLC.

The Passing Of A Publishing Giant

By Mark Schlack

On March 19, 2014, Pat McGovern died after a long and storied 50+ year career in publishing. He was the founder and owner of International Data Group, one of the prime movers in the technology sector that became one of the engines of B2B publishing in the 1980s and 1990s. IDG launched Computerworld, Network World, InfoWorld and CIO between 1964 and 1990. All did something new, and all became leaders in their respective markets. At ASBPE, we recognized McGovern with a lifetime achievement award in 2004 for these and other contributions to B2B publishing.

I asked Jon Gallant, IDG’s chief content officer, to sum up McGovern’s contributions, and he put it this way:

A great deal has been written, and will continue to be shared, about Pat’s legendary energy, his memory, his generosity and his vision. This is a man who, after all, conquered the world when it came to technology publishing and still had time to personally deliver your holiday bonus and take you to dinner on your 10th anniversary with the company. Talk about motivational. He’s an American entrepreneur akin to Bill Gates, Sam Walton or Henry Ford — he didn’t just build a great company, he reshaped an entire industry. He may not be known as well as Gates or Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison but he had an influence just as large. He made buyers of technology — from individual consumers to CIOs — smarter and savvier, and by voicing their needs and concerns he shaped generation after generation of tech.

When I first started working in tech media in 1990, McGovern, Bill Ziff and Jerry Leeds were three publishing giants whose companies (IDG, Ziff-Davis and CMP, respectively) dominated both the B2B and consumer tech press. The magazine I worked for had to compete against all three. McGovern had clearly set the tone at IDG that publications would have very high editorial standards. Stories had multiple sources, including users and opposing points of view. The editorial staffs were well-respected by readers (and advertisers) as being knowledgeable, connected, and generally on-point. If you were going to be better than IDG, you were going to have to be good indeed.

Later, I went to work at IDG. Many publishing execs make a show of supporting editorial, so I was curious to see how real that was at IDG. It didn’t take long to find out that McGovern was an advocate for high value, well researched and written editorial. And that the stories about him backing up editors who found themselves in the cross-hairs of bullying advertisers were all true, even to the point of losing large chunks of business.

As Gallant points out, “At his core, Pat was a true believer in the value of independent content and strong editorial voice. A lot of publishing executives proclaim their support for editorial independence but Pat made it a bedrock of IDG. As journalists, we lived — and thrived — under the umbrella of Pat’s unwavering support for editorial. We knew Pat had our backs. No topic or company was off limits, because Pat knew that the trust of the reader was the highest achievement we could win. Everything good stemmed from that. That’s why IDG has stood the test of time in a publishing market lashed by brutal change.”

Although my time at IDG did not end happily (the web startup I worked on didn’t survive the dotcom bursting intact), I came away with high respect for Pat McGovern. He was a man who understood what is at once the most basic and hardest to grasp aspect of publishing: if you don’t serve the reader well, you have nothing. He deeply understood the value of taking information that was not widely known and making it so and he built an empire on that. He had the vision to foresee that B2B media would become a global market years before others did and spread that empire around the world.

That may all sound simple, but many publishers have other ideas — they think that gimmicks, or low prices, discounts on trade show booths, or the promise of “good” coverage, are the keys to success. In proving otherwise, McGovern helped make room for those who have followed him to also build a house on quality editorial, and for that we celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

Photo of Mark Schlack

 

ASBPE president Mark Schlack is a senior vice president in editorial at TechTarget. He’s on Google+ as Mark Schlack and can be reached by email here

Tips For New Beats

Top B2B editors last week shared tips on how to get started on a new beat during a Society of American Business Editors and Writers webcast. The best advice? Get out there and meet people, don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions and do write like crazy. Nashville Business Journal editor in chief Lori Becker recommended building sources by at first scheduling short meetings and aiming broadly across the beat rather than deeply into any given company. Crain’s Chicago Business senior reporter Steve Daniels suggested beat newbies do lots of reading (Wall Street Journal, 10-K filings), telephone research and writing. Panelists said that while reporters on a new beat should make clear their expectations for interviews with top executives, PR officials can be helpful, depending on their rank and clout. ~ JC

Even If It Takes Some Sleuthing, Give Credit Where It’s Due On Images

By Alison Fulton

One of the things I do as part of my job is track down and choose images. The internet has made finding images sooooo much easier than it used to be. Hundreds, thousands … hundreds of thousands of images all are available to use. Or are they?

Benedict Cumberbatch filming Sherlock, by Fat Les (bellaphon) from London, UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0]

Benedict Cumberbatch filming Sherlock, by Fat Les (bellaphon) from London, UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0]

Sometimes I need an image of a specific person, product or being. Often, my editor will send me a link to where they saw a photo they want me to use. That’s where the problems can start. Sometimes I am lucky and there’s a photo credit, but a lot of times, there isn’t a credit at all. If that’s the case, usually I start by emailing the photo editor (if there is one) for the site/publication etc. where the image was posted. If they get back to me, great, then I most often get the info I need. If they don’t, then I have to try and find the same image used somewhere along with a credit. I feel a little like Sherlock Holmes in “The Case Of The Phantom Photographer.”

It shouldn’t be this hard. Every image that you post online on behalf of your company should have a credit; otherwise, you shouldn’t be posting it. My company has a pretty strict license agreement but one that is fairly common in this day and age. We can’t reuse images outside their original content unless they were royalty-free to begin with. But no photographer/artist/author I have ever asked refused to grant permission. It’s vital to always ask permission first, then to make sure the work is properly credited. (If you can include the photographer’s or artist’s web URL, that’s a nice way of saying thanks.)

Creative Commons is a great source for free images. I have found all kinds of hard-to-find celebrity images there that I was unable to source elsewhere. But I have been careful to credit the images as required—even though some of the sources names make you wonder what they were thinking—so as not to violate the terms of the license.

It’s not only a best practice to correctly credit the images you use online or in print; it’s practicing good karma. One day you might be really glad someone credited the photo or media that you took and posted.

AlisonFulton2014

 

 

 

 


Alison Fulton
 recently moved into emedia as a senior content specialist at Advanstar Communications following 20+ years as an art director there.

Best Practices In Digital Storytelling

Join us for a webcast March 11 at 3:00 pm ET to learn how you can engage your audience emotionally and enhance your content through the promising growth area of digital storytelling. Based on his 30 years of experience in video production, James Hopper, chair of web and digital communications at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., will explore:
• Transformative trends in media
• Why you should use digital storytelling
• Steps you should follow to create the best possible digital storytelling experience for your audience
Register here.

Native Advertising: Be Part Of The Solution

By Mark Schlack

This month, ASBPE is focusing our ongoing ethics discussion on native advertising. It’s an interesting phrase — if you didn’t know better, you might think it’s an effort to advertise in many languages around the world.

No, the natives in this case are not natives of another country or culture. The natives are us, and the country is editorial. Native advertising is the latest spin on advertorials. Far be it from me to divine the intent of marketers, but as far as I can tell, they are trying to balance two competing goals: leveraging the credibility of independent, skeptical editorial and completely controlling the content so that they can portray their companies or clients as thought leaders (or at least interesting dudes).

So advertising agencies came to web publishers and asked them to publish columns by their clients as if they were normal content for the site. The columns (or news stories or however else they were presented) aren’t usually flogging products. They take a higher tone, talking about general trends and trying to position the advertiser’s executives or product managers as thoughtful people who understand the problems of the day.

Native advertising got a lot of buzz last year when Forbes.com started accepting it. In my opinion, if you look at Forbes’ implementation, they did a poor job in presenting this material to their readers. You’ll notice that other than some vague phrases at the top of the page and an odd byline treatment, this article is virtually indistinguishable from a staff-written article on the site. In other words, there is no clear separation of advertising and editorial.

The recently updated ASBPE ethics code addresses this explicitly.

Purely textual advertising, such as customer-provided content known as native advertising, should not be presented as editorial. The fonts and layout used should be distinct enough to set it apart. The content should be labeled as advertising.

Native advertising is probably here to stay until the next bright and shiny object captures the attention of advertising agencies. But it doesn’t have to be a betrayal of reader trust. Often, the advertising sales wing of your company is going to be very focused on the execution of these usually lucrative deals and not thinking much about the ethical implications. But as editors, we can and should get involved in that conversation. And we can influence the outcome.

In fact, we can be proactive about it. Ask your publisher what your site’s position is on native advertising. If you’re not comfortable doing that, ask your manager if they have had that talk. Remind them that ultimately, readers are going to become confused about who is saying what on your site and that all the years you have invested in becoming a trusted source are being put at risk. And that your readers can already read all of that vendor stuff on the vendor site anyway. Good publishers understand that it’s bad business to trade away your core value to readers.

Engage them in a conversation about the right way to do this. Sales people may believe that advertisers won’t budge on this, but they will. The New York Times now takes native advertising, but they do a much better job of leveling with their readers and they are successfully selling this more ethical version of native advertising.

New York Times Native Advertising

Native Advertising at the New York Times (click to enlarge)

The article is in a sans-serif font, in contrast to the standard Times Roman variant. A shaded background further sets it off. And to leave no doubt, the top and bottom of the page indicate that the post was paid for by the advertiser. Other measures separate the native advertising content in site nav and search and various other lists of stories to read.

Is it actually labeled “advertising?” No. It’s referred to as a “paid post.” Quibble if you will.

I don’t know how the Times came to a different policy than Forbes. I know how it happened at my company. The sales and edit sides had a conversation about how to respond to advertiser requests for this and came up with a format much closer to the Times than Forbes. Advertisers accepted it; after all, they’re counting on the integrity of the sites they place these ads on to give them the desired halo effect.

I’ve seen some “the apocalypse is nigh” responses to native advertising. Really? Very high-quality print books published these sorts of things as inserts for many years with all the appropriate safeguards. I may think the attention being paid to native advertising in the marketing world is faddish and silly, but as an editor, it’s our job to take these things seriously and steer them in a good direction. I may wish it never happened and that it will disappear tomorrow. But wishing won’t make it so.

I don’t doubt that at some publishing companies this issue becomes a confrontation, but you could be pleasantly surprised. Whether a conversation or confrontation, get involved. The future of your relationship to your reader depends on it.

Photo of Mark Schlack

ASBPE president Mark Schlack is a senior vice president in editorial at TechTarget. He’s on Google+ as Mark Schlack and can be reached by email here

The Firing Squad at Guns & Ammo Magazine

What is the worst a publication can do when limiting editors who are trying to add nuance to their analyses of important situations in their industries? Surely, the worst is captured in this New York Times story about the fate of Guns & Ammo columnist Dick Metcalf. Mercifully, no B2B editor of my acquaintance has been so challenged when trying to discuss an issue. But this story offers a cautionary note to all editors about what can happen under extreme conditions of an industry being dominated by one point of view. ~ Roy Harris

AutoNews Editor Shares Tips For Making Watchable Video

By Jay Campbell

Vastly expanding upon occasional trade show reports and vehicle reviews once communicated via online video, the five-member Automotive News broadcasting department now routinely puts 11-hour days into two daily newscasts and bunches of sponsored reports—21 this year alone.

Lots of practice, humble beginnings and clever use of resources characterized the launch of a TV crew that started out with fabric from a local shop as a green screen and an old laptop for a teleprompter. The first Automotive News show reached an industry in crisis on the eve of Election Day 2008. Soon enough, the operation was pulling in a better-than-expected 4,000 to 8,000 views per newscast. The team started a morning newscast within two years and now attracts upwards of 11,000 total viewers a day.

 Tom Worobec, Automotive News TV Managing Editor and News Anchor


Tom Worobec,
Automotive News TV Managing Editor and News Anchor

Automotive News TV managing editor and news anchor Tom Worobec last month offered video tips for B2B editors during an ASBPE webcast. He advised them to be on the lookout for talent and resources in unlikely places. For example, a popular personality on the AutoNews programs is a veteran print reporter. One young professional went from intern to anchor. Worobec himself previously was a corporate communications manager for the brand’s parent company, and he had broadcasting experience prior to that role.

Automotive News newscasts feature on-location reporting and executive interviews, generally are not much more than four minutes long and typically include a 15-second ad.

“Those just getting started should look for individuals with professional or collegiate broadcast news experience,” said Worobec. “You may want to look at some of the local universities around you who may have broadcast programs. Whether at the pro or college level, look for folks who have the writing skills but also know the gear.”

The four musts for good shooting are the camera, good lighting, a tripod and a lavalier or stick microphone to be attached to the subject’s lapel, Worobec said. Rounding out any legit kit are a high-powered computer with video editing software, a teleprompter (though a tablet works well enough) and an online video platform (Automotive News parent Crain Communications is a BrightCove client).

Worobec suggested a budget of $3,000 to $20,000 to get started, complemented by a dose of resourcefulness. Even smartphones can offer compelling video, he said. Reporters mainly tasked with print output might take 10 minutes out of a scheduled 40-minute interview to contribute video material for B-roll. “We have a growing number who say, ‘Here’s what I took on my iPhone,’ and they’ll feed that to us and it enhances our product so much,” said Worobec. Still, “quality is absolute king,” he added. “I don’t like shaky, poorly lit video or bad audio. We simply won’t use it because our readers are accustomed to very high-end quality when it comes to print and online, and I carry that over to the video end.”

The Automotive News broadcast team has enjoyed some upgrades. They’re outfitting a reporter in Tokyo with video equipment, and in their Detroit headquarters now operate a control room and two broadcasting studios featuring true green screens, among other luxuries. “We still maintain quite a bit of cost discipline,” Worobec said during a phone interview following the webcast. “Our computers and cameras can be three, four years old.”

Find more of Worobec’s pointers, including marketing ideas, handy technical terms and notes on how to write and speak for video, in his presentation slides here.

Photo of Jay Campbell

Jay Campbell

 

Jay Campbell is a journalist-entrepreneur, ASBPE’s blog chair and a former editorial director of The BTN Group at Northstar Travel Media.

Editors And Parents

By Roy Harris

Please allow me a brief diversion from discussing the day-to-day challenges of dealing with journalism’s vast issues to mention the huge debt that so many of us editors owe our parents.

I thought of this as I read a Boston Globe article this week, marking the passing, at 77, of Samuel McCracken, father of long-time ASBPE member and technology expert Harry McCracken, who is now editor-at-large with Time magazine.

Many B2B journalists will recognize Harry for his contributions to numerous ASBPE panels, on topics ranging from digital media to journalistic entrepreneurism. Harry himself had been a leading entrepreneur, operating his Technologizer site. He also inspired many of us in 2007, when he resigned from his PC World editorship after its CEO at the time, without advising the editor in advance, canceled a column that the publisher saw as critical of a major advertiser, Apple. (In a surprising turn, the CEO left, and Harry took his job back.)

As I read the story about Samuel McCracken and grieved for Harry — who like his father is a man of great intellect, and loyalty — I was reminded of how powerful the quiet influence of our parents often is: helping guide us in making career choices, using our reasoning capabilities to the fullest and holding true to our principles.

I often felt that power in my relationship with my own journalist father, whom I lost when he was 78 and I was 34. So many other editors I know speak of their parents as major career and personal influences, as well.

Indeed, in many ways the role of a parent is similar to that of an editor — whose most powerful influence may well be the tone they set in the newsroom, where the standards for our work take shape, even when the editor isn’t overtly assigning stories or changing copy.

Like my own parents, I hold the great editors I’ve had throughout my career as strongly influential, in both my career and in my personal life.

Those connections are never lost.

Photo of Roy Harris

Roy Harris, currently the president of the ASBPE Foundation and a former national president of ASBPE, has worked for CFO Magazine, and has served as editorial director of CFOworld.com. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.