Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Two blogs I regularly read have both had posts in the past week about the ad/edit divide. Canadian Magazines draws attention to a piece in MediaWeek calling for stricter ad/edit guidelines, but the thoughts brought up on Ed Speaks are what really resonated with me.
Stricter guidelines are good, but the editors-in-chiefs and publishers and ad sales teams are the ones who are directly affected by guidelines, who have the opportunity to push back with advertisers. For the majority of editors, though, those of us working day to day to generate content, we can only nod our heads and say, "Yes, I agree." We don't interact with advertisers so can't do much to uphold the rules, to guard our line in the sand.
My experiences have been similar to those of Ed's: either myself or friends have been asked at times to ensure inclusion of all major advertisers in a piece about such-and-such type of product, be it moisturizers or paints. Or an advertiser's product is given preference over a nonadvertiser's product: when it comes down to a decision between the two, guess who wins.
It's not so much that I think this compromises our integrity or blurs the boundaries, because I think (hope) we're all smart enough to recognize what's good for our readers, but I wonder whether these are conversations we should even be having? Should we not be saying let's have a broad range of brands so our readers have options, as opposed to so we can make our advertisers happy? Is it naive to think editors should be able to gloriously go along without a thought to advertisers, a utopian dream of sorts? Does it even matter if the end result is the same? If our readers still get a magazine that they love? In reality, we have two sets of clients: the readers and the advertisers. We have to please them both in order to survive, no?
Monday, September 29, 2008
I've written before about the importance of managing your online presence, as well as having good clips for when you're applying for a job. One way to address both is to post your résumé and clippings on a personal website.
A post on Freelance Writing Tips outlines the basics of putting together an online portfolio. If you don't know how to build a website (as most of us don't), you can use a service like Writer's Residence (run by the post's author), where you can create an online portfolio by filling in a form, or a blog tool like Wordpress.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Last week I went on a media trip – two days of sun, fun and free food. Oh yeah, and a presentation for a new product launch. When you're flown off to some exciting location and wined and dined on someone else's dollar, it's hard not to feel obligated to fit the host company's product du jour somewhere in your publication, to give it the coverage said company desires. Likewise, you're more willing to feature a product if you received a killer swag bag along with it. You start to add up the dollars, think of how much they spent on you... Sometimes you can feel indebted somehow, even just a little bit.
But if you give in to those feelings of gratitude too freely, you risk compromising your content. I've been invited on another trip, one to a place I am dying to visit, but the product just doesn't fit in with my magazine's subject matter. Believe me, I've given good, long, hard thought to it, trying to figure out what kind of story I could spin to create a reasonable place for the item while still having it make sense and be of value to our readers. But I can't accept the invitation because there's barely even a slim chance that we would feature the goods they're flogging.
I think the way to keep honest is to recognize that these gifts do have an influence, and to always step back and ask yourself why you're truly interested in featuring a product. As long as you keep the readers in mind first and foremost, your integrity should stay intact.
On a side note, a couple of years ago, Jean Godfrey-June wrote the book Free Gift With Purchase, which gives an insider's perspective on what it's like to be a beauty editor – the freebies, the events, the glamour. It's a fun read; I recommend it.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Make it easy for potential employers to find you and see what kind of work you do by setting up your own blog. A story on PoynterOnline outlines why and how.
Thanks to Kat Tancock for the tip.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Have you ever fantasized about being a restaurant reviewer – you know, because of the food you'd get to eat? On the Ryerson Review of Journalism site is a story by writer Alexandra Gill, which reveals a little of what it's like to eat for a living.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Q. There is a publication I want to work at that often hires people without posting jobs, by bringing in people who know current staffers. I have some vague acquaintances there but nobody who would know me well enough to vouch for me and try to bring me in. What is the best way to pursue opportunities there? Just send my resume? Ask for information interviews? Or wait and try to network to meet the right people, which might take a long time?
A. All of the above.
First, don't underestimate the power of even a weak tie – just because someone doesn't know you well enough to vouch for you, just knowing her/him means it's more likely your résumé will get looked at. Don't be afraid to email or call this person and let her/him know that you're interested in working at her/his publication. Ask that s/he let you know if any openings come up and who you might be able to send your résumé to in the meantime. Then contact that person and request an information meeting. Your second option would be to ask for an information interview with an HR person, but that might not be as effective.
You'll also want to work on building connections by attending industry events and meeting new people – you never know who might know someone. Perhaps you'll hit it off with the best friend of the editor of your dream magazine. Networking is the best way to hear about openings that aren't advertised.
And, if you're at the beginning of your career and hunting for an entry-level job, you might want to consider presuing an internship at the publication, which is a great way to let the staff get to know you, your talents and your work ethic. If you're beyond that, do other work for them – ask if there are fact-checking opportunities or, even better, pitch them story ideas.
For more, check out Service Canada's Training and Careers site (not all of it is relevant to the magazine industry, but you'll find some good tips).
Monday, September 15, 2008
Do you know what information about you can be found online? Have you Googled yourself? Have you set up privacy controls on your Facebook profile? As reported in the Globe & Mail, bosses are screening applicants by going online. I'm not sure that there's much you can do about Googled content, but you can set your privacy settings on your Facebook profile to varying degrees, including so that you won't show up in a search.
Thanks to Kat Tancock for the tip.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This morning I'm heading off to our annual editorial retreat – two days of meetings to blue sky it, to talk about what the magazine is and what it could be. If you don't already do something like this at your magazine, I highly recommend it. It's reinvigorating for everyone to take a step back and look at the big picture, which is something you can't really do when dealing with the day-to-day grind. Talk about what you've seen in other magazines that you like, what you think is and isn't working (editorial-wise, art-wise, workflow-wise), plus anything else you want to discuss. Let the ideas flow. And do it off site; you need to be away from the confines of the office, away from the lure of checking email, to really relax and get the juices flowing.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Even if you're not a Mac person (what's wrong with you?), there's a lot you can learn from watching Apple founder Steve Jobs make a keynote address (as he did yesterday when he announced the new lineup of iPods). Whether you're making a formal presentation or just pitching a story idea in a planning meeting, how you showcase your ideas can make the difference in how you and your suggestions are received.
• Pace yourself. Give your audience time to take in your message. Don't speak too quickly and pause often.
• Show visuals. In the case of presenting a story idea, draw a quick sketch or bring in clippings of similar articles.
• Use hyperbole and be truly excited. Tell people how "great, wonderful and truly awesome" your idea is. You won't sell an idea if it doesn't look like you think it's a good idea.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
There's a little bit of hissing going on over at the Canadian Magazines blog about who's the most influential Canadian fashion magazine editor. No convincing arguments yet, but it got me thinking. Are there truly influential magazine editors on a mass culture level in Canada? Are there any editors with names recognizable to the general population, or even revered in the world/industry they cover? Any editors who are celebrities in their own right? I may be overlooking someone, but no one springs to mind, and my thought is that someone should spring to mind. Where are our Anna Wintours, our Graydon Carters, our Tina Browns? People whose names run alongside D-list actors in the society pages?
If we did a better job of promoting our top dogs, of putting forward a more public presence, perhaps it could benefit not only our brands, but also the magazine industry in general. Maybe, as our people became more recognizable, it would help our brands compete against American publications on the newsstand. Without outright saying, "You should buy Canadian" (not always a convincing reason in and of itself), audiences could grow because they know the brand and want to hear what the magazine and its editor has to say.
Plus, I think it would be a benefit to have more editors as public role models. Once you're immersed in the industry, you needn't look far to find someone to admire, but we shouldn't keep that to ourselves. We need real-life antidotes to the editors we see in The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty.