Are Publishers Really Putting Their Audiences First?
By Peter Houston, Publishing Executive
What a time to be alive… the people, fresh from taking the U.K. out of Europe, are sending a reality TV star to the White House and the brightest brains of our society didn’t have a clue what was coming up in the elevator.
The worrying part of that for me — outside of my concerns for the future of Western Civilization — is that the pollsters on either side of the Atlantic didn’t come close to understanding what the public were thinking.
If the world’s leading political analysts, awash with data, can’t get close to forecasting an election result, what hope does your average publisher have of figuring out the complexities of a 21st Century reader, their behaviors, and their needs?
And yet the publishing industry’s mantra du jour is ‘Audience First’. How do we put the audience first when we can’t call a two-horse race?
Almost 25-years ago at Medill Journalism School, Professor Abe Peck carefully explained to me how publishing is a three-legged stool: Audience — Revenue — Content. You could put those three elements in any order you wanted, but if they don’t balance, the future for your publishing outfit is going to be wobbly at best.
Since those early Internet days, we’ve come through a succession of ‘First’ strategies in publishing. ‘Digital First’, ‘Content First’, ‘Mobile First’, ‘Social First’ and soon no doubt, we’ll get to ‘Video First’. Right now, the focus seems to be ‘Audience First’ and although audience isn’t the worst ‘First’ of the bunch, it does make me wonder what we’ve been doing all this time to balance the stool.
Do you know what the legal environment is like in your country for journalists? Resources for those in the media have long been available regarding Europe and North America, but KAS Media Africa just released two books on media law for Africa.
Journalists, broadcasters, and publishers can use this collection to know how to best cover an event. You no longer need to be unsure of the legal environment. Knowing your rights and the media law for your country is essential. A new resource is available for just that purpose.
Justine Limpitlaw’s four volume collection on Media Law for Africa describes the current state in 16 nations of Eastern and Southern Africa. This collection opens the door for writers and broadcasters to know what is expected by the courts and governments of African nations, and what reforms need to take place for further protection of the media in these countries.
The “Media Law Handbook for Eastern Africa” (two volumes) and “Media Law in Southern Africa” (two volumes) are both available for free on the publisher’s website.
Writer and editors have various terms and jargon that go with the profession. Here are just a few of the commonly used terms and their definitions.
Article tracking form: A form used to follow the progress of an article through the production process.
Big picture editing: Editing with attention to the overall structure.
Callout: A quote from the article printed in large type. It is usually placed on the second or subsequent spread of an article. Callouts serve as a design element and create reader curiosity about the article content.
Editorial plan: A detailed description of the magazine’s content, including what types of articles will appear and descriptions of regular columns and features.
First rights: The right to publish a work the first time, after which publishing rights return to the author.
Guidelines for writers: A written statement describing how to submit material and what kind of material is accepted.
Magazine profile: A description of the magazine’s purpose, intended readers, format, content, tone, and overall design.
Pass (as in first or second pass): Each incidence of reading through and making changes in an article.
Passive verb: A verb in which the subject is acted upon. For example: “The book was read by her.” In English, an active verb is a stronger construction. An example of an active construction would be: “She read the book.”
Query/query letter: A letter in which a writer proposes writing a specific article for a publisher.
Rights: The legal right to publish a certain work.
Seasonal material: Material that is linked to and published during or prior to a season—for example, Christmas or summer.
Sidebar: A small article related to the main article and presented alongside it, often in a box.
Simultaneous submission: A query or manuscript that is submitted to more than one publication at the same time.
Style sheet: A written description of a publication’s style on ambiguous matters such as capitalization, punctuation, use of numbers, and the like.
Target audience: The audience a magazine is intended to reach.
Transition: A verbal bridge connecting paragraphs or sections.
Purchase one of our manuals that cover writing, design, management, and editing. Each manual contains an extensive glossary of terms.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
TSA is in the news regularly now, with the summer travel season heating up and lines increasing at many large airports. Media outlets, along with social media, are sharing pictures and videos of long lines waiting to get through security. But how accurate are these reports?
I was at the Denver airport on the Friday before Memorial Day. My daughter and son-in-law had a 2 hour layover, and we were going to meet for lunch if the security lines weren’t too long. I had been watching the security time page on the airport website all morning, seeing times from 15-25 minutes, which didn’t seem excessive. When I arrived at the airport at 10:30 am there was NO line at one of the security checkpoint and a short line at another.
We saw a news reporter and camera person shooting out toward the side with the short line. I wondered out loud, “There’s no line on the other side. Are they going to take a picture of that side too?”
Angle matters – in visuals and in text.
What makes a good leader? How can you become the unconventional guide that your organization needs to push it to new heights?
Chris Baréz-Brown, a leadership coach with clients that include Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Pfizer, and Spotify, says, “Within everyone is a little bit of Elvis: a part of us that’s a maverick, that’s willing to break the rules, to move fast, shake things up, and have fun doing it. What organizations are longing for in their leaders is ‘more Elvis.'”
A good leader doesn’t have to be known for their charisma, but for their creative vision.
“As a leader, you cannot think your way to a 10 out of 10,” says Baréz-Brown. “At best–if you have a smart mind and great research–you might get six. But sixes don’t win the day. The only way to get to 10 out of 10 is to take creative leaps. And such leaps inevitably mean landing on threes.”
By giving your team the freedom and safety to hit threes, your creative leadership gives more room for failing followed by fast learning.
“One of the biggest barriers [to creativity] is fear,” says Ed Catmull, founder and CEO of Pixar. “And while failure comes with the territory, fear shouldn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure — to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.”
Make your goal as a leader to cultivate a culture of creative experimentation and grace, instead of pure success.
“Creativity–that most crucial and most missing ingredient of leaders–can be developed,” says Aaron Orendorff, a columnist for Inc.com. “And you do it through new settings, new people, and–above all–new actions. You can’t change your brain from the inside, but you can change it from the outside.”
Magazine Training International gets asked a lot of the same questions about the Crisis Publishing Initiative. Here are some answers to the most common ones:
Q: Where can I get more information about the Crisis Publishing Initiative conference?
A: We provide ongoing updates and information on our website, the event website, and on Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter.
Q: When and where is the conference?
A: The Crisis Publishing Initiative will be held in Sopron, Hungary on 15-18 October, 2017.
Q: Who should attend?
A: Christian journalists, editors, publishers, and bloggers from around the world who want to know how best to meet the challenges of a world increasingly impacted by crises of all kinds, from terrorism to war to natural disasters.
Q: Where can I register?
A: Registration are being accepted. Fill out the registration form here.
Q: Is there any financial assistance available to help me attend the conference?
A: Yes! From January 1 until April 15, 2017 our Sunrise special discounted registration/tuition is $335. From April 16 to July 15 it is $380, and from July 16 until October 15 registration is full price, $450. The registration/tuition includes a reception and supper on Oct. 15, lunches and coffee breaks Oct. 16-18, and a banquet on Oct. 18, as well as materials. We are also offering partial scholarships for participants in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Global South. The scholarship covers half of the tuition and half of the cost of room and board for the conference. It does not cover travel expenses.
Why should I attend the Crisis Publishing Initiative? I’m not publishing in the midst of crisis.
Really? Are your readers impacted by fears of terrorism? Or are they concerned about the influx of refugees into the country? Do they worry about the increase in violent crimes in their cities or the political turmoil in the country next door? Were they affected by the last flood, earthquake, or typhoon?
Face it. You are publishing in the midst of crisis, whether or not your publication reflects that fact.
Are you helping your readers understand what is really going on? Are you giving them the information they need to respond to the crises around them as Christians? Or are they dependent on solely secular sources for often biased information and angry, strident voices for opinion?
You have a special responsibility as a Christian writer, photographer, blogger, or publisher. You have been given a platform from which you can proclaim the truth and offer the resources Christians need in order to be light and salt in a chaotic and unhappy world.
Your writing and your publication can reflect an awareness of the realities of a broken world and offer hope and a way forward to your readers. If you are doing this already, you are to be congratulated. You are in a worthy minority.
But if you are concerned that your publication has been ignoring the suffering, fear, and ignorance of a large part of your audience or your potential audience, you might want to consider attending the Crisis Publishing Initiative in Sopron, Hungary, Oct. 15-18, 2017. Veteran journalists will share their secrets for getting to the truth in dangerous and chaotic circumstances. You’ll get access to resources to help the church respond to the crises around them. And, you’ll meet and share with other Christians in publishing from around the world.
It is time to empower your employees! Give them helpful feedback during performance reviews.
- Start by giving each employee performance goals. These are critical so that both the employee and employer are on the same page. The goals should include what you want your employee to do, and when it should be done.
- If you want to give better feedback, forget the numerical performance indicators and focus on actionable, meaningful insights instead. In other words, don’t rate your employee’s actions on a scale of 1-10, but go into detail about their strengths, areas for improvement, and goals for the future.
- Tailor your feedback to the recipient. The level of experience can dictate the best type of feedback to give a person. Experts are likely to respond better to negative feedback, while more inexperienced or entry-level individuals need more positive feedback to boost their confidence. Keep this in mind when giving feedback, and remember that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the best way to encourage change and improvement.
- Use clear, simple statements about how and why your employee can improve.
- Conduct the evaluation in a relaxed and private setting. People are more likely to listen and accept the feedback if they don’t feel like they are being attacked. If you make a review feel more like an open discussion you’ll see better results down the line.
- Make feedback a part of your company’s culture. Conduct staff evaluations at least once a year.
- Be forward-thinking. By adding the word ‘yet’ to the end of a statement, you can turn a piece of negative criticism into constructive, growth-minded feedback.
- Make sure your feedback is actionable or you won’t see results.
- Turn the evaluation into a conversation. This will help the employee begin to think critically about their own performance. Download a “Self-appraisal questionnaire.”
- Ultimately, giving better feedback is all about having the right intentions. If you’re taking the time to discuss someone’s performance with them, it should be because you want to see them succeed and achieve even more.
Download our free “How to Work with People” e-book for more tips.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
A recent client project involved taking a donor magazine with national distribution and creating custom content for specific geographical areas. We created 5 issues for major metropolitan areas, plus a “general” issue that mailed to everyone else.
Custom content is an efficient way to hone a message for an audience segment. While this client chose to customize based on geography, you can customize content based on any attribute in your database, such as age or gender segments.
Customizing content begins with a strategy, not logistics. While there are many logistics involved, the overall strategy has to drive the editorial and design decisions. As we began the planning process, we met to affirm the purpose of the magazine and to consider how the magazine strategy would be strengthened by custom content.
Once the strategy was in place, then logistics were the focus. We generated several potential scenarios, getting bids from the printer and mail house. Eventually we settled on creating custom content for the first two and last two pages in the magazine. This gave each issue a custom cover and inside story, along with custom content on the inside back cover and back cover promotional space.
When people pick up something they can’t understand, they put it down again. You want your magazine to be read and comprehended. Part of knowing your readers includes knowing what grade level to write at.
The general rule of thumb is to write for a 8th-grade reading level when writing for the general population. Many popular novels are written at a 7th-grade reading level, while the average newspaper in the U.S. is an 11th-grade level. Knowing your audience’s degree of literacy is important.
You put a lot of work into each magazine article, so make sure your readers can understand them. Do some research to find out what grade level your writing should be at for your audience.
There are a few ways to discover what reading level you are writing at:
- This free tool allows you to paste your text into the readability scorer and get an instant analysis.
- For Mac users, Word uses the Flesch Reading Ease scale. To use this tool, click Preferences on the Word menu; under “Authoring and Proofing Tools,” click “Spelling and Grammar”; under “Grammar,” select the “Check Grammar with Spelling” check box; select the “Show Readability Statistics” check box; click “OK.” Then, on the “Tools” menu, click “Spelling and Grammar.” After Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it displays information about the reading level of your document.
- For PC users, click the “File” tab; then click “Options;” click “Proofing;” under “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word” select the “Check grammar with spelling” check box; select “Show readability statistics.”