Why New Publishers Need Quality-Driven Editorial Agenda

By Howard Rauch

You may have noticed that I am now chairing ASBPE’s ethics committee. As part of an orientation program, I read copies of all ethics guides posted in our site’s Industry Links section. What most guides have in common is an initial emphasis on a mandate to consistently deliver the highest possible level of editorial quality.

Reading through the guides, I was reminded of the reality that quality is more easily achieved when publishers enthusiastically endorse that goal. In today’s tough market, there clearly is concern that such support has been waning. So editors must take positive steps to re-enlist publishers, especially those new to the position, in a vital cause.

One possible solution materialized during a recent consulting assignment. My client and I had been discussing how to provide guidance for new publishers with relatively little editorial background. In those cases where a newly appointed publisher has such background, the supervisory challenge is easily met. But suppose we’re talking about a star salesperson with limited involvement on the other side. What then in terms of making appropriate decisions regarding matters of editorial content and/or performance? Sometimes the issues involved prove elusive even for experienced editorial managers.

After some additional mulling, I submitted a list of challenges – an editorial agenda of sorts – that could be followed, no matter what the new publisher’s background:

  • Maintain or increase the frequency with which authoritative content appears. In this case, “authoritative” includes statistical reports. Also explore possibilities for conducting more Q&A interviews with top authorities from all industry segments (yes, that includes advertisers). Organize executive roundtables at conventions where publisher and/or editor functions as moderator.
  • In conjunction with the editorial staff, create at least one A/V presentation that can be delivered at important conventions or during executive sessions at advertiser/agency premises.
  • Write a regular column that is authoritative in its own right. The column should be totally different in direction from the editor’s page. However, it must reflect an excellent grasp of industry issues that stems from insider contact with leading movers/shakers.
  • Explore possibilities for additional special projects in the form of quarterly supplements, one-shot white papers and/or webinars.
  • When it comes to e-news, resist the temptation to load up with all the obligatory vendor-sourced stuff that has traditionally burdened many print sections. Web visitors are looking for the highest-value, insider-like reporting. That means plenty of originality and enterprise, elements that seem to be missing from many sites.
  • Last but not least, defend the editorial budget so that efforts to maintain existing high-quality content are not discouraged.
The points raised here are merely the tip of the iceberg in a very complex area. One implied strategy is that salespeople should become more involved in editorial matters well before any sudden promotion to the publisher ranks. Of course, by the same token, editors should become more clued in on marketing strategy in the event they become the next choice for publisher responsibilities. It could happen!

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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