Sarah Webb is one of the winners of ASBPE’s Young Leaders Scholarship award in 2020. She is an associate editor of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines.
How did you get involved in the business?
I’ve always known that I wanted to find a career in writing and editing, but for years, I didn’t know what that would look like. After taking journalism courses in college, I assumed I would work for a newspaper or small, city publication. I’d never even heard the phrase B2B uttered. Fast-forward a few years, after a stint as an intern at Cleveland Magazine and a freelance gig editing articles for Physical Review Letters, I took my first deep dive into the job search. Little did I know that the Cleveland area functions as its own little hub for B2B publications. It blew me away that there existed a slew of publications dedicated to nearly every industry imaginable—landscaping, tires, propane and pests, just to name a few.
After narrowing down my search, I accepted a job at North Coast Media in September 2017 as the associate editor of Landscape Management magazine and within the past year-and-a-half, was added to the Golfdom and Athletic Turf brands as well. When I first accepted the position, I worried about the fact that I had very little knowledge of the landscaping industry, if any at all. I grasped the fundamentals of AP Style, and I understood the elements of a good lede, but how was I qualified to write about mowers, skid-steers and dollar spot when those were topics to which I’d previously never given a second thought? I soon found out that the position leant itself to the idea of “learning as you go,” complete with trade shows, conferences and media days, so much so that I’m still learning new things about the landscaping (and now golf and athletic turf) industries. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve had a few strong mentors along the way to help guide me in the right direction.
In addition to learning the ins and outs of mowers, skid-steers and dollar spot (among many other things), I’ve also developed a passion for the B2B publishing industry as a whole. I love the pressure of putting pieces together with a deadline around the corner, the “ah-ha” feeling of information clicking into place at a product demo, the camaraderie of collaborating with industry peers, the idea that whole magazines are published monthly about industries that the average person takes for granted.
Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
All of this is to say that I don’t see myself leaving the B2B publishing world anytime soon, certainly not within the next five to 10 years. I would like to continue to move forward on this pathway, eventually settling into a managing editor role and further down the road, an editor-in-chief position. Perhaps, one day I’ll even be able to help guide and reassure a newbie to the B2B world, just like those I consider mentors did for me.
What are the top challenges editors face today? What are possible solutions to those challenges?
At media days, conferences and trade shows, there’s often the expectation that editors will give live updates on the event via social media and online stories, while also bringing back to the office interesting nuggets that can be transformed into meaningful stories for the print magazine. Researching the events ahead of time and deciding what may make for the best tweet, video soundbite or piece of print content can help reduce the stress of generating several different pieces of content across a few platforms. It can also help to research a brand’s potential audience and understand which social media platforms will reach the most people.
Another industry challenge includes business publication editors’ inboxes and chat platforms being flooded daily—even hourly—by press releases, story pitches and the scoop on the latest “blowup” on Twitter. The challenge comes in sifting through that information in a timely manner—because, of course, deadlines are always looming—and figuring out what’s relevant, as well as what stories need to be told now and what can wait until later. Relying on trusted sources such as researchers and editorial advisory board members can help streamline the unebbing flow of content, both in and out.
In addition to traveling to industry events and vetting content, other demands for editors’ time include creatively putting together (at least one) informative print magazine monthly, keeping social media platforms up to date on a regular basis, posting the most current industry news on the website, generating and editing e-newsletters. Someone once told me when I was younger that part of my future job probably didn’t exist yet. I laughed it off, but with the rise of social media, e-newsletters and the ever-growing demand for online content, I’m not laughing so much anymore. Setting aside time each week to contend with each aspect of the job and breaking those into bite-sized chunks may seem overwhelmingly simple, but it helps make the job more manageable and can help fight the paralyzing feeling of having so much to do with no idea where to start.
Similar to formulating a plan of attack ahead of a trade show or other industry event, it’s important to set a priority list for what needs to get done when. It’s also helpful to rely on a consistent process for reviewing articles every month and getting the finished magazine to the printer. I also believe that collaborating with other team members to split up duties and delegate tasks, especially if one team member is out of the office or overwhelmed with his or her workload, helps keep everything in check. Put together, these small actions can make business editors’ lives just a little bit easier, so they can be excited about uncovering the next big story.
How has your job changed since the onset of COVID-19?
In addition to putting out two monthly magazines, the editorial team is now tasked with relaying COVID-19 updates relevant to the landscaping and golf industries to our readers. We have taken part in recorded Zoom interviews with readers about how the coronavirus has impacted their businesses; written stories about how the virus has impacted different golf courses and landscaping companies around the country; and raced to get relevant press releases up on our websites’ COVID-19 landing page and our brands’ social media platforms. While the travel aspect of our jobs has come to a grinding halt, we are still plenty busy making sure we pass the most updated information to our readers.
Sarah Webb has served as the associate editor of Landscape Management (LM), Golfdom and Athletic Turf (AT) for nearly 2.5 years. She graduated summa cum laude from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining the LM, Golfdom and AT brands, she worked as a freelance copy editor and spent nearly six months in Spain teaching English as a second language.