This week in brand publishing:
- The editor-in-chief role at publishers is expanding, which might play into the hands of brands looking to hire editorial talent.
- A slew of new publications has launched recently, but many of them trot out the same tired editorial missions.
- Why brands find print endeavors so difficult.
The role of the editor-in-chief is expanding
The role of the editor-in-chief has changed rapidly over the past few years. The dominant image of the “editor-as-celebrity” has faded, replaced by a much more diverse role and necessitating a more varied skill set.
Editors-in-chief are now being asked to do far more than simply lead meetings, assign stories, and serve as a figurehead for a brand — they’re increasingly responsible for events, client and sponsor initiatives, strategic direction and, in some cases, full ownership of P&Ls.
This expanded EIC skillset may prove to be beneficial for brand publishers, many of whom poach their own editorial leads from journalism publications. Because more EICs now understand deeper business strategy along with how to tell stories, they can be valuable additions to brands who are using publishing to grow their own businesses.
Fashionista covered the shift in a great story last week, which focused on the world of fashion media.
One perspective in there was of former Allure EIC Michelle Lee — who now runs Netflix’s brand publishing operation — who also wondered what a post-EIC life would look like:
“By the time I was at Allure, which was my third editor-in-chief job, I remember thinking, ‘What’s the next step for me? What do editor-in-chiefs do after that job? In the past, the golden age of media, they had made so much money and just retired, lived a nice, lavish life. I needed to work, and I saw traditional media was changing. I thought, ’10 years from now, would I still be an editor-in-chief?’ I didn’t know the answer, so I started to plot a path of what industry to go into.”
The article echoes my own experience. In 2016 I helped launch B2B fashion publication Glossy and hire the publication’s editor-in-chief. It was important to us that the final candidate could do more than just edit, throw parties and go to lunch. They would, in essence, be running a business. It was difficult to find this skillset, and particularly in fashion.
Fast forward to today, and brands could be poised to capitalize on this shift. There are more talented editors out there now, who understand full digital and content strategies. And many of them may also be wondering what comes after this. Like Lee and other editors who have left media to chart new careers inside brands, this enlarged scope can mean extended career prospects beyond traditional media.
Who’s hiring in brand publishing
We’re now curating new and notable job vacancies and roles from across the brand publishing world in one place with a new jobs resource on the Toolkits site. Our goal is to give Toolkits readers an easy, centralized place to uncover and connect with the best career opportunities out there.
Jobs added this week include editor-in-chief at #Paid, senior editor at Wikimedia, editor-in-chief at CVS and writer for Mercury Bank. Check out the jobs here. And if you have a job you’d like us to include, contact us.
The importance of differentiated editorial missions
Jack Shafer’s column in Politico about the journalism industry’s entrepreneurial spirit – and why stating the obvious isn’t really an editorial strategy – underscores yet again how few publishing operations, journalistic or brand-funded, spend the necessary time and energy on articulating a clear strategy.
Shafer writes: “When pitching investors, founders feel compelled to exaggerate the novelty of their prospective startups, composing the most exaggerated headlines for their baby’s birth announcements. Too often, it seems, the founder is still drunk on his own pitchmanship when introducing his publication to its readers.”
While the piece is firmly about journalism startups, it’s highly relevant to brand publishing operations. Because so many brand-funded publications often get their starts in the marketing department, they run the risk of focusing overtly on execution and showmanship over the hard, cold, difficult, and frankly, sometimes, boring work of actually asking what the strategic goal of the publication is and – crucially – what it’s going to be doing for their business. Publications are nice to have, particularly when they’re the shiny new toys, but modern brand publishers looking to create something of true value should go beyond wanting something simply because it sounds cool.
Why brands fail with print
In November, Stripe published the final issue of its quarterly print publication “Increment”. The payment processing company’s foray into print lasted 4 years and 19 issues, and was notable for one key reason: that it existed as long as it did.
Numerous high-profile brands’ have attempted to stand up print publications over the past decade, and the majority share a similar fate of being shuttered after a handful of issues, or being “pivoted” to digital (read: moved to a website that’s updated a couple of times a year.)
As anyone who’s wrestled with the complexities of producing a print product. (including myself) finds out one way or another – InDesign or painstakingly checked proofs (I’ve done both) knows, print is difficult. It’s hard for traditional publishers, and it’s particularly hard for brand publishers who rarely possess the skill sets, experience and mindsets necessary to create regular print products. It can also be difficult to measure the success of print. For many brands, print isn’t used for the right reasons – chiefly, building a brand. And for others, it’s that they don’t recognize that it can take a while to be successful, and aren’t willing or able to put in the necessary investment into it. Read more.