Dealing with experts

By Dolores W. Gregory
Copy Editor
BNA Tax & Accounting

BNA State Tax & Accounting relies heavily on the contributions of outside authors. For my product, the Multistate Tax Report, articles by tax attorneys and accountants are a regular monthly feature. We generally have between two and four articles in each issue. This is an important component of our service, a chance for our readers to hear directly from leaders in the field.

The greatest challenge I have in dealing with outside authors is persuading them to write for us in the first place. The Multistate Tax Report is a bit of a hybrid; we publish short news items on state tax developments, but the outside author pieces are much longer, far more detailed, and usually heavily footnoted. They are more like law journal articles than journalism — though we gladly accept articles written in a more journalistic style.

Many tax experts are very busy practitioners for whom time is literally money, and the result is that they are invariably late with whatever material they've promised me.

Sometimes they are only days late; sometimes it takes months of phone calls to shake an article loose from a well-meaning author with an overflowing Filofax. It does not help that our product provides no compensation; we pay only in glory — and copies of the print edition. So I've learned to build insurance into the process by lining up more material than I have room to publish.

As a general rule, one-third to one-half of what is promised will never materialize, and the rest of it will not be delivered on time. While this can be extremely frustrating — especially in months where literally my entire schedule of articles has evaporated — I try not to let it affect my dealings with the writers. The key to success, I believe, is to maintain a constantly cheerful attitude with the writers and to be as respectful as possible of their time and their efforts. They are, after all, doing this in their spare time, for no compensation save the exposure the article will bring them. At the same time, though, we are giving them a forum for establishing or reinforcing their credentials as experts in the field.

Let the Author Set the Deadlines; You Control the Schedule

Generally I let the author set the deadline; I usually will give a three-month lead time, but if they express some concerns, I ask them to tell me when they feel they can deliver the article.

I check in about six weeks out to see if the work is in process and if they might need more time to finish it. If they need more time, I offer an alternative deadline and promise to check in again close to that date.

It's not unusual for the date to be pushed back several times before the article finally comes in. I've had several really fine articles materialize after more than a year of back and forth with the author.

Provide Positive Feedback

Once I do get the article, I make a point of providing some specific, positive response to it — commenting on their analysis or research or writing skill. I try to make sure they understand the importance of this unique contribution to our product.

Allow the Author to Review the Edits

I generally use a two-step process in editing outside pieces. First, I edit the article in a Word file, and then I send a redline of the file to the author for review. This allows the writer a chance to see exactly what changes have been made. I make a point of explaining that I'm obligated to follow the publishing company stylebook, but that I'm willing to discuss any other edits that the author might be concerned about. Generally no one objects; those few who do raise issues about the editing invariably have a technical basis for their concern. In those few cases where someone feels very strongly about a certain wording, I try to accommodate him or her. If I have to make a case for something, I'll try to cite an authority – such as Webster's, or The Bluebook, or The Associated Press Stylebook.

Only after the author reviews the redline do I send page proofs — what we call galleys — for a second round of reviews. There are invariably changes between the redline and the galleys, because in the process of converting the file to our publishing software, we go through a second phase of editing. While this two-step process is more time-consuming than simply sending page proofs, I think the authors appreciate the thoroughness, and they can generally turn the proofs around more quickly if they've already seen the redline.

In my next blog post, I'll talk about how I go about finding outside experts and soliciting their contributions.

BNA is the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for professionals in law, tax, business, and government. It publishes daily, weekly, monthly, and up-to-the-minute news covering the full range of legal, legislative, regulatory, and economic developments that impact the business environment.

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Azbee Awards Deadline Approaching

A new submission process designed to save time and money and make the Azbee Awards of Excellence submission process more efficient was developed. This process allows ASBPE to accept complete electronic entries for our annual competition, for the first time ever. Although entrants will still have the option of sending hard copies, most categories will now be available for entry online. This change will involve less work for entrants, cutting down on preparation, packaging, duplication of forms, shipping time and expense, and material costs. However, while design award categories will still require hard-copy submission of actual entries, submission forms for the design division may still be done electronically. Additionally, the deadline for the Azbees has been pushed back to Feb. 22. Entry forms are available at our website. at

As a bonus, get a free tip sheet called the “Secrets to Winning Azbee Awards” which details suggestions on how to win an award.




Training for crisis

AlertNet, Reuters’ humanitarian news network, has launched a training video for journalists covering conflicts and disasters. The video highlights AlertNet for Journalists, a toolkit including crisis briefings, aid agency news feeds, interactive training and more.

While most of us in the B2B publishing industry won't be covering a war or what goes on in a refugee camp, there are still pieces of this that may be applicable to your position. What happens if a disgruntled former employee goes postal at one of the biggest companies you cover in your field? You are now covering a disaster. While you may be a weekly or monthly, you are likely to update your pub's website with the breaking news or you may need to do the more analytical piece on the event, but you can use the crisis training.

Posted by Tonie Auer, president of the DFW Chapter of the ASBPE and national ASBPE blog chairwoman.

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A Pulitzer's Gold Chronicle

By Roy Harris
Past National President
Senior Editor, CFO

A Pulitzer's Gold Chronicle: Writing a Book? Be Prepared, like Dr. Frankenstein, to Deal with a Creation with a Life of Its Own.

Admit it, we've all thought about it: taking something we've done for a publication and developing it into—dare we even think it?—a book! Over a career that started in newspapers in the '60s, I can't count the number of times I was fascinated enough with some story to think that it had "book potential." But that's as far as it went.

Until 2002.

Strangely, what started it all was a personal project, not a business article for my current employer, CFO, or my long-time previous employer, the Wall Street Journal. I did research into the Pulitzer Prizes that my father had been involved with over a distinguished 43-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The idea was to give credit to the teams of staffers who had done the prize-winning work, often without bylines or personal credit. I gave a presentation to that paper on what would have been dad's 100th birthday, Sept. 9, 2002. One of my greatest thrills ever.

But I came away from the experience amazed at how little there was in the literature of journalism about the "stories behind the stories" of the winners—and especially one particular category among the 14 journalism Pulitzer divisions: the one for public service.

So began, very slowly at first, what became a five-year "avocation"—often approaching obsession—learning whatever I could about those prizes, talking to reporters and editors who were involved with winning them, and shaping the idea for a book that would take readers from the origins of Joseph Pulitzer's benefaction (which turned out to be 1902, 15 years before the first Pulitzers were actually awarded), and leading them into the terrific stories that instantly became part of journalism lore. Nationally, the best known of those public service winners—the only prizes to merit the Pulitzer gold medal (hence the book's title)—were for publishing the Pentagon Papers (the New York Times), for breaking the Watergate scandal (Washington Post), and more recently, for producing "A Nation Challenged" as a window on 9/11 (the Times again), and for exposing the world to the incredible story of Catholic priests sexually preying on young parishioners (the Boston Globe.)

Since then, it's been quite a journey, leading to the official publication of Pulitzer's Gold on Jan. 17. I was greeted with two terrific stories in my local newspapers. You can check them out through my new website. And I'm beginning to see stirrings to suggest there could be a larger audience than just journalists and j-schools. (I've even scheduled radio talk show appearances in New York and Washington!)

But I've learned already that committing to a project like this really does take over your life. You need the patience of your boss and co-workers, and you have to be totally upfront about the time being consumed. In my case, I cut back to four days a week, to allow myself a "long weekend" devoted to the book. (Over the five years, my only extended time away from CFO had been a seven-month unpaid leave, in which much of my travel and library research was concentrated.)

With the book officially published, that commitment is far from over. In addition to giving interviews and planning signing events and talks—something that's just started for me—I'm finding entire weekends consumed by sending out copies, acknowledging friends, and updating the new website. Unless you have a Random House on your team, much of the post-publication work is up to you.

On the assumption that other ASBPE folks are curious about what happens next, I'll be blogging from time to time in this space about the peaks and valleys of being "a published author." As I told my best friend when I sent him his copy: That's the best kind!

Thanks, ASBPE, for letting me scratch an itch that's gone unscratched since my last ramblings of the Editor's Notes "letter from the president." And keep up the great work, Steve, Amy, Jyme, Robin, Janet and the ASBPE Team!

For folks in the Washington, DC, area who would like to hear more on this topic from Roy, along with another B2B author and a literary agent, join the DC chapter on Jan. 30 for a special workshop. For details, see the DC chapter blog.

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Making Time for Print and Online

Ask any trade editor about their biggest concern with integrating online media into their work and odds are they'll tell you that they have a hard time writing for print and online.

I asked Dan Blank, Director of Content Strategy & Development for RB Interactive, the online division of Reed Business Information his take on writing for print and online. This is what he advised.

How to Make Time to Write for Print and Online?
As reporters and editors are tasked with both print and online responsibilities, managing the increased workload has become a common stress in the newsroom. To solve this problem, we will look at ways to integrate your web and print responsibilities into a single reporting process.

The key is to not focus on the medium you are writing for, but the core value of what you are doing:
  1. Solving the needs of your readers, many of whose media consumption habits are changing.

  2. Evolve the reporting process to meet the changes to your business.

  3. Leverage new tools to enhance your journalistic practices, not diminish them.

Let’s look at one way for a reporter to meet the needs of these changes.

Become a connector; engage with your audience daily. The common thing that has changed across media, is that media creation and consumption is no longer a one-way process. It is “social,” whereby the community can create and distribute content in immediate and compelling ways. For a reporter, this is an amazing opportunity to involve your audience in your reporting process, get instant feedback, and leverage the efforts and passion of your readers. To do so, find out where your readers hang out online. If you are convinced they don’t, then create a place for them to do so. Forums, blogs, and microblogging services such as Twitter, have created a community that you can tap into anytime, anywhere. The more that you connect with your readers, and find ways to connect them to each other, the greater value you have added. This is probably one key way that the role of journalists are changing: from being a content source, to a connector.
  • Post to the web daily. Whether you work a particular beat, or are working on a single story, you can integrate posting to the web into the process of creating your articles.

    For instance: as you learn new facts, you can post ideas and questions to forums, or a microblogging service like Twitter. This brings your audience and sources into your process. They become part of the process.

    You can then post daily updates as your story evolves. Learn an interesting new fact or news source? Post it. The feedback you receive will only ensure that your final story will be more compelling and complete.

    When you finish and publish the full article, engage with your readers again, to get feedback, and identify areas for your to follow up. Each story should have a life of its own that evolves.

  • Set aside “exploring” time each day. As media evolves, the time must be taken to learn new tools, understand strategies, and integrate them into current processes. Think of this as going back to school, without leaving your desk.

  • Have fun.This is not about usurping the power of journalists, or threatening careers. The world is changing, but it is an opportunity. With the web, the individual – including you – is empowered to learn and communicate. You will get from it what you give.

Overall – you may want to think about posting online as the process that you leverage while working on print stories.

Dan Blank is the Director of Content Strategy & Development for RB Interactive, the online division of Reed Business Information. You can find daily updates to his personal blog at

Posted by Erin Erickson, board member of Chicago ASBPE chapter and national website committee co-chair.

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How to post more content on the web

By Katy Tomasulo

At last summer's ASBPE National Editorial Conference -- which covered a range of topics about Web 2.0 -- two things stood out for me the most. First was the widespread bewilderment among B2B editors about how exactly to provide more and more content for magazine Web sites with a staff that is already maxed-out on work. The second surprising thing was a blunt statement by one of the speakers that essentially said if you're not willing to change, you might as well leave. In other words, it's inevitable, so deal with it and figure out how to get it done. And I think he's right. So just how do you get it done without your kids forgetting what you look like?

Unfortunately, some of it really is just finding ways to cram more work into the workday -- and doing more at home later. But there also are a lot of other creative methods for boosting your online content with quality information your readers can use -- without adding too much to the work pile.

Here are a few tips I've learned so far:

Hire, hire, hire. I know, I know. Easier said than done when you are facing budget tightening and a management that resists. But insist on it if you can. Research and report the increase in hours worked and the increases in revenues. Find out what your competitors are doing in terms of Web staffing. Conduct a Web user survey to find out what readers are looking for. Sometimes only persistence and insistence will do. (And don't forget to factor additional copy editors, not just new writers, into the equation.)

Channel Journalism 101. One of the reasons this move to the Web is tough for some is because we've gotten comfortable with being monthly magazine writers. We're not newspaper reporters used churning out Who/What/Where/When/Why/How four times a day. Unfortunately, we're going to have to be. Re-learn the basics of writing a news story on deadline. Practice and get used to writing hard news again until you can churn out stories a little faster than you've become accustomed to.

Leverage your print articles to drive traffic online. This is the easiest and possibly most effective way to populate your site and drive traffic to it. By thinking ahead during the interview process, it's easy to accumulate additional or excess content from articles you're running in print.

Here are some techniques:

Post excess article content. If pages are being cut or the article is just too long, run an "extended version" of the article online. Even better, write up an extra sidebar or two so that the extra content is easy to find by those who have already read the article. Writing an extra sidebar requires minimal extra work because you are pulling the information from interviews you've already completed. Be sure to put a teaser—as specific as possible--at the end of the article alerting readers to the additional information available to them online.

Post unused photos and captions. You're already paying for the images, why not show them online? (Be sure, of course, that your photography contract allows this.) Again, include a teaser in the print version.

Guest column/blog. If you interview a particularly interesting person for a timely or noteworthy topic, ask if they would consider writing a guest column or a guest blog item for your Web site on a related topic that interests them. The column could be fairly short and could include a bio and link to their company as incentive. Tease this at the end of the print article.

Link to older related articles. If the print article is related to articles you've done in the past, tease those at the end of the new article. For example, at my magazine, which covers construction products, at the end of a product article about energy-efficient refrigerators we could post a link to a still-timely news article about Energy Star appliance regulations.

Invite commentary on the print story. Set up a comments page for each feature story (or create a forum that has a message board for each subject/story) and, in the print version, invite readers to share their views online.

Leverage your company. If you come from a company with multiple titles in one general subject area but little overlap in readership, tease and link to online content that is applicable to both parties. For example, one magazine might be read by small business owners, another by coporate CEOs, but both groups might be interested in an article on retaining employees that appeared in a sister magazine for human resource managers.

Add a "What's Online" area as a permanent department in your print publication. This can be relatively small, perhaps just a box on your editorial page, but just something that reminds the reader about the resources on your Web site, particularly calling attention to anything that's new.

User surveys. Conduct a monthly survey on a timely topic on your Web site. Publish the results, with a brief analysis by an editor, in the print edition. Include a teaser to the next survey, which will drive them back online to answer.

Remember young writers and interns. The Web is a chance to give younger writers—who often are limited to short pieces and admin work--a chance to develop a beat, to write longer articles, and to really feel like they are contributing to the forward movement of their magazines. This is also the case with interns, many of whom are recently trained in hard news reporting and are eager to earn clips for credit and portfolios. The same can be said for budding copyeditors. There is a lot of extra work to be had for young copyeditors willing to put in extra time in order to hone their skills.

Face the facts. Building content for the Web is, plain and simple, a growing necessity. The quicker you find solutions, the easier it will become. Once you start thinking about it, the options really are endless. If you have additional suggestions for boosting online content, please share with others in our comments section.

Katy Tomasulo is deputy editor of Building Products magazine and and is president of ASBPE's Washington, DC, chapter.

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Using ASBPE's New Online Entry System for Azbee Awards

Learn How to Save Time and Money by Submitting Your Competition Entries Online!

The deadline for the 2008 Azbee Awards is Feb. 15, 2008. The 2008 competition is for material published in 2007. This year, ASBPE created the ability to submit your entries online, meaning not having to spend time packaging three copies of each entry in plastic acetate sheets, printing out letters, and sending the whole package out via snail mail.

Join the American Society of Business Publication Editors for a webinar on Friday, January 18 to learn the basics about our new entry system.

What You'll Learn

In this half-hour session, find out:
  • how and where to register for the competition
  • where to submit your statement describing the mission, readership, and enterprising work for each entry
  • how upload editorial entries
  • how to submit and receive confirmation of payment
When: Friday, January 18, from 1 to 1:30 p.m. EST

Where: Your computer. A web conference dial-in number and access code is required, and will be provided to registrants in a subsequent e-mail.

How to attend: To reserve your place, submit a completed reservation form to You may get more information on the awards here.

Questions may be directed to Steve Roll at 703-341-5926.

Charge: This webinar is FREE for all ASBPE members and nonmembers.

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Getting Things Done

By Steven Roll
ASBPE President

Like most people, I begin each year by making several resolutions relating to productivity. I often resolve to get more exercise by doing my morning run at 5 am. This year I did it on Jan. 2. But I've slept through my alarm clock's call every morning since.

Fortunately, not all resolutions relating to productivity depend on sheer willpower. I also began 2008 by re-reading David Allen's Getting Things Done. The book--or "GTD" as its adherents refer to it--was published in 2003 and is ranked #53 on Amazon. It has a cult like following on the blogosphere.

Allen likens the mind to a computer hard drive, which can only hold so much data. Moving this data to an organized place outside of your brain reduces the need for you to try to remember all of your obligations. The goal is to get rid of what Allen calls "stuff." Writing all of your commitments down clarifies them and helps you to review, prioritize, and even get rid of some. Removing stuff from your mind helps you to relax and focus on the task at hand.

This year I found a free Web application that helps with this. It's called Remember the Milk. RTM is a task manager that allows you to enter all of your tasks and prioritize them by date or importance. Whenever I think of something that I want or need to do, I send an e-mail to my RTM in-box. The next time I log in to RTM, I prioritize the task and set a date for completion. Many times I need to postpone completing the task, but at least it's written down somewhere where I can refer back to it.

Putting GTD in practice means emptying your e-mail's in-box every Friday afternoon. According to Allen, you should respond to an e-mail immediately if it will take you two minutes or less. If a more involved response is needed, you should move the e-mail to a folder that you will refer to later. If an e-mail doesn't warrant a response and is not worth saving in a folder, then delete it. I managed to empty my e-mail inbox last Friday, and was surprised at all of the loose ends I was able to tie up. Gina Trapani, one of my favorite bloggers and productivity gurus, says she empties her e-mail in box three times a week.

GTD also means reviewing your list at the end of every week and re-prioritizing it. This is one of the most challenging aspects of Allen's system, and the thing that I've failed to do in the past. But I think RTM is going to help me get over that hump. Now if I could only figure out how to make it get me out of bed to go running every morning.

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Should journalists be paid more for additional work?

Article written. Check
Sources confirmed. Check
Headline and dek written. Check.
Online hed crafted. Check
SEO keywords listed. Check
Link list included. Check.

Remember when you used to be able to just write a story and submit it? Those days are over if you’re one of the tens of thousands of writers or editors that has entered the arena of online journalism.

Gone are the days when the technological extent of your career was using the Internet to check a source’s telephone number. You’re probably writing a few extra web-friendly components so you can be found by the billions of people that use the Internet.

The impact of the Internet on journalists has been felt throughout the world. From Journalism schools realigning their curriculum to a Jobs Report citing that Journalism is a dying career, it won’t be too long before we pack up our laptops and head home to rethink that dream that one day we’d be the next Woodward or Bernstein.

But wait! There is one way you can hold on to your job: Write for online as well as for print. Embrace the new media; learn what a wiki is, pen a blog, write daily articles online for your monthly magazine.

And the pay increase for this additional work? Usually nothing but a pat on the back and the hope that you’ll be more employable if you know how to navigate the Internet.

This is a cynical, but somewhat realistic point-of-view of the new approach to journalism. Some embrace it. Some decide to take a different path.

It’s a common debate among journalists these days: do we insist on more dollars to compensate our increased workloads or do you acknowledge that this is journalism redefined.

Posted by Erin Erickson, board member of Chicago ASBPE chapter and national website committee co-chair.

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What will happen to B2B magazines in 2008?

Folio Magazine examined what the economy's impact on B2B publishing with bleak projections by industry leaders. Paul Conley doesn't seem bright either. Across the field of journalism, most of us are walking forward with an occasional look over our shoulder. We all feel something - unsure what it is - looming. At least, I feel it. Almost like we're waiting for some mysterious other shoe to drop. Not sure when - or if - it will. But, worried, nonetheless. Or is it just me?

Folio also asked media industry leaders what they anticipated in 2008 for the magazine industry. You may be surprised - or not - by what some leaders had to say.

Posted by Tonie Auer, president of the DFW ASBPE chapter and national blog committee chairwoman.

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