B2B Writing in a Crummy Economy

Photo: Tonie AuerBy Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Just last week I was part of a conference call informing me that the publication I've been writing for since October 2005 has virtually eliminated all of its editorial staff. Now, what had been handled by more than a dozen staff writers and editors along with a stable of freelancers is down to two editors and three freelancers.

I managed to dodge the bullet - again. This was the second round of layoffs since October. A few months ago, several editors I've worked with since 2001 were laid off, as well. And, just a few weeks ago, a regional business journal eliminated its staff and expanded the duties for existing editorial staff at a sister publication.

I'm wondering how thin can editorial staffs be stretched before the end-product is done irreparable harm. There are only so many hours in the day to complete the work. Yes, most of these publications are cutting back and the issues are much thinner than they've ever been. At what point will readers simply say, why bother?

In a time when we're all competing for the all-mighty dollar, what will keep these readers from deciding their subscription money is better used in some other fashion? We're already seeing this when it comes to various meetings. I, for one, have cut back on my professional development to save a few bucks.

What are editorial staffs doing with reduced manpower, fewer trips to trade shows and smaller budgets to continue putting out quality products that readers want to read? To borrow a phrase, inquiring minds want to know. If you have a few comments, feel free to post them here. If you have advice to share and want to create a blog post, email me at tonieauer@gmail.com. B2B publishing plays an important role in helping those industries we support and I don't want to see it become another casualty of this economy.

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We've been running my magazine on one editor (me) for a number of years. It's a struggle, but I find that if I'm super-organized I can get it done. I try to focus on products and news that I'll really use in the magazine. I also have to do administrative tasks so I only complete what needs to be done (data entry in a database, sending out copies of the publication.)
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : June 4, 2009 at 10:48 AM
June 4,2009

Hi Tonie:

Your latest blog hits the nail right on the unfortunate head.

Indeed, a problem confronting many editors today is how to pack a solid information package into a smaller editorial space.

In the past few weeks, I've seen a couple of cases where editors have totally dumped their news sections. I expect this to become a more frequent event. The obvious rationale is that news is being adequately covered on a website. Whether or not that coverage is terrific is another story.

While many publishers make decisions about editorial allotments on the basis of traditional ad/edit ratio considerations, not everybody is in the camp of the 65/35 ad/edit ratio. Before my tour as a consultant, I worked for 21 years at a successful B2B company that believed readers were entitled to a certain minimum editorial package, whether or not justified by the ad count. In bad times, we hung in there on that philosophy, and it served us well commercially speaking when ad business turned up.

However, at that time, we had yet to compete with ourselves via website. So perhaps that policy would not work as well today.

Meanwhile, in dealing with a smaller editorial package, we should concentrate on maintaining the impression of a varied editorial menu. In other words, readers perceive that a magazine has a lot going on in every issue. This means we may have to sacrifice some depth in the process. In such cases, a quality image still can be maintained.

Howard Rauch
Editorial Solutions, Inc.alceox
# posted by Blogger howard rauch : June 4, 2009 at 12:33 PM
We've been really emphasizing design, which is something about the reading experience you can't replicate on the Web.

We may not have the page counts we used to, but the ones we have are looking sharp. And art can help get the points across by working with the content, so in a way it helps with the space issue, as well as making it overall more interesting to read.

Of course, we're also honing every word to make sure that only the best of the best makes it to print. I agree with what Howard says about a varied menu. We try to squeeze in a mix of news analysis, features, columns, and a dash of fun in as many pages as we have to work with.

It's a challenge, though, and not one that I see going away any time soon.
# posted by Anonymous Sue Pelletier : June 4, 2009 at 6:17 PM
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