Bridging the Digital Skills Training Gap

Four of five "senior-level" editors who answered the recent ASBPE/Medill Survey on Digital Skills & Strategies had one day or less of corporate-sponsored digital training in 2009.

What are the implications? How can we overcome the problem?

Join ASBPE's next webinar on Thursday, June 3, to learn about the research and about what you can do to diminish the gap.

The program:

What the research shows
  1. The training gap
  2. The leadership gap
  3. Which skills are necessary/most important.
What you can do about it
  1. How to sell your company on training.
  2. How can you get training at your organization with little help from management.
  3. Where to get training on your own.
  4. Mini case studies

About the speakers:

Abe Peck is director of business-to-business communication and professor emeritus in service at the Medill School and senior director of the Media Management Center, Northwestern University. He is also a consultant in the B2B space.

Robin Sherman is associate director of the American Society of Business Publication Editors; a principal of Editorial & Design Services; and a former corporate director of editorial development.

Mary Slepicka is group content director of Advanstar Communications Powersport Group; and editorial director of Dealernews Magazine.

Rita Jane Gabbett is executive editor of, and on-line community for red meat and poultry processors in North America.

Event details:

Date: Thursday, June 3

Time: 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EDT

Location: Your desktop computer.

Cost: $20 for members, $45 for non-members

To register:

Option 1: Pay online. Use the web form below to pay online via credit card or PayPal. Instructions for obtaining webinar access will be emailed to you once you have paid.

Member Status

Option 2: Use PayPal via email. Go to PayPal and use the Send Money tab to send the proper amount to Instructions for obtaining webinar access will be emailed to you once you have paid.

Option 3: Pay by check, pay by credit card offline or pay for multiple registrations at one time (regardless of payment method). Fill out this registration form (78K Word doc) and return it to Holly Lundgren with your payment by June 1. Webinar access info will be provided once you have registered.

Questions? Contact Steven Roll at

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Revised Mind Set Needed to Cope with Editorial Job Demands

By Howard Rauch

Discussions about today’s editorial workload dilemma usually focus on how we split our time percentagewise between online and print. I followed the same line of thinking while creating an editorial performance survey for an upcoming ASBPE webinar. But early input via initial telephone brainstorming sessions with survey respondents suggests the need for another mind set.

For instance, consider the point raised by a group editorial director who has embraced “web first” content creation. He believes online and print activities must be blended into one fluid process. “We have not changed the way we gather information, write it for the web and then repurpose it for print,” he said. However, significant changes have been made in production procedures, especially how deadlines are organized.

Another brainstorming conversation mulled pros and cons of expedience as the answer to making job ends meet. For instance, I’ve noticed some sites relying moreso on straight reruns of press releases. The editors don’t try to hide the fact that content is far from original. “We select only the most relevant stuff for rerun,” says one online editor. “It doesn’t matter if we’re not the source in every case.” My view? WRONG!!! Our content-creation emphasis must be on exclusivity and enterprise. Does anyone not understand why that approach is mandated?

Finally, I’ve started asking respondents if they have “blog disease.” What’s that, you say? It pertains to sites where “blog” has been perceived as the magic word. Use it often and it will do wonders in terms of page views. Thus … I’ve come across many so-called “Industry Insight Blogs” that are merely a parade of rewritten press releases. On the other hand, I’ve seen some really keen blog sites packed with individual opinion pieces. Some content packages receive additional zip thanks to sizzling excerpts from recent chat room discussions.

As you can see, my current focus on editorial performance conditions is yielding a variety of thought-provoking insights. And the telephone brainstorming sessions are just getting started! It’s still not too late for you to weigh in on our current editorial performance dilemma. Because of an expected rescheduling of my June 17 webinar date, I am extending the deadline for additional performance questionnaire submissions and accompanying telephone brainstorming sessions. If interested in participating, send me an e-mail ( or call me at (201) 569-7714 for more details.

Last but not least, I leave you with this notable philosophy that emerged during an exchange with a really interesting guy: “Too many people think that B2B publishing involves a church and state relationship. They are wrong. Instead, B2B publishing is a heart and lungs affair. Both partners must be functioning properly; otherwise, the relationship will fail.”

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Planning Ahead

We've all had those editors for whom an editorial calendar might as well be the liner for the bird cage. The editors who call up the freelancer or the newsroom to tell them they need 1,500 words on XYZ by Friday. Do what? More often than not, those are the least effective editors.

Jill Geisler at the Poynter Institute recognizes this and wrote about it last week with “What Great Bosses Know about the Joy (and Agony) of Planning.”

Some of her advice:
Here are five times when plans really matter.
  • When plans inspire. Planning can demonstrate a vision for success and the beginning of a road map that others join in to complete.

  • When plans smooth the way. Colleagues along the workflow process benefit from knowing the big, projected picture as early as possible. Think of the last person who might touch a project before completion. How could front-end information benefit that person?

  • When the planner has subject matter expertise. The expert can kick start the whole team by laying out the problem and solution, assigning support roles and responsibilities, and encouraging people along the way.

  • When others on the team aren't adept at planning. If you have the strongest talent for planning, or if others are just too busy, take the lead. Just make certain you get their input.

  • When plans help demonstrate progress. Having a plan with benchmarks lets a team show the status of its work, which can be important to higher-ups and funders.
But here are five warnings for those who love to plan.
  • Planners can become controllers. Planners sometimes assume that because they do the organizing work, they get more votes than others on the team. Even when you're the boss doing the planning, people are more likely to be engaged if they have a voice in the project.

  • Planners can resist change. The parent of any plan sees its path more clearly than everyone else and may want to drive to the finish line on that route only. Suggested alternatives can seem like criticisms. The more you love planning, the more you need to recognize your need to be flexible.

  • Planners can button things up too early. Remember the value of people who aren't like you. Folks who aren't born planners are often born innovators and adapters. The reason they don't keep lists and beat deadlines by a mile isn't because they're lazy, it's because they keep their options open while they think — and often add great value to a plan in progress.

  • Planners can get the blame if things go astray. If your name and yours alone is on a plan that fails, your reputation may suffer. Being a collaborative planner builds both buy-in and shared responsibility.

  • Planners can get work dumped on them. You can become the "planning nanny" for people who know it's a lot of work and are happy to let you do it. Train others to help so you don't become the default planner for all projects.
Our advice: plan ahead. It is worth the extra effort.



To Blog or Not to Blog, That Is the Question

By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Occasionally, other bloggers can say things so much better than I can. This time, it’s Joe Pulizzi. The author, speaker and strategist for content marketing and founder of content matching site Junta42 marked his 37th birthday with 37 reasons to blog. And, they’re good ones.

Here's a sampling:
5. You can't be taken seriously in social media unless you have a robust, consistent blog. That's the truth. Deal with it.

7. A blog is search engine candy. Google loves blogs and Google is hungry. Feed the beast.

8. A blog is an industry game changer. When the buying decision comes down to three or four companies, the company website with consistent, relevant content is 60% more likely to win (Custom Content Council stats).

11. How can you be successful with Twitter, Facebook and other social media without generating consistently relevant content through a blog? Remember, content strategy comes before social media. That content strategy can be executed through the blog.

13. A blog can serve as the content hub for your enewsletter, print newsletter and company magazine.

14. Your customers want and need to be inspired. Is there a better way to inspire customers than through consistent content gifts through a blog.
So, go forth and be inspired by Joe. He gave me this great idea for a blog post.

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When One Door Closes ...

By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Like most aspiring writers (of something beyond the B2B publications), I strive to read quality work. I try to change things up a bit, moving from suspense writers like Deborah Crombie to the snarky memorist Jen Lancaster.

I've read many books about writing techniques and I'm even a member of the Writers' Guild of Texas, which brings in great speakers to talk about the craft of writing. All of this greatly improves my writing skills overall, so it is beneficial all the way around.

I subscribed for a year or two to Writer's Digest, but found that I never took the time to read it. Fortunately, I saved the magazines and ran across them recently and started reading them. Writing tips are timeless (for the most part), so why not? What I found in the pages went beyond the traditional tips on creating good characters and addressed topics facing the B2B publishing industry, too.

I pulled out one issue from 2007 that included query tips from editors of three consumer publications. Of the three magazines, two are now defunct. (Sort of timely considering all the closing publications across the magazine world.) Flipping through another 2007 issue, I ran across an article titled “The Incredible Disappearing Magazine.” The advice seems very timely, as it talks about what freelancers should do if one of their pubs shutters.

After from getting stiffed a check (most likely), now you have to find another revenue stream. The article's author, Lou Harry, recommended going straightaway to the publication's competition. Pretty good advice if you've already been writing about a topic or industry. But, with the shrinking world of publications and the increasing pool of writers, you need to make sure that you play up your strong points. Also, stay in touch with the editors who know and love your writing already. I've gotten several jobs in the past from editors who have jumped ship. Often, they've been gracious enough to leave my name with the editors who replace them as they change jobs, too.

After the Reed announcements recently, you could practically hear the sales departments at competing publishers (like McGraw-Hill) salivating at the opportunities to lure those advertisers to their pubs, too. So, it can be doubly beneficial for some competitors.

So, I suppose the blog title comes into play here. When you find that one door closes (literally, as magazines fold), find your way to another door. You may be able to get your foot in there with a little effort. Then, hopefully, it will open. But, you'll never know if you don't go knock.

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Reporting Live From the Echo Chamber

Photo: Steven RollBy Steve Roll

We’ve all heard how no content should be wasted in the Multi-Platform Age.

  • Those pictures that didn't make the cut for that magazine story? Use them for an online slideshow.

  • The sidebar you didn't use in the feature article? Expand on it for a blog post.

  • The interview you recorded last week for that profile piece. Turn it into a podcast.

But the New York Times has recently taken this a step further by creating content about content that hasn’t even been created yet. They do this in the TimesCast videos each morning, in which the editors discuss the topics that will be covered.

This is an intriguing use of video technology to provide public access to what had previously been private discussions among editors.

The idea of releasing incomplete content is not new. Journalists have been using Twitter to float trial balloons for story ideas or find sources for a couple of years now.

But Clark Hoyt, the public editor for the New York Times, pointed out that his publication has fallen prey to some of the risks of always being on.

On the second day of TimesCast, Bill Keller — NYT’s executive editor — misspoke about a story involving Israel. Although the TimesCast videos are edited before they are released for public view, Keller's slip up had somehow made it through.

Hoyt said:

It once did not matter if editors had all of their facts straight at the morning news meeting; there was plenty of time for reporting and editing. But with the world looking over their shoulders, things are different. Editors are dressing better, speaking in complete, sound-bite sentences, and mistakes are embarrassing.
In the same article, Hoyt noted that one of the paper's reporters said something embarrassing on Twitter and a couple of its writers for one of its blogs fell victim to an April Fool's Day hoax.

What's most interesting is that the New York Times seems bent on pressing ahead with using these new technologies, despite some of the risks they present.

Which would you say is worse: missing one or more important stories, or being wrong and embarrassed sometimes?

Steve Roll is the Immediate Past President of ASBPE and chairman of the Webinar Committee. Follow him on Twitter at @b2beditor. His e-mail is b2beditor AT

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Ethics Committee Has New Vision

By Howard Rauch
Chairman, ASBPE Ethics Committee

Debating the precarious outlook for the traditional church-and-state doctrine preoccupies most discussions when the subject of editorial ethics arises.

Advances in the Internet, however, require additional B2B attention on ethics. Long-held principles are being shaken.

This is the situation confronting the ASBPE Ethics Committee. In response, the
committee is planning a dramatic expansion of activity this year (see news story for details).

Challenges to consider

Let’s now consider a partial list of noteworthy ethics challenges:
  • Church and state remains at the top of the list, but not in the usual way. As one group editorial director told me recently: “We have tried to tear down the wall and replace it with a smaller fence.”

    The dictate that editors should avoid marketing involvement hasn’t been practical for years. Maintaining high editorial quality is vital, but marketing activity need not stand in the way of quality.

    On the other hand, we must resist efforts to compromise quality that would result in an irretrievable loss of credibility.

  • Cost controls have put a damper on quality. Editorial staffs do triple duty managing print, Web content, and other digital platforms. Travel is curtailed. Editorial page counts are way down; traditional depth is more difficult to deliver. With salary freezes typical, what picture do we paint for applicants looking for a promising career?

  • Social media dominates much editorial planning. The major players in newsstand business media are appointing social media content directors. Some ethical do’s and don’ts are already floating around. Obviously, more concrete guidelines for B2B staffs are required.

  • Documenting ethics policies has never been our strong suit. Aside from the guidelines already available to you from ASBPE, every company needs at least two written policies:

    1. covering ethics,
    2. covering complaint-handling.

    With the latter, the policy must emphasize the need for prompt response and describe possible recourse when the mistake is ours.

  • Content marketing is another issue. An associate of mine, a former editorial vice president who blogs from his own site, says content marketing will pose a new wave of ethical issues.

    By the way, content marketing is not new. When I was a working editor, we used to call that PR.

    Anyway, the alleged coming deluge of proposals we receive from content marketers requires creation of ethical guidelines that anticipate pitfalls.
Clearly, our committee has much to accomplish.

Contact me at if you have suggestions.

Howard Rauch is the chairman of the ASBPE Ethics Committee and president of Editorial Solutions.

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Far-Reaching Impact of Reed Closings

By Nikki Golden

That sound you heard April 16 was the clicking sound of a Domino display being set into motion. The closure of the 23 magazines by Reed Business Information will impact a lot more than the lives of the now 324 talented people now out of work. There will be residual effects that we have not even imagined as of yet.

As cliché as it sounds, there is a symbiotic relationship between B2B publications and the industries they cover. These industries look to B2B pubs to be on top of trends, products, research and most of all, guidance when making decisions that impact their businesses. Isn’t that what most B2B pubs tout in their media kits?

So what’s the message that’s sent when a publisher just up and closes 23 titles and closes down the affiliated trade shows and supplements and takes down the Web sites? Many of these publications were Azbee award-winners, Neal award-winners and finalists. Several of these publications were ASBPE Magazine of the Year award-winners. There is a sense of awe with which the rest of us regard many of these great titles — industry-leading publications in their respective markets.

It is true that the B2B landscape is changing, and we need to change with it, but there’s a dangerous precedent that’s been sent and a very negative message — one that breaks up the relationship between B2B and industries. Partnership opportunities might dry up because companies, associations and the like are reluctant to be stuck holding the ball.

And none of this is taking into account the loss of institutional knowledge that the departure of many of these editors, many of whom have spent lifetimes covering the same industry, leaves behind.

Yesterday news came that a new publishing company was formed to purchase the Supply Chain titles: Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, Supply Chain Management Review and Material Handling Product News. There’s talk that more of these companies might be formed to purchase the intellectual property and restart the titles — and I hope that proves true.

But for the time being, join me in a moment of silence for the 19 titles still RIP:
Building Design+Construction
Chain Leader
Construction Bulletin
Construction Equipment
Consulting-Specifying Engineer *
Control Engineering *
Foodservice Equipment & Supplies
Graphic Arts Blue Book
Graphic Arts Monthly
Plant Engineering *
Professional Builder
Professional Remodeler
Restaurant & Institutions (an Azbee Magazine of the Year winner)
Semiconductor International
Spec Check,
Tradeshow Weekly
And to our colleagues who are now examining what the next step in their career path will be, we want you to make sure you update your information on the ASBPE Web site, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and know that your talents are needed elsewhere — and we’re going to help you find that next place.

* Update: On April 30, Folio: reported that two former RBI publishers, who formed CFE Media LLC, are buying three Reed titles: Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering. We will keep you updated as more of these assets get purchased.

Nikki Golden is the president of ASBPE’s Chicago chapter and communications manager of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, where she oversees the magazine The Remodelers’ Journal. She is a former Reed Business Information employee.

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Don’t Miss Chance to Obtain Useful Input on Editorial Performance

By Howard Rauch

How to deal more effectively with mounting print/digital workloads will be my focus during an ASBPE June 17 webinar.

In advance, I invited all concerned editors to complete a questionnaire outlining their current responsibilities. Respondents were asked to focus primarily on their online workloads. They were challenged to identify their most time-consuming tasks.

During follow-up phone calls starting May 15, I’ll consult with each participant about possible ways to simplify workloads. An extra benefit: all respondents receive an analysis of e-newsletter content based on the eight-factor scoring system I outlined in a recent Editor’s Notes article (556K PDF; available to ASBPE members only).

Early returns reflect some significant patterns. Here are a few:

1. Production responsibilities are major time consumers. In several past editorial performance projects focusing on print, I often found production processes were hampered by burdensome practices. There is every indication that the same holds true for online. Of course, that depends on how you define “production.” I include assorted posting functions — coding, sizing photos, proofreading — anything else that’s distinct from original writing/editing tasks.

2. There is agreement that job overload has impaired editing quality. This is especially true in those cases where e-newsletter workload has doubled or tripled in the past three years.

3. Publishers not yet committed to dedicated digital staffs will never exploit online marketing potential to the fullest. Descriptions of current workloads make that clear. For instance, developing a strong package of high-value webinars and white papers requires several days a month of focus. Furthermore, it seems farfetched to expect besieged staffs can deliver a continuous flow of exclusive, high-enterprise content.

We’ll discuss all of the above and much more on June 17. Meanwhile, there’s still time for you to benefit from advance participation. Just complete a performance questionnaire and return it to me before May 15. For more information or to obtain a copy of the questionnaire, contact me via email ( or call (201) 569-7714.

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