10 Things About Publishing

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In her comment to my latest post about bumping into a co-worker yesterday, Tiv asked me how the work I do in magazine publishing as an art director is similar or different from blogging. At first I thought this was a curious question because it seemed to me the answers were obvious, but the more I thought about it, the more I could see that for someone who doesn’t work in the publishing industry, the differences wouldn’t be immediately apparent. Here is my take on the matter:

1. “Publish”
Blog: The term “publish” means putting something online, usually an individual item or article. It implies little or no cost. Mistakes although not desirable, can be easily corrected after publishing.
Magazine: The term “publish” means sending entire issues comprised of many articles to a printer on a given deadline. This involves many more interventions on the documents and major costs for all these additional resources required, not the least of which paper and running of presses. Mistakes can have major repercussions and can usually be corrected in the later stages of production, though it becomes increasingly costly to do so, and they are virtually impossible to correct once the documents are printed.

2. “Magazine”
Blog: I consider my blog to be a kind of magazine experience in the sense that I try to inform and entertain myself and my readers, there is a mix of topics, which are presented in different formats and there are certain features which occur fairly regularly. Equal importance is attributed to text and images.
Magazine: A traditional magazine, whether it has a main topic or treats different topic comprises a mix of sections but also a recognizable format as to where one can find certain kinds of information. It’s meant to inform and/or entertain the readers rather than those involved in the production. The balance between text and visual highly varies from one magazine to the other.

3. Staffing
Blog: I’m the publisher, the editor-in-chief, sections editor, journalist(s), copy editor, creative director, art director, designer, photographer, etc
Magazine: Those roles are distributed to a staff which is sometimes comprised of as little as three, fifteen, thirty or double as much, plus many freelancers. and most of the players are interdependent,

4. Deadlines
Blog: No a single deadline and no budgets to worry about.
Magazine: Many continuous deadlines (for text, photography, layout etc) for each and every article with every new issue, and since each article must be worked on and looked at by several staff members, there can be numerous delays on said deadlines.

5. Coordinating
Blog: Involves no coordination, or very little coordination with other collaborators.
Magazine: Countless phone calls to organize numerous shoots with several photographers, or commission illustration or hire staff and replacements. Hundreds of emails every day need to be fielded, with most of the items either being “urgent” or “pressing”. Many meetings to call and attend and lots of bureaucracy to deal with.

6. Requirements
Blog: All I need to do is show up at the computer.
Magazine: I’m expected to show up in an office most every day, try to get face time with the editor, who approves all my work, but is practically never available, supervise photoshoots in studio or on location, supervise design staff, make innumerable phone calls on any given day, attend meeting, approve countless layouts, invoices and other various items. Work on the cover and do an occasional layout, which I rarely have the times for. All these items are usually equally pressing and need to be done simultaneously, even though that’s not humanly possible since I’d have to clone myself.

7. Creative freedom
Blog: I basically publish whatever the hell I want to and don’t need to ask for anyone’s approval.
Magazine: Aside from the editor approving everything, there’s also a publisher who has his/her own demands which are usually aimed at pleasing the advertisers, increasing sales of ad space and selling as many magazine copies as possible. Both the editor and publisher are in turn expected to fulfill budget and sales targets to fulfill the expectations of their superiors. Additionally, each and every article and item selected has to correspond to what market studies show the readership to want.

8. Formula
Blog: I like having a readership, but I’m not dependent on it. I also don’t have advertisers to satisfy and I can decide to change the formula of my blog or the topics I want to cover anytime I want to.
Magazine: No fucking way. Brand recognition is primordial as is staying on message, unless there is a major relaunch, which involves many levels of approval.

9. Pressure
Blog: There’s no pressure at all.
Magazine: Must always be highly efficient to get each issue to meet high standards (my own and the corporation’s) and there are countless candidates who would do practically anything to have a job like mine.

10. Stress & Burnout.
Blog: No stress involved. Not conducive to burnout.
Magazine: Major and unrelenting stress involved due to the requirements of the job and also having so many people counting on me to make rapid decisions on a constant basis. Art directors are all creative types, high performers, very demanding of themselves and others and often put in positions where there is continual problem-solving required. Also, because taste and creativity are highly subjective, they all too often have to defend their choices and ensure aestheticism remain an important concern. In any kind of business environment that is always a challenging proposition. It’s not very surprising that art directors are notorious for having burnouts in their careers. Sometimes more than one. But of course it’s not supposed to be called that.

Tiv: I hope this answers some of your questions.

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