Canadian Magazine Industry News
6 March 2014,     TORONTO
5 lessons from CSME's 'new editors' panel
New editors-in-chief of three top titles faced the crowd at the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors (CSME)'s latest mixer, shedding light on work life and the industry at large.

The March 4 panel discussion featured Sasha Emmons, just a month into her editorship at Today's Parent; Karine Ewart, who started at Chatelaine mid-January; and Jennifer Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Canadian Living since November 2012.

CSME's
CSME's "Secrets from the new EICs" event was held at Gabby's in Toronto. From left: Jennifer Reynolds, Allan Britnell, Karine Ewart and Sasha Emmons

Print is no longer the main point

Moderator Allan Britnell, CSME president, asked how the editors see their roles now that their publications are multi-platform brands. Emmons described her job as platform agnostic; the challenge is not just creating a piece of quality content but also figuring out which platform makes the most sense for its launch.

"I don't think we work in publishing in anymore," said Ewart. She prefers the term "content creators" and said the business is becoming more about screens than paper. She said her biggest challenge moving forward is keeping Chatelaine's 86-year-old legacy in tact while also bringing it to life with new business opportunities in radio, television and more.

How the day breaks down

"I don't actually do anything," joked Reynolds, saying most of her workday is spent in meetings and making decisions. Reynolds and Emmons had the same response when asked to describe a typical schedule: "It's a lot of sales."

Ewart estimated that 50% of her time is spent on sales, with most of the rest relegated to working on brand expansions beyond print. Just 10% of her time is spent on print, she said.

What takes precedence, the print version or the tablet version?

Chatelaine is still experimenting as it figures out the tablet readership's expectations, Ewart said. While she herself would want a tablet version with digitally enhanced "bells and whistles," she said feedback shows that most readers aren't looking for much more than a basic print replica.

Even though 80% of revenue is still generated from print, Rogers, which launched Next Issue in Canada last year, is working to migrate readers to digital editions to cut costs on fees for mailing and more, she said. Advertising is not separated by stream; clients that appear in print appear in the tablet edition as well.

"What's good about a tablet is it gives data," said Reynolds. That means not only readership demographics, but also measurements on time spent on specific pieces and pages. 

How to pitch

The editors agreed that due to time constraints, pitching to them is fairly useless. Freelancers will have better luck pitching to associate or assistant editors, who are likely newer and thus looking to "make their mark," and don't yet have an established roster of writers they prefer to work with.

More than pitching, Emmons said to leverage your network and find someone who can introduce you to the right person. Getting work is more about building relationships, and she rarely assigns stories based on a pitch.

Reynolds said she accepts maybe 5% of pitches. Contrary to conventional wisdom, she recommended that writers not pitch fully-formed ideas. "There's a lot of people that have to give their input," she said.

She leans toward writers with general specialities rather than specific ideas, and added that since relationships are key, pitching to competing mags at the same time is a bad idea.

How long should writers wait to hear back before moving on? "Two weeks of silence before it's a dead end," Reynolds said.

Should freelancers try cold calling?

Ewart: "I don't even know my extension..."

Reynolds: "I don't answer my phone..."

Emmons: "When my phone rings, I assume it's a family emergency..."

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