Take it from Ed: The role of magazine editor has evolved quite a bit in the past few years. Staffers today wear multiple hats—they edit, produce, post, schedule, tweet, pin, like, and so much more. But with publishers aiming to create meaningful user experiences for readers across platforms, Ed’s been seeing the position of digital edition editor/producer pop up on mastheads everywhere lately. So what exactly does this cutting-edge job entail? Three of the industry’s tech-savvy share the scoop.
Meet the Pros:
- Jayme Klock, deputy editor at Billboard, formerly O, The Oprah Magazine’s first-ever Digital Editions Producer
- Carly Migliori, Production Director at Fast Company
- Caitlin Scott, formerly Tablet Editorial Assistant at Parents
What is a digital edition?
CM: At Fast Company, our digital edition is a redesign of the print issue that accommodates for the size difference of an iPad and includes extra content—whether it’s a video, additional photos, or even extra stories. We rethink the entire issue in a way that presents content well for a tablet user. However, many magazines’ digital editions are merely PDF replicas of their print editions.
Jayme, you were the first-ever Digital Editions Producer for O, The Oprah Magazine. And, of course, the iPad was Oprah’s favorite thing ever back in 2010! What was that position like?
JK: It was fun to figure out who we wanted to “be” and how we were going to stay on brand, while also becoming a digital presence. Our main goal was to make a better experience for the reader, not a more complicated one. Luckily, we had a creative team who was really great at re-imagining pages in a way that would be both intuitive and innovative—without being over the top. I’ll never forget The Oprah Show episode where the iPad dropped down from the ceiling with wings on… and on it was the cover that we had created. It was the best feeling ever! Oprah was so proud of us, and we knew we had created something really special.
Tell us a bit about what you do. What is the day-to-day like?
CM: I oversee the [digital edition] production process by gathering assets to make sure we’re on schedule. When we’re developing our print issue, we meet with the editors to see if they have extra ideas they want to incorporate—another sidebar, something to pull from the web, or even an extra full story—that we would want to incorporate in our iPad edition. If there’s a photo shoot, we’ll get extra shots and make sure we pull those from the shoot to include on the tablet. Sometimes we’ll assign a video and our video department will shoot something extra. Every now and then, we’ll include animations to enhance whatever we’re trying to tell a story about. For instance, we have a story that is coming out in our next issue and we decided to build a video around it involving people on staff. It was definitely a huge, collaborative effort, and I think that’s the key to producing something great.
CS: I’m responsible for gathering and managing tablet-only extras, which can range from videos to embedded Pinterest boards. I also help the production team test the digital edition before it’s available for download on the iPad or Kindle. My job is to double-check that links are all going to the correct web addresses and that the video and audio content is working properly. The production team then goes back, fixes everything so that the issue is perfect, and then it’s released!
What skills are necessary to be a successful digital edition editor and/or producer?
JK: Eagerness to learn and to be innovative.
CM: The industry standard is using Adobe DPS to produce—especially for iPad, Android, and Windows. You need to know your InDesign and DPS plug-ins, and having knowledge of coding language is useful. HTML can also be helpful if you want to create specific, interactive things for your app. Plus, video and animation skills would go above and beyond and be a huge asset to your team.
CS: You need to have the same skills that any good editor has: being organized, having the ability to prioritize, and paying close attention to detail. You also want to read as many tablet versions of magazines as you can get your hands on, so you get an idea of the extra features they tend to incorporate—and what those extras add to the user experience.
What kind of growth opportunities are there in the field?
CM: It’s kind of a strange world out here; you kind of need to know a lot just to get in and be able to work on this stuff. If you have the skills where you can really help to produce a digital edition, then it’s easy for you to go along, learn coding, and create more of a user experience-type product. In digital publishing right now, it’s all about figuring out what the standards are. It’s a great place to be and the possibilities are growing much more. In the next couple of years, hopefully it’ll really explode and be a place for people in publishing to work.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to work in magazine digital edition editing/production?
JK: Do your research! Things in the app world change much more quickly than they do in print, so it’s really important to stay on top of (and ahead of) the game. Be in the know about what everyone else is doing—and assume that the other digital editors are keeping tabs on you, too. It’s not a competition, though. There are still so many parts of the digital world to explore; it’s fun to see how different magazines and editors interpret different digital opportunities.
CM: Be organized, sharp, and on-time. The most important thing we need to do is be flexible, think on our feet, and not be afraid to toss around crazy ideas because the crazy ideas could totally be possible. When people are just starting out, they’re apprehensive about what their peers or bosses will think. People appreciate ideas and see the person giving them as more of as an asset than someone who’s just going to sit quietly and wait for someone else to pitch it.
CS: Be open to new experiences. I was pretty nervous about signing on for a tablet-focused job since I previously only had web experience, but sometimes it’s the things you never dreamed of doing teach you the most. It’s also important to have a real interest in digital media, since you’ll be following digital media trends closely and building related skills.
Could digital magazines be your calling? Sound off in the comments section and tell us what you think, or tweet Ed at @ed2010news.