Publishers are struggling, but publishing people can thrive

13 Apr

Publishing is dead, long live publishing. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but all the evidence is that the old publishing models are unworkable and that we are all publishers now.

Does that mean we old-school publishing professionals should give up, go down the pub and lament the old days? Personally, I don’t think so.

I’m in transition from the old publishing world to the new, but every day I see more and more opportunities for people with solid skills like researching, writing, editing, design, proofreading, and content strategy.

This was confirmed for me when I caught up with this quote from Clay Shirky, one of the most prescient forecasters and observers of trends and behaviour:

The question is, what are the parent professions needed around writing? Publishing isn’t one of them. Editing, we need, desperately. Fact-checking, we need. For some kinds of long-form texts, we need designers. Will we have a movie-studio kind of setup, where you have one class of cinematographers over here and another class of art directors over there, and you hire them and put them together for different projects, or is all of that stuff going to be bundled under one roof? We don’t know yet.

Shirky was quoted in a post by Mathew Ingram on Gigaom.

Ingram makes the point that, while traditional publishers need to find new ways of adding value for consumers of news and culture, creatives are likely to be in increasing demand. If publishing is more and more in the hands of individuals (authors, film-makers, journalists), they often need the help of another creative professional such as an editor, fact-checker, designer etc.

Ingram writers:

So an author might not need a publisher in order to reach his or her readers, since the Kindle and other methods provide all the access they could want, but they might see the value in having a personal relationship with an editor who can help them shape their content: when [Amanda] Hocking shocked some observers by signing a $2-million deal with a traditional publishing house, for example, she mentioned professional editing and support as one of the reasons for her decision. And Andy Carvin of NPR has shown how valuable fact-checking can be when applied to social media as a journalistic source.

That begs the question — how do you find work in the digital world if you have recently left a print publication?

The short answer is: update your skills and go networking online.

  1. Get on to the main social networks. Teach yourself to use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, if you’re not already doing so. Create profiles on all of them, including a respectable photo of yourself. Here is the best guide to using social media I have seen, written by Sree Sreenivasan, a professor and more at Columbia Journalism School. It takes you through all of the basics of creating a social media presence.
  2. Get some training in digital tools, or teach yourself. You need to be able to use WordPress at the very least. Other tools will depend on what work you’re going to do. A great resource is the Multimedia Journalism website run by Andy Bull, formerly Editorial Director of AOL. To get full access you have to buy his book (about £25 or $40) but at that price it is surely a good investment.
  3. Network! Once you have an online presence and some skills, or you have organised a learning programme, you will need to put yourself about online.

Where you do this depends on who you want to find by way of potential clients or employers.

Here are some general ideas:

  • Join groups on LinkedIn — there are many, but for example, I belong to one for Seasoned writing and editing pros and another for Sub-editors and production journalists.
  • Create your own blog as your showcase — you can do it free at or Blogger. You’ll update your skills in the process.
  • Create a digital project — check out this post by Adam Westbrook which is full of good ideas like launching an online magazine or starting a series of talks or events. As he says, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Just as I was writing this I got an email alert about a new post on one of my favourite blogs, Jane Friedman’s, with the title Freelance success is about process, not personality. Could help with the motivation.

Update: Some journalists are better placed to adapt to working in content marketing than others. The three characteristics that set them apart, according to content manager Brendan Cournoyer,  are

  • experience in online publishing
  • editorial management experience
  • social media savvy.

Read the full post and the comments at the Content Marketing Institute.

Have you made the transition from print to new media? What was it like for you? Do you have any advice to share? Leave a comment below.

Photo credit: The Nothing Corporation on Flickr


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