Media Voices co-host Peter Houston sends out a weekly newsletter called The Magazine Diaries. Each edition shares the best magazine publishing ideas he comes across for you to steal, adapt or reuse.

Ineffective, burned out and broke

Ineffective, Burned Out and Broke’ sounds like a line from a really bad Country song. But its actually how one publishing association thinks you’ll end up without a proper plan for your business. And I don’t disagree.

However, I don’t think enough publishers pay attention to the ‘burned out’ bit. We spend a lot of time worrying about getting the right content to the right readers at the right time, and even more time worrying about money… but burn out, not so much.

There are some ideas in the piece that follows to help you avoid burn out in your organisation (even if that’s just you). But before you get to that, maybe just have a think about where you are at on the burned out spectrum and even do a little test just to check in with yourself.

What does it take to be a sustainable publisher?

No, not in the environmental sense, that’s a whole other newsletter. What does it take to be able to keep going month in month out as an independent publisher? To survive and thrive?

The Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers association has had a look at their membership and come up with three things that independent news businesses need to avoid becoming ineffective, burned out and broke. They are:

Operational resilience: Culture and systems, processes and policies are necessary to support you and your staff and avoid everyone burning out.

Financial health: Without a plan for making money and managing your spending you’ll reach the end of your runway sooner rather than later.

Journalistic impact: Without content that gets read, watched and listened to you’re unlikely to keep the advertisers and readers you need to keep going.

On their own these are obvious, but how many publishers take the time to look properly at these three elements of their business together?

With the support of Google’s Digital News Initiative, LION Publishers has started auditing its members to see how they measure up in these three areas. They describe their approach to sustainability as a theory, with as many questions as answers, but the work they have done on auditing organisations is well worth a read.

Dust off your archives

The Atlantic has just made 165 years’ worth of its journalism available online. But they haven’t just dumped all the content they’ve produced since 1857 in one big folder. The whole archive is fully searchable, but they have also taken the time to surface interesting articles, issues and writers.

I love the idea of using your archives as fresh content. DC Thomson did it with their Pass It On podcast featuring household tips from the 1950s. Esquire does it brilliantly on their Esquire Classic site and Rolling Stone’s digital director Charlotte Cijffers recently told Media Voices that archives are one of the most powerful, but also most neglected publisher tools for growing audiences.

Repackaging archive content well takes some investment, but giving your greatest hits another spin is a powerful way to squeeze a bit more value from the content assets you have built up.

Take yourself off to the pub

The Oldham Times, a daily newspaper produced in the Northwest of England, has set up a ‘pop-up newsroom’ in a local pub. Staff took themselves off to the Fox and Pine one Thursday afternoon to talk to drinkers about the stories they’d like to see in the paper.

The team plans to hold at least one pop-up a month in their patch and I think this is a brilliant initiative to get back out among the paper’s readers. For magazines, setting up a pop-up news desk at conferences or trade shows would achieve similar things, it just might not be as much fun as meeting down the local boozer.


Republished with kind permission. Subscribe to The Magazine Diaries to get three steal-able ideas in your inbox every Friday.

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