A conversation with conference speaker Kim Pittaway
Almost as swiftly as Kim Pittaway lands in Calgary for the Alberta Magazines Conference, she’ll be flying back to Halifax to finish leading a six-week magazine-making workshop at the University of King's College.
Grueling as it is, the former Chatelaine editor-in-chief says more fourth-year journalism students sign up for this workshop than any other that the program offers – a fact that doesn’t just please her, it restores her faith. “There are still young people who are passionate about magazines and want to create great content both in print and online, and that excites me,” says Pittaway, a past-president of the National Magazine Awards Foundation, with seven NMA nominations of her own.
By the time her students graduate, they will have charged through the process of making a print and online magazine. Though they understand the end goal, there’s one thing that never ceases to amaze them: “They're always surprised by how much work is involved in pulling this off.”
In other words, they’re a lot like publishers.
“There's that idea that, ‘We can just throw that up online and it will be fine.’ But as soon as you start talking about bringing additional ‘online value,’ it gets complicated,” she says. “There are shortcuts, but you have to have a clear understanding of what you're doing and what you're trying to accomplish, and that applies to the sessions I'm doing with AMPA.”
On March 15, Pittaway, a regular industry consultant, presents a session on how to produce Special Interest Publications that don’t collect newsstand dust, and another on Effective E-newsletters, ones that don’t end up in junk folders.
The latter, she says, is a powerful tool that’s been somewhat forgotten to the “flash and dazzle” of social media, which is an effective way to share content but not the only one. “Every client I've worked with sees traffic bumps in the 24 hours after their e-newsletters. People need to be reminded that your content is there.”
To make e-newsletter work, editorial teams need to do more than reheat leftovers. “Even when you’re recycling content, they're not that quick and easy to produce – not if you're going to do them to the standard of your publication. It still takes time, energy and resources.”
The same goes for SIPs. “Strategy, strategy, strategy,” she says. “You'll save yourself a lot of grief if you can think about how a reader or user is going to come to the content, what are they looking for, what's in it for them?” Her seminar on SIPs dissects case studies from such magazines as Garden Making and This, and analyzes what made some work and others fail.
Ultimately, Pittaway doesn’t want magazine professionals to cower from expanding their magazine’s footprint. “I think successful teams also have permission to fail,” she says. “The key is to set yourself up not to fail.” And for that, you must know what you want and know what you’re getting into.
To learn more about the Alberta Magazines Conference, and to register for Kim Pittaway's sessions on SIP success and effective e-newsletters, visit www.albertamagazines.com/conference. The final deadline to register is March 7, 2013.