San Francisco Chapter Meeting

Note to Editors:

Business tools can help you “reach” your publisher.

By Jeanette Burriesci
ASBPE San Francisco Chapter Treasurer,
Senior Editor, Intelligent Enterprise


Maintaining separation of “church” and “state” is a fundamental concern to most editors. But do we separate ourselves from the business side of the house to an unreasonable degree?

Editors can work collaboratively with publishers, sales, and marketing to the benefit of both themselves and their readers, David Kalman told attendees at a San Francisco chapter meeting.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Kalman was an editor for 13 years before “frustration over lack of control” led him to become a publisher. As an editor at industry events, you find that you command respect and admiration of vendors and readers, he said. “But when you get back to your office building, you often find that all you command is your cubicle.”

The opposite is true for publishers, and this dynamic is a paradox, he said. “Editors are the smartest, most talented people at the publication, yet their strategic input is minimal.”

An editor has a finger on the pulse of the industry, so is uniquely positioned to detect changes that are about to happen and judge the significance of market shifts.

Publishers, because of their broad range of responsibilities, can become “dulled around the edges,” he said. Over time, the concept that the publisher, sales, and marketing have of the publication can become very different from the editors’. Such a disconnection can hurt ad sales and, as a result, the editorial product will suffer.

You can reach across the divide by using business tools to articulate two important concepts: the publication’s brand and its competitive position.

Explain Qualities of Your Magazine’s Brand

Regarding the brand, Kalman said, you must explain its unique attributes, especially those that previously may have been unstated.

One way to depict brand qualities and their relative importance is with a “target” diagram. The most essential traits should be in the bull’s eye. A target diagram of the Disney brand, for example, might show Mickey Mouse in the bull’s eye and “ family entertainment” in one of the concentric bands.

Recommended reading

Jumping the Curve: Innovation and Strategic Choice in an Age of Transition, by Nicholas Imperato, Oren Harari, and Tom Peters. (Jossey-Bass) 1994.

Strategy Is Destiny: How Strategy-Making Shapes a Company’s Future, by Robert Burgelman and Andrew S. Grove. (Simon & Schuster) 2001.

Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey A. Moore. (HarperBusiness) 2002.

Kalman recommended reading books about brand development to help you thoroughly assess your brand definition.

Do a SWOT Competitive Analysis

For competitive position, Kalman suggested completing a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can depict your competitive position in a number of ways, but set up your diagram so that your publication takes the most prominent position.

For example, if you use a quadrant diagram (a square divided into 4 cells), Kalman advised, you should create axes that position your publication at the top right.

Expressing your strategic ideas at the business level will help you be more credible in a publisher’s eyes, but even though “ most money people are woefully behind in their business practices” and might be unfamiliar with tools such as SWOT, they will still relate to the approach.

Kalman said publishers won’t perceive you as condescending if you use business terms or tools with which they’re inexperienced; you’ll be perceived as helpful.

Testing Assumptions

Regarding focus groups as a tool to help determine brand and competitive position, Kalman said he would never use one for any predictive planning (about how best to shape the publication’s direction, for example). He would use a focus group only to check assumptions.

Kalman’s feelings about the editor’s position began to change for him years ago when he started to think of his editorin-chief role as partly a marketing vice president position. Taking the reins this way “entails risk,” Kalman said, “but it enforces change — change that you control. It’s worth the risk.”

Photo: Jeanette BurriesciAbout the Writer

Jeanette Burriesci is senior editor of Intelligent Enterprise magazine, a creation of David Kalman’s. She has been covering enterprise information technology, specializing in business intelligence technology, since 1998. She has a B.A. in economics from the University of California.

Photo: David KalmanAbout the Speaker

David M. Kalman has served for more than 23 years in publishing operations and management; magazine design and development; editorial production; advertising, marketing, and sales; and integrated media.

In 1992, he joined M&T Publishing (acquired by Miller Freeman) as editor-in-chief of DBMS Magazine and in 1996 became its publisher. Two years later, Kalman founded Intelligent Enterprise and the Intelligent Communities Online, forming Miller Freeman’s Business Intelligence Group.

In 2001, Kalman launched Transform Magazine (now under CMP Media, which had merged with Miller Freeman), which went on to win regional and national ASBPE awards for Best New Publication. More recently, in 2003 Kalman launched CMP’s successful performance-management conference.

Kalman is also a black belt in karate (which comes in handy for managing an editorial staff).

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