‘We’re five years behind’: Confessions of magazine execs

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

Visit any trade group conference, and everything is going to sound great. There are no insurmountable obstacles, everything is coming up roses, and what everyone is doing has never been more important. A lot of that was in evidence Tuesday at the American Magazine Media Conference, but we thought it would be more fun to skip those and ask some attendees to open up about what they’re seeing on the ground.

Those interviewed include people from both the editorial and the business sides of the house, as well as members of the advertiser and agency community.

A lot of publishers talk about how print is important, but their primary focus is on digital now. Does that mean print gets the respect it deserves internally? Is anyone even trying to think in an innovative way about print anymore?  
That’s a good point. I see that at our company and others I’ve worked for. The people that are left on the print side are just manning the wheel, and they’re not asked to come up with any ideas. — ad sales finance director

But with that focus on digital, do you think that publishers are on top of what’s going on in digital monetization, and all the challenges?
I don’t think we’re on top of it. For our company specifically, we’re behind the curve. I hear people talk about Fortune and Forbes, and we’re five years behind. We have a great brand, I think, but we are behind. — finance director

Dwindling resources are a major problem across the magazine industry. How does that affect you?
It’s an opportunity most days. That’s really good for you in the long run. But it boils down to having days where you have 10 things to do and nine of them are high priority, and the resources are dwindling and you have to try not to pull your hair out while you work as hard as you possibly can. — magazine editor

How many of the things you do on a daily basis for your company are in the job description you applied to?
Truthfully, there were four, and now there are five, six, seven, maybe? Three more, and three big things. Adding “doing video series” to your job description is not a small thing. — magazine editor

What’s one thing you expected to hear here that you haven’t?
Specificity. I just think that right now is the time to be authentic, and teach people how to grow and what to do. Instead, it’s kind of like, “We’re all doing fine!” — magazine editor

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