Doug Wallace is a Toronto-based writer, editor and independent media-relations contractor, Principal of Wallace Media, and Chief Content Officer for beauty and fashion authority, The Kit. He also works with some of the city’s top creative agencies to produce advertising and business-communication solutions, and custom lifestyle publications.
Doug, you’ve been in publishing for 20 years, so you've seen the media evolve into entirely different formats over time. Would you say that magazine publishing is in a stronger or weaker position than it was 10 years ago?
“I would say weaker, but only in the sense that the current rate of change is so rapid, publishing is still finding new footing. With the whole industry going through such a huge transformation, I see enormous potential on so many fronts, but the leaps-and-bounds growth is still down the road.”
What are some of the biggest opportunities for magazines now that they are playing in the digital space?
“They get to be creative with both their content and with testing new business strategies. There is no guidebook yet in the digital world; everyone still has a chance to write it.”
What do you miss most about the good old print days when we published 12 glossy magazines a year and that was it?
“I miss the cut-and-dried-ness of the schedule. You always knew what was expected of you on what date and that was it, then go to the pub. The multi-platform route everyone is on now makes the schedule a bit of a rollercoaster.”
In terms of managing editorial teams, what has been the biggest challenge in terms of adjusting deadlines to include digital content on top of print content?
“People have a tricky time organizing their work, because schedules and budgets overlap. I liken it to a 3D chess board, in that editors and producers need to think several steps ahead on a few different fronts. That’s not easy if you’re an editor who doesn’t have that organizational gene.”
What works great in print but fails online editorially, and vice versa?
“Wordcounts over 500! Seriously, we know print can deliver that luxe, tactile experience—thick paper, rich colour—while online has the three-dimensional interactivity, the rich media capabilities. There is room and need for both in any publishing schedule, I don’t care how big or small your budget is. Get creative.”
Do you find that the print content is still the anchor for online stories? Or is online content now directing what happens back in print?
“Both platforms have to share in the anchoring and need to throw to each other—and often. Stories have to be crafted in such a way as to efficiently hit all the delivery mechanisms and still be one cohesive unit—and come in on budget. The fashion story about fall’s top five scarves, for example, needs to be breathtakingly beautiful in print, with 15 more featured online with links on where to buy, plus a video to show you how to wear them. This is a rudimentary example, but it fits.”
Does it take a new breed of editor to manage both the online and print content requirements or has the journalism industry simply adapted?
“Adapt or crumble. And it doesn’t hurt to hire—and really listen to—a few kids.”
What is the big lesson you have learned in launching a digital magazine vs. a print brand?
“You not only have to wrap your head around the technology, but you have to keep up with it as it changes. I’m tired of people younger than me asking me what Pinterest is or thinking that Twitter is just noise. Snap out of it! The old dog/new tricks theory doesn’t wash with me.”
What are your favorite magazines?
“All the fashion magazines, home décor books and men’s general interest magazines come to the door. And my Flipboard is loaded with things like Bon Appetit, Cool Hunting, Daily Candy, Vulture, Devour, Gilt Man (LOVE this one), Booooooom, The Daily Beast, Behance, Ask Men Fashion and a bunch of travel titles.”
“Get creative with your budget. Have some fun developing the media mix—create a new mold. Find out how your online reader is different from your print reader and work that. Discard ideas that don’t work—quickly.”