In an increasingly digital publishing industry, alums innovate and compete

In 2012, some 600,000 digital subscriptions raised the New York Times' circulation by 40 percent

· April 27, 2014, 9:35 pm   ·  Updated April 28, 2014, 1:28 am

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Drama can be made out of a desk job.

Lindsey Palmer, a 2005 College graduate, is preparing for the publication of her novel “Pretty in Ink,” which is based on her seven years in the publication industry following her graduation from Penn.

“There’s an interesting story to be told about this world that’s struggling — magazines have already taken a hit with all this competition with blogs and websites,” Palmer said.

“It’s work that’s sort of fun and glamorous,” she added.

During her time in the industry, Palmer worked at publications including Glamour, Redbook and Self. She experienced the emergence of the internet age firsthand. That served as inspiration for her novel, in which the editor of the fictional Hers magazine is ousted in light of extremely poor sales. The new editor causes a stir as he plans to reroute the magazine entirely to better attract readers.

These days, it’s hard to deny the importance of digital media in publishing. Even The New York Times was heavily bolstered by its digital readership in 2012. Some 600,000 digital subscriptions raised its circulation by 40 percent when the Alliance for Audited Media included digital subscriptions in its count for the first time.

Margaret Luh, a 1990 Wharton graduate, previously worked at Thomson Reuters, The New York Times and News Corporation, which owns Fox and the Wall Street Journal, before taking on the role of global corporate strategist at Razorfish, a digital agency.

“The challenge before was finding the information. The value [in publishing] now is in curating that information and presenting it in a format that is useful and usable,” Luh said.

That should hopefully lead to customer loyalty, which has the ability to keep brands alive, she added.

“When I started out in publishing, [readers] were just subscribers,” she said. “Now there are opportunities to monetize these captive, loyal consumers who already believe in your brand.”

Rachel Gogel, a 2009 College graduate who recently participated in a Penn Traditions’ panel on careers for liberal arts graduates, now serves as the creative director at The New York Times. Gogel, who has previously worked with Travel + Leisure and GQ, believes that the print industry is benefiting from the digital age, rather than dying.

“Now the publishing industry is in a period of complete digital disruption,” she said. “I actually think this is a very profitable time to be in magazine media. With growing consumer demand, magazines and newspapers — typically anchored in print — are not being replaced; they are expanding to deliver enhanced content to engage readers across multiple distribution channels.”

It is also harder than ever to find work in the publishing industry, she added. “I am where I am today as a result of freelancing, working hard and being open-minded about taking on all sorts of projects in order to build my portfolio,” she said. “Being in the publishing industry doesn’t mean what it used to — you’re expected to know about print, digital, mobile, tablet, social media. It’s no longer one-dimensional. Having a diverse range of experiences will set you apart.”

This distinction, in particular, was what gave Palmer the tools to write her novel.

“I think people going into publishing hopefully have a very different idea than I did 10 years ago or someone else did 20 years ago,” Palmer said. “If you’re going to work at a traditional magazine now, you have to think about writing for a different media — how are you writing for the web, how are you thinking about the brand and social media?”

Palmer left publishing and is now a high school English teacher.

“You really do need to kind of brand yourself ... which is really one of the things that drove me away from publishing.”

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