Posts Tagged: tech

The MPub Media/Tech Project

It’s been around a month now since the classwork portion of our Master of Publishing degree wrapped up, and now that I’ve had some time away from the intensiveness that was the last few weeks of school it seems like a good time to talk about the Media/Tech Project.

In the fall semester we devoted six weeks of our lives to starting fictitious publishing companies complete with a detailed list of books. But what to do in the second semester of a publishing degree?

In the spring, the program moved away from books to focus on media and technology (in the past, the program focused more heavily on magazines). As the publishing industry changes, it has become clear that in order to for publishers to remain relevant, they must understand how technology impacts all aspects of their business. It’s not enough to focus on print and traditional forms of publishing. We have to look ahead to what publishing could become. And so, our class became Media/Tech Project guinea pigs.

While we started off the semester working on the Media project and finished with the Tech project, for all intents and purposes they were the same thing—the second was simply an extension of the first, which meant the project ran the entire course of the semester.

On the second day of class after the holiday break, we were divided into our groups and told to form media companies based on direction we pulled out of a hat. One group was assigned B2B (they pivoted and become NFP2NFP instead), another group got arts and crafts, and the final group pulled politics. From there, the groups were tasked with building a media entity from the ground up.

How do you build a brand? How do you become financially viable? How do you grow sustainably? What gap in the market are you meeting? What will your product be?

In our groups, we began to answer these questions and sketch out our business plans. Nearly every week, groups met with instructors to pitch their updated businesses, which evolved as we completed more research and received more feedback. At the beginning of the project, it was stressed that our start-ups would need to be agile, and that became our mantra as the semester progressed and the work piled up.

And every week, we were given additional pieces to complete. Brand guidelines. Marketing and advertising plans. Financials. Websites. Podcasts. The list went on.

Halfway through the project we were divided into additional groups with specific skills (this is where the Tech project came in). The Web Development, Analytics, Media Production, and Ebook teams provided focused support to their media entities following a series of mini lectures aimed at providing them with hands-on skills. Of course, all students were invited to attend the other teams’ lessons.

And just like the fall book project, we made it through to the end of the semester, presenting our launch-ready companies to panels of industry guests. Some of the most rewarding feedback we received was that our final companies were even pitch-worthy to potential buyers. And some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen were on that final day as well: one group even “recorded” the beginning of a podcast as part of their presentation.

While the Media/Tech project will undoubtedly look very different by next spring as our field continues to evolve and the skills that are in demand change, what I hope future classes also take away from the project is the importance of being flexible and ability to find creative solutions.


Magazine Project Presentations

The 2016 MPub cohort and professors

The 2016 cohort has now dispersed to begin the personal projects or internships that they will be writing their project reports on. Students are spread across Canada, working at small presses like Arsenal Pulp and Anvil, large houses like Scholastic and Penguin Random House, literary and lifestyle magazines, content marketing agencies, and non-profits that are building new models and technology for publishing. But before they left, the cohort presented their magazine projects to their classmates and some members of the publishing community. This year the magazine project was combined with the tech project, to expand upon the digital possibilities of marrying print and tech, and to explore the future of magazine publishing in a digital world.

The groups presented to three panelists: Anicka Quin, Editorial Director of Western Living and Van Mag; Michal Kozlowski, Publisher of Geist; and Joanna Riquett, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Hayo Magazine. The three panelists weighed in on all aspects of the business plans and presentations, including the editorial tone and voice, circulation strategy, financial statements, and digital strategy.

Somata magazine coverThe first magazine to present was Somata, a charmingly-offbeat food culture magazine that encourages you to “play with your food.” They kicked things off with a rousing game of “Mission Statement Mad Libs” which set the tone for their editorial style. They went into detail about their irreverent tone, events-based funding model, digital-first strategy, and in-depth social media plan in a lively presentation which included a PowerPoint that featured many gifs.

Boundless magazine coverNext, Boundless, “the magazine for women wanderers” detailed how they planned to target backpackers as their main audience and differentiate themselves from other more luxury-focused travel magazines. They cited how millennials travel less often, but for longer periods of time, and crave immersive cultural experiences. While they are a print magazine, they have a thorough digital strategy, particularly with creating brand awareness on Instagram.

START magazine coverLastly, START is a not-for-profit digital magazine that both serves and supports the emerging artist community in Canada. With a focus on art students, they provide an online space for a community of tomorrow’s artists to connect and communicate. Featuring webinars of art skills or career tips, spotlights on recent gallery openings, and a user submitted gallery of art, essays, classifieds, and events, START wants to be as indispensable to artists as sketchbooks.

The presentations made for a day full of entertainment and education, and each of the magazines illustrated the breadth of interest and experience of its group members, and of the MPub itself. This included the different ways publishers are using technology–from entirely digital first strategies to using social media to create brand engagement and awareness. And after the presentation, the cohort mingled with our valued industry guests, and looked towards bright futures in an evolving publishing landscape.