What's Next For Magazine Editors?

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I’ll never forget September 7th, 2017. It was the first official day of NYFW and I was so excited to finally be more involved in going to shows as an editor at NYLON. I got to attend two presentations that day and by the time I got back to the office it was 3PM. I quickly ate my lunch and went to a meeting where we were planning the restructuring the Culture Club section, the pages towards the back of the magazine that covered news about art, music, film, and more. I walked away from the meeting feeling so inspired about our newly-planned out Culture Club, and because of my fashion week comings and goings, I hadn’t even realized that there was another email in my inbox about a mandatory staff meeting at 4PM, separated by print and digital departments. Thirty minutes later, I was standing teary-eyed on the sidewalk of Greene Street in Soho with a box of my stuff in complete shock. I cried to my boyfriend all night and the day after was too numb to do much of anything.

I got lucky with timing though, and exactly two weeks later I got an offer from Interview to be their assistant editor. It was another print position, but I was happy to take it. I loved magazines and wasn’t ready to give up on them just because NYLON hadn’t figured out a way to maintain the mag. But eight months later, the same thing happened again. When I saw an email from Interview’s president calling for a “mandatory staff meeting” the phrase hit me hard and I went to work the next day ready to get laid off.

Unlike the day after NYLON folded, the day after Interview went under, I woke up knowing exactly what I needed to do. I went to a local coffee shop in Williamsburg at 8AM and planted myself there on my laptop until almost 3PM. I typed up some clunky pitch emails to send to editors I knew, made a list of blog posts for the coming month, and thought of new ways I could revamp my YouTube channel. I didn’t know it at the time but I was planting the seeds for my freelance career. Sure, I had also scrolled through the career pages of the usuals: Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, New York Media, and so on. But I started to notice quickly that there weren’t many jobs that I wanted and that was mostly because, well…there weren’t many jobs at all! And I’m talking both print and digital.

It makes sense that as more publications fold or cut budgets to keep afloat, there aren’t as many open positions as there used to be. So the question then is: where do all of these exceptionally talented, hardworking, displaced writers and editors go? Freelancing is not for everyone, and even though I love it right now, there’s so much to consider when you decide go the freelance route. For those looking to get back into 9-5’s who have mostly experience at publications, there are a couple of different routes you can take. I think about this a lot (all the time, actually!) but it’s especially been on my mind this week.

It started with this blog post by Lindsay Silberman who was the deputy digital editor at Town & Country magazine. I had started following her for that reason, but her content had shifted to be more about her travels and lifestyle and less about her big fancy job at a magazine. I actually thought she was an influencer when I saw a post of hers in my feed a few weeks back. And after reading that blog post, I realized that she actually was one. She decided to quit her job to create her own website and to travel and create content for a living. I know, the dream! So even though many editors have looked down on bloggers/Instagrammers/influencers in the past, many of them now emulate the qualities that they have, which creates an interesting new dynamic that many are still navigating.

Then there are people like Eva Chen, the former editor-in-chief of Lucky who is now the head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. Many ex-editors have veered away from editorial and more towards working for brands whether that means consulting, working on special projects, or copywriting. Rather than working for brands, some former editors have even launched brands themselves like Brittany Kozerski did with Jade Swim. After a stint as the market editor for Marie Claire, she went out on her own and launched her swimwear line and because she’d formed great relationships in her job, she was able to get it press and spread the word.

With so many rapid changes happening in the publishing industry (on Wednesday alone we learned about the appointment of two new editor-in-chiefs and the folding of a print magazine that’s been around for over 100 years) it’s hard to say what magazines and digital publications will look like even by the end of the year. I guess I don’t even really have an answer to my own question here, but if I could offer up some advice to anyone trying to navigate the media apocalypse right now, it’d be this: be open and willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Figure out what you’re good at and how you can translate those skills to other jobs. Say yes to your gut. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Never stop networking. Know what you want and ask for it. And know that you’ll be okay.

Photographed by Stacey White

Do you have thoughts about this extremely confusing time in media? Share them with me in the comments!

yours,

Austen