The 5 O'Clock Split: How to Manage Your Hectic Workload, Not Lose Your Mind and Still Get Home in Time for Dinner.
As a 28-year production veteran, you could say that Lisa Earlywine, vice president of production for Bonnier Corp., has found her niche. Beginning with a production position at The Blood-Horse in Lexington, Ky., Earlywine has spent her entire career in the niche consumer magazine market.
From The Blood-Horse, she moved on to Winter Park, Fla.-based World Publications, which published four titles at the time and now is part of Bonnier Corp., which publishes 50 titles.
“Starting off at a smaller publisher required me to wear a lot of different hats and be hands-on in many areas,” says Earlywine. “This gave me a better understanding of the various aspects of getting a magazine off to the printer and into the readers’ hands … .”
Earlywine currently manages a staff of 50 in production, advertising design services and in-house prepress, and is responsible for schedules, and print and paper purchasing. She also has a hand in addressing environmental issues as a Magazine Publishers of America Environmental Committee member and head of Bonnier’s “Green Team.”
After almost three decades in publishing, Earlywine’s passion for magazines is still going strong. “… It is still great to see a new edition [of one of our magazines] arrive on my desk …,” she says. “Having a digital magazine edition is an essential option for readers on the go, but I will always prefer a comfy chair and the thrill of leafing through a brand-new magazine.”
Here, she talks with Publishing Executive about her biggest challenges and shares her best tips for managing a hefty production workload.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing in your position?
Lisa Earlywine: The weak economy continues to impact advertisers, making ad closing and book layout a challenge. A smaller magazine might have fewer pages, but that does not translate to easier production. It adds pressure to already tight ad and production deadlines, and it can be a challenge to paginate a pleasing flow of pages.
Last year, the paper market had huge price increases, so it was to our advantage to carry a heavy paper inventory. [This year,] falling paper prices have helped reduce paper expense, but this has created the need to quickly reduce paper inventory. My goal is to maintain paper inventory as low as possible, but it takes more time to carefully watch actual usage against projections, and then update paper orders. I work closely with our paper-inventory coordinator, along with our paper merchant, to manage paper requirements.
With so much focus on doing more with less, especially in this economy, what effective cost-cutting strategies has your department employed?
Earlywine: We have absorbed a lot of new projects [and] acquisitions into existing production staff in order to increase our efficiency. … Our goal is that everyone [in production] should be using the same workflow tools and systems, so if we move a magazine to a different production manager, the workflow should be very similar. This also makes it easier when coverage is needed for vacations and maternity leaves.
We are reviewing all of the various manufacturing costs in minute detail for each title as we look for savings that will not impact [the magazine’s] overall quality. With 50 titles, what may seem like a small amount [of savings] can add up quickly.
One of our print-purchasing managers created a new print model … for 2009 budgets that we used on 11 titles. Our print models have manufacturing contract pricing, paper expense, freight and postage calculators, along with any projected cost increases for the year. We insert pages, print run and select press platform to generate manufacturing, freight and postage expense used for budgets. Once the budget is final, we generate a report of the most efficient press platforms to schedule at our printers and paper orders based on those press platforms.
She continued fine-tuning [the new print model] and developed it to be rolled out to all titles for our 2010 manufacturing budgets. Now, both print-
purchasing managers have the same print-model format for all titles, so it is easier to keep them updated and check forecasts against actual cost. It also makes those “If we did this, what would it cost?” questions easier to answer quickly.
As the importance of digital products in publishers’ portfolios has grown, in what ways has your department changed its workflow to incorporate both digital and print?
Earlywine: We had major changes and upgrades to our workflow systems in the last two years, led by Shawn Larson, our vice president of enterprise systems. The Dalim Twist automated workflow was added to the existing Xinet FullPress server in [our] Florida prepress department in 2007. The California prepress department that Shawn had established at [Bonnier’s] TransWorld [division] was already using this system, so it was an easy decision to expand it to Florida. During 2008 and through spring 2009, prepress for the 18 titles purchased in 2007 [from Time Inc.] and the former World Publications ads completed the move to in-house prepress. In 2009, Bonnier built and launched an ad portal for our clients to upload ads directly to our system.
[This year also] saw the launch of our digital asset management system, which will store images, content and video. This ongoing project is expected to be completed this year. We have already begun to work with syndication partners and digital partners like Zinio to begin providing content for digital and mobile editions of the magazines.
Bonnier acquired five magazine brands from Hachette Filipacchi Media in June. How did you integrate these new titles and responsibilities into your department and existing workflow?
Earlywine: With the volume of acquisitions in the last few years, we have new-title integration down to a science. Lots of pre-planning and checklists are used from day one through shipping the first Bonnier issues. We used Hachette production transitional services for the first issues we owned until the magazine teams could move to our offices and our systems. Four of the new titles were assigned to existing Bonnier production staff members by moving around magazine responsibilities. No one person took on more than one new title along with existing titles. We hired one new production manager, who started on an existing title and one new title.
By doing this, we could utilize the strength of the experienced Bonnier production team to get the new magazine teams converted to our in-house prepress and moved to a new printer. We asked the printer to … assign [customer service representatives] who were already working on our other titles. … Having experienced Bonnier production employees for the new titles enabled us to answer questions from the new edit and sales staffs during the transition. Good planning and communication are essential to smooth integration.
How do you keep staff on schedule with multiple titles and shifting ad closings?
Earlywine: … [With 50 titles now,] we are constantly shipping something, but by combining titles that have different schedules, the production managers should not have two shipping on the exact same schedule, so they can focus on the issue shipping first. The titles have many different frequencies, from four times to 12 times a year. Depending on the titles and schedules, a production manager will handle two to four titles.
There is a point in the production cycle when we have to commit the issue to a map size, but ad closing is a moving target. The current economy has taken ad closing to a whole new level …, requiring more flexibility up until the day we ship the issue—sometimes it feels like until the ink hits the paper. We work closely with our printers [on] any schedule changes … .
What is your best advice for other production managers?
Earlywine: Surround yourself with a great team, and embrace changes. … Now more than ever, a production person has to stay current with technology and use it to improve efficiency. … Now our technology changes at a rapid pace, so it is a challenge to keep focused on the present production while looking down the road at the future.