To a nutritionist, the word “”supplement”” means a product that will potentially offer a valuable boost of energy and health to those that need some extra help. To journalists, supplements often mean exactly the opposite: a time-consuming extra chore that will leave them feeling more drained than usual
after a day spent on their usual jobs.
We’ve been creating editorial supplements practically from Day 1 here at the IT Business Group, but it’s only recently we started talking seriously about how to manage the process more effectively. That’s because, after a few years of drought, advertisers are showing interest again, and we’re preparing to make the most of the opportunity.
Advertorials have always interested marketers, but particularly during the IT industry downturn there seemed to be an emphasis on custom projects that could disseminate a specific message more quickly to the target audience. Now, as some IT managers start refreshing their infrastructure, more marketers seem to be recognizing the value of supporting non-partisan content that complements their strategies. Instead of hosting a lecture, editorial supplements are kind of like nudging someone else into hosting a party in which your name will come up in various conversations.
Though they almost always start out as ideas from the sales departments, editors have often used editorial supplements as a way of offering more value to their readers by giving key issues more space than they otherwise could in feature sections. Communications & Networking, one of our most successful titles, started life first as a series of supplements bundled with Computing Canada. I have no doubt future launches from our organization will begin the same way.
Supplements, naturally, are more work for our team, particularly now that we’re a much leaner group than we were in the 1990s (but then, so are the vendors). If journalists occasionally gnash their teeth over these projects, it’s probably for the same reasons that most marketers get annoyed. They never seem to be given enough time, for example. The project’s scope and scale are not properly defined until half-way through the process. It means working not only internally but with a number of third-party freelancers, which can be difficult relationships to manage.
Our editors recently realized that we had to do a better job of working with our sales team (sound familiar, marketers?) in coordinating editorial supplements and coming up with a process that differed from the one we take with advertorials. This is obviously a work in progress, but I think you’ll see the early results in a supplement that is now appearing in several of our titles. Focused on application servers, we’ve created more than the usual supplement. This mini-publication includes an analysis piece, two features and a case study of a Canadian user to provide a valuable backgrounder into one of the most dynamic product sectors in the enterprise. We’ve also avoided the kind of generic stock art that usually litters editorial supplements and instead commissioned original graphics and photographs from the same talented artists we use in EDGE and Computing Canada, among other publications.
We’re not debating among ourselves about how to create editorial supplements because we want to get out of doing them. We just want to make sure that we do them better than anyone else. You know, like we always have.
Shane Schick is the editor of IT Business Pipeline.