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Launching on a budget: 5 minutes with… Dean Cook

The teams behind newspaper and magazine launches can be surprisingly small. How can they best perform all the publishing tasks with so few permanent staff? We grab five minutes with The Magazine Production Company’s Dean Cook to find out how two new newspapers got off the ground.

By Dean Cook

Launching on a budget: 5 minutes with… Dean Cook

Q: What's the story behind the Hailsham News and Bexhill News?

A: A community newspaper for Hailsham was the brainchild of Paul Gibson. His passion is to bring quality local news back to local areas. While not everyone uses social media, many appreciate a good read to get a rounded view of what's happening in their community. The newspaper has proved to be a beneficial and effective method of communication for the local council, events, charities and businesses. Hailsham News was successfully launched in 2021. As a result, Bexhill News launched one year later.

Q: Are there any specific challenges a new title faces?

A: Attempting to do it all yourself. Having a passion for a particular subject is one thing, but it needs to be written to a high standard. You need experienced writers. Even if you can create content, building relationships and selling advertising are also required skills that not everyone possesses. Fortunately, Paul carries a good few decades of experience in all these areas and, coming from a print background, he did a sterling job producing pages for the early issues as well. However, managing all that and the business single-handedly, he recognised time was becoming an enemy.

Q: What was the solution?

A: Wanting to expand, he needed to delegate specific roles while being resourceful with limited funding while the business established itself. We met to discuss options and how a workflow could be implemented. For example, for me to provide production services for two newspapers that could be delivered to the printing company simultaneously meant we needed to employ a production timeline based on content arriving with me at certain times. Paul also hired a freelance editor who would mainly focus on the Hailsham News while he turned his attention to launching Bexhill News.

For a set number of days each month, I would manage the production of both titles, ensuring I met a pre-booked time-sensitive deadline so that twenty thousand copies could be delivered by pallet truck to Paul within 24 hours for distribution.

Working towards the rigid deadline, the workflow we have among ourselves allows flexibility and efficiency while reducing communication as we understand each other's remit and responsibilities. It's a slick operation.

Q: For small publishers, what are the key things to address to ensure the best use of resources?

A: Delegate to those who can do a job well. Hiring experienced people as and when needed provides benefits, such as not having to worry about the costs that come with employing staff or managing software and hardware.

Providers of outsourced editorial and advertising services can often offer competitive rates as they can share their time across clients. With their experience also comes forefront knowledge you can tap into. As such, those you hire may have ideas they've put into practice with other clients, which can help your business. You only need to ask.

Establish a timeline and plan to ensure their time is booked in advance and that they are available when needed to help with keeping costs and timings efficient.

Use the cloud in your workflow. Everyone can then see progress with content as files are moved from one workflow location to another. It's also an area where proofs can be provided, tracked, and annotated with updates imported and applied in InDesign shortly after. There is no hard and fast rule as long as it's an error-free process.

For Hailsham News and Bexhill News, we use a shared Google Drive. Like Dropbox, it is as visible as any other folder on our Macs where we move assets and content between us — and it's free. Then, with a bit of housekeeping after each issue, all files are cleared, so we're ready for the next issue.

Continually review workflows to see if enhancements can be made to reduce time.

Q: For small and dispersed publishing teams, what's the secret to a smooth and harmonious relationship?

A: Planning ahead and working to timelines is important and helps to remove stress. They're crucial ingredients for a great working relationship. Prepare and discuss plans early. Proactivity is better than reactivity.

Q: Has the pandemic affected production with clients?

A: Yes. There seems to be an increasing expectation that periodicals can now be published on an 'I-need-it-next-week' basis, or as we call it, 'working off-piste'. Fluid production is highly inefficient and can impact other clients who are maintaining schedules. As a result, it can often lead to long unplanned days in the hot seat. It is also likely the client will miss their intended target too. Naturally, we wouldn't want to disappoint, but it depends on the late availability of the team. If a client is looking for a well-oiled workflow, book production time sooner rather than later, before another client does.

Q: Where next for the Hailsham News and Bexhill News?

A: After its first year, it's clear Hailsham News had successfully hit its goals. This gave the publisher the confidence to launch Bexhill News. At the time of writing, readers have picked up every copy of Bexhill News's first issue. Ten thousand copies disappeared in just nine days. Digital versions are also available, and the aim is also to increase social media presence.

Q: What's in the pipeline from The Magazine Production Company?

A: At the moment, we're just going with the flow as client work picks up a regular beat once again. Over the past two years, the pandemic created an exceptionally busy time, constantly servicing publishers as they reacted to changes, resulting in very fluid production schedules with minimal breaks. I am very proud that we, as a team, were able to dedicate ourselves to ever-shifting workflows while working hard to meet client expectations. Talking of which, being three years since my last holiday abroad and two newspapers approved for print, I'm off for a well-earned rest.

About us…

Here at The Magazine Production Company, our services can be delivered in a way that suits you, your project and your budget. Our clients are rarely the same in how they approach their needs. Some need only a certain skill set to bolster their own team, whilst some clients need the whole suite of services. If you’re looking for a production company to partner with in a way that suits you then we are exactly what you are looking for. Our flexibility and experience allow us to fit seamlessly into your project and your team. And if you need to discuss your options with us, we are always available for advice or a free consultation and quote.

01273 911730