Steal this magazine!

That’s literally what people are doing with startup HSToday.
The editors’ goal: Make the content’s so good readers can’t keep their hands off it.

by Christopher M. Wright
"It's been a bit of a tough slog," David Silverberg, keynote speaker and editor of the one year-old startup homeland security magazine HSToday told the audience at the ASBPE Washington, D.C. chapter regional awards banquet on June 11, 2005.

HSToday's David Silverberg
The event was sponsored by PR Newswire. Media relations manager J.P. Fielder told the audience about three services his organization offers to business editors free of charge. Editors can establish a profile and receive targeted press releases, just those the editor deems relevant. ProfNet is PR Newswire's network of professional sources who are available for quotes and further assistance on stories. PR Newswire also has a photos and logos database containing high-resolution images that business publications can use without paying a fee.

Startup HSToday covers a new subject where readers need specialized information they can't get from the general media. The subject matter calls for objective, accurate reporting, editor Silverberg said. It's not true there's a terrorist under every bush or that the government can't do anything right, he said. Specialized publications like HSToday play a vital role, he said. Readers rely on them more than a mass audience depends on the general media, he said.
How will he know when HSToday has succeeded? Tongue firmly in cheek, Silverberg proposed four tests for declaring any trade publication a success:

  • Do people steal the magazine?
  • Do they miss their subway stop because they're so absorbed in what they're reading?
  • Can they read the magazine through an entire cross-country flight without getting bored?
  • Do they take it into the bathroom with them?
Silverberg already has some indication HSToday is successfully engaging readers, regaling the audience with stories about a Virginia legislator who stole a copy from a local sheriff and an official in the Department of Homeland Security who pilfered one from a colleague's office.

"The reader is all too often the forgotten one in the equation," Silverberg said. This is especially true, he said, in startup operations where financial pressures tempt editors into taking shortcuts, accommodating advertisers who make editorial demands, and otherwise sacrificing quality. HSToday's founders all came from a collective bad experience in this regard and were determined to do it right and pursue excellence in all areas. Advertisers select magazines on reader value, so shortcuts destroy a publication's long term viability, Silverberg said. Quality editorial will bring in advertising revenue, he said.

He joined ASBPE, he said, in part because the awards program promotes editorial excellence and raise the standards of the profession.

Mr. Wright is a D.C. ASBPE Board Member and freelance writer specializing in business and technology topics for national and international clients. []