New publishing format: Evolutionary or revolutionary change?

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Mock up of the new format Ottawa Construction News magazine

We’re about to change the publishing format for some of our longest-continuing publications, including Ottawa Construction News (OCN), GTA Construction Report and Ontario Construction Report.

These titles date back to the early 1990s (in fact OCN was first published in 1989), at the advent of the transition to “desktop publishing” — the concept that publishers could produce the layouts of their publications on computer, print out the pages with then-new laser printers, and send the work to the printers.

This represented a major change in publishing processes — removing the need to contract with expensive printers or service bureaus to prepare layouts. (But the offset printing technology represented a further enhancement from “hot lead” and massive linotype machines operated by skilled tradespeople — these went out of style in the 1960s, though lived on under sanctions in Rhodesia, so I got to see the ancient technology at work first hand as I lived through the end of the war in 1979-80 there as a sub-editor with the Bulawayo Chronicle.)

With the new publishing model, we’ve decided to produce primarily online publications. You can still receive them in old-fashioned printed format, but I expect the printed copies will go a relatively small audience as we switch to a print-on-demand system. The electronic magazine includes several interactive features — stories can be hyperlinked directly to webpages, and in some cases, to videos. Updates are easy — we can swap and revise as required. And of course printing and postage costs decline sharply.

Our designer Raymond Levielle has good experience in magazine publications, and he has redesigned them to include their popular features, with new resources.

So is the change evolutionary, or revolutionary?  I find it difficult to give a simple answer — we’ve been producing all of our new titles for the past three years in the electronic magazine format, so it isn’t a total upheaval. Yet changing something that worked consistently for close to three decades still has revolutionary characteristics. I’m hopeful however that the upheaval, if there is any, will be positive.

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