Ivy Jacobson is a May 2010 graduate of the MS in Publishing program. Ivy began her career as an assistant at The Literary Group, one of the premier literary agencies in the industry. In these capacities, she helped scout talent, read manuscripts and wrote pitches. She then moved on to the Macmillan publishing house, where she worked in the Henry Holt editorial department as an assistant and researched prospective authors and illustrators and read and evaluated agented submission. After, she moved to the magazine side of publishing as an executive assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Plum Hamptons magazine, a luxury living publication owned by the Plum TV, a lifestyle television network. Ivy then made the jump to digital publishing and is currently an Editorial Assistant/Assistant to the Chief Content Officer for Patch.com. Patch is a local news and information platform owned by the AOL Corporation, operating in some 900+ local and hyper local news websites in 23 states in the US. She earned her BA from Florida State University and her Masters in Publishing from Pace University.
Prof. Denning: Hi Ivy and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It has been 1 year since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since then?
Ivy: Thank you for having me, Professor Denning! It’s been a busy year since I graduated. I feel like I’ve been working in the publishing industry for a while—I started the program in 2010 and worked in various aspects of the field since then. Prior to the job I hold now at Patch.com, I’ve worked within a publishing house, literary agencies, a magazine, and an advertising agency. My main goal when I started the program was to gain experience from every facet of publishing that I could to make myself well rounded, and see what the best fit was for me. Ultimately, I realized I loved working within the editorial side of publishing, and with the industry rapidly turning digital, I realized that that was where I needed to be. With editorial experience from print publications, I wanted to take that knowledge and combine it with working within the digital space. Working for the editorial side of Patch.com is a great fit, and I started here in August of 2012.
Prof. Denning: What does your job as Editorial Assistant/Assistant to the Chief Content Officer entail?
Ivy: A good chunk of what I do is assist with social media and audience engagement for Patch’s metrics and social media outlets, plan editorial content for the year, write and copyedit articles, monitor content, interact with bloggers, and plan special events for Patch. I also support the Chief Content Officer, who oversees all editorial, branding, technology and product for the website. I work closely with each facet of the content team, such as Audience Development, Custom Content, Social Media, Product, News, and Editorial Operations, and am involved with various projects for each.
Prof Denning: What are some of your favorite parts of your job? What What are the perks and highlights of working on the digital side of the publishing industry?
Ivy: From working for a website, it was great to see that publishing comes in many forms. It was a bit challenging at first realizing that the term “editorial” doesn’t translate across different platforms. I had to learn to think in broader terms, because writing for the web is different than writing for a print publication. Your article doesn’t just stop at 250 words on a page. You provide hyperlinks in your articles to emphasize points, you have to dive into learning about SEO and realizing that SEO rules in article writing, and not the witty little ledes, heds, and deks I was used to writing, because that’s not how people think when they are looking up articles online. It’s writing and editing content that is measured in UVs and not subscribers and newsstand circulation. For a little background of Patch.com, it is a hyper local information and engagement platform, so it is strictly for local community news. I write lots of national custom content, where I create the shell of a story, and it is up to the local editors to tailor them to their town. I think that being able to be up to the minute on in news reporting is fabulous (such as our reporting during the Newtown massacre, which is a Patch town), as opposed to having to wait month to month to report at a print publication, which is why so many magazines have more engaging digital platforms. I love working for a website that is there to tie together small communities, because I was born in a Patch town and raised in another, so I really relate to the tiniest things going on really resounding for people who live in the community.
Prof. Denning: How does technology/social media fit into/impact your current job?
Ivy: Technology and social media are a huge part of my job. Patch is a website with no print counterparts, so the readership is derived solely from how we market ourselves, how we partner with advertisers, how local our content is, and how easy we make our platform to use in the community. Every Patch town has a Facebook and Twitter, so that helps with getting breaking news out, engaging the community to a higher degree, and seeing what stories are being shared the most. We also email daily newsletters to subscribers, have a Patch mobile app, and have community bloggers. Besides, since Patch is a digital content medium, our platform is constantly evolving. We have a redesign of our site plan being rolled out with more components to it to better involve communities.
Prof Denning: Patch.com is part of AOL. Can you tell us what it is like working for such a large company? What makes AOL unique?
Ivy: AOL owns other websites besides Patch that often partner together to create more content for their audience, such as the Huffington Post, Mapquest, Moviefone, TechCrunch, and many others. AOL is getting to be known as a big, branded lifestyle platform with lots of topical verticals. Patch has various opportunities to work with AOL, such as pitching Patch’s stories to the AOL homepage, partnering with other AOL entities, or when we team up with Huffington Post Live to expand on various topics trending in Patch towns. The CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong, actually came up with the idea of Patch and digging back into hyper local news, because of his love and interest for his own small hometown.
Prof. Denning: Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.
Ivy: What was most important to me in my class choices were getting lots of information about all facets of publishing and being well rounded in both print publications and the web. I took classes in book, magazine, and digital publishing, marketing, financial aspects of publishing, creating publications, how publications are physically made, etc. I loved that all professors in the program are industry professionals as well, and spoke from personal experience in class about their careers and what its like to work at certain places, and also brought in former and current colleagues to speak to the class. I got to attend class at the Reuters building once, which was hugely informative.
Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing? Where did that passion come from?
Ivy: In college, I was an English Literature major. As an avid reader and writer, I realized my senior year that reading and writing the words wasn’t enough to satisfy me—I wanted to delve into the business behind them. Why do certain comedic children’s books sell and others don’t? Will an e-book of Dante’s Inferno sell more copies than the classic printed edition? What will become more valuable: digitally enhanced e-book art or illustrations on a page printed from the 19th century? Will children learn to read better on a Kindle or a piece of paper? Will this amazing writer’s books sell, even though they only have 100 followers on Twitter and don’t have a blog to use as a marketing platform? If a magazine doesn’t hit their advertising goals, will it fold even if the editorial content is great? If you ask yourself those types of questions as you are reading a book, magazine, or website, publishing might be the right path for you if you don’t want to be an English Literature professor, go to law school, or work in Public Relations.
Prof. Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?
Ivy: I’d say that the biggest trend right now is a toss-up between enhanced e-books for children, and reading monthly and daily print publications on e-readers. There are great studies coming out about sales skyrocketing for children’s e-books because they are so interactive. They have moving illustrations, audio that helps sound words out, and often include games to further literacy education for the child. Many publishers are doing this with books for adults, available for immediate download on iTunes and other outlets. Romance novels are also huge sellers for e-books, because women can read them on the go and at the beach without other people judging the 50 Shades of Grey cover. I definitely think e-books and e-magazines are here to stay, but I also think that print publications won’t entirely diminish. Sentimentally, there are people (like me) who will always love holding an actual book. Financially, sometimes creating e-publications cost just as much as printing a book, although the boom in e-book trending is great for self-published authors who can control how much they sell it for and in what capacity. The print magazine world was also shocked when Newsweek recently transitioned to a digital publication only. They found it was more efficient and effective to reach their readers in an entirely digital format. That jump to solely digital is a huge leap for the publication, and raises questions of steady advertising revenue and being able to perpetually reach their targeted audience in the coming years.
Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students? To those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?
Ivy: Be resilient. The world of publishing might seem large with books, magazines, e-books, and websites, but it’s actually quite small. Keep a positive, can-do attitude through every position you have, and you will develop a good work repertoire. Own every task given to you, and soon those small tasks will become larger ones. Also, don’t get discouraged easily. Working in publishing today is so seamless when you aren’t employed full time. Interning, temping, part-timing, and freelancing are all the same to me—so whatever your job is, do it well, and you will be remembered for the full time jobs that open up down the road when your old editor is pressed for time and thinks, “Who can I bring in in a pinch who is smart and trustworthy?” I also think that being successful in publishing also comes from knowing how to relate to other departments at your publication. Working at literary agencies and a publishing house made me realize the important relationship between editors and agents. Working in the editorial department at a magazine and at an advertising agency made me realize how editors want certain ads to speak for the image they are trying to convey to their targeted audience, who also need a certain type of content. Knowing how other components of your job field operate usually makes it easier to anticipate requests, deadlines, and needs from others.
Prof. Denning: What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?
Ivy: I loved the courses I took, especially the ones I had with Professor Rosati. Her classes dove into what it’s really like to work in publishing and prompted lots of discussion. I also loved my internships, especially at the Macmillan publishing house where I ended up getting to be an assistant to one of the editorial directors for a children’s book imprint. Also, a huge highlight of the program were the friends I made. We all ate, breathed, and slept publishing for two years together, and we all work in publishing now—it’s been really helpful to be able to bounce ideas about our jobs and careers off of each other. I’m so proud of all of them—walking across the stage at Rockefeller Center together to get our diplomas was the perfect final highlight.
Prof. Denning: What advice would you give to students who still have to write their graduate thesis papers?
Ivy: Since your thesis is based on your internship experience, try to apply what you are doing at your internship to what you are learning about in class—for me, they really bounced off of each other. Start making notes of certain topics you want covered in your paper, and how you dealt with them at your internship. Once you do that, you will find that writing your thesis will be easier once you have facets of your thesis statement to string along. Also, choose a topic that really interests you and you want to dig deeper into. It is hard work to write, but if you choose a topic that you’re passionate about, the words will flow much faster.
Prof. Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field do to set themselves apart from other applicants? Do you look for anything specific on a resume or in an interview?
Ivy: I would definitely make it a point to really specify what you have done in your resume, and not just put “wrote articles, researched sources, and manned social media platforms.” How many new Twitter followers did you gain solely because of a great article you wrote that you posted in a tweet? What kind of professionals are you used to working with for tapping for sources? If it’s a fashion assistant job at a magazine, how quickly can you steam a dress, pack it in the garment bag, and run it back to the Valentino showroom? If it’s a publicity job at a publishing house, what type of clients have you worked with before, and how will that experience lend to the publishing house in your cover letter? With so many applicants applying to every position advertised, you really have to make yourself stand out with your capabilities and not your run of the mill tasks. I’ve interviewed interns before, and the ones that stood out were ones who told me exactly what they liked to do involving certain tasks, how they succeeded in them, and how they could apply that directly to the position they were interviewing for.
Prof. Denning: What are your hopes and dreams for your own career? Goals?
Ivy: Ultimately, I’d like to pursue being an executive editor, and then an editorial director and oversee editorial content and operations for an online edition of a magazine or a lifestyles website.
Prof.Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Ivy: A firm handshake while giving eye contact counts for more than you think in an interview (and in life!).
Thank you Ivy, for this thoughtful and informative interview!