Alumni in the Spotlight- October 2013
Olivia Rassow graduated from the MS in Publishing program in 2011. She is currently an Assistant Web Editor working with the Hearst Design Group at ELLE DÉCOR. Olivia was an Editorial Assistant at Health Magazine, and during her program at Pace she interned at O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar. From 2006-2010, Olivia was an eighth grade social studies teacher and lacrosse coach in Harford County Maryland. Olivia is originally from Buffalo, NY.
Professor Denning: Hello, Olivia. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us a bit about what you have been doing and how your career has developed since graduating from the M.S. in Publishing graduate program?
Olivia: Shortly after graduating I accepted a freelance position in the Digital Content Department of HarperCollins Publishers where I learned a great deal about eBooks and the digital aspects of publishing. It was always my goal to work in magazines, and eventually I was excited to start as an Editorial Assistant at Health Magazine, owned by Time Inc. I worked with editors on front-of-book pieces, assisted with food and nutrition content, and contributed to the Health.com blog. After a year I was able to transition into my current position as a Web Editor for ELLE DECOR. My role is a great fit because it combines my knowledge of digital publishing with my love of magazines and writing.
Olivia: I knew when starting the publishing program that I wanted to work in magazines and learn as much as possible. I pursued many internships, but because my first (a position in the market department at Harper’s Bazaar) was at Hearst, it led to other opportunities with the company’s brands. I interned with Hearst for a total of 10 months and maintained my relationships with editors when I left.
Hearst is a large company with many resources. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m always really motivated by the talented people I’m working with. Also, Hearst Tower is a pretty great place to work- I love the gym and never really get sick of the cafeteria.
Professor Denning: As Assistant Editor at ELLEDECOR.com, can you tell us what your job entails?
Olivia: My team works to create original Web content for ELLEDECOR.com, while assisting with parts of the magazine, and helping the publishing/ad sale teams to fulfill many goals. I work in our content management system to build and publish in-book magazine pieces on our site. I also pitch and write original stories, manage much of the brand’s social media strategy, analyze site metrics, research terms for SEO, and work on projects that have been sold to advertisers.
Professor Denning: What are some of the challenges of working at an online magazine? How is it different from print? What are the latest trends in online magazine publishing?
Olivia: Technical difficulties can slow things down and cause frustration. It’s important to stay flexible. It’s also a challenge to develop and cater to a unique audience on the Web, while staying true to our print brand. Pieces for the Web come together a lot faster than they do for print. We have the opportunity to interact with readers and receive instant feedback. The latest trend is to not consider our websites online magazines at all. Our site should be an of-the-moment place for ongoing conversation- a place where readers are compelled to return often. It’s a goal we’re constantly working towards.
Professor Denning: What are some of your favorite aspects of your job?
Olivia: Digital teams are usually small, so there’s an all-hands-on-deck type of feeling that I really enjoy. I have the opportunity to do things that an assistant editor working in print might not. I love working to create original content for the web, and I love the instant feedback you get from readers on social media.
Professor Denning: Were you always interested in magazine publishing?
Olivia: I am the kind of person who always read and saved (sorry, mom and former roommates!) tons and tons of magazines- all kinds. I was always fascinated by the whole book- wondering how things came together. I considered a major in journalism and interned at a local magazine in Buffalo as an undergrad, but was also drawn to teaching and spent four years in education before starting in publishing.
Professor Denning: What advice do you have for current students who are looking to make connections in the industry?
Olivia: Meet as many people as possible- reach out for informational interviews and ask everyone you meet if they know anyone else you can speak with. I always think its important to listen more than you talk. Show your interest by asking questions and learn as much as you can.
Professor Denning: How did Pace’s M.S. in Publishing Program help you in your career? Did you make any lasting connections through Pace?
Olivia: The flexibility of the program meant that I could take classes online while teaching in Maryland. With some credits under my belt, I was able to move to NY and complete the course one year later. The program has diverse requirements. Sometimes working on profit and loss sheets in economics and reading about cases in the legal aspects of publishing seemed unrelated to the creative side of magazines, but they really helped me have a complete understanding of how the industry functions. It’s also great to see where former classmates have ended up and nice to have so many friends in the field.
Professor Denning: What were some highlights of your graduate career at Pace?
Professor Baron’s class in magazine production was a highlight for me. The class was a sort of soup-to-nuts overview of everything magazines- from paper options and color correcting, to editorial calendars and branding. She brought in guest speakers that offered so much insight. It was Monday nights during my first semester in New York and I really loved it.
Professor Denning: What did you write your thesis paper on? What advice do you have for current students who are about to write or in the process of writing their thesis papers?
Olivia: My thesis was on city and regional magazines. I wanted to profile those that had been successful at developing their brands and showcasing their cities on the premise that there are many ways to do so in a tough climate. I spoke with editors and publishers. I reviewed digital strategy and ad revenue. Choose a topic you’re interested in- one that lends itself to some of your professional goals.
Professor Denning: What advice would you give students entering the field to set themselves apart from other applicants?
Olivia: When you interview for a job, know that brand or company inside and out. The people you’re meeting with spend their days pouring over every detail, so be prepared to join in the conversation. Other than that I would say: Be excited and send thank you notes.
Professor Denning: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Olivia: Publishing is and has been going through many changes. Anyone starting their career should be patient, positive, and open to different opportunities within the field.
Thank you Olivia!