Author Archives: EFritsch

AIGA Cincinnati Organizes a Fantastic Design Week Program

One joy of contributing to WCPO.com in Cincinnati is being able to observe the remarkable progress that has been made in revitalizing our urban core and attracting and retaining young creative professionals.  Not that long ago, young design-school graduates seemed to believe that the best career opportunities for creatives existed only in New York, Chicago, or LA. That has changed.

CAWDeignWeeklogoIn preparation for an assignment to preview  Cincinnati Design Week (July 21-26), I participated in an “Agency Crawl” on July 10. Many participants were students or recent grads looking for internships or job, But I enjoyed making visiting the agencies because I had recently read reports such as: Adobe’s survey on “The New Creatives” and the SoDA Report on the outlook for digital marketing in 2014.

I was amazed to learn that a lot of pioneering work in digital marketing, mobile strategy, user-experience design, and motion graphics was happening right here in my hometown. These new digital agencies are experimenting with all sorts of new technologies to see how they can benefit their clients. Below is a quick overview of the four Cincinnati agencies we visited.

POSSIBLE: The Cincinnati office of Possible is one of 25 offices on five continents that is creating innovative ways to use new technology to bring measurable results to global brands. Many projects are designed to engage consumers and remind them that brands can help make our lives better. During the presentation, they talked about an app they developed for a P&G brand and a social-media campaign for Coca-Cola.

Hyperquake: The creative pros at this brand-evolution agency explained how they are  helping brands evolve, embrace change,  experiment, and stay relevant.

Openfield Creative: To cultivate connections between brands and people, the designers at this agency blend strategy, design, and technology.

Foster & Flux: The two young entrepreneurs behind this start-up animation studio are passionate about crafting storytelling videos that change the way people interact with brands. The creative partners focus on doing one thing very well: putting great design into motion.

When I wrote the Design Week preview for WCPO.com, I was impressed by the diversity of presentations that AIGA Cincinnati had pulled together, with support from the Contemporary Art Center, 21c Museum Hotel, TEDx Cincinnati, and Creative Mornings. Some presentations are being led by local creative professionals. But some keynoters include architect Jin Liu from the SO-IL architecture firm in New York and Debbie Millman, president and CMO at Sterling Brands in New York.

Barcelona-based designer Hector Ayusa has put together a full day of programming that brings artists and designers from around the world to share ideas and inspiration at OFFCincinnati.

Here’s the Design Week preview I wrote for WCPO.com

http://www.wcpo.com/entertainment/local-a-e/looking-for-inspiration-here-are-9-ways-to-spark-your-creativity-during-cincinnati-design-week

As a writer, I love being able to connect with people all over the world and do interviews via Skype from the comfort of my home office. But I also like getting out and meeting innovative people here in my own community. Their stories and insights give me a richer, deeper perspective when I work on technology-related assignments for national trade associations and other publishers. And the writing I do for my blogs and other publishers brings additional context to the stories I write for WCPO.com. It’s all fun!

 

The Tricky Business of Writing about Business Management Software

As a freelance writer, it’s fun to pursue a mix of local and national writing projects on a variety of intriguing subjects.

Locally, I write 1200-word human-interest profiles of authors, photographers, designers, and artists for my weekly “Cincy is Creative” series on WCPO.com. This project has helped me see how different generations of creative professionals are using some of the advances in digital imaging and printing technologies that I have been writing about since the 1990s.

SIGAJournalj-ma-2014-coverBut I also enjoy tackling longer educational stories for B2B trade and association magazines – particularly technology-related business stories that challenge me to attempt to explain fields that are experiencing rapid innovation and expansion.

For example, in January I researched and wrote a product-round-up story that was published in the March/April issue of the SGIA Journal. The story outlines some of the business-management (MIS/ERP) software options that are now available to owners of specialty printing businesses.

Dozens of new options are being marketed to SGIA members partly because many SGIA members now recognize the need to become more automated in how they process and fulfill incoming orders. At the SGIA Expo last October, I talked to several graphics-business owners who were anxious to buy some sort of MIS/ERP software that can help them automate their estimating, job planning, shipping, invoicing, and financial reporting functions.

But another reason so many software options are being marketed to SGIA members is because the association’s members come from so many different backgrounds and digitally print products ranging from documents and large-format graphics to billboards, vehicle wraps, and T-shirts.  Some SGIA members run small to mid-size sign shops or screen-printing firms while others manage large, multi-national printing enterprises.

There is no one-size-fits-all software solution that would meet the needs of every SGIA member.  

It’s understandable that SGIA members want to make the best-informed decision possible. Some have learned from experience that setting up an accurate estimating system for a high volume of short-run, highly customized jobs can be daunting. Once a digital printing business gets locked into using a certain MIS/ERP system, it can be difficult (and expensive) to change.

Some graphics business owners have also learned that timing is everything. It’s expensive to invest in products that aren’t yet ready for real-world use. But being overly cautious or indecisive in a fast-moving market can leave their companies at a competitive disadvantage.

As I researched this SGIA Journal story, and interviewed multiple developers of MIS/ERP software, it quickly became clear why business owners might feel so overwhelmed by their options. Each software developer is continuing to add new functions and capabilities, and the pricing seems to be all over the map. In fact, everything seems subject to change.

So, I hope SGIA members can use the article to identify which programs might fit their requirements and continue doing more focused product research on their own.

In trying to be as comprehensive as possible, I wrote a story that ran almost 7,000 words and discussed 15 different programs. During the magazine layout stage, the editors eliminated entire sections of each product description and included just 13 of the products. As the former editor of a print magazine, I definitely understand why these cuts were necessary. As a contributor, I should have been more disciplined and limited the length of the original article.

But as a writer, I am grateful that online publishing gives me an opportunity to continue researching topics such as this one and publish the updated findings in e-book form.

Later this month, I will be attending the ISA Sign Expo, where I plan to visit the booths of some of the business-management software developers I interviewed for the SGIA Journal article. I won’t be surprised to see that significant upgrades and changes have been made to the software I researched and wrote about in January.

If you would be interested in seeing the updated version of the full 7,000+-word article, please drop me a line and I will let you know when it’s available.

If you have MIS/ERP software that should be included in this product round-up, please let me know.  Contact me at eileen@eileenfritsch.com

LINK

SGIA Journal: Profiling Business Management Software Options for Specialty Imaging, Signs, and Graphics

About the SGIA Journal

 

 

Proud to Be a WCPO Insider

WCPOInsiderMonthlyCover-350pLast week, I attended a meeting at the headquarters of WCPO, a Cincinnati TV station that promotes itself as “9 on Your Side.”  WCPO is one of 19 television stations included in The E.W. Scripps Company’s portfolio of television, print, and digital media brands. Based in Cincinnati, Scripps also owns daily newspapers in 13 markets across the United States.

WCPO hosted the meeting for freelancers just a few days after WCPO.com released its first issue of “WCPO Insider Monthly.” The “Monthly” is a 30-page collection of some of the best articles posted for WCPO.com subscribers (“WCPO Insiders”) over the past month.

Laid out like magazine feature stories, the articles in “Insider Monthly” make it clear that WCPO is developing content for news junkies who want to learn more about what’s happening in the Tri-State region than they can get from tweets, headlines, sound bites, and news briefs.

I received the inaugural issue of WCPO Insider Monthly, because I not only subscribe to WCPO.com’s content, but also contribute to it. I am one of the 30+ journalists and community team members WCPO has added to its digital reporting team over the past year.

The articles I write for my weekly “Cincy is Creative” series are published on Sunday mornings as part of the growing volume of original, local stories that WCPO is producing on topics such as local crime and justice, politics, business, health, education, and the arts.

For my series, I interview local artists, photographers, authors, designers, and filmmakers who are fulfilling their dreams of doing work they love.

The Changing News Business

Readers of WCPO.com can still get free access to breaking news, public-safety information, weather, traffic, iTeam investigations, all newscast videos, photo galleries, and WCPO’s popular “Don’t Waste Your Money” consumer-news segment. But all items marked with “9” logo are for WCPO Insiders only.

While many local and national newspapers (including the Cincinnati Enquirer and the New York  Times) have started charging people  to access some content developed for their websites, WCPO.com was the first Scripps television station to erect a paywall on their online news site. It was a gutsy move, considering that the station didn’t have an existing base of subscribers, like a newspaper or magazine does.

People who sign up today can sample the WCPO Insider stories for $0.01 for four weeks. After that, they can opt to pay $7.99 per month or $79.99 for a yearly subscription.

Keeping Contributors Informed

At the meeting at WCPO last week, the editorial team that launched the WCPO Insider program talked more about their ideas for the next phases of implementation, and suggested how we could answer some of the questions we all have received since the subscription program launched February 12. 

As a writer who has adapted to many technology-driven changes to mass communications since I graduated from Ohio University’s journalism program, I am excited to be part of WCPO’s forward-thinking initiative.

WCPO is giving freelance contributors like me the flexibility to manage our workloads and the incentive to deliver stories that will help WCPO.com expand its base of “Insiders,”

I applaud the leaders at Scripps and WCPO for believing that good reporting and original content still matter. They pay freelancers more than the “content farms” that expect writers to churn out dozens of stories a week, simply by rewriting online content that others created. So I don’t mind at all if my articles are published behind the paywall. 

While the contributors work to uncover and report great stories, the publishing team is testing different ways to let potential subscribers see the stories we develop. For example,as a subscriber, I can download “WCPO Insider Monthly” in PDF form and share it with friends and neighbors who haven’t yet subscribed to WCPO.com.

If you think about it, charging online readers for access to additional content isn’t much different from selling newspapers and magazines at a newsstand. After people skim through the cover slugs, headlines, and table of contents, they willingly buy those publications that pique their interest in learning more. I believe that many WCPO.com readers will choose to do the same with the Insider content.

Every day we are all growing more accustomed to getting news on our mobile devices. Likewise, we’re also starting to realize the value of subscribing to sites that offer something extra.

In the not-too-distant future, few people will ever know (or care) whether the text, photos, and videos were gathered by journalists who began their careers writing for newspapers, magazines, or broadcast news. Soon, most journalists will be digital journalists.

As a long-time lover of magazines, I was impressed when WCPO introduced Insider Monthly. In the brave new converging world of online multimedia publishing, broadcasters must be prepared to compete not just with other broadcasters, but also with newspapers, blogs, content marketing, social media, online video, and magazines. 

LINKS

WCPO.com

Scripps Press Release: Cincinnati Television Station Ramps Up for Premium Web Content Subscription Service

Screen Printing Is Alive and Well

As a freelancer, I am never quite sure where my next writing assignment will lead me.

After being dazzled by the advances in digital printing technology displayed at the PRINT 13 show and SGIA Expo last fall, I spent November and December researching two articles on screen printing. Both articles were recently published and confirm that screen printing is still valued, both as an art and as a method of decorating garments.

SGIA Journal: Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age

SGIAJournalOldSchoolScreenPrintinginDigitalAge-300pFor the Winter 2014 issue of the SGIA Journal, I wrote about “Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age” and the resurgence of interest in hand-made screen prints for concert posters and T-shirts.

The article originated after I interviewed some young screen-printing enthusiasts here in Cincinnati.  They are part of the much larger maker movement that is evident at events such Flatstock Poster Shows and  Renegade Craft Fairs in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe.  (Both the Flatstock Poster Show and Renegade Craft Fair will be held March 13-15, 2014 in conjunction with the SXSW Music Festival in Austin.)

Erin Dollar of Renegade Craft Fairs told me, “Interest in buying beautiful, handmade items has grown in the past decade, Screen printing has always been a popular medium for artists because it’s an affordable production tool that offers opportunities to create multiples without investing in a lot of expensive equipment.”

For the SGIA article, I talked to: Aaron Kent of DIY Printing and Pat Jones and Ben Nunery of Powerhouse Factories in CIncinnati; Carolyn Hartmann of OpenStudio DC in Washington, DC; Bill Fick of Supergraphic in Durham, North Carolina; Carlos Hernandez of Burning Bones Press in Houston; and Andy MacDougall of Squeegeeville in Vancouver, British Columbia.

They shared insights about the many different ways art schools, community art centers, and co-op printmaking studios are serving the growing number of designers and artists who want to try their hand at screen printing. Andy MacDougall has even written a book, called “Screenprinting Today: The Basics.

Hartmann told me that the designers who attend her screen-printing workshops like getting a little messy after spending all day at a computer. Hernandez notes that digitally savvy designers who can build a website in a few nights seem to relish the challenge of learning a medium that takes some time to master.

Read the full article here: SGIA Journal: Old School Screen Printing in the Digital Age 

The SGIA Journal is published by the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, a trade association that originated as an association for screen printers.  The 2014 SGIA Expo will be held October 22-24 in Las Vegas. 

Wearables Magazine: Fast Screening

Fritsch-Wearables-FastScreening-300pFor the February, 2014 issue of Wearables magazine, I wrote about computer-to-screen (CTS) devices that merge the efficiencies of digital imaging with the cost advantages of high volume screen printing.  By inkjet-printing an image file directly onto an emulsion coated screen, a CTS system eliminates the need to make film positives.

Some of the newest CTS devices use industrial inkjet printheads to keep pace with the screenmaking demands of apparel-decorating companies that use one or more automatic screen-printing presses to produce higher volumes of decorated garments every day. If the automatic presses stand idle while employees make screens manually, companies can’t maximize the return on their high-speed presses.

For this article I talked to equipment manufacturers such as Lawson Screen & Digital Products, the M&R Companies, and Exile Technologies. I also spoke to employees of screen-printing companies who use the equipment.

Read the full article here: Screen-Printing Success: Fast Screening

Wearables magazine is published by the Advertising Specialty Institute for 25,000+ suppliers and distributors of promotional products such as T-shirts, tote bags, and other gifts imprinted with an advertiser’s logo or message. ASI studies show that promotional products such as custom-printed T-shirts, tote bags, and caps can be powerful advertising tools because recipients of these items keep them for months and wear them where the brand message can be seen by thousands of other people.  I wrote about the ASI study on my Creatives at Work blog: T-Shirts Can Complement Your Online Marketing.

 Screen Printing Magazine

Writing these two articles was a fun way to for me to learn how the screen printing process continues to be used.

Before I was named editor of The Big Picture magazine about large-format digital printing in the mid-1990s, I served as an assistant editor for Screen Printing magazine for a short time. In that role, I never became an expert on screen printing, but I did learn the basics. At that time, I spent a lot of my time studying how and why screen-printing studios might want to move certain types of projects to first-generation models of wide-format inkjet printers.

So, it has been astonishing to witness how rapidly inkjet printing has advanced from very slow, first-generation plotter-speed devices to fast, highly automated production-grade flatbed and superwide roll-to-roll presses that can handle a lot of the work formerly done on screen-printing presses. 

But screen printing technology has advanced, too. The process wouldn’t be attracting so many young artists and designers without the substantial progress that has been made in making the process more environmentally friendly.

Early Forecasts for Digital Printing Seem to Be Coming True

Having covered digital printing since the mid-1990s, I have been observing which early forecasts for the future of digital printing seem to be coming true, and which predictions have been disrupted by technological innovations (e.g. smartphones, digital signage, the iPad) and/or generational shifts in media consumption and buying behavior.

That’s why it was fun to attend two major printing conferences this fall: PRINT 13 in Chicago and the SGIA Expo in Orlando. My goals were to: (1) Get a more comprehensive view of the current state and future of printing and (2) Find a new crop of good stories just waiting to be told.

Working outside the printing-business bubble for a couple of years, I have paid close attention to how much (or how little!) many people and small-business owners really know about the new services and opportunities that printing businesses offer.

“Does printing actually have a future?” someone asked me before I left for PRINT 13. After all, even The Onion (which describes itself as “America’s Finest News Source”) wrote an obituary declaring that “Print is Dead at 1,803

I returned from PRINT 13 and SGIA Expo knowing that print is very much alive. It will just be used for different purposes. Here are four broad observations (that I will go into in more detail in future posts).

“Printing” is being redefined.

The transformation from analog contact printing methods to production-speed presses that use non-contact inkjet printing technology is in full swing. Digital printing is now the beating heart of two shows that once focused primarily on offset printing (PRINT 13) and screen printing (SGIA Expo).

At PRINT 13, Canon, HP, Xerox, EFI, Kodak, Fujifilm, Xeikon, Ricoh, and others demonstrated an astounding variety of digital presses for printing books, photo books, magazines, labels, packaging, catalogs, direct mail, and magazines. At SGIA Expo, Agfa, Canon, HP, EFI, Epson, Kodak, Roland, Fujifilm, Agfa, Durst, Kornit Digital, and others displayed equipment for printing on fabrics, garments, wallcoverings, sign vinyls, rigid boards, and three-dimensional objects.

Durst, which started out making equipment for darkroom photo processing, has evolved into a leading manufacturer of industrial-grade inkjet printers for textiles, packaging, labels, exhibit graphics, transit advertising, and retail displays. Photo: SGIA Expo

Durst, which started out making equipment for darkroom photo processing, has evolved into a leading manufacturer of industrial-grade inkjet printers for textiles, packaging, labels, exhibit graphics, transit advertising, and retail displays. Photo: SGIA Expo

All of these printing devices are creating greater opportunities for the customization and personalization of everything from books, clothing, and gifts to vehicles, art, furniture, and wallcoverings.

Many of the digital printing devices at SGIA will be integrated into the manufacturing processes for all sorts of products, because printing has always been used for much more than communicating ideas.

Early predictions about the enormous impact of digital printing are coming true.

When large-format digital printing was first introduced, some of the boldest predictions seemed wildly overblown (just like many of today’s predictions for 3D printing). For example, in the mid-1990s, it was hard to imagine that someday it would be feasible to decorate every window, building wall, floor, vehicle, and garment with customized prints or that every aspiring writer, photographer, and artist could afford to publish their own sellable-quality books and prints.

It was hard to believe that digital printing could bring sweeping changes because manufacturers of digital printing equipment and materials had to overcome many technical hurdles, as well as stiff pockets of resistance among traditionalists in fields such as art reproduction, prepress proofing, and commercial photo printing.

Today, it seems reasonable to believe that analog printing methods will eventually be regarded as “legacy” methods. Future generations might regard screen printing or offset lithography as “alternative print processes”—just like different forms of darkroom photo printing (e.g., silver gelatin prints) are revered today.

Digital printing continues to create new opportunities.

On my Creatives at Work blog, I have published dozens of posts that illustrate some of the ways digital printing has given millions of people around the world new opportunities for personal, creative expression. Digital printing has also provided entrepreneurs with thousands of possibilities for niche products, new services, and innovative business models.

The endless variety of new products and business models being promoted by creative entrepreneurs is simply amazing. (And I sense that things are just getting started!)

Print and online media will co-exist.

At PRINT 13 and SGIA Expo, I saw dozens of examples of how print and online media are being used in complementary ways.

For example, seminars at PRINT 13 showed how printed pieces could be made more valuable and interactive with technologies such as QR codes, NFC (near-field communications), augmented reality, and printed electronics. (One example of printed electronics was a print ad that could charge your cellphone while you read a magazine at the beach.) Visit the website of the NellyMoser agency to see some examples of some of the mobile-activated, integrated print technologies discussed at PRINT 13.

Also discussed was CinePrint, a technology that combines motion graphics and print. This YouTube video shows how Lexus used CinePrint and an iPad to bring a magazine ad to life:

At SGIA Expo, I saw examples of how video screens, projections, and digital signs were being used in conjunction with printed displays. To meet marketers’ expectations for measurable results, innovations such as EFI’s SmartSign Analytics can be used to determine how effective certain visuals are in catching the eyes of their targeted audiences.

Final Thoughts

At PRINT 13, the overall mood seemed more somber than at SGIA, mostly because owners of commercial printing businesses are now facing the same kinds of digital disruptions that motivated the earliest adopters of large-format digital printing equipment in the 1990s. 

When digital imaging and printing started reducing the demand for commercial film scanning, photo processing, proofing, and enlargements, the companies that started out as commercial photo labs, reprographers, and prepress service bureaus were forced to either sell out, fade away, or seek new ways to generate revenues. Many of them successfully adopted large-format printing and reinvented their businesses.

Now that so many publications and documents are read online, commercial printing businesses find themselves at the same crossroads. Some have already gone out of business; others are seeking to sell their firms. But others are finding ways to adapt, either by reinventing their business models and/or finding ways to link printed and digital communications.

For example, some commercial printing and mailing services that already manage databases for their customers are repositioning themselves as marketing solution providers—offering cross-media marketing campaigns that blend “offline” and “online” marketing campaigns.

At SGIA Expo, the vibe seemed upbeat and entrepreneurial. Many of the earliest adopters of large-format printing equipment have grown over the years, and came to show seeking ways to add production capacity. They were also looking for ways to become more efficient or sustainable to meet the changing expectations of print buyers.

At both shows, I reconnected with some innovators and leading-edge thinkers I have known for a long time. I also enjoyed meeting new sources of ideas and expertise. Happily, it was easy to discover dozens of great stories just waiting to be told—particularly as a new generation of entrepreneurs seeks ways to create and market new businesses.

Seeing the Printing Industry Through Fresh Eyes

In 2011, I stepped away from writing about the growth and evolution of digital printing and imaging. On my Creatives at Work blog, I started taking a closer look at how changes in marketing, publishing, and visual communications were affecting the jobs of mid-career writers, designers, artists, and photographers. I was particularly curious to see if and how creative professionals are taking advantage of new opportunities created by digital printing (such as self-publishing, custom decor and other products, online storefronts).

Now that a younger generation of workers has grown up using digital tools and mobile communications, I am curious to see what this means for the future of digital printing.

PRINT13_4colorAt the PRINT 13 conference and show in Chicago in September, I saw the printing industry through fresh eyes. What I saw was exciting.

I came home confident that print does indeed have a future. And as a blogger and freelance journalist, I discovered dozens of stories just waiting to be told.

In a presentation on “Engaging Print” at the Executive Outlook conference before the PRINT 13 show opened, consultant Hal Hinderliter reminded printing-business owners that the Internet is not going away and “the glory days” of commercial printing aren’t coming back. But, he said, “new glory days” of printing are achievable if can we stop thinking about Print vs. the Internet in terms of winning or losing. Hal highlighted more than a dozen technologies that can make print more compelling, more interactive, more alive, and more effective in meeting client goals.

Other sessions at PRINT 13 encouraged owners of printing businesses speakers to reposition their firms as marketing-solutions providers and help brand owners conduct campaigns that integrate web, mobile, and printed communications.  Many of the digital presses, wide-format printers, finishing equipment, and and process-automation tools at the show were designed to make this easier.

Print13CanonBooth2

Whenever I attend a big conference and show such as PRINT 13, it takes awhile to process what I’ve seen and heard.  As I work through my notes to write a detailed report, I’m finding lots of ideas for future blog posts, magazine articles, white papers, or e-books.

SIGALogoBut I don’t plan to pitch or publish much until November. I won’t have a full sense of what’s next for printing until I attend the 2013 Conference and Expo of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) October 23-25.

The SGIA show attracts managers of different types of printing businesses. Whereas PRINT 13 attendees have primarily produced marketing collateral, newspapers, magazines, books, and packaging, SGIA Expo attendees are experienced in printing photos, art, signs, exhibits, promotional products, manufactured goods, wallcoverings, and textiles.

Attending both shows should give me an up-to-date snapshot of how much innovation has occurred since I stopped covering the digital printing business a few years ago. I am also on the lookout for great examples of how some of these innovations are being used.

Drop me an email at eileen (at) eileenfritsch.com if you have printing-related story ideas that might not be getting the type of attention they deserve.

 

 

 

Getting Connected with TEDxCincinnati

What’s your favorite TED Talk?  The TED Talks I like include:

While I haven’t spent a whole lot of time watching TED Talks, I do admire TED.com for successfully creating a whole new type of media platform for spreading their own brand of content. The 1500+ videos that have been posted on their website since 2007 have been viewed more than 1 billion times.

EFTEDScreenGrab

In a world in which so much information (and misinformation)  is spread by argumentative pundits, special-interest groups, negative political ads, and snarky tweets, TED gives speakers up to 18 minutes to present the best speech of their lives.

The speakers come from all walks of life. They don’t stand stiffly behind a podium, reading their notes. Nor do they repeatedly plug their books or websites. They simply present their ideas, experiences, and research in an informal, heartfelt, human way.

TED Talks cover everything from agriculture, art, business, economics and education to medicine, science, technology, violence, work, and youth.

One thing I love about TED Talks is that the speakers aren’t interrupted with “gotcha questions” by know-it-all, fame-seeking news anchors. Nor are their words filtered by reporters who have their own personal biases. Instead, TED organizers presume that the audience is intelligent enough to decide for themselves which messages ring true.  

In July, on an assignment for WCPO Digital, I met a woman who told me that watching TED Talks online isn’t nearly as exciting as attending a TED Conference live. Jami Edelheit has attended several TED events and tells me that a lot of the magic comes from interacting with the other attendees, and discussing some of the ideas that were presented.

Jami is so enthusiastic about the TED brand of content that she has organized TEDxCincinnati, which is producing its second Main Stage event, “Sound Ideas” on October 3. She has lined up an incredible program of speakers and performers. I look forward to being there.

Graphic design students at Cincinnati State created the "Sound Ideas" logo, postcard, other materials, and a 'Paint the Town TED' campaign for TEDxCincinnati.

Graphic design students at Cincinnati State created the “Sound Ideas” logo, postcard, other materials, and a ‘Paint the Town TED’ campaign for TEDxCincinnati.

One person I encouraged to attend “Sound Ideas” is Craig Beachler, a Cincinnati resident I met on another assignment for WCPO Digital. Craig was inspired to take action after watching this TED Talk about urban gardening that a friend had forwarded to him.

Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardner in South Central LA

This week, I submitted a second TEDxCincinnati-related assignment to WCPO Digital. This story is about the talented team of graphic design students at Cincinnati State who develop a “Paint the Town TED”  branding campaign for TEDxCincinnati and promotional graphics for the “Sound Ideas” event on October 3.  Jami invited me to be in the audience when the students gave their final presentation of all the web and print graphics they had created for TEDxCincinnati.  The work the students came up with was fantastic, and the experience has prepared them well for the type of cross-media projects that employers need help with today. 

Getting connected to TEDxCincinnati through WCPO has been an eye-opening experience for me. It has made me aware of how many innovative thinkers, doers, and performers are making a difference right here in my own city.

If you like watching TED Talks, but can’t attend a TED conference live, I encourage you to support your local TEDx organizer. TED launched their TEDx program to to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences locally. TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. So far, more than 7,000 TEDx events have been held in more than 1890 cities worldwide.

LINKS

TEDxCincinnati

WCPO: TEDx Aims To Connect Tr-State Resident with Ideas Worth Spreading

WCPO: A Field of Dreams for Fido and Friends Blooms As a Community Garden in the Heart of Cinincinnati

WCPO: Cincinnati State Students Paint the Town TED

 

 

Why I Love Blogging

BlogTree300pixI have been blogging since 2006. Both my Great Output blog (on blogspot) and Creatives at Work (on WordPress) are personal projects.

Great Output started out as a way for me to post extra content that complemented the bi-monthly magazine I was editing for photography professionals. Great Output originally focused on helping photography pros learn how digital printing could help them grow their businesses. I have expanded the content to cover additional ideas for photographers who want to gain greater exposure, learn new skills, or increase their revenues.

Creatives at Work is designed to help artists, designers, photographers and writers recognize how technology is changing the markets for their work. As the demand for some types of creative services disappears, new options continue to emerge.

So far, I have published more than 750 posts on Great Output and 450 posts on Creatives at Work.

As a writer, blogging feels as natural as keeping a journal. It’s a fun way to expand my skills, knowledge, and contacts. Blogging lets me discover, evaluate, and promote new ideas.

Blogging keeps me abreast of fields I want to write about.
When I was a magazine editor and my inbox overflowed with news releases, it was easy to spot trends that merited feature stories. Today, when I visit online news release sites to find blog-post ideas, I also identify trends and expert sources for future magazine articles and book projects.

Blogging sharpens my editing skills.
Unfortunately, many online news releases don’t seem to be written for real people. The writing is stilted and awkward, as if a committee wrote the release and fed it through an SEO “best-practices” grinder. Sentence structures are convoluted, the quotes sound unnatural, and basic reader questions are unanswered.

I read news releases from the perspective of a “Generation Flux” creative professional who is seeking inspiration for the type of work I might want to try next.  When reviewing news releases, I ask six questions:

  • Why should readers care about this?
  • What problem does this idea help solve?
  • Can the writing be streamlined?
  • Do the ‘quotes’ sound human?
  • What insights or additional information can add value to this release?
  • Should I contact the source for clarification or more information?

Blogging helps me connect with new sources.
Blog publishing gives me a reason to reach out and interview people who are doing interesting things. It also attracts inquiries from bright, ambitious people with interesting stories to tell.

Blogging provides endless opportunities for continuous learning.
When I first started blogging in 2006, blogs were primarily regarded as tools for political expression and Blogger was the primary platform. Because blog readership was miniscule compared to that of print publications, many traditional publishers and corporations dismissed blogs as not worth the effort. As the readership and influence of blogs has grown, PR firms reach out to me like they reached out to me as a magazine editor. The transformation of publishing, marketing, and public relations has been fascinating to watch.

Publishing blogs on two different platforms has helped me learn about plug-ins, widgets, image editing, web hosting, graphic design, online advertising, SEO, embedding videos, affiliate marketing, and analytics. I haven’t yet used many of these capabilities to their full extent, but that’s OK.

Blogging lets me help others.
As a magazine editor, I loved seeing how reader-oriented publicity could benefit small, well-run companies with good products and ideas. As a blogger, I can freely publicize whatever companies and products intrigue me without any consideration as to whether they might advertise.

Helping deserving authors, artists, start-ups, and entrepreneurs get additional exposure and opportunities makes me happy. It’s also fun to be able to help friends and acquaintances who aren’t sure how to get started in self-publishing, blogging, photography or other creative fields.

Blogging comes naturally.
Blogging is the form of social media that feels most authentic to me. In addition to allowing me to share news that intrigues me, it adds a sense of routine to my day and immediate gratification. I express my thoughts more clearly in written form than orally.

My blogs are works in progress.
The SEO consultants who offer their services seem surprised that I’m not overly concerned with “getting found” or following a rigid set of “best practices.” Maybe someday I will hire an SEO expert. But for now, my blogs are more about knowledge-gathering, experimentation, and independent publishing.

Over time, blogging helps me make sense of the flood of information that is engulfing us all. When I get excited about certain topics I discover through blogging, I can pitch them as story ideas to professional publishers who have invested a lot of time and effort in SEO and are more serious than I am about “getting found” online. Plus, I am in the process of collecting some of my blog posts and converting the content into e-books.

According to some studies, organizations sometimes have trouble coming up with enough ideas to keep their blog updated. Actually, ideas are everywhere. If you need tips on how to keep the content flowing, I would be happy to help!

LINKS

Great Output

Creatives at Work

Creatives at Work: Generation Flux

 

The Joy of Local Reporting

Last fall, while researching news for my Creatives at Work blog, I discovered a news release for a job site called Ebyline. The site intrigued me because its business model recognizes that trained, experienced journalists have certain skills that newcomers to freelance writing might not yet have developed.

When a publishing company hires a freelance journalist through Ebyline, they can be confident that the writer understands interviewing, research, deadlines, stylesheets, ethics, fact checking, copyright law, and attribution. Journalists know how to put the reader’s interests first and understand the need to earn trust and credibility.

The Eblyine platform offers a win-win situation for publishers and writers. Publishing companies can find, hire, and pay multiple freelancers through a single site. As a writer, I can choose to apply for assignments posted by many different publishers. Or, I can easily pitch my own story ideas to selected publishers.

The pay rates for jobs posted on  Eblyline are more realistic than the ridiculously low rates offered to “article writers” on other freelance job sites. And, instead of submitting and tracking invoices to multiple publishers, my work is automatically invoiced as soon as the client purchases the articles I submit through Ebyline. All payments come through PayPal.

WCPO.com MobileMy first assignments were for a North Carolina company that was creating online education programs for clients in San Francisco. Then, I got my an assignment for WCPO Digital — the mobile/online news division of a local TV station. My first assignment was to write about a small, community theater that was using crowdfunding to make improvements to their seating. I had written about crowdfunding on my Creatives at Work blog, so I understood how the concept was being used nationally. It was delightful to talk face-to-face with the theatre leaders and ask why they had decided to give crowdfunding a try. By watching a performance, I learned for myself why new seating is needed.

FalconTheaterSetWhen I submitted my story, it was edited and published within three hours. Wow! Having spent most of my career working on print magazines, the speed from draft-submission to publication was breathtaking.  And, it was cool to see the story in the news feed on my iPhone!

Since that first story, I have written other articles for WCPO Digital that fit with my interest in the arts, technology, and the future. For example, I wrote about how the ArtWorks organization in Cincinnati is using the Power2Give crowdfunding platform for community arts projects. And, I have covered a speech given at a Creative Mornings event at Cincinnati’s new 21C Museum Hotel. Last week, I interviewed the enthusiastic organizer of TEDxCincinnati. She has attended a couple of TED events in Long Beach and was excited to introduce the spirit of TED to Cincinnati. I have also written about  journalism education programs and social-service projects in Cincinnati.

One of my first jobs out of college was in the public-affairs department for United Way Cincinnati.  That job was fun because our team worked with so many media organizations, community leaders, and non-profit agencies throughout the city. I lost touch with these local contacts after I accepted a very demanding job doing marketing communications and magazine editing for a national engineering association. Now, at this stage in my career, I am happy to work on a blend of local and national projects that are related to my interests in the arts, technology, and the future.

It has been particularly fun to discover how Cincinnati organizations are keeping up with trends in bigger cities. Cincinnatians often cringe at this quote that Mark Twain allegedly made: “If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati .Everything comes there 10 years later.”

That’s not the case any more, and I am proud to help spread the word!

LINKS

WCPO Digital: Falcoln Theatre Uses Crowdfunding

WCPO Digital: Findlay Market CEO at Creative Mornings/Cincinnati

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T-Shirt Mania: Celebrating 100 Years of T-Shirt History

BeatlesCutOut2Check out this Beatles T-shirt! Isn’t it a beauty?  It’s a perfect illustration of how much the T-shirt business has changed since the Navy made a plain, white undershirt part of a sailor’s regulation uniform in 1913. I pulled this shirt out of my drawer when I started working on an article about the 100-year history of the T-shirt business for the Garment Edition of the SGIA Journal.

I received this shirt when I worked as an assistant editor of Screen Printing magazine back in the 1990s. The magazine held an annual contest that encouraged screen-printing businesses to send in samples of their most amazing work. To the best of my recollection, the contest attracted 100s of entries.  At the end of the contest, most of the non-winning T-shirts were donated to charity.  But each magazine staff member who helped administer the contest got to keep one T-shirt.

As a Beatlemaniac pre-teen, one wall of my bedroom had been covered with Beatles wallpaper. So naturally, I gravitated toward this gorgeous shirt.  At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what a magnificent example it represents of allover, screen-printed artwork.

But I always considered this shirt too nice to wear and kept it more as a memento than anything else. This shirt came to mind earlier this year when I wrote my first T-shirt relatefd article for the SGIA Journal about the difficulties of screen-printing detailed designs over garment seams.

The draft article I just submitted to SGIA outlines how the growth of T-shirt business has not only been driven by advances in textiles, inks, and printing technology, but also by fashion trends, pop culture, and brand licensing.  For the article, I interviewed people who have been in the business for 40 and 50 years as well as entrepreneurs who have just gotten into the business, either as independent designers or leaders of the e-commerce, print-on-demand businesses.

I learned so much and talked to so many fascinating people that I was unable to pack all of the cool details into a single feature story.

So, I am in the process of pitching more focused variations of the epic overview feature story to other publications  On my Creatives at Work blog, I will be posting blog posts about some of the interesting T-shirt artists and entrepreneurs I met.

If you have an interesting stories to share about the T-shirt business, I would love to hear from you!

LINKS

What You Should Know About Printing Over Seams

SGIA Journal