Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q&A with Alberta Magazines Conference Keynote Gary Stephen Ross of Vancouver Magazine

This year’s Alberta Magazines Conference (AMC) features keynote speaker Gary Stephen Ross, noted author, editor, publisher and screenwriter. He’s currently editor-in-chief of Vancouver Magazine and editorial director of Transcontinental Media West.

I had the opportunity to hear Ross speak in Toronto a few years ago, and picked up some good advice regarding feature writing. I have no doubt that he will provide many pearls of wisdom at the 2012 AMC. I asked him what people could expect at his luncheon keynote address. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. Your keynote address is entitled, "Style Needs Substance: In Defence of Content"; why do you feel content needs defending?
A. Because quality of content has slid down the list of what many media proprietors think is important. In the rush to embrace all things digital, and to recycle/optimize/maximize content they’re forgetting that whether that content is any good—has real value, is original, thoughtful, provocative, insightful, skillfully delivered—is the fundamental question.
Q. People have been saying content is king for what seems like forever—what's something new or critical that you will share?
That quality (not hype, not sex, not free, not gossip) actually sells. That’s one reason why publications like The New Yorker, New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Economist, Financial Times, are not merely surviving the tough times we’ve had since ‘09, but thriving in them. They deliver quality. Music equivalent: in the end, it’s Adele—original, genuine talent, the real deal—who wins the Grammys and sells the music and will endure, while Katy Perry—unoriginal, a packaged confection—has her manufactured moment, then gives way to the next Katy Perry.

Q. Bottom line, why should people come to see you? What will they walk away with?
A. Publications need editors with broad knowledge and critical ability and relationships with excellent writers, not just editing chops (I can cut 84 lines in 3 minutes) and administrative skill. Owners/publishers need to invest in improving their products for their customers (readers and advertisers) rather than constantly seeking to do more with less, when that means less hamburger and more Hamburger Helper in their publications. That’s what I’ll be trying to get across.
Clearly, Ross is all about the real deal. And I personally love his analogies to music and Hamburger Helper, and am eager to hear others. I hope you’ll join us and register today to hear this real deal in real life. (Ross will also be giving a seminar entitled, “What’s the story? Tools for narrative.)
--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence