Miss Reinvention

Firehorse Media’s Mercédes Westbrook knows firsthand about running with change.


As a managing editor in the custom publishing industry for over 20 years we were aware that disruptions that were coming, first by the whole greening awareness movement… imports, paper and printing costs shot up and there was a call for less printing generally. The digital age disruption focussed in very sharply following that – in less than four years, the magazine industry had to reinvent itself and offer tandem products to market such as websites, content aggregators, online directories, digital magazines and apps.

Today anyone can publish their own magazine, book or market their brand on multiple platforms from their personal desk at home. Simply everyone has the opportunity to be a publisher or brand marketer. My 12-year-old shoots, edits and posts his skateboarding clips to his own YouTube channel. I heard him telling his friend how long the video needs to be so he can get advertising possibilities with it. He is perhaps the youngest marketer I know and those sales orders won’t be coming through a fax machine either; he doesn’t even know what a fax machine is.


Where I think we are losing the battle is with well-written, in-depth content that offers meaning and long-term loyalty


When I consider the cost of print advertising and the time it took to produce a 100-page print magazine, and where editorial space was always an issue, I am loving the immediacy of the web and where there are no restrictions to publishing parameters, bar societal legalities.

We used to talk about the shelf-life of the client’s advertisement in a magazine, now you can’t get rid of information posted on the digital highway! Once it is out there, it stays forever, which is a plus for transparency.

My own career has been disrupted. At 50 years of age I have had to reinvent myself for the digital age in order to survive. Today I am not just an editor, I am a blogger, content marketer, SEO and advertising copywriter and publicist.

I first learnt how to use a computer when I studied Journalism, today we have University students graduating with degrees in digital content marketing who will be producing ebooks and ezines, who will never see the inside of a printer or be called out on the weekend for colour matches. The print industry is in crises, and those that have survived and offer both a print and digital arm are still bridging the gap between reaping income from both digital and print advertising and newsrooms are short staffed, under strain and afraid for their jobs. I speak to editor’s who are working the same capacity of what three people used to do.

While market relevancy and global reach has increased, where I think we are losing the battle is with well-written, in-depth content that offers meaning and long-term loyalty. So much information online is pure clutter, it has become hard to sift through and find the gems, the real deal changers for brands and for their markets. But it is a wave that we must ride… flexibility and adaption to change are the only way to survive and if you are focussed and discerning enough, to thrive. It’s exciting because there is risk and a sense of the unknown.

Closer to home I tussle with how to explain to my three kids that PewDiePie with 54.1 million subscribers is not an icon I really want them to listen to or follow…