Editor's Note

Learning to Love Change

Change — even massive change — surely can be disruptive, but there are some upsides, too.

When I look back on my career, I have witnessed a head-spinning amount of professional change over the last roughly 30 years. Honestly, it’s been a wild ride, and I think there can be some parallels between my editorial work and the current state of the industry. Let me explain:

When I first started working on my journalism degree, personal computer ownership was still the exception, rather than the rule, and the acronym “PC” was something IBM was trying to forge into the consumer consciousness.

Most of my initial story writing was scribbled into those long reporter’s notepads and then banged out on electric typewriters. We’d do most of our editing in red ink on those type-written pages. In fact, the phrases “cut” and “paste” come from editorial lexicon. If we needed to rearrange paragraphs, we would cut out the paragraphs into strips and then paste them on a new sheet of paper.

When we finished editing stories, we would hand that copy to the phototypesetter, who would re-key the stories into the phototypesetting machine, which would then spit out the column inches that we would then dip into liquefied wax and then affix to boards printed in non-reproductive blue gridlines to help us lay everything out. (We used wax so that if we screwed up, we could easily remove and re-apply the item.)

We’d do the same for display type, such as headlines, lines to separate stories, spot graphics, and photos that we had turned into half-tones (i.e., the photos were reproduced into hundreds of tiny dots using a half-tone machine). Then we’d take all those boards to a company that would turn them into sheets of film that we would then take to the printer, who would print our publication.

By the time I had finished my degree, the entire process had moved to computers, and we were using desktop publishing software such as Aldus PageMaker, to produce our publications. Instead of turning file folders full of typed pages, photos and story notes, we were handing the copy desk a floppy disk.

That marked a massive workflow transition, but no one batted an eye. Why? Because it was a better process that gave us more control and more time to focus on the core job of putting together a quality publication.

And that was just the beginning of the change. Within a year of hiring on with my first full-time magazine job, some other young editors and I installed a simple, peer-to-peer network between all our computers so that we could electronically share files rather than having the carry around floppy disks.

Within two years, another editor and I were pitching AOL and CompuServe to see if they’d give us a small corner where we could put our magazines’ content on their services. Less than a year after that, we tabled the online service idea, because we had started teaching ourselves HTML and were looking into setting up a web server at the company. A couple of years later and we were learning a language called Cold Fusion and dipping our feet into SQL databases so that we could do dynamic content on an outsourced server.

Fast forward to today, and much of my job occurs online, rather than in print. HMEB has operated an exciting and rewarding webinar business; e-Source our enewsletter is going strong; we interact with the industry on social media, including our special event social media programs, such as Live from Medtrade; and we just launched the HMEB Podcast (see page 9), which I’m really excited about.

I guess what I’m saying is that change can be head-spinning and scary, but it can also create whole new opportunities. Good examples would be outsourcing through distributors (page 12) or new revenue sources such as managed care (page 30). They key is to focus on your core value. In my case, that’s understanding readers and giving them what they need. In your case, that’s understanding patients and referrals and helping them achieve outcomes. If we stick to those core missions, we can handle any change.

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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