Evelyn Hoover on Influencing the IT Industry

IBM Systems Magazine

Paul talks to Evelyn Hoover, Editorial Director, MSP-C at MSP Communications, about the challenges of producing a technical publication in the world of the internet, whether or not controlling authors is like herding cats and finds out a little about the serenity of the lakeshore.

Paul: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. I'm delighted to be joined today by Evelyn Hoover. Hello, Evelyn.

Evelyn: Hello Paul. How are you?

Paul: I'm fine thank you. I hope you are the same. So a lot of you may or may not know Evelyn's name but I think, Evelyn, it would fair to say that you probably have the striking responsibility of having incredible influence over a lot of what us technical people in the industry read, don't read, or whether we know what's going on or don't know what's going on. You are the editorial director at MSP, well specifically, at IBM Systems Magazine, and also on mainframe as well, the Mainframe magazine? Evelyn are you?

Evelyn: Yes. I am the—yes. So—

Paul: Yeah. OK. OK so let's maybe start with just setting the tone here. Could you maybe explain to us what an editorial director does?

Evelyn: Sure. Actually, it's kind of interesting. On Facebook there is a T-shirt that is out that says you know "editorial director because miracle worker isn't a job title." [Laughts] I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I just like the T-shirt. So as an editorial director, my job is to basically set the editorial strategy for any of our technology clients that MSP has, and IBM is our largest technology client.

Paul: OK.

Evelyn: So that involves everything from helping determine, you know, direction on context to interfacing with the client to make sure that the clients are happy. So it's kind of a variety of jobs.

Paul: OK. So—just so people are clear on this, something I know but a lot of the people in the industry don't, so you're involved in the publication of the IBM Systems Magazine, but MSP is not actually—you don't actually work for IBM is the way I'd put it.

Evelyn: Correct. Yeah.

Paul: They are your client.

Evelyn: Yes. Correct.

Paul: Yeah, OK.

Evelyn: MSP is a content marketing agency, so our job is to help our clients provide content that people actually want to read, that informs them and isn't just a bunch of market gobbledygook.

Paul: Yeah, okay. OK. So OK and by the way I was laughing at you saying miracle worker, because I do have experience of the some of the miracles you work, because of course I've had lots of dealing with you over the years, Evelyn, and I think the word "herding cats" comes to mind [laughs] when I think of a lot of what you have had to do at times, especially with people like myself, Jon [Paris], and Susan [Gantner].

Evelyn: It definitely sometimes feels like herding cats, yes. I mean we've got, you know, great technical folks like you and Jon and Susan and various other people that really help provide great technical content for us. Then we've got the client side, who wants to get their marketing messages out, so kind of bringing those two groups together can be a little bit like herding cats.

Paul: Yeah. So the other thing, interesting thing of course that I find fascinating with this, Evelyn, is that you don't come from a technological background.

Evelyn: No, I do not. I—

Paul: So do you find that like an enormous challenge? I mean like, you're involved in setting the direction, you know, for the technological content and I know sometimes this is months if not anything up to a year out some of the context when you're looking at it, so how do you go about that, or would you just like to comment on that?

Evelyn: So my background before I started working on AS/400 magazine back in the day, which was actually in 1998, I came from a newspaper background so I worked for a community newspaper for several years. I was a reporter and editor, and through that experience, it actually enabled me to, I think, become an effective technology journalist, because as a small town community newspaper editor, you have to know who to go to get the answers to the questions that you don't know how to answer yourself. This was obviously pre-Google. So I learned how to ask good questions, I learned how to cultivate people who can help provide those answers, and I think that that's one of the things that I can really bring to the table in this current position. So I would say—the other thing I would add to that is you know we, Doug Rock our publisher, and I have worked together for a long time and one of the things we've tried in the past is hiring more technical people to fill some of our managing editor roles and other roles on the magazine. We really find it's not as effective, because they might know a piece of technology really, really well but they don't know the other pieces of technology and they don't necessarily have those same journalistic skills to kind of go out and find the answers to the questions that they should be asking. And sometimes they don't even know the questions to ask.

Paul: Yeah, and that's something I can appreciate, because I know especially since I started doing these iTalks, that any time I go outside my technological comfort zone I really do feel lost. I'm always inclined to drag it back to what I know as opposed to what the other person knows about their technology and that side of it. So the other thing Evelyn that I'd like to ask you about is just that this whole world of publishing, because obviously it's something that has been affected quite a bit by technology over the last—especially over the last 10 years with the advent of e-readers and iPads and the whole increase—you know the speed of communication and everybody is now sort of moving away from printed magazine towards online—online and online publications and that so would you like to comment on that?

Evelyn: Sure. So a couple of things I would say is with IBM Systems Magazine, we have of course—we kind of provide the content in any way that people want to read it, so we have the print magazine., we have a digital version of that. We have iPad and Android apps. We have the content online. We have email newsletters. We have blogs and we have social media, so we try to kind of hit everybody wherever they want to consume the content. That's kind of, I think, key to this change in the publishing industry if you will, is I think that the ones who are failing miserably are the ones who haven't really adapted to this new kind of paradigm.

Paul: Yeah.

Evelyn: The other thing that I think is interesting is I have a 21-year-old and he—I was talking to him about online magazines. He said, "Yeah, you know Mom, I don't want to read a magazine online. I want to read a magazine hard copy. I like the feel of the pages. I like to sit down and just kind of consume." He said, "I read on my computer all day long for school and for other things. I don't really want to read a magazine, you know, on my computer as well." So I just think that it's interesting.

Paul: Wow.

Evelyn: The millennials actually I think are much more inclined to read magazines.

Paul: Yeah. I know. That's fascinating because you know I can accept somebody my age having that need for paper, which I still do at times—although I must admit it more so with books for me. To me, I still enjoy that feel of paper and that, but I just always just assumed that young people would—like I say, a 21-year-old would just—everything would be electronic. They would just throw the paper away. That's incredible. OK Evelyn, last thing, last thing I want to ask you about. When we were chatting just before, so and I was asking you about what your pastimes and your hobbies were, and what you described to me was the perfect literary-la-la-la-la-la. Oh, I hate it when I can't get the word out—literary person in terms that you sort of said you liked walking, hiking, reading, but more importantly one of the things you touched on what you would like to do when you retire.

Evelyn: Yeah. When I retire, which won't be for a little while yet, but I want to spend at least a fair amount of my time on somewhere on the shores of north Superior—Lake Superior—the North Shore of Lake Superior. I can't talk either!

Paul: Yeah, it's infectious. I apologize. [Laughs]

Evelyn: The North Shore of Lake Superior, because I just—the lake—if anybody has not been to Minnesota and seen Lake Superior, I encourage you to do it. It's like going somewhere—it's like you're not in Minnesota, because the lake is so big and it is so—it changes. Every time I am there it looks different because it depends on how windy, how, you know, the sun. It depends on the humidity. I mean it just has a different look every time I'm there and I just love it. I could sit and read by the lake all day long with a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening and I'd be—I'd be thrilled.

Paul: Yeah. Well of course remember whenever the time comes when you do retire and I know it will be a long way off, I mean you can switch those. You are allowed to have the wine in the morning [laughs]-actually you can have wine in the evening as well and just forget the coffee.

Evelyn: Wow. [Laughs] It's a whole new world.

Paul: So I'm a lot closer, nearer to retirement than you are Evelyn, I tell you. These things are becoming more important to me at the moment, because I'm looking into them. [Laughs] So Evelyn, actually the other thing, so do you have any desire to—I mean I know you do a lot of like technical, a lot of the articles now and again and editorials and that, but do you ever have that desire that a lot of journalists have in you somewhere is the great novel, and you might get around to writing that when you retire.

Evelyn: You know, I don't think so. I've never really—I don't know that I have a topic that I feel that I can write, you know, more than 10 pages on anything [laughs] but—and I just think the time commitment is such that maybe if I was retired, maybe I would be willing to do that. I don't know. I wouldn't count it out I guess, but I don't see it in the foreseeable future.

Paul: Cool. OK Evelyn well listen, I think that's a good note to leave it on. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me. Continued success with the magazine. I think the job you guys have done there with it over the last number of years and how you've managed to keep adapting the magazine to the requirements of the market has been great, so keep up the good work.

Evelyn: Thank you, Paul.

Paul: OK everyone, that's it for this iTalk. Tune in again in a couple of weeks for the next one. That's all for now. Bye.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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