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Janet Roberts

Bev Walton-Porter, Inscriptions
By Janet Roberts



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Bev Walter-Porter has faced three of the biggest challenges in email-newsletter publishing:

  • She just assumed leadership of a publishing business that includes an ad-supported weekly ezine with about 20 departments and three full-length articles per issue, along with a nationally honored Web site.

  • She's following in the footsteps of the publication's founder, who built the magazine to a highly targeted circulation of more than 5,000 writers and had been strongly personally identified with that publication.

  • She just moved the newsletter from payment-suggested to paid-only circulation.

We published an interview with Inscriptions' outgoing publisher, Jade Walker, in March. You can review our discussion of her decision to step aside here.

This time around, we asked Bev to talk about the transition from her perspective:

Janet Roberts: How did you come to be the next Inscriptions editor? Had you worked with Jade or done any newsletter publishing? What's your writing background?

Bev Walton-Porter: Actually, it was my association with Jade that ended up being the catalyst for this opportunity. Jade and worked with "Eye on the Web" in the mid-90s -- she was my editor and I was her assistant. When EOW folded, we continued to keep in touch. Then, in the late 90s, we both worked for Cyber Tip for the Day. Jade eventually got hired by the New York Times and I took over her spot as editor. That venture folded at Cyber Tip for the Day, but once again we kept in touch and shared job opps for freelance writing and editing. When it came time for her to step down from Inscriptions, she called and told me if I didn't take over the publication, she was going to close it completely. That's when I decided to keep it alive for a while longer.

As for my writing background, I've been a full-time freelancer since 1997. I've had hundreds of articles published in print and online in such places as Writer's Digest and ByLine. I've worked as an editor at Inkspot, Cyber Tip for the Day, Eye on the Web, Suite 101 and Scribe & Quill. I also worked as a contract editor for NBC Internet (Snap.com) in 2000 before that web domain shut down.

JR: Was the actual handing over very difficult? I mean the process of adding yourself to email administration lists, getting passwords, getting up to speed with the money aspect, getting used to a flood of emails with all the material....

BW-P: In a word, yes. I knew it was a gargantuan task just from what Jade told me - and then, once I got into the thick of things, it was pure reality of, "Wow - this is quite the project!" But I love it and I love the readers. I receive about 600 e-mails weekly, so along with putting out the 'zine, just keeping up with e-mails is a task unto itself, besides everything else I haven't mentioned.

JR: Do you plan to take Inscriptions in a different direction or try to maintain the voice and focus?

BW-P: I plan to maintain the voice and focus. There will be some changes, but the basic essence of what the zine is about will remain the same.

One thing I've had to do is make it a paid-subscriber zine only - and that's basically for cost reasons. The zine took a loss of thousands of dollars last year and I knew there was no way I could cover that on my own. If I could, I would, but I can't do that. When the honor system was launched by Jade, only 20 percent of readers paid anything. In order for the zine to survive, it simply has to pay for itself or it won't continue. Simple economics.

(Editor's note: The subscription fee is $5 for 50 issues, the same rate as had been suggested for paying on the honor system.)

JR: Was this a business transaction? did you have to buy rights to the name, or purchase the mailing list?

BW-P: No, I didn't have to purchase the name or the list from her. It was merely a transaction between long-time colleagues.

JR: What else would you like to share about your transition period?

BW-P: Only that Jade is one of the most amazing people on the planet, both personally and professionally. I'm honored to know her and to carry on the publication she birthed.

Since this interview, Bev has purged nonpayers from the subscription list, which she hosts with Topica Exchange. Previously, about 1,000 readers paid the suggested $5 a year on the honor system, with just over 100 paying an extra amount to cover for some who couldn't pay. I hope to have some updated figures on the changeover in a future Ezine-Tip.

Ezine-Tips for April 23, 2002

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