Heading into the second half of the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, the SPI Class of 2023 had grown accustomed to the vibrant rhythm of New York City. We had learned how to tune-out the bustle of sidewalk traffic and wail of sirens outside our dorm windows, the quickest routes to the subway, and each of our preferred seats in the SPI classroom. We had already acquired a lot of knowledge, yet the digital media half of SPI still laid before us. It was time to shift our focus from book publishing to the various platforms and brands which constitute digital publishing.
On day one of the session, the hum of anticipation (and maybe a tinge of nervousness) was met by the reassuring confidence of program director and seasoned media professional Richard Eisenberg, who described what to expect from all the upcoming sessions. During the two week session, we dived into topics like digital content strategy, audience development, digital design, maximizing social media, integrated marketing and so much more. There was also a strong focus on career development and coaching.
Among the accomplished career professionals that Rich brought in to work with us was Janel Abrahami, CEO of Janel Abrahami Career Coaching. Her direct, hands-on lecture about how to use LinkedIn profiles to connect with people and opportunities, as well as how to demonstrate our skills and interests was one of the most informative presentations of the week. Abrahami organized her presentation to include real-time examples of how to improve our professional social media and made specific, detailed suggestions based on how she, as a career coach, views profiles.
Abrahami encouraged us to be authentic when reaching out to industry professionals by finding connections, explaining, “You’re reaching out because you want to learn. This connection can lead to something, but the goal of this interaction is to learn something new.” Her message struck a chord with me because it is easy to fall into the routine of sending out random letters hoping one lands on the right desk. I learned the importance of taking a step back, of acknowledging that you have so much to learn, and that you connect with specific people because you are eager to learn what they know.
Artificial Intelligence is on the front page of all news outlets and it’s making a lot of us feel both excited and uneasy. David Pogue from CBS Sunday Morning introduced an expert panel with a lively presentation about how AI has existed in different forms for a long time. Rather than fearing it will be our demise, David described the various ways it can be used for our benefit. His candor was a refreshing change, and gave a lot of nuance to the oversimplified image of AI we all previously had in our minds. He detailed how, time after time, new inventions and technological advances have inspired worry that they would destroy jobs, render useful tools obsolete, and cause pandemonium. David noted that “All new technology throughout human history has been feared,” whether it was the first steam locomotive or flying on a plane–and reminded us not to meet new ideas with anxiety and panic.
Another major highlight from the digital media portion was the site visit to People Magazine. Throughout the SPI program, we listened to multiple lectures each day offering broad descriptions of companies and positions, but to sit in this professional space and see how the employees interacted with each other pulled back the “business professional” curtain, and made the idea of working at a place like People Magazine feel palpable and achievable.
The digital media portion of SPI ended with the final presentations of the projects we had been working on for two weeks. Six groups of students pitched their new media ventures, describing their mission, content, value proposition, and brand identity in front of a panel of judges drawn from the digital media world. It was a fantastic opportunity to gain experience and really showcased all that we had learned since day one.
As it drew to a close, I realized that the Summer Publishing Institute had not only given us valuable connections–to each other as well as an incredible array of successful book and media industry leaders–but also showed how we, as the future of publishing, share the same ideals, morals, and goals as the professionals we all strive to be. We gained connections, but equally important, we gained confidence and reassurance that we were exactly where we needed to be.
Anna Franklin (SPI Class of 2023) is based in Orlando, Florida. A freelance blogger and book reviewer, her goal in publishing is to work at Penguin Random House as an editor and publish content that reveals unexpressed emotions.