Elizabeth Doerr is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Quill & Pad.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I am a classic freelance print journalist working in publishing since 1991. Until about 2010, I wrote and edited magazine articles and books. After 2010 I also began writing articles for online publications (where the first thing I noticed was that the pay scale was much different, and not in a positive way). However, before I knew it the print publications I had been working with were becoming scarcer and scarcer. And the jobs I was fortunate enough to continue getting were becoming less and less interesting — 400 words on “watches with blue dials” instead of 2000 words on a cutting-edge new technology, for example. I realized I had to take action in order to preserve the type of deep, long-form journalism I wanted to continue doing. So my then-good friend and now-business partner Ian Skellern and I founded Quill & Pad with the goal of continuing the profound style of journalism we think there is a real audience for in our niche (high-end timepieces). And we were right.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Well, journalists generally don’t have a “typical” day since there is a lot of travel inherently involved in this profession (laughs!) I’m in the office about 50 to 60 percent of the time and on the road the rest of the time, visiting factories, going to events and fairs, interviewing personalities, and (hopefully) doing some self-promotion for books and Quill & Pad.
In the office, the day typically consists of editing contributor texts, writing my own stories, digitally promoting those posts, and planning editorial.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
My business partner is very high-tech, so thanks to him we use Slack as an anchor since we are both located remotely (me in Germany and he’s in Switzerland, where our office is located). I’m pretty low-tech as I rarely see the point of changing something that works well. So the programs I use most aside from Slack are still Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, and WordPress. However, I would be totally lost without my iPhone/iPad and the cool apps we can use for promotion like Facebook, Instagram, and such. I even still have an old-school address book but love my iPhone’s contacts app in order to be able to access people anywhere, anytime.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
I am very driven, so I don’t really need to find ways to get inspired! I practically bubble over with ideas, and the hard part for me is really keeping it all in check and being choosy about realization so I’m not all over the place (I do wish cloning was already a thing, though…) Every time I take a trip to learn about a new technology, visit a new place, or meet an exciting new designer I am inspired to write something! Life is so diverse and interesting — who needs more inspiration than that?
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but my favorite quote is: “A creative mess is better than stagnant neatness.”
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
There is an app in the watch world we use called Watchville, which was developed by Kevin Rose and now belongs to the Hodinkee company. I love this app because you can see all the stories coming out on the related blogs all in one place. I find this idea genius and use the app all the time.
WHAT’S THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
How to deal with the added degree of time pressure that digital publishing brings with it. If you do it well, you are basically on call 24/7. I haven’t come up with the perfect solution to it yet, but I’ll get there!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Yes, I do! I was a bit naïve at the beginning and didn’t really understand how important it is to not only have good professional writing, and editing as part of a digital publication, but also how much time and resources you need to make it seen. Fortunately, my partner was aware of this (laughs!) He is genius at it, too. But it is the best piece of advice that I would give to a journalist looking to make a serious go of an online publication: “Be aware of everything you need to do that is not writing and editing and make sure you have someone on board who knows how to do that or find out yourself and be prepared for the amount of time you’ll need for it.”