In our latest Q&A we talk to physicist turned journalist Karl Schneider, who is currently editorial development director at RBI.
Karl has worked for RBI for 22 years, in various editorial roles. Before joining the business-to-business publisher he was executive editor of the New Scientist and before that editor-in-chief of Computer Weekly.
Before he became a journalist Karl was a research physicist, working on nuclear fusion at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
Karl will be taking part in our panel discussion on Paid-for content: Case studies on subscription services and paid access models that are working for online, specialist publishers. Follow this link to see the full agenda.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get into the journalism industry?
I had my first stab at journalism at the age of eight, producing a photocopied magazine which I sold in the school playground (also my first hard experience of the challenges of charging for content). But I decided I wanted to be a physicist at about the same age. Even though I wrote for and edited student magazines it wasn’t until I was part-way through a PhD in physics that I thought again about journalism as a career. I applied for a job as a trainee journalist with RBI, working on technology titles. And 22 years later I’m still here.
What exactly do you do at RBI?
As editorial development director I’m responsible for making sure that RBI delivers content and experiences that delight its various audiences and enable us to make money, in print or online. I work with our editorial teams to help them develop content strategies and build teams that can deliver what is required. And I work with the IS department to ensure that our editorial teams have the tools they need to do their job.
Paywalls are common fare in business publishing, but do you anticipate the model working for national newspapers?
I’m very sceptical about the scope for charging for the sort of content that newspapers currently deliver. There’s just too much of the same sort of stuff available for free – some of it better than the newspapers offer. They may be able to identify specific niches within their audiences for whom they can put together paid-for content, but it won’t be general news and features.
Does RBI use a variety of styles of paywall across its products, or stick to one model?
Mostly simple subscriptions – you don’t pay, you don’t get. But one or two alternatives.
Is there one online tool you couldn’t live without for your work and why?
I’m very dependent on online tools to do my job – Tweetdeck, Google Reader, Google Docs, Delicious, Flickr, Instapaper, Surveymonkey, Picnik, Slideshare, Yammer, dozens of browser plugins . . . I’d hate to lose any of them.