New AudioMag: David Topping on How to Stop Wasting Your Time on Digital

David Topping
David Topping

With so many digital platforms and products for publishers, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by options, data and deadlines. Every week teams are asked to prioritize and strategize publishing to newsletters, websites, tablet editions, digital replica editions, podcasts, videos, live videos and mobile apps, not to mention social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This can lead to burnout and a stifling of creativity that is the backbone of a publishing team.

Coming up at MagNet 2018, David Topping brings a much-needed reality check to the demands of publishing in the digital age.

Topping is a five-time National Magazine Award winner, and the Senior Manager of Product at St. Joseph Media, which owns Toronto Life and FASHION, among other titles. He leads digital product development and management for all of the company’s editorial brands, as well as the clients of its custom content wing, Strategic Content Labs.

In his session, “How To Stop Wasting Your Time on Digital,” Topping will outline how to set priorities, and how to measure success.

“Setting priorities often involves making sure there is a ‘why’ behind everything, not just a what or a how,” says Topping in the latest episode of AudioMag. “Acting deliberately often takes more time and more thought but it ends up being worth it. Figuring out where your energy goes on a yearly or a quarterly or a monthly basis is something that companies that didn’t begin as digital companies aren’t really used to figuring out.”

Case Studies

In the session, Topping will explore real-world case studies that have helped teams at St. Joseph Media determine where effort is best spent, and where it doesn’t make much sense to devote time and energy.

Lots of publishers have been told that when it comes to email newsletters, the subject heading is all-important. But that’s not always the case, as Topping’s team found out recently when it ran an experiment with its lunchtime tabloid newsletter Twelve Thirty Six.

Early on, the team identified two key numbers that they would focus on in regards to the product: number of subscribers and open rates. Knowing that open rates was important, better understanding how subject headings affected that rate was important for the team.

“We spent two weeks trying different approaches,” he explains. “We had one test with a super generic subject line, like a date, and one custom one that was about what was in the newsletter. We experimented one day with a really punny subject line, and compared that to a really straight one. And after two weeks of experimenting we looked at the data and realized that nothing that we do seemed to have a tangible effect on its open rate.”

Subscribers essentially didn’t care what was in the subject line—they simply looked forward to the newsletter and were going to open it regardless of the subject heading.

“And the thing that is so thrilling about that is it is a thing we don’t need to spend any time. As far as a strategic boosting effort—the matter is now settled,” he says. “We can use that time spent every day thinking about the subject line to let the writer write about other stuff.”

Listen to the entire conversation with David Topping.

To sign up for “How To Stop Wasting Your Time on Digital,” head to the MagNet 2018 website.

Find more episodes of AudioMag in our resource centre. AudioMag is available to download and subscribe to on iTunes.

AudioMag is produced by Tina Pittaway, an award-winning independent writer and broadcaster. Tina has been a contributor to CBC Radio and Television for more than 20 years. Her radio documentaries have been recognized with honours from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the New York Festivals, Amnesty International and the Gabriel Awards. Visit Tina online to learn more about her work.

Subscribe to our Cover Lines biweekly industry newsletter for magazine media, and we’ll let you know when we release a new AudioMag episode. Or sign up for our RSS feeds on or on iTunes.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)   Logo for the Government of Canada Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada

AudioMag is made possible with the support of the OMDC.

Magazines Canada acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as the Canada Council, for this project.


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