Real-time collaboration helps HistoryNet go back in time

Brian Walker

September 9, 2015

HistoryNet logoHistoryNet is the publisher of nine venerable history-themed magazines and the HistoryNet.com website. Art Director, Brian Walker spoke with us about how Spaces is helping the company redesign all nine of its magazines.

HistoryNet is a collection of nine magazines
Our special interest publications are each aimed to appeal to readers of specific historical interests. They are: American History, America’s Civil War, Aviation History, Civil War Times, Military History, MHQ: the Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vietnam, Wild West and World War II. While we are subscriber driven, we also derive significant revenue from newsstand sales.

HistoryNet magazinesAn investment firm recently acquired the magazines
When Weider History Group was sold to LA-based investors, Regent Equity, in addition to rebranding the company as HistoryNet, the new owners brought in a Los Angeles-based creative director to redesign and overhaul the visual style of all our titles.

I’m the point person for the redesign
With the editorial and production team based in Leesburg, VA, I became the main contact for helping the creative director implement his vision. I’m his eyes and ears on the ground and I help ensure all the other art directors understand what he wants. I also work as the art director on Military History.

Each art director is responsible their magazine’s layout
All the magazines are bi-monthly except the quarterly journal, MHQ. There are typically five or six features in each magazine, which can be 6-10 pages long. Add to that 10-12 pages of recurring departments for each title and that’s a lot of layouts.

We started using Hightail for the redesign work
We now share every layout with the creative director in LA using Hightail’s Spaces feature, rather than constantly jumping on conferences calls or sending emails. It’s much easier to share visual files like magazine layouts. The images are crisp and color accurate versions of the pages, you can download them and everyone can leave comments.

HistoryNet layout on Hightail Spaces

Leaving feedback on Spaces is better than email
We used to send around PDFs of the layouts by email and it was nightmarish trying to track all the comments. You have to remember who said what and sort through your emails when you want to go back and find a comment. It’s just not feasible when you’re collecting feedback from a large number of people. In Spaces, the comments are all in one place. If you want to track the history of changes, you can find all the relevant feedback right there on each layout.

Covers always generate a lot of conversation
Magazine covers are critical to newsstand sales, so there’s usually a lot of back-and-forth about the image to use, crop, color of type, sizing, etc. When Wild West decided to put Billy the Kid on the cover, we posted a variety of illustrations, paintings and stock photography on a Space and used the comments to reach a decision on the final cover image. Even the copy gets picked apart on Spaces. When we upload a final cover design, the editorial team runs a fine-tooth comb over each headline.

Hightail is open to everyone at the firm
Usually it’s the editor and art director of a title, plus the managing editor, creative director and the publisher leaving feedback on specific layouts. However, with each Space open to everybody, many others can view the layouts and weigh in, which is especially useful for the art directors and editors. Our CEO even keeps in the loop using Spaces, so he can see that we’re making progress and leave his comments.

HistoryNet magazine layout on Hightail Spaces

Each Space is like a mini-forum
Hightail brings everyone and their opinions together. Not only is it a seamless and easy way to share visuals, everyone can comment in a single spot, so someone doesn’t have to manage all that feedback. It also creates a digital paper trail that you can refer back to later, which is something you don’t get with a conference call or in-person meeting.

We use visual versions to replace old files
We’ll post numerous versions of a layout and Spaces ensures that you always see the latest version. But you can always go back and look at previous versions and past commentary, in case you need to know why something changed or who suggested an idea. That instantly accessible electronic paper trail is really useful.

HistoryNet magazine layout on Hightail Spaces 2

Hightail is now a critical part of our process
We used to work as one team under the same roof in our Leesburg office. When the way we worked changed with the addition of the LA-based creative director and publishers, Hightail has proved to be a much-needed solution. Instead of wasting time attempting creative collaboration via conference calls and email, Spaces, with its crisp visuals and tools for real-time exchange of ideas and comments, has helped us implement a new creative direction seamlessly.

To learn more about HistoryNet and its magazines, visit www.historynet.com. Try Spaces for free at spaces.hightail.com.