I’m leaving the role of Online Editor at TGO magazine

It’s the right time. After more than two years, I’ve decided to move on from the front line at The Great Outdoors – but it’s very much the start of a new chapter. Here’s what’s next.

In June 2017, I had a conversation with Emily Rodway, then Editor at The Great Outdoors, about how I might be able to help the magazine boost its digital offerings. Will Renwick, the previous Online Editor, was on his way to a new role at Outdoors Magic. I was already closely involved with the magazine at the time so I said yes immediately.

It started with a jump into the deep end, attending the Outdoor Trade Show 2017 with Emily, meeting dozens of people from brands and agencies and taking a look at all the latest new gear. At the time I’d had almost no exposure to this side of the outdoor industry, but I found it fascinating and came away with numerous new contacts – and ideas.

Since then, I’ve squeezed a lot into what my job description said was a ten-hour week for this client (sometimes it was a lot more than that):

  • Running the brand’s social channels (until mid-2019)
  • Sourcing and publishing content for the website
  • Doing what I could to improve the site given the resources available
  • Running the weekly newsletter
  • Liaising with commercial clients and implementing their campaigns
  • Promoting new issues of the magazine
  • Reviewing gear
  • Helping to run, administer, judge and promote the annual TGO Awards
  • Lots more!

Often, I’ve provided a sounding board or second opinion for Emily on all manner of subjects, and I’ve done my fair share of work on the print side.

It’s been exhilarating, but it’s been challenging too. We haven’t always had the resources to do everything we wanted – that’s just how publishing is, and we’ve had to ruthlessly prioritise. I know that my work has made a difference, though. In September 2018, our publishers informed me that newsstand sales were up 21% thanks to my digital efforts. In April 2018 I played my part in helping to achieve an 82% year-on-year sales increase for the magazine when the 40th Anniversary special edition shipped. Beyond the metrics, I’ve been told several times that TGO’s online offerings were more useful, interesting and consistent on my watch. I’ve published some pieces I’m truly proud of, and in a few cases helped to nurture new voices.

At Kendal Mountain Festival 2018: Emily Rodway, Chris Townsend, Cameron McNeish

Why I decided to step away

As my own business continued to grow, I started to realise that the intensity of my work wasn’t sustainable. I often work for several clients at a time – TGO is just one client among many – and schedules are finely balanced. If one project gets delayed for whatever reason the repercussions can be painful. A few of these pile-ups, combined with other factors, led to me feeling burned out and frayed at the edges much of the time. I had no margin and little in the way of work/life separation.

I realised that I needed to cut back and simplify my work. Something had to change.

Several months ago, Emily and I spoke about reducing my hours, but not long afterwards she told me that she was leaving the magazine for a new role. This changed everything. I offered to prioritise TGO during the handover period, and stepped in as Interim Editor in June 2019 to provide a smooth transition. A few days after Carey Davies stepped into the role in July, I headed to the Pyrenees to hike the Haute Route, a trip that had been booked for months, and didn’t return until late August. Carey had the highly capable Chiara Bullen to help him get his feet under the table while I was away.

I had a lot of time for thinking while I was in the Pyrenees.

When I returned, after a buffer period before returning to work of any kind, I told Carey that I wanted to step down as Online Editor entirely. The fact is that the role, while valuable in its way, involves remarkably little editing or writing. These are the things I’m good at and the things I’m trained to do – the deep, personally satisfying work that pays the bills and stimulates me. My focus on these things has relaxed while I’ve been working at TGO’s digital coalface and I’ve often found myself spending much of my time on admin, email, technical minutiae, and – increasingly – dealing with the magazine’s advertising clients. Someone has to do this stuff, but it isn’t how I want to spend my working life. It was increasingly contributing to the sense of burnout I’d been dodging for months. Additionally, as a freelancer I value my ability to choose the work I do. I’ve had to turn away editorial queries from elsewhere and stop taking on new clients because I haven’t had the capacity. It’s time for a course correction.

Did you know that I send out weekly newsletters on the outdoors, writing, and outdoor writing? Subscribe here to receive my Pinnacle Newsletter.

Nothing I’ve said here is a reflection on The Great Outdoors. I’ve learned a vast amount from this role, worked with some very talented people, made many contacts. The experience has been priceless. I’m grateful to Emily Rodway for offering me the role in the first place (and for countless other things). Working with Carey Davies has also been positive, and he has fantastic ideas for growing and developing the magazine, too. I think its best years could well be ahead. This departure is about the needs of my own career and an attempt to create a calmer, more sustainable working life for myself.

The future

I will of course remain as a contributor. You’ll continue to read my features, reviews and other material in the print magazine, and Carey and I are in talks about how I can continue to contribute on a more regular basis. But I’ll no longer be running the website, posting content online, promoting the magazine, or any of that stuff. In fact, I haven’t been doing this for a while now, and have been focusing only on selected priorities (mostly behind the scenes) for the last few weeks. It’s time for someone else to have a go.

I won’t be looking for another permanent part-time role, but I am incredibly excited about the road ahead. I’ll be able to say yes to more of the opportunities I’ve been reluctantly turning down, and spend more time working on the amazing books my established clients are creating. On Monday I begin work on two books by a new client I’m excited to be working with. I want to upgrade my Society for Editors and Proofreaders membership and dedicate more time to professional development. I’ll be able to start writing the first in a series of outdoor books I have planned (keep your ears open for exciting news about this soon). Most importantly, my working life will be simpler, aligned more closely with my ideal vision of how I want to spend those hours at my desk, and I’ll have some margin again – some breathing space – for the first time in a long time.

My two years as Online Editor at TGO have been intense, revealing, rewarding, often stressful, and always instructive. The future is exciting. I can’t wait to begin my next chapter.

At OTS 2019: Chris Townsend, me, Giles Babbidge, Davy Wright. Image © Davy Wright

8 Comments

Yes, good luck with your next chapter in life Alex. You’ve done, and I’m sure will continue to do a brilliant job. Simplify. Minimise. Maximise. If there is one constant in life, it is change.

As we’ve discussed Alex, we both know where our hearts lie. Nothing wrong with taking side paths off the main trail, all builds experience and character and I think your stint at TGO was both good for you, and the magazine.
Back to what you like best, writing and editing.
Instinct is a great ally, glad you’re friends with it.

Alex, sounds like a change was necessary.
I have found that generally we do a better job at those things that really interests us, change is essential to keep one invigorated, provides new learning experiences & hopefully gives time to reassess priorities.
Good luck & I look forward to reading about your new projects.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.