Bifocal Editorial Planning

Which issue is most important for an editor to focus on, the current issue or the next 3 issues?

The answer is both! Part of the art of being an effective magazine editor is to have bifocal vision. A great editor has to pay close attention to the details of the current issue of the magazine or newsletter, so that she can step through each stage of a quality editorial process. At the same time, she needs to keep some level of attention focused on the next few future issues in order to maintain consistently high quality in the magazine.

It is easy for an editor to get stuck in the present issue, because there is always some article that needs polishing, some layout that needs review, and some author who needs more attention. But an editor who can keep an eye on the future, while taking care of the present issue, will serve her readers with great output.

Here are some reasons that editors should keep some level of attention on future issues:

  • Some features take more time to develop than the usual editorial cycle. By thinking ahead to the next 2-3 issues of a magazine, the editor can assign research and pay attention to other voices on a topic. This will result in deeper and more thoughtful content.
  • Some articles will fit better in a future issue than the current issue. As an editor is looking through submissions, he can be evaluating whether a particular article is best for the current issue or if it would make a stronger contribution to a future theme. It is always tempting to push a great article into a current gap, but a patient, bifocal editor will consider the overall direction of content in both current and future issues.
  • Strategic editors take their readers on an intentional path over time. By planning out multiple future issues, the editor can offer a progression of topics to cause growth in readers.

It isn’t easy to keep enough focus on future issues during the pressing schedule of producing the current issue of a magazine. But an excellent editor knows how to allocate her time and brain power to cover both aspects of the job.

View a webinar that I taught for Magazine Training International on “Structuring the Editorial Process” that includes more information on bifocal editorial planning.

Leave a comment


  1. Great job Carla! You are a great editor!

  2. Good insight! In the first couple of months I was in my first editor’s job (at Christian Bookseller Magazine) I began the habit of always having two calendars on my wall; one showing the current month and one the next month. It helped keep me thinking ahead as well as focused on the present. Thanks for sharing!


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