Rising Star Profile: Justin Scace of Simplify Compliance

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Justin Scace, senior editor, Simplify Compliance, was honored recently at SIPA Annual 2019 as a finalist for our Andy McLaughlin Rising Star Award. In this Q&A, he talks about the many hats that editorial folks must wear these days and his starring role in EHS on Tap 

SIPA: Your LinkedIn photo is a picture of you and Alex Trebek. Can you explain?
Justin Scace: I was a one-day Jeopardy! champion back in 2016. 

Wow. How much did you win?
If you count the $1,000 for coming in third the next day, it was a total of $15,400. 

What happened that next day?
I was actually leading going into Final Jeopardy, and I risked a bundle on a "Countries of the World" category. But the final question was a real tough one, and while I can't remember the exact phrasing of the question, I remember the answer (and will never forget it!): Namibia. 

Well, now you're a SIPA Rising Star—much more prestigious. How long have you been at BLR/Simplify Compliance?
Almost 5 years. 

What do you work on there?
Now I create newsletters, magazines and other products for a big environment, health and safety (EHS) audience. It's a more niche audience than what I was doing before in the human resources space. Our circulation for the EHS Daily Advisor is 137,000, so we really have to create content that's fairly wide-ranging—specific to certain industries sometimes, but it has to be widely applicable. Much of it focuses on best practices in safety and environmental management, plus we cover regulatory developments. 

Has how you decide what to write about changed the last couple years?
When I started it was, "Okay, this seems like a hot topic, so we'll write about it." Now we pay much more attention to the analytics; the thought process is "Hey, this did really well, maybe we should develop something here." It's interesting to see the analytics. Something you expect to do well won't, and something else that you didn't expect to do well really engages the audience. There are many variables that may or may not contribute to success. We focus primarily on the topics we cover but then also look at the day of the week and other variables and try to drill down. 

And I'm guessing there are less silos now?
Maintaining editorial integrity and independence is top priority, but we do partner with sales and marketing more and keep lines of communication open. We offer such a wide array of products and services at BLR. I'm involved in just a sliver of it—media content. Collaboration with sales and the marketing team—that's the business model here. [It's all about] getting sponsors, providing services and producing content that our readers find valuable. We do research reports with sponsors where we create the surveys and content. 

Do you get to write much still?
A lot of the stuff I do is managing content flow and working with various contributors, and sometimes it feels like I write off and on when there's time. But sometimes I'm writing a bunch, like when I need to create research reports or prepare materials in support of our live events. There are a wide variety of jobs. 

Including a podcast?
Yes. I host EHS on Tap. There's a lot of work involved—finding speakers, moving the conversation along, creating questions, making sure everything flows. We just finished our 46th episode, and the 22nd that I serve as host. Our goal is to create one podcast a month, but lately we've been doing two a month. It's a niche audience, but on the EHS side, we get as many as 1,000 listens. A month ago we had an episode on electrical safety that has over 600 listens, then over 800 on training, 1,000 for microlearning, and for safety culture we pull in over 1,000. That's a big topic right now. Every day we get more listens across our episode archive, and we're always looking to grow the audience. 

It sounds like you keep busy.
Yes, it has definitely been a learning curve. It's interesting to see the new outlets you pursue. There's a little bit of everything here. I also go to some of our live events, helped launch a sponsored Safety Standout Awards program, and now I emcee the awards ceremonies. It's not getting boring, that's for sure. The main goal for us is to help our audience do their jobs the best they can by keeping them informed. 

Jeopardy, podcast hosting, emceeing awards. I sense a pattern.
Haha, maybe a video series is next? It probably makes me sound more gregarious than I am—in the moment, I'm always way more nervous than I look when I'm in front of an audience. A lot more is expected of editors and writers in the media space these days. But if you focus on the job at hand and do your best, it's over soon, you're on to the next thing, and in retrospect, the experience is really positive.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…