That was then...

Jan. 12, 2015
Thirty-three years ago, nearly to the day, this editor walked into the Houston offices of Oil & Gas Journal to take a job no one had ever held before...nor would hold again.

Thirty-three years ago, nearly to the day, this editor walked into the Houston offices of Oil & Gas Journal to take a job no one had ever held before...nor would hold again.

The post of Assistant Technical Editor had been created to help three Houston-based senior technology editors manage the large number of technical manuscripts needed to fill a weekly magazine that had grown to several hundred pages an issue.

Oil & Gas Journal today, the physical product, resembles that magazine in many ways. The differences stand out, however, and reflect how OGJ has survived the radical reconfiguration in serial media since 1982 to thrive in a newly digital world.

Pages and pages

As 1982 began, US oil and gas companies were riding the crest of massive expansion. The 1981 deregulation of US crude oil, home heating oil, and motor gasoline prices had fueled growth in US and Canadian rig counts to more than 4,500. Exploration and production were frenetic; the pages of OGJ chronicled new fields and huge projects each week.

Oil field service and supply companies of all types and sizes wanted to position themselves where they knew their customers-actual and potential-would be: reading the pages of Oil & Gas Journal.

A typical weekly issue began with the distinctive yellow pages of the OGJ Newsletter followed immediately by pages and pages of full-page ads. As the industry prospered, ad pages throughout the magazine increased.

The Jan. 11, 1982, issue wasn't the largest issue in those years of large issues, but it was large enough. The Jan. 25 annual Forecast & Review issue ran to nearly 400 pages. Combined, the four issues of January 1982 reached 960 pages.

Service companies in 1982 had fewer media choices. Yes, there were other industry publications then, but none with OGJ's tradition, appeal, and following. And direct-mail advertising was in its infancy.

It was a different time and in many ways a different magazine. At its headquarters in Tulsa, OGJ employed 20 editors of all functions, plus 7 more art and presentation staff. Five more editors worked in Houston; 2 each in Washington, New York, and London; and 1 in Los Angeles: 32 total.

What a difference a mere 33 years make.

The Jan. 5, 2015, OGJ showed US and Canadian active rigs at mid-December at 2,266 and dropping.

In 2014, print issues-in the midst of yet another industry boom-ran to about 100 pages each. Much reduced from 1982 by attrition and mergers, oil field service companies last year had a myriad of media through which to tell their stories, only one of which was traditional print.

Based in Houston since 1990, OGJ currently employs 12 editors here, 1 each in Washington and Tulsa.

With that reduced staff, however, OGJ still publishes every week of the year. In fact, its current publication schedule-12 print issues/year on the first Monday of each month and 40 digital issues on each other Monday-reflects just how OGJ has responded to 33 years of an evolution in publishing that has decimated the ranks of serial publications of all types.

In addition, OGJ publishes a complimentary digital newsletter each weekday to readers worldwide. OGJ's exploration and development and its unconventional oil and gas readers also receive a free digital newsletter each week; other monthly digital newsletters reach readers in drilling and production, pipelines, and refining.

In the intervening 33 years of my career, therefore, the "how" of OGJ's coverage of global oil and gas operations has changed but not its "how much."

The next wave

Later this year, I'll retire from OGJ, having witnessed a transition few organizations could survive. Whether in boom times or bust, OGJ has adapted and survived while maintaining its mission to industry readers.

Although there's been no other Associate Technical Editor, there have been plenty of changes among OGJ's editors. The current crop is younger and more savvy about and comfortable with digital delivery.

And, thanks to the efforts of some of us old guys, especially retired Exploration Editor Alan Petzet and current Editor Bob Tippee, the editorial mission of OGJ remains in safe hands.