Surfing Life has been Australia’s iconic, globally-recognized surfing magazine for 30 years. Its single-topic issues on surfers, waves, technique, surf travel, and surfboards offer surfers worldwide an in-depth perspective that has developed into a radical digital publishing strategy that’s paying off.

Surfing Life is published by Aqualuna Media and Creative, a small, independent publishing company located in Queensland, Australia that also produces White Horses, a quarterly coffee table style bookazine.

Craig Sims is owner and publisher of Aqualuna Media and Creative, and is also a part-time lecturer on the topic of The Australian Media at Bond University. He’s completing a PhD on the media preferences of the emerging youth market GenerationZ. Craig chose Teamwork Projects after searching for ways that he could reduce his overhead and simplify his production process for Surfing Life.

“Teamwork Projects is a ready-made collaborative space that results in greater focus, improved productivity and cost savings. It also provides a sense of order to our communication and production process, which is vital in a project- and deadline-driven environment.”

The publishing world has gone through significant changes since Surfing Life was launched, especially during the transition to the digital era. Craig was always on the lookout for ways to reduce costs without compromising the quality of the magazine and potentially losing readers, either because the content didn’t meet expectations or readers could find free content elsewhere.

“Print media is a tough gig in this era of digital ubiquity, and in order to survive and innovate the first goal is to reduce overheads. We wanted to do that without inadvertently making our processes more complicated.”

One of the obvious places to find cost savings was in the publishing process itself, which was filled with steps where information could get misplaced, from brainstorming sessions for article ideas through each draft of proofs. Collaboration seemed more difficult than it needed to be, even when everyone was sitting in the same office together.

“Prior to Teamwork Projects, we communicated via email to leave a trail of our decisions, but this was confusing, inefficient and ineffective on many levels. Mistakes were commonplace and the frustration level over the deadline period was high.”

The team’s primary goal with Teamwork Projects was to organize all of their communication so ideas and files could be shared seamlessly. To keep all of the details together, they organize each issue as a collection of features, and each feature in its own thread in chronological order, from comments, images, layout drafts and more. Any change requests or revisions are contained in these threads, not scattered across emails and notes.

Then comes crunch time. As the issue deadline gets closer, they open a new thread with the first draft of the entire magazine. The editorial team solicits feedback and makes all of their corrections right there. When all of those changes are integrated, a final thread is created, and that becomes the final draft.

“Our new process is so smooth and simple. It didn’t take long for our team to learn how to use Teamwork Projects and find a way to use it that made everyone’s jobs easier.”

After using Teamwork Projects for several months, the team at Surfing Life realized that the communication had improved so much that they didn’t need an office to collaborate anymore. They decided to try working as a remote team, ditching their office space and saving the company a huge recurring monthly cost.

“Our core team comprising an editor, publisher, designer, production manager and sales and marketing manager are actually located within a 15-minute drive of each other, but despite this fact, we all work from home and ‘meet’ on Teamwork Projects. We have produced 6 issues in 15 months, and we have met in person as a group no more than 2-3 times.”

Surfing Life didn’t intend to find such significant cost savings or give up their office space when they signed on with Teamwork Projects. They assumed they would still daily need in-person interaction for optimal collaboration and efficiency, but Teamwork Projects has cut down more than mistakes and misplaced emails.

“Now we can roll out of bed and be at work within seconds, not minutes or hours. We didn’t realize how many distractions at the office were cutting into our productivity.”

Craig also didn’t anticipate how team dynamics would improve in Teamwork Projects’ virtual office environment. Having the ability to track all of the changes clearly and in one location has reduced the tensions that most publishing companies consider to be a normal part of the job.  

Today, the whole team is dedicated to the software, giving each person more time to focus on building each issue instead of chasing messages or files. Craig is excited to have found a tool that keeps his business thriving on the cutting edge of the publishing industry.

“We enjoy using Teamwork Projects because it comes at a great price, is highly customizable, and has an intuitive framework that seems ideally suited to the magazine publishing workflow.”