Our Person of the Month for this issue of Journal of Massage Science is Mr. Ramon McLeod. He is Editor in Chief of Massage Today. Our Editorial Board voted to present Appreciation Award for the best editorial content in American professional massage publication in 2010 to Massage Today. Being a successful publisher in a high tech world Mr. McLeod shares a fresh look on massage therapy industry.
Here is our interview with
JMS: How did you get into the field of massage therapy education and publishing?
Mr. McLeod: The entire alternative health field has long held great interest to me as I have long believed that the rise of the American Medical Association in the 19th century nearly destroyed traditional, and effective, means of health care. I don’t want to be misinterpreted as believing that modern medicine is to be disrespected or disparaged. But I do believe that alternative health care, including massage, has long since proven that it has tremendous benefits that deserve to be respected and honored. So, when this opportunity arose I was very eager to bring whatever talents I have to this profession.
JMS: You have very impressive high tech credentials and Massage Today has benefitted greatly from your leadership. Did your experience working as an Editor of PC World help you in the field of massage therapy publishing?
Mr. McLeod: There are both direct and indirect connections to my past experience in the tech world. For one, I was exposed to a lot of hookum and overblown promises when I was in tech publishing, and before that in the newspaper world. I’m not a cynic by any means, but I have a pretty good sense of what is nonsense and what matters when I read a story or look at an author’s work. I look at things like credentials and whether claims are based on repeatable results or wishful thinking. We’ve removed more than one author based on my evaluation and we make it a point to clean up and/or remove content that has no basis in fact.
My antenna also goes up when I read material that does not clearly explain matters. We constantly ask: what is the point of this? Will readers draw actual value from this material or is this author just blowing smoke and larding up a simple concept with vague and confusing language. I have a very simple rule, which may sound arrogant, but it’s the only way I know how to be an editor: I better understand this material and these concepts and if I read something I don’t understand the odds are pretty good that the reader won’t either.
Because I did a lot of my later work at PC World on that magazine’s web side, I work very closely with our technical team in that area. The recent revamp of massagetoday.com is only the beginning. A great deal more is coming in 2011. I honestly believe that the people who make up this profession are going to become much more reliant on web content of all kinds to increase their own personal professionalism and that of the industry. Part of my job is to make that happen as easily and efficiently as possible.
JMS: Our Journal has a large international audience. How would you describe the concept of Massage Today to readers who are not familiar with your publication?
Mr. McLeod: Our mission is to bring the latest news, research, and “how to” information to professional massage therapists. While we are not an advocacy publication, we will stand for the profession when we detect threats to its integrity. We maintain a very strict and very high barrier between the needs or our readers and the needs of our advertisers. We NEVER run advertorials masked as honest editorial. It will sound snarky and prideful to say this, but it isn’t clear to me at all that our competitors maintain that barrier consistently.
Also: I see it as our duty to expose those who exploit practitioners or smear the good name of this honorable, and ancient, profession. But we will also hold practitioners, and the companies that serve them, accountable when we discover unethical practices and behavior.
JMS: What are the goals you would like Massage Today to accomplish in 2011?
Mr. McLeod: Because we are a monthly, the days when MT could be viewed as a news magazine are pretty much over. We will, of course continue to carry news in print, but when events are moving fast, as they did last year during the collapse of IMA and during the attempt to make AB 1822 a law in California, we will report daily events first on the web.
On the print side, we have increased and will continue to increase, practical “how to” information that helps the profession get things done. There will be more about business practices that can help the pros sustain and expand their work. Pure opinion content is being reduced in favor of practical content. Christie Bondurant, our Associate Editor, is the direct manager and editor for MT and she is working diligently to evolve the publication in these directions.
On the web side, look for more tools to connect clients and practitioners, and increased emphasis on connecting the pros to each other. And again, look for breaking news there first. It is also my intention to make our excellent archives much easier to find and use.
JMS: In your opinion, what challenges does the massage therapy industry face in current economic conditions?
Mr. McLeod: One of the most stunning discoveries I’ve made in my relatively short exposure to this industry is the appalling lack of basic business knowledge that is plainly evident in far too many practitioners. When times are difficult, as they are now, it is hardly surprising that so many people are struggling to stay financially afloat. While I do understand that the caring nature of most practitioners may not necessarily make them receptive to “hard headed” business information, or in some cases, even hostile to it, the plain truth is that they ARE in business and if you don’t make a decent profit you will fail. Interestingly, in a recent survey we did of the profession regarding our content, business practice information was put right near the top of the list.
I put some of the blame for economic/business ignorance squarely on the schools. It is a disservice to young, eager, students when they are not taught sound economic theory and the basics of running a business. Every school administrator should ask themselves this simple question: are we effectively teaching our students to be entrepreneurs and business owners or are we teaching them how to collect a paycheck?
JMS: What do you think the massage industry is missing in order to better communicate with clients and other health practitioners including doctors, physical therapists, etc. to promote the preventive and medical benefits of massage?
Mr. McLeod: Research. Plain and simple. There is far too little and what there is has not been leveraged fully, not by a long shot. The practitioners you mention in your question want to see research based on professionally conducted work. And the more the better. It is the job of this industry to educate other health pros as to the benefits of massage, but it won’t happen unless it is armed with a much more substantial body of evidence that massage has significant health benefits. When, for example, was the last time you heard anything discovered in massage-related research reported in the mainstream media? Last year, the New York Times had precisely ONE story describe the results of a research project involving massage. ONE.
JMS: Do you use bodywork for your own health and if so, what type of bodywork is your favorite?
Mr. McLeod: I have had many Swedish massages over the years, principally for stress relief.
JMS: What advice would you like to give to our readers?
Mr. McLeod: Take the time to educate yourself on sound, ethical business and marketing practices. Don’t undercharge because you “like” your clients or feel “sorry” for them or other such nonsense. Empathy is great, being exploited is not, especially self-exploitation. Put the heat on the professional associations to devote far more resources…which come from YOU, after all, into serious research, the lack of which is a real Achilles heel for this profession. And of course, read Massage Today!
JMS: Thank you and good luck to you and Massage Today!
Ramon McLeod has more than 25 years experience in journalism as an editor and reporter for major newspapers and national magazines, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, and Cincinnati Post. Prior to joining MPA Media, he was with IDG’s PC World magazine where he was the editor of PCWorld.com and also oversaw the print news and reviews departments.
He currently resides in Southern California and enjoys dog training, high-end audio, and performance cars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Person of the Month