Tuesday, April 28, 2009
You know what drives me crazy on magazine websites? (I could write a whole series, really.) Articles with no date, no way to tell when they were written or published or went online.
The logic seems to be that putting dates on content will make that content look… well, dated, a few months or years down the road. Instead, you can trick your readers into thinking everything on your site is up to date.
Or not. Because realistically, how many of us are going back and fixing details on undated material so that it looks current? And how many readers are really going to think that everything on the site is new?
My preference is to label everything: not only with a date published, but with a notation on whether it’s web-exclusive content or comes from a certain issue of the magazine.
By putting a date on content, you’re covering your back if the facts change and something turns from right to wrong. If I read an article that’s a year old and it’s missing some crucial new piece of information, I’ll cut the site some slack. If it has no date, how can I tell the difference between old content and badly researched content?
And by labelling repurposed articles as from a certain issue of the magazine, you’re telling new (perhaps online-only) readers about the depth of your product and the range of topics it covers. Who knows? That one article from last June could be the thing that persuades them to subscribe.
Do you date your site content? Why or why not?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I never used to be a fan of Facebook groups or fan pages, at least not for any useful purpose—they were so buried in the interface and there was no way to interact with members (and remind them of your presence) except by sending them messages, which in my opinion is far too in-your-face to do more than once a month or so without annoying people. But Facebook has made some recent changes that make fan pages more like personal pages. Most notably, your magazine page can now make status updates, and those updates will show up in your fans’ news feed.
A great example of a magazine making use of this is (of course) Wired:
They have 14,913 fans as of now (maybe we can push them to 15,000), and every time they make a status update it gets tons of comments from these fans, who instantly see them in their news feeds. Facebook has (finally!) become a place to actually interact with your brands’ fans and give them updates as part of their regular stream of events.
Is your magazine using Facebook successfully? Share your tips.
Monday, April 20, 2009
This is a guest post by Sharon Donaldson, online manager at cottagelife.com. Be inspired! Contact me if you’d like to write a guest post too.
At cottagelife.com, we’ve recently revamped our home page and one of the tools we’ve incorporated is a free service from Publish2 that allows us to easily manage our news feed. We have created a home page section called News From Cottage Country that is a summary of links to regional and local newspapers.
The strategy behind Publish2’s tool is called news aggregation. The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report have been doing this for years. The theory is that if you pull together links of interest to an online audience, even if it means sending people away from your website, they will come back to you again because you’ve proven to be a valuable source of links on their chosen subject matter.
Even competitive news organizations use the strategy of news aggregation to their advantage: When western Washington State was overcome by flooding, four newspaper newsrooms at four different media companies collaborated to round up and share coverage of the flooding — both their own and coverage from other media sources around the state.
Practically speaking, using Publish2 couldn’t be easier. In about 30 seconds I installed a link tool on my bookmarks bar, and then installed the widget code into the desired spot in my home page. Now when I see an appropriate article on bracebridgeexaminer.com, for example, I simply click on my link tool, review the details of the link, hit save, and the headline appears instantly on my home page feed. I can even customize the headline if I don’t like the way the originating news source wrote it.
Publish2 is a free service for journalists and newsrooms to save, share, and publish links to the best content on the web. I don’t work for them, but I sure like using this tool.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
A story’s been making the rounds lately that online magazine The Tyee has successfully solicited its readers for funds to cover the costs of covering the upcoming BC election.
Says editor David Beers, in a letter to readers:
As the corporate media model melts down worldwide, and the CBC is stripped, Tyee readers have a chance to show a way true investigative reporting can be supported. … be assured every penny will go straight into more journalism between now and voting day, and we will keep you apprised of how and where your money was spent.
I think it’s an interesting case. Everyone inside the media industry knows that supporting quality journalism on online ad revenue alone is a long shot at the least. But the Internet age has trained the general public – all of us, really – that content should be free, and that anyone can be a journalist. Here, The Tyee is telling readers that journalism requires resources, reporter time and the money it costs.
The question is, is this a one-time case? Or is it a sign of the times? And would it work for other publishers?
The answer: it depends. Here, The Tyee is asking for funding for a special, short-term project, one that is close to the heart of many of its readers (who, if I can hazard a guess, are less likely than the average to be huge fans of the current BC premier). Would requests work as well if they came every month? Probably not. Donor fatigue would set in.
And would it work for a more mainstream publisher, one who published less “important” or “essential” information? It’s hard to say, but probably not, if it’s information they can get elsewhere. What makes this case special is that The Tyee is local to BC and specializes in BC, and has a perspective on local politics that no one else shares. They occupy a unique slot in the market and their readers appreciate that.
That being said, if you have the right project, it would be worth a try.
What do you think? Is this a special case, or is the model applicable to the industry at large?
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The other day (was that Monday? feels like a week ago), I woke up and went to work already aware of the earthquake in Italy, having first heard of it the night before via Twitter, of course, and BBC News.
The woman next to me on the subway, reading Metro? If as for many, that’s her primary source of news, she was oblivious. I don’t know how much coverage the major papers gave the event but there’s no way they were as up to date on the news as online media.
Don’t depend on print. You’re probably missing something.
Monday, April 06, 2009
I’ve always maintained that print isn’t dying – at least, not all print. Rather, that information which is better suited to online is moving there, while readers still prefer some content in print format.
Clive Thompson recently reported on a case showing the perceived value of print – especially in terms of its staying power. James Bridle of booktwo.org has archived two years of his tweets into a hardcover book. After all, he explains, Twitter will inevitably be replaced by another tool, and he doesn’t want to lose all the thoughts he poured into it.
I have to say, I’m inspired to do the same. What do you think?
Friday, April 03, 2009
In the magazine industry, the typical state of affairs is that the print product is primary, and web comes second. The bulk of the resources (be that time, money or staff) go to print, and online gets just enough to survive.
Which is fine, if your only goal is to succeed in print. But if you want to have a truly great website, you can’t always see it as second best. After all, you’re not just competing with other magazine websites. You’re competing with the entire online world, including many amazing websites with no print product to worry about at all.
Obviously revenue is an issue here. Our websites just aren’t bringing in a comparable amount of money as our magazines. But let’s be clear: while many magazines are still cherished by many readers, they’re not all going to survive the Internet age, and those that do will have to evolve. The web just does so many things better than print.
So when making decisions about your website, stop and think: is this the choice I would make if the website were all I had? Or am I doing this because I think of the website as a complement to the magazine?
If it’s the latter, that’s fine. Just be sure that it’s a conscious decision – and you’d better be confident that it’s the right one.