On hiatus

July 5, 2012

This will likely come as no surprise to anyone who read this blog back when I posted several times a week (how did I do that?), but I’ve decided to stop torturing myself and officially stop posting on this blog. It will remain here for SEO/archive purposes but there will be no more updates in the near future. But who knows? Maybe I’ll get inspired again. Thanks for reading.

Live-tweeting from MagNet 2012

June 7, 2012

I’m live-tweeting this year’s MagNet conference from @magnetcanada, and make sure to follow #magnet12 on Twitter for live updates from all the sessions. Lots to learn!

Tips on organizing e-newsletters using Gmail

May 28, 2012

I’m in the middle of signing up for a ton of e-newsletters for project research, and feeling that overwhelming sense of email dread that comes from a too-full inbox and not enough time. But it’s not that big a deal, because a couple of years ago I built in some tools to make managing e-newsletters easy.

First off, I recommend against using your work email for newsletters. First, it means they all disappear if you leave your job, and you might regret that. Second, if your workplace is anything like mine have been, your email storage limit is laughable and you’re always having to clean it out. Third, if you’re one of the poor souls stuck using Lotus Notes, they all look terrible anyways. Save yourself the trouble by using an online email service for your e-newsletters. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even create an account just for them, though that runs the risk of forgetting to check.

I recommend using Gmail for this purpose. There are things I don’t like about it, but overall it’s the best tool for the job, mainly because it has good filtering tools and huge storage space.

What I do is filter all newsletters into a couple of mailboxes – one for web and digital-related topics, one for lifestyle and magazine newsletters. They bypass the inbox and go straight into their special folders, meaning they don’t interrupt me during my day (I’m not the only one who has attention problems when there’s new mail, right?) and I can bulk-read them efficiently. You can create the system that works for you (and I might update mine too) – for instance, all food-related newsletters in one mailbox, all health-related newsletters in another. Another benefit of using Gmail is that filtering is done by tags, which means you can “store” messages in more than one folder. For instance, you might mark your favourite newsletters – whether it’s for design or story ideas – with a tag that keeps them in a special folder and makes them easier to find. Here are the filtering instructions from Google.

Do you have any tips on organizing e-newsletters?

Why you need web-only staff

May 22, 2012

I’ve been observing a trend lately in the industry of more positions being labelled as cross-platform – i.e., that editor works on print, web and everything else – which is awesome. I mean, all editors should be thinking of the brand and readership in all ways they reach them and have the opportunity to create content in multiple ways.

However. Print timelines being what they are, and production schedules, we all know too well that it’s easy to forget about the website when you’re focused on finishing up a print issue. The trouble is, websites don’t work that way. You can’t just ignore them for seven to 10 days of the month and expect that they’ll be successful when you make up for it the rest of the time.

Which is the main reason that I strongly believe that all editorial staff should be encouraged to contribute to all platforms – but that at least one person (obviously small mags with tiny staffs can be forgiven for not reaching this goal) should have the website as their primary focus. A good website needs ownership, someone who is knowledgeable about and can advocate for the best web experience for web readers – which includes social media. It doesn’t mean this person should have to do all the work, but it does mean they should have the experience and power to make decisions and recommendations on what happens with digital properties.

For instance, I really like this quote from Anjali Mullany, social media editor at Fast Company:

The most valuable thing that social media editors [and] community managers bring to their newsrooms is not all the great tricks that they have up their sleeve when it comes to using new technology, although that’s really important.

I think what they bring is they solve problems. They solve problems of the digital age.

They figure out how am I going to bridge the gap between what you want and all the demands you have on your time. I think social media can totally help with that but you have to be really thoughtful about it.

Wherever I’ve been able to make any change or bridge that gap, a lot of it has come from trying really hard to understand what people’s workflows are, what demands are already on their time and what they’re trying to achieve and then trying to make what I do fit that.

Beyond that, making sure that you are using all these interesting platforms and trying to think creatively about them and using them in your own reporting and being an example of how to use those tools is really important too.

On writing and editing for the web

May 1, 2012

I wanted to share this very useful post from the Econsultancy blog on writing and editing for the web – 20 things the author has learned from writing 2,000 blog posts. Some of the early tips focus on marketing blogs but most are applicable to all topics. One of my favourites:

There are thousands of marketing blogs out there, and lots of them are just writing the same articles, which are often straight write ups of the same press releases which reached my inbox.

This is not to say there’s no value in press releases, or that we never just write about a survey or a piece of news we’ve seen, as these posts can be useful sometimes.

However, the best content, and that which is most popular on the blog, and keeps traffic coming in long after being published, is that which is original.

On Facebook, community and connections

April 22, 2012

A few longer reads that have appeared lately, proving that everyone loves to moan and groan about progress:

The Flight from Conversation (New York Times)
On technology and the fear of interacting with other people. Personally, I think it’s a little overblown and too much of the blame is put on technology when there’s been so much other societal change (probably mainly rampant urbanization) going on. And the evidence shows that strong social media users have more and stronger offline ties, too.

Facebook: Like? (Intelligent Life)
What is Facebook, and where is it going?

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? (The Atlantic)
Like the first story, I think this is much ado about nothing – there have always been lonely and out-of-place people, but now they have more outlets for communication, not less. Correlation and causation aren’t the same thing.

The future of media consumption (and why you can’t trust averages)

April 18, 2012

The general patterns of our research support what people are seeing and saying about, for example, the rise of social media, the rise of mobile, and that people are using voice less. But certain groups are using it a lot less — and that phrase, ‘the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed,’ applies. If you look closely at the youth segment, they are already quite different than the rest of us.

Researcher Ewan Duncan speaks to MediaPost on the digital divide

A visual guide to Facebook Timeline

April 4, 2012

You may have noticed that on Friday, all Facebook brand/business pages were forced into the new page layout, with new features. This infographic is a good overview of what the changes mean.

Video: Twitter as a travel writing tool

February 25, 2012

If you’ve got a bit of time, watch this great talk by National Geographic Traveler’s “Digital Nomad” Andrew Evans on his first trip using Twitter to report on his travels.

Got gorgeous photos? Get in the game with Pinterest

February 6, 2012

Pinterest, the social tool for visual types, is the darling of the internet this year – and for good reason. It’s easy and pleasurable to use and it completely sucks you in.

Even better, according to a story on Min Online, Pinterest can turn into a traffic boost for the right brands. The piece quotes Tina Imm, general manager for Time Inc. Lifestyle Group, as saying that it’s the number-one traffic referrer for recipe sites myrecipes.com and cookinglight.com – and for the latter, the third-highest referral site overall.

But the catch, notes the article, is that Pinterest referrals aren’t really coming from the brands’ own accounts. Instead, they’re coming from completely independent “pins” – saving of images by site visitors – which then are shared around the community. In this way Pinterest is like Facebook – for many brands, traffic referrals are invisible, as they come from user shares rather than your own Facebook page.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, if your site has lots of pretty images – especially if they’re related to fashion, decor or food – you’d better make sure your site plays well with Pinterest. Sign up for an account (it’ll take a few days to go through – they’re still limiting registrations, presumably to prevent server melt-downs) and try pinning images from you site. Is it easy or is it hard? Is there a way to make it work better – for you and for the user?

This is one of those cases where signing up for and running a brand account might not be worth your time (unless you’re really interested). But checking the tool out and making sure it works well – and watching the numbers – definitely is.