Who can you trust?

September 22, 2008

The rules of publishing have changed. Established players are still important – and, for the most part, trusted – but they’re no longer the only route to getting your message out to a wide audience. Now anyone can put together a website and make him or herself* look respectable – whether they know what they’re doing or not.

I’m not saying this to be critical – there’s green grass on both sides of the hill. But it’s become a lot harder to find the true experts, especially if it’s in a field that’s not your own, as is true of the web for many (if not most) in the magazine industry. It’s a game of Where’s Waldo when you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The truth is, this isn’t rocket science, it’s social science – and therefore harder to pin down. The functionality of the web is a constantly evolving target, and as such there are no experts in “the web” as a whole, only those who’ve experimented with varying degrees of success. You can definitely find consultants, companies and future employees who know a lot and have a great deal of relevant and useful experience. But anyone who claims to have all the answers to all your problems is lying (or just has a really big ego).

So how do you find help when you need it? First, decide on your goals. Then treat it like a job interview – ask for resumes, interview thoroughly and do a good reference check. Make sure what they’re offering fits your original goals and your needs. And if they’re promising you the moon, turn on your skepticism filter.

* The linguist in me wants to know if “themself” will ever become an established English word. I think we’re heading that way, but I’m not ready to use it yet, even if I’m okay with “they” and “their” as a singular in colloquial use (and even though my brain tries to form it). There’s obviously a collectively felt need for a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Feel free to comment on this too.

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