Archive for November, 2008

It’s always a good time to boost your skill set

November 28, 2008

It’s shameless plug time: January is approaching (no, really), and with it another term of courses in the Magazine Publishing program at Ryerson University. My class (Creating Website Editorial) is offered in January and February (it’s just seven weeks long, not a big commitment but packed with useful information), and of course I’d love for you to take it, but there are lots of other excellent classes starting in January:

The Business of Magazine Publishing with D.B. Scott
Introduction to Magazine Design with Jayne Finn
Magazine Writing with Margaret Webb
Advanced Magazine Writing with David Hayes
Magazine Copy Editing with Bernadette Kuncevicius
Editing Service Journalism with Doug O’Neill

Just remember, if you’re thinking of taking a class, the earlier you sign up, the better – sometimes classes get cancelled because of low enrollment, and no one knows you plan to take it unless you actually register.

Shameless plug over: we’ll return to our regular programming now.

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The number one question to ask yourself

November 27, 2008

We had an interesting discussion in class last night after one student’s presentation of ew.com (the website for Entertainment Weekly – even if you’re not interested in the subject matter, it’s worth visiting just to see what maximum resources can get you). The question: when you’re ew.com and you have over 8 million UVs a month – and 80 million pageviews – with what might as well be infinite content online (seriously, they have archives back to 1990), why would anyone read the magazine?

The answer boiled down to experience. The print product offers a user experience that just can’t be replicated on the web. Conversely, the website does the same: you can’t do in print what you can online. There’s an extremely valuable lesson here. Your website isn’t about reproducing the print product on the web. It’s about taking the value and experience of your brand and leveraging it to create an independent, yet interconnected, online product, using all the resources the web has to offer but not trying to re-create your magazine.

When working on your website, always keep this question in mind: what kind of experience am I offering my readers? (And remember, this doesn’t just mean readers of the print magazine.) Keep this top of mind and, resource limitations aside, you can’t help but create a good product.

How to do social media well

November 26, 2008

One of the problems with an attitude of “everyone else has it, so should we” is that resources get overextended and you can’t always do a good job. It’s better to pick a smaller number of site features and do them well.

Social media is one of the latest “must-dos” in the industry, and it’s a time-consuming one. Need inspiration on how to do it well? Check out this post from marketing blog The Daily Grind on the Obama team’s excellent grasp of social media, even post-election. An excerpt:

Now that, my friends, is how you engage users online! Create content that is relevant that people will be compelled to share, contact them later in an authentic way with a value add, and they will love you – even if they didn’t notice they gave you permission to contact them.

People love talking and sharing. We are inherently social creatures. However most of us are also creatures with extremely strong BS radars and, as soon as you try to get lazy and sell us something without asking if we even care, we will shut down, or worse yet – turn on our computers and rant.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: use yourself as a test subject. Would what you’re doing annoy you? If you were in the target audience, would you be engaged or annoyed? Then make decisions accordingly.

Designs I like

November 25, 2008

One of my students presented last week on New Scientist’s website. It’s not one I’d visited before but I was impressed with the clean, attractive home page design (it’s apparently a recent redesign).

The trend for a long time has been for the home page to be taken up with large image panels, often dynamically rotating. While these look attractive, I’ve never been a huge fan of their functionality – my experience is that they don’t get as many clicks as your prime real estate should. This site offers an alternative to the image panel theme, although some might argue that it fails in not having one dominant story. In my opinion, it’s simple and it works. I don’t get lost on the page.

New Scientist

Another site that recently had a redesign is glamour.com (as well as a domain shift – it used to be that glamour.com went to French Glamour). They’ve retained the rotating images but made them much smaller than on most sites, and given up a major part of the home page to links to their blogs – a great idea if you have lots of blogs as your home page is constantly being updated, which is good for return visitors as well as Google. I do think, though, that their site header takes up far too much space – I don’t get to any content until halfway down my window (I’m on a 1280 x 800 monitor).

What do you think of these sites? What are your favourite magazine website home pages?

SEO: Why google.ca matters

November 24, 2008

One feature of Google that not everyone’s aware of is that its results change from country to country – searching something on google.ca will get you different results from google.com.

Why is this important? Well, to start with, Canadian sites will rank higher on google.ca as Google sees them as more relevant to the searcher. And most Canadian searchers will be on google.ca as in most cases, you are automatically rerouted, even if you type google.com. (The exception is in some searches in the navigation bar on your browser – I find I usually get routed to google.com there.)

Since most of us are looking for ad revenue, and our advertisers are generally looking for a Canadian audience, this is a good thing – it means more Canadians going to Canadian sites, which is the most useful kind of traffic.

So when checking your search results to see how you rank, make sure you’re checking google.ca – but look at google.com as well (or other English sites, like google.co.nz, for that matter) to see if you rank there, too. It’s interesting to compare the results.

And don’t be surprised if Google pushes our searches even more locally in the future.

Weekend links: November 22

November 22, 2008

10 things every newspaper and magazine website must do (Six Pixels of Separation)
Are RSS subscribers worthwhile if they don’t visit your blog? (Problogger)
Glamour.com gets a makeover (The Guardian)

Pretty is good, but functional is better

November 19, 2008

And, of course, pretty and functional would be best, but it can be hard to attain.

Just read an interesting article on news site (and prime example of link journalism) the Drudge Report and why it “is one of the best designed sites on the web”. It’s certainly not the prettiest, but it is functional (and successful) to such a degree that the writer contends that its basic design is a good example of what to do online. And there’s some decent discussion going on in the 217 (and counting) comments.

5 questions: Jennifer Campbell of Fashion Magazine

November 17, 2008

This is the first in a series of interviews with the people behind Canada’s top magazine websites. Know someone I should interview? Let me know!

Tell me about your site.

Fashionmagazine.com is an extension of FASHION Magazine, Canada’s most widely read fashion publication. We feature quite a lot of the magazine content online, especially slideshows of clothing and accessories. Beyond the photography, it’s usually about 50/50 in terms of new content vs. magazine content. Our biggest source of web-exclusive copy is our blogs. Currently, we have 10 on the site, which, between them, are updated about twice a day. The writers for our FASHION Reporters blog are freelancers, but other than that, nearly all of our web-exclusive content is created in-house. We also have an in-house video team—video is one of the fastest growing areas of the site and I’ve got lots more planned for next year.

We have a weekly newsletter, FASHION Loves, for whatever fashion and beauty pick we’re into that week, like “FASHION Loves…sequins!” We also have an issue preview newsletter that comes out just before our newsstand date and highlights magazine content and any big web exclusives we have that month.

As far as web 2.0, we’re definitely growing this aspect of the site, the big push being our FASHION Reporter Search contest (see below), which encouraged users to submit blogs and then our readers voted on their favourites. We also have a really cute widget that you can put on your Facebook page, iGoogle, etc., and we’re partnered with MySpace Canada’s fashion page to provide featured video and daily links—this has been really fantastic for us. Of course, we also have our own Facebook and MySpace pages. We’re big into social networking around here and we tried to do the grassroots thing with our Flashmob at this year’s Luminato in Toronto. Basically we got the word out through blogs/Facebook/MySpace to show up at Toronto Life Square one Saturday morning, dressed in white. We got over 100 people out and we all converged on Dundas Square, froze for 5 minutes and then continued on our way. We had a photographer and videographer there, so everyone went online after to see their photos and we got tons of traffic and blog coverage and lots of positive response.

What’s your average traffic, and what part of your site is the most popular?

Right now, we’re sitting at about 100K visits per month and growing. The most popular part of our site is our Fashion File pillar, which has all of the juicy runway and merch shots, so no surprise there. Our most popular blogs are FASHION Lovelies, our weekly street fashion snap, and FASHION Reporters, the daily blog from our cross-Canada cadre of style bloggers.

What feature of your site are you proudest of and why?

Currently, I’m proudest of our coverage of the recent L’Oréal Fashion Week. This is the first time we’ve had daily video, plus we had reviews and runway shots of nearly every show. It was a tremendous amount of work for our team and we were all quite harried at the end, but I really think it turned out so well. It was so much fun too!

I’m also really proud of our Reporter Search contest, which launched this year in response to all the emails we got that said: Why don’t you cover Halifax? There’s great shopping in Saskatoon! We did an open call looking for bloggers to report from cities across Canada, then we narrowed it down to 20 semi-finalists and opened it up for voting. We got amazing traffic and media coverage and ended up with 10 great bloggers who are contributing style news from their particular corner of the country. Beyond the numbers, I’m thrilled to be able to have their points of view on the site.

You suddenly have an unlimited budget. What’s the first thing you spend it on?

FASHION Lovelies every day!

What websites and social media tools can’t you live without?

I need jezebel.com and nymag.com like I need air. I also love style.com. They are, technically, competition for us, but they’re in New York and have unparalleled access and blanket coverage. My favourite Canadian fashion blogs are finalfashion.ca and auntiefashion.wordpress.com.

Jennifer Campbell is online editor at Fashion Magazine.

SEO: How to get started

November 17, 2008

Looking for an intro guide to SEO? Google’s Webmaster Central Blog recently posted links to their SEO Starter Guide, a downloadable that’s aimed at getting people started on good SEO practices. And really, who better to provide this information than Google itself?

Weekend links: November 15

November 15, 2008

Video: Flickr’s Heather Champ on shepherding passionate communities (Index // mb)
Newspapers finally realizing that online ads shouldn’t be ignored (Techdirt)
Atlantic snags Wired exec to lead website (Folio)