The golden rule of publishing online

February 10, 2009

It’s a question I’m sure all of us in the media industry have asked ourselves at some point: why are we doing this?

Despite common opinion, I don’t believe that making money should be the primary goal when publishing; really, you’d have better luck (and dividends) packaging food or (perhaps until recently) giving out mortgages. For most of us on the editorial side, I’d say, it’s the connection with readers that gets us up in the morning. Whether it’s providing them with entertainment, food for thought or essential information, creating quality editorial is the primary goal.

Online, more often than in print, this goal sometimes gets pushed aside for other goals, such as building traffic and selling ads. “Increase pages per visitor!” is something we often hear. “Ad sales has oversold – we need to boost impressions!”

I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t be trying to make some money – I’m as fond of my paycheque as the next person – but I always try to keep one simple rule in mind when working on my site, above and beyond the two goals of creating good editorial and increasing traffic. That rule? Don’t annoy your readers. Keep it in mind while you work on your site (cross-stitch it on a pillow if you have to), just don’t forget it, whether you’re building slideshows for pageviews or selling and integrating vokens.

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5 Responses to “The golden rule of publishing online”

  1. Matthew Says:

    I’m curious to know (not in a snarky way) how you feel the Snapshot links align with that rule. As someone who frequently hovers on links to see where they lead via the status bar, I find the popups fairly annoying (re: Nielsen’s “don’t duplicate browser functionality” rule).

    Do other readers find these useful?

  2. JP Says:

    Agreed. Except that I believe making money has to be “a” primary goal, if not “the” primary goal.

    Re: “Ad sales has oversold – we need to boost impressions!”

    That’s old hat for print as well and most magazines keep a vault of evergreen content they can publish in case sales are great. Ahhh, the good old days, eh!?

  3. Kat Says:

    Matthew: good point. I do find them annoying. Let me check if I can turn them off, and let this be a lesson to all of us not to ignore the little things!

    JP: Let me rephrase. Making money as opposed to losing it should be a primary goal. Making scads of money? Probably not.

  4. JP Says:

    True. And I 100% agree that “on the editorial side, I’d say, it’s the connection with readers.” While I think it only helps for editorial to understand and appreciate the economics of publishing, it should not be their job at all and that should be left to Publishers/Product Managers to ensure. And it’s worth trying for scads, if only to settle for peanuts. 😉


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