Archive for May, 2009

Get the inside scoop on online editing

May 26, 2009

Ed2010 is hosting an event on online editing next month, and you should plan to attend if you’re looking to break into the field, or even just broaden your skill set:

Get online: discover the wonderful world of web editing
Ever wondered what it takes to be a web editor? Even in a slow economy there are job opportunities in online publishing. Find out how you can break into the wonderful world of web editing. Join Ed2010 Toronto and our all-star line-up of senior web staffers from some of Canada’s top magazine websites including Jen O’Brien from, Bryan Borzykowski from and Sharon Donaldson from Hear how they got into the biz and get advice on how to succeed in the online world.

When: Wednesday June 17 from 6:30pm-7:30pm
Where: Northern District Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd (Yonge and Eglinton)
$5 admission fee

Find out more at Dream Job TK.

Web vs. print at Wired

May 21, 2009

Thanks to Rex Hammock for pointing out this interesting comment thread on a Boing Boing article about Wired that itself comments on a New York Times article discussing Wired’s ad revenue problems. (And this is why I love the internet.) Discussion topics include:

• Does print matter?
• The division between print and web staff
• Could survive the death of Wired?
• Can a print publication really be relevant when discussing tech?
• Why was/is the liquor cabinet on the mag side?

Chris Anderson even gets in on the discussion, but most of all the thread is worth a read (although I confess it’s long and I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet) for web readers’ perspectives on magazines.

And I love this comment from former Wired staffer Brian Lam:

The spirit of what makes a magazine a magazine doesn’t have to die because it moves to the internet. In fact, it just needs to be treated more like a magazine and given the support the magazines have received so far.

When big decisions seem small

May 19, 2009

Launching a new site, or relaunching a current one? Make sure that your decisions on the design will stand the test of time. Sometimes, a decision that seems small can have long-lasting implications.

Take images, for example. Chances are, your content will follow a template and that template will have standard image sizes across the site. Your first thought might be that the actual size of the images isn’t a big deal: you can change them later, right? But often, especially on sites that keep a lot of content live over the long term, you’re stuck with the image sizes you started with – unless you want to go back and change all the old ones. The sizes you choose could also make life harder or easier for your web editors or producers – non-standard sizes are often harder to find.

The bottom line? Make sure to consult the people using the site and the system, and think about how you’ll feel about decisions in three to five years.

How to get online readers to pay

May 15, 2009

There’s a recent article over at Folio on three examples of successful paid content strategies. They’re interesting cases, and I hope they give you some ideas on monetizing content online. The two lessons seem to be: 1. You can make money on tangibles and 2. You can make money on subscriptions – if you’re a trade mag for industries with money.

Unfortunately, I doubt most consumer mags would be able to charge $649 to $1,785 per year for newsletters. But if your niche is right, the model just might work for you.

Mine Magazine misses the point

May 13, 2009

The thing about digital editions that bugs me isn’t the theory, it’s the practice – I’d rather flip through real magazine pages than virtual ones any day. The web is for skipping from site to site and idea to idea – even if I read a long article online (and I often do), I rarely read more than a few in sequence from one site. The magazine experience is missing online, no matter how you try to package your digital material.

But even worse is Time’s new Mine Magazine, which finally arrived in my inbox not too long ago. I wrote about the concept back in March and how I felt it was missing the point of creating an experience for the reader – the whole package has no personality and no consistent vision. Even worse, the “personalized” ads are beyond awkward (why “sometimes”?) – and I’m not quite sure why they put the fill-in-the-blanks text in grey:


They don’t seem to have done anything with the art – individual articles still carry the original magazine’s formatting and section name – and I found just flipping through it rather jarring.

Here, have a look. What do you think?

When commenters are your friends

May 10, 2009

One of the key features of a site said to be fully web 2.0 is the ability for readers to post comments and rate the content. Often, especially on news sites, the comments are so depressingly inane and/or frighteningly confrontational that, as I read somewhere recently (anyone recognize this?), you think the planet would have been better left to the dolphins. [Edited to add: Thanks to Graham F. Scott for pointing out that this came from Ivor Tossell’s (sadly, last) Friday column at the Globe & Mail.]

But opening up your site content to comments can have its benefits, too. It’s a good way to gather UGC, and a good way to gauge public opinion on some topics. And commenters can often serve as secondary fact-checkers (or primary, if your site content isn’t filtered through fact-checking), highlighting any errors or oversights that may have made it through the editing process.

As an extreme case in point, take this how-to article on rock climbing from Canadian site, which although it’s over a year old has been going viral in the climbing community over the past few days. I’m a climber too, and let me tell you, the writer of this article could use a refresher in proper research. The lack of quotes or citations will jump out at anyone in the business. But it’s the succession of one-star reviews begging editors to remove it for its lack of factual accuracy that really stands out.

Picture 2

Any article with this many negative reviews – and zero positive ones – needs to be looked at again and either edited or removed. The same goes for the more common situation where a commenter has pointed out even a minor error. And make sure to thank them for taking the time to share their knowledge with you.

What do you think about comments? What percentage do you find actually useful?

[Edited to add: Nice job at they’ve updated the article and let the commenters know that it’s improved – they even asked for input. Note that the URL and title have stayed the same, which is important for a) people who’ve bookmarked it (whether personally or through social tools) and b) Google.]

Headline inspiration from the BBC

May 7, 2009

Jakob Nielsen’s April 27 Alertbox article focused on the great job the web team at the BBC does on their web heds, which follow Nielsen’s maxims that heds should be short, information-rich, front-loaded with keywords, understandable out of context and predictable.

Some examples he uses are:
• Italy buries first quake victims
• Romania blamed over Moldova riots
• Ten arrested in UK anti-terrorism raids

What do you think? Would you click? And how can you make your web heds better?

The 3 secrets to writing effective web heds
SEO: More on creating great titles

How do you define your product?

May 5, 2009

Love this blog post (first in a series on the old vs. new rules for media) from Steve Pratt on content vs. distribution. The gist: instead of defining yourself by your platform (a “magazine”, a “newspaper”, a “TV station”), define yourself by your content. Platforms are a means to an end, not the end itself.

Another example of the power of design

May 4, 2009

Further to my post this morning on the power of good design – both in print and online – is this New York Times article on the surprising success of‘s new celebrity gossip site, I love this quote on the numbers – it’s a problem I wouldn’t turn down:

“The numbers are so good that I frankly thought there was something wrong with the data,” said Scott Moore, the domestic chief of content and programming strategy for MSN, the Web portal owned by Microsoft.

The success is attributed to a large degree to the site’s unique design – it scrolls horizontally – and user experience. Another example of why design is so important and worth paying for.

The power of good design

May 4, 2009

A couple of videos I caught this weekend have really inspired me as to the power of great design.

First, I watched the documentary Art & Copy at Hot Docs on Friday. It’s a look at the world of advertising and focuses on some really amazing campaigns (notably Apple’s Think Different, Nike’s Just Do It and the classic Got Milk?) that went beyond advertising and branding to permeate the culture. Some of the key points I took away from it were that good products are conceptualized holistically from start to finish (apparently what really pushed advertising forward was the once radical idea of putting art and copy in the same room) and that consumers – people – react positively to good design, and are happy to be sold to if the process is entertaining and fun. People appreciate great work.

Then, while watching videos from TED yesterday, I came across this presentation by Polish newspaper designer Jacek Utko: Can design save the newspaper? His extreme redesigns of a number of newspapers in eastern Europe won him a number of awards and, more importantly, caused huge increases in readership. Watch it below (it’s only 6 minutes long) or click through to if you feel the need for that chunk of the right-hand side of the screen – though you can probably manage without it..

The lesson for magazines, both in print and online? Do your best work, design something amazing that you’re proud of, create an entertaining, informative and enjoyable reader experience, and the readership will follow.