Archive for October, 2009

The future of journalism

October 28, 2009

Thanks to Lindsay Borthwick for passing on a link to a recent article by Tim Currie on j-source.ca on the future of journalism – it’s focused on news, but applies to all of us working on the web. The key point seems to be that success in the future will have everything to do with personalization – unique and niche journalism that interacts with its audience. Pre-Internet, it made perfect sense for every city to have a newspaper publishing the same stories with some local flavour. Now, in many cases, the reasons for multiple reporters covering the same story are more ideological than logistical.

Currie mentions The Tyee as a great example of a successful publication (it’s online-only) in the new world, and I have to agree, especially in the wake of their multiple (and well deserved) wins at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards Monday night. If you’ve never been to their site (as a B.C. expat, I consider it an essential in my RSS reader), do yourself a favour and spend some time there.

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Class starts in a week (hopefully)

October 25, 2009

My seven-week course on online editorial is scheduled to start Nov 2 – a week from tomorrow. If you’ve been thinking of taking it but haven’t registered yet, please do so asap as there’s a chance the class will be cancelled due to insufficient enrollment. Topics we cover include:

• What is a magazine website for? What differentiates it from a print magazine?
• Making good editorial decisions online
• Blogging and using social media and bookmarking tools
• SEO and link-building
• Web analytics

I try to make the class as interactive as possible through discussions and readings, and students are encouraged to suggest topics of discussion. We’ll also be having at least one guest speaker but hopefully more.

For registration information or if you have any questions, get in touch with me or call the Chang School at Ryerson at 416.979.5035.

How else can you make money?

October 15, 2009

Magazine brands have long depended on advertising for revenue, but it’s pretty obvious to everyone right now that it’s not dependable or sustainable. Smart companies are diversifying their offerings – from books, to shows, to iPhone apps – so that ideally, no one source of income is make-or-break for the bottom line.

Take Rodale, for example. I just read on Min Online that they’re launching Men’s Health and Women’s Health branded exercise kits. They were created by the editors in partnership with an existing supplier of workout equipment, and come with added value in the form of content. (Seems backwards, doesn’t it?)

What else can your brand offer to help out your revenue?

The power of partnerships

October 7, 2009

D.B. Scott blogged the other day about news-sharing agreements between different companies, prompted by the announcement that CBC and the National Post would be exchanging content (CBC sports for Post business). He focused on this being common among news companies but didn’t mention that it’s also a great way for magazines to increase the value of their websites while bringing in a new and wider audience.

One of the most common agreements is between magazine websites and major web portals, and a number of Canadian magazines, including my own, have content-sharing agreements with sites such as msn.ca, sympatico.ca and yahoo.ca. (They’re in alphabetical order to preclude any favouritism, by the way.) Portals definitely have the broadest audience and it’s a great way to get your brand out there but as they are all general-interest, the audience isn’t necessarily targeted to your content area.

Another way to create partnerships is with other sites that have a similar target audience but a different content focus. My favourite example is the link exchange going on between Toronto Life and CBC Toronto: Toronto Life’s events coverage for CBC’s news. (You’ll see a Toronto Life block on the CBC Toronto home page and vice versa.) Both are aiming for a Toronto-based readership, but they have very different and complementary strengths in terms of editorial. The Toronto page of globeandmail.com has a similar agreement with the blog torontoist.com – I’m not sure on the details, but you’ll see a Torontoist header and story in the right-hand column of the page.

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Content or link exchanges can come from many places, and not just online – newsletters are another source. They’re a fabulous opportunity to showcase your content, site and brand to a wider audience and, ideally, convert them into regular users. The key is to find the right site to partner with: it has to be similar enough that there’s no disconnect for readers, but different enough that you’re not sharing an audience already.

Twitter is what Twitter does

October 2, 2009

Sadly, I can’t be in two places at once, so I had to miss the CSME Twitter event on Wednesday night. But the beauty of the modern wor(l)d is that everything gets written about, and Emma Woolley of Cottage Life and Explore has posted a quick overview on her blog along with her point of view on how magazines should use Twitter:

Social networking is what it is: a series of networks in which people share, engage, and challenge. It’s about conversation and interaction. This is why social networks are for people, not impersonal corporations.

Twitter is a means of communication, not a replacement for other kinds. Your primary interactions with readers happen through the magazine and website, and maybe books. Then email, and phone, and your customer service department. We all still get the odd old-fashioned letter, and maybe write back to them. Twitter, Facebook and the others are just the latest in this list – and like all means of communication, they have their own evolving rules of etiquette and standard modes of behaviour.

Emma posted some good tips on using Twitter for your magazine, and I’ll add a few more:

Have a plan. If you know you’re going to be too busy to spend a lot of time thinking about what to do on Twitter, then set out a bare-minimum schedule for yourself. At Best Health, for instance, we have a daily newsletter that features a health tip. I repurpose that for my bare-minimum Twitter post. By doing that, I’m creating value for Twitter followers (the tips are a hit), maintaining brand visibility, and making sure I don’t forget to check Twitter. Ideally, I do more than that in a day, but at least on those crazy weeks I know I’m still participating.

Use your manners. You don’t just hang up on someone when you’re done with a phone call – we’ve developed a set of linguistic and behavioural patterns to handle the interaction. Same goes for Twitter. Reply to people who’ve struck up a conversation. Don’t be a spammer. Don’t send unsolicited direct messages. Make it obvious that there’s a real person (or a group of them) behind the account. Participate in the conversation.

Create interactivity. Once you’ve built a large-enough Twitter community, they can help you meet editorial goals. Solicit feedback to be incorporated into the magazine or website, like this piece I built based on Twitter and Facebook conversations. Ask for story ideas – for instance, we’ve solicited questions about H1N1 through Twitter. You can even use it to find interview subjects. These are all valid uses of the platform, provided you follow the point above and mind your manners.

Have fun. Print magazines have a lot of separation from readers, both in time and space. Twitter is your chance to bridge the gap. So interact with people, have conversations, make friends. Show your followers that you care about them.

Have a goal, and a way to measure it. The number of followers you have is indicative of influence, but it’s not a definitive measurement. So decide how you want to measure success on Twitter (it will certainly come in handy at performance review time). Is your goal increased brand awareness? Click-throughs? Communication? Sub sales? Figure out what you want to do before you start.

And finally, you know what? Just because Twitter is trendy doesn’t mean you have to be on it. It’s acceptable to decide that it doesn’t fit your magazine’s strategy, and it would probably be a better decision than doing Twitter badly.