Archive for June, 2011

Should you be using Instagram?

June 30, 2011

Instagram is a social tool that has had steady rather than meteoric growth, probably because it’s only available for (and best suited for) iPhone. Its beauty is in its simplicity: It’s about sharing photos with your followers, who can then like or discuss them. Like Twitter with images instead of words. What makes Instagram special is the built-in effects (along the lines of Hipstamatic) and the forced square format that give images an old-fashioned feel, and make them look better than you’d expect from an iPhone camera (which is actually pretty good these days).

I really like Instagram for its culture, which, as with all social-media tools (and all societies in general), is still evolving. The bulk of the people I follow on Instagram share images because they’re interesting, or cool, or funny, or different, not as self-promotion like you’d see on Facebook. (At least, not as much.) The focus, I would say, is more on the photos than the subjects. That’s the niche they’ve found and they’re doing it well.

Which is why I had mixed feelings reading this story from 10,000 Words on four ways news media can use Instagram. They are:

1. Give Users A Behind-The-Scenes View

2. Display The Work Of Photographers

3. Share Breaking News

4. Crowdsource

I like all of these ideas, in the right context. But I think all of them need the caveat that it’s really all about the photography. If you have fantastic photos to share, Instagram could be the right social tool for your brand. If you’re more interested in sending out news, information and links, I don’t know that it’s the right fit.

Do you use Instagram? What do you think about its use for media?

(Pictured: Part of a wall of magazines at the Vancouver Anthropologie.)

On multiplatform rather than print first

June 29, 2011

Popular Mechanics editor-in-chief Jim Meigs speaks to Business Insider on the magazine’s business strategy moving forward:

“We’re basically challenging ourselves to really think hard about the print magazine and how it operates, but also the whole business model,” Meigs said. “Are we putting our priority in the right place?”

The goal is to create multiple revenue streams: in print, online, on tablets, in books, and more, with a minimum of effort. It is an ambitious project — a side room at the PM office is dedicated the “reboot room”  — but one that needs to be tackled.

This is a true multiplatform strategy, designed to get results from all media, not just to do the best possible with what’s left over after the print edition is done. And it requires input from all staff in all departments, not just top-down decision making.

A play-by-play of subscribing on the iPad

June 28, 2011

I recently subscribed to GQ on my iPad and took screenshots of each step in the process so you could have a look. The last image is of the confirmation email I received.

Self on the iPad

June 27, 2011

Nice, Self. See that at the bottom of the first image? A tappable web throw in Self’s iPad edition. A built-in form would be cool, too. And below that, the second image shows a live Twitter feed built into the design. Readers can tweet their reaction with the appropriate hashtag and it will show up. (Not sure if it’s being moderated but there’s a lot of spam potential here – thought it won’t happen until numbers are high enough.)

Gimmicky? Maybe a little. But this is what we’re talking about when we say it’s important to be part of the web with digital editions, not just on the web.

Why I buy music, and what it means for magazines

June 22, 2011

I admit it – I used Napster back in the day. Downloading music was so easy, fast and painless compared with travelling to the store to buy a CD that you might not end up liking. Being able to listen to an endless mix – rather than investing in and organizing a big CD-changer (remember those?) or (gasp!) listening to one disc at a time – was liberating. It wasn’t just free that Napster was giving us, though that was certainly part of it. It was a brand-new model of media consumption, part of the overall shift from information scarcity to information abundance. Before, when I was in high school, new CDs (and cassettes!) were treasured, shared, listened to over and over again. Then, all of a sudden, we shifted to having too much to listen to, to downloading something and forgetting about it. For better or for worse.

Then Napster was shut down, and other sharing tools after it, and while it’s still not exactly difficult to download (illegally!) just about anything, between jumping through hoops and ISPs throttling bandwidth, it’s a lot more work than it was in those early years. And frankly, I can’t be bothered.

Apple, of course, was the company who really paid attention to the new consumption ideal – not free so much as simple and convenient. The iTunes store has changed the industry, and offers the entire package of browsing, previewing, buying and consuming, all from wherever you happen to be. I can buy an album on my iPhone from the bus (I did it just the other week), listen to it immediately, and then, next time I sync my phone, it magically appears on my computer as well, as well as on other devices I choose to sync. Apple’s genius lies in making it easy for customers to give them money no matter where they are – or when. Store hours and location are no longer a limiting factor, and impulse buys are easier than ever. Apple makes the whole experience of buying music so easy and pleasurable that I haven’t stolen music in a very long time, nor have I bought a physical CD in at least five years, though probably closer to 10.

What does this have to do with magazines, you ask? Well, magazines have always been more about the experience and the packaging than the product. People subscribe to be part of a group, to have something to talk about and to have the magazine on their coffee tables as much as to read the articles. And newsstand purchases are the ultimate impulse buy.

Our digital strategies, I think, need to catch up quickly. The web is often denigrated as a “snacking” means of content consumption – people looking for quick tips to pass away their lunch hour rather than long, immersive stories that educate and challenge. And this has been quite true, because (to repeat myself yet again) most people’s computer-reading environments just haven’t been as conducive to proper reading as a magazine is. Uncomfortable chairs; small, flickering monitors; interrupting coworkers… you get my point.

But this is changing fast. The shift to a living-room computing environment means internet readers are more open to immersion. The iPad was intended first and foremost as a consumption device. And whether it’s through iTunes, Amazon or elsewhere, consumers are now well trained in spending money online with one click or tap.

The time has come to find the best way to present magazine content to consumers in the Apple model. Make it easy and pleasurable. Focus on the packaging and the experience. Appeal to both the bored in-transit smartphone user and the lying-on-the-couch evening reader. Give them something good enough that they want to pay, and to subscribe.

Will this happen through Apple’s upcoming Newsstand app, or tricked-out digital editions à la Condé Nast, or National Geographic-style repackaging? Will it come through web apps that work on multiple platforms and are managed internally by the magazine? I don’t know – I’m really not the best focus group. But they’re all worth a try – above all, we need real numbers, not just imaginary and untrustworthy research of intent. And I do think Newsstand is worth pursuing. A 30% cut to Apple might seem like a lot, but they’re the ones bringing people into the ecosystem, and ready to spend, and auto-renew. If your magazine isn’t there, consumers will find something else to read.

But above all? Make it easy and make it pleasurable. And if the magazine is worth reading, the readers will come.

#MagNet11: Meg Pickard on blogging, part 2

June 16, 2011

Meg Pickard‘s afternoon session at MagNet was “Building a Business Case for Blogs”. Below are my tweets from the session.

Don’t let mistakes online tarnish your existing brand value.

Blogs are excellent to reinforce authenticity and transparency.

Blogs can: Build engagement and get people emotionally invested in what you’re doing.

Blogs are really good at putting a personal face on your organization.

@megpickard‘s background is in anthropology. Looks at structures of community and social in media world. Perspective.

The Guardian has a site section where readers can pitch ideas that they want to read.

Blogs are very good at gaining the love of search engines.

Existing, off-the-shelf blog platforms like WordPress are already SEO-optimised. Makes things easy.

Be creative with blogs. @megpickard recommends blogging for cricket matches (they last for days…)

Blog vocab: “above the line” (journalism space), “below the line” (commenting space). Pay attention to both.

Blogs a good place to experiment. The Guardian used Google Translate to put Egypt live-blog into Arabic on the fly (refined later)

Andrew Sparrow: “If journalism is the first draft of history, live-blogging is the first draft of journalism”

Clay Shirky: “The problem isn’t information overload. It’s filter failure.” [Opportunity for editors and magazines.]

news stories answer questions, tie loose ends. Blogs ask questions, unpick things.

Build a blog for your actual audience, not the audience you wish you had.

Zuckerberg: “Communities already exist… think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”

With blogs, readers are part of the entire publishing process, not just reading the end result.

If someone comments, they’ll probably come back to comment again. Engagement begets engagement.

Commenters on your blog will add keywords, too. Good for SEO.

Blogging is a long-term engagement and hard work, but builds engagement with readers and matures over time. Not a quick fix.

When you set up blogs/topics, ask: “What are we going to write about when nothing is happening?” You have to have an answer.

Team blogs need to have similar tone, feel from each writer. Shouldn’t feel like disparate voices.

Get creative with blog pay models, beyond per post/word/PV. Compensate for engagement (comments), inbound links, social buzz.

Commissioned blog pieces that go into editors’ picks get paid more.

Measure everything you can. The more information you have, the better picture you can draw for your organization.

There’s no magic formula for blog metrics. Every blog has its own needs/goals.

Don’t just stick with CPM. Consider sponsorships. Guardian music blog: Orange for three months’ sponsorship.

Find the right sponsor that wants your particular audience = higher $ value.

Good Q: What metrics do you make available to sponsors? A: metrics they need for proper picture of what they’re buying.

What to do when blog doesn’t work? @megpickard’s blog post on end of Guardian Local

Give readers notice if you’re shutting something down.

When killing a blog, let the writers wind it down too. Don’t just end things abruptly.

Shocking! “Social media doesn’t need to be sociable” – value in lurking and using social info (eg tripadvisor) without engaging.

Very cool – Guardian Zeitgeist – “what is most interesting on our site at the moment”

#MagNet11: Meg Pickard on blogging, part 1

June 15, 2011

At MagNet last week I was honoured to be the official host and introducer for Meg Pickard of the Guardian, who presented two sessions on blogging, both of which I live-tweeted. The first was called “Building Readership for your Blog” and my barely edited tweets from the session are below.

Waiting to introduce @megpickard in her first of two blogging sessions today.

We can’t just do twitter because we have to do twitter, says @megpickard. Don’t do things because your rivals are.

Always think about how social helps you extend and amplify your editorial.

Only 1/3 of the Guardian’s web traffic is from the UK. 1/3 from Canada/US, 1/3 from rest of world.

The Guardian has 54 blogs, plus blog networks.

What makes a blog? Timeliness, hosted by an individual, display, plus interactivity – makes it diff from just publishing on web

Narrowly focused blogs can be good for SEO because of higher targeted keyword density, says @megpickard.

Downside of narrowly focused blogs: can be hard to find topics without being repetitive.

Advantage of broad topics on blogs: easy to write, encourages casual discovery and experimentation.

Downside of broad blog themes: hard to explain to readers, content may never find its audience or stride.

Broadly themed blogs can also be more challenging for SEO – less keyword density, less focus.

What kind of blog to avoid? Narrow focus, infrequent posts.

Bloggers don’t have to be famous, they have to be engaged and have personality, ability to be consistent.

At its heart, a blog is a conversation, a way of developing interactions with readers.

Good bloggers need to be engaged + knowledgeable about, interested in, aware of their subject matter. Discussion is key.

Bloggers have to be aware of the wider context of coverage and discussion online and curate/link/highlight as needed.

Andrew Sullivan: Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics…. it is, in many ways, writing out loud.

Common ingredients of a great blog post: good, SEO-friendly head; illustration/image/video; clear, descriptive blurb…

…good metadata (keywords, location, byline); engaging intro; external and internal links

The longer the blog post, the more you need to break it up with something pretty to look at. (images, etc.)

Short blog posts: <250 words, links, roundups, quotes, at least daily. Little and often.

Make use of services like Delicious that will auto-post links to your blog. Easy updates.

Long blog posts: 500-800+ words. “Think pieces”, perspective/analysis, reflection, live blogs, reports/write-ups.

If you do longer blog posts, make the words count.

Sometimes a blog post is a snack, sometimes a full meal.

More keys to great blog posts: human tone; encourage engagement by appealing for expertise or insight; ask questions; participate

“Don’t light a fire and then walk away” – make sure to participate in comments early.

RT @halifaxmagazine If you bury readers in links, they won’t click any; give them a few good ones.

@megpickard showing as example of magazine using Tumblr as a blogging platform.

Tumblr a good option for teasing the print edition. Less useful for writing longer posts. – in addition to their blog. Tumblr and blogging are different strategies.

Another example – Note: no commenting on Tumblr. You can favourite or reblog.

@megpickard is live-tumbling as a demo to the crowd. – personal collection of stuff. Good example of playing with new/fun tools.

@megpickard started by saying everyone in room would have blog by 5 pm. I think everyone will have a Tumblr.

RT @sftcurls_blog: @kattancock there are some Tumblr themes that allow you to add Disqus for comments.

This is important: “Be of the web, not on the web”

Hoping people will arrive at your site and never leave – not a good web strategy.

Blogs are good for engagement, and advertisers these days want engagement.

@megpickard quotes @jeffjarvis: “Do what you do best and link to the rest”

Audience question on choosing between blogs, twitter, tumblr, etc. @megpickard: why not do them all?

Another great @jeffjarvis quote: “If you can’t imagine anyone linking to what you’re about to write, don’t write it.”

RT @sparksheet By not linking you’re getting in the way of the user’s web experience (invokes @jeffjarvis)

Don’t try to be the last point on people’s web journey. Be the first.

RT @sparksheet When people click your outgoing links, it means they’re trusting you to send them on a journey -@megpickard (great metric!)

Community keywords: interacting, regularly, context

Make engagement better by nurturing conversations you start. Lowers need for moderation.

Commenters are like children – give them positive reinforcement, don’t reward disruptive behaviour.

Very important online: be transparent about affiliations, perspectives or previous coverage of a topic or individual.

#MagNet11: Ian Adelman on magazine website design

June 14, 2011

My big dilemma at MagNet this year was whether to live-tweet or take proper notes. Live-tweeting was requested so I did that, the result being that my notes are… tweets. With that in mind, below is a barely edited transcript of my tweets in Ian Adelman’s session on making a better magazine website, with a focus on design. It was a great session, except that it wasn’t long enough. Next year!

Everyone in @ianadelman‘s session is energetic. I haven’t had my coffee yet. Session about to start.

@ianadelman has recently moved to @nytimes but talk is focused on @newyorkmag, where he spent 5 years.

As you’d expect/hope, nicely designed slides. Theme of talk is “Unbound”. Wants us all to unbind ourselves from roles.

Online, unbinding the magazine brings endless opportunities.

Focus on product experience. (product design + user experience)

@ianadelman plays to the hometown crowd – as a kid, lives on Charles St W.

Most important thing about being a designer – learning how to see things that you see, not what you believe you see.

“Setup is everything.” Analogy of a complicated-looking machine – you can’t just approach it haphazardly.

@ianadelman’s first editorial experience – launching @slate. Classic designs – 15 years ago.

Lesson from @ianadelman: keep a good visual archive of your work for future presentations.

@newyorkmag went from simply a print magazine to multiplatform publishing “thing”.

Homepage isn’t the most important page – article page is. (Can’t show us – it’s a work in progress.)

Use navigation to define web identity of the brand and improve “findability” in UE.

Think of existing and new users’ usage patterns when designing navigation.

Other thoughts for redesigns: SEO, subs/circ, number and usefulness of links in top-of-page area, revenue opportunities

Make navigation an expression of what your brand is about.

Anticipate what people want when designing navigations. Don’t assume.

Job as a designer: negotiating with advertising to make change in ad units for better design.

Redesign a good opportunity to redefine how you think about your web content.

Home page redesign goals: improve organization, better window into site content, lower bounce rate

In digital, watch for patterns instead of fixed collections. Home page: what’s new more important than where it came from.

Great visual of old and new @newyorkmag home pages with overlay of content updated daily/2-3 times a day/hourly

Old design: Home page only showed daily-updated content. New: pushed hourly content to top.

People look to left of webpage when scanning – good place for newest content.

A good homepage finds the right balance of automation and curation.

Striking aspect of @newyorkmag home page: big box and mag promo relatively low down. Makes for better design.

The more links on a home page, the more people will click through. Trick is to avoid making it look overwhelming.

Navigation on @newyorkmag 15% shorter on article pages than home page – more space for content.

Design is highly templated but allows for visual variety, editorial decisions.

Always think about what your user is actually going to come to you for.

@newyorkmag automated all its newsletters – less work, increased click-throughs.

Can we bring @ianadelman back for a day-long design session? Easily going to run out of time here.

Oh, oops. New York magazine owns @newyorkmag but tweets from @nymag.

Referencing @nymag’s The Cut iPad app, which is well worth playing with, for those of you with iPads.

“What do we do well, and how can we do it better?” How @nymag ended up with The Cut iPad app. Stripped-down fashion app.

The Cut’s iPad app from idea to app store in just over 2 months. “Insane.”

Shot of @ianadelman’s design team at @nymag. I count 14. We laugh in envy.

“Question all assumptions early.”

“Get better at seeing what’s there.”

“Stay focused on logical design as long as you can.” Don’t focus on the details/what’s superfluous until you’re ready. Low-fi 1st.

“Require inclusive design.” Everybody has useful input on defining what a product can be. Important for people to have ownership.

Be aware of your product, your capabilities, your contributors, your audience.

@ianadelman comments on similarities between @nymag and @toronto_life home pages. He should be flattered…

Only a small number of site visitors will ever convert to subscribe. Won’t be because they see sub offers all over the place

Look at how you take advantage of experience and action over time to find opportunities to promote subs and newsletters.

Balance “is stuff annoying” with sales potential for design of promos. Efficacy is reduced by piling on offers.

@ianadelman hates current @huffpo design, calls it “hostile”. Thinks they have huge opportunity.

Focus on how someone experiences site over time. Make “stuff” around content change, glimpses here and there.

No one cares that your site has x brand name. Self-publishing bloggers can outperform food magazine sites (& do all the time.)

Designers/web staff should help define UE based on ad buys. Work together for best experience + revenue.

Increasing acceptance of idea that people scroll. Ads above the fold less of an issue.

@nymag’s Vulture blog example of designing around ads. 600×300 in right-hand column.

Aim for bigger, fewer ads. Better UE, better design, good for advertisers.

Vulture page automated. Check out URL – SEO-optimized (entertainment not vulture)

Aim for multiple entry points when designing. Use automation to your advantage.

@nymag uses multiple CMS’s. @ianadelman would not wish it on anyone. Recommends choosing based on importance to you.

CMS considerations: metadata, custom fields, ease of implementation. @nymag – movable type.

Get good at making stuff before you build a business around it. Be careful of leaping into video.

@KMachado notes absence of social media promo on @nymag designs. @ianadelman: seeing random tweet on HP is waste of space.

Article page template where you get most of your views. Most important chance to say what you’re about, promote products.

Note Vulture’s “hot topics” secondary nav. Good place to put fresh, popular topics.

Design website from the perspective of mag design rather than following print’s lead.

#MagNet11: The Yahoo guide to effective web writing (plus my two cents)

June 13, 2011

On Wednesday at MagNet Chris Barr, senior editorial director at Yahoo, gave a presentation on web writing. I wasn’t able to make it but my friend Jaclyn Law, a freelance writer and editor, was there and shared her notes with me. Looks like it was a good talk but I do disagree with some of the points so I’ve added comments in square brackets – please add your own in the comments, and Chris, I apologize if I misunderstood any of your points. Thanks, Jaclyn!


– Web is not the same as paper. 79% scan rather than read
– Reading on screen is 25% slower than reading paper
– Computer screens have about 10% the resolution of paper [Note that this is changing fast – the iPhone 4 screen is very high resolution. And not all paper is high resolution – eg documents printed on home printers.]

The medium is the message – write accordingly. [I would take this further than Barr did. The way you write sends a message, too. His tips below will make for effective web service but certainly don’t suit every register of writing. Your job as a writer and editor is to keep in mind your audience, your brand and your product – and why readers are reading on your site – and tailor Barr’s tips for those considerations.]

– Shape your text for online reading – modify writing to get message across
– Get to the point – put important info up front where readers can find quickly
– Make text scannable – arrange content so easy to scan for keywords and phrases
– Write for the world

How people read online
– Eyetracking studies show readers skim pages, browing for relevant words, info
– Scanning generally follows an F pattern
– Yahoo Usability Lab calls pattern a triangle

What is “voice”?
– Expression of your company/site through images, graphics, typeface, colours, content selection, words
– Effective voice makes people feel at home through words and pictures
e.g., globe vs sun; bank – UI, word choice, images to identify with; see

Writing and editing for online reading means:
– Organizing your story and writing headlines to make story more readable (and skimmable)

– Front-load most important info in first paragraph/above the fold. you have 3-7 seconds to hook readers. Don’t bury the lead. [This is important. In print, you have other ways to draw in the reader and you know they’ll flip past pull quotes, images, etc. With web they’ll just click away if you don’t attract them.]

– Write brief, keyword-loaded headings [I would add intriguing. See Glamour’s blogs for good examples of web-friendly headings that aren’t boring. Headlines need to be both keyword-rich/SEO-friendly and clickable. Always ask yourself: would I click on this?]

– Limit stories to about 300 words per page… unless you have a sound reason for going longer. That length keeps copy concise, focuses story on one main topic, and helps SEO. [Obviously this advice depends very much on your content and audience.]

– Organize info into compact (2- to 3-sentence) paragraphs or bulleted lists, one idea per chunk. [When repurposing print stories, consider breaking up longer paragraphs for ease of online reading.]

– Give visitors a next step and actionable takeaways (what can they do about this topic?). Never leave readers at a dead end, with no links or to-dos. [The end of a story is a fantastic place to put related links, even if you have to do them manually as part of your main body.]

Your headline is one of the most important pieces of copy on the page, especially on the web.

– Present accurate, complete and concise info about the story
– Help users filter stories to reach what they want, because of how people read now – motivates people to click
– Reflect voice and standards of your publication

Headline can also guide writing rest of story. You should be able to summarize your story in 5 or 6 words; if you can’t, your piece may lack focus.

Another test: if you can read nothing but headlines and subheadlines, do you understand the story? If you can understand narrative, you’ve done a good job of editing it. [Again, depends on the type of story.]

Print headlines don’t always work online. [Print headlines almost never work online. It’s a different art. Again, always ask yourself if you would click on your headline *in isolation*. Pretend you’re a reader who doesn’t know what the story is about.]

Headlines appear in many places – story title, titles of page (top browser bar), bookmark, name of the tab, related links, subject of comments, search engine results page.

Writing headlines
Headlines (and other headings) are some of the most-read words on the page. So use the most relevant words in headings, and make sure those words are correct in spelling and in fact.

Think clarity first, cleverness second.

Try subject-verb-object structure to put actor and action right up front.

Use concrete keywords, like proper nouns. What would readers search for? Try typing headline into a search box. Has someone used it?

Favour strong, interesting verbs; simple present tense and active voice. [I think Barr is – not unlike many, many people – misusing the term “active voice” here. What he really means is clear and concise – simple verb forms rather than compound. Passive voice, in fact, is especially appropriate if it’s what people are searching for in a keyword phrase. For more on the passive voice fallacy see Language Log’s excellent explanation of the passive in English and multiple posts discussing passive voice.]

– Call out what’s important in the story. Why should people read?
– Make sure headline can stand alone.
– Stay under 65 characters [Not always necessary but Google SERPs show 65 characters in a title. Some fancier CMSs will let you choose multiple titles for multiple situations – eg one for Google, one for social, different ones for different areas of your site.]
– Remember headline may show up in newsfeeds, mobile browsers, etc.
– Make sure voice is appropriate for the story and the site.

SEO and linking
– SEO is a set of strategies for making your page easier to find.
– When you seed your page with words people are searching for, you’re more likely to make a connection.
– High search rank (ideally top 10) means more people likely to find.

Search engines crawl the whole page, but give particular weight to:
– page title
– headline
– other bold headings + subheadings
– links
– bulleted and numbered lists
– introduction and conclusion

Seed keywords in those spots, and search engines will like your page. [This is a simplification. I prefer to think of it as explaining to Google what your story is about. “Seeding keywords” is an apt description but keep in mind these keywords need to be relevant to and descriptive of the topic of the story.]

How to select keywords
– Make list of possible keywords. If you were looking, what words would you enter?
Test a few keywords:

Repeat keywords.

To add keywords, select 3 to 5 of longer keywords and seed exact phrases into headline, subheadline, first and last graph.

Try to repeat each keyword two to four times in 300-word story.

But you don’t want your text to sound artificial or so repetitive it’s ridiculous.

[Also note that Barr is using the word “keyword” but that you’re highly unlikely to rank a story on a single word. Better to think of “keyword phrases” and seed those.]

Links are like votes – when you link to a site, you endorse it in the eyes of search engines. [Note that this is a concept that Google invented and what made them top of the search engines.]

But they need to be good links. If you link to a less relevant site, the search engine may ding your page. You don’t get extra credit for linking to lots of pages.

Aim for 3 relevant links to relevant pages (to your site or others), on the same or a similar topic.  Use keywords in link text.

[Also: do your best to get links back to your page and site using relevant keywords. If you use a source with a website, ask them to link to your story. If you’re a freelance writer with a site, link to the story. Etc.]

More tips: word choice
If you have a broad, international audience, avoid unnecessary jargon and buzzwords, clichés, slang, references specific to one group, region or culture.

Make your pieces sociable

Add FB “like” or “share” button to every article.
Have a FB fan page, and “curate” it
Age of identity – people willingly put lots of personal info online. Mass personalization is going to continue.
Said not to worry about Twitter for now – says it’s too techy for most people, teens not interested in it, users tend to be older (compared to FB).

[As you might guess I disagree with the Twitter comment. Twitter has a much lower penetration than Facebook but it’s the power web users that are on it – and those are the ones who are more likely to have blogs, sites etc. and link to you, and to share stories with others. Also, now that half of Canadians are on Facebook, I don’t think users are “younger”. Besides, why do we care about the ages of social media users except where it’s relevant to our publications and works?]

#MagNet11: Dismantling the print-digital divide

June 9, 2011

Yesterday afternoon at MagNet I participated in a panel alongside Philippe Gohier of Macleans and Doug Wallace of The Kit, moderated by Arjun Basu. It was a lot of fun and went by far too quickly. Luckily, Shannon Ward of OnTrack Media was kind enough to take extensive notes and share them with me for the blog. Thanks, Shannon!

First, the Introductions

Doug Wallace – Editor and Associate Publisher of Content, The Kit
– print isn’t enough
– print & digital need to play off and reinforce each other
– budget needs to be allocated for this

Philippe Gohier – Web Editor, Maclean’s
– it’s really about harmonizing print & digital (not dismantling)
– content needs to be different for each medium and publishers need to understand what people are doing with it

Kat Tancock
– storytelling is the key regardless of medium
– great story about BCMag inspiring and keeping a connection to BC while she lived in NZ, and some 8 year old kid having the same experience with digital today!
– good editing is key today
– these are exciting times because we have so many more options for storytelling

Moderator: Arjun Basu – Editorial Director, Spafax

A: Are there commonalities in what people  expect from media?
P: Commenting is same core functionality that it has always been. It is simply reacting to content in a public or semi-public fashion. It is an enduring feature of how people read news
D: Good tweets will lure digitally savvy readers
P: Long form narrative on the web is ok thanks to ipad, etc., but what works better on web is primary source journalism (ie live blogging gov’t committee meetings)
K: It’s an issue of time & place rather than platform & reader. Recognizing that readership changes at different times of day – not that people necessarily want short content on web. As tech changes, so will people’s usage
(eg She read girl w/ Dragon Tattoo on iPhone on the subway)

A: Print is glorified, web seems to be denigrated. Why the bias??
D: Yes, but it will change with time. Advertisers still want print regardless of higher ROI on web, but cost is factor.
K: All print is not created equal (ie paper quality, design), but with new tech digital can be just as beautiful and also fun to play with. Remember we all learned to read on paper so we have built-in nostalgia.
P: We’re only starting to create good reading experiences on web. For instance, SEO is getting in the way, the obsession with page views over other metrics. Web needs to get better in terms of reading experience
K: google is working to fix this, starting to value publishers in terms of them having authority over random websites

A: We’re in a phase of the web that can be compared to when TV was treated like radio. These are early days and there is a lot to figure out. How has the editor’s job changed with a multi-platform environment? How do they need to adapt?
D: Storytellers will never go away but editors need to get more technical
K: Editors need to be be part of web culture (collaborative, sharing , linking, tweeting). Web editors are always working in tandem with the world, not just once a week/month. Editors need to have some tech skills to deal with the coders effectively

A: How have you had to change going from print to digital (to Phil & Doug)?
P: Everyone needs to remember that they’re working toward the same thing whether they are technical or not. Developers need to have their head in the publishing game as well, they need to always have eye to producing better news.

A: Silos are a problem – how should an office be structured so people talk to each other?
K: I had an idea that magazine offices should move around once in awhile so everyone gets exposed to all parts of the team and gets the benefit of different perspectives (web editors get to do this more than print)

A: What does work in digital and not in print or vice-versa?
P: Primary source works well with digital only. “Professorial editorial” doesn’t work very well online (i.e traditional Maclean’s editorial does not work online). It is too haughty (Arjun). There is an expectation of confrontation on the web (pugilistic style).
K: Silos work well in print, but not being able to share online is not ok. (i.e ipad article with no share links) – Wired does this well on ipad app. Makes things easy on digital from platform to platform.
D: Video is great online and it is really fun

A: Do digital page turners on website work anymore?
K: they are archaic (amen!!). We need to make things easy for people on the web. If I have to zoom, it will not work

A: Paywalls – how long will it take for people to realize we will pay for content and not everything is free? (gave itunes store example, people pay for music now)
P: First, we need to figure out a coherent way to sell it to them. Current models are confusing. There is no good way for people to buy. There is an effort to minimize print cannibalization, but not all readers can go out and get a print copy! Suggests a freemium model (regular and first class – people are all going to the same place but with a better experience)
D: We’re all experimenting right now (and it’s a very expensive experiment – Kat). gives NY Times example.

A: Another question re: digital biz model that I didn’t quite catch
K: Problem of scarcity & quality, learning on the web that mags are in many times similar and lots are trying to present the same info. The economics change quickly and innovation is key.
K: Food bloggers sell cookbooks even though they give away many recipes for free
A: Brings up the google print magazine in UK, suggests there is talk of a print twitter magazine

Audience Question: Doesn’t it take more, not less time to read on the web? That’s why mags @ airports work well.
D: Digital can take longer to find the entry point
A: Brings up the buzzword “context”. Web has expanded the definition of context.

A: Let’s talk design & format. Do we expect good design on the web?
K: I do.
D: I insist!
K: Design is getting much better. Sites are starting to look like they’ve taken that next step that they didn’t 3 years ago
P: I actually don’t like our design online, but don’t mind the print version. Websites need to conform to the way users are using them. Referenced someone that said, “design is how it works”. Look at metrics and get an idea of how to present it in a way that users want.
A: …and that can change constantly
P: Gives pagination example  – people don’t read past page 2, but if page views (rather than actual reader engagement) is your metric then that will affect your design
P: We need art directors in our industry (web) badly!

A: Are we leaving to much to the web guys?
K: Or leaving design to web designers who don’t understand how to ‘distract people enough to read your content’

Audience Question: what’s the best way to put your print mag online?
K: Put it on your website, not in flip edition (like wired)
A: First ask, why am I going on the web? If you don’t have a good answer, you’re damaging your brand. If the answer is to enhance reader experience, then you will want to do more than a page turner.

Audience Question: Is maclean’s making more $ online than offline?
P: Hell no!
K: But you’re spending less
P: There just isn’t enough revenue to have massive resources on web. I was amazed at how little it would take to buy all ads on our website (5k)
K: digital is 40% of rev @ wired but they have 40 stories a day. “If you play small you’re going to stay small”

A: Where are we going?
D: Publishers are looking for a way to add a web component to their print with a reasonable cost model.  that is what a good art director can do.

A: Does a good art director need to think both print & digital?
D: Writers have to as well
P: Mobile is not the saviour people think it is. iPad actually make things harder, doesn’t mean people will automatically shell out $$ for what we did 5 years ago.
K: We need to evolve metrics beyond page views to targeted products (ex.national geographic is doing good iPad stuff). The beauty of iTunes store is impluse buying, but you need to price so it can be an impulse buy

A: Brings up Apple’s new magazine rack
K: Zinio dropped the ball and I’m hoping Apple will pick it up

A: Example of kid who tried to zoom a print pub. Aren’t we just pushing info, does platform matter in the end?
K: No
P: Yes, though there is a lot of crossover. What you do best in print is rarely what you do best on web. It’s a different experience readers are looking for. The two things are separate (ex web on tv)
D: What we do on the web would not make sense on the web. web and print need to live together and play off of each other rather than being separate camps
K: Print isn’t dying, but it is going to become a nostalgia item. Readers are changing, ie. she can’t read printed paper anymore. Deliver what the reader wants for where the reader is.

A: “Printyness” of magazines is rising.  Magazine’s are embracing their difference from the web.
Audience Comment: Community is key to online success, but hasn’t been exploited yet
K: the beauty of the web is it isn’t limited by geography

Audience Comment: It isn’t just a revenue issue, it’s also about cost. The model needs to work both ways.
K: Content that is great in print isn’t always the content you find in magazines

Audience Question: What is your opinion on physical newsstands?
K: Canadian newsstand is weak to begin with
A: Newsstand for many mags is just a branding vehicle. that audience can’t be proven well to advertisers. The web does data so much better, there is much more to sell, but it is honest. quoted someone” the difference b/wn old media and new media is truth.” the old metric system (PMB) is ludicrous.
K: The videos people want to watch are not where advertisers want to be
A: Had a one month app sponsorship recently! “What does that even mean?”
P: Revenue depends on pageviews but it depends on the sections people don’t actually go to, to the point where it is crippling

Audience Question: Are print subscribers the same or different from the digital subscribers?
P: Right now, we can’t know. unifying metrics needed
K: Rogers example  – her ipad sub was running out so they sent her a physical copy
K: Online ads are bad.
D: Design is the largest advantage that print has – people consider ads content
K: Is that because the ads are so much better done?
D: On web its easy to ignore advertising?

Audience Question: What is the “real cost” to produce an online pub if the content comes from writers already on staff for the print pub?
P: We effectively have two separate operations (web & print) and content is licensed from print ops. A certain % of revenue goes to the print pub to cover writing costs.

A: Is there pressure to make web financially sustainable?
P: We don’t make enough money to pay for one month of a top writer
A: doesn’t create any original content except blogs (writers on retainer). these writers post when they want (have access to CMS)
K: Web writing is about interacting with a community of readers (i.e. good writers who have good twitter following is worth more than another writer)
D: My editors get paid to create a certain amount of pages and they agreed to let me repurpose in order to expand our sub base (but he was a start-up essentially)

Audience Question: What are ad rates for apps?
K: Admob and iAd take a %
A: Sponsorship is a model. It’s like the wild west – that’s why a brand is so important, right type of eyeballs regardless of format
D: Advertisers are buying across platforms, so it may be thrown in or at least not costed out on its own