Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Why you need web-only staff

May 22, 2012

I’ve been observing a trend lately in the industry of more positions being labelled as cross-platform – i.e., that editor works on print, web and everything else – which is awesome. I mean, all editors should be thinking of the brand and readership in all ways they reach them and have the opportunity to create content in multiple ways.

However. Print timelines being what they are, and production schedules, we all know too well that it’s easy to forget about the website when you’re focused on finishing up a print issue. The trouble is, websites don’t work that way. You can’t just ignore them for seven to 10 days of the month and expect that they’ll be successful when you make up for it the rest of the time.

Which is the main reason that I strongly believe that all editorial staff should be encouraged to contribute to all platforms – but that at least one person (obviously small mags with tiny staffs can be forgiven for not reaching this goal) should have the website as their primary focus. A good website needs ownership, someone who is knowledgeable about and can advocate for the best web experience for web readers – which includes social media. It doesn’t mean this person should have to do all the work, but it does mean they should have the experience and power to make decisions and recommendations on what happens with digital properties.

For instance, I really like this quote from Anjali Mullany, social media editor at Fast Company:

The most valuable thing that social media editors [and] community managers bring to their newsrooms is not all the great tricks that they have up their sleeve when it comes to using new technology, although that’s really important.

I think what they bring is they solve problems. They solve problems of the digital age.

They figure out how am I going to bridge the gap between what you want and all the demands you have on your time. I think social media can totally help with that but you have to be really thoughtful about it.

Wherever I’ve been able to make any change or bridge that gap, a lot of it has come from trying really hard to understand what people’s workflows are, what demands are already on their time and what they’re trying to achieve and then trying to make what I do fit that.

Beyond that, making sure that you are using all these interesting platforms and trying to think creatively about them and using them in your own reporting and being an example of how to use those tools is really important too.


Scott Stratten on social media trends

February 22, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Social Media Week talk by Scott Stratten, better known by his Twitter handle @unmarketing, on social media trends for 2010, including a focus on location-based social media. It was a great talk – worth watching even if just to see a great presenter at work – and I appreciated Stratten’s blend of pragmatism and idealism when it comes to social media. (For those of you curious about what Foursquare is all about, he’ll explain that, too.)

Happily, the team at Refresh Events recorded the session so more people could benefit from it. Check it out on their site and share it with colleagues who share an interest in social media.

How magazines can build community

February 2, 2009

Community was the hot buzzword around magazine offices last year, and it doesn’t seem to be going away soon. Magazines aren’t just print products anymore, of course – to fit in these days, you have to be a multiplatform brand that builds community among your readership, makes use of social media, fits in some user-generated content… things have become a lot more complicated.

Of course, just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should, or even that it works. Case in point: social networks. Many magazines/magazine companies have been integrating social features into their sites, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but I like Steve Smith’s perspective on MinOnline:

Brand hubris leads too many sites to construct their own social networks (a la Facebook) in the truly bizarre belief that their visitors (who already have vibrant Facebook communities) really want to build another one at a magazine site. Chant the trendy mantra magazines are communities to ourselves often enough at every industry conference, and I guess eventually we believe it.

This is so true. Think about it: if you don’t have the time or inclination to join eight or nine different networks, why would your readers? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to duplicate Facebook’s success, and even if you could, it’s an open question how much real money they’re making from the site. For every Facebook or Twitter there’s a pile of social sites that will never find success.

But back to magazines. How can we build community around our brands, and should we? I think the answer is a qualified yes. Qualified because it really, really depends on each individual case. General interest magazines have the hardest time here. It’s hard to find a nexus to build a community around when your publication has no true focus. Trying to target every Canadian woman between the ages of 25 and 45? Well, guess what – most of them are already quite happy on Facebook and probably a few other sites. What can you offer them that they don’t already have?

Niche magazines, on the other hand, have it easy in a way. Runner’s World has an extremely vibrant community, centred around its forums. They got in the game early enough that no one else beat them to it – if there had already been a hugely popular online running community by the time Runner’s World got around to building its own, it probably wouldn’t be as popular. Take the knitting community: Ravelry is a very popular – and very good – social network that revolves around knitting and crocheting (still in beta last time I checked) and was started by a couple of entrepreneurs. (As an aside, never underestimate knitters, especially online. They’re everywhere.) Interweave Knits or another knitting magazine could have started it first and been successful, but they didn’t – and it’s a whole lot harder now. Finally, one of my students introduced me last week to the magazine The Chronicle of the Horse, out of Virginia. They have very busy forums and a fairly new social network (Chronicle of My Horse) that is, obviously, focused on the horse-loving community, which, like knitters, is a pretty ideal target for online community building (highly engaged, geographically dispersed).

This is a very long way of saying that you don’t have to do everything online. For one thing, it’s impossible. For another, you’re a magazine: your strength is on producing good editorial (or at least I hope so), so build on that strength. Build on what readers know and trust you for. Smith suggests a hybrid of magazines and social sites, in a way: “participatory content”, or building debate around your professional editorial, and “content participation”, or putting your staff in the middle of the conversation and building community from that angle. And I agree with him: there’s a lot we can do to build community online without trying (and failing) to be the next Facebook.

The power of Twitter in Toronto

December 15, 2008

If you doubt the power of effective social media tools and ideas, you should read the story of #hohoto in Toronto (here as well)—a Twitter-organized last-minute Christmas party that’s happening tonight and has (so far) raised over $20,000 for the Daily Bread Food Bank. All in less than a month.

This isn’t to say that Twitter (or whatever the next cool tool is) will solve everyone’s problems. But it’s proof that a great idea can be executed well using nothing but social media.

Tickets are sold out, but you can find out more—and make donations to Daily Bread—at Already got tickets? See you there tonight!

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.

Protect your brand online

November 6, 2008

There’s now a ton of social media sites to sign up for, more than anyone can ever use. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still create an account. Who’s to say which site will be the next Facebook or Twitter? And when that time arrives, don’t you want to own your brand?

I just came across a site (thanks to the Bivings Report) that will check your chosen username across various sites (I counted 68 today, but they’re adding more) such as Flickr, Friendfeed, even eBay, and tell you if it’s available. It’s a good thing to check with both your own name (if you’re interested in owning it across the Internet) and your magazine’s name. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for as many of the popular sites as you can using the name of your magazine, even if you don’t plan to use it right away or perhaps ever – if you don’t do it now, it might be unavailable when you do want it. And above all, keep a list of the sites, usernames and passwords somewhere in the office where the next person to take an interest in such things can find it, if you ever leave.

Otherwise, when the next big site hits the mainstream, you may end up joining it as CanMag12345.

Meredith to create its own social network

October 15, 2008

According to a story in Mediaweek, Meredith is working on its own social network,, to launch in November. As you might imagine, it’s focused on food, including recipe sharing and meal and event planning.

The interesting thing here is that they’re not hosting the new community under one of their existing brands—they’re creating a new site entirely focused on user-generated content. Here’s how they describe it:

“With the branded sites—all the different needs people come to us for, creating a very pure environment that looks and feels like it’s built for the consumer—that kind of authenticity of intent is necessary,” said Dan Hickey, Meredith’s vp, digital content. Mixingbowl, by contrast, is “really about the world of peer-to-peer recipes. It’s a social network around meals and meal planning.”

Meredith isn’t the first to create a new online brand separate from its existing print brands—a lot of magazine sites have gone back and forth between a branded site that fits with the print model and a (usually) portal site that incorporates branded content: think iVillage or MochaSofa. What’s interesting here is the Web 2.0 nature of this project as opposed to the editorial-driven ones of the past. I think it can work—there’s certainly room for social networks driven by food—but the question is whether the quality of content can lure people away from sites like and (both of which already have some social features).

Weekend links: October 4

October 4, 2008

How to know if you should fire your social media consultant (Mashable)
How amateur enthusiasts are using the web to lead the way in furthering our understanding of the solar system (BBC)
Poll: Young people who use landlines are more conservative than those who use mobile phones (Collision Detection)
Set your blog on fire (
Secrets of viral fame (, with thanks to Lisa Murphy)
The cost of free copy (Folio)

Too much social media, not enough time

September 23, 2008

Social media is going mainstream, and everyone wants a piece of it. But now that there are so many services available, it’s not just a matter of adding communities to people’s lives – they have enough to keep up with, says Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times. Which means there are two options: replace people’s existing tools with your own (which can be pretty difficult), or create tools that don’t require major shifts in behaviour.

It’s an important thing to think about if you’re considering adding social media or communities to your site. You’re not just competing with your traditional competing magazines’ sites – you’re competing with Facebook. So before you put in any major investment of time or money, think hard about what you can offer that no one else can. If it were you being asked to join this potential community, would it be worth your time?

Is social media right for your site?

September 12, 2008

Folio posted a long roundtable discussion the other day about incorporating – and monetizing – social media on your site. Participants included Stephen Merrill of, Jeremy Westin of Playboy Media Group and Ted Nadeau of CondeNet. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in the subject. But for the time-pressed, here are a few key points:

• Nadeau points out that not only does social media offer an opportunity to deepen user engagement, but it’s a way to extend your content and brand beyond the “walls” of your website.

• According to several of the participants, we’re moving from an age of quantity to an age of quality, from valuing high traffic numbers to valuing quality traffic. This is especially important as online ad sales looks to improve upon the CPM model for gathering revenue.

• It’s all about the content and how you facilitate it. Stick to your brand.

• Community managers/editors/leaders are going to be the next wave of editorial staff and the next “cool job to have”.

• When working on user-generated content, it’s important to maintain editorial standards.

• We’re still in the early days of social media; “it’s all about careful experimentation,” says Westin.