I’ve been on vacation in Hawaii and was whale-watching the other day (shout-out to Captain Dan McSweeney and his crew for giving us an unbeatable view of the humpbacks off the shore of Big Island). We were a captive audience of 20 or so people, on the boat for three hours, learning about the whales and their environment, and they made sure to take advantage of that – not only did they offer us merchandise to help fundraise for whale research, but they passed around a clipboard offering us their complimentary e-newsletter so we can get updates on what the whales and their followers are up to.
It made me think: are we as publishers taking full advantage of our captive audience when building our lists? Sure, we may have newsletter sign-up forms on our sites and mention the newsletters in-mag, but what about other situations? For instance, if your publication has a tent at Word on the Street, you should also have a computer set up so people can get your (complimentary!) newsletter. Hosting an event? Again, set up a computer, or at the very least have a sign-up sheet people can write on. The best way to develop an email list of readers engaged in your product is to take every opportunity to remind them of how it will benefit them, and to make it easy for them to sign up. (Not sure why you should be building a database of email addresses? Find out why your site/publication needs a newsletter.)
A very cool service I recently discovered (hat tip possibly to @mdash but I’m not sure) is dailylit.com, which chops books into quickly digestible chunks and emails them to you (you can subscribe via RSS too) on whatever schedule you request: every weekday morning, for instance.
I’d been meaning to reread War and Peace for ages, but really, when do you get around to that kind of thing? Now I get a piece emailed to me every evening and I’ll be done by the end of the year. A long time to read a book, sure, but it’s in a few minutes a day, not several hours every week or two. Plus, it’s War and Peace.
Daily Lit offers classics (i.e. pre-copyright) for free and charges for newer books—about $3 to $7, it looks like. It’s an interesting business model and a creative (yet quite old-fashioned, I suppose, if you ask Dickens) way to repackage books.
Last week, Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion shared his five reasons that text is still “king of the web” – over other formats such as video. One is an idea we should all keep top of mind (especially as most of us live it): a pretty large percentage of your site visitors are viewing from work, where they’re a lot less likely to watch a video and more likely to be looking for specific information to scan through (or entertaining distractions, but that’s another post).
Rubel makes a very good point if you do have video: make sure to surround it with quality keyword-rich text. It’s how Google’s going to find your video, and it’s how people are going to know what it’s about without watching it.
Generally in the magazine world, if content is shared across platforms it goes from print to web – rarely, with the exception of letters and some user-generated content, does it go the opposite direction. But magculture.com brings up a very cool example of exactly that: a printed collection of blog posts called “Things our friends have written on the Internet 2008″. Go and check it out, it’s a creative idea and something you can take inspiration from for future multiplatform projects.
A New Yorker article I referenced the other day emphasized the importance of identifying your core business, and asking yourself if you make magazines or content. (Content, obviously, is platform-independent, whereas magazines are not.) Further to that, I found this quote from an article on Publishing Executive interesting:
Many publications today are seeing the future of their businesses shift more toward the Internet. For Christopher Ruddy, editor of Newsmax.com and Newsmax magazine, the future is the Internet. “Publishers should start thinking that their businesses are really Web-based, and their magazine is an adjunct to that,” he says. “The Internet is the way we get most of our subscribers and promote our magazine.” In other words, magazine publishers today should think more in terms of the Internet as their primary business with a print component to it. “We think of the Web as the main hub for our publishing company, and our magazine helps build our community and our brand,” Ruddy says.
What do you think? Can you imagine your publication shifting its primary focus to the web?
Received a link from @kevingonsalves to an article on Tyler Brûlé’s thoughts on the future of print in Finnair’s in-flight magazine. A digital edition, and not a very sophisticated one. After *clicking through* to page 22 (really, who thinks that’s a good idea? Do we force our print readers to flip through every page to get to the article they want?), I tried to read it. Really, I did. But I failed. With the awkward scrolling, fuzzy text and accidental zooming out and in, I just couldn’t get focused enough. So yes, Tyler, I agree with you in a certain sense – if the entire web were like this, it wouldn’t be a pleasant place to read things at all.
As we move from web-as-afterthought to web-as-major-focus, many magazines are rethinking their original staffing arrangements. Forbes, for instance, has now merged (and tightened) its staff – everyone now does both print and web.
• Bring everyone together – literally. Web staff and print staff should sit together, so that they can collaborate easily and keep each other top of mind. “By literally breaking down the walls between employees working in print and other interactive media divisions, you eliminate silos.”
• Encourage all staff members to think of all platforms, even if their job description only includes one. Let web staff participate in print idea-building, and vice versa. “The breakdown of physical space will naturally lead to the sharing of ideas, people and resources, which can significantly impact return on investment.”
How do your print and digital staff interact, and how are they organized? What do you think is the ideal situation?
As many print products lose readers to online, the question remains: how can web properties make enough money to produce the same quality content that their print revenues allowed for?
For whatever reason, display ads don’t command the same prices online as they have in print, and web readers are used to having everything available instantly, and for free. But can this last?
A recent article in the New Yorker by James Surowiecki discusses this problem, specifically as it applies to newspapers. A few of his key points:
• Define your business. Do you create magazines, or do you create content? Says Surowiecki: “Many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net.”
• Consider alternative revenue models. “There are many possible futures one can imagine for [newspapers], from becoming foundation-run nonprofits to relying on reader donations to that old standby the deep-pocketed patron.”
• Remember that nothing’s really free. “For a while now, readers have had the best of both worlds: all the benefits of the old, high-profit regime—intensive reporting, experienced editors, and so on—and the low costs of the new one. But that situation can’t last. Soon enough, we’re going to start getting what we pay for, and we may find out just how little that is.”
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.