Monday, June 29, 2009

For those of you who aren’t Apple geeks, you should know that they recently released the third iteration of the iPhone – and with the low-end model priced at just $99 with a contract, market penetration can’t help but go up. Now’s the time to research whether an iPhone app (and BlackBerry too, if you’re so inclined) could work for your business.

A number of magazines in the U.S. have done it already. Condé Nast’s Epicurious (warning: links will take you to the iTunes store) has an ad-supported recipe app that you can download for free. Lucky has a shopping app for the same price. But it’s Men’s Health that has upped the ante by offering not just a paid app (it costs $1.99), but a paid app with extra content available for an additional fee.

You see, one feature of the new iPhone operating system is that you can sell additional features within an application for an added costs – which has huge implications for content-based apps. (This feature only applies to applications that you have to pay for to begin with – a free app is always free.) Men’s Health is offering workouts – so you get a basic set for the first $1.99, and have to pay extra if you want more workouts. But this could work for something as simple as an e-reader version of your magazine – sell a couple of years of archives for $0.99 or $1.99, and then let people download each new issue as it comes out (even early!) for a fee.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have some of my text-heavy magazine subscriptions on my phone. Walrus, Toronto Life, I’m talking to you. Make it a pleasure to read and I really think people will pay for it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There’s an interesting article up on discussing eight food bloggers-slash-cookbook writers who are using the multiplatform approach to build and develop their careers. Some started with books and some with blogs, but all of them recognize the value that blogging brings to their cookbook writing and vice versa.

Cookbooks aren’t magazines, but I think there are some good learnings in there for our own part of the media world. For instance:

• “Be totally authentic,” says Jaden Hair, who writes a newspaper food column and appears on television as well. She stresses that she presents the same personality—brand identity would be a magazine’s version of that—on all platforms.

Use the web—and interaction with readers—for inspiration. Zoë François and her co-author Jeff Hertzberg got the idea for their second bread book from requests on the blog.

Make the web your testing ground, suggests Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini. “As a writer, your blog is your playground.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When designing or redesigning your site, there’s a ton of decisions to be made in terms of navigation, layout and functionality. The wrong choices can make a big impact on your site’s performance over the long term. So how do you know what to choose?

According to Jakob Nielsen, the best way to create the most user-friendly design is to go to the end user and do some research: even if your budget is small, small-scale focus groups can give valuable insight that, in Nielsen’s study, performed significantly better than the choices the designers had made based on their own instincts.

The problem with letting designers make the decisions, says Nielsen, is that they tend to have an overly optimistic view of the general population’s web skills.

And that can be deadly for your site. If a user finds it confusing or hard to read, they’ll go elsewhere.

Have you ever done end-user research on potential site designs? How did it work for you?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Need more reasons to link out from your content? Publishing 2.0 has five. Among them: by linking, you’re creating connections with the broader web community, who are then more likely to link back to you. (This is what I like to call “linking karma”.)

Some tips on linking well:

  • Put the reader first. What further information might they need that’s not available on your site?
  • Start with the obvious: link sources’ names to their websites, book titles to an online bookseller (that specific book’s page, not just the home page), websites to themselves. (Surely the most infuriating thing you can find on the web is an article mentioning a website’s name without sharing its URL, with or without a link.)
  • Don’t forget to link within your site – not just as related stories mentioned within your page template, but as “contextual” links (linking within body text).

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for links in return – many interview sources will even have websites with media pages that they can mention your article on. You’d be surprised how these small trickles of traffic can add up over time.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Just came across this piece on pay walls by Scott Rosenberg. His thesis? “It’s not the pay, it’s the wall”:

The problem is that the steps publishers take to maximize revenue end up minimizing the value and utility of their Web pages. Building a “pay wall” typically means that only a paying subscriber can access the page — that’s why it’s a wall. So others can’t link directly to it, and the article is unlikely to serve as the starting point for a wider conversation beyond the now-narrowed pool of subscribers.

This is an important thing to keep in mind when considering not just pay walls, but also registration walls, where readers must register to comment on or even see content. Be very careful that you don’t put so much of your site on the registration-required side of the wall that there’s nothing left for anyone to discover or share.

About Me
Kat Tancock
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.
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