It’s no secret that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of digital editions – as I’ve said before, I am highly skeptical that they will ever take off with readers. They’re not as pleasurable to read as a print magazine or as convenient as a website.
That being said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong if anyone could present me with some hard data. So please, throw in your two cents in the comments. The caveat: we need to study readership over a significant period of time. One or two issues doesn’t count as the newness of the format is still a factor. And I do think that trade mags and informational publications will perform better in digital editions than magazines that people read for pleasure.
The other issue, even if people are reading them, is how well ads perform in digital editions—and what we should be charging for them. Josh Gordon at Folio has a good discussion going on monetizing digital editions. Head over to see what people have to say and share your thoughts there as well.
Adam Hodgkin of Exact Editions has also offered me a couple of subscriptions so I can try out some of his publications and review them. I’ll be doing that soon.
As we all head into the once-a-year quiet season, it’s a good time to question today’s information overload and what we’re doing to a) stand out amongst the chaos and b) make sure readers don’t see us as too much noise, not enough signal.
So ponder this: if you had to cut yourself down to just a few magazines, just a few websites, just a few topics, what would they be? Would your publication/website make the cut? Are you providing your readers with the core information they wouldn’t give up, or the peripheral ideas that they could live without?
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 hohoto.ca. Already got tickets? See you there tonight!
1. Create excellent content
As in print, this is number one by far. Create editorial that you believe in, you would click on and you would read. Without this step, the rest is unimportant.
2. Make it accessible
How will your potential readers find your content? Is it easy for readers to share with friends, whether through email or social media? Think about how to make content accessible for site visitors, Google and the rest of the web.
3. Make it web-friendly
Make your content easy to read on-screen by keeping it tight and focused, breaking it up, bolding key phrases and using bullets or numbered points when appropriate. Ensure titles are clickable and make sense.
4. Make it timeless
This isn’t always possible – dated content is dated content – but every article that can be evergreen should be evergreen. Make its lifespan as long as possible.
It’s easy to slip into auto-pilot, but your work will suffer. Always think critically about the decisions you make and reassess what you’ve done in the past so you can make your work better. The web is constantly changing and you should be too.
Don’t exist in a bubble – link to others and they will link back to you, plus you’ll be making your site more useful for readers. Believe in linking karma.
7. Be creative
Think beyond articles and explore other formats: slideshows, video, audio, blogs, tools. Explore how you can best serve your reader.
8. Communicate and engage
The best thing the web has to offer is its interactivity. Make use of this to create a conversation with your readers, whether it’s through site forums, newsletters, social media tools like Twitter or Facebook or simply email. Offer readers a chance to participate in your site.
Make sure you have good analytics software, and keep track of your site stats. Know what people are reading and how they’re getting to your site. Know where they’re leaving from. Then use this information to develop and change.
Know what’s common practice, but don’t rely on it. Stay informed about the latest and greatest in online publishing. Constantly experiment to see what works for your reader and your site. Try new things and always be willing to evolve.
There’s a very good article in the current issue of the British Journalism Review called “How SEO is changing journalism” (thanks to @doshdosh on Twitter via @wingszetang). In it, Shane Richmond, communities editor at Telegraph.co.uk, explains what SEO really is (and isn’t – i.e., some sort of voodoo marketing deception) and what it means for journalism online. Some key points:
On writing for computers vs. writing for people:
We are writing to be read and these days that increasingly means ensuring that our stories are found by search engines. Readership patterns are changing. Online news may seem similar to its offline equivalent – it is after all just words, pictures and moving images – but it is fundamentally different.
On where your online audience comes from:
Now, audiences can form at article level, driven by news aggregators such as Techmeme, social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, and news sites, such as Digg, that are “edited” by their users. There are still audiences, and large ones, that are loyal to a single title, but every publisher is seeing more and more people arrive at their websites via search engines, and the potential to use this trend to increase audiences is huge. Ideally, many of these surfers will see that your site comes high in the search results time and again and will become regular readers.
On web-friendly heds:
Unfortunately though, and there’s no gentle way to put this, the witty, punning headline is finished when it comes to the internet. The greatest headlines of the web era will be the most functional ones and they’re unlikely to be remembered by anybody at all even a month after publication, let alone years later.
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