Friday, November 28, 2008

It’s shameless plug time: January is approaching (no, really), and with it another term of courses in the Magazine Publishing program at Ryerson University. My class (Creating Website Editorial) is offered in January and February (it’s just seven weeks long, not a big commitment but packed with useful information), and of course I’d love for you to take it, but there are lots of other excellent classes starting in January:

The Business of Magazine Publishing with D.B. Scott
Introduction to Magazine Design with Jayne Finn
Magazine Writing with Margaret Webb
Advanced Magazine Writing with David Hayes
Magazine Copy Editing with Bernadette Kuncevicius
Editing Service Journalism with Doug O’Neill

Just remember, if you’re thinking of taking a class, the earlier you sign up, the better – sometimes classes get cancelled because of low enrollment, and no one knows you plan to take it unless you actually register.

Shameless plug over: we’ll return to our regular programming now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We had an interesting discussion in class last night after one student’s presentation of (the website for Entertainment Weekly – even if you’re not interested in the subject matter, it’s worth visiting just to see what maximum resources can get you). The question: when you’re and you have over 8 million UVs a month – and 80 million pageviews – with what might as well be infinite content online (seriously, they have archives back to 1990), why would anyone read the magazine?

The answer boiled down to experience. The print product offers a user experience that just can’t be replicated on the web. Conversely, the website does the same: you can’t do in print what you can online. There’s an extremely valuable lesson here. Your website isn’t about reproducing the print product on the web. It’s about taking the value and experience of your brand and leveraging it to create an independent, yet interconnected, online product, using all the resources the web has to offer but not trying to re-create your magazine.

When working on your website, always keep this question in mind: what kind of experience am I offering my readers? (And remember, this doesn’t just mean readers of the print magazine.) Keep this top of mind and, resource limitations aside, you can’t help but create a good product.

Wednesday, 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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One of my students presented last week on New Scientist’s website. It’s not one I’d visited before but I was impressed with the clean, attractive home page design (it’s apparently a recent redesign).

The trend for a long time has been for the home page to be taken up with large image panels, often dynamically rotating. While these look attractive, I’ve never been a huge fan of their functionality – my experience is that they don’t get as many clicks as your prime real estate should. This site offers an alternative to the image panel theme, although some might argue that it fails in not having one dominant story. In my opinion, it’s simple and it works. I don’t get lost on the page.

New Scientist

Another site that recently had a redesign is (as well as a domain shift – it used to be that went to French Glamour). They’ve retained the rotating images but made them much smaller than on most sites, and given up a major part of the home page to links to their blogs – a great idea if you have lots of blogs as your home page is constantly being updated, which is good for return visitors as well as Google. I do think, though, that their site header takes up far too much space – I don’t get to any content until halfway down my window (I’m on a 1280 x 800 monitor).

What do you think of these sites? What are your favourite magazine website home pages?

Monday, November 24, 2008

One feature of Google that not everyone’s aware of is that its results change from country to country – searching something on will get you different results from

Why is this important? Well, to start with, Canadian sites will rank higher on as Google sees them as more relevant to the searcher. And most Canadian searchers will be on as in most cases, you are automatically rerouted, even if you type (The exception is in some searches in the navigation bar on your browser – I find I usually get routed to there.)

Since most of us are looking for ad revenue, and our advertisers are generally looking for a Canadian audience, this is a good thing – it means more Canadians going to Canadian sites, which is the most useful kind of traffic.

So when checking your search results to see how you rank, make sure you’re checking – but look at as well (or other English sites, like, for that matter) to see if you rank there, too. It’s interesting to compare the results.

And don’t be surprised if Google pushes our searches even more locally in the future.

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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breesir, to answer your question, the reason magazines don't have dedicated web editors is quite sim...
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