Reversing the Flow
Jason Snell, editorial director at 350,000-circ MacWorld, has essentially reversed his editorial production priorities between the print magazine and its Web site. The majority of stories are now generated for the Web audience first and then later further developed for the magazine. The process both caters to and acknowledges the growing realities of print and Web-based media;namely, an audience's need for timely information, especially in the computer tech market, and the magazine's ability to offer content at the reader's own pace. Recognizing this has helped MacWorld more clearly delineate those needs.
While not a strategy for everyone, Snell has nevertheless determined for his organization that the Web site has emerged as the broader platform; serving over two million uniques per month;while the magazine has evolved into a more selective product for its audience.
"There was a time when we wouldn't even post things on the Web site that came from the magazine for fear that it would devalue the magazine," says Snell. "Most of what we do now, with the exception of our back-of-book, how-to columns starts on the Web," says Snell.
Stories incubate online and, sometimes with direct audience feedback, are later expanded for the magazine. Snell points to insatiable needs of Web users and an evolving print readership that is becoming more select. "As the Web rises, how do the needs of the print reader change because they're using the Web for some things and not others? How do you keep them as a reader into the future? We have to accept that print is not going to die but it's going to have less appeal. For us to have success in five to ten years, we need to do the Web right and not cripple it in any way," says Snell.
Judgments on what to cover are made based on the information needs of the Web audience. Consequently, deadlines are originated with the Web site and then backed out to accommodate the magazine. "Not that print doesn't get those things in the end," says Snell, "it's just that print isn't the thing that drives it."
Stories aren't necessarily repurposed for print verbatim. A link to a discussion page is attached to every online article, which has the added benefit of helping Snell expand a story for print according to the exact needs of readers. For example, when Apple released its Intel-based iMacs, Snell and his team immediately posted a performance-based story online. Readers subsequently challenged the conclusions of the magazine's benchmark tests in the feedback forum. "When it came time to prepare that online story for print," wrote Snell in an editorial, "I updated it to address the issues the readers had raised. The give and take certainly made the story stronger and clearer."