Getting Online Edit Up-to-Speed
Wyatt Kash, editorial director of Government Computer News, thinks his team has reached a balance for juggling print and online workloads. The brand includes a print tabloid published 34 times per year, producing about 870 edit pages and another 575 page-equivalents online from daily news reporting that doesn't make it into print. The brand also includes 18 electronic newsletters (one daily, a couple of weeklies, some monthlies and semi-monthlies) that serve up the latest news and drive traffic online. Government Computer News also produces 20 "electronic forums," two blogs and a smattering of audio and video files. "We function as a daily;we use one reporting and editing staff to funnel all the content through the system, then it forks through a print production team and an online production team," says Kash. "It would be harder to switch gears if we were a monthly doing longer analytical stories."
Government Computer News has just under 20 people on the edit staff, with "1.5" Web production editors (the .5 splits time with production and marketing), nine full time writers, three assistant managing editors and one managing editor for print, with two artists to help on the print side. Rather than be techies, "The primary skills for reporters and writers are to be journalists first and to think like editors and storytellers," says Kash. "With the volume of content going online and the rush to publish, an online editor needs to be fluent with the software skills but needs to be a good copy editor as well." Some pointers from Kash for balancing print and online edit:
Five Keys to Online Edit
Don't focus too much on any one online outlet. GCN has 100,000 subscribers to its daily e-newsletter, and Kash found that 90 percent prefer the text version to HTML. "As an editor, I was thinking about how to make a graphically-interesting newsletter, but readers didn't want it that way," says Kash. "Twenty percent of our readers now regularly get e-mail on Treos and Blackberries. It's easy to get sidetracked by a fancy rich media Web site and take your eye off the ball as to where people are really consuming the content."
Have proper staffing. Yes, the edit staff should be working both in print and online, but that only goes so far. Regardless of your print schedule, the online workload is quickly becoming daily. As an editor, you need to establish the number of stories that are going in various media, then work backwards to make sure you have the right amount of staff. "I'm continuously reminding my management how many stories we produce online because they don't really feel it the way they do when they see magazines pile up," says Kash.
Take ownership of the Web site. Kash asked the GCN defense IT reporter to take over the defense section of the Web site. "Getting writers to take ownership of the content is the next step," says Kash. "They should have a similar desire for how their stories appear online as in print."
Use online channels to create dialogue, not just deliver content. Leverage newsletters not just for additional coverage but also to get more people writing back to you with tips and comments. "More stories should end up in writers' laps because it's so easy to e-mail," says Kash.
Make it a priority from the top. "I need to set the tone as the editor, and the managing editors that are marshalling stories need to say an online story is as important as print," says Kash. "The whole management team needs to support the dual distribution of online and print content."
Staffing for Web 3.0
Editorial is only half the equation. If you want accelerated revenues online, you need a good Web production staff. Government Computer News editorial director Wyatt Kash shares his wish list on key positions for building a strong online brand.
Online Graphic Designer: "We publish pictures and charts in print but a variety of graphic material can't be posted online."
Multimedia Asset Manager: "You don't see that position much now but we do see it coming. We're getting more digital files;video, audio, PDFs; that don't currently have an easy place to live. Our content management system is pretty much limited to text stories. We all waste a lot of hours trying to find things we know we have but aren't easily found in the database."
Metrics Analyst: "As publishers we have all these measurement tools but we don't have an individual;almost like a good financial manager;keeping track of numbers and presenting them back to the staff so we can make better business decisions. We're ignoring the full extent of people in our store. We need this for editors, not just the ad sales side. My sense is we're leaving new products on the table because we aren't seeing how it can be used."
Community Editor: "A year from now, we'll need more expertise on what to do with Web 2.0, such as with forums and collaborations. It's interesting what the Web is doing to get readers to contribute. We need someone with an editorial and marketing head to manage that because with the volume we have to crank out, no one editor can do it. It's an interesting hybrid and we don't want to see our loyalty further fragmented by all these collaboration groups in the market."