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'Me First, Me First': Dealing with the Digital Logjam

The rush to ramp up online.


Matt Kinsman By Matt Kinsman
11/29/2007 -13:15 PM







Web site relaunches, job boards, social networks, Webinars, podcasts, videocasts, etc. Most magazine publishers are scrambling to ramp up their online offerings as fast as they can. However, in the rush to ramp up online, management and the major disciplines (sales, editorial and circulation) often take for granted that what’s being built can be done quickly and easily, and overload the online and IT staffs with “me first” requests. “People think online is easy, that standards and guidelines can be gotten around, that things can be done far quicker than they actually can with fewer people, none of which is true,” says the online manager at one b-to-b publisher. “Yes, you can launch a Web site easier and more cost-effectively than a new magazine but it still takes the same business practices behind the scenes—content planning, business planning, budgeting. A lot of those things tend to get ignored online."

Prioritize online projects according to the return, not what’s become someone’s pet project. Dave Newcorn, vice president of e-media at Summit Publishing, uses three factors to organize his workload: 1) is there real ROI attached; 2) Will it enable the editors to create multimedia content; and 3) Will it attract more subscribers either to the print magazine or newsletters, boosting audience development efforts? “If the answer is yes to any of those, it goes to the top of my list,” says Newcorn. “For example, we hired an editor recently who expressed an interest in editing her own podcasts. I dropped everything and scheduled IT time to install the software on her computer ASAP and arranged for training.”

The prominence of open source software is partly responsible for the misperceptions. "Everybody looks at open source and says ‘It’s free, just take it and up it up.’ No, nothing is free, you have to customize it and find a place to put it. There is a lot of stuff that goes along with it," says Rose Southard, IT director at Putman Media.

Blogs are a good example--blog software can be free and it can be put up quickly but customizing the blog platform to look like part of your Web site takes time. “Our sites consist of left-hand navigation, leader board at top, branding at top, and advertising on the right hand side,” says Southard. “When you go from reading an article to an editor’s blog, we want to convey that feeling that you’re still with us. It took several weeks to put that together. Once we did, it was easy and fast to reproduce both steps. But getting it done in the first place took quite a while. It was free software—-Wordpress. If you just grab it and install it, it looks like Wordpress, not Putman Media.”

Don’t get caught up in a game of tit-for-tat (they launch a job board, you launch a job board) with the competition. You should have mapped out your online strategy so you know what will work for you at that stage of your Web development.

If you start scrambling to add features just because the other guy has one, you’ll blow your budget and derail your strategy quickly. “One request that I really dislike is what I call ‘the sky is falling’ request in reaction to what our competitor is doing,” says Newcorn. “As in, “Dave, our competitors now have a flam-shooter on their site! We need one on our site too!’ While we need to be aware of what our competition is doing, we also need to have a little faith that the path we’ve chosen months ago is the correct one for our readers and advertisers. If it’s not, they—not our competition—will certainly be the first to let us know.”





Matt Kinsman By Matt Kinsman --

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