'Me First, Me First': Dealing with the Digital Logjam
The rush to ramp up online.
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 whatâs being built can be done quickly and easily, and overload the online and IT staffs with âme firstâ requests. âPeople 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,â says the online manager at one b-to-b publisher. âYes, 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 scenesâcontent planning, business planning, budgeting. A lot of those things tend to get ignored online."
Prioritize online projects according to the return, not whatâs become someoneâs 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? âIf the answer is yes to any of those, it goes to the top of my list,â says Newcorn. âFor 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.â
The prominence of open source software is partly responsible for the misperceptions. "Everybody looks at open source and says âItâs free, just take it and up it up.â 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. âOur sites consist of left-hand navigation, leader board at top, branding at top, and advertising on the right hand side,â says Southard. âWhen you go from reading an article to an editorâs blog, we want to convey that feeling that youâre 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 softwareâ-Wordpress. If you just grab it and install it, it looks like Wordpress, not Putman Media.â
Donât 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, youâll blow your budget and derail your strategy quickly. âOne request that I really dislike is what I call âthe sky is fallingâ request in reaction to what our competitor is doing,â says Newcorn. âAs in, âDave, our competitors now have a flam-shooter on their site! We need one on our site too!â While we need to be aware of what our competition is doing, we also need to have a little faith that the path weâve chosen months ago is the correct one for our readers and advertisers. If itâs not, theyânot our competitionâwill certainly be the first to let us know.â
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