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.”