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Matt Kinsman

Open Source Options For CMS

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 01/23/2007-03:00 AM

The online software options can be dizzying for publishers who are just beginning to take their sites to the next level. Amanda Hickman, a media and nonprofit specialist, offers her advice on open source software.

* I love Drupal and WordPress but probably only because I know them better than some of their peers. I know folks who work with Joomla and Plone are just as content. WordPress is (or can be if you let it) dead simple, lightweight, blogging software. Joomla, Plone and Drupal are much more comprehensive content management systems.

* http://cmsmatrix.org is a great resource for evaluating content management systems, proprietary and GPL alike.

* http//opensourcecms.com only rates free and open source content management software. They will let you test-drive a handful of PHP/MySQL driven content management systems but you’ll miss some really solid open source options if you use them as your only source, including Bricolage and Plone.

* Bricolage (http://bricolage.cc) is great for periodicals, as are some of the tools from the Center for Advanced Media, Prague (http://www.campware.org/)

* The NGO-in-a-Box series includes an AV Box (http://ngoinbox.org/boxes/audovideo), which has reviews and links for an extensive list of free and open source audio and video software

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Matt Kinsman

The New Edit Formula: “Volume And Velocity”

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 01/16/2007-03:00 AM

OK, so maybe it’s not so new, but have you noticed in the last year or so how the pace has changed? I don’t care if you write for a monthly or even a quarterly magazine—online all the deadlines are daily.

My first job was as an editor of a bi-weekly print newsletter (a nearly defunct business model these days). Most of the editors were recent colleges graduates, working on their own weekly or bi-weekly newsletters. However, the company did offer a daily e-mail newsletter—cutting edge back then—called “Media Daily” written by two editors who were there well before 9 and long after 5. We soft print editors would shake our heads in awe at the pace.

That seems almost laughable today, when putting out a daily newsletter is just part of the package and a 10-hour workday seems like early dismissal. Last January, the CNNMoney.com site redesigned to incorporate exclusive online content from Fortune, Money, Business 2.0 and Fortune Small Business. A team of 35 journalists focuses solely on creating content and today the site publishes nearly 100 stories per day, more than triple the number it posted a year ago, according to executive editor and vice president Chris Peacock. “The formula is volume and velocity,” says Peacock. “This is obviously a challenge for smaller publishers but it’s not insurmountable.” Peacock cites Business 2.0 which has a “small staff” [small at least by Fortune standards] in which every staffer, including editor Josh Quittner, writes a blog and posts at least two items per day.

The push for “community content” is also changing the editor’s role. IDG Entertainment’s GamePro.com re-launched last spring with an emphasis on community—and user submissions have swelled from an average of 155 user submissions per day to 2,650 per day, according to marketing director Simon Tonner. “You have to be in touch with these users all the time,” says Tonner. “You may come in the morning and think you have four stories to write but you might open up the forums and see if there’s a topic being discussed that completely changes your focus. You have to have that flexibility, and that might be a completely different work environment than what you’re used to do.”

But ultimately, volume doesn’t necessarily equal quality. The role of the editor online isn’t just to keep the content assembly line moving but maintaining quality control. “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,” says Wyatt Kash, editorial director at Government Computer News.

How are you managing the editorial workflow online?

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Matt Kinsman

Adding Up The Brand

Matt Kinsman Sales and Marketing - 01/02/2007-03:00 AM

Do publishing brands these days seem a little confusing? Maybe it’s because of all the consolidation in the marketplace and the need to start fresh. Maybe it’s because of the rise in e-publishing and the need to convey a sense of “new media.”

Numbers are big with publishing brands today. From 1105 Media (formerly 101 Communications) to 8020 Publishing, publishers are opting for a number as part of or even in place of a name. We’re no different: the magazine we originally launched to compete with Folio: was called M10 Report and our company name is Red 7 Media.

What’s the significance of your brand? Many city and regional magazines have taken their telephone area codes as their names, (such as 417 in Missouri). That makes sense, and has an immediate, recognizable significance for their audience. But does 1105 really grab your attention? When we started M10, the first question we always heard was, “What’s M10?” In a weird way it actually helped, because it started a conversation about who we were and how we were different from Folio:. But don’t think we weren’t relieved after we bought Folio: and could stop having that same conversation over and over.

After Wasserstein bought out Primedia Business for $385 million in August 2005, the company embarked on a self-described “intense,” months-long decision process for a company name before deciding on “Prism Business Media.” In an e-mail to employees, Primedia Business CEO John French said of the name, “It needs to be Memorable…Unique…Sustainable…Positive…Protectable as a trademark. Prism—like transmitting or reflecting light, like a ray of light passing through a prism. Prism is a reflection of what we represent within the organization and the industry. . .Carry it positively to the marketplace and avoid the inclination to say ‘why didn’t we name this or that.’”

Of course, in December 2006, shortly after Prism’s purchase of Penton Media, Prism switched its name to Penton. “If you think about it, Prism is a newly established brand with a brand new name and Penton has been around,” Reed Phillips, managing partner at M&A broker DeSilva & Phillips, told Folio at the time. “For that reason, it made sense to go with that name. Prism doesn’t really have any strong recognition yet in the marketplace.”

CEOs and owners fret long and hard over their company names but ultimately it’s their products that establish the brand, not the cute corporate name.

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Matt Kinsman

Doing It...Just Because

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/19/2006-03:00 AM

Who has a clearly defined Web strategy? Who has a dartboard approach, where you’re taking a stab at any promising new revenue stream in hopes that it will pay off?

Most publishers would probably admit to the dartboard approach. Part of that is because, as everyone likes to say, “No one knows where this is going.” Experimentation is relatively cheap, and if something doesn’t work, it can be gone the next day. “The beauty of the digital world is that if something works, great,” said John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, at the Digital Magazine Forum earlier this month. “If not, you can just take it right down.”

The problem with the dartboard approach is that it stretches already overstretched magazine staffs even farther. Yes, everybody needs to be working online, from editorial to ad sales to marketing. That’s not even an argument any more. But is what you’re doing online serving a specific purpose or are you there just because your competitor is too? If you have a blog, what’s the purpose? If you’re doing a Webinar, have you triple-checked the system before you go live? If you’re offering channels, have you worked out a pricing structure that makes sense for you as a publisher, after you’ve paid off the writers and designers who create the channel?

Unless you’ve been fleeced by a Web design firm that doesn’t understand your market, getting almost any kind of Web functionality should be extremely affordable, if not free. Publishers like to say, "It cost us nothing but man hours.” True, but are those man hours being used wisely? “Integrated” is not a synonym for “online-only.” The same staff is still producing magazines and events, and creating direct mail or maintaining the server. It’s true that we’re all still experimenting with what works and what doesn’t but have a rationale before going online.

Fortunately, as more and more Web products begin to pay off, we’ll all be wiser, as well as wealthier. “On thing a profitable business model let’s you do is choose what’s important and what’s not,” says Alec Dann, general manager of magazines online at Hanley Wood. “The early days of the Internet were anarchy.”

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Matt Kinsman

Staffing Up For "Web 2.0"

Matt Kinsman emedia and Technology - 12/13/2006-03:00 AM

At the recent American Business Media Top Management meeting, Government Computer News editorial director Wyatt Kash gave his “wish list” on what new positions he’d like to see to help accelerate revenue growth online. As we push further into the so-called “Web 2.0,” it’s becoming apparent that not only are the duties of traditional jobs such as editorial and sale changing, but there’s a growing need for entirely new types of positions to manage online products.

We’ve listed Kash’s wish list below, along with some follow-up comments on how he sees those positions fitting in.

What new types of online jobs would help you?

Wyatt Kash’s Wish List:
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 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 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.”

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Matt Kinsman

A Sense Of Entitlement

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 09/28/2006-02:00 AM

Today I received an unusual e-mail from a former Folio: freelancer.
Earlier this year, we had discussed the possibility of working with him
on a semi-regular basis. We elected not to. He began working for the
competition. No problem.

Until I received this e-mail today
(nearly 9 months later) claiming we owed him $2,000 resulting from that
conversation. He’d be happy to do an article for us, he wrote, but
either way, we owed him.

I gawked at the screen. I laughed. Then I got angry.

Nearly
nine months after a conversation that went nowhere, he had the brass to
contact us, demanding payment for work that never happened. We all
agree there was no printed contract, yet he claims there was a verbal
consensus (there wasn’t). He claimed we barred him from contacting our
competitors for work (we didn’t). When he started writing for the
competition shortly after our initial meeting, he never heard a peep
from us.

This freelancer then triumphantly accused us of
stealing a story idea he had submitted on editors becoming publishers.
Never mind that the story we
ran was a column submitted by a former editor who became a publisher.
Never mind that we had already done a separate story on editors
becoming publishers nearly a year before.

Demanding
payment for work completed is natural. Demanding payment for something
never assigned nor agreed upon is mind-boggling. Previously, a
different freelancer had amazed me by continually asking for more work
while in the process of blowing the deadline on his current assignment.
Now that seems almost reasonable by comparison.

I respect
freelancers. A good one is a true asset and we’ve worked with many. As
staff editors, it’s our responsibility to clearly outline what we want
and provide the freelancer with contacts and additional resources to
make his or her job easier.

But, freelancers, don’t jack me
up. Deliver what I’ve asked for, not what you think is good enough. And
when I haven’t asked you to do anything, don’t try to invent your own
assignments.

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Matt Kinsman

Respecting The Reader

Matt Kinsman Editorial - 09/18/2006-02:00 AM

Writing in b-to-b publications is sometimes slammed for “press release” quality.

Many editors never actually worked in the subject they write about and
sometimes bring limited understanding and sophistication to the topic.
That’s tough to do when your audience is the experts.

But writing in enthusiast media can be bad as well. Lazy, repetitive,
and sometimes serving as little more than a shill for advertisers. I
know it’s tough—there’s only so many ways you can approach a particular
subject (ever try writing about paper supply four times a year?)
Obviously, there is excellent editorial among many enthusiast
magazines—Runner’s World springs to mind—just as there is excellent
editorial in many b-to-b publications.

However, it’s apparent that the writing is lacking when reading magazines
that deal with one of my own enthusiasms: shooting. Yes, I know,
editors based in the New York-area are supposed to be either weaving
baskets during Tracy Chapman concerts, queuing up outside Aer (or
whatever hotspot will replace it next month), or God, help us, blogging
incessantly in their spare time, but me, I like to pop off a few
rounds. The next best thing (or at least it would be) is to curl up
with a magazine dedicated to the sport.

But I can’t take the writing anymore. I’ve let several subscriptions
lapse because it’s the same thing over and over. I don’t mean the
topics—I mean the actual phrasing. Reading gun magazines requires
developing the skill to read between the lines, particularly for
product reviews which are often purposefully bland so as not to offend
advertisers. Example: “The [insert model] was more than accurate enough
if I did my part.” Translation: You couldn’t hit the broad side of a
barn with this thing.

Worse is the outright cheerleading. Recently, a large manufacturer
developed a manual locking system for some its products. There have
been reports that the locking mechanism engages automatically when
fired. But one publication seems to have gone on a crusade for this
advertiser, even allowing one of its columnists—a professional trainer
who let that manufacturer produce a new product bearing the name of the
trainer’s school—to refer to a portion of its readership as
“turd-suckers” for raising the issue.

I don’t know if there’s a problem with that manufacturer’s design or
not. But I do know that seeing snide editorial defending this
advertiser is a big turn-off. Would a publisher ever publicly
address their advertisers as “turd-suckers?” Treat your audience with
the respect they deserve. If you want to convince me, get the models in
question and do a legitimate test. Otherwise, I can’t wait until my
subscription is up.

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