Changing Roles in Community Publishing
Moving online has been difficult enough for many magazine staffs. But adapting to an online community could require an entirely new approach.
The clamor for community publishing could have significant consequences for magazine staffs. On one hand, cost-obsessed publishers are salivating over the idea of trimming editorial sales staffs in favor of zero-cost user-generated content. For others, editors, sales people and technical support staffs will need to work with different guidelines and different expectations.
Still, to be successful, publishers need to consider the change an opportunity. “In my mind, everything we do is still the same,” said Harry Sachinis, president of the McGraw-Hill Business Information Group. “If you’re in editorial, everyone is talking about what to do with community. Ask yourself, ‘What is community?’ All that means is if you had 100 sources before, now you have 10,000 sources.”
Editorial will probably be the most affected. According to Wyatt Kash, editorial director at Government Computer News, a new position called “community editor” needs to be developed. “A year from now, we’ll need more expertise on what to do with Web 2.0, such as forums and collaborations,” Kash says. “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.”
San Francisco-based 8020 Publishing is one of the first examples of what the new community-based publisher may look like. 8020 offers a Web/print hybrid around a publication called JPG, which targets digital photography enthusiasts. Viewers can register at www.jpgmag.com to upload their own photos and vote on other photos at the site. The best photos are selected for publication in the magazine by JPG editors. That enables each medium to do what it does best: “We get all the interactivity of the Internet with the beauty and exclusivity of print,” says editor and co-publisher Derek Powazek.
8020 is intent on creating a number of magazines that could look toward a large group of people who have similar interests, and break down traditional editorial elitism. “In this new model of publishing, the role of the editor is probably the most changed piece,” says Powazek. “It’s not this omnipotent decider of things, it’s more like a camp counselor. We’re there to encourage people to foster relationships. Yes, you have some authority because you pick the best of the best but you should help set the agenda for what people are talking about. We’re helping people get on a narrower path, instead of letting it be what a huge crowd of people would be talking about if left to their own devises.” Today JPG has more than 1,000 print subscribers and draws more than 1.5 million Web page views per month.
Even advertisers have a new role in community publishing. “The idea we’re trying to create is participation: How can advertisers participate beyond just putting up messages that say, ‘Buy our stuff,'” says JPG co-publisher Paul Cloutier. JPG sells traditional full-page ads in the magazine for about $1,200 but also sells “sponsored themes” for $20,000. For one issue, the theme was “big,” for another it was “tourists.” In a recent issue, a lense manufacturer sponsored a theme called “Embrace the Blur” and the audience submitted just shy of 7,000 photos.
IDG’s GamePro.com has set up a feature called “Ask the Pros” that offers direct dialogue between selected experts (for Sony, Microsoft, etc.) and the audience. ﾑIt’s no longer just us compiling information and pushing it out,” says marketing director Simon Tonner. “It’s now a dialogue between our editors and our users.”