Playing with the Big Boys
Building out an Association Publication’s E-Media Brand
When it comes to building an association publication’s multi-platform brand, the Web is where everything comes together, said Edutopia editor-in-chief James Daly, speaking last month at the Folio: Publishing Summit in Chicago. And building a successful media brand can be accomplished by engaging and amusing readers using fresh content, animated frames, video and other tools, said Cal Joy, Edutopia’s art director and Web producer.
When Edutopia first launched its Web site, Joy said, it was little more than an archive for the publication, which is published by The George Lucas Foundation as a vehicle to encourage innovation in the nation’s public schools. "We’ve come a long way to develop a plan to get our site to stay current, fresh, lively and to keep readers engaged," Joy said.
The first rule of creating a successful Web site, said Daly, is to be obvious. "You have to spell it out or people will leave," he said. To achieve that, an easy-to-follow, left-hand navigation was placed on Edutopia.org, pointing the way to magazine, mult-media and video content, and to the site’s teaching modules and community forum.
Joy suggested organizing content clearly so that when users arrive on a site they know where they are and how to get the information they need easily. "You want to bold action items," she said "If you want people to take a poll, enter a contest, watch a video or subscribe to your magazine, you want to make that clear and make it easy."
Use Popular Web Tools to Promote Your Site
She also suggested that associations give themselves and their magazine Web sites a presence on Wikipedia, to make sure their content is being tagged on digg it, and del.icio.us, which will help increase traffic to the site. "Control your message before someone controls it for you," suggested Daly.
Associations should also be taking advantage of all the technology the Web has to offer by linking to Youtube and allowing users to upload their own video content to their sites. "We implemented a Web 2.0 strategy to engage people and draw them into the editorial," said Joy. We offer video samples and story teasers. And it has really helped. Since we implemented more of a Web 2.0 strategy, we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in traffic to our Web site."
Beyond Web technology, associations should find other ways to engage their audience, said Joy. "It does require a shift in thinking from the traditional magazine model," she said. "You can’t just plop your magazine on the Web. You have to involve your audience. We pose questions on our site and get teachers, educators and administrators to answer the questions. And the response has been overwhelming. They’re thanking us for asking them questions because no one had ever asked their opinion before."