In December, Dan Blank, Reed Business Information’s director of content strategy and development, along with the editors of Library Journal, conducted an experiment on the title’s popular salary and placements survey. The goal was to increase the survey’s page views, create a more engaging online user experience and create new products stemming from the work already done for the print edition.
When franchise magazine features were posted online, page views, average time spent and other metrics tended to fizzle after a few days, which prompted Blank to come up with new ways to keep audiences engaged. For starters, the editor’s role needed to change. “Editors think their jobs are done when they’ve completed the article,” said Blank. “But in fact, the editor’s job is only 70 percent done at that point. They have to think about how that content is spreading and how to translate that content from one medium to another.”
In 2007, the survey was posted as a 3,500-word article on a single page. But for 2008, the article was split up into sections, with an “article homepage” linking them all together. LJ’s art director created 15 Web-exclusive graphics that accompanied the articles and were used for promotion on the homepage and in newsletters. In-page navigation, which kept readers clicking, was also added. Then came a follow-up story two weeks later with feedback on the original article. The new format resulted in a 1,200 percent increase in page views.
“B-to-b publishers will tell you that their readers are busy, they don’t have time to scroll down to read a long article, nor do they find it fun or comfortable to read long articles online,” Blank said. “All of that means that we need to do things differently. Just as we create high-quality content in the print magazine, we also need to do the same for online.”
Recasting print content for online purposes, Blanks said, involves a few key elements, the first being getting the editors on board with doing things a bit differently. “Sometimes the conversation with the editors gets derailed by topic of technology, therefore, editors who are already so busy, feel like they’re being asked to learn new responsibilities,” he said. “The key is to get them to understand that if they want reach their target audience, this is what they have to do. It’s about empowering them and tapping into their passion for their work.”
Once the editors are on board, it’s about making choices. Blanks says that while there are 300 things in a publication that could be interesting to someone, focusing on one or two of those will attract the broadest audiences. Another important step is anticipating what the metrics will look like. “You have to find a way to measure what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “You want to pay attention to average viewing times, bounce rates, and whether viewers came through a keyword search or directly from the site.”