During FOLIO:’s “Analyzing Web Development Options” Webinar Thursday, a pair of industry veterans offered advice and tools for publishers tackling site development with continually-shrinking budgets.
While digital “budgets were tens of millions of dollars" years ago, “in the past few years, Web 2.0, widgets and SaaS have enabled publishers to launch a site for next to nothing," said Joe Galarneau, SVP of
operations and CIO for Newsweek Inc. "You can still spend a lot of money on the Web, but you don’t have to in order to have a great Web presence.”
Even if you’re late to the online party, Galarneau said: “It’s never too late to start. Sometimes there are even advantages to starting late in the game.” He cited Hearst’s zero to sixty move to become a market leader in this space after no longer outsourcing its Web operations to iVillage. Even Newsweek, he said, lacked an independent site until 2007 when it launched one in conjunction with parent Washington Post Company.
While publishers should be examining their content and monetization strategies before launching into Web design, Jason Brightman, director of Web design for IDG’s PCWorld and Macworld, noted that a positive to the Web space is the lack of brand loyalty. “People go to best info and best features. As publishers, we are into text on a page, but more and more, that’s not working. I suggest asking yourselves: What would Google do? Google creates simple applications that do things really, really well. Publishers need to be in the mindset of building applications instead of publishing articles.”
Levers of Cost Reduction
Galarneau said that cost reduction options can come in the form of offshore development—hosting your site, versus third party Web hosting, versus cloud computing (Newsweek has had great success with the Amazon cloud, he said), another way to cut costs is in software choices, like widgets and partners, open source CMS options (“You spend more on labor, but there is a robust community,” Galarneau said) and SaaS providers. “Really, you can almost roll an entire site by using external providers,” he added.
While technologies are certainly key, more important are the people hired to determine the next best technologies coming down the pike, said Brightman. “In the old days, people would invest in Oracle and build out other crazy technologies,” said Brightman. “But in these times, it’s better to invest in people who understand this stuff and are capable of looking ahead at what’s coming next. There are so many free tools and services that you can use to integrate and update your site without spending money,” he added. “You can run your entire site off of WordPress—a blog is just a stripped down CMS.”
During his time at Harris Publications, Brightman used WordPress for XXL magazine’s site, XXLmag.com. The site, which pulled in 25 million page views a month, ran off of a WordPress installation. “It’s a fantastic, free CMS with thousands of plugins,” he said.
Get the Tools
So, what are the tools necessary to reduce costs while still creating a great final Web product? Recommendations from both Brightman and Galarneau include:
For site development:
Squarespace, a fully-hosted and managed platform for a blog, Web site or portfolio;
Weebly, which offers a drag and drop interface and free domain hosting;
SiteKreator, a site platform that offers visitor metric analysis, online marketing campaigns and community.
“Between these apps, you can create a site to compete with anyone out there,” said Brightman.