Thursday, June 30, 2005

An award that is not deserved

Lawn & Landscape magazine has been named the best trade magazine in Ohio.
Something, it would seem, is terribly wrong with Ohio.
As I've pointed out before on this blog, L&L and its parent company, GIE, have the most serious shortcomings possible in journalism -- they mislead and insult their readers.
Look -- there are thousands of ethical and talented professionals working in B2B media. But much of the world looks at B2B journalism as shady, slimy and amateurish. Trade magazines still have a reputation for hiring failures and dimwits who cut ethical corners. All of us suffer because companies such as GIE refuse to behave professionally.
Perhaps next year the Press Club of Cleveland can find someone a little more ethical to honor.

When news sources become news competitors

Blogging can make anyone a publisher. Podcasting can make anyone a broadcaster.
I've warned traditional B2B publishers that these new technologies mean that the next wave of competitors are coming from two unexpected places -- their own staff and news sources.
Need more convincing?
Purina has entered the podcasting world, creating audio files aimed at consumers. That should be a warning to anyone in agriculture news. Because there is nothing to stop Purina Mills from creating similar programs for a B2B audience of ranchers, farmers or veternarians.
It should also be a warning to everyone else in B2B publishing. How will you respond when some of the most respected brands in the industry you cover begin to produce their own news products?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Business journalism awards

I just love the Trade, Association and Business Publications International group, which represents the trade press around the globe. TABPI calls me "a b2b champion, full of interesting information. Not afraid to tell it like it is." And I love anyone who says nice things about me.
Today TABPI is saying some nice things about some other folks too. The group has announced the winners of its Tabbie awards in 12 editorial categories.
Topping the list for best single issue were England's Legal Business, U.S.-based Pensions & Investments, and New Zealand's NZ Retail.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in this year's awards is the performance of tiny NZ Retailer, published by AGM. The 5,000 circulation magazine placed in three categories.
Take a look at the complete list of winners. Follow the links and look to see who is doing good work in your space.
Want to see some more award-winning business journalism?
UCLA's school of management has announced the winners of the Gerald Loeb awards. The prizes are for consumer-oriented newspaper and TV operations, but B2B journalists should take note. The Loeb awards tend to go to those mainstream journalists who spot the 'big" story in an industry. Sometimes those stories have been covered to death by B2B journalists. But just as often the story was missed by B2B reporters who became so immersed in industry minutiae that they lost the ability to spot news.
Every B2B writer who covers transportation should wonder why he didn't write the "Death on the Tracks" series. Every agriculture writer should wonder if he missed a story about Washington State apples. Everyone at every computer magazine should be furious that they didn't break the IBM story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More on transparency and journalism ethics

Over at Ari Slogan's site about citizen journalism, there's an interesting post on a recent Boston Globe article about blogging and product endorsements.
Of particular interest is that the Globe article has triggered some online debate about transparency (and about the Globe's accuracy.) But, as Ari points out, none of the debate is happening at the Globe's site because the newspaper doesn't have a comment function.
Take a look at the article, Ari's site and the links he has posted. You'll see that it seems the blogging world is dividing into two different camps. One group sees its primary mission as editorial, and takes steps to avoid business relationships that would threaten credibility. The second group is less interested in reputation than it is in revenue. That group is much like the bottom feeders of B2B publishing that I've written about here and here.
I put my blog in that first group. If you missed it before, here's my post about how and why I turned down a product endorsement deal.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The wisdom and wit of full disclosure

At the top of the list of things I love about the blogging world and the new media culture is transparency. I've been a journalist for about three decades now, and I have no illusions about objectivity. At best, objectivity is a dry style of writing. At worst, it's a myth that villains practice. Most commonly, it's a place for journalists who aren't inclined toward self examination to hide.
Transparency requires a journalist to rethink his writing style, and to examine his connections and beliefs. The most common form of transparency is the disclosure clause, which tells readers about a reporter's connections to a story.
And as it turns out, the disclosure clause is also a place to have a little fun.
Here's how Simon Dumenco describes his prejudices in his inaugural column at Ad Age. "Over the years, I’ve worked for, consulted for and/or created “content” for a disparate range of media companies including AOL, Bulfinch Press, Conde Nast, Dennis Publishing, HarperCollins, Harpo, HBO, Hearst, Primedia, Time Inc., Time Warner, Universal, Viacom and Wenner Media. My policy is to acknowledge that I know way too many people in this business, to admit that I’m hopelessly conflicted and to make fun of all of the above companies -- except for Primedia, which is the most retarded media company ever in the history of the world, and everybody knows it’s not nice to make fun of the "differently abled."
I trust that Simon also cringed at today's news that Tom Rogers, the "differently abled" former CEO of Primedia, has been named CEO and president of TiVo. People who witnessed the decline of Primedia on Rogers' watch may want to short some TiVo shares.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Although I have also worked for Time Warner and Primedia, and although it appears that we loathe some of the same people, I have never met Simon Dumenco.

The newspaper of the future is already in Kansas

It's so rare that I agree with the New York Times that when it does happen, I have to run to the computer and post something.
Everyone who knows me knows that I think the most interesting paper in the United States is the Lawrence Journal-World in Lawrence, Kan.
Now the Times seems to have noticed what's happening there. In a story called "The Newspaper of the Future," Tim O'Brien makes the pilgrimage to the center of new media publishing and the converged newsroom. It's a wonderful article. Take the time to read it. There's something to be learned in Lawrence by everyone in journalism.

Friday, June 24, 2005

When writing excludes

We write to communicate. And to communicate well, we must speak the same language as our readers.
Yet too many people who make their livings as writers insist on communicating in a way that excludes. Sports metaphors, pop-culture references and clichés all require that your reader be just like you -- interested in the same things and coming from the same place.
That's a mistake born of laziness and cultural bigotry -- two things that journalists must avoid if they are to learn to write well.
There's an interesting piece on the Poynter site about just this subject.
Take a look.
And take a look at what fellow journalism blogger Doug Shaw has to say.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Another new Web site that misses the point

Today I find yet another press release in my email inbox announcing yet another B2B magazine's redesigned Web site. But when I take a look at the site, I have to ask -- why bother?
Look at the relaunch of Penton's Material Handling Management and see if you're as disappointed as I am.
First, the press release plays up the site's RSS feeds and promises "Daily News from various sources, updated every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day." That sounds like MHM is planning on offering some form of open-source news service. But when I add the RSS feed to my news reader all I get is a bunch of press releases.
Other problems: You can spend an enormous amount of time looking through the MHM site without ever feeling that you're online. Most stories -- whether dumped from the print version or written just for the Web -- are text only. Graphics are rare. Links are nearly non-existent. Take a look at this piece, for example. (And doesn't anyone at MHM think that an article about trucks that is written by a truck salesman might need to be tagged as advertorial?)
Perhaps most offensive to me is that MHM doesn't understand -- and, in fact, seems opposed to -- the cultural change in journalism. Take a look at this silly piece about blogging. The writer is seemingly convinced that his magazine is still the sole voice of reason in the industry he covers. He urges readers to avoid blogs in the material-handling field becasue they are inaccurate. That may very well be true. I have no idea. Because remarkably he doesn't link to any of the blogs he's worried about, nor does he name them. It would appear that his primary goal isn't journalism -- which, by definition, is about providing information. Instead his goal is to limit information.
Here's a secret everyone in B2B editorial should learn. Your readers are at least as smart as you. They don't need you to tell them what they should, and should not, be reading. Doing so is offensive. And treating your readers like children makes you look childish.
Look. Let's review the basics.
The Web has given power to your readers. They now find information in hundreds of places. More importantly, they now use blogs and bulletin boards and similar services to engage in conversation about information.
The Web has also given power to you. You can use the Web to facilitate those conversations. You can use the Web to ease the search for information by linking offsite. And you can use the Web to improve your storytelling by using multimedia tools.
Failing to tap into those powers is a sure way to get your magazine excluded from the conversation.

tags: , , , , , conversational media

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

R&I and CMO win ASBPE magazine awards

Reed Business's Restaurants & Institutions and IDG's CMO have been named the magazines of the year by the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Congratulations to all involved.
R&I, which publishes 20 times a year and covers "the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions," collected the ASBPE honors for magazines with circulation of more than 80,000. It was judged for its performance in five editorial categories, including excellence in reporting and writing, design and reader interaction.
Certainly R&I is deserving of the honor. It tends to publish information-dense stories that feature crisp writing. More importantly, the stories tend to be well sourced and brief. For example, if you're willing to put up with a very intrusive registration process, take a look at this piece from April. The writer quotes four sources by name and title and tells the story in fewer than 700 words. If you spend anytime at all looking at B2B magazines than you know how rare it is to find a story that quotes more than one source. Or, even worse, are B2B publications that routinely use unnamed sources without justification.
I'm a little less impressed with R&I's interaction with readers. There is a feedback function, but it only generates an email form rather than giving readers access to a comment function or discussion board. On the other hand, simply publishing reporters' names and email addresses online puts R&I ahead of many competitors.
CMO, which topped the other nominees in the less-than-80,000-circulation category, is one of my favorite B2B publications. In particular, I like CMO's design both in print and online.
The publication is also unafraid of new media. It has webcasts, RSS feeds and staff-written blogs .
Most importantly -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- CMO understands the new culture of journalism in a way that is still very rare in the B2B world. Take a look at the right-hand side of this page. Those are links to CMO's new media rivals and competitors. Few trade publishers have enough faith in their own products to provide such links. Even fewer trade publishers are willing to abandon the myth that they are the only voice in their industry. CMO, however, recognizes that it is part of a conversation. That's particularly valuable for a magazine that covers the marketing industry, where powerful online voices such as Corante's BrandShift have arisen.

Immersion journalism and spatial annotation

My idea about immersion journalism -- in which "users" retrieve a story with cellphones and PDAs by following visual prompts in the real world -- received a little bit of attention. Check out what the Poynter Institute's Steve Outing said here. And if you can read Italian, take a look here.
My posts on the subject, which focused on the role that technologies such as Grafedia could play in this new form of storytelling, also generated a few emails. One of which pointed out that the idea of footnoting or hyperlinking the real world is part of a larger movement in art called spatial annotation.
Check out this site for some thought-provoking examples.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Topic channels planned for Folio, Event Marketer

Red 7 Media will soon launch new Web-based, editorial products for two of its B2B magazines -- Folio and Event Marketer.
Both publications are planning topic-specific channels that cover niche areas in their industries. There's much to be said in favor of the move. I tend to think that there's growth to be found in B2B publishing by drilling down to serve smaller niche areas.
Also of note is that the new channels will feature RSS feeds. That's a first for Red 7. And in the era of information overload, topic-specific RSS feeds are the way an ever-growing number of people prefer to get news.
Event Marketer has a list of its channels here. You'll be asked to register for the site before you can proceed to the 34 topics such a "tents" and exhibit design." But as of last night, most of the channels were empty and still "under development."
One of the few channels that is functioning covers "experiential marketing." Take a look.
If you're anything like me, you'll find there's something about the product that feels inappropriate.
The channel's sponsor is Polaroid, and the company is getting some nice play for its money. Polaroid's logo appears directly under the channel name. The description of the channel has copy that sounds like it came from Texaco Star Theater or one of those other 1950s variety shows. "Welcome to the Experiential Marketing Channels page, brought to you by Polaroid Corp." Polaroid also gets an ad in the upper left-hand corner and an "About Polaroid" section on the left side that lists how the company can help at events. Polaroid's name and logo are also featured in two white papers available for download on the channel.
As a reader, that sort of advertising overkill makes me suspicious.
As a journalist, what is most
disturbing to me is that the channel hasn't drawn a clear line between advertising and editorial copy.
The channel has two articles sections. One is written by Events Marketer's staff. The other says it is "sponsored by Polaroid," but that is misleading. The section isn't just "sponsored by" Polaroid; the section contains articles seemingly written by the company's public relations staff.
Click on either type of story and the articles appear in nearly identical templates. The font is the same. The ads are the same. The color and layout are the same. The only difference is that the Polaroid-provided articles carry a small disclaimer that they are "sponsored by Polaroid."
That's a clear departure from the ethics guidelines set by American Business Media, which say the "layout, design, typeface and style of special advertising sections or custom publishing products must be distinctly different from those of the publication."
Although I suppose it's possible that people in the events industry may not care about such things, I don't think readers of Folio -- a magazine about the magazine world -- will accept such a blurring of the ethical line.
I like Red 7 Media. I like its publications. I know and respect the company's executives and journalists. Perhaps that's why I'm so troubled by this. I expect more from Red 7. I certainly expect more from Folio, which I see as a leader in the publishing world.
I don't know yet what Folio's channels will look like. There's nothing on the site about the channels project. Perhaps Red 7 has a better plan for Folio. I hope so. I hope, too, that someone at the company will rethink the Events Marketer channels.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Is something going on at Reed Business?

There have been a number of changes in editorial at Reed Business of late.
Variety reports that Marianne Paskowski "is stepping down in mid-July as VP of editorial development and editor-in-chief of Multichannel News." Folio reports that "Chemical Market Reporter laid off six editorial staffers last week, including editor-in-chief Helga Tilton and executive editor Patricia van Arnem."
I spoke to a few folks at Reed who tell me the changes are coincidences and not evidence of plans for companywide layoffs or restructurings.
Nonetheless, I'd be a little worried if I was at Reed.
ADDENDUM: I've received an anonymous email that tells me Reed Business is adding staff, despite the recent layoffs and resignation. The writer points toward the mediabistro job listings, which has two recent ads from Reed for senior editors.

A look at B2B history

BtoB Magazine has a special five-year anniversary issue (the anniversary was actually in March, but let's not quibble) that has some fantastic stuff about the craziness in our industry during the past few years.
If nothing else, a look through the issue refreshed my memory. For example, in a discussion about the nearly forgotten concept of the "e-hub," BtoB talks about Covisent, which hoped to be the online marketplace for the auto industry. There was a period of about four weeks in my life at Primedia Business when we were obsessed with Covisent. Our plan was to provide news and information for the site. We came close to a deal, but we never closed on the sale.
Remarkably, I had forgotten all about that until I read the BtoB issue.
Look, there's some fun stuff here, including a column by usability guru Jakob Nielsen.
But if you do nothing else, take a look at the column by Rance Crain, who seems to share my worries about the growing influence of Wall Street investment firms in trade publishing.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Trouble with sale of Primedia Business

Now that potential buyers have done their due diligence and gotten a good look at Primedia Business, the sale of the company may be in some trouble. Folio magazine reports that the folks who had been interested in buying the unit aren't so interested anymore.
According to Folio, part of the reason is "a perceived loss of experienced management" at Primedia Business. The article quotes one source who says “There is so much legacy knowledge and relationships that left.” That same source complains that “there doesn’t seem to be a coherent strategy.”
No kidding.
I think it's been pretty clear to anyone who even glanced in Primedia's direction that things have been a nightmare for ages. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm the former vice president for online content at Primedia Business.) Primedia's owner -- the private investment firm KKR -- knows a hell of a lot about money, but doesn't know much at all about business or people.
The result was that quality products that had been run at a profit for years fell under constant pressure to reduce costs and "grow" revenue. It was akin to inheriting a fine piece of farmland that had fed the family for generations, reducing the flow of water to the crops and demanding that the earth yield more corn.
At Primedia Business, the land turned barren. There were endless rounds of layoffs. Products were bought, run into the ground and then closed. Good magazines and good workers were hurt. A lot of talented people got pushed out the door. A lot of others fled.
Nonetheless, there is still value at Primedia Business. The company still has some good journalists. There are even a few talented executives who survived.
I promise you this: whoever buys the company will be pleased with it. There's nowhere to go but up. And I assure you that the place is crawling with people who want a chance to work for someone other than KKR.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More on immersion journalism with Grafedia

I guess I'm not the only person to think that Grafedia -- which brings the idea of hypertext into the real world -- has potential as a journalism tool.
I received an email from John Geraci, the man who invented Grafedia, saying much the same.
"That's exactly the sort of thing I envisioned when I started Grafedia," John said. "But it's hard to find someone to take on a project like this, and the ordinary people who come to the site and try Grafedia out don't seem inclined toward that sort of thing."
Well I'd like to think that the readers of this blog aren't ordinary people. And I suspect that someone will pick up on the idea of immersion journalism.
For B2B journalists, the easiest immersion story would involve a trade show. Visitors to the show could use cellphones and email devices to access stories about companies at the show, find product reviews, retrieve video interviews with company executives, etc.
But I think my friends at College Media Advisers may find more complex and interesting concepts to explore through immersion journalism.
For example, imagine that a historic and well-loved school building in your town was slated for conversion into apartments. Story "users" -- we can't really call them "readers" -- could wander through the building. Grafedia could direct them to photos in context -- showing what the room they stand in used to look like. Grafedia could also point users to audio files of children in the playground, to videos of a school basketball game, and give directions to the home of a nearby elderly person willing to share his memories with visitors.
Or imagine that it's budget season. Some social-service agencies in your community will be getting an increase in funds. Others are slated for cutbacks. An immersion story could lead users through your town as they visited agencies, listened to interviews and met with politicians, agency workers and clients.
I can imagine dozens of such stories. I'm sure you can as well.
People who couldn't "visit" the immersion story could visit a Web site with a simpler multimedia version with many of the same components.
Not only could immersion stories prove to be remarkably moving and effective pieces of journalism, they would be a fantastic way to teach multimedia skills to journalism students.
What do you think?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Looking at digital editions

A press release in my inbox tells me that PennWell will begin publishing digital editions of four B2B magazines -- Laser Focus World, Cabling Installation & Maintenance, Industrial Laser Solutions and Vision Systems Design -- through Texterity.
And a quick visit to Texterity's site shows me the company has collected a slew of customers for its service of rendering print editions into pdf-like versions for the Web.
I've said that I'm not crazy about digital magazines. I prefer that people repurpose their content for the interactive medium of the Web. Nonetheless, publishers do seem to like these things. And now it's possible to get audited numbers for digital editions. So I suspect the popularity of these products will grow.
Given that, I have to say that I prefer the products created by NXTBook to those of Texterity. I just really like that audio file of a page being turned when I move through the "magazine."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Creating immersion stories with Grafedia

In Brooklyn, where I live, it's not unusual to come across cryptic graffiti written in blue. To the artists, hipsters and others familiar with system, the graffiti is meant to mimic the hyperlinks of the Web. It's part of an emerging multimedia tool called Grafedia. If you send a message to the web address in the graffiti, you get back a message that is somehow related to the place the graffiti appeared.
For a better explanation, check out this article by the Associated Press.
I have a sense that Grafedia has potential as a tool to create a new form of journalism -- immersion stories. Imagine a feature article that requires readers to participate physically in retrieving information. Readers could wander through a place related to a story -- the area around the World Trade Center in New York, a state capitol building, a park or a tradeshow. When readers come across Grafedia, they type the address into their cell phones, send a text message, and retrieve more of the story. It would be possible to use Grafedia to point the audience to human sources that they could interview themselves. The messages sent via Grafedia could include videos, background music or narration (similar to a tape-recorded walking tour.) As far as I know, no one has created a story with such interactivity. But I'm willing to predict that someone will soon. The power of linking the multimedia world with the real world is too powerful to ignore.

Looking beyond ugly sites and silly leads

I was leafing through a copy of the Journal of Accountancy and came across one of those how-to-blog pieces that every B2B magazine in the world seems to be running.
The article is worth noting for three reasons:
1) The print version of this piece looked pretty good. Graphics, fonts, etc. all worked nicely. It wasn't breathtaking, but nor was it awful. So why oh why does the article look so bloody ridiculous on the JofA Web site? How is it possible that at this late stage in new media a B2B publisher like JofA doesn't seem to care about how its brand is presented online?
2) Granted, the author of this piece isn't a journalist. But she is an author, and I assume that someone at JofA edited the piece before it appeared. So what's with the silly lead paragraph? Why do so many pieces about citizen journalism sound so goofy? Why do so many articles in trade magazines, regardless of subject, have such a gee-whiz-watch-me-write-something- funny feel to them? If I could get one message across to every trade journalist in the world, it would be this: "Don't be cute."
3) Even when I dislike an article, I often find something of value in it. And in the JofA piece there's a link to a site dedicated to CEO bloggers. Click on it. Take a look around. There are some interesting folks on the list, including a guy who runs a sheet metal company, a woman who runs a technology consulting firm and public-relations guy with an interest in Voice over Internet Protocol telephony.
Is anyone from the industry you cover on the list?

Monday, June 13, 2005

What is citizen journalism, anyway?

Now this is something the media world needs.
Poynter's Steve Outing has put together a lovely overview of the citizen journalism movement. Not sure what citizen journalism is? Take a look. Know what it is, but not sure how your company should participate? Take a look. Ready to make the jump and wondering what your first step should be? Steve says it's "Opening up to Public Comment."

L.A. Times' wiki editorials raise questions

In keeping with an earlier post today about participatory media and the power of groups, take a look at what the Los Angeles Times is planning for its editorial page -- a new, conversation-driven product called a wikitorial.
But before you get too excited, take a look at the questions being raised by some of the leading supporters of citizen journalism.
Jeff Jarvis notes that the Times failed to discuss its idea in the blogosphere, thereby failing to use a citizen-journalism approach to citizen journalism. Ernest Miller suggests that editorials -- which by definition have a point of view -- may not be the best product to build through the neutral-tone, collective mindset of wikipedia. Ari Soglin, however, applauds the Times for at least attempting an experiment in citizen journalism.
Here's how the L.A. Times communicated the news to its readers.

You, me, us and participatory media

So much has changed so rapidly in media and technology that it's sometimes hard to keep track of the overall theme. But in this special report, BusinessWeek reminds us that the change is being driven by the basic, human need to participate.
Peer-to-peer file sharing, collaborative game development, group production efforts such as Wikipedia, guerilla marketing techniques, offshore research and customer-service functions connected via the Web, camera phones and Flickr, open-source software and the community journalism movement are all part of what BusinessWeek refers to as the "Power of Us."
While reading the report, make note of how well Businessweek uses the online medium to tell its story. There are slideshows, links to related stories, external links, clickable functions for stock quotes and a Web tour.
There is also a comment section. So you, too, can participate in the discussion.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I told you these guys were good

The Lawrence Journal-World -- the newspaper that I think everyone in media should be watching -- has won an EPpy award for best Internet news service by a small publication.
Take a look at the full list of winners here.
Then take a look around the LJW site.

Avoiding clichés in your writing

The last time I wrote about bad writing, it generated a wee bit of anger.
If anyone gets uptight this time, they can take it up with Tim Porter. Tim has a wonderful post today about the abundance of cliché-filled headlines that appeared upon the death of Anne Bancroft.
Careful observers may wonder why I would link to a post about good writing by someone who misspelled Bancroft's name. Trust me -- it's still worth reading.
If you write for a living, please read it. Please.

Trade mags are best way to market...for now

Marketing Sherpa has an interesting piece that gives some insight into B2B media users.
The article is about marketing to engineers, but everyone in the B2B press -- advertising, editorial, circulation, etc. -- should take a look.
Here are some of the highlights:
In a survey by Penton's Machine Design magazine, 96.5% of respondents said "trade magazines were their number one source for getting information about suppliers."
Furthermore, when engineers are looking to buy, they tend to bypass Google and the other major search engines and go with niche search tools. "Specialist search engines such as GlobalSpec and have literally millions of engineer professional users, many of whom bypass the major search engines altogether when they need a very specific item."
But most interesting to me are the comments of Brian Renaud, director of engineering at Arbor Network, who doesn't use traditional media to learn about products. "Renaud bypasses trade magazines. He has his calls screened. And he throws away his direct mail. But Renaud does read blogs and forums. He mentioned a few pertaining to his industry – Slashdot was one – but he is also a frequent reader of security and software development forums, places where engineers gather to discuss problems and how to solve them."
I suspect that each day brings more customers like Renaud to the market. And the B2B publisher who doesn't respond soon, may soon be too late to respond at all.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More awards and a new blog for B2B journalists

The Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Association has announced the winners of its 26th annual awards for excellence in B2B journalism. Take a look at the list of winners here.
Unfortunately, NEPA -- which says it represents electronic publishers -- doesn't have much of a Web site. There are no links on the awards page. So you'll have to search elsewhere for information on the winning publications. (FULL DISCLOSURE: United Communications Group, or UCG, is the winner of nine awards. I work on several products for UCG's OPIS unit, which covers the petroleum business. OPIS won first place for a single-topic newsletter for a special report on oil prices.)
If you want to hear more about awards, check out this post about the American Society of Business Publication Editors Northeast regional awards. There's an interesting idea mentioned about combining internal awards with editorial training.
That post, by the way, is part of the brand new blog by the Boston chapter of ASBPE. Take a look around. Sign up for the RSS feed.

Building B2B blog networks

This should worry every "traditional" publisher in B2B.
John Battelle is planning to combine a group of "high-quality, high-authority" blogs that cover technology into an offering he calls FM Publishing. Old media types who tend to discount the blogging world would be wise to read up on Battelle. This is a guy who made his mark and his money in print publishing. He's one of the co-founders of Wired magazine, arguably the most important publication of the past 25 years.
Read about his plan here and here.
I've said before that the standalone journalist -- operating without the help or the hassles of a traditional media company -- poses a threat to B2B publishers. Now here comes someone who understands both technology and publishing with a plan to link standalone journalists into a single product.
How long will it take before someone does that in another space?
For example, look at agriculture. There's nothing to stop a few core ag journalists from heading out on their own to cover their niches. Combine them with a blog or two by ag economists, maybe something from a veterinarian, a commodities trading expert and something like this, and suddenly you have a product that poses a threat to "National Hog Farmer."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

CORRECTION: EDN and feedback

Matthew Miller, executive editor of EDN Online, wrote in to offer a "clarification" to a recent post of mine. But Matthew is being kind. I need to post a correction, not a clarification.
In a recent post in which I complained about B2B media companies that don't take advantage of the Web's advantages, I said that EDN's new Web site didn't have a feedback/comment function.
I was wrong. EDN does have a feedback function on its new site.
Take a look at his comments here, and follow the links therein to get a look at what the folks at Reed have done.
Editors should make particular note of what Matthew sees as an advantage of allowing readers to send feedback on stories. "The feature provides the editors with "grist for the mill"--ideas for followup stories, a litmus test on the importance of issues, and so on."

Asking customers to be bloggers

I love this idea!
Pennsylvania is asking people to travel around the state and blog about it. The hope is that by arming "regular" folks with blogging software, the state can boost tourism.
There's potential here for a similar offering from a B2B publisher with the courage to let readers be reporters.
Why not ask a few readers to blog about a trade show?
How about a blog that follows a reader through the search for a new job in the industry you cover? Or even better -- a blog by a reader about his first year in the industry. Find a young, verbal, ambitious person among your readers and let him share what life is like "out there" where your readers live. (There's a fair number of intern-written blogs already. I'd like to see one by a more established professional.)
How about a group blog by readers on an overseas trade mission?
I'm pleased whenever a B2B media company embraces the tools of citizen journalism. I look forward to the day when some publisher decides to embrace the citizens themselves.

More on missing links in B2B media

Crain has relaunched Business Insurance magazine and its Web site. I haven't seen the hard copy. I have seen the Web site, and I'd call it a partial success.
Take a look. You'll see the Business Insurance site DOES have a comment function. I'm thrilled to see it.
On the other hand, Business Insurance is NOT using hyperlinks in the copy. I remain completely perplexed by journalists who don't use links online. Journalism is a service industry. Our job is to provide information and access to information. Failing to use links isn't just bad business, it's bad journalism.
I've complained a lot about B2B's seeming inability to comprehend online journalism's advantages. The Poynter Institute's Steve Outing weighs in today. Take a look.
Also worth noting today is a story in Wired magazine about a new film that looks at that early form of online conversation -- the BBS. The guys in the film were apparently playing online before I was. My earliest memory of conversations through computers involved a friend trying to explain Kermit to me.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why not take advantage of online's advantages?

Lately I've grown more frustrated by one of my pet peeves -- when B2B journalists working on the Web fail to take advantage of the medium.
Today I posted something to the ABM blog, noting my disappointment with a recent article about how traditional publishers can take back the Web. The article, published in Folio, failed to use any Web-journalism techniques (linking, "bite-size" copy, feedback functions, etc.)
Yesterday I complained about a bunch of B2B publications that publish on the Web, but fail to use hyperlinks in their copy.
Now comes word that Reed Business is revamping EDN magazine and the Website.
Reed has some good ideas, including providing "greater coverage of global trends" and adding a "Research Update' section to the magazine.
Reed also has a nice new tagline -- "Voice of the Engineer." And Reed promises "more quotations and perspectives directly from designers, as well as a greater platform for engineers to share ideas and opinions with peers."
That's fantastic. But a look at shows that Reed has NOT added a feedback/comments section that would allow users to post comments directly on the site. (NOTE: EDN also publishes two blogs, which DO have comment functions.)
I know there is the potential for trouble in letting users post to a site. I've struggled with the issue myself. I've gone from allowing comments, to banning them, to allowing them again and removing the rare post that offends me.
Reed is one of my favorite B2B media companies. I'm often pleased and impressed by the work of Reed's journalists and publishers. So let me be frank with my friends there:
The days in which a B2B publisher can claim to be the voice of an industry are rapidly disappearing. The industries we cover have found their own voices. They no longer need a magazine in order to converse. That's what citizen journalism is all about -- journalism's consumers speaking to journalism's producers. The best that we can do now is to facilitate conversation.
For an interesting look at the power of feedback functions, read this.
CORRECTION: 6/8/05 This post contains incorrect information about Please read the full correction here.

The potential of the lone, new-media journalist

There's a nice piece today in American Journalism Review about the growth of the standalone journalism movement -- in which talented reporters use new-media technology such as blogging, RSS feeds, podcasts, etc. to market their work directly to users.
I've written about the subject before and said the potential for the lone journalist in B2B is enormous. I've urged journalists to consider heading out on their own; I've urged publishers to be aware of the competitive threat now posed by their staff and their readers.
The piece in AJR focuses on the growth of the standalone movement in community journalism. But if you're at all interested in editorial or competitive issues (and who wouldn't be?), you should take a look.
If you still have doubts about the power of a lone journalist armed with new media tools, take a look at this. The network had 22.6 million unique users in April, making About the 10th largest Web site in the United States, according to Nielsen. I've argued before that the citizen journalism movement began at About. There's a nice essay on About's history at Howard Sherman's blog. Take a look. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I was an executive producer at About, where I worked with Howard. After Primedia bought About, Howard moved up the ranks, while I moved to Primedia Business. Today Howard runs the editorial operations at SmartBrief, where I do some work on e-mail newsletters.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Jay Rosen on journalism education

A few days ago I expressed disappointment in a new effort to revamp journalism education. In brief, a handful of elitist institutions said they were going to spend a lot of money to look at how reporters are trained.
I made a suggestion that some truly innovative schools be included rather than just the tradition-bound Ivy League universities. In particular, I mentioned NYU and Jay Rosen.
Now Jay has weighed in on the journalism education issue.
I'd urge all my friends at College Media Advisers to read what he said.
It's brilliant.

Disposable video cameras at CVS

If you've been thinking about video blogging, but didn't want to spend a few hundred dollars on a camera, you have run out of excuses.
Drugstore chain CVS says it will sell a disposable digital-video camera for less than $30.
Go get one. Then take a look at

If it's online, link to it

If you worked at a radio station, wouldn't you use audio recordings? Wouldn't you use interviews and sound bites and sound effects?
If you worked at a television station, wouldn't you use video? Wouldn't you use clips and blue screens and Chyron graphics?
If you worked at a newspaper, wouldn't you use print? Wouldn't you use photographs and illustrations and words?
So why would you work online and not use links?
Take a look at this article on BtoB online. It's a fairly interesting piece about a new search tool at But god help you if you want to actually take a look at what the article is discussing -- because the writer hasn't included links in the copy.
That's not unusual at BtoB online, which seems not to understand its medium. It's not unusual anywhere at Crain. Take a look at, which also seems not to have noticed that it's published on the Web.
Failing to understand the advantages of Web publishing is fairly common among B2B companies. For example, Lebhar-Friedman's Drug Store News (free registration required) is generally a fairly Web-savvy site. The design is crisp, there's a feedback function on stories to send a letter to the editor, and you can email stories easily to friends. But there are no hyperlinks in the stories themselves.
Compare those dump-the-text-on-the-Webpage abominations with this very simple use of the Web by Farm Progress. Take a look a look at this article about a court document. You'll see that the writer had the good sense to link to the document in question.
Or take a look at CFO, which I've said before is one of the best publications in our industry. CFO seems to understand Web journalism...sometimes. It links externally in its blog, but tends not to use links in its online articles.
I've heard the arguments against linking. They range from the cowardly (we don't want our readers to leave our site because they may not come back) to the stupid (our content management system doesn't allow for links) to the lazy (I don't have time to add links).
Let me say this as clearly as I can -- none of those arguments are valid.
And let me ask you this -- how would you react to an editor who said he didn't use photos in his magazine because photography was too complicated to learn, distracted from the text and was time-consuming?
Wouldn't you fire him?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Blog helps search for missing B2B publisher

David Koch, associate publisher of Sourcemedia's DM Review, disappeared during a hike near Vancouver on May 25.
His family has published a blog to publicize the search.
Say a prayer for David and his family.

B2B media in the global economy

"Do you speak any other languages?"
That's one of the first questions I ask journalism students and newcomers to our industry. Just as our industry is being changed by new media, our customers' businesses are being changed by a global economy. The B2B publisher who understands that will prosper. The journalist who is prepared to report from Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa, etc. is worth three English-only staffers.
It's always fun to track developments in international B2B. And in recent days I've come across some new sources of information.
Check out Colin Crawford's blog. Colin works for IDG, a big player in overseas markets, which just increased its investments in Vietnam.
Then take a look at Paul Woodward's site. Paul tracks B2B media in Asia. Among the things I learned from his blog is that CMP is closing some Singapore-based print publications (while keeping a tech-centered Web site.)
And don't forget Hugo Martin, who follows B2B developments across the globe from Berlin.
And make sure you bookmark the website of Trade, Association and Business Publications International, the group that works "to bring together editors working for English-language publications worldwide, and encourage a common dedication to editorial ethics and excellence."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Standalone journalists and salaries

There's a piece in Folio magazine about the multi-skilled, multi-talented, multimedia types that do the work of many at small magazines. The writer of the Folio article concentrates on the role of such people in production. I tend to think of the true value of the standalone journalist as his ability to produce news for different media -- video, print, audio and electronic.
Either way...both of us agree that this is the future.
I've said before that the traditional journalist -- tied to one set of skills in one medium -- is becoming obsolete. I wouldn't hire someone who can only write or only operate a camera or only design for the Web.
And there are indications that the marketplace agrees. Take a look at this salary survey from Mediabistro. Click on the section about the Northeast. You'll see that jobs in online/new media, where the software-based skills of multimedia are the norm, are paying considerably more than one-medium gigs in trade newsletters, local newspapers, local TV news, professional journals or the wire services.

You can't control a revolution

An attempt by a Colorado newspaper to organize local bloggers isn't working, according to Poynter's Steve Outing.
Terry Heaton isn't surprised.
Heaton is a blogger and a former television executive. Among his insights: " people access to tools under a canopy isn't the blogosphere, and I'm not surprised people aren't breaking down the doors to get at it" and "Citizens media isn't something you can manufacture. It's already there, and the wise mainstream players will find ways to support — rather than try to own — what's going on."
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know my mantra by now. Bloggers aren't the enemy. They are your readers. And they want to talk.
Perhaps it's time for an addendum: They want to talk when and where they please about whatever interests them. That may be a particularly tough lesson for B2B companies, which often present themselves to readers as the "voice of the industry" they cover. But in the new media world, there are many voices. No one publication or group has a monopoly on discourse.
Don't seek to censor the conversation, decide the topics or select the voices.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Write less, spend less in editorial

There's an interesting piece in Folio magazine about how to save money in editorial.
In brief, the idea is to be brief.
"Readers, however passionate, rarely have time to wade through long features and lengthy special reports—the stuff that magazines used to be made of. Today they want less, not more, from magazines," according to John Brady, a magazine consultant.
I agree with Brady's concept, but wish he'd said a little more (no pun intended.)
Look -- if there's one thing I know it's that B2B writers tend to write too much. I can't remember -- or perhaps prefer not to remember -- how many times I've suffered through wordy lead graphs that don't pertain to the story. I'd be hard-pressed to name 10 B2B publications that aren't littered with strained metaphors, unneeded transitional sentences and multiple, ill-chosen adjectives. Yet I'd also be hard-pressed to name a single publisher who wouldn't prefer larger numbers of short stories to fewer numbers of long ones.
So why are things such a mess?
B2B writers are often stuck in a trade-magazine style of insipid, wordy prose. The reasons for this are multiple: lack of training, a perceived need to fill a news hole, self-identifying as a writer instead of as a reporter, ego and pretension, etc.
The way to get an editorial staff to write fewer words is to teach them to write better words.
For more about concise writing, click here.