Friday, December 22, 2006

Meeting the minimum requirements for an end-of-year post

I spent much of my career as a member of the "mainstream media," which, as you probably know, is run by a joint venture of Opus Dei and the Trilateral Commission. Now look, I appreciate the work those folks do -- manipulating world currencies, assassinating world leaders, choosing the winners of figure-skating competitions, etc. But the truth is I also find them to be real pains in the neck. They're sticklers for the rules. And as lifetime member of the "mainstream media ("You are not allowed to quit," they said one day over lunch at the Harvard Club. "It is forbidden") I have to meet certain obligations.
And one of those obligations, as I was reminded by the monk who arrived at my door last night at the stroke of midnight, is to participate in the End of Year ritual. Thus, I must produce and publish one of the following by New Year's Eve: my predictions for the upcoming year; a review of my predictions for the year now ending; my reflections on the celebrity deaths of this year; a "Best of ..." piece in which I refer to things I wrote earlier in the year; or a Top 10 list of any kind.

Now I've learned the hard way that you can't mess with the folks who make the rules. So I have to do something before an enforcer slips something into my drink and I wind up with a case of writers block, or worse, carpal tunnel syndrome.
So here it is:

My Top 10 list of things related to predictions, old blog posts and celebrity deaths.

1. It was about this time last year when Folio magazine was kind enough to ask for my predictions about media in 2006. In at least one area, I was right. I told Folio that "More journalists will recognize there is much to learn from the citizen-journalism movement and will adopt the most compelling features of the blogging culture. Feedback functions will appear on numerous sites. Agnostic linking—pointing to items produced by competitors—will become more common."
It's sort of funny now to look back and remember how rare this stuff was just a year ago. But time passes. Things change.

2. I also told Folio that "At least one major journalism school will announce an end to track education. Students will study reporting and storytelling in a media-neutral environment. The idea of obtaining a degree limited to broadcast journalism or print journalism will seem increasingly silly."
I'll give myself half-credit for that one. Certainly it does seem increasingly silly to prepare journalism students to work in a single medium. And that may explain why I, of all people, have been asked to speak at this year's College Media Advisers Convention.
But no journalism school abandoned track teaching this year....at least as far as I know. Yet it's worth noting that a number of schools continue to drift in that direction. Also, just about every major j-school seems to be running ads such as this one.

3. Speaking of links, among the blog posts I'm most proud of this year are those in which I tried to ensure that the prediction I made in item #1 would come true by complaining about publishers who just didn't get the "idea" of linking. That's because bit by bit, one by one, even some of the die-hards of old media began to respond.

4. Speaking of responding, let me take a moment here to again thank the folks at VNU for responding to my call that they pull back from their recent foray into unethical behavior. I'm very proud of the small role I played in helping end that foolishness.

5. Speaking of that foolishness, I predict we'll see similar screw-ups again in 2007. I'm quite sure that at least once next year I'll point a finger at some publisher for violating ethical standards.

6. When Bob Hope passed away earlier this year, it was if we had lost not just a great entertainer, but a close friend. Thanks for the memories, Bob.

7. Speaking of hope, I hope that my prediction in item #5 will turn out to be wrong.

8. Speaking of predictions, at least one reader of this blog will post a comment noting that item #6 is wrong and that Bob Hope actually died in 2003. This reader will say that I am either an incompetent who cannot get his facts straight, or a cynic who pokes fun at the dead.

9. Speaking of cynicism, I think item # 7 is naive and ridiculous. Of course item # 5 will come true.

10. Speaking of naive and ridiculous, this blog will be back in 2007.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The world in my pocket

Longtime readers of this blog know of my longtime obsession with the future of news production.
If you know me, you know I like to argue about the converged newsroom.
If you know me, you know I have no tolerance for journalists who won't learn new skills.
If you know me, you know I've predicted a rise in standalone journalists.
And if you know me, you know I like to daydream about what tools we'll use to write and report in the future.

And every once in awhile I'll come across something that touches upon all these things. And it makes me smile.
Check out this essay about a new generation of handheld devices that promise a newsroom in your pocket.

For a fascinating look at wildly different sort of computer for creating content, watch this video of Jeff Han's presentation at the TED conference.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

An overdue and well-deserved award for me

I want to thank the people at Time magazine for naming me Person of the Year.
I'll confess ... I was a little nervous that I wouldn't make it. Inexplicably, the magazine has ignored me for 40 straight years (I won once before, apparently for my solid performance in the first grade, in 1966. But I was forced to share the award with some long-haired teenagers up the street.)
So I was a wee bit pessimistic when I logged on to Time.com this morning and asked, "Is it me?'
But Time said, "Yes. It's you."

Now as it turns out, once I read the entire article I found that once again I'm being asked to share the award with a few other folks. But that's fine. Some of them seem like decent people -- such as this nice woman and this interesting man. So I won't complain.

I'm just thrilled that this year I won't have to repeat that ugly lie: "It's an honor just to be nominated."

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Designing a magazine about magazine design


A little more than a year ago I expressed a wish that someone from the world of magazine design would begin blogging.
No one ever took up that call. At least as far as I know.
But perhaps the next-best thing is here.

In my mailbox yesterday I found a brochure for something called "FPO, the First Magazine for Magazine Creatives." A look at the marketing copy and a related Web site promises a quarterly publication that serves as "an enthusiast magazine for designers and editors who love their job and want to produce great work."

FPO (or For Publications Only) appears to be a print-only product for print-only designers. That's a bit of a disappointment to me. When I was wishing for a design blogger last year I said the ideal writer would be someone "
who knows both print and online design for our industry." The overlap between those two facets of publishing is enormous. And one of the complaints I hear most often from publishers and senior editorial staff is that the art department can't work on the Web. Sure, there are differences between designing for the page and designing for the screen. But there are similarities too. And the simple truth is that a graphic artist without basic Web skills is walking around with a fire-me-and-cut-costs sign on his head. (On a related note, check out this wish list of new hires for Web 2.0.)

At any rate, it's too early to tell if FPO will be an interesting publication. It's being produced by Auras Design, a Maryland-based company that designed such magazines as American Style. So it's a pretty good bet that the folks at FPO will know design. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll know how to write, manage or market a magazine. So I think I'll wait a bit before I decide if I want to pay $44 to subscribe.
In the meantime, I'll keep hoping for that magazine design blog.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Comments on no comments

A reader sent an email urging me to take a look at ABM's MediaPace blog because "someone posted a comment for the first time in more than a year!"

Longtime readers of this blog know I have disliked MediaPace since its beginning. There's no need to rehash the reasons. You can click here to read a history of my criticism. Suffice it to say I never found a compelling reason to read MediaPace. And I know that many folks in B2B journalism shared my dislike of the product.
Certainly MediaPace never seemed to generate much interest. And a quick look through the archives shows that the email I received was almost right.
There have been two comments posted to MediaPace in the past year.
Just two.

Now there are many ways to measure the value of a blog. Comments are just one of them. But comments are certainly one of the better ways to measure "engagement." And the truth is that the B2B publishing community has not appeared particularly engaged by MediaPace.
On Dec. 7 of last year, Paul Woodward posted a comment that can hardly be called flattering.
Then there were no comments from anyone ... for months.

MediaPace went dark briefly over the summer. Shortly after the blog returned, Folio's Tony Silber posted a brief comment on July 19.
Tony commented again on Aug. 28, noting a major change. Someone new was blogging for MediaPace, producing what Tony correctly noted was "a great post. Fun, opinionated, but with a message. "

That new blogger, Sara Sheadel, has continued to write witty and insightful posts. Her work has proven to be a delight. And as a result, many of us in B2B journalism have begun to read MediaPace again.
So it was inevitable that the long comment drought should end.

There's something else worth noting here ... because it can serve as a guide to any journalist in this new world of conversational media. The comment to Sara's post is a criticism, albeit criticism given in a less-than-nasty tone. Sara handled it with grace and wit and diplomacy. She didn't ignore it. She didn't attack. Instead, she corrected an error. She made at least one reader smile. And she kept the conversation going.
And that's what makes for good blogging.

For some background on Sara, click here.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Blogito, ergo sum

I had a conversation a few weeks ago with Rex in which I said part of the reason I blog is that, for me, the act of blogging has become part of the act of thinking.
I'm a writer. And when writers think, we think as writers. Sometimes that means we think with pen in hand. Sometimes not. But it always means we assume there is an audience for our thoughts. It is that single personality trait -- an arrogance of sorts -- that allows us to be writers.

But blogging has changed something. In the old days, I felt that my thoughts had to be completely formed before someone read them. In fact, there had to be agreement that my thoughts were fully formed. Because there was always at least one editor who had to believe that my thoughts made sense.
But in blogging, things are different. Just as thinking and writing have always been linked in my head, now thinking and publishing are linked. I can share my thoughts as they form. And, sometimes, when I'm lucky, a reader will comment or some other blogger will write something and eventually my thoughts clarify.

I thought of these things today as I sat down to write about, to think about, a post from the New York Times DealBook blog. DealBook is reporting on a visit by Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive officer of Craigslist, to the UBS global media conference. In brief, the Wall Street folks at the meeting were completely perplexed by Buckmaster, who said he wasn't interested in maximizing revenue.
Take a look at the post here.

I read that piece early this morning, and it's hard for me to describe how delighted I was by it. I found myself smiling like a fool for a good half-hour. And at one point I logged on to Craigslist just so I could look at the site again, even though I had been apartment hunting on it just last night.
But as I blog this morning -- as I write, think and publish -- I'm not quite sure why I find it so funny that Wall Street doesn't understand a company "that exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money."
I suppose part of the reason I'm so pleased by this is because I find many of the denizens of Wall Street to be hideous. I've lived much of my life here in New York, and much of what I dislike about this town can be traced to the more vile characters that work in finance. And I like any story that makes such people look like fools.
But the primary reason I liked the story so much is because I felt, somehow, vindicated by it. A good portion of my career has involved trying to convince wealthy people that a publication's primary purpose is to serve its readers and its workers. And if I had a dollar for every private-equity investor, overpaid executive, Blackberry-addicted venture capitalist and cash-flow-crazed M&A advisor who didn't understand me, I'd be as rich as they are.
But those people have to listen to Craigslist. Craigslist is big. And big makes them drool.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I was once vice president of online content at Primedia Business. That company had been saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt by Wall Street wizards. And yet you could spend weeks there without ever running into anyone in top management who thought that was a bad idea. One of these guys once told me that the problem with the company wasn't an unreasonable debt load, the problem was that the company had "too many editors in places like Kansas where they all want to go to the kids' Little League games instead of work." Those people, unwilling to work longer hours for less money in order to service the debt, needed to be replaced, he said.
Under any circumstances, that conversation would have offended me. But the scene that day was like some sort of parody of greed. We were having lunch in the executive dining room of a leveraged buyout firm. And he was drunk.
I don't know what became of that guy. I don't much care. But I expect that if he was at the UBS conference he was perplexed by the man from Craigslist.

Of course Primedia Business is no more. First small pieces were sold. Then dozens of people lost their jobs. Then big pieces were sold and hundreds of people were laid off. And then what was left was sold again.
Now, 16 months later, the New York Post says that new buyer has $847 million in long-term debt.
And in the end, all this seems so silly and endless and wrong.

So perhaps what I would say if my thoughts were well-formed is this: I'm pleased when someone like Craigslist's Buckmaster says "no." Because it will give me strength the next time I have to remind someone: "It's about the readers; it's about the journalism; it's about the staff; it's not about you."

For an earlier post of mine about Wall Street and trade publishing, click here.
Click here to read how just a few months after VNU was acquired by private equity investors, the company is laying off some 4,000 workers.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Jon Udell leaves journalism ... sort of

Jon Udell, arguably the most talented guy working in B2B journalism, is leaving B2B journalism.
Sort of.
Jon is departing InfoWorld for a new gig at Microsoft. But according to Jon, little will change in what he does each day. "The details aren't nailed down, but in broad terms I've proposed to Microsoft that I continue to function pretty much as I do now. That means blogging, podcasting, and screencasting on topics that I think are interesting and important; it means doing the kinds of lightweight and agile R&D that I've always done; and it means brokering connections among people, software, information, and ideas -- again, as I've always done."

It's too early to tell just what Jon's work will look like when it's published by Microsoft. But I'm not worried. First, it's a pretty good bet that Microsoft hired him because it respects him, not because it thinks it can control him. More importantly, Microsoft has already demonstrated with Scoble that it has the wisdom to let its workers share their thoughts with the blogosphere. (In fact, with nothing more to back this up than my hunch, I'm going to say that Microsoft is hiring Jon partly because it misses the credibility that Scoble lent it before he jumped ship.)

Certainly Jon's decision is a blow to IDG. And since IDG is a client of mine, and one of my favorite B2B publishers, his departure saddens me. Besides, there is something a little sad for all of us in B2B publishing when one of our own decides the opportunities are greater elsewhere.

For an earlier post of mine about Jon, click here.
For Rex's take on Jon's new job, click here.
Click here to see how marketing sites are becoming more like media sites.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Socrates would have skipped the hemlock if he had the Web

I was educated by Jesuits.
So in my spare time I like to think about the big questions ... the sorts of things that have puzzled philosophers for centuries.
Before there was a Web, I'd pose these questions to an indifferent universe. I would cry out in the night, but no answers would come.
Now, of course, things are different. I have a computer. The answers are always near.

For example, there were three such questions bouncing around in my head this morning as I brushed my teeth.
First, can I compare apples to oranges? The answer, as it turns out, is here. (Thanks to David Shaw for pointing me toward it.)
Second, why are there so few self-tagged Gnostic bloggers? Click here and scroll down to find the answer, but it's mostly because Technorati is not all-powerful.
And third, is it unethical for someone in public relations to behave unethically? Actually, as of press time, no one had yet answered that question in this empty B2B publication forum.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Too late. The future is now the past

I had some computer problems last weekend. It was nothing major, and I got things fixed pretty quickly. But there was a brief period of time when I had to use a back-up laptop that I have sitting under my desk.
I'm glad I did.

I booted up the old laptop, logged on to the Web, and promptly got a message about upgrades from Microsoft. I agreed to accept the upgrades, and within a few minutes I was looking at the new version of Internet Explorer.
Now I've written about the new IE before. I loaded the beta version on my other computer several months ago. And I warned then that it was time for B2B publishers to make sure their sites were compatible with the new version. More interestingly, I noted that the beta version of IE 7 had RSS functionality built in, just like the Firefox browser. And I warned that billions of computer users were about to find that out that RSS was a remarkable way to consume information and that "when IE 7 starts appearing on desktops around the globe, you don't want to be the only publication in your space that users can't access through RSS."
Now IE 7 is here. And time, it seems, has run out.

For information on other new stuff from Microsoft, click here.
For more on RSS and how to use it, click here.
For an interesting look at how a reporter uses RSS to monitor his beat, click here.
For a look at yet another development that "will drive the adoption of RSS without the user needing to know what the heck a feed is," click here.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Eye on the new prizes

Not that we need any more evidence that the world of multimedia journalism is here to stay ... but it is sort of fun to make note of each new development.
Consider if you will the implications of the announcement that the Pulitzer Prize Board will now accept videos and graphics from newspapers as part of their entries.
Or take a look at the submissions to the National Press Photographers Association's first ever contest for multimedia stories.
Or check out the American Society of Business Publication Editors, which is now offering prizes for blogs, newsletters and multiplatform products.

But if it's so clear to so many that online journalism -- marked by interactivity, sound and video, links, usability and conversation -- has arrived, then why are there still so many B2B sites that are simply awful?

For Angela Grant's take on the NPPA awards, click here.
For an earlier post of mine about B2B publishers that don't understand online journalism, click here.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

They think you're a whore

Hey...remember that problem a few months ago when VNU began running ads inside its stories? Well VNU backed away from that offensive practice after I complained. (If you missed that incident, please go back and read the post I wrote that day as well as the comments from readers.) But it appears that other publishers are willing to trade their integrity for pennies.
According to today's Wall Street Journal, "some mainstream journalistic Web sites, like those of News Corp.'s Fox News, Cox Enterprises Inc.'s Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Hearst Corp.'s Popular Mechanics magazine" are using the same, offensive "in-text" ad links as VNU did.

The Journal article is predictable in its arrogance and its shortcomings -- pointing a finger at B2B journalism and blogging, but failing to discuss VNU's decision to pull the ads: "Still, in-text advertising is gaining traction, in part because it appeals to many sites on the Web that don't focus on hard news, such as feature magazines, trade publications and blogs."

But try not to be too offended by the implication that we in trade publishing are ripe for the whore's life. Instead, get angry. And get ready. Because if the Journal is right that this in-text-ad foolishness is gaining traction, then we can expect more offensive behavior from some of the more offensive folks in our industry.
And we're going to have to fight that.

For more of my thoughts on this issue, as well as a link to Folio magazine's coverage of the VNU scandal, click here.

Update: Bill Mickey at Folio magazine is also offended by the in-text ads.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My past is the model for the future, according to the Atlantic

I was looking at the blog of my friend and fellow B2B blogger David Shaw, and saw a post that links to an interesting article in the Atlantic about the future of newspapers. That article's author, Michael Hirschorn, offers "a modest proposal for reinventing newspapers for the digital age."

There's nothing shockingly new in Hirschorn's piece, but it is well-written and it's not defensive. And those two characteristics make it far superior to much of what the print world has written about the Web world.

But my favorite part of Hirschorn's essay is when he suggests there is already a model for the new style of newspaper site he envisions: "In fact, there’s a rough model for this emerging already: it’s called About.com, a desperately unglamorous site that features hundreds of freelancers who can tailor their part of the site to the needs and desires of their users. The (New York) Times bought it last year for $410 million, and it is currently the company’s primary growth area."
Longtime readers of this blog know that I was once a producer at About and later an executive at the company that bought it, Primedia. And my job involved overseeing all the B2B sites in the About network. And as I said in a comment to David's post, "even back then we knew we were on to something. And yep, even back then we knew we were "desperately unglamorous."

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Getting religion about agnostic links

When I visit a Web site for the first time, few things make me feel better than seeing agnostic links. A site that links to rivals and competitors is putting me -- the user -- first.
But if you're a longtime reader of this blog, of if you've attended one of my speaking engagements, then you know I've often felt like some sort of lone crackpot when I've made the argument that "journalists have an obligation as journalists to point to information of value no matter where they find it."

But time passes. Things change. And the same ideas that were rejected by nearly everyone in B2B publishing just a few years months ago are now being adopted by the smarter folks in the industry.
Take a look, for example, at this story on Prism's Registered Rep magazine. Scroll to the bottom and you'll see external links to stories by Bloomberg and the New York Post.
Or even better, take a look at the newly redesigned Web site of JCK magazine, a Reed publication that covers the jewelry industry. Scroll down the home page a bit and you'll see an entire section of agnostic links called "Jewelry related news from around the Web." Drill down a bit and you'll find links to stories by competitors such as National Jeweler. Follow a link to National Jeweler and you'll find that it too has decided that the readers come first. That magazine launched a redesigned site earlier this month and promises to provide stories "whether they come "from National Jeweler, other trade magazines, newspapers, online services or the consumer press."

Time passes. Things change. And in this week of Thanksgiving, I want to offer my thanks to everyone who has come to believe, as I do, that the way to keep a reader is to serve him.

(Disclosures: I was once an executive with Prism. Reed is a client. And I'm a longtime fan of Whitney Sielaff, the guy who runs National Jeweler.)

To read about how the newspaper industry has learned to use agnostic links, click here.
To hear a podcast about how an old-time magazine brand has learned to embrace new media, click here.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing about the future from the past

I read an article yesterday in the most recent print edition of BtoB magazine about how "B-to-b media executives at the forefront of the digital revolution say they are adopting Web 2.0 as a philosophy as well as a growing group of technologies."
It was a pretty good piece. And I got a kick out of it ... but largely for personal reasons. Because when the reporter went looking for people "at the forefront of the digital revolution" she found Prescott Shibles, the smartest guy who ever worked for me, as well as executives from IDG and Reed Business, both clients of mine. And I like to think that I've played a role in getting these folks to embrace community and interactivity and to accept that the philosophy of Web 2.0 leads to superior forms of journalism.

So last night I sat down to write a post about that article and several others that appear in a BtoB special report on Web 2.0. But when I reread the article online, I found myself shaking my head rather than smiling.
Because I couldn't stop thinking how utterly silly this stuff looked on the Web site. There were no links. There was no feedback function. And the subheads were in the same font size as the rest of the copy. This was shovelware, pure and simple and ugly.
In other words, these are articles about Web 2.0 in a publication that continues to struggle with Web 1.0.
(Take a look at what I mean here, here and here.)

Regular readers of this blog know that I applauded Crain, publisher of BtoB, when it introduced links in BtoB's online copy several weeks ago. But that foray into a more interactive style of publishing seems to have died a premature death. I did a quick scan through more than a dozen recent stories on BtoB last night and found nary a single link.
I don't know what has changed. I don't know why BtoB experimented with links; I don't know why it has abandoned them.
But I do know this: you don't have to be one of the people "adopting Web 2.0 as a philosophy" to understand that writing for the Web is not the same as writing for print. And although links, comment functions and a cursory knowledge of design are not the ultimate goals, they are a start.
And mid-November of 2006 is awful bloody late to start.

To read an earlier post about a positive change that another Crain publication has made, click here.
To read about a scandal at another Crain publication, click here.
To read an earlier post of mine about linking, click here.
To read what Scoble says about what comes after Web 2.0, click here.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Letting our sources speak for themselves

Last week I posted something to this blog about a presentation I'd seen by Jason Brightman of Harris Publications. And in that post I mentioned briefly that Jason's XXL magazine "does many of the things that I urge B2B publishers to do," including "hire outside experts to blog on your site."

Well this weekend a reader of this blog pointed out that Multichannel News, one of the Reed Business publications I've praised of late for making a number of positive changes online, now features blogs by industry experts. Take a look at the home page. The blogs appear on the left- hand side of the page, and the authors read like a who's who of the cable television industry. Among those now blogging for Multichannel are Henry Schleiff, the chief executive officer of Hallmark Channel; Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association; and Gerry Laybourne, CEO of Oxygen.

Now don't get me wrong. The Multichannel blogs aren't flawless. For example, I have yet to see a link of any kind in any post. And that's just silly. Also, there seems to be no central location on the site where I can find all the blogs.
But I don't want to get all nit-picky. The bottom line is that I love this feature. And I expect it will only get better as the industry bloggers and Multichannel's editors grow more familiar with the process and culture of blogging. (DISCLOSURE: Reed is a client. And I've discussed the idea of outside bloggers several times with Reed editors and executives. But I can't take credit for the decision to add the bloggers to Multichannel News.)

For a long time I've been telling B2B journalists that they now face competition from the least likely of places -- their own sources. In a world where blogging software allows everyone to be a publisher, the journalist's role of gatekeeper has lost some of its value.
One way to maintain our importance to the industries we cover is to take steps to ensure that we become a part of the new conversations that emerge among our readers, sources and competitors. And one way to do that is to ask our sources to blog in our communities.

To read about a new magazine that's using outside bloggers to help build an online community, check out this piece in Folio about ReadyMade.
And lest you think that I only like magazine blogs when they're written by folks from outside the magazine, check out what I've said elsewhere about the blog run by ReadyMade's competitor, Make magazine.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why pay for what's free?

Until yesterday I'd never seen the Web site of hip-hop magazine XXL. That may surprise some people, given how well known it is that I'm as hip and fashionable as a 47-year old can be. Nonetheless, hip-hop isn't on my radar.
But yesterday I attended Folio's E-Publishing Strategies seminar in Boston. And one of the speakers was Jason Brightman, director of Web and emerging technologies at Harris Publications, parent of XXL.

Jason walked us through the site. And much to my delight, XXL turned out to be a sort of poster boy for how I think a magazine Web site should work. I won't steal too much of Jason's thunder. You should try to catch him yourself the next time he speaks (The E-Publishing seminar will be given in December in Chicago. I'm not sure if Jason will be there.)
But suffice it to say that XXL does many of the things that I urge B2B publishers to do, chief among them:
1) hire outside experts to blog on your site;
2) use Flash for your video; and
3) avoid overlapping your Web and print content.

But what I find most interesting about XXL is that it's built with WordPress -- the free, open-source software popular with bloggers.
As luck would have it, I've been doing a lot of arguing of late about content-management systems. Almost everyone I know in magazines is using some sort of overpriced dinosaur to put their stories on the Web. And when I suggest that it may be time to dump their existing CMS and use a free system, people tend to freak out.
No one seems to believe that free software can do a better job than the something that costs tens of thousands of dollars. And even though there are millions of examples of great sites running on WordPress, I haven't been able to point them toward a great magazine site that uses the system. (Note: there are examples of top-notch publications run on other open-source systems. Check out the Onion, powered by Drupal. Or look at anything owned by Prism -- all its sites are run on a modified version of Bricolage, which was originally built to run Salon.)
So I'm just thrilled to have an example of a gorgeous site with millions of page views that runs on WordPress, which happens to be my all-time favorite piece of publishing software.

For more on using WordPress as a CMS, click here.
For a comparison of existing CMS systems, click here.

(Addendum: 1/24/08 -- Last year Jason Brightman left XXL and joined the staff of IDG, one of my clients.)

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Penton and Prism are one

I just saw a copy of the internal memo announcing that Penton has been acquired by Prism Business Media. There's no official announcement yet (at least not that I've seen), but the deal has been rumored for quite some time. So I don't think anyone is surprised. (ADDENDUM: It's official.)

For some folks, the most interesting thing about the deal is the continued transformation of Bruce Wasserstein into a B2B media mogul (he owns ALM and has a stake in Hanley-Wood in addition to owning Prism.) And not to take anything away from Bruce, but I'm far more interested in some of the smaller players in this deal.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I was once the vice president for online content at Primedia Business, the predecessor of Prism. And I've heard over and over again in recent months that it's the folks I worked with there in the new-media department that have become the key to Bruce's plans.

So congratulations to Prescott and Pete and Rob and all the rest of the crew. Take a few minutes today to pat yourselves on the back. Because although the money may belong to Bruce, the accomplishments are yours.

For David Shaw's take, click here.
For Folio's coverage of the sale, click here.
For BtoB's coverage, click here.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Here comes daylife

I've started a few businesses in my time. And within a few weeks I'll be helping an old friend and client launch an online news service. The debut of a business can be a stressful time. It seems as if everyone is watching, and it can feel as if everything is going wrong.
But the truth is that my business debuts have been quiet affairs. At no time have I done anything that was as closely watched as what Jeff Jarvis and Craig Newmark are about to do.
And for that, I'm grateful.

According to Paid Content, daylife will soon see the light of day. The distributed news platform was founded by Upendra Shardanand; but Jeff is an adviser and Craig is an investor and everyone in the media world will be watching it.

Daylife may turn out to be remarkable. Or it may not.
But what it won't be is unnoticed.

For Dan Blank's thoughts on the upcoming launch, click here.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Google builds a search engine for me

I'm easily confused whenever anyone starts talking about vertical search. I know this stuff is important. And I know that databases full of "rich data" help pay the bills at many a B2B publishing company.
But the truth is that I'm a word guy, not a data guy (although I recognize that Adrian Holovaty is right to believe that the two worlds are merging into a new form of journalism.) And when someone starts talking about vertical search, my brain goes numb pretty quickly.

But even someone as uninterested as I am in the subject knows that something remarkable has happened in the last few days. Google has unveiled a new service called Custom Search. In a nutshell, it allows anyone to download a vertical search application for their site and then choose what it will include.

Russell Perkins, who runs InfoCommerce Group, is the king of databases and directories. In an email newsletter to clients, later posted on his blog, he said "Google Custom Search, which is built off the Google Co-op platform, in essence creates a filtered look at the main Google index, so you can combine the breadth of the Google search engine with your own expertise about which sites are most relevant to a specific topic. It’s a powerful combination, and did I mention, oh so easy. Google even remembered monetization this time: AdSense ads surround the search results, but Google will happily pay you a percentage: just check the box on the set-up screen."

Russell decided to give the Google service a try... and installed it in about 30 minutes.
Take a look at the InfoCommerce site. The new vertical-search box is on the left-hand side just below the first screen.
Matt Mullen, a B2B journalist and blogger, was even faster. He installed it in 20 minutes (no shame on Russell. Matt is younger)
Click here to see the box on the upper right-hand side of Matt's blog.

Heck, when something is that easy, and that valuable, how can someone not add it to a site? I may even build a search box myself if I can find a few free hours (I'm just being realistic about the time required. I'm older than Matt, and have a shorter attention span than Russell.)

For more on Google Custom Search, check out CNET's coverage here.
Click here to see what IDG's Colin Crawford has to say about the service.
Click here to read Rex's thoughts.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

What I didn't say

I'm back home at my desk after three days at the Folio: Show. And it hasn't been easy to readjust. My typical working day involves email and phone conversations interrupted by baby talk from my five-month-old daughter. But at the show I had real conversations, in person, with grown-ups that share my interests.
And I miss it already.

I co-hosted a session Tuesday morning called "Blogs, RSS and More: Editorial in the E-Media Age." I was pleased with how things went, and more than a little bit amused. I did a similar session at the Folio: Show two years ago, and fewer than a dozen people showed up. But this time the room was packed.
I doubt very much that I've gotten more interesting in the past 24 months, so I can only assume that more folks in the magazine industry are beginning to think about the sorts of things I like to think about.

As I've mentioned here before, I like to do a post-game analysis after a speaking gig. And last night I sat down with my note cards and realized that on Tuesday, unlike in many other instances, I was able to at least touch upon almost every subject I wanted to discuss.
Neither I nor my co-presenter Janice Castro did a formal presentation. Instead, we simply opened the floor to questions.
Most folks seemed most interested in basic, how-to information about content-management systems, multimedia software and writing for the Web. I used that as a chance to voice some of my key ideas for the session: best cheap thing to do right now (spend $40 on Soundslides), most fun way to understand online communities (join Second Life), the quickest way to learn RSS and become a better reporter at the same time (sign up for Bloglines) and the best subject for a debate back in the newsroom (Creative Commons.) I also managed to plug Mindy McAdams' book, Rex's blog and the good folks at J-Learning.

In fact, although I didn't get a chance to show some of my favorite sites or talk about some of my favorite journalists, there was only one major topic on my list that I didn't mention at all. No one asked about it. And I didn't raise the issue myself.
But that's not a problem. I tend to agree with the guest blogger at Read/Write Web that we still have some time to figure out what the effects of personalized news services will be on our industry. But time passes quickly these days, so I'll put the subject on the agenda the next time I speak.

For coverage of the keynote speeches at the Folio: Show, click here.
For coverage by the blog of NXTbook, click here.
For a review of Robin Sherman's dance routine, click here.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Going to the Folio: Show

The Folio: Show is next week here in New York City. I'll be attending every day, and I'm joining Janice Castro from Northwestern's Medill School on a panel Tuesday morning called "Blogs, RSS and More: Editorial in the E-Media Age."
If you're going to be at the show, drop me an email and let me know. I'm hoping to catch up with old friends, meet some online friends in the real world for the first time, and find some new friends.

If you haven't registered yet, it's not too late.

See you at the Hilton.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Redesigns, relocations and returns

Longtime readers of this blog know I haven't always been kind to Variety. In posts such as this one, I've said the Web site of the showbiz bible was a "a mess of cluttered design and poor taxonomy" that "crashes more than any other B2B site I visit."
But the truth is that in recent months the sites of Variety and sister publications Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable have gotten better and better. More material has been moved in front of the firewall. Links are more frequent. There are RSS feeds, podcasts, more Web-exclusive items and an overall general sense that the entertainment magazines of Reed Business are truly learning to love online journalism.
This shouldn't be a complete surprise. As I told the French, Variety has used blogs more effectively and more appropriately than much of the rest of the B2B world. And if you've ever heard me speak about online journalism, you know that I often use the Variety site as an example of compelling multimedia work.
But I always hesitated to truly embrace Variety because the site itself was ... well ... just plug ugly.
But everything old is new again. Variety has debuted a new look. And I for one am thrilled. Take a look. See if you agree that the 100-year old magazine has become a symbol of best practices in online publishing. (Disclosure: Reed is a client, and I played a very small role in the changes at Variety.com.)

When I talk about best practices in online journalism, one of the places I point to is the Web site of Reinventing College Media. I've loved that site since it debuted a year ago. I find there's something compelling about watching the people who teach journalism as they learn new forms of journalism. But RCM appears to be gone. And the folks who founded it have changed names and URLs. Take a look at the new site, and make the appropriate changes to your bookmarks and news readers. (Disclosure: RCM is a service of College Media Advisers. I serve on a CMA professional advisory board.)

And as long as I'm talking about changes at B2B Web sites, let me take a second to say "welcome back" to David Shaw. David's business is thriving. And that has made it difficult for him to find the time to post to his blog. But he's back. And I'm thrilled.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plagiarism's pain

Back in the early days of the Internet boom, I was an editor and producer at CNNfn.com, the online operation of CNN's financial news network (The network is gone, but the Web site continues on as CNNMoney.com)
Lou Dobbs was the boss. He ran the TV network and the Web site as well as hosting two TV shows. And he had a reputation for being a little on the nasty side.

One day a reporter from the Wall Street Journal called. He was upset, albeit in a low-key and professional way. He claimed that one of our reporters had plagiarized his work. We did a quick investigation and found he was right. One of our staffers had placed her byline on a Wall Street Journal story, and we had published the stolen story on our Web site.
We fired that reporter.
And then we braced ourselves for a meeting with Lou.
We gathered in a conference room near Lou's office. There was nervousness among us. We felt a sense of collective guilt. One of us had committed an unpardonable sin. We expected yelling from Lou. We worried that others would be fired for having failed to uncover the plagiarism ourselves.
But what we got was quite different.
Lou didn't raise his voice. No one was fired. Rather, Lou just seemed sad. And that sadness wound up filling the room ... displacing the anger, the fear, the guilt and whatever else we felt.
In the end we published an apology. And I think it was Lou who later called the Journal to express our regret. But even before I left that conference room I knew that in some unexplainable way we had all become better journalists -- not because of the plagiarism, not because we had fired the offender, not because we would be on guard in the future, not because we'd survived a scandal or learned a valuable lesson.
We were better journalists because Lou had reminded us that the appropriate response to plagiarism by one of your own isn't anger, it's pain.
I thought of that day again when I heard that Computerworld had been victimized by a plagiarist.
I know that the folks there have become better journalists because of what has happened.
And I know that because I see it in every word in this remarkable editorial by the magazine's editor-in-chief Don Tennant. Please give it a read.
(Special thanks to Martha for pointing me toward Don's editorial.)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

More change for the better

I'm feeling positively giddy.
Take a look at this story on the Web site of Crain's Investment News. Or look at this one. Or this.
Notice anything? Each of them is attributed.
Just two months ago I used this blog to complain that Investment News engaged in the annoying and unprofessional practice of not disclosing the sources of news stories. Investment News, apparently frightened that someone might actually read another publication, used the phrase "according to published reports" every time it summarized an exclusive story from Bloomberg, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or any other publisher.

I don't know the inside story of what prompted the shift at Investment News. I sent an email to editor Jim Pavia yesterday morning. But I haven't received a response.
Nonetheless, it does seem Investment News has had a change of heart. And that has gladdened my heart.
(Now it's probably too much to hope for .... but I will hope that Investment News will eventually learn to link to the sources of its summaries and to source material for its original stories.)

The change at Investment News comes a little more that a week after my complaints led VNU to end the use of inappropriate advertising links. And it was just a few weeks ago that BtoB magazine, also a Crain publication, began using external links in its copy -- something I'd been pushing it to do for a long time.

So with all these changes -- each of them making for better products and an all-around more professional environment in B2B journalism -- is it any wonder that I'm giddy?

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Folio looks at the ad-edit issue

A little more than a week ago, VNU pulled a series of inappropriate ads from the editorial section of its magazines after I pointed out that the practice violated our profession's ethics.
I was pleased that VNU made the right decision. And I applaud the company for doing something that can be very tough -- backing away from a bad move.

This month's issue of Folio magazine takes a look at the line between editorial and advertising, and uses my thoughts about VNU as a starting point. Take a look.

I read the Folio piece with a heavy heart. Because it reminded me that many people in B2B publishing seem to have a difficult time with the easiest of concepts -- be good. In particular, the Folio article quotes an unnamed publisher, referring to ethics and online publishing, as saying “It’s like the Wild West out there.”
That's nonsense.
More to the point, that's wishful thinking by people who are willing to cut ethical corners.

The Folio piece gives a detailed and thoughtful look at new forms of marketing material that are available on the Web, including "online advertorials, sponsored areas, micro-sites and vendor-generated content."
Those are all valuable forms of content. And each of them is perfectly appropriate on the Web site of a B2B publisher.
But there is nothing about those types of material -- NOTHING -- that exempts them from the rules of ethics. Or, as I've told B2B journalists a hundred times: the rules haven't changed online, and you shouldn't let them.

Consider if you will one of the most basic of our profession's ethical guidelines -- make it clear what's an ad and what's not. The American Society of Magazine Editors puts it this way: "If any content comes from a source other than the editors, it should be clearly labeled. A magazine’s name or logo should not be used in a way that suggests editorial endorsement of an advertiser." The American Society of Business Publication Editors has this to say: "Special ad sections and supplements should be clearly labeled with the word 'advertising,' 'advertisement,' 'sponsored by,' or similar designation. The words 'advertorial' or 'infomercial' confuse the readers about the nature of the material, and should be avoided."

Or to put it more simply -- if someone paid for something on your site, make that clear to the reader.
Don't call ads a "resource center." Don't call them "special services."
Be clear. Be honest. Be ethical. Be good.
Those are simple rules for all of business, and all of life.

And remember, no matter what anyone else says -- you work in journalism, not in the Wild West.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Time again for change

Last year at this same time I wrote that for "reasons that I'll probably never fully understand, I still live my life on an academic calendar." I shared how each September I feel obliged somehow to start my life anew. Last September I severed ties with one client and increased my work with another. I also took my love on a vacation in the Northeast. "It's September," I wrote, "when my year starts, and I'll begin anew in the mountains of New England."

When I wrote that, I could not have imagined just how much my life was about to change. Nine months later, my daughter was born.

And now it's September again. The leaves are changing, and so am I.
A few months ago I began writing a column for min B2B, the newsletter published by Access Intelligence. It was a good opportunity, and the money wasn't half-bad. But I've ended my relationship with the publication. My last piece will appear next week.
But when one door closes, another opens. I've been asked to help launch an online news service related to nonprofit businesses. I'll share details here during the next few months. But suffice it to say for now that I'm excited.

So I begin a new year, full of hope and gratitude and anticipation.
I don't expect that this year will bring change quite as dramatic as last year, but I've learned to expect the unexpected.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Mediaweek blurs the lines between ads, editorial

(Note: The following post was written and updated in real time throughout the day. By the time you read it, most if not all of the inappropriate links I mention below will have been removed. Please read the entire post and the comments to understand what happened. Thanks.)

If you love B2B journalism as much as I do, you'll get your heart broken.
Often.

And today my heart is aching.
Take a look at this article on the Web site of Mediaweek. Don't bother to read the article. It's not particularly interesting. Just scroll down to the sixth graf. What you'll find there is an advertisement, right smack in the middle of the story. That hypertext link of the word "advertisers" will take you to the site of Vibrant Media's IntelliTXT, an advertising service that places marketing material into editorial space.

IntelliTXT says it uses "in-text placement to cut through the online advertising clutter." But B2B journalists know such "placement" is a violation of our profession's ethics guidelines.
Here's what ASBPE says about such things:
"Whether for editorial or advertising information, hypertext links should be placed at the discretion and approval of editors. Also, advertising and sponsored links should be clearly distinguishable from editorial, and labeled as such ... Contextual links within editorial content should not be sold, and generally should not link to a vendor’s Web site, unless it is pertinent to the editorial content or helpful to the reader."

Now to me, those guidelines are as clear as can be. Putting an ad in a story is wrong. Editors decide on what appears in the copy. Period.
But it appears some folks in B2B publishing continue to struggle with the idea of keeping editorial and advertising separate.

It's unclear to me who is responsible for the inappropriate links on Mediaweek.
I'd like to think it's some new guy on the advertising side, someone who just arrived and doesn't yet know the rules of journalism ethics.
I assume that the folks on the editorial side are furious, that they are raising holy hell and threatening to quit.
But I don't know.
I sent an email last week to Michael B├╝rgi and Jim Cooper, the editor and managing editor of the publication. I asked what was going on. I asked how the staff was reacting.
I haven't received a response.

Now like I said, what Mediaweek is doing is clearly an ethics violation.
But it's also worth noting that it's a particularly annoying violation.
Here's why:

1. Go back and take a look at that article. What you'll notice is that the ad is the only external link in the copy. Click around the Mediaweek site for awhile and you'll find that the only links in any story are ads. Mediaweek simply doesn't understand the value of links as an editorial function.
For example, the story in question is about a new service on Forbes.com. But Mediaweek doesn't see the value in providing a link so that readers can see the service in question. Or take a look at this story about MTV and Universal Music Group. The story has an inappropriate advertising link in the first paragraph. Think about that -- there's an ad in the lead! But there are no external links that might help the reader put the story in context.
I've complained for a long time about publishers that don't understand the basic concept of online publishing -- the Web is a web. And by now nearly all of the we-don't-link-offsite magazines have come around. But Mediaweek still doesn't get it.

2. Go back and look at that first article. It's about a new development at Forbes. Think about that -- a B2B publication has put an ad in a story about a magazine where the editorial staff had the professionalism and courage to stop a plan to put advertising links from IntelliTXT in their copy. I'm speechless. The Forbes fight over IntelliTXT was one of the most encouraging developments in journalism ethics of the past few years. And Mediaweek seems to .... what? not care? not know? not think that anyone would find this offensive?

3. Mediaweek isn't some tiny publication run by some knucklehead company that no one has ever heard of. It's owned by VNU, which also publishes B2B giants such as Editor & Publisher and Adweek. Furthermore, VNU is the home of National Jeweler and Whitney Sielaff, the recipient of ABM's Timothy White award for editorial integrity. Didn't anyone at VNU think that the praise and honor that Whitney has brought the company might be worth more than cheap cash from IntelliTXT?

ADDENDUM: (10:21, a.m. ET ) Within a few hours of my writing this post, the IntelliTXT links on Mediaweek were removed. I can't say for sure that the decision to pull the links was related to my complaints. Mediaweek has not responded to my email.
But what the heck, I'm going to take credit anyway.
More importantly, I want to offer my thanks and appreciation to Mediaweek for deciding to pull back from this practice.

ADDENDUM 2: (10:57 a.m.) I spoke to soon. Someone just posted a comment to this post saying the IntelliTXT links are back. And when I take a look at Mediaweek, I see that they have, in fact, returned.

ADDENDUM 3: (12:15 p.m.) It appears the IntelliTXT problem at VNU is wider than I thought. Check out this story from Adweek and scroll down to the 13th paragraph. I just left a phone message for Sid Holt, editorial director of all of VNU. I've asked him to respond here, or by email or by phone.

ADDENDUM 4: (12:41 p.m.) The IntelliTXT links also appear on VNU's Brandweek. Look at the lead paragraph of this story. I'm sending a copy of this post to Karen Benezra, editor of Brandweek, asking for her opinion on the links. I'm also going to try and send a copy to Alison Fahey, editor of Adweek, and see if she's able to comment on what's happening. But Alison's email isn't available on the magazine's Web site. So I'm going to have to improvise.

ADDENDUM 5: (3:30 P.M.) Sid Holt, VNU's editorial director, sent me an email saying that the IntelliTXT links are coming down.
According to Holt, "once editorial management became aware that advertising was embedded in editorial content, the ads were removed as quickly as possible (it is taking longer to remove the ads from Adweek than from Brandweek and Mediaweek for purely technical reasons). VNU Business Media has explicit guidelines delineating the relationship between editorial content and marketing messages. Despite occasional misunderstandings, editors and publishers alike understand, respect and observe those guidelines."
That's good news. I applaud VNU for deciding to end this inappropriate practice.
Thanks also to all of you who posted comments, sent emails or called. I'm glad to know that the B2B journalists who read this blog shared my concern about IntelliTXT and VNU.
My broken heart is mending.
Thanks.

For some of my earlier thoughts on unethical behavior click here.
For more on ASBPE's ethics code, click here.
For my advice on how to fight unethical behavior at your publication, click here.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Running out of time, not ideas

Almost every time I give a presentation to a group of publishers or journalists, I run out of time.
Maybe I try to cover too much. Maybe I like to talk too much. Or maybe I'm just disorganized.
But whatever the cause, as the clock ticks down at the end of a speech, I often must discard items I'd planned to discuss.

After a speaking gig I do a little post-game analysis. I go through my notes. I ask a few folks what they thought. If my presentation was recorded, I listen to the tape or watch the video.
And I look again at the items I skipped and try to decide if I made the right cuts as time ran out.

Three times in recent presentations I dropped plans to talk about an idea I'd come across for user-generated content and community building. It wasn't the most interesting part of my speech (which is why I found it so easy to cut), but it is kind of fun.
So I want to make amends by talking about it here.

Take a look at Cool Hunting, a Web site that markets itself as a "daily update on stuff from the intersection of design, culture and technology." But that's just a fancy phrase for what Cool Hunting does -- find stuff that's cool.
The site has a number of regular contributors, just like many a magazine site uses freelance writers. But Cool Hunting also has an unusual, user-generated feature worth noting.
Scroll down the Cool Hunting home page and in the center column you'll find a section called "Reader Contributions" -- a feature that allows readers to participate in the hunt for cool things by using the del.icio.us bookmarking tool. (Instructions on how to participate are here.)

Hundreds of thousands of people use del.icio.us. But I haven't seen any B2B publication attempt to do what Cool Hunting has done -- urge its community to participate and share the results with other readers.
Certainly any Web site can make use of del.icio.us -- whether or not the publication seeks the help of its readers. Rex Hammock, for example, provides a del.icio.us feed of items of interest to folks in the magazine industry. And Make magazine uses del.icio.us to point readers to cool items. And of course I'm free to tag any item that I find interesting with "rexblog" or "makemagazine" or "coolhunting."
But I find the Cool Hunting approach compelling. I can't imagine an easier way to get a reader to "contribute." Little work is required; the process takes only seconds. More ambitious users can still create more elaborate contributions -- articles, graphics, etc. -- that they store on their own Web sites and "share" with a simple del.icio.us tag.
And the only thing that's required is that you ask your readers for their help.

For a look at the history of del.icio.us and the Wall Street "quant" who created it, click here.
For some of Matt McAlister's thoughts on tagging and social bookmarking, click here.
For more of my thoughts on community building and user-generated content, click here.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Folio enters the blogosphere

Folio, the magazine for magazine management, has entered the blogosphere.
And I couldn't be happier.

The blog, dubbed Folio: Forum, first appeared in a soft launch on Friday (you can find it by following the links on the home page.) And it's exactly what I've been hoping Folio would do (well...almost exactly. There's no RSS feed.) The first few posts are thoughtful, well-written and on-topic. There are insights about the magazine industry, as well as a peek or two inside the goings-on at Folio itself.

Of course, even if Folio: Forum had been awful, I would likely have said something kind. That's because in one of the initial posts on the new blog, Folio editor and publisher Tony Silber was nice enough to list me as one of the "important voices" blogging about the magazine world.

Speaking of Tony, I'm hoping he continues to write the blog. Although there are some very talented folks at Folio, it's Tony's voice that I most value there. More importantly, there's something about Tony's writing style that seems to mesh well with the blogging world.

And as long as we're on the topic of new blogs, take a look at the work of one of my newest clients. Swarfblog is written by Lloyd Graff, editor and owner of Today's Machining World, a B2B magazine that covers the machine-tool industry. I met Lloyd when I spoke at the ASBPE convention in Chicago a few weeks ago. A few weeks after that, I flew back to Chicago, met with Lloyd and his staff, and helped them launch Swarfblog.

I'm thrilled with the result. Lloyd is another of those fairly rare journalists who takes well to blogging. His writing style -- informal, passionate and conversational -- is well-suited for this form of publishing.
But the thing that pleases me most about swarfblog is its name.

Swarf is what machinists call the debris that's produced by their work -- the tiny bits of leftover metal that can be both dangerous and valuable (Lloyd already runs a column in his magazine under the brand Swarf.)
And when Lloyd explained the meaning of the word to me, it seemed a perfect definition of much of what we put in our blogs: bits and pieces -- sometimes sharp and cutting, often mistaken for trash -- that are produced as we do our other work .

So welcome Tony and Lloyd to the world of blogging, welcome to the world of swarf.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

We were reporters once ... and young

It's been a long time ... a long time ... since I was young journalist with a new job in a new town.
And I'd almost forgotten how much fun it is to take on something new, to be at that point in your career where everything is a challenge and the possibilities are endless.

So I suppose part of the reason I so enjoy the work of Angela Grant is that she helps me recall the joy of starting out in this business. Angela's blog, called In the Circle, tells the story of a "reporter breaking into the emerging world of multimedia journalism."

The blog actually launched about a year ago when Angela was still in journalism school. But today she's at the San Antonio Express News, where she's already winning awards for work such as this.

I've thought of Angela quite a bit lately. In recent weeks I've met with dozens of B2B journalists who are considerably less excited about their jobs and the changes in media. They are reporters and editors of a certain age who think that multimedia is an inferior form of journalism that somehow represents a threat to their jobs. I understand those fears. Layoffs are common in our industry these days.
But the best defense against a layoff isn't in resisting change. It is, rather, in recapturing that youthful belief that new skills can be mastered, that life is just starting, and that our profession, more than many others, rewards the open-minded and inquisitive.

For more on the "transformation" from print, see what the folks at IDG have to say.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Learning to listen

I'm heading out on the road for a few days, and won't do much, if any, posting to this blog.

Until then, take a look at the cautionary tale in today's New York Times about a journalist who behaved unprofessionally and fraudulently on his blog. There's much to be learned here, particularly about how to handle hostile comments online. But the thing I like most about the article is the following quote, which succinctly explains the anger, misunderstanding and blunders that often come when old-media journalists move into new media:
"Blogs, which may look like one more way to publish, are first and foremost a way to listen, something that journalists at established outlets don’t necessarily do well."

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The return of new media's power couple

It's as if Martin and Lewis were appearing again in Vegas.
It's like Mantle and Maris had taken the field again.
It's as if Fred and Ginger have stepped onto the dance floor once more.

The two most interesting guys in the world of online journalism are reuniting.
Rob Curley has taken a new job with Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the same company where Adrian Holovaty works.
That's particularly interesting news for those of us in B2B journalism. Because the parent of WPNI, the Washington Post Co., owns a slew of trade magazines, including Government Computer News and Defense Systems.
Curley and Holovaty were the top guys at the Lawrence Journal-World when that tiny paper morphed into a multimedia showcase, becoming one of the most influential publications in America.

But eventually the pair moved in different directions.
Curley headed to the Naples Daily News in Florida, where he became director of new media and convergence. And he became a superstar in the world of college media, speaking to young journalists about the opportunities and challenges of new media.
Holovaty went on to win a series of awards, create the best-known news mash-up (chicagocrime.org) and then join the Washington Post to help oversee its rebirth as a converged publication.

I won't say much more about these guys. I know I sound as if I'm swooning, and Lord knows I've said enough about Rob and Adrian in posts such as this and this.

But I will urge you to read two things ... and think about what it may mean for journalism in general and your publication in particular.
First, check out this piece by Steve Klein at the Poynter Institute, where he interviews Rob about the new gig.
Then check out the latest post on Adrian's blog, in which he writes about a "fundamental" way in which newspapers must change. Read through his post and substitute the word "magazine" or "newsletter" or "any news product" where appropriate.

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