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 EDN.com 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 EDN.com 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 EDN.com. Please read the full correction here.


  1. It's been 7 years and the best thing about online "journalism" as you call it is it's free. Trade journalism, however, isn't.

    If you build it, they may come. But then they may just stop in, cut and paste a phrase and go back to google.

    You do a good job of practicing what you preach, Paul. But B2B and trade journalists just aren't sexy. As a reformed trade journlist (fully matriculated through the 12-step program) I can honestly say I still can't spell without a spell check.

    Trade needs to be more revolutionary. And I'm not sure links are the solution. Let's diversify its income beyond ads and trade shows. It's far too often antiquated.

    How about some cage dancers?

  2. AnonymousJune 08, 2005

    Hi, I happen to be the editor in charge of EDN's Web site. Someone on our staff spotted your post, and I thought I would write in with a little clarification to add to the discussion.

    You are correct in observing that we don't currently offer a centralized discussion forum. However, we do offer a feature we call "Feedback Loop," which appears on the left side of every article page. In essence, it functions as an electronic bulletin board for that particular article.

    For example, check out this recent column that elicited a healthy outpouring of responses (listed along the left column).

    We vet the comments as they come in, but we only delete (or edit) potentially libelous statements, naughty words, and blatent marketing. We've found Feedback Loop to be an attractive feature for the audience, and for that reason we made it far more prominent in the redesign we launched Monday than it was in the previous design.

    Like a blog, 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. We even sprinkle standout quotes into the news section of our print magazine, both to highlight interesting points of view and educate readers about the opportunity to post their comments online.

    I'll leave it up to others to decide whether this makes us "sexy," but we are pretty excited about the interaction with our audience that it is beginning to engender. It's one way we're trying to live up to the tagline we chose ("Voice of the engineer"). And as you so eloquently put it, we trade journalists have to help facilitate the conversation if we hope to remain involved in it.

  3. Matthew,
    Thanks so much for writing. And thank you for the "clarificiation."
    But I think I'll have to call it a "correction." It looks to me like I missed the Feedback Loop when I looked through your site.
    I'm sorry for the error.
    More importantly, I'm thrilled to see that you guys are willing to engage in conversation with your readers.