Monday, July 31, 2006

Learning to believe in the agnostic link

Of the subjects I like to discuss with B2B journalists -- ethics, multimedia, writing for the Web, reporting skills, etc. -- nothing causes as much anger as when I talk about "agnostic" hyperlinks. I've been called "stupid" for suggesting that a magazine link to a rival. I've been yelled at, scoffed at and walked out on. I've had myriad eyeballs rolled at me.
And it's all because I believe that journalists have an obligation as journalists to point to information of value no matter where they find it.

Two weeks ago I raised this subject briefly in a presentation to the ASBPE in Chicago in which I urged journalists to become more "blog-like" -- embracing the culture of blogging by becoming more passionate, adding feedback functions and linking outside their own publications. "If your readers should know about it," I said, "link to it -- no matter who published it." And much to my joy and relief, no one threw anything at me.

That could be testimony to the good manners of the folks at ASBPE. Or it could be an indication that attitudes about links are changing. Certainly today's news that the Washington Post has embraced the agnostic link would suggest that the mainstream press has begun to act more blog-like. So perhaps the B2B press will too.

On the other hand, as I noted just a few days ago, some B2B publishers haven't even learned to link anywhere, let alone link to competitors.

For more on the value of linking, read this earlier post.

tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

How your Web site will look in the near future

Earlier today I downloaded the beta version of Internet Explorer 7, the next generation of Web browsers from Microsoft.
And after a just a few minutes of playing around, I can tell you that Version 7 is far superior to earlier versions. And that shouldn't be a surprise. Version 7's primary purpose seems to be duplicating the features and functions that made Mozilla's Firefox browser so superior to IE.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of Firefox. And it seems that the developers at Microsoft are too. The new IE comes complete with the two most interesting features of Firefox -- tabbed browsing, which lets you look at multiple Web sites in a single window, and built-in RSS capability.

Why should you care? Think about this: as great as Firefox is, and as quickly as it has grown, its market share remains small. But Microsoft's IE is the king of the browser world. It won't always be that way, I'm sure. Things are changing quickly, and new user interfaces are coming. But until that day arrives, IE rules. So sometime in the next few months, IE 7 will become the way readers experience your online products. And you need to know what that will mean.

Download IE 7 today. You can do so here.
Take a look at how your site and the sites of your rivals look. One interesting feature of IE 7 is that the interface is smaller -- allowing users to see more of the Web pages they visit. Your Web designers should be considering what that means for your pages.
Then take a look at the little RSS icon that appears in the upper right hand corner of the browser. If the site you visit has an RSS feed, the icon will light up in orange. If not, the icon remains a dull gray. (Don't have an RSS feed yet? Perhaps that hasn't been a problem so far. But RSS is a superior experience for users. And billions of computer users are about to find that out. So trust me on this -- 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.)

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Magazines of the year

I'm back from the ASBPE Editorial Conference in Chicago, where I had the good fortune to meet with some of the smarter, nicer and more interesting folks in our business.
While I was there, ASBPE announced the winners of its annual "Magazine of the Year" awards. And it was no surprise to me that both winners were IDG products -- Computerworld and CSO.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a fan of much of what IDG does (DISCLOSURE: IDG is a client of mine.) And both Computerworld and CSO are truly wonderful publications in both print and online. I'm particularly impressed by how both publications have navigated the new media world. Although the designs of both sites are a little too cluttered for my tastes, Computerworld and CSO have a little bit of everything that makes for compelling online content -- graphics, feedback, podcasts, interactive tools, webcasts and hyperlinks. Congratulations to all involved.

For more on this year's winners, check out the blog of the Boston chapter of the ASBPE, which is run by my friend and ASBPE co-panelist Martha Spizziri (we served on a panel about blogging.) For more on this year's conference, take a look at the blog of my other friend and co-panelist, David Shaw.

You may also want to check out BtoB magazine's coverage of the keynote speech by Rance Crain, in which he calls for editors to stop looking across the "digital divide with fear and trepidation."
It's worth remarking that Rance is the president and editorial director of Crain Communications, owner of BtoB magazine. And although Rance seems to embrace new media, BtoB magazine still struggles with the most basic of new-media concepts. There's not a single link in the story about Rance. Nor, for that matter, is there a single link in any BtoB story. And as I've mentioned before, I find that's a common shortcoming at Crain publications.)
For more on why publications should link, take a look at this post at Reinventing College Media.

tags: , , , , ,

Monday, July 24, 2006

Personalities for journalism, business

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've been predicting a surge in new businesses launched by established journalists. Now the New York Times has made note of the phenomenon.
The Times piece has its flaws. There's no mention, for example, of what role easy-to-use blogging software is playing. But there are some interesting insights here, particularly that business journalists tend to be "risk-averse."

The Times article focuses on Nina Munk, a former writer for Fortune and a stereotypically neurotic journalist "filled with self-doubt" who became "acutely aware of the personality traits required for success in business."
Take a look at the Times article here.
Then, before you launch your own business, take a Myers-Briggs test and spend a little time learning about the strength and flaws of your own personality type. I, for example, am an ENFJ. We are communicators and teachers by nature. There are lots of us in journalism. And we tend to have a "longing for the perfect" and to "experience some degree of restlessness" in our jobs. And although we can excel at any "people-to-people occupation," we tend to have problems with accounting (which explains why the biggest challenge I face in my business is balancing the checkbook.)

tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 17, 2006

Journalists and poets

I enjoyed reading the interview in CJR Daily with Priscilla Long, the writer who won this year's National Magazine Award for feature writing. There are some wonderful ideas in the piece -- particularly that journalists could benefit from reading poetry.
Yet I hesitated to link to the interview.
My concern -- born of experience -- is that the writers most interested in producing stories that read like poetry are seldom talented enough to do so. The result is too many magazines with too many awful stories by reporters in love with their own tortured prose.
And I don't want to link to anything that could possibly lead to more overwritten stories.

Yet there are those few journalists ... gifted, open to learning ... who can be taught to write like poets. And to them, I say, read this interview.
(I'd like to link to Long's award-winning essay, "Genome Tome," which appeared in the American Scholar. But it's not available online.)

For an earlier post of mine on poetry, click here.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Looking at online video

I'd be hard-pressed to think of a style of content that has grown as quickly as short-form video. YouTube is certainly the most interesting company in the space, but new competitors are emerging.
But despite the enormous popularity of short-form clips online, few B2B publishers have offering video on their sites. There are exceptions -- mostly the larger players that cover the media business such as Variety and AdWeek.
If you're thinking about online video, or if you already offer some on your site, take a look at this commentary from MediaPost. It does a pretty good job of explaining what not to do.

For an earlier post about online video, click here.

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sources as competitors

There's no doubt in my mind that the greatest challenge traditional publishers face from blogging is that news sources can now be news competitors -- producing compelling content at little cost.
And it seems that most every day I find someone else who has found his voice ... and found a way to bypass the traditional press.
Take a look at this site, written by an employee at Birds Eye, about the pea harvest.
Or take a look at this blog about the beer industry from Miller Brewing.
I've written about this phenomenon before in posts such as this. And it was a year ago this month that I predicted a "surge in B2B news produced by B2B news sources."
And that has turned out to be one of the most accurate predictions I've ever made.

Yet many of the B2B journalists and publishers I run into seem unconcerned. They believe that something -- tradition, brand name, familiarity -- makes them a more trusted source of information than any non-media company can be.
That's a mistake.
In a world where anyone can be a publisher, it's time to rethink our mission, our role and our business plans.

For more on this subject, check out what my friend Chuck has to say about the Miller Brewing blog.

tags: , , , , , conversational media, , ,

Monday, July 10, 2006

Complaints and compliments

Now this is the sort of complaint I wouldn't mind hearing more of. Folio magazine's Tony Silber is upset that I don't publish this blog more often. It would seem that Tony thinks this blog (and one written by my friend David Shaw) are "excellent" but "way too infrequent."

I'll admit to having fallen behind in my productivity of late. Heck, I'll admit to having fallen behind in everything. Since the birth of my daughter a few weeks ago, I sometimes go the entire day without even washing my face. I'm learning the hard way that 47 is far too old to be a first-time father. So I wasn't even aware of Tony's remarks until my friend and fellow blogger Matt Mullen posted a comment to this blog to tell me about it. (It was Matt who graciously suggested that I could take an infrequency "complaint as a compliment, i.e. readers actually read your stuff and want to see more." And I decided to adopt Matt's glass-half-full interpretation.)

So what is the frequency of this blog? and does it matter?
A quick look at my publishing software shows that I've posted an average of 17 items a month to this blog since it began in late 2004. That's a pretty decent level of productivity, I figure. But those numbers have dropped considerably in recent weeks. In May I posted only nine items. In June I posted only seven.
Now I can argue that quality is more important than quantity in blogging. And some of the items in recent weeks have been pretty good, if I do say so myself. But user stats don't lie, and it's clear that the drop in frequency has an impact -- page views in the second quarter were 15.4% lower than in the first quarter.

David, Martha Spizziri and I will be speaking about blogging next week at the ASBPE National Conference. I'm sure that frequency will be among the topics we'll address.
In the meantime, I'm going to have to face one key fact -- I have too much going on these days. Something is going to have to give. But I promise it won't be this blog.

For David's reaction to the Folio piece, click here.
To see what Rex, who has no problems with frequency, said, click here.

tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Even more congratulations are in order

Just a few hours after offering my congratulations to the B2B magazines that picked up nominations for ASBPE's Magazine of the Year awards, I find it's time to pat a few more folks on the back.
Trade, Association and Business Publications International, known as TABPI, has announced the winners of its 2006 Tabbie Awards.
Take a look at the complete list of winners here. And note that many of the publications that picked up a Tabbie -- Computerworld, Builder, CIO Decisions, etc. -- are also finalists for ASBPE's awards.
My congratulations to everyone involved.

tags: , , , , ,

More congratulations are in order

The American Society of Business Publication Editors has released the list of finalists for the Magazine of the Year awards.
It's no surprise to me that two of the 10 finalists in the large-circulation division, CIO and Computerword, and one of the 10 in the small-circulation category, CSO, are IDG publications. Nor am I surprised to see that CFO is also a finalist among the large-circ pubs. Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a fan of much that IDG does. And regular readers also know I adore CFO. (FULL DISCLOSURE: IDG is a client of mine, and I once worked at the parent company of CFO.)
For the full list of finalists, click here.
Congratulations to all involved.

For my comments on last year's winners, click here.

tags: , , , , ,