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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  1. 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.

    Paul, this is possibly one of the most important statments about how Web 2.0 works. And you're right that it's not about shoveling text into a content management system and walking away.

    Most of the misconceptions, I think, come from individuals who simply don't work with blogs, messageboards, newsgroups, etc. to know what makes these various kinds of social media work well (and what makes some of them work NOT so well...) More often than not, I've encountered journalists and businessfolks who say to me "a blog? that's nothing more than another kind of content management system." When I counter with, "do you read any blogs?" they answer "no."

    There may be two basic reasons for this: their minds have already been shaped by mainstream negativity about interactivity (all those reports about predators and partisanship) and the savvy shovelware salesmen that baffle with terms and philosophies while never directly engaged with Web 2.0 themselves.

    Believe me, there are tons of enterprising techy salestypes who are great at selling Web 2.0 while never interacting with it themselves. ...

    Which always leaves me wondering: if they can't get with Web 2.0, most will be left in the dust when the Next Big Thing (maybe Second Life?) really takes off.

  2. Hi Paul,
    I wrote that piece and I generally write about online media for BtoB's little sister, Media Business.
    I agree totally with your opinion of our website. Imagine how frustrating it is for the person doing the ONLINE coverage!
    However, I don't think we're the only b-to-b MAGAZINE, a word purposefully chosen, that hasn't gotten over the Internet bubble bursting.
    Outside of the technology space and thought leaders such as the ones quoted in my article, there's still a tremendous amount of caution among print-born b-to-b media groups. They realize they have to make the transition, but they are hamstrung because of their concerns about ROI.
    Much (maybe most)of the b-to-b media still has a break-even mindset when it comes to the Web, which sets up a chicken-or-egg dilemma. How do you get advertisers and an audience for a lame website? And, on the other hand, how can you invest in the Web if you don't have confidence because you don't have a history?
    That WILL change, but slowly.
    In the meantime, I think b-to-b audiences will continue to be quite forgiving.