Blogging the News
DFW Chapter President and National Blog Chairwoman
As a blog that often refers to other websites, news stories and the like, ASBPE's national blog contributors have been taking note of the story regarding how the Associated Press has responded to links and usage of its stories. I have had relatively heated discussions (even if the heated part is only on my part) regarding using these links and stories in our posts. One side says there is a legal issue to contend with. The other side feels that giving attribution and credit should cover our proverbial backsides.
But, with the AP's take on things, it looks like it could go both ways. I'm curious how other blogs are handling this issued - if at all. Are we right to be a little nervous about fair usage?
The Unabomber and The Media
DFW Chapter President and National Blog Chairperson
I'm deviating a bit from our very "news you can use" format here to give a hat tip to the The Newseum. Despite criticism for self-promotion, I can't wait to go there. Checking out an AP story on the latest exhibit about "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century," I'm dying to go check this out. Call it morbid curiousity, but the exhibit includes the Unabomber's country shack where he wrote is infamous manifesto.
I can recall when his craziness was at full strength and every package we received at the newspaper with no return address or addressed in unusual fashion was greeted with great caution. Thick letters or packages that included paperclips and no return address were even "opened" by the local bomb squad. No kidding. We didn't tinker with that stuff. I think that is why the Unabomber's story is so fascinating to me.
Has anyone been to the Newseum yet? I'm really wanting to go.
Find Top B2B Blog Entries on B2B Tomorrow
ASBPE Web Editor
B2B Tomorrow uses technology provided by SocialRank to monitor business-to-business web sites and find the most popular posts and the most popular B2B blogs overall. Top posts recently include Is You Tube Inappropriate for Business Video? from the Marcom Writer blog, The Hierarchy of Social Marketing from Duct Tape Marketing, and The real business model for Web 2.0: corporate clients from Forrester Research's Groundswell blog. As you might expect — and as you can see from the list — most of the entries are from B2B marketing blogs. But as you can also see, there's potentially useful information there for editors and publishers trying to reach an audience.
The Basics Apply Online, Maybe Even More So
Media and Government Consulting
In judging for the ASBPE awards, consulting and just noodling around on the internet, I find some things that are just plain annoying.
Here are some of my pet peeves, and I’ll bet they are your readers’ pet peeves, too:
Pricing shell game: What does this research cost to download? How much do you charge for a subscription? Is there even a charge in the first place? Too often, we make visitors click deep into a chain of steps before revealing the price for a product or service offered online. If you are worried that putting a price tag up front will scare people away, then do a bang-up job of writing your sell language.
Take a page from the web site of Business Travel News. At the bottom of its home page the two classes of research available — free and premium or paid — are clearly marked.
Lack of news archive: A reader is thinking, “I know they had a story about XYZ in the last couple of weeks.” But we dish up disappointment, because our online archive of daily web postings only goes back a few days. Readers want a deeper archive, preferably with a robust search function. Heck, our own staff wants it. So why don’t more publications provide it?
Check out this example of a great archive from Government Executive.
Arcade game home page: Rotating lede stories, each with its own compelling illustration, has become popular. Yet some sites lack a way for the visitor to turn the carousel back a notch to a piece that went by before they could click on the link. If you’ve got five or six stories spinning by, each one taking seven or eight seconds, I guarantee you’ll have an impatient reader — presuming he or she sticks around to wait for the story to come around.
The Wall Street Journal figured out this one. Note the clear PREV and NEXT buttons under the rotating feature container.
Who pulled down that window shade? Without doubt, visitors hate what I call window shade ads. You click on a story and – whoops – an ad drapes down over the entire site. There’s a “skip this ad” or similar link, but what a way to frustrate readers! I know the ad climate is difficult, and often publishers lack the leverage they need to refuse this kind of visit-spoiling practice. But has anyone asked an advertiser, maybe they’ll get more clicks with a well positioned, well-written ad that doesn’t frustrate site visitors?
No point in linking to a site that does not have such ads, so root around the Washington Post site and sooner or later you’ll bump your nose into a window shade.
Help, get my sunglasses! As sites grow, they sometimes get cluttered. After a while, it’s time for a little pruning. Not because you are a neat freak, but because your identity and strong branding can get spoiled if the site’s appearance gets out of control.
The famous million dollar home page is the epitome of clutter. That’s what makes it unique and fun. But you don’t want your site to look like that. The trick is finding a balance between dull or generic, and too busy.
From the recent ASBPE contest, I found ALM’s law.com to strike that balance quite well. It’s loaded with information, yet manages to look organized, even dignified while conveying the excitement of new news.
Thomas R. Temin is a consultant with 30 years of publishing experience in media and information technology products and services. He is co-host of "The Federal Drive" with Tom Temin and Jane Norris, a weekday morning news and talk program on Federal News Radio AM 1050 in Washington D.C. You can see his weekly column on the op-ed page at www.federalnewsradio.com and contact him at email@example.com.
Come to the Heart of the Midwest for the National Conference
For the first time in the history of ASBPE, we are having the national conference in my hometown of Kansas City. We've had an active ASBPE chapter here in Kansas City for the past five years, and our city has many vibrant B2B publishing companies. We look forward to having B2B journalists attend the event from all over the country. This year promises to be a hands-on and educational event, with many opportunities for networking and learning experiences.
While budgets are tight at many B2B companies, editors can't afford to miss this year's conference. By attending the event, editors can learn skills to help them to do their jobs more effectively. As an incentive to register early, ASBPE is offering an early-bird discount to attendees who register by July 13. Both members and nonmembers can save $80 off their full conference registration fees by sending in their form by this date. Editors can also save 10 percent if three or more people from the same publication register for the conference.
Don't miss your opportunity to attend the national conference July 24-25 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kansas City. Also, plan to arrive on Wednesday afternoon so you can attend the evening reception at the Intercontinental to celebrate the ASBPE Foundation. As an attendee, you can also go to the 30th annual awards banquet as well as the Royals game on Friday night. Reserve your spot now for this wonderful networking and educational opportunity.
Amy Fischbach is the national vice president of ASBPE and the conference committee chair.
June 26 Webinar: Help Readers Deal With Environmental Issues
You'll get some good ideas about how to cover these issues by attending ASBPE's next webinar, The Disruptive Power of Green. Specifically, you'll find out:
- how other B2B reporters are creatively seeking out stories on the environment, sometimes producing reforms that make business more environmentally friendly.
- how to help your audience navigate new environmental laws.
- how to help them respond to demand from consumers and business partners for green initiatives.
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2008
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern time
Where: Your computer. You will need a dial-in number and access code to participate. You will receive the dial-in number and access code in a subsequent e-mail message after you register for this Webinar.
How to register: You can register online for this Webinar at eventcallregistration.com/reg?cid=2927t11. Shortly after you register, you will receive a confirmation of your registration by e-mail that will include the dial-in number and access code.
Charge: $15.00 for all ASBPE members; $35.00 for nonmembers.
Get Social (Media, That Is)
YouTube, Linked In, Second Life, Facebook.
From online communities to social networks to virtual worlds, B2B editors attending the March 28th event of ASBPE’s New York chapter got an earful about how best to harness the power of social media. Panelists included Stephen Wellman, editor director of business mobility at CMP’s Technology’s TechWeb Network, and editor-in-chief of the blog Over the Air and the e-mail newsletter Grok on Google; Alex Kam, vice president of digital strategy and business development at ALM; and Robert Freedman, ASBPE past president and senior editor of Realtor Magazine.
Herewith are some of the key take-aways from the 90-minute session, which was held at the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library in midtown Manhattan.
Develop a comprehensive approach
To be effective, said Wellman, a social media strategy has to be all-embracing, availing readers of a range of multimedia access points to content and interactive forums, including blogs, social networking sites and e-newsletters. To that end, social media tools need to be harmonized with print and web content to create a synergistic whole. Too often, said Wellman, the various media are segmented, resulting in “fragmented and “balkanized” content.
Make social media user-centric
To deliver the best experience, social media tools need to be customized for the audience and for each touch point. You should therefore profile your readers to determine their goals and objectives, the content they want and how they wish to access it. The old adage, “know your reader,” takes on special importance in a multimedia context, said Kam.
Don’t defer to the IT team
As an editor, you need to take a leading role in developing social media content because you know your audience best. Freedman noted that at Realtor Magazine, social media tools for developing video, podcasts and e-newsletters are accessible to anyone on staff, allowing editors to engage readers directly and with an immediacy that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Give readers wide latitude to contribute
Much of your best content will come from the readers themselves. So encourage them to contribute often. Many of the most widely read blog posts of Information Week, CMP’s flagship weekly magazine, are submitted by the publication’s readers: web-savvy information technology professionals who oversee their companies’ IT systems. And much of the user content gets posted without guidance or filtering from the publication’s editorial team.
Give prominence to your best contributors
Industry bloggers who deliver the most value to your online communities should be rewarded with increased exposure. One way to do that, said Kam, is by running excerpted blog posts in your print magazine. You can also create online content around the posts. At ALM, prized bloggers additionally get to share in advertising revenue.
Provide context to the information
While encouraging dialogue with readers, editors also need to put into context information that goes online. Every publication has a point of view. And it’s the editor’s job, said Freedman, to be a “steward” of the magazine’s unique perspective — both in print and on the web. This can entail a balancing act: While giving online communities a personality and a voice, you don’t want to be so controlling as to squelch conversations with readers, Kam cautioned.
Keep blog posts short and sweet
Though perhaps fine for print, lengthy articles don’t themselves so well to online communities, where the aim is to foster dialogue. At Information Week, said Wellman, staff editors now churn out 40 (brief) posts per week. Because of the frequent online contributions, the blogs now account for 12% of the magazine’s web site traffic, up from 1% just six months ago. And Information Week projects the percentage will rise to 20% by year-end.
Be prepared to cut back time spent on print
Depending on how ambitious your social media initiatives are, you may have to scale back — or jettison — your involvement with the print magazine to realize online project goals. Monica Bay, an audience participant at the March 28 panel and an editor-in chief at ALM, said she delegated supervision of one of three ALM publications to devote more time to online efforts. She now organizes a quarterly webinar, two podcasts and between three and four online-only interviews per month. She also produces a blog and coproduces a second.
Let users tag popular posts
Editors and readers need a way to sift through the mass of social media to identify information that’s relevant to them. Hence the need for functionality that allows site visitors to tag interesting and popular content. Giving them the ability to quickly and easily navigate your web portal, said Kam, is an important part of doing social media right.
Repurpose web content for print and print content for the web
Feature articles, blog posts, podcasts and video that go online can — often with little extra effort — be repackaged for your print magazine. At a recent trade show devoted to wireless communications, Wellman leveraged several blog posts, 2 videos and a 50-image photo gallery to develop a cover story for Information Week about the event. The process also works in reverse. Freedman related how Realtor Magazine easily developed a web video using still imagery that originally ran in print. Said Freedman: “We don’t think in terms of the print magazine anymore. We’ll craft content one way for print and another way for our blog.”
Get vendors into the game
Content for online consumption may include advertiser-generated copy — so long as it’s identified as such. On many of CMP’s Tech Web sites, said Wellman, vendor white papers, research reports, blogs and videos account for as much 25% of online traffic. One reason: Much of the copy is editorial-quality that’s objective and adds value. But Wellman stressed that disclosure of the source is critical to maintaining integrity with readers.
Feel free to experiment
Because social media is in its infancy, editors still have much to learn about what works and what doesn’t. To gain a competitive edge, you may need to experiment — and take calculated risks. Without prompting from readers, said Wellman, CMP’s Tech Web sites started posting opinion columns online, which received a very positive reception. Ditto with respect to the creation of online trade shows using the 3-D virtual world Second Life. Said Wellman: “Sometime you have to launch new features that readers don’t ask for because they can’t always anticipate their own needs.” Freedom to experiment, added Kam, extends to the methods by which social media content is created. Publications faced with tight budgets and small staffs, he said, should consider outsourcing online initiatives to publishing partners or freelancers when in-house resources aren’t up to the task.
Don’t expect to make a profit
Securing a return on investment in social media has, for many b-to-b publications, proven hard to achieve. The focus, said Kam, should not be on monetizing online content independently of print content, but rather on integrating web initiatives into the overall go-to-market strategy. Wellman agreed, noting the view that one can monetize social networks is “out of date.”
Warren S. Hersch, ASBPE’s New York chapter president, is senior editor of advanced markets & sales at National Underwriter Life & Health. From 1994 to 2003, he wrote and edited for several IT magazines, including the CMP Media publications Teleconnect, Call Center Magazine and Computer Reseller News; as well as Wireless for the Corporate User, published by Probe Research.
Joint Sales Calls With Salespeople
President of Editorial Solutions Inc.
When publishing ethics issues are debated, it’s usually popular to trash the practice of editors and salespeople making joint calls on advertisers. True, mishandling of the call can be -- to put it mildly – a distressing experience for editors. On the other hand, we have an important marketing role to play for our publication, and a well-planned joint session is a good way to do it.
If the salesperson pulls the strings and the editor is lucky enough to get in a few words, that is indeed a bummer . . . a pure sales call. However, if the editor has the floor most of the time, then we have a productive editorial call in play.
Even better is when the editor visits top brass at advertiser headquarters on his or her own for interviews and/or to exchange views on industry trends. Of course, you’ll accomplish very little if you haven’t kept up with the industry. It would be a tragic error to attempt to bluff your way through the meeting.
Another super customer contact opportunity occurs when the editor is a featured speaker at an advertiser’s national sales meeting. Obtaining such engagements and executing them well is a great way to demonstrate industry leadership. But you need original research available on which you can base a trendy program.
On a similar note, the most productive example of a joint call is where the editor delivers an A-V presentation to customer top brass (or ad agency personnel) in tandem with the magazine’s publisher or sales representative.
Considering the typical heavy workload confronting most editors, it’s not clear how you can fulfill your “show business” role. But for what it is worth, you must be on stage as often as possible. Among other things, of course, this means that you need stage presence.
While I’ve devoted most of this post to the positive side of joint calls, let’s not ignore the negatives. For instance, you have to fight like the dickens not to be roped into a call where the end goal is trading off editorial for advertising (ugh!!!).
One final thought: many times the salesperson’s main client contact is the sales manager, ad manager or ad agency. There’s nothing wrong with your knowing these people. But your major ongoing contacts should go beyond that level. Trade shows are a great place to get acquainted with a company’s major players.
Editorial Solutions Inc. is a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does Off the Record Still Exist?
DFW Chapter President and National Blog Chairwoman
At our last Dallas-Fort Worth ASBPE Chapter meeting, the subject came up of how to handle "off the record" remarks. We had a public relations firm owner and a local business journal editor addressing our group about how to cultivate sources, so it was a natural question for the people who sit on both sides of the issue.
What I found interesting was that both of them agreed that no source should ever tell a reporter something off the record. Either it is for publication or it isn't. I think I straddle the fence. Recently, I had a similar situation. In an article for Commercial Property News about how retail is growing in India, I had a source mention that he/she was in a meeting with several hundred people when Tiffany's made the announcement of planning a stand-alone store in India with no local partners for support. The source did not want to be named and a representative from Tiffany's contacted my editor (who, in turn, contacted me) and I respectfully declined to name the source. He/she said there were hundreds of people there, so he/she didn't mind giving me the information, but under no circumstances was I to divulge the name.
Well, as a reporter, it is like gold to find a news nugget before anyone else. Of course, I had to go with it. But, is it really worth it? Off-the-record comments can often be a good starting point to find the information from another source. Simply knowing the information can lead you to ask another source to confirm it and then you have it on the record. But, it is a balancing act.
Online Journalism Review - Supported by the Annenberg School for Communication at USC made the contention that there's no such thing as off the record in this age of blogs and the instant ability to share news or gossip. I think they may be right. I question, however, if that is such a bad thing. It is like spreading gossip around the water cooler or coffee machine. If you don't want to be associated with saying something, keep your mouth shut. If you don't want to be quoted, then don't say it. Am I wrong?