Striking a Balance Between Print and Online

By Katy Tomasulo
ASBPE Washington, DC Chapter President

During Sunday's Super Bowl, domain registration Web site ran an advertisement that indicated, in a nutshell, that the ad they originally intended to run featuring Indy driver Danica Patrick was deemed "too hot for TV." It then directed viewers to head to to see the banished spot.

Whether the powers that be should or should not have let them air the original ad is of no concern to me (I didn't go check it out, so I have no idea whether or not it really was "too hot"). What got me thinking, though, was that the TV ad marketed no goods or services but instead encouraged the viewer to head to the Web. It could be the most effective Web driver ever—or the worst. Was it enticing enough to get people to the company's Web site? Or is forcing folks online to learn anything about you asking too much?

What's this got to do with B2B? Well, it reminded me of a discussion I'd had with some of my editors and publishers last week. We were trying to determine how to deal with three stories that were running longer than expected at the same time there was no flexibility in the magazine's overall page count. We had realized that the articles couldn't be any shorter if they were going to be of value. Plus, all three are recurring sections listed on the editorial calendar, so it is a situation we will face each issue.

Most of us thought the best decision would be to run full versions of two of the three articles in print and save the third for later or to run as a Web-exclusive. But someone argued for the idea of printing all three in much shorter formats and then offering the full version of each article online

Our immediate reaction was "no way." This tack would essentially cut the meat out of the articles, rendering them nearly incomplete and unable to stand on their own. The articles would become a bit of a tease—we essentially would be forcing our readers to go to the Web to get their full value. If they didn't go, they'd be missing out on important details. If they did go, would they do so with annoyance? Would their faith in the value of our print product be diminished?

While we have already implemented many Web drivers into the magazine—including teasers to extra, related content at the end of articles and a dedicated "what's online" box in the table of contents describing online exclusives—this step seemed one too far. Additional article content should be worthy enough to want people to head to the Web, but it should be just that—additional helpful things that are extensions or branches of the material that will enhance the story and help the reader even further. It should not be required reading that if unread would affect their ability to understand the topic first presented in print.

In navigating Web 2.0, one thing I've come to believe is that it's about balance. I think the right recipe is a little flavor of both, mixed together however appropriate. Above all, we need to ensure that what we're providing—in print or online—is achieving what we've always sought to do: to serve the readers and their industry the best ways possible. Print articles, additional Web content, and Web-exclusive features should co-exist, with each able to stand alone while enhancing the other two and building your overall brand.

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That is a really good point, Katy, and one that I think gets lost a lot of the time. I'd also like to add that it's important to keep in mind the reader when choosing what type of online products/services to offer because a one size fits all approach is not appropriate for a lot of audiences.

Although it's important to have Web presence, for many titles--whose readers might be out in the field and not accessing the Web as much--having podcasts, Facebook pages, Webinars might not be the right strategy.

We should never lose sight of our mission as B2B editors: Getting relevant content to our readers.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : February 7, 2008 at 2:23 PM
Wait, did I miss it? Which option did you end up going with? We've had trouble with Web-only content because a lot of our freelancers don't want to be "relegated" to the Web. Even though there's potential for more exposure there.

Our freelancers and staff are just not thinking about the Web when they're writing. If they were, content that's best for the Web would probably come out of every story. But it doesn't. We have to drive readers there somehow.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : February 9, 2008 at 5:39 PM
Thanks for the comments!

Trade Pressed, we opted to hold the third story as a Web-exclusive. We'll advertise it in the "What's Online" box in our print TOC and post it as the lead item in an upcoming issue of our e-newsletter.

I definitely agree with you that some writers feel that Web-only is a sub-par place to be, even though it really isn't. Time will help, I think, but before then I try to 1) pay them the same (for freelancers anyway), 2) play up the Web-exclusive content as much as possible in print and online and on e-mail newsletters, and 3) alert the writers about viewership statistics to their articles.
# posted by Blogger asbpedckaty : February 11, 2008 at 9:40 AM
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