Does your Website or Blog have a Style Guide? Part 2: Electronic Style Guide

Erin Erickson
ASBPE Chicago Chapter

As a follow-up to this post about blog and website style guides, you should also be thinking about how you can update your style guide in a more timely manner.

You may want to consider transferring your print style guide to an electronic one. Here's how:
  • Take blogging software. Platforms like Blogger and WordPress offer easy-to-use software at absolutely no cost.

  • Both platforms offer a privacy setting so you grant access only to those staff writers and contributors who write for your publication.
  • Begin uploading your style guide. For each section, create a new post, a new post headline, etc., and a label (Numbers, Tone, Audience, Contributor Requirements).
  • Consider adding links to commonly used resources (both within the body of the entry and in a link list on the side of the page). For example, if you use an ftp site for uploading images, place a link on the blog that directs users to the ftp site. You can make your style guide as elaborate or as simple as your needs require.
  • What also makes this kind of style guide more efficient is the ability to apply an RSS feed to it. Rather than resend a print version to your writers every time you would like to update, include a feed and the new information will populate your user's readers instantly.

Labels: , , , ,


Web 2.0 in Plain English

By Martha Spizziri
ASBPE Web Editor

Photo: Martha SpizziriStill confused by RSS? Not sure what social bookmarking is or why people would want to use it? The folks at Common Craft can help you out. They've produced a series of videos (with amusingly low-tech — yet seriously effective — production techniques) that give simple explanations of these and other Web 2.0 concepts. None of the videos is more than four minutes long, so you don't waste a lot of time finding out what you need to know. Each video covers the essentials: what the technology is, why you'd want to use it, and how and where to go to get started.

This video on RSS is just one example. Take a look.

They've also got an excellent video on social bookmarking, one on social networking in general (very basic), plus Twitter (does a good job of explaining what Twitter is, but I think Harry McCracken's recent post on the PCWorld Techlog does better at explaining why you might want to use it). There are also films covering blogs and online photo sharing, and a useful one on wikis that illustrates how they can be used to manage projects. Oh, yeah — there's also a video on zombies.

Labels: , , , ,


One Last Chance for TABPI Awards

If your magazine did any amazing design work (or editorial work, for that matter!) in 2007, there is still one last chance to be recognized for it. The Tabbies, the international b2b awards program supported by ASBPE, has announced that it is still accepting late entries through Wednesday, March 26. Postmark your entries by that date, and you'll get in under the gun. Details are at



For Sale

By Thomas R. Temin
Media and Government Consulting

So, Reed Business Information is for sale. Its Dutch parent is divesting itself of a division which, at one time, was the chief profit contributor to its then-parent, Reed International. Now some financial entity will buy it, and who knows what will happen.

This is an ignominious end for a company that at one time set the standard for business-to-business publishing. It feels like Jaguar and Land Rover being bought by Ford, which is unloading them on the Tata Group of India. So much for the British Empire. Maybe Tata, an impressive conglomerate, would buy RBI.

It could happen. Content generation, copy editing and production can and is being done in India for lots of publishers. Tata has a partnership with McGraw Hill to reprint technical books.

I spent 17 years, or nearly a third of my life, at RBI, which was then called by its proper and historical name: Cahners Publishing Company. I loved it there. I worked on Purchasing Magazine when I started on June 30, 1980. The place wasn’t perfect—you won’t catch me getting all misty maudlin. But it had lots of quirky, colorful people. In those days Boston was headquarters, and the company inhabited an antique brick former factory—now condos—at the edge of the good part of town. That gave Cahners a feeling of genteel poverty when in fact it made a lot of money.

Cahners referred to Norman Cahners (1914-1986), the legendary founder. A shrewd, tough kid from Maine, he’d married well and done well. I respect his memory the most for something even fewer remember: He qualified for the 1936 U.S. Olympic track team out of Harvard but, along with Milton Green, boycotted the tryouts and thus the Olympics out of disgust with Nazi Germany.

Although it didn’t seem so at the time, publishing was a simpler business then. No web, for one thing. Cahners lived by what were affectionately known as Norman’s Niches. Each magazine was governed by a document of six or seven paragraphs describing its market served, audience, circulation, and editorial approach. Norman and his equally formidable partner, Saul Goldweitz (1920-1998) expected publishers and chief editors to have their magazine’s niche memorized. They in turn expected staff members to do the same. I was once called on to recite the niche at a sales luncheon—a moment I remember more than 25 years later.

The point is, Cahners had a non-nonsense, eminently practical approach. Build an audience of people who buy in a given industry, mail them information they need, and sell a lot of ads. The magazines were solid, predictable—and eagerly read and fat with ads.

But things eventually unravel. A series of Reed acquisitions added to the Cahners stable had made the place unwieldy. There were failed gambits in CD-ROMs, the Reed merger with Elsevier, the latter having a totally different business model and culture. Starting in the late ‘90s, the company was plagued by revolving door leadership and befuddlement over digital strategy.

Like other publishing companies with visionary founders—Ziff and CMP come to mind—Cahners/Reed has become just another financial entity to be bought and sold, traded among MBA types.

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 and contact him at

Labels: ,


How to Get the Most Bang From Your Freelance Bucks

By Jennie L. Phipps
Editor and Publisher of Freelance Success

As media businesses tighten down, one of the first things many publishers look at is expense for freelancers. Here are five ways to get more production out of the money you are spending on outside help.

1. Make freelancers feel like part of the team. No editor would treat a staffer the way many editors treat freelancers. Investing just a little time in orientation, regular updates and sharing the publication’s news and goals can result in freelancers who understand the larger objectives and can pay off in better-targeted stories and more polished production.

2. Think twice about e-mail. E-mail is great for specifics like word counts and due dates. It’s not so terrific for hammering out an approach or communicating a problem. Taking 15 minutes to discuss with a freelancer where they are going with a story before they begin writing and telling them where they’ve gone wrong – as opposed to fixing the problem and grumbling or sending a snide note – will yield much better results.

3. Figure out fair compensation for non-narrative approaches. Bulleted lists, charts, graphs all work well on paper and translate to the web better than long, wordy stories. Podcasts of interviews are easy to do. Paying a freelancer for thinking in these terms and producing these kinds of pieces can result in a much more flexible output. But don’t expect it as a free add-on. Coming up with these approaches takes time and freelancers won’t devote time to the tasks if they aren’t compensated.

4. Re-evaluate what you farm out. Almost any kind of routine work can be assigned to someone who isn’t in the building, including administrative and editing tasks. That frees up staffers to do the more creative work that improves the product and keeps the staff more satisfied with their jobs.

5. Pay promptly. A publication that has a reputation for paying within 30 days will have much less trouble attracting reliable and talented freelancers than one whose payment process is prolonged and unpredictable – even at rates that are on the low side.

Jennie L. Phipps is the editor and publisher of Freelance Success, a subscription newsletter and online community for independent nonfiction writers. She can be reached at

Labels: , , ,


March 21 Webinar: Taking Your Webcasts to the Next Level

Webcasts can boost readership and ad dollars and raise brand awareness, learn how B2B publications are gaining a competitive edge through webinars.

Find out what it takes to successfully produce compelling — and profitable — webinars for your trade magazine. Join the American Society of Business Publication Editors for a webinar on Friday, March 21, to get the inside scoop from top experts at Nielsen Business Media and InXpo.

Learn how to:
  • pick a compelling topic and present it for maximum impact.

  • involve print and online staff editors in content development and presentation of webinars.

  • manage the "church-state" divide and address common ethical issues when conducting webinars.

  • package and market online events for potential viewers and sponsors.

  • leverage webinars for related editorial content, including virtual trade shows, podcasts and e-newsletters.
Meeting Details

When: Friday, March 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EDT.

Where: Your computer. A web conference dial-in number and access code is required, and will be provided to registrants in a subsequent e-mail.

How to attend: To reserve your place, submit a completed reservation form (80K) by March 17th to or 201-221-8655 (fax). Questions may be directed to Steve Roll at 703-341-5926.

Charge: This webinar is $10.00 for all ASBPE members and $35.00 for nonmembers.

About the Presenters

Kristin Beaulieu is the Vice President of Client Services at InXpo, a leading provider of virtual online communities and tradeshows. She works with leading publishers such as Nielsen, The Wall Street Journal, CMP, IDG, Ziff Davis Enterprise and others to strategize their event businesses.

Kristin was formerly the Vice President of Digital Events for the Consumer Small Business Division of Ziff Davis Media. She managed two online event divisions for Ziff Davis: eSeminars and PCMagCast. eSeminars was launched in 2000 and grew steadily to become a highly profitable division of Ziff Davis with year-over-year exponential growth in revenue and events. In January 2006, PCMagCast was launched as the dedicated online event division of PCMagazine.

PCMagCast received both Gold and Bronze 2006 Folio: Fame Awards for "Best Online Events of the Year" for its "Security and Mobility Virtual Tradeshow" and the webcast, "Selecting and Setting up an HDTV Set". Additionally eSeminars received the 2005 Folio Fame Gold Award for "Best Online Event" for its Security Solutions Tradeshow "Protect Yourself Against Attacks."

Elliot Markowitz is Editorial Director of Nielsen Business Media Webcasts and Virtual Events and is responsible for the content of all web seminars across Nielsen's publications and brands. He is also Editorial Director of Nielsen's Small Business Resource Center and

Previously, Markowitz was Editorial Director of Ziff Davis Media eSeminars, where he helped build the company's eSeminar business and launched its award-winning Virtual Tradeshow concept. Markowitz is an 18-year publishing veteran and before Ziff Davis, he was Editor of Hotel Business magazine and HotelJournal. Before that he was Editor-in-Chief of CRM Magazine and the website and related live events. Before CRM Magazine, he was Business Editor at TechTV, responsible for helping to manage the TV station's website as well as conducting live on-air interviews with key industry executives.

Markowitz also spent 11 years with CMP Media's award-winning weekly newspaper Computer Reseller News (CRN), where he held many key editorial positions including News Editor, Business Editor, and Senior Executive Editor. In 1999 he was named Editor of CRN, responsible for the entire editorial operation of the newspaper and in charge of coordinating its redesign and re-launch in June 2000. While at CRN Markowitz initiated many key alliances including the Industry Hall of Fame event in Las Vegas and the annual CRN/Raymond James Conference. Early in his career Markowitz was a news reporter on Long Island for the Massapequa Post.

He holds a B.A. in Journalism from Hofstra University and is a graduate of the Stanford Professional Publishing Course.

Labels: , , , ,


What You Need, When You Need It

Photo: Tonie Auer By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President and National Blog Chairwoman

I am on a few different journalism email distribution lists. I get things coming to my inbox that direct me to the latest firings, hirings and scandals related to news outlets. Some of it is garbage and, occasionally, some of it is golden. Last week, I found one of those nuggets that I think could be really useful to newsies of all sorts.

It came to me via the Editors Weblog about how IFRA started IFRA Search. Oooooh, this is the coolest thing to me. IFRA Search, however, is engineered for media professionals who demand specific, current and reliable results about the news publishing industry.

Go try it. I did a search for improving circulation and up pop several summaries at newspaper summits about growing circulation and changing newsrooms. The same Web search on a generic search engine came up with nothing but medical sites. So, you can see how it is helpful to weed out those results immediately.

I think it's an ingenious tool for all of us in the publishing world.

By the way, happy St. Patrick's Day. I am even wearing green in my new mug shot here. :)

Labels: , , , , ,


Does Your Website or Blog Have a Style Guide?

Erin Erickson
ASBPE Chicago Chapter

Does your website or blog have a style guide? Should it?

Jonathan Bailey's post on BlogHerald raises a great point about the importance of an online style guide.

I have seen style guides for print magazines become so elaborate that they have subsections of subsections. Yet when discussing resources and writing styles for online, these mammoth guides only devote a page to acceptable and non-acceptable sources or how to write web-related words.

If we're striving for brand recognition both in both print and online, shouldn't we devote the same thought to our web style as we do our print style?

It is worthy to note that this post is geared mainly toward bloggers and not necessarily j-school trained writers; however, it offers a few bulleted items to consider for your own website/blog style guide. Notice the similarities between this and what your print style guide suggests (see the post for the entire list):
  • What is your post frequency?
  • Do you standardize your post titles? (capitalization, punctuation)
  • Attribution
  • Artistic contributions
Once you have decided on your web style, how do you deliver it to your writers? We'll cover that in the next installment of "Does your website or blog have a style guide?"

Labels: , , ,


Online Training: Fact Checking and Managing Change

By Martha Spizziri
ASBPE Web Editor

Two online training programs have recently caught my eye:

Tomorrow afternoon, News University is offering a one-hour webinar titled Managing Change: Five Steps to Success. Topics to be addressed include (direct quote from the course description):
• Ways to overcome the “learning anxiety” that plagues new technology/new media initiatives

• Strategies for reducing stress and conflict during change
Who couldn't use help with that? The cost is about $40 -- $30 if you've taken a webinar from them before -- so it's a minimal investment of time and money.

Media Bistro is offering a four-week online course on fact checking. It starts April 16. It's promoted as a class for people interested in being freelance fact checkers and perhaps using that as a stepping stone to becoming a reporter, but given that many B2B editors didn't start out as journalists, this could be helpful training. I've heard of very few B2B publications that make fact checking part of their editing process. I'm planning to take the course, though. Look for a future post (or two) with thoughts on fact-checking and B2B.

Update, 3/12/08: The NewsU "Managing Change" webinar will be replayed in a few weeks. The replay will include the PowerPoint and the audio presentation. NewsU also plans to offer this Webinar again in June. To find out the exact dates of the repeats, check the NewsU course list or register with the site to get email notifications about upcoming webinars.

Labels: , , , , ,


10+ tips for writing better blog posts

Photo: Erin EricksonErin Erickson
ASBPE Chicago Chapter

As editors, we're trained to write succinct prose that gets to the heart of the matter.

As a blogger, do you find yourself unable to capture that same zeal? Are you a journalist trying to figure out how to make the most out of your blog?

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame has published 13 great questions to ask yourself before publishing a blog post, including:

What was the main point of this post? have I made it clearly?

Have I credited sources of quotes and inspiration?

What keywords will people search Google for on this topic? Have I optimized this post for those words?

To see the full list along with the lengthy string of follow-up comments, head over to Darren's blog post now.

Labels: ,


Reasons Why Editors Need to Understand Second Life

By Robert Freedman
Past President of ASBPE National

The 3-D virtual reality platform Second Life has seen huge growth over the last several years, but it's not the young gamer crowd that has pushed the number of account holders to about 11 million.

Serious companies like Coldwell Banker, H&R Block, IBM, Dell, Bantam Books, Nissan, Mercedes, Toyota, and Reebok are driving the boom today. That's because these and hundreds of other companies, plus just as many nonprofit organizations, are discovering some pretty interesting ways to interact with their customers and constituents. And as B2B editors, you can better help your readers if you're aware of what they're doing.

Dell, for instance, is letting people build their own computers virtually and then, if they like what they've made, to buy it. A military charity, Books for Soldiers, is letting deployed service people meet with their spouses in a virtual USO setting for real-time dining and dancing. At the same time, engineers are experimenting with ways to collaborate virtually on product development.

These trends are important to B2B editors for two reasons:
  • First, as migration to Second Life speeds up, editors are going to need to know what companies and organizations in their industry are doing, if only to cover what's happening.

    If you're writing about real estate, for example, you'll need to know that Coldwell Banker has set up elaborate virtual communities in which people, through their "avatars" (virtual stand-ins) buy and sell houses. If you're writing about car manufacturing or sales, you'll need to know that most of the major brands — including Pontiac, Toyota, Mercedes, and Nissan — now let people test drive new models virtually. If you're not writing about these kinds of things, your readers aren't getting a complete picture of how this virtual reality platform is causing companies in your industry to rethink their development and marketing strategies, among other things.

    It was through covering what real state agents are doing virtually on Second Life that I came to write a book, just released by McGraw-Hill, called How to Make Real Money in Second Life.

  • Second, the virtual reality platform gives you as editors a very compelling way to communicate to your readers. Just as editors are now using blogs and are experimenting with podcasts, videos, and webinars, the Second Life platform opens up a different way to reach your readers.

    How might you use a virtual reality platform? The first thing you can do is host virtual presentations that you later write up for your print or online publication. The 3-D platform gives you the ability to do things in a presentation that you just can't do anywhere else. If yours is a building magazine, for example, you can host a presentation on different roofing materials, using a 3-D model of a house. As your roofing expert talks, the roof on the house changes to showcase the different materials. If yours is a human resources magazine, you can host a presentation on interviewing methods by having participants role-play in a mock interview setting.
The book describes the different ways companies and nonprofits are leveraging the platform to boost their bottom line and expand their marketing reach.

No doubt it's hard for you to get a picture of what I'm talking about just by reading my description here. In reality, the world of Second Life is like an elaborate game of digital dolls, like the Sims, that's populated with avatars. So, when I talk about having an expert discuss roofing materials, I'm talking about the expert's avatar, standing before a group of readers' avatars, using either voice-enabled technology or instant messaging to discuss the roofing material. The avatars are free to move about the building mock-up and even to experiment with the roofing material themselves. Such a presentation is highly interactive and hard for participants to forget. That's probably why so many universities are well into efforts to hold virtual classes like this.

There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome before virtual platforms like Second Life become a common part of the online experience. But I think it's fair to say that, now that the technology is in place, it's only a matter of time before that day comes. Certainly the corporate world believes that the day is coming, given its big and growing investment in the Second Life platform. Since it costs you nothing to experiment yourself (you can open an account for free), you might want to give it a go to see what you can do virtually to really capture your readers' imaginations.

Robert Freedman, author, How to Make Real Money in Second Life (McGraw-Hill: 2008) and editor, Broker to Broker (John A. Wylie & Sons: 2006). He is also senior editor at Realtor Magazine in Washington, published by the National Association of Realtors. You can find a direct link to book info on the ASBPE site, too.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Blogger Journalism?

By Tonie Auer
DFW ASBPE Chapter President and National Blog Committee Chairwoman

As a blogger and a journalist, I see a fine line between the two roles. Yes, blogging plays a role in news. I think everyone would agree with that. But, are the two interchangeable? Can bloggers be journalists? We probably all know someone in the industry who doesn't have a J-school degree, but is a great writer, reporter, editor, etc.

But, can blogging be considered journalism? I guess I'd have to take it on a case by case basis to make a decision. David Cohn at believes that journalism is changing and blogging is playing a role in that change. I just don't know what I think about it. What about you?

Labels: , ,