Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Work the Web Better

Steve Roll, president of the ASBPE Washington, D.C., chapter has some great tips for improving your online work. Read it here: ASBPE Washington, D.C. Chapter: Online Productivity Tips for B2B Editors.

His top two are the same as mine. If you haven't tried using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer (which no longer supports its Mac version) or Gmail instead of, well, any other mail application (web-based or otherwise), you're missing out on two great resources.

Not only does Gmail allow you to tag messages with as many keywords as you choose (instead of placing each email in only one folder) it has even integrated GTalk, its instant messaging service, which means you can reply to an e-mail as a chat and it's saved in the subject string with the original e-mail.

Google my be taking over the Internet--and therefore the world--but at least its doing it in a friendly, useful way that's free for me. There are some other nice Google features that I've integrated into my workflow:
  • Google Notebook to quickly save snippets from websites that I want to remember.
  • Blogger for this blog. I know some publications are using it as well for their first blog trials. And it has recently undergone a facelift and is easier than ever to use.
  • Docs & Spreadsheets, which allows you to collaborate on documents with others.
And for those of you who do a lot of instant messaging (IM) using a plethora of services (AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, Gtalk, ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc.) you can consolidate. I recommend Gaim (for PCs) and Adium (for Macs). These are two great--and free--programs that compile all of your IM profiles and buddy lists into one easy-to-use interface.

IntelliTXT trouble at Ziff Davis

Ziff Davis' eWeek is getting blasted by the B2B blogs for its use of contextual ads. Below are thoughts posted by Martha Spizziri, the vice president of the ASBPE Boston chapter. (See her original post: ASBPE Boston Blog: eWeek/IntelliTXT Flap.)

In case you missed it: Woburn-based Ziff Davis publication eWeek has been the subject of some Internet controversy for its use of IntelliTXT contextual ads, which are hotlinked from within the text of editorial content. The IntelliTXT service was developed by the company Vibrant Media.

Rather than repeat what's already been said, I'll direct you to some of what's been written about it:

One thing I will repeat that's mentioned in Paul Conley's post: ASBPE's ethics guidelines state

The editorial department should control all editorial content on a publication’s digital publication, including Web site, blogs, e-newsletters, digital magazines, and others. Standards such as accuracy, attribution, fairness, and balance applying to a publication’s printed editorial material also apply to a publication’s Internet or digital presence.

Care should be used online, as with printed material, to avoid placement of advertisements in or near editorial content in a way that could compromise editorial integrity or confuse the reader.

And I do have a few comments about this 2004 post from John Battelle's Searchblog, which Matt McAlister's post above also links to: "IntelliTXT: Your Advertising Peanut Butter Is In My Editorial Chocolate..." Although the piece is almost three years old, Battelle makes an interesting devil's-advocate argument that contextual ads within articles might not be so bad after all. Battelle's reasoning, in brief:

... [M]agazines that are essentially catalog magazines ('magalogs'), or most of the Seven Sisters (Glamour, Vogue, etc) ... pretty much exist to move product, and they don't pretend otherwise. A system like this would work quite well for the online kin to these kind of publications. ...

Second, there are an entire classes of content-driven sites which claim absolutely no pretense of editorial objectivity. Whether they are fan sites, directories, blogs, corporate advertorials, for-profit domain-specific portals, you name it, the tradition of sites which carry their biases proudly or are baldly commercial in nature is rich and growing, and IntelliTXT may well give these kind of sites a new monetization model.

Leaving aside whether directories, blogs, and fan sites are, or ought to be, commercial in nature, I'd say that at best the IntelliTXT model is annoying--in the same way that even editorial links can be annoying when the text is vague. In both cases, you aren't really sure what kind of information you'll get if you click.

IntelliTXT links are distinguished from editorial links by a green double-underline format, and Stevenson tells Battelle that the links are a service, and that the reader won't see the ad unless she makes a conscious choice to click an IntelliTXT link. But the format is not enough to distinguish them as ads to the casual user, at least at this point in IntelliTXT's life. And -- in the 2007 iteration, at least--you don't have to click on the link for the ad to appear. Just rolling over it does the trick.

It's also interesting that, according to Battelle, Stevenson basically argues that the links don't inherently represent a conflict because the publisher decides what words to link, so that if the links aren't appropriate, it's the publisher's responsibility. Battelle doesn't quote Stevenson's exact words, but if Stevenson did in fact mention only the publisher, I wonder why he doesn't think the editor should be the decision maker when it comes to links.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Meeting Recap, Part 2: Target editorial copy by niche to avoid advertorials

Be on the look out for more veiled advertorials in 2007. Phil Musser, publisher of Transmission & Distribution World, said he has seen an increase in the amount of advertorials in his sector of the business-to-business publication industry over the past year.

Some publications are becoming more innovative in how they present advertorials, he said while speaking Jan. 17 at a Kansas City chapter meeting of the American Society of Business Publication Editors titled “Trends in B2B Publishing.” Advertisers often sponsor what a publishing company may call a guide, sourcebook or case study.

“Was that a guide or a sourcebook?” Musser said. “No, it was a different way for them to draw a veil and plop in contributed pieces that were lock, stock and barrel written biased.”

Transmission & Distribution World, based in Overland Park, Kan., and a publication of Prism Business Media, takes a different approach, Musser said.

“We try to make a distinction between a targeted focus of what you’re going after by sector or by niche vs. advertorial,” he said.

He added companies in the business-to-business publication arena can find other avenues of growth:
  • Developing a partnership with an existing trade shows can provide an opportunity if a publishing company or magazine is the exclusive media partner.
  • Blogs and webinars are getting closer to going online for Transmission & Distribution World. The electronic media also can make it easier for Transmission & Distribution World to expand its reach internationally since mailing costs are not involved.
  • A market opportunity exists for research information in the power sector since utilities are not providing financial support to research institutions and associations like they formerly did.
“They are always calling us, asking us for (research information),” Musser said. “That is an opportunity for us.”

Meeting Recap, Part 1: Manage your brand to thrive in online revolution

Brand stewards, although their job titles might say editor, may lead the online revolution in business-to-business publications. Cameron Bishop, president and chief executive officer of Ascend Media in Overland Park, Kan., offered the term and the prediction when he spoke Jan. 17 at a Kansas City chapter meeting of the American Society of Business Publication Editors titled “Trends in B2B Publishing.”

“You are brand stewards,” he told the editors. “You are no longer editors of a magazine. You are managers of a brand.”

Bishop said the title of editor may be outdated. He added the American Society of Business Publication Editors even should consider changing its name.

“I would submit to you that that title is antiquated,” he said of the editor title. “I would submit to you that you all begin to call yourselves directors of content or content managers or content creators. Our business today is about the creation and dissemination of content. It is not about editing a magazine. It is far more than that.”

Bishop defined another term: media agnostic. No longer does content appear solely in print magazines.

“Media agnostic is what we are about today in the creation of content,” he said. Ascend Media delivers content through many outlets — print products, online outlets, e-mal newsletters, wireless handheld PDA devices and various shows and conferences.

The multiple mediums can offer advertising opportunities. Annual growth of 8 percent to 10 percent was common in print publication advertising in the late 1990s, he said, but it’s now fallen to 1 percent to 2 percent.

“The (advertising) budgets are the same, but dollars are being allocated in different ways, and most of those dollars are going online,” he said. Ascend Media saw 500 percent growth in online revenue in 2006, he added.

During the online transformation, editors/brand stewards need to think differently in several areas, Bishop said. Not only should they know the circulation of their publications, they also need to know their websites’ traffic numbers.

“If you don’t know the traffic statistics of your website, you’re not doing part of your job,” Bishop said.

Bishop has challenged Ascend Media to have video capability, such as podcasts, on all its websites within the year. He wants to equip every editorial team with a digital video camera, which he compared to micro cassette recorders. Whereas decades ago reporters began carrying recorders with them for interviews, now they can take digital video cameras.

Editors also should find ways to use print publications to promote the websites. They can put a table of contents for the online product inside the print product.

“Your print product is a promotional vehicle for your Internet product,” Bishop said. “If you don’t choose to think of it as such, then shame on you.”

Thought also should be given to archived content, said Phil Musser, publisher of Transmission & Distribution World, who also spoke at the Kansas City chapter meeting. Transmission & Distribution World, based in Overland Park, Kan., and a publication of Prism Business Media, contracts out content.

“We’re going back now and tagging content,” Musser said. “We’ve got nine years of feature content on the websites. To be able to sell content categories, we’ve got to put it in the right bucket and have the right association.”

Finding veterans for advice on all these online topics could prove difficult, Bishop said.

“There are no experts because it’s all too new,” he said. “It’s a highly entrepreneurial world we’re in today. We’re making it up as we go along.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

January meeting: Trends in publishing

The Kansas City chapter of the ASBPE invites you to attend our Jan. 17 meeting, where we’ll discuss the forecast for publishing companies and the challenges magazine staffs will soon face.

Ron Wall, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Ascend Media
Phil Musser, publisher for Transmission and Distribution World at Prism Business Media

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Location: Private room at McCormick and Schmick’s on the Country Club Plaza (448 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Mo., 64112; 816-531-6800)

Cost: $20 for members, $25 for non-members

RSVP: To reserve your spot for the luncheon, e-mail Bill King or call 913-338-1503, by Monday, Jan. 14.