Have you found that writing articles for print publications is quite onerous? For example Marketing News has a very rigid set of guidelines one must follow and a lengthy process to be approved. Yet the magazine's content is often not very original.
One could argue successfully that not much of what is published today is original. Why argue? New media editors are as hands off as one could be with writers -- they let the audience go at the posts. The advantage of this method lies in liberating more ideas and voices, as many as can represent the diverse group of readers who may be publishers themselves. That is the case with The Blog Herald.
While many print publication editors are now setting their sights on the new media promised land, The Blog Herald was born to serve that space. Everyone is after the same attention pool and that's why having a specific focus on one market, idea, or shared experience is more important than ever.
Meet my second new media editor guest, Tony Hung. Tony is one of my favorite writers on new media. In his personal blog, Deep Jive Interests, he's not afraid to share his opinions; at the same time there is a depth of thinking and elegance to his writing that are truly captivating. A recent interview by Aaron Brazell at Technosailor will give you some more insights about what being a "herald" for "blogging" means. Tony even managed to get his personal cartoon from Hugh MacLeod.
Online is fast becoming a very competitive business model -- how do you keep the value from turning into commodity?
Tony: Creating a worthwhile brand is an activity that most entities online are striving for, whether they realize it or not. The Blog Herald is no different in that respect and it’s a challenging activity. I think it starts from understanding who and what your brand is about, and where it fits in the minds of your existing and prospective readers -- keeping in mind who your competitors are. While it’s the oldest of old saws, I think there are a few simple, but not easy, ways to avoid 'commodity' status, and these are really common sense "tips": Invest in trying to create uniquely helpful content that is high on quality, personality and verve. That's it.
What makes it difficult is in trying to keep up to that standard over time, and persisting with that formula even if you're rejiggering the details from time to time, because the easiest thing to do is give up too early. One of the biggest things to the web is that there are relatively few barriers to entry in terms of cost. On one hand it also means that you have more competitors, but it also means that for some there is a higher temptation to drop it if you don't put in an investment commensurate to your will to make it work -- and go the distance. If you keep in mind the latter you can use that to your advantage, knowing that many of those competitors will drop out over time because it is so competitive. And so part of any one's strategy should also involve longevity, and the desire to be in it for the long run.
How involved have your been in the rebranding efforts at the Herald?
Tony: I guess I've been pretty central with things, in terms of content, personnel, and design decisions. Given its legacy, it’s a tremendous responsibility that I hope I'm living up to in my own small way.
How do you keep things relevant and sustainable at your publication? What is your definition of success?
Tony: My definition of success is not the completion of any one objective, rather, it’s the stewardship of our blog towards a new direction -- something that I'd like to think is more process-oriented than anything else. As for keeping things relevant and sustainable, we try and focus on content that is both timeless AND content that is fresh and topical. By doing the latter, it allows all users to get something out of The Blog Herald all the time, and by doing the former, we try and live up to our tradition of being a blog about blogging news.
What is your strategy for inviting contributors?
Tony: The criteria are fairly simple. I look for unique voices who are able to contribute regularly about a topic that they have some authority on.
Do popularity and voice play a larger role in that than publications' focus?
Tony: That's a great question, and I think the answer will be different for everyone. For us, I think we've found that having a popular voice may not be as important as the actual content that they're able to deliver. I've had the great benefit of working with both some fairly new bloggers as well as some very established and professional bloggers, and at the end of the day, what wins is what you might think: quality.
This should be reassuring to beginning bloggers, or new media owners who are short on cash. The blogosphere -- and I suspect, most new media fans --are remarkably receptive to new talent. There's no question that popularity is nice when you can get it (or afford it), but there's a lot of fun -- and value -- in finding authors who may not be as popular, but who have a great voice, and who are knowledgeable and passionate about their topics of choice.
Where do you draw inspiration? Do you read other online publications? Which ones? How are you influenced by them?
Tony: Ha ha -- how about conversationagent.com? :) No, seriously, I read many other blogs, but actually I find that I've always tried to be media-agnostic about my interests. I try and find inspiration not only from blogs, but also from magazines, television shows, and books. Anything that inspires me to think broadly and deeply about the evolution of media and how blogging plays a part in that.
Do you feel threatened by the idea of user created media? How is what you do different from user created content? Is there still a place for traditional editors in the 21st century?
Tony: Not really, since blogs are really a form of user-created media, and although we have more than one author, we're still a blog at heart. And since we're a blog, we've tried to adopt some of the same sensibilities with respect to editing, particularly with preserving each author's own voice and opinions. We have some guidelines with respect to keeping a professional tone, plagiarism and so on, but the editing is quite light. For other authors, I am happy to act as a mentor, friend, and sounding board if they ask for it as well. ;)
Any aha moments you'd like to share?
Tony: I've had lots of small ones, but the biggest one of them, however, probably involves people. I read somewhere that it’s important to hire slow and fire fast. I think that this is particularly true with new media businesses where you may not actually physically meet many of your hires or co-workers before or even after you've hired them. While I think a certain amount of faith is required, hiring quality people is something that requires a certain amount of deliberation, and should be a high priority process because the right people make every other task simpler if done well.