"I will say one thing. We never lost tons of money chasing down ridiculous online ideas. Right now we have two online, two Web sites [for Rolling Stone and Us Weekly] that are both profitable and big and well-used. [...] We’re not just trying to replicate the magazines, but we’ve got strong brands that stand for something, and we are going to build those Web sites up.
[..] The Internet . . . I don’t know that it’s primarily a medium, in the sense that it’s primarily a transactional service and media delivery system. My formulation is this: Rolling Stone represents a really good idea of a brand, concept, whatever you want to call it. Community, any one of those buzzwords. You can integrate the Internet into your brand, if you do it correctly, and you can broaden the depth of the experience. That’s what you can bring to peoples’ lives, beyond what’s on the printed page--if you do it correctly."
[Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone]
As I was sitting down to write an opinion piece and revisit the conversation we've had with new media editors so far, I glanced at the in-depth interview with Jann Wenner on Jon Fine's blog at BusinessWeek and couldn't help but catch the skepticism about the online model. Jon defined Jann Wenner The Last Tycoon of Print in his article. You can read the full 40th anniversary issue of the magazine online and the crazy thing if you try and read it that way is that the ads really pop out, while for the actual content you need to zoom in. I do not buy Rolling Stone, but just sampling it online is not enough for me. Especially for an anniversary edition, I'm thinking that the actual magazine would be nice to have.
Which is quite interesting given that John Byrne, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com shared here that:
Online journalism is a conversation and a dialogue. [...] the most permanent and influential of all journalism today is, in fact, digital. Unlike the journalism in a magazine or newspaper that gets thrown away, digital journalism is a permanent searchable record. You can access it anywhere around the globe at anytime, whether you are at home or work, in an airport lounge in Warsaw or a cafe in Bangalore. Unlike print, it doesn’t disappear with the garbage. You can’t line a bird cage with it. Instead, digital journalism lives on forever.
Gina Trapani, editor of Lifehacker feels that print and online complement each other. In our guest interview here, she stated:
Readers are shifting more of their attention online, but new media and traditional publishing complement one another and will continue to do so. Newsy blogs deliver stories faster than magazines and even daily newspapers can, but you don't get the kind of research and editorial polish that you do in those outlets.
There are cost advantages with an online only format, for example an e-zine costs probably under 10% compared to a print publication. Yet, Tim McHale editor of the Madison Avenue Journal shared some thoughts about the advantages of print:
When reading a print publication, audiences generally spend upwards of 2 minutes with the medium. The physical handling and thumb-through experience contain numerous incentives visually -- be it an ad, a photo, a headline or insert in the magazine. All these sensory stimulations provide reasons to keep reading.
In fact, it has been documented that once the reader has chosen to commit more time to the print medium, the magazine often slows a person’s heart rate down and puts the reader into a more leisurely mode, which adds to the benefit advertisers have compared to a net-based publication.
Wenner talked about the importance of strong brands that stand for something. Chris Baskind is editor of LighterFootstep.com and Vida Verde Media, two brands that stand for green. Chris said that online, we’re bombarded with great ideas. The fun part is picking the ones to run with.
New Media Editors are the web’s brand managers — they’re responsible for keeping their publication moving in a coherent direction. My business partner, Lisa Cagle, and I both come from radio backgrounds. Program Directors are the people who are the most directly responsible for what you hear on the air. They choose the talent, define the mission, and represent the interests of both their listeners and the station’s ownership. That’s what New Media Editors do. They even have to watch out for payola, just like their radio counterparts.
What to make then of those publications that have had strong histories both in print and online? In my conversation with Lynne Johnson, editor of FastCompany.com, we uncovered a few timeless ingredients for success. I warn you, when it comes to this magazine, I'm quite biased -- it totally changed the conversation about business, community, and learning for me.
We like to go in-depth with our content and give you all the legs to a story, in a way that's not only complementary for the Web but necessary to exist online. We also offer exclusive stories and Q&As that we treat in the same manner as we do our magazine content.
We've always had site contributors in the form of columnists, and now we still have them, but we have also added another layer by including Expert bloggers on a range of business topics of interest to our readers -- innovation, technology, leadership, change management, careers, design, social responsibility, and work/life. These are very pointed and niche focuses for us to provide our readers with what they're looking for.
Likewise we have one of the oldest business networks online. Company of Friends has been around at least eight years, and has given not only our readers, but anyone with business interests, who is also interested in sharing ideas with like-minded business leaders, a space to network.
Tony Hung, editor of The Blog Herald, understands the importance of creating a brand that will resonate with people. While he hires slowly and fires fast, Tony thinks:
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.
Media should be reaching their audiences wherever they are, and more and more people are online these days. Ann Handley, editor of the Marketing Profs oversees the amazing pipeline of content coming through the site.
It's an editor's mission to be the caretaker of content quality, to meet the needs of the audience or community first. I know that ambition probably sounds a tad grand, but it nonetheless is the ultimate goal of any good publication, in my mind.
Publishers can leverage the quality that editors and writers build with advertisers and sponsors, certainly—that's the dance between editorial and advertising. But the quality of content has to be in place first.
My editorial focus at MarketingProfs is to shine a beacon of light for our readers—leading the way through the clutter.
This is a really exciting time to be working in media online. The advent of Web 2.0 applications and rise of social media is adding an incredible amount of texture and nuance and twists to publishing.
Each of the publications listed and interviewed here has had a different life cycle and is run by people who are very different from each other yet all have one thing in common -- an absolute belief in their mission to provide great quality content and experiences for their readers. As we're rolling out the carpets to celebrate one of the most iconic publications of the last half century we cannot help but wonder -- where are we going next?