At last summer’s ASBPE National Editorial Conference — which covered a range of topics about Web 2.0 — two things stood out for me the most. First was the widespread bewilderment among B2B editors about how exactly to provide more and more content for magazine Web sites with a staff that is already maxed-out on work. The second surprising thing was a blunt statement by one of the speakers that essentially said if you’re not willing to change, you might as well leave. In other words, it’s inevitable, so deal with it and figure out how to get it done. And I think he’s right. So just how do you get it done without your kids forgetting what you look like?
Unfortunately, some of it really is just finding ways to cram more work into the workday — and doing more at home later. But there also are a lot of other creative methods for boosting your online content with quality information your readers can use — without adding too much to the work pile.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned so far:
Channel Journalism 101. One of the reasons this move to the Web is tough for some is because we’ve gotten comfortable with being monthly magazine writers. We’re not newspaper reporters used churning out Who/What/Where/When/Why/How four times a day. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to be. Re-learn the basics of writing a news story on deadline. Practice and get used to writing hard news again until you can churn out stories a little faster than you’ve become accustomed to.
Leverage your print articles to drive traffic online. This is the easiest and possibly most effective way to populate your site and drive traffic to it. By thinking ahead during the interview process, it’s easy to accumulate additional or excess content from articles you’re running in print.
Here are some techniques:
Post excess article content. If pages are being cut or the article is just too long, run an “extended version” of the article online. Even better, write up an extra sidebar or two so that the extra content is easy to find by those who have already read the article. Writing an extra sidebar requires minimal extra work because you are pulling the information from interviews you’ve already completed. Be sure to put a teaser—as specific as possible–at the end of the article alerting readers to the additional information available to them online.
Post unused photos and captions. You’re already paying for the images, why not show them online? (Be sure, of course, that your photography contract allows this.) Again, include a teaser in the print version.
Guest column/blog. If you interview a particularly interesting person for a timely or noteworthy topic, ask if they would consider writing a guest column or a guest blog item for your Web site on a related topic that interests them. The column could be fairly short and could include a bio and link to their company as incentive. Tease this at the end of the print article.
Link to older related articles. If the print article is related to articles you’ve done in the past, tease those at the end of the new article. For example, at my magazine, which covers construction products, at the end of a product article about energy-efficient refrigerators we could post a link to a still-timely news article about Energy Star appliance regulations.
Invite commentary on the print story. Set up a comments page for each feature story (or create a forum that has a message board for each subject/story) and, in the print version, invite readers to share their views online.
Leverage your company. If you come from a company with multiple titles in one general subject area but little overlap in readership, tease and link to online content that is applicable to both parties. For example, one magazine might be read by small business owners, another by coporate CEOs, but both groups might be interested in an article on retaining employees that appeared in a sister magazine for human resource managers.
Add a “What’s Online” area as a permanent department in your print publication. This can be relatively small, perhaps just a box on your editorial page, but just something that reminds the reader about the resources on your Web site, particularly calling attention to anything that’s new.
User surveys. Conduct a monthly survey on a timely topic on your Web site. Publish the results, with a brief analysis by an editor, in the print edition. Include a teaser to the next survey, which will drive them back online to answer.
Remember young writers and interns. The Web is a chance to give younger writers—who often are limited to short pieces and admin work–a chance to develop a beat, to write longer articles, and to really feel like they are contributing to the forward movement of their magazines. This is also the case with interns, many of whom are recently trained in hard news reporting and are eager to earn clips for credit and portfolios. The same can be said for budding copyeditors. There is a lot of extra work to be had for young copyeditors willing to put in extra time in order to hone their skills.
Face the facts. Building content for the Web is, plain and simple, a growing necessity. The quicker you find solutions, the easier it will become. Once you start thinking about it, the options really are endless. If you have additional suggestions for boosting online content, please share with others in our comments section.
Katy Tomasulo is deputy editor of Building Products magazine and ebuild.com and is president of ASBPE’s Washington, DC, chapter.