How WWW Changed the World of Publishing

By Thomas R. Temin
Media and Government Consulting

After 30 years in business-to-business publishing, I decided to hang my shingle as a consultant. One reason resulted from a question I was asked at an industry conference. The organizers had convened a panel of magazine editors covering their industry — in this case, government programs and information technology. Someone asked, “What are the three biggest changes that have happened in your world of publishing?”

The answer was obvious: WWW.

The first time I saw the World Wide Web was on a Sun workstation in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House. An appointee in President Clinton’s public affairs team was a really, really early adopter. One Saturday he was giving me a tour of the West Wing and we stopped in his office and he showed me how a browser works and loaded some web page from Japan. It’s hard to remember now, but people at first had to get used to the idea of the web and of graphical pages being served via the Internet.

My first magazine web site went up in early 1996. It was primitive. We had no way of knowing who was reading it, or if anyone was.

A dozen years later, I find my clients in the B2B publishing world still struggling with the right digital strategy.

They are struggling for a number of reasons. Chief among these:

  • Digital departments that are disconnected from the publishers responsible for the title.
  • Editors who confuse web technology with content development. Editors never operated printing presses, so why should they fiddle with web plumbing?
  • Editors who can’t grasp that they are in the daily journalism business now. Or that the ad inventory challenges are completely different from those in print.
  • Editors and publishers who can’t figure out how to tailor their online strategies to their particular markets. Often they fixate on a model because they like it in some other market, regardless of whether it works for them. Take a look at the Google and Yahoo home pages to get an idea of the range of possible home page approaches alone.
  • Sloppy resource allocation or a failure to take into account the real costs of producing web content.
  • Failure to recognize that what works now may need revision in six months, but there are no processes in place to provide sufficient flexibility.

I’ll discuss each of these in more detail in future postings.

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

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