Thursday, July 17, 2008

Magazines: Welcome to the Internet

All right. If I were a corporation, or a magazine within a corporation, and I wanted to "capitalize" on the "internet," or "enter" the "blogosphere," here is where I would start.

1. Get a separate blog name. A blog with your magazine name all over it makes the viewer skeptical, and magazine covers are crowded with text - that's not what blog readers are attracted to, even if you want to be recognizable. I would have a separate blog name and write "in affiliation with _____ Magazine" beneath the title. This way there's subtle advertising in the banner. You can also link in the sidebar.

2. Recruit snarky writers. You can have some disclaimer at the foot of the blog so that your magazine doesn't have to take responsibility for their opinions. That's fine. You'll take a little heat anyway. But everybody likes blogs they can hate once in a while. It's boring if you always agree with what the authors have to say. Where's the debate in that?

3. Have your snarky writers cover what catches their attention in your most recent issues. Duh. It's advertising, you can link left and right, and if the post is interesting enough, you'll up the site traffic (or even magazine sales).

4. Assign each of your writers a certain hour of the day to blog. Someone can do lunch hour, someone can take early evening - as long as it's steady, and as long as it's interesting, you'll generate a readership that comes back more than once a day.

5. You could even have days when your bloggers hit on certain subjects that relate to your magazine. I visit certain art blogs every day of the week, regardless of whether they cover architecture on Mondays or photography on Fridays, but I start to look forward to the photo Fridays because I like those days best. Little treats like that help some of us get through the week.

6. Use the resources of your magazine to your advantage. I don't know about photography rights, but I have a feeling you could use the archives of your photo department to get some eye-catching stuff. Certain magazines post extended interviews with celebrities on their websites - sure, that's great. But why can't you expand that? What else can you get out of them in an interview that would appeal to an internet audience? Start some virtual columns on celebrities' dogs' names, you know? That stuff gets passed around.

7. Create a dialogue with other magazines and blogs to enhance the interviews you've done. The Huffington Post adds updates with links to related stories all day long. The magazine world would benefit from posting links to other magazine articles - even from their biggest competitors - so that they could tell a better-rounded story.

8. Post a ton of pictures. Your audience uses Facebook daily. I click through pictures of strangers on Facebook just because seeing new faces online is appealing. And strangely addictive. You can make plenty of money in advertising if you change the sidebar ads with each photo. Unless it takes five minutes for each photo to load, you've got your reader's attention for ages.

9. Don't do 14 pages of text. I hate clicking "next" when I'm reading a news story. I understand this screws up your ad sale potential. But there's got to be another way to make these available without testing your reader's patience. Oh, and don't delete comments that aren't spam. Let your negative comments get rebuked by comments left by your fans. You can't get sore when you get beaten around a little - remember Keith Gessen. It's not you they hate, it's your online personality that day, and you change your online personality every day. Your subscription rate isn't in jeopardy if some thirteen-year-old boy tells you you suck.

10. Edit. Edit, edit, edit. Not for censorship, just to strengthen your content. If your content's good and you get out there, you'll be fine. You can always advertise in your own pages. You have resources most blogs never will. I used to blog for minimum wage, and now I'm doing it for free, but I don't make ad revenue. And I can't put my blog address next to a picture of a model and put it in the newsstand of every Barnes & Noble in America even if I wanted to.

Look at how long that sentence was. Everybody needs an editor. C'mon, magazines. Step it up. Now's your chance.

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