April 9, 2010

Good Editorial is the Key to Successful E-media

By Stephen Laliberte

In March my days were dominated by editorial. IProduction had the honor of sponsoring the ABM Neil Awards. It was extremely refreshing to see all the great editorial work and listen to very passionate editors' acceptance speeches. I am a firm believer that all publications begin with good editorial. To be in a room of dedicated professionals who live to provide good news, features, and research to their readers was very invigorating.

The day before the Neal Awards, I was in an e-media product development meeting with David Longobardi, the Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer at SourceMedia, and Richard Melville, the Executive Editor of SourceMedia's banking group. The meeting was regarding an e-media product that involves three websites, four print publications, and a few dozen e-newsletters. I listened as David and Richard described the priority to provide the e-media reader/subscriber with the best editorial available. As I listened I began to see that they were applying quality editorial disciplines they use in print every day to the editorial process for e-media. You need to care about the reader. It was pure joy to see the head of editorial recognizing that the e-media reader is as important as the print reader and that they intend to serve that reader with the same vigor that they serve the print reader. That will definitely build circulation!

It always amazes me how technology can cloud the eyes and the behaviors of many publishers. I can't tell you how many web design meetings I have participated in that did not include editorial. Or, editorial would show up and treat it with complete disregard.

IProduction implemented a controlled circulation monthly magazine's website in 2007. During the design phase, it was like pulling teeth to get the publisher to commit to deploying a weekly e-newsletter. We all knew that building a quality daily or weekly e-newsletter is key to building circulation for both the e-newsletter and the website. The editors were concerned and asked "Where will we get the content for a weekly?" They decided to repurpose content from the previous month's issue for editorial in the e-newsletter. Three weeks after the new site launched, an editor broke a key story and included it in the e-newsletter. This happened weeks before the print issue would close. The story was picked up by several news services. Website impressions jumped from a few thousand per day to over ten thousand. Eight hundred new registrants to the e-newsletter were accepted in a two-day period.

The next week, I received a call from the publisher complaining that something was wrong with the website because his page views had dropped from the previous week. I explained to the publisher how this great editorial in the e-newsletter caused the jump in performance. The best strategy he could do for his site was to continue to produce better editorial.

Many publishers give lip service to all the action that they are taking to increase their online revenues. Yet, there is no movement at the core level—the editorial level—to ensure that editorial is applying effective discipline to the process of creating and publishing online content. The following are some best practice disciplines that I see emerging with publishers who are using good online editorial to grow their electronic circulations and online revenues:

  1. Editorial, not someone in the development team, must be responsible for the content on the web and in e-newsletters. This person should be passionate about the quality of the e-newsletter and web reader experience. They should become upset if there are errors in e-newsletters and web pages.
  2. Get to know your online reader and develop a passion for serving them.
  3. Treat your e-newsletters as publications. Make sure there is an editorial publishing schedule, consistent frequency, and use a design that includes features, news, and other content.
  4. Add e-media items to your editorial calendar including online features, special reports, editorial white papers, and editorial web seminars. Plan to produce electronic components that will be part of the regular pulse of the print publication.
  5. Go e-media first. Don't sit on good editorial and wait for the print publication. The only thing that happens when you sit on a story is that the story gets old. The e-media reader is not the same reader who subscribes to print. You will not erode any of the value of the print by publishing electronically first.

If you embrace these best practices, you will see open rates increase on editorial e-newsletters. You will see page views increase. You will see regular returning visitors increase. You will see impressions in e-newsletters and on websites increase. Clicks on ads by valued qualified readers will increase. Lead generation activity will increase. In other words, you will experience a much more effective and profitable Internet publishing model.