Category Archives: magazines

Curation vs aggregation, and why news organisations can’t be ‘the next LinkedIn’

“We are not a magazine company,” he exclaims, unprompted. “We are a media company with a portfolio.”  “We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

M Scott Havens, senior vice president of digital, Time Inc

What does it mean to be a platform? Time Inc’s M Scott Havens is the latest to express a desire to move into the platform industry, telling The Guardian:

“We want to build the next LinkedIn, the next Gilt [a US commerce site], the next Facebook,”

Platforms came up at the BBC ‘Revival of Local Journalism‘ event last week too. Why weren’t regional newspaper publishers doing more to become ‘platforms’ for their local communities? Continue reading

Should a community editor be a magazine’s first hire?

Mollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media Show

Mollie Makes magazine - image from Specialist Media Show

Interesting strategy by Future’s Mollie Makes magazine, which mirrors the way I teach online journalism (community first, then content, then platform):

“Future employed a Community Editor to engage with the online craft audience and build a buzz in the months leading up to the launch of Mollie Makes. Continue reading

Advertising is publishing – the Facebook effect

Before the internet made it easier for advertisers to become publishers, they were already growing tired of the limitations (and inflated price) of traditional display advertising. In the magazine industry one of the big growth areas of the past 20 years was client publishing: helping – to varying degrees – companies create magazines which were then given or sold to customers, staff, members, or anyone interested in their field.

With some traditional advertising revenue streams dropping like a stone, newspapers belatedly started to see similar potential in their own markets. Trinity Mirror’s Media Wales are among a few newspaper publishers to sell video production services and the organisation has followed US newspapers in selling SEO services; while the FT followed Conde Nast when it recently bought an app production company.

While the execution varies, the idea behind it is consistent: this is no longer about selling content, or audiences, but expertise – and quite often expertise in distribution as much as in content production. Continue reading

Magazine Editing – 3rd edition now out (disclosure: I edited it)

Magazine Editing 3rd edition

UPDATE: Readers of this blog can now get a 20% discount off the book by using the code ME1211 when ordering on the Routledge site.

Magazine Editing is one of those books that I’ve used for years in my teaching. Unlike most books in the field, it has a healthy focus on the less glamorous aspects of running magazines, such as managing teams and budgets, editorial strategy, and the significant proportion of the industry – B2B, contract publishing, controlled-circulation, subscription-based – that you don’t see on supermarket shelves.

For the third edition, publishers Routledge approached me to update the book for a multiplatform age. That work is now done – and the new edition is now out.

Although it now has my name on it, the book remains primarily the work of John Morrish, who wrote the first two editions of the book. Editing his work gave me a fresh appreciation of just what a timeless job he has done in identifying the skills needed by magazine editors – as I write in the introduction:

“It is striking how much of the advice in the book is more important than ever. In a period of enormous change it is key to focus on the core skills of magazine editing: clear leadership, effective management, people skills and creative thinking around what exactly it is that your readers are buying into – whether that’s printed on paper, pixels on a screen, or something intangible like a sense of community and belonging.”

So if you can find one of the older editions cheap, you’ll still find it useful.

So what did I add to the new edition of Magazine Editing? It goes without saying that digital magazines (web-only, apps) are now covered. The diversification of revenue models – the increased importance of events, merchandising, data, mobile and apps – is now explored, as well as how online advertising works, and how it differs from traditional advertising. How to use online resources, including web analytics, to better understand your audience and inform your editorial strategy; and how magazine campaigns are changed by the dynamics of the web.

The chapter on leading and managing now includes sections on managing information overload, social bookmarking and social media policies, and there’s a new section on legal guidance on placements and internships. The budgeting sections now include online considerations, and there’s an exploration of the pros and cons of using free or minimal cost third party services against building tools in-house. A passage from the section on ‘Making money online’ is illustrative of the shifts facing the industry:

“Like so much else on the web, it is becoming difficult to see where content ends and commerce begins. The concept of a ‘magazine’ blurs when, online, it can also be a shop, a game, or a tool. It helps to think of how the business model of magazines has traditionally worked: gathering a community of people in the same place (on your pages) where companies can then advertise their products and services. The same principle applies now, but the barriers to selling products and services yourself have been significantly lowered, just as the barriers to publishing content have been significantly lowered for those companies whose advertising used to fund print publishing. Integrity is no less important in this context: users will desert your website if your content is only concerned with selling them your products, just as they will desert if your events are badly organised, your merchandise poor quality, or your service shoddy. Publishers increasingly talk of a ‘brand experience’ of which the content is just one part. In many ways this makes the reader – as they also become a consumer – more powerful, and the advertiser less so. Your insights into what they are talking and reading about may be of increasing interest to those who are searching for new revenue streams.”

The chapter on writing covers considerations in evaluating online sources of information and the debates in online journalism around objectivity versus transparency, and the values of a ‘web-first’ strategy. I also cover online tools for organising diaries and monitoring social media. There’s an exploration of best practice guidelines in writing for the web, and when multimedia is appropriate or preferable.

The chapter on pictures and design now includes advice on dealing with web designers and developers, multiplatform design and branding, sourcing video for the web, copyright and Creative Commons, infographics, and image considerations for online publication. And ‘Managing Production’ covers search engine optimisation, scheduling online production, and online distribution. The penultimate chapter on legal considerations adds data protection, the role of archives in contempt of court, and website terms and conditions.

I end the book with a list of tools that allows the reader to get publishing right now. And aside from the legal developments, the new considerations, roles and stages in the production cycle, this is perhaps the most important change from previous editions: a student reading this book is no longer waiting for their first job in publishing: they should be creating it.

If you have read the book and want to receive updates on developments in the magazine industry, please Like the book’s Facebook page. I’d also welcome any comments on areas you think are well covered – or need to be covered further.

Making magazine awards more user-friendly

Given I’ve already linked to Tony Hirst twice this week I thought I’d make it a hat-trick. Last month Tony wrote two blog posts which I thought were particularly instructive for magazine publishers organising blog awards.

In the first post Tony complained after seeing Computer Weekly’s shortlist:

“Why, oh why, don’t publishers of blog award nomination lists see them as potentially useful collections on a particular subject that can be put to work for the benefit of that community?

“… There are umpteen categories – each category has it’s own web page – and umpteen nominations per award. To my mind, lists of nominations for an award are lists of items on a related topic. Where the items relate to blogs, presumably with an RSS feed associated with each, the lists should be published as an OPML file, so you can at-a-click subscribe to all the blogs on a list in a reader such as Google Reader, or via a dashboard such as netvibes. Where there are multiple awards, I’d provide an OPML file for each award, and a meta-bundle that collects nominations for all the awards together in a single OPML file, though with each category in its own nested outline element.”

I’d suggest something even more simple: an aggregator widget pulling together the RSS feeds for each category, or a new Twitter account, or a Google Reader bundle.

In a second post the following day Tony finds a further way to extract value from the list: use Google Custom Search to create a custom search engine limited to those sites you have shortlisted as award-worthy. His post explains exactly how to do that.

Tony’s approach demonstrates the difference between story-centred and data-centred approaches to journalism. Computer Weekly are approaching the awards as a story (largely because of limitations of platform and skills – see comments), with the ultimate ending ‘Blog publisher wins award’. Tony, however, is looking at the resources being gathered along the way: a list of blogs, each of which has an RSS feed, and each of which will be useful to readers and journalists. Both are valid, but ignoring either is to miss something valuable in your journalism.

Using Yahoo! Clues to target your headlines by demographic

Yahoo! Search Clues - Emma Watson hair

Tony Hirst points my attention (again) to Yahoo! Clues, a tool that, like Google’s Insights For Search, allows you to see what search terms are most popular. However, unlike Insights, Yahoo! Clues gives much deeper demographic information about who is searching for particular terms.

Tony’s interest is in how libraries might use it. I’m obviously interested in the publishing side – and search engine optimisation (SEO). And here’s where the tool is really interesting.

Until now SEO has generally taken a broad brush approach. You use tools like Insights to get an idea – based on the subject of your journalism – of what terms people are using, related terms, and rising terms. But what if your publication is specifically aimed at women – or men? Or under-25s? Or over-40s? Or the wealthy?

With Yahoo! Clues, if the search term is popular enough you can drill down to those groups with a bit more accuracy (US-only at the moment, though). Taking “Emma Watson haircut”, for example, you can see that a girls’ magazine and one aimed at boys may take different SEO approaches based on what they find from Yahoo! Clues.

Apart from anything else, it demonstrates just what an immature discipline web writing and SEO is. As more and more user data is available, processed at faster speeds, we should see this area develop considerably in the next decade.

UPDATE: After reading this post, Tony has written a follow-up post on other tools for seeing demographics around search behaviour.

Yahoo! Search Clues - Emma Watson haircut - oops/katie leung

Cooks Source anger moves on to Dairy Goat Journal’s Dave Belanger

Cooks Source fake Facebook page discusses Dairy Goat Journal

UPDATE 2 – from Cathy in the comments (Nov 11): Dave Belanger has now paid the fee.

UPDATE – thanks to Vicki in the comments (Nov 11): Dave Belanger has responded to Suzanne, reinstating the image on their website with a credit and link, and offering to pay. However, he has refused to pay the amount requested by Suzanne, and Suzanne is now planning to take the magazine to court. Her reasoning is admirable, and it’s fair to say that contributions of commenters have helped her to make a well-informed stance:

“Countryside Publications is a five million dollar company. He accused me of being opportunistic by asking for an increased fee for the unauthorized and uncredited use.

“This is not about money. I may never see the $2100. If I do, it will be a long time from now. If I wanted to make a quick buck, I’d take the $500 [offered]. (I could use it.) But if I let him not only steal the photo but pay no penalty for it, there’s no reason for him to not steal again. After all, what did it cost him? He can steal photos all he wants and only pay for them (at a price he sets) if he’s caught. Just who is opportunistic? He published my photo without authorization or credit then says, here, take $500 or NOTHING.”

There’s also some detail about the possible impact on the publishers from Internet users:

“P.S. He mentioned receiving phone calls and emails from my readers and said he was not concerned about it. He admitted there had also been some subscription cancellations, but that people cancelled subscriptions and started subscriptions every day and that he had no reason to believe any subscription cancellations were related to his treatment of my work.”

The original post:

Oh dear. It appears another magazine editor is about to feel the force of a thousand emails following a blogger’s complaint of breach of copyright and – more importantly – said editor’s response to their request for fair payment and acknowledgement of authorship.

The editor in question is Dave Belanger who – apparently – hung up on Suzanne McMinn when she called to ask that her photo – used in Dairy Goat Journal – was properly credited.

With 80 comments already – many of them saying they have called and written to the magazine – and the case also being discussed on the fake Cooks Source Facebook page – you can only hope Dave looks at the Cooks Source and reacts quickly.

*All about this that I can find looks credible, but I’m extra cautious of this being an opportunistic hoax.

via Ulrike in the comments.

Cooks Source: What should Judith Griggs have done?

It’s barely 24 hours since the Cooks Source/Judith Griggs saga blew up, but so much has happened in that time that I thought it worth reflecting on how other publishers might handle a similar situation.

Although it’s an extreme example, the story has particular relevance to those publications that rely on Facebook or another web presence to publish material online and communicate with readers, and might at some point face a backlash on that platform.

In the case of Cooks Source, their Facebook page went from 100 ‘likes’ to over 3,000, as people ‘liked’ the page in order to post a critical comment (given the huge numbers of comments it’s fair to say there were many more people who un-‘liked’ the page as soon as their comment was posted). The first question that many publishers looking at this might ask is defensive:

Should you have a Facebook page at all?

It would be easy to take the Cooks Source case as an indication that you shouldn’t have a Facebook page at all – on the basis that it might become hijacked by your critics or enemies. Or that if you do create a page you should do so in a way that does not allow postings to the wall.

The problem with this approach is that it misunderstands the fundamental shift in power between publisher and reader. Just as Monica Gaudio was able to tell the world about Judith’s cavalier attitude to copyright, not having a Facebook page (or blog, etc.) for your publication doesn’t prevent one existing at all.

In fact, if you don’t set up a space where your readers can communicate with you and each other, it’s likely that they’ll set one up themselves – and that introduces further problems.

If you don’t have a presence online, someone else will create a fake one to attack you with

After people heard about the Cooks Source story, it wasn’t long before some took the opportunity to set up fake Twitter accounts and a Facebook user account in Judith’s name. (UPDATE: Someone has registered JudithGriggs.com and pointed it at the Wikipedia entry for ‘public domain’, while a further Cooks Source Facebook page has been set up claiming that the original was “hacked”)

These were used in various ways: to make information available (the Twitter account biography featured Judith’s phone number and email); to satirise Judith’s actions through mock-updates; and to tease easily-annoyed Facebook posters into angry responses.

Some people’s responses on Facebook to the ‘fake’ Judith suggested they did not realise that she was not the real thing, which leads to the next point.

A passive presence isn’t enough – be active

Judith obviously did have a Facebook account, but it was her slowness to respond to the critics that allowed others to impersonate her.

Indeed, it was several hours before Judith Griggs made any response on the Facebook page, and when she did (assuming it is genuine – see comments below) it was through the page’s welcoming message – in other words, it was a broadcast.

This might be understandable given the unmanageable volume of comments that had been posted by this time – but her message was also therefore easily missed in the depths of the conversation, and it meant that the ‘fake’ Judith was able to continue to impersonate her in responses to those messages.

One way to focus her actions in a meaningful way might have been to do a ‘Find’ on “Griggs” and respond there to clarify that this person was an imposter.

Instead, by being passive Judith created a vacuum. The activity that filled that vacuum led in all directions, including investigating the magazine more broadly and contacting advertisers and stockists.

Climb down quickly and unreservedly

While being passive can create a vacuum, being active can – if not done in a considered way – also simply add fuel to the fire.

The message that Judith eventually posted did just that. “I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently [sic] it wasnt enough for her,” she wrote, before saying “You did find a way to get your “pound of flesh…””.

This “blaming the victim”, as one wall poster described it, compounded the situation and merely confirmed Judith’s misunderstanding of the anger directed at her.

An apology clearly wasn’t what people wanted – or at least, not this sort of reserved apology.

A quicker, fuller response that demonstrated an understanding of her community would have made an enormous difference in channeling the energy that people poured into what became an increasingly aggressive campaign.

UPDATE (Nov 9): As of a few hours ago Cooks Source appear to have published an official statement which includes a more fullsome apology. The statement doesn’t help, however, partly because it doesn’t address the key issues raised by critics about where it gets content and images from, partly because its sense of priorities doesn’t match those of its audience (the apology comes quite late in the statement), and partly because it is internally inconsistent. Commenters on the Facebook page and blogs have already picked these apart.

There’s also a wonderful ‘corrected’ version of the statement which does an impeccable job of illustrating how they should have phrased it.

Engage with criticism elsewhere

The Cooks Source Facebook page wasn’t the only place where people were gathering to criticise and investigate the magazine. On Reddit hundreds of users collaborated to find other breaches of copyright, put up contact details for the copyright holders, and list advertisers that people could contact. Someone also created a Wikipedia entry to document Griggs’ instant notoriety.

Even if Judith had shut down the Facebook page (not a good idea – it would have merely added further fuel to the fire), the discussion – which had now become a campaign and investigation – was taking place elsewhere. Engaging in that in a positive way might have helped.

A magazine is not just content

One of the key principles demonstrated by the whole affair is that magazines are about much more than just the content inside, but about the community around it, and their values. This is what advertisers are buying into. When I asked one of Cooks Source’s advertisers why they decided to withdraw their support, this is what they said:

“I would estimate that between the emails, [Facebook] messages, calls, and people following us on Twitter, we’ve been contacted by more than 100 people since I first heard of this about 5 hours ago. That doesn’t include many many people who commented on fb to our posts stating that we had requested to pull our ads from the publication. We are just simply trying to run our small business, which by most standards is still in its infancy, and being associated with publications like this that don’t respect its readers (who are all our potential customers) is unacceptable to us in light of their practices. What angers me even more is the fact that it is being made light if by the Editor herself. It is disrupting our business and linking us to something we do not support.”

Postscript: How it unfolded, piece by piece

Kathy E Gill has a wonderfully detailed timeline of how the story broke and developed which offers further lessons in how a situation like this develops.

Cooks Source magazine gets Facebook backlash for copying material without permission

UPDATE 7: The official Cooks Source webpage now features a rather confusing statement on the saga, apologising to Monica Gaudio and saying they have made the donation asked for. The page claims that their Facebook page was “cancelled” and “since hacked”. It’s not clear what they mean by these terms as the original Facebook page is still up and, clearly, could not be hacked if it had been “cancelled”. They may be referring to the duplicate Facebook page which also claims (falsely) the original was “hacked”. In addition the statement says they have “cancelled” their website – but as the statement is published on their website it may be that by “cancelled” they mean all previous content has been removed. This discussion thread picks out further inconsistencies and omissions.

UPDATE 5: The magazine’s Facebook page has now been updated with a message from editor Judith saying she “did apologise” but “apparently it wasn’t enough for her”, shown below:

Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Monica via email, but aparently it wasnt enough for her. To all of you, thank you for your interest in Cooks Source and Again, to Monica, I am sorry -- my bad! You did find a way to get your

UPDATE 2: Reddit users have been digging further into the magazine’s use of copyrighted content. They’ve also identified a planned sister magazine, whose Facebook page has also been the recipient of a few comments.

UPDATE 6: Edward Champion has chased down the copyright holders of both text and images found in Cooks Source which appear to have been used without permission.

UPDATE 4: A list of mainstream media reports on the story is also being maintained on the magazine’s Facebook page.

***ORIGINAL BLOG POST STARTS HERE***

For much of today people have been tweeting and blogging about the magazine editor with 30 years’ experience demonstrating a by now familiar misunderstanding of copyright law and the ‘public domain’.

The blog post on Tweetmeme - shared over 1500 times

Reddit: Website article gets copied without permission by print magazine - website complains - magazine claims website should pay them for the publicity

To the writer whose material they used without permission she apparently responded that “the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!”

What makes this of particular interest is how the affair has blown up not just across Twitter and Reddit but on the magazine’s own Facebook page, demonstrating how this sort of mistake can impact very directly on your own readers – and stockists and advertisers:

As an advertiser, we are disappointed in Cook's Source and we are pulling our ads from this publication. Many of us (as is the case with our business) paid several months in  advance for advertising and are unlikely to get any compensation back.  We ask that you please stop emailing our business, we agree that the  publication made a grave error, but the blame should be placed with  them. Please do not make small businesses like mine pay for their error  in judgment

Facebook comment

Jim Cobb Perhaps someone should obtain a recent copy of the magazine and begin contacting any paid advertisers. Y'know, to clue them in on the business practices of Cooks Source Magazine. They might be interested in hearing about it.

Jon F. Merz If I could draw everyone's attention to the photos down below which contain reprints of magazine pages, that include all of their advertisers. Let's start calling these places up and letting these advertisers know that the money they pay goes to keep a rag like this in business. Hurt 'em where it counts!

Kristine Weil In light of your blatant theft of Monica Gaudio's article and the dismissive response of editor Judith Griggs when called on it by the author, I will be personally speaking to the manager of our local grocery store to encourage them to stop carrying your magazine, and I will continue to speak to them every week until

Meanwhile, others were suggesting investigating the magazine further:

It all adds up to a perfect lesson for magazine editors – not just in copyright, but in PR and community management.

UPDATE 1: It seems that users are going through the latest issue and suggesting where the content may have been taken from.

UPDATE 3 On a separate topics page on the Facebook page the details are being collated.