Curing Publisher's Block
Sitting here on an early-spring day, trying to summarize the publishing industry's relationship with the Web, I got writer's block. Staring out my window didn't help. Staring at my keyboard didn't help either. Then it hit me. For many publishers, the Web is like writer's block.
Writer's block can be caused by many things. For me, it's usually trying to lasso some vast topic into a concept small enough to fit into a few paragraphs. Where do you even begin? Many publishers face this challenge with their Web sites, especially multi-title publishers. Web profitability is a grand concept to translate into a practical, feasible plan for your company.
Major players in the publishing industry are still changing their online business models on a somewhat regular basis, so this publisher's block seems to be universal … Sometimes starting over is a great remedy.
There are, however, magazine publishers who have beat the block. They've built readership, established a stronger foothold in their respective industries … and made a profit. You can read about three of them on page 26 in the article "Magazine Web Site Leaders": Computerworld, Crain Communications and Sports Illustrated.
All of us in the industry can learn from them, but I wonder how often each of us takes the time to really examine what they're doing? How much time do you spend looking at Web sites of magazines and companies similar to your own just to see what they are doing that you're doing? What are they doing that you're not?
When artists hit creative blocks, they often turn to art museums or galleries to inspire them. For publishing executives, this inspiration can be other companies' Web sites.
In doing research for our feature article on "Web Site Leaders," I got an eyeful of how publishers large and small are using the Web. Acoustic Guitar magazine gives lessons on its Web site (AcousticGuitar.com). Visitors can view scales and listen to them being played. A photo of the instructor is displayed at the top of each lesson page. American Handgunner's Web site (AmericanHandgunner.com) featured a preview for its July/August issue in the form of a video, showing the magazine's editor touring the Smith & Wesson facilities as they build a new gun.