New Kiplinger.com Online Content Editor Talks Digital Strategy
Earlier this month, Cindy Schwalb assumed her new role as online content editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Kiplinger.com. With a successful stint at AOL Money & Finance under her belt, she brings with her a vast knowledge of how to capture new visitors and entice return readers online. Publishing Executive Inbox spoke to Schwalb about how publishers can find that delicate balance between providing content in both traditional and digital formats.
INBOX: What are some of your own personal rules of thumb when it comes to deciding what type of content, in what form, works best for print and what works best solely on the Web?
CINDY SCHWALB: The structure of a magazine tends to be more closed; it has a beginning, middle and end. Therefore, I like content choices that can open it up dynamically. These are the sidebars, columns, front and back matter that offer the unexpected: an opposing view to a feature, additional resources, factoids, a slice of humor. Print also has a more captive audience, so articles can be more in depth and run longer.
The Web, in its current state of evolution, is nearly the opposite. It is open, infinite and changing. Given these dynamics, I feel it is important to discipline the direction of your site, keep it simple and sharply focused in appearance and content organization.
There’s a strong current of change on the Web, and it’s very easy to feel as if you have to jump on every new trend. Add the multimedia enhancements to your package, as long as these dynamic elements directly enhance your newly published feature. Only use these new elements if they do work for you.
INBOX: What is your philosophy concerning the question of using a single team to handle both print and digital vs. maintaining two separate editorial teams to create content separately?
SCHWALB: As the publishing systems and software evolve to integrate both publishing processes, I think the print and Web teams will become more integrated. However, I believe the teams can work in tandem planning content and sharing ideas. I believe this is direction that Kiplinger’s has been moving toward and would like to further integrate the communication between the online and print teams.
INBOX: What can those in the industry more accustomed to producing content for the printed page learn from those who are creating content for digital realms and vice versa?
SCHWALB: If you have a print-only publication, get online. But rather than trying to start out with a Web version of your print product, identify valuable evergreen content or a searchable database that can be a resource for a niche. This establishes a Web presence that can be crawled and back-linked to by others in the industry that your publication focuses on.
INBOX: How much of a print publication’s content do you believe can be reproduced online without impacting the print product? How closely should the two properties mirror each other?
SCHWALB: I think today that the general public expects to find the same content online as you are publishing in the print version. It’s how you want your content delivered to you and formatted. A full-length print feature may be abridged or repurposed into a slide show or reorganized in some other format, but it should essentially provide the same information.
INBOX: What are the biggest missteps you’ve other publishers take online?
SCHWALB: The biggest missteps of online publishers, who have print publications, are in creating an online brand identity that is different than the print brand. I don’t know who that serves.
INBOX: What’s your philosophy on how frequently non-traditional storytelling—including videos, blogs, polls and photo galleries—should be used online? What type of exclusive online material have you found that works especially well and what doesn’t?
SCHWALB: Online print publications should rely on non-traditional storytelling methods as a writer relies on adjectives. They should enhance. Every enhancement and new storytelling device has a purpose. The key is to make sure you are applying the enhancements correctly. Embedding a video in your article for the sake of having a multimedia enhancement hurts the programming integrity of your site. Therefore, when you do have a terrific related video your readers may not click this time.