Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing on the Web

As those of you who have been receiving these missives know, I first began this venture last fall. The opportunity to write an article for John December's Computer Mediated Communications Magazine was a good time to look back and share some of the lessons I've learned. Here is a summary:

  1. Print still matters: it has the vast majority of advertising and is where the attention in our industry still lies.
  2. You may think otherwise, but the best way to get the word out about your site is for others to provide links on their Web sites back to yours, what I call inbound links.
  3. It is a good idea to review your access logs regularly to determine frequently-accessed pages, broken links, who is visiting, and when you have your peak periods. These logs are your best sources for measurements of success.
  4. Community counts. If you are going to start a successful Web publishing venture, make sure you have a good idea whom your community is. This includes reader/viewers, information sources, and people and mechanisms for moving information around (other than yourself, that is.)
  5. Just like running a "real" print magazine, you need to develop a production system and stick to it, and resist any temptations to fiddle with it.
  6. Don't get too enamored with the graphical look and feel of your publication: many reader/viewers will never see these efforts and they ultimately don't matter as much as you think.
  7. The best Web publications make use of email as an effective marketing tool for the Web content, notifying reader/viewers when something is new on a regular basis.

Overall, am I glad I am in the Web-publishing business? Yes, most definitely: it has given me a greater feel for my community, it has helped increase my understanding of the technologies involved, and I have had a great deal of fun over the past seven or so months.

Has it been easy? Nope: Web technologies are changing so fast sometimes you can't keep up no matter how hard you try. Setting up a Web publication will take more time and energy than you've planned, and keeping it fresh and alive is almost a daily responsibility. You need lots of skills: programming, publishing, library science, graphic design, and on top of this a good dose of understanding the nature and structure and culture of the Internet helps too. And a sense of humor and a thick skin come in handy from time to time.

Want to read the entire article? The link to CMC Mag. is at the top of the page.

Awards, promotions, and sitekeeping dep't

Internet World this week was an exciting show: with booths spilling out of the convention center to the street, there were many small companies trying to catch your attention. New trend: in-booth walk-up latte (3Com and Allen Systems Group). Worst booth: free giveaways of "Live Nude Video Conferencing" (do you think I can place a review of that in Infoworld?)

On to this week's awards. Kudos to CMP's Techhelper site. Trying to put together a list of all the places around the web that offer tech support is a real challenge: just keeping track of the links is hard enough. Nevertheless, we want to give CMP points for trying, even if we managed to not find exactly what we needed yet. For that they deserve a Be.Here.Now award, especially current given how the general media has discovered web-based support sites.

I was getting lost in webspace at Forrester Research's website. They have pictures of their subscription-only web site but while these pictures seem to have embedded links, they are just images of the page and not clickable image maps. In any event, having non-clickable pictures of link-highlighted text is bad design, and they deserve some boos for that.

This essay is composed in HTML and can be read in your browser. This is not always a simple process, and I'll be happy to provide help if I can. If you are getting this directly from me, or if someone is forwarding it to you, and you want to change that situation, let me know. Subscriptions are always free of charge.

David Strom
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