It has been some time since our last meeting. That’s because for the past two weeks I’ve been hitting a writing wall. It has been challenging narrowing down the Micro-Business goals and missions. I never thought Goals and Missions were really that difficult. You are literally telling readers what your organization is designed to accomplish and telling them what they should expect from it.
Still for three long weeks I’ve struggled in accomplishing this task. Initially I thought having a leads generating website was a good site. Unfortunately my Plan A prospective partner did not share in my enthusiasm. Now I’m on Plan B, which may not be all that bad. While Travelers Travel Tales may not be a leads generator, it is designed to connect travelers with others.
The heart of Traveler Travel Tales is connecting nomadic souls through stories, music, movies, etc. In the end it may prove to be a better investment of time and energy. Plan B may not be what I plan, but I think it will prove to be a great adventure, which is what great traveling stories are made up of.
I recently embarked on Climbing the Drupal Ladder, but regretfully I must press pause on those plans. Over the next 8 weeks I will be completing an exciting (big) project for my E-Publishing Theory and Practice class. I’ve been tasked with developing a “micro-business” website, applying micro-advertising, selling clicks from my content and experimenting with search engine optimization. Although I’ve been blogging for almost five years, I’ve never developed a blog from scratch. This exciting course offers me a chance to have control over an e-commerce site and make executive decisions based on my audience interaction with my content. So I hope you will enjoy reading The Micro-Business Project as much I will enjoy writing it.
Sites purposes/service/product? What is the costs and values can my service or product provide visitors?
Who were you trying to reach and why?
What cost-effective methods do you use to reach them?
Which plugins were the most effective? Which ones were the least effective?
Infrastructure & Features
What Infrastructure/technical resource did you plan to use?
This will be broken down the technical resource by the development stages (wireframes, sitemapping,etc)
Did they meet meet your needs? If so, why? If not, why not?
What did you think would be the most popular components of your site? Were they?
Publishers have you ever wondered how your Facebook and Twitter followings impacted your sales? In the Age of E-Books and Apps, how exactly are your social media fan bases affecting your success? More importantly, if social media optimization (SMO) is the future how can publishers adapt?
Here to help me answer those questions is M. Scott Havens who serves as the Sr. VP of Finance & Digital Operations for The Atlantic.
E-Publisher Confesses: Scott thanks so much for making time for my interview. As the Sr. Vice President of Finance & Digital Operations how much of your day is devoted to learning how readers discover your content?
Scott Havens: Quite honestly, not as much as I’d like these days. I’m spending a lot more time in the financial numbers of our media properties in order to assess where we should be investing and allocating our resources going forward. I do get a series of daily, weekly and monthly reports (some automated, some created) that break down where our readers are coming from, what they’re reading, etc. I also spend at least an hour a day reading trade pubs (Digiday, PaidContent, etc.) so I can stay abreast of all the new developments and innovations going on in media.
EPC: So then you’re familiar with metadata advocates who claim that if a book or magazine isn’t listed in the top 10-20 results of a query there’s no chance of readers discovering it. Scott can the same be said of The Atlantic’s readers? Or do they discover content differently?
SH: I can’t validate that statement, but it seems likely. Fortunately for us (I think!), we get 2x as many referrals through social networks/sites/referrals as we do from search. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about SEO or we don’t try to implement best practices, but given the types and categories and volumes of content we produce, we’ve found SMO (social media optimization) to be a better use of our time. There are also many new technologies, apps, sites that can be very valuable partners for publishers – including Flipboard, Pulse, TrapIt, Trove – and it may prove valuable for publishers to put on their “business development” hat and think about becoming partners.
EPC: Can less established publishers create an optimized Web presence without partnering with these third-party affiliates? Could publishers familiar with HTML5 software launch a successful magazine or book site without this partnership?
SH: Sure, but I think publishers have to experiment with every available tactic and see what works for them. It could be search, it could be Twitter, or it could be Pinterest. Not one size fits all. HTML5 and all the hype around it is a bit overblown. It is simply not a fully formed markup language / coding language. It certainly shows promise to help optimize content for all the new devices and platforms (among other things), which is clearly challenging and expensive. Having said that, publishers do need to make sure that once they create the unique and interesting content, it can be consumed everywhere. HTML5 and responsive design could help do this. There are also several companies building and investing in CMS’s that will allow content to be pushed out in many forms so publishers can simply focus on the content. But again, focus on creating content that users want to read, develop a loyal audience and then think about ways to monetize the readership through paid products and/or advertising.
EPC: Earlier you stated that it seems likely readers won’t discover content past 10-20 results. So you suggested that publishers spend less time worrying over rankings and more time making their work shareable. Is that a correct summary?
SH: Yes I think so, but I’ll caveat that by saying that all publishers are not created equal. If you are a high velocity news site that feeds off news searches or a restaurant review site that needs to leverage the “long tail”, you may want to spend more time on SEO. At the end of the day, I firmly believe that if you write unique, quality, differentiated content and follow the “rules”, you should ultimately do well in search over time. I do think the key search engines are trying to surface the best content, not the content that has the best “SEO score.” My best advice for publishers is find a niche where you can produce differentiated content for a specific target audience and let them help you grow. If you focus on creating interesting, visual, shareable, viral, unique content – you’ll be amazed at how quickly new readers will emerge because of the power of the “social graph”.
EPC: Why is it important for publishers to connect to a social graph? Does social sharing affect how publishers’ content is discovered by readers?
SH: Quite simply because social sharing is incredibly important in content discovery today. For some publishers, like TheAtlantic it’s more important than search discovery and it’s an entirely different way. In one, a computer algorithm decides what you are looking for and in the other; people in your “network” are helping you discover content. I’ll take the latter any day of the week.
EPC: Lastly, Scott can you offer any words of wisdom for aspiring publishers? Are there any other factors they should consider before entering publishing?
SH: My first words of wisdom are: stop calling it publishing! It feels SO OLD MEDIA! Other thoughts for aspiring digital media execs might be: be obsessive about using all the new devices that are launched, experiment with new sites and Apps as much as you can, read the latest news in the industry, network like crazy, and get a deep understanding of how technology works. Even if you are not a designer or developer, those who understand the ins/outs of digital media are usually one-step ahead of the pack.
EPC: Thank you again Scott for fitting me into your busy schedule, I can see there is definitely a dimension beyond SEO that publishers now have to consider. Publishers are not only contending with e-books, but apps too. I’m looking forward to seeing how new and established publishers continue adapting to these new developments. Thank you again for your insight!
Readers tell me what you think of tonight’s confession by answering the poll below. Join me September 23 for “An E-Publisher’s Road Ahead” I’ll be updating you on my career plans and aspirations.