Dispelling Web Misconceptions at NYU

This was my chance to tell a group of print publishing professionals that their fears of publishing on the web are (for the most part) unfounded.


April 14, 2011: There was something jamming the doors on the 6 train one stop away from where I had to be. A closer look revealed a ballpoint pen was the culprit. Try as I might, I couldn’t dislodge it as the doors kept trying to close. Finally, an MTA worker came by and together we got the pen out. The doors were released and I was on my way again.

So, where was I off to? I seem to be starting a new extension of my career, giving talks at colleges on just how ridiculously complicated the publishing industry has made working on the web out to be. Not to mention it taking huge leaps backwards again.

My publisher (for some odd reason) shuttered a website, but kept the print version going and then bought two more print properties. Not long before this, I was at the MIN Best of the Web Awards where several web-only properties vowed to launch new print versions of their brands. It’s all sheer lunacy, but I couldn’t let any of it deter me.

Tonight, I’d be talking to a class taught by my friend artist and designer David Pierce at the NYU School of Continuing And Professional Studies. The class is called Web Tools and Platforms for Publishing Professionals. It lays out a basic understanding of web publishing to those who maybe have never worked on the web before.

The publishing industry intrigues me with the way they’ve made the web out to be some sort of mysterious, complicated animal. I’ve now been given the chance to dispel many of the more common misconceptions. I don’t wanna give too much away (because I’d like to do more of these talks) but, in a nutshell…

My talks are very lo-fi. Just me in front of a group of people talking. No projectors or flashy presentations. The idea is to is to let folks know that the processes of web publishing may differ from print, but the philosophies are essentially the same. Think of how a magazine would never randomly publish something based on a celebrity name or the format of the article without regard to it’s content or how it relates to the brand. Then understand that they should never do that on their website.

Here are my basic speaking points:

Web Audiences are Completely Different than Print Audiences
There’s this idea that the web is just a vast dumping ground for unrelated material to be featured. In reality, a magazine’s website should share virtually the same demographic as its print counterpart. Therefore its message should be the same as the magazine as well.

The Medium Sells the Content
I blame this on the explosion of the viral video obsession. Many publishers believe that they need video in order to have a successful website. However, they rarely give much thought to the quality or the content. So, they fail.

All Traffic is Good Traffic
This is simply not true. If your website is about health and fitness, having an article about some celebrity meltdown or some other item that is “trending” may bring traffic to that one item. However, it will do little to affect your site’s overall value since your core audience won’t care about it.

Social Networking is Easy
There’s this “build it and they will come” attitude about Social Networking. The problem is, most Social Networking campaigns are neither social nor networking. The human factor is what makes a social networking campaign work. You need to engage your audience.

SEO is Complicated
This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. SEO or Search Engine Optimization has been trumped up by consultants as being far too complicated for anyone other than some certified SEO Expert to decipher. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My talk at NYU went very well. I liked the interaction with the students. Since they were all professionals, they each had a specific area of interest and their questions kept me on my toes. No, on to the next challenge at Syracuse University on April 29, 2011.

There I will be talking to Freshmen. I’m sure it will be an entirely different experience and I’m really looking forward to it.

Wanna learn more? Wanna hire me? Wanna challenge my ideas? Contact me.

See Also:
David Pierce
NYU SCPS


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