Friday Photo Essay

I’m on a mission to keep August Fridays interesting. What better way than with a little story?

Share your own tales from the city.

—Wendy Joan

Walking through downtown Minneapolis
I’m wondering why we
are most ourselves
in the least amount of space.


My heels have healed
from an unfortunate new pair of shoes
and I’ve snuck
half an hour away.

I turn corners and
cross at red lights,
pretending to lose myself
even though I know where I am,

inventing personalities for avenues

and side streets

and fleeting glances
from people who interest me.


I am in love with the urban—


the hot dog cart apprentices

and saxophone players who persevere
through old reeds and pocket change.

Traffic Content vs. Trust Content

Content Marketing and Content Strategy both suck at 2 things.

1. Describing the interrelationship between one another.

2. Highlighting the difference between content types.

There are only 2 types of (ongoing) content types that companies can create:

TRAFFIC/SEO Content

— Content that is generated to drive traffic.

— Content generated solely for SEO will lure users to a landing page but is not, and in most cases cannot be tailored to, engage.

* Costs for traffic building content can be as little as $5 an article.

TRUST/Trustbuilding Content

— Content that is created to build trust with visitors through the delivery of relevant and timely information.

— Content generated specifically to generate trust won’t always be as keyword rich as SEO articles.

* Costs for trustbuilding content can cost as much as $1 a word.

The implied value of these services/deliverables are very clear. Getting visitors to your site is not at all the same as keeping them there. Inversely paying for good trustbuilding content without a comprehensive search strategy that includes SEO is also shortsighted.

—Ian

Want better editorial? Reel in your review process

It seems every publisher has an ironclad policy when it comes to letting sources review stories pre-publication: either they forbid it, or they require it. These policies were set in stone some time around the Mesozoic era and any troublemaker who tries to alter them clearly does not understand A) journalistic integrity or B) the business objectives of the publication in question. In fact, these policies are taken so seriously, anyone who violates them faces grounds for immediate termination.

A post on UMagazinology, a blog about university magazines published by the editors of Johns Hopkins Magazine, tackled the subject of pre-publication review in a recent post (the bolding is mine):

“Why not? What’s the harm?

The harm, I think, is to our standing as professionals, and that is not a minor thing. University magazines produce the highest-quality work, and thus best exemplify and promote the excellence of their parent institutions, when they are allowed to approach the work as professional journalists. And it is part of journalistic professional practice to not show stories to sources before publication. No matter how strongly you stipulate that you are showing a piece to a source only for verification of accuracy, you are implicitly inviting everyone who reads the story to approve it, advise on how it should be written, and grant permission to publish it, and all those things undermine our standing as professionals. That in turn undermines our ability to argue for the freedom to publish substantive, credible stories that will be read because they matter and because our readers trust how they were produced. We don’t advise chemists, physicists, surgeons, literary scholars, historians, biologists, or mathematicians on how best to do their work. If we genuinely believe that what we do merits professional respect and an essential measure of autonomy, why do we so willingly accede to non-journalists telling us how to do our jobs?”

Yeah! Like they said!

Print-to-Web integration and the Advent of New Devices has Shaken Up Production. This coupled with the adoption of more user-friendly CMS systems and device driven publishing taxes most organizations on the production, project management and change management fronts.

“Publishers have got to do things that are richer, more dynamic and interactive, not just transfer a static page from print to digital.”

Steve Grande, VP of Sales for Fry Communications

This is exceedingly difficult when many publications originating as traditional print based pubs are now transitioning (see struggling) to move to digital. Excessive stakeholder reviews and print based project management/review processes are dinosaurs in today’s digital world —a world where news is immediate, influence is measured by trust and originality expands with devices and technology.  Brands that want to be successful need to embrace speed and adopt the concept of being nimble, whether they inhabit 500sq ft or 50 floors. It’s not just about undermining an editor’s expertise or dragging out a project. It’s about the final outcome. It’s about your brand.

—Britta

5 Ways to Make Your Custom Publication Way Better

We recently launched a redesign for a university magazine (finally!) and thought we’d pass along some of our favorite tips for making your own custom publication better.

1) Rethink your magazine architecture

BEFORE A front of book section that didn’t evolve with the magazine’s needs. Too many new sections had been added over the years, and the naming convention was starting to not make sense.

AFTER Help readers hold their place by redesigning the flow of the entire reading experience. For example, we converted several choppy sections into one umbrella FOB section that encapsulates the university’s mission. We gave the client a menu of various columns/formats that can be rotated in and out of this section from issue to issue.

This new format also creates a stronger branded magazine that a) is not re-invented each issue and b) begins to build recognition with readers.

2) Kill the “Wall of Words”

BEFORE Each page had one story and an average of 550 words. There were excessively long narratives about a single source. An earlier attempt to break up this text with subheads was ineffective because subheads were the same size/style as the body text.

AFTER Chunky, colorful, big and juicy. Get away from a traditional narrative style—there are a million ways to tell a story. Put two or three stories on a spread and let stories cross the gutter (which also means you’ll greatly increase the number of voices in each issue). Make numbers and subheds stand out from body text. Update your fonts.

Even better, ask yourself if your story could be more quickly communicated in a chart or graphic. For inspiration, start collecting “charticles” from New YorkEsquire and Good. Think those publications don’t apply to your trade pub? Check out what Inc. has been up to lately. Bring some much-needed inspiration to your weekly status meetings by sharing examples from Information Is Beautiful.

3) Don’t tell a life story in every story. Or any story for that matter.

BEFORE A 150-word piece about an award recipient, once in the hands of marketing and product stakeholders, morphed into a 600-word monstrosity.

AFTER Focus on a tiny sliver of the story. Do this by establishing very clear column descriptions and criteria (complete with word counts!) in your redesign. For example, one of the goals of this particular magazine is to get alumni to re-enroll. So we created a column called “How it Paid Off” which essentially demonstrates the “ROI” of spending thousands of dollars on an advanced degree. This could easily eat up 1,500 words. Instead, we created a list format:

HOW IT PAID OFF

Name/Degree
Job title before degree
Job title after degree
How my degree helps me make a bigger impact
Biggest benefit of earning my degree at x university.

We captured this in 102 words. In and out.

4) Use better art (without necessarily spending more)

BEFORE Stale headshots, outdated stock illustration styles, far too many “grip and grin” photos

AFTER Instead of sending distant sources to their local mall photo studio (shudder!), we worked with the same art budget and hired photographers across the U.S. who could capture environmental portraits (hint: get your sources outside). We also pushed sources for submitted images and gave them ideas on what we wanted to see. When we got good images, we ran them big. We saved the standard headshots for thumbnails (or not at all).

5) Remember: What’s important to your administration is probably not what’s important to your readers

BEFORE Too much real estate given to university news, and placed where the university thought it belonged—right up front. Long articles covering university events that already happened.

AFTER With a 2x/year frequency, news is not a primary purpose of this magazine. So we moved news section to back of book and capped the word count for each “brief.” (Again, build this criteria into your redesign. The more “rules” you can establish up front, the better chance you have against word creep.) Each news piece ran with a call to action to get the full story online (interested to see the metrics on those redirects).

For event coverage, which used to eat up spreads at a time, we offered up one 1/3 column where we ran big, chunky sound bites. Outcome? We were able to “cover” four events in 139 words.

What would have made this project even better?

A print-to-web integration, which is something all clients should include as a mandatory line-item on their publication budget.

Check out some great examples from min online.

Ready to launch your own redesign or improve your print-to-web integration?  Give us a shout.

—Britta

Do Different to Get Different

Hypothetical iterations are difficult to digest but even more difficult to prescribe and present. Too often clients (and vendors) are stuck with a concept, framework or a rule set that extinguishes the possibility of creativity at a corporate level. Other times we are lazy. Sometimes we are fearful of presenting an idea that will be shot down or perhaps lack the energy to push for a radical change.

We often hear that an idea is only as good as it’s execution but we rarely hear that execution is only as good as the investment in the idea. The beginning of any project begins with an assessment of satisfaction. “This is good but could be better.” “This is terrible.” Or, “This is no longer relevant.” Whatever the present state of the project — something, or someone, ultimately decides that change is necessary.

This is your fork in the road. This is your opportunity. Do different to get different.

—Ian

Dig Deep or Leave it Alone

In the construction world carpenters who specialize in remodeling earn considerably more than those who build homes from scratch. If you know how to use a plumb bob, a square and a level you should be able to build a decent new home. Remodelers on the other hand have much broader set of challenges requiring a more comprehensive toolset in order to maintain aesthetics and work around existing infrastructure.

Many of these lessons can be transferred to content strategy and interactive solutions. If you want a new website and have never had one, you also don’t have legacy systems to untangle, databases to rejoin, layers of stakeholders to appease and vector versions of your logo to track down. In short you have a blank slate. While I am not advocating starting from scratch for many reasons including — SEO ranking, branding and resource allocation for starters — It is imperative to understand that working with an existing site presents both unique challenges and opportunities that require deeper digging. Dig deep my friends, dig deep.

—Ian

Eat Media Window Quotes

Eat Media Window Quotes:

Eat Media Window — Being Obscure

“Being obscure is great position to be in.”
— Jason Fried
Eat Media Window — Something Stellar

“Let’s make something stellar. Or, keep rockin’ that same-old, same-old.” — Ian
Eat Media Window — Weird Governor

“Language is weird somewhat whimsical governor.”
— D. Sheilds
Eat Media Window — Ideas and Culture

“We need to stand up and fight for two things at
all costs: great ideas and company culture.”
– D. Oyrt
Eat Media Window — Out of Date Footer

“An out of date footer is like a limp handshake.”
— Ian
Eat Media Window — Work Reckless

“Work calmly, joyously and recklessly with whatever is at hand.”
— H. Miller