Digital Web Magazine

The web professional's online magazine of choice.

Time To Change : Comments

By Nick Finck

December 11, 2008

Comments

Nathan Pitman

December 11, 2008 1:22 AM

Future focused gets my vote. Congrats on your 500th article!!! :)

Nick Finck

December 11, 2008 1:35 AM

Thanks for the vote and props, Nathan. Do you have any ideas outside of the ones the staff came up with? We’d love to hear them.

Eric Weaver

December 11, 2008 1:50 AM

500 articles? DANG! That’s a ton of work…but I guess labors of love are what they are, right?

Totally agree with your take on where this is all going. Couldn’t have said it better. Given the ocean of content, sorting the gems from the rough is tough. Who’s got time?

Perhaps if you go niche and create highly tagged and “findable” specialty pieces, they’d provide high value to a smaller, more appreciative audience?

WTG on 500 articles!

I’d suggest going niche…given general time-starvation on the part of most people, I’d propose doing very targeted niche articles and tagging them to be found.

Nick Finck

December 11, 2008 1:58 AM

Thanks Eric. I’d like to chat with you more about what you mean by “highly tagged” in your comment. Do you mean have a tagging function for user’s like Flickr and Upcoming do? Or do you mean like providing more avenues into adding it places where people often capture useful information like Delicious, Digg, Twitter, etc.?

Paul Boag

December 11, 2008 2:45 AM

First, congratulations on a long and successful run. Also congratulations on having the willingness to consider your direction.

If you want my opinion on direction I would go shorter. Looking at your competition, many of their posts are just too long to wade through. I just don’t have the time. I would maintain your high quality but go for shorter snappy content that I can digest and apply in the few minutes I have waiting for the next call or before starting the next design.

Stephane Deschamps

December 11, 2008 4:36 AM

Really, when I see ALA and DW, I see the same kind of community-at-large, interesting and varied-in-topic publication.

I don’t know if it’s helpful to give you this kind of feedback, but I like DW the way it is, and it’s exactly for the same reason that I go read ALA: variety versus focus.

I’m sure people who’ve been on the web for 10+ years like us still think of themselves as generalists, and DW “focuses” this kind of unfocused audience. That’s good.

(OK, I’m not helping, but I thought you’d like to hear some “don’t change” chorus too)

Simon Mackie

December 11, 2008 5:30 AM

Congrats on 500 articles :-)

This is something I’d been pondering for a while with Vitamin. I broadly agree – web “magazines” like ALA, Digital Web, Vitamin, etc. don’t seem as relevant or exciting to their audiences as they once were, perhaps because the technologies and techniques that they cover aren’t new or exciting any more, and certainly people prefer to write content for their own blogs (sourcing material has definitely become much harder).

So sites like Digital Web do need to evolve, and it’s good that you’re planning on doing that. Personally, as covering “current” technologies, tools, and techniques seems to be moving to personal blogs, perhaps more of a focus on the future would be better. Digital Web could provide the editorial direction and vision of the future to multiple contributors – something that perhaps can’t be done effectively by personal blogs.

Tim Kadlec

December 11, 2008 6:32 AM

First off, congratulations on 500 posts! That’s a long time to be running a successful digital “magazine”.

My vote would be to go with “beat” style publishing. If you can find enough people interested (and I find it hard to imagine you couldn’t) to be the ‘experts’ for various topics, you’d still be able to keep the broad-range of topics that has made the site so popular among so many people.

At the same time, by separating the topics out like you mention, you still appease anyone looking for a more ‘niche’ based site, as they can just subscribe to their respective topics of interest. The nature of beat style publishing would also inherently allow for Paul Boag’s suggestion of ‘short snappy’ posts.

Tom ('Mas) Pickering

December 11, 2008 7:27 AM

I would like to join Stephane with a vote for DON’T CHANGE. I look forward to the appearance of a new article as I’m sure it will be well worth the read.

Leslie

December 11, 2008 7:53 AM

There is the distinct possibility that your competition does short “articles” because they are incapable of running a real publication such as Digital Web.

However you change, let it add-to what you are already the best at. Perhaps “beat reporting” makes a nice addition to longer style articles (which could be reduced in number for example) or you allow more community contribution in addition or whatever… but don’t abandon what you are good at because your competition is doing something else.

Personally I would hate to see DW (or ALA for that matter) abandon the long-form. The long-form article conveys a level of trust that “blogs” often do not. It means serious effort has been put forth versus a speed race (which gets tiring). I don’t want to see more noise, I want more substance, even if its less frequent.

Lyle

December 11, 2008 8:09 AM

I have been reading DW (and ALA) for years and find the high editorial standards refreshing. I would be disappointed to see the flavor of the articles change to become more blog-like. There are very few sites that share your commitment to high-quality, well-reviewed and edited writing. It certainly requires a lot of effort on the part of DW staff, but it’s appreciated by the community. Nor is generalism a bad thing. It does all Web professionals good to become educated on as many aspects of the industry as possible.

Meryl K. Evans

December 11, 2008 8:23 AM

I love the variety I see here and in ALA. But I might not be the dream reader for DW as I’m a content person not a designer. I’m sure many designers, programmers, content peeps, etc. like me prefer to know what’s going on in web design across the board.

Plenty of sites exist for those who want to focus on one aspect of web design (i.e. ajax, php, java).

Do you want to have a single audience like that or do you like having a diversity?

Chris Taylor

December 11, 2008 9:36 AM

I’m also another “Don’t change!” advocate, but perhaps with an added “…too much”. It’s great that your editorial standards are so high, as compared to many blog posts on similar topics (mine included) the level of research and quality of writing are a refreshing change. In my opinion there’s still a place for you, and ALA/Vitamin/the others.

However, and this is where you may like to think of mixing a few of your ideas together, the immediacy of off-the-cuff blogging is hard to beat. As Paul says, sometimes shorter articles are just what time-poor webbys need. I know that’s certainly true for me.

So, keep the main articles, but augment the site with other shorter content. Perhaps this is the right time to partner with a collection of good authors who can regularly contribute this type of content, in much the same way that 9rules (http://9rules.com/) do. This would also allow you to serve those niche markets.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

Garrett Dimon

December 11, 2008 9:57 AM

It’s a difficult decision. I do believe that the value in Digital Web is that the content is edited and cared for, but I’m also well aware that that’s what makes it difficult to maintain.

Becoming a shorter, more whimsical publication would change Digital Web more than might be apparent at first. It’s difficult to say what’s right, but in my opinion, I would vote for continuing in the same direction and making changes around things like publication frequency.

Or, alternatively, maybe play up the news section and evolve it to be more significant and include more posts and treat full-length articles as a twice a month feature.

Regardless of where it goes from here, 500 articles is impressive. Congratulations on that.

Joe Dearman

December 11, 2008 9:58 AM

Future focus really captured my attention. There’s no doubt you have what it takes for 500 more! Congrats!

Nick Finck

December 11, 2008 10:01 AM

To Stephane, Tom, Leslie, Lyle, and others who have expressed the notion to “don’t change” to some degree or another.

I am afraid that not really an option for us. I wouldn’t have authored this article if I felt we could keep going with the current model. This is not a staff/time/energy issue, this is not a money issue, this is purely a issue related to getting content in the doors from professionals in the field.

If we keep our current model and don’t change what will happen over the course of the next year will be few and fewer articles, less and less frequently, until perhaps within the next 12 months we have nothing to publish at all and the site simply goes stale and dies a miserable death.

The very notion that we must change is driven by these facts. There is simply not enough web professional authors who can write at the level of non-opinion based technical pieces to go around in the community we have here. To date we have some articles that are still in the works that have taken us years to get from authors… years. I don’t fault anyone for this. The web experts are busy and writing a whole article under our current model is very hard work. Meanwhile these authors can’t help but notice they have their own blog that gets pretty good traffic (if they are a recognized voice the community) so why not just publish it there and without any requirements or rigid editorial process.

All that said, I don’t think changing our model means that any of our existing content goes away or suddenly becomes unaccessible. I don’t think that means that we will lose any of what has already been done. All that material will remain accessible to some degree or another. What I am calling for is a change in the model away from relying on authors in the way that we do today. This means perhaps something that involves less demand of their time, or perhaps fewer authors, maybe no authors at all? Just some random thoughts.

Again, let us know what you think. I hear a lot of readers saying they like one or two of the ideas the staff came up with and that’s good, that helps validate those ideas. I am, however, also very interested in new ideas that haven’t been mentioned thus far.

Jake Anderson

December 11, 2008 10:27 AM

Congratulations on how far Digital Web has come, and best wishes for many more fruitful years ahead.

The old guard seems to be in a sort of mid-life crisis right now… They have tried and true models, but the luster seems to be wearing off and the lack of buzz words is getting them down in an era where “coolness” outshines content. As with everything else on the web – content is still king. No matter how you dice it there will always be hundreds of niche, blog oriented, or otherwise knee-jerk sites that spew information as eloquently as a fifth grade debate. I (and the “Don’t Change Choir”) appreciate the un-trendy length, non-predictable content, and the no-nonsense approach to articles Digital Web has taken and would feel remiss in my obligations to the community to not voice my opposition to forgetting these trademarks.

Now I wholly believe that Digital Web could make an outstanding blog, beat reporter or niche magazine because of the history and experiences the team would bring into a new venture, but instead of taking structural examples from the culture as it stands now and modeling after them why not try a new solution?

I feel Digital Web would be perfect for a hybrid site showcasing one or two “headline” articles (weekly, monthly – whatever) that have all the TLC and editing prowess currently exhibited while allowing for “daily” feeds in the beat reporting (or blog I suppose) fashion previously mentioned. This way you maintain your status as a reliable and trusted distributer of web information while providing a flexibility (and consequentially a attraction for your sought after “new blood”) that the magazine cannot currently support.

Whatever you decide to do – I wish you the best of luck in the endeavor!

Jim Stanfield

December 11, 2008 10:35 AM

You could increase the frequency of your email newsletters. Thanks for sending today’s newsletter because I had forgotten about your website and it is DEFINITELY worth remembering and using!

Remember Julius Caesar? His ‘Divide and Conquer’ strategy might apply to your future! By that I mean: I think you are correct in finding several niche markets in which to specialize. The About.com website is a perfect example.

Yet, I believe it is still worth your efforts to develop both ‘Current Affairs’ and ‘Future Trends’ types of more generalized content.

Having said all of the above, I wish you much continued success in managing the ‘niche and topical herd’ and stretching supposedly finite resources to keep everyone fed, clothed, and housed!

Best regards!
Jim

Craig Saila

December 11, 2008 11:02 AM

Literally, I have a lot to thank Digital Web and its staff for over the years, so, first of all, thank you – you’ve also done a great job influencing the thinking of the Web design community over the years. Therein lies the secret to the success.

Like Garrett, I think the expansion of the news section, in combination with a somewhat regular feature length piece might be the way forward.

Many us, like Paul mentioned, don’t have the time any more to read in-depth articles and read dozens of blogs to find out what is happening, but we wish we could. Let Digital Web’s news section provide that service: A carefully curated linkroll that serves as the digest for the must know information of the moment.

The regular feature, then, evolves into an almost op-ed piece looking at the latest trends highlighted in the news and examining how they will play out. This is where the heart and soul of the magazine would live.

Doing this provide could provide two pathways into the publication, while allowing it to flexibly evolve.

Jess McMullin

December 11, 2008 12:42 PM

Nick’s questions got me thinking that there’s lots of variations based on different contiunuums > Narrow or Broad topic coverage? Monthly vs. Hourly publishing frequency? Long vs. Short?

With questions like this, there’s some useful visualization like semantic differentials , or Kathy Sierra’s audio EQ metaphor. So I threw some A vs. B continuums up on my whiteboard, under three main headings: Content, Contributors, and Business Model. You can see the different areas I thought about on Flickr .

Then I plugged in a few from my Content column into an interactive EQ Kathy posted a couple years back.

bit.ly/digitalwebEQ

Kathy’s version doesn’t really show the difference between two words, just how niche, or how popular, etc (so -4 on the Niche slider would mean Broad).

Playing around with this can point to different options (What would niche, Twitter length commentary on an hourly frequency with distributed contributors and distributed editorial look like? What if you centralized the editorial? etc. etc.)

Some of these things are there to promote thought – things like ‘Recognition vs. Contributor’s own Blog’ are relative. But it’s important to think about how ppl can be recognized, and what a publication like Digital Web can offer authors that they can’t get from self publishing.

Some of these things are tightly linked: I think it would be hard to get Peer Reviewed Authority if all you published was 140 character snippets and link pointers.

Some aren’t mutually exclusive – you can have short content posted frequently, and longer content posted less often.

Finally, the bedrock question is about business model – what are the motivations for people to be involved? Love, money, or fame? How to support those goals is the biggest question of all.

For more about this approach to thinking about ways to generate new ideas, see Kathy’s blog post

Hope it’s helpful as Nick and the rest of the crew forge ahead. Thanks for the past 10 years, looking forward to another 10 :)

Daniel Stillwaggon

December 11, 2008 1:07 PM

I am, like many of the responders here, an old-guard “webbie” who cherishes solid content, detailed tutorials, and brief introductions to the new technologies that are defining the future of our professional medium. Though I don’t always agree with your articles, they have always been strong in these areas. It would be a great shame to lose that rare presence.

I would continue to read your articles if they maintained a strong editorial presence and continued in the range of themes currently established. Your ideas seem to express this desire. Perhaps changing the strict editorial role into a micro-content producing role might be called for? I.e. an article consisting of content by a variety of authors (published elsewhere or not) on a topic, possibly with editorial comment on the selection of the sections?

In a self/industry reflective way this would provide nice insight into what is possible on today’s web and where things are headed.

Jay Fienberg

December 11, 2008 2:50 PM

Craig really summed up my own thoughts and suggestions: “Let Digital Web’s news section provide that service: A carefully curated linkroll that serves as the digest for the must know information of the moment.”

Also, having recently been mentoring a junior-level web designer / developer, I see Digital Web to be a go-to site for people who are making the transition from just starting-out to being serious about web design and development. So, I think it’d be useful to see the Digital Web topic archive to be presented along some different dimensions (in addition to the current topics).

Many Digital Web articles serve a role in helping one transition to the “next level” of something in regards to the web, and it’d be good to see those articles highlighted in those terms.

Also, if you want show some respect to commenters on the site, you should stop using rel=nofollow so indiscriminately! People don’t want to leave high quality comments on sites that use nofollow.

Sophie Dennis

December 12, 2008 4:03 AM

Craig Saila best echoes my own feelings so far.

‘Busy’ is a problem for your readers as well as your contributors. Web professionals are a lot busier today than they were four or five years ago. I don’t have time to keep up with my own blogroll, especially not to pick out the gems amidst the clutter.

If DW was to direct its experts towards finding and highlighting the Best of the Web, that would be invaluable. It also meets head on the issue that contributors prefer to publish on their own sites – you say “fine, publish wherever you like, and if it’s good, we’ll feature you”.

I would also echo “focus”. The subject matter is so diverse – from high-level interface thinking to gritty javascript ‘how to’s – there is a good chance any specific article simply isn’t of interest.

Jon Pederson

December 12, 2008 2:06 PM

My bent is always far future mindedness (vision+focus); looking out to see what’s coming, how we can prepare for it, and help steer the direction of the Web.

That said, I would curb it with the lessons we’ve learned from the past, and the technologies we know to work well today. I like how DW has a broad approach to the content of the articles.

Keep the content to a mix of 2 parts visionary, 1 part practical and 1 part reflective. That’s my vote.

Matt Robin

December 12, 2008 2:35 PM

This is definitely a thought-provoking post because ‘Digital Web’ has become an institution in it’s own right over the years, as proven by reaching 500 articles – a great achievement.

Here are my thoughts:

Digital Web is in my RSS Feed reader, and some of the best articles I’ve read on the web this year have been on Digital Web. But the posts are becoming few and far between and they can be quite lengthy (similar to Paul’s comment). When I see a new post show up for Digital Web on my RSS Feeder, I’m sure it will be worth reading…but I also don’t rush to read it because I know it will take a bit of time. So I leave it for a few days. So, an immediate solution to that problem is more regular posts, and of shorter length (but striving to keep the same great quality that site visitors enjoy).

Another reason this article is thought-provoking is that there is a hint of dissatisfaction among the staff with the site’s image and future-agenda (not future-thinking enough possibly?) Some of this might unfortunately be caused by something as simple as the name of the site itself: ‘Digital Web’. There’s nothing wrong with the name, I like it, but it always seemed to evoke something ‘cutting-edge’ and the very latest of what’s going on with the Web Professional World. It might have seemed that way at one time too, but these days, it seems more like AListApart’s Older Brother who’s done the wild partying, become responsible and looks after the car-keys on a night out!

Digital Web has always had quality content, great articles – love ‘em, but they are usually all about the same areas of the Web: sometimes design, sometimes web strategy, sometimes content editing…but where are the article’s on Flash, Flex, Rails, or new technologies? The site design needs a breath of fresh air too (what is it now, five years looking the same?)…it looks good, it’s a great design, but it has become tired, soft and comfortable like old slippers – where’s the ‘Digital’ feel in that? Where’s the dynamic?! What Digital Web needs is to become AListApart’s Badass Uncle who drives a cool sportscar! ;)

Aside shorter, snappier content, if the name stays, then the image of the site has to upgrade as well.

Brandy Reppy

December 12, 2008 2:55 PM

I wish DW could stay the same, too – but obviously that’s not going to happen.

What if every month was dedicated to a particular subject, which could be as granual or broad as you decided – one month it could be Django and the next it’s SEO. And readers are asked to submit their “best of” links and resources for that particular topic. Then there’s just a release once a month with the aggregation.

In addition to that, though, there’s an area for industry news – release information on software, layoffs and acquisitions, etc – that comes out once a week (or so).

Those just might be some ways that DW can still serve in some of the same capacity without bearing the responsibility of finding contributors.

Nick Finck

December 12, 2008 3:36 PM

Matt, good points. We actually do have a new design all ready to go. Jeff Croft worked his magic. Thing is, if our focus or structure changes dramatically it may impact that design. No sense launching the new design until we get our new mission nailed down.

Matt Robin

December 12, 2008 4:34 PM

Jeff for the design – great choice Nick! :)

Yep, I agree, if the design and DW’s new mission don’t compliment each other – then it’s not an ideal fit. Have you got a deadline for when that new mission should be agreed upon? (I’m guessing – after the New Year drinks have lost their fizz!) ;)

Robin Ragle-Davis

December 13, 2008 3:39 AM

I am one of those authors who has/had an article in the pipeline. (Sorry!) I was simply getting over-the-top busy. I have had no time to add to my blog or send out my newsletter either.

There is a wealth of great reading on Digital Web and I don’t think it is ever a mistake to strive for high quality.

My vote would be for a hybrid of the current model (perhaps not requiring the articles to be weekly) and beat reporting. I’d love to see one of the beats focused on the future trends – another direction you mentioned.

If you retain any portion of the article format I’ll commit to actually getting my piece to you!

Assign me a pest of an editor though.

Michael Angeles

December 14, 2008 4:12 AM

Nick, I understand your dilemma and will be sad to see the long format go. If you have to evolve out of that format, one thought might be to consider a hybrid beat publisher approach with link & idea gathering, and some analysis of those recommendations, with suggestion of future issues to be aware of and trends.

This is something TrendWatching does with their monthly reports, which are largely based on the recommendations made by their trendspotting crew. There is a business model there because they also provide premium reports and some incentives to trend spotters.

This would radically change the shape of DW, so it would be hard to shift focus—really it’s starting an entirely new site. So I hesitate to suggest that this is the right direction, but it might certainly be one worth considering.

I for one find the Trendwatching-style long format and analysis very valuable, but it might appeal to a certain type of user. One thing it does, however, is allow you to keep the subject area scope broad. Another thing is that it simultaneously continues to keep you magazine like (because we’re talking potentially longer format and because of the serial nature), while adding user contribution (via the beat publisher idea).

Just a thought. And thank you and all your writers for the 10 years so far!

Andrew Woods

December 16, 2008 12:24 PM

I like the current writing style and think that shouldn’t change. I do think adding some future focused articles would be good. It’s good to be aware of this things coming down the pipe, and how we might implement them. I like the breadth of Digital Web articles. The web is a big place with a lot of facets, and i think this publication is a reflection of that.

I have a couple of suggestions. One, is to make each article available in an audio format. That way people can consume it article content more easily while on the go. This will help the readers who are too busy to sit and read the longer articles. Two, there are those of us who have article ideas, and some raw material, but are not strong in writing. So to have a way to donate this material to someone who could synthesize it into an article would be good. Hope that helps.

Jeff

December 17, 2008 1:47 AM

Well, we do like your web magazine. But we would also suggest to keep the articles a little bit shorter. The writinge style is extremely good and shouldn´t be changed.

Good luck for the future!

Nick Finck

December 18, 2008 12:19 AM

Thanks for everyone’s feedback. I think we have a pretty good idea about what the readership thinks we should do now. It’s good to see that the feedback here is in agreement to what the staff is suggesting and what I felt were the best possible solutions.

If your coming to this article late, no worries, post a comment I will keep checking it. For now I just want to let the readers know I will be working with the staff to structure the next steps.

You will probably see another article from me in 2009 about the direction we will take and then shortly after that I am hoping we can do some modifications to the IA I did and the design Jeff did so that it will work with the new approach. Hopefully we’ll have something to show in Spring of 2009 or maybe sooner depending on how fast things go and how much needs to change with the new design.

That is all for now. Feel free to email if you have questions. The staff is on Winter hiatus but I will still be hear reading my email.

fengui

December 18, 2008 1:16 AM

you guys have contributed so much to the web. your contributions are felt across the globe. please continue in a refreshing but similar way. your direction is constantly being steered by comments and feedback. your efforts are appreciated and digital-web.com has earned it’s place amongst the more useful URL’s. WELL DONE!!!

Andrew Nelson

December 20, 2008 8:52 AM

I personally have only been reading your articles for 6 months and have them really useful. Don’t forget us people at the bottom. Don’t take your older content offline.

andy

jpcyr

December 23, 2008 6:26 AM

First congratulation to your 500th article, only few can claim having accomplished such a thing.

I recognized myself in the actual reader you have been describing. I don’t take the time to read complete and full article other than in actual magazine while I commute. Online, I read small piece of information here and there and I’m more interested in what will come next. You have very interested articles, but I generally save them for later, thinking I will spend some time reading them later on. I saved them as reference, but I don’t consume them as I used to be (2-3 years ago). So in the end I don’t spend allot of time reading the full article and participating in comments. As you have said, time have change and the way we consume our information is now different.

Way(s) to adapt. You said it, all your proposed solutions are not exclusive. After red them all, I concluded that you should try to applied them all: get associated, divided your content as key subjects in niches in small bites of information (blogs) with always a touch of where this information is leading us or may mean in a near future (take example on ReadWriteWeb who generally concluded the majority of his posts/analysis asking the question Will “the subject” is the Future of the Web? and partially answering it).

Time to time, write article/analysis and refer to them in your posts. The best example of a magazine that adapt itself that I may think of is Wired. I follow them as a print magazine and also online in ways that are completely different. For all their niches/subject they have a blog for it and this is what I’m following online and sometime I take the time to read articles they refer to after having read the comments of other users. The community around the blog becomes the stimuli to know more.

The long lasting magazines or business are the ones who never stop exploring other solutions and who has no fear of trying (even if it means loosing a bit of what they were at the beginning). Digital Web Magazine is part of them and I wish long life to it and welcome the changes you are proposing.

- JiPé 6ixpassions.com

alex

December 29, 2008 11:24 PM

If you want my opinion on direction I would go shorter. Looking at your competition, many of their posts are just too long to wade through. I just don’t have the time. I would maintain your high quality but go for shorter snappy content that I can digest and apply in the few minutes I have waiting for the next call or before starting the next design.
http://www.cyberdesignz.com/

Matt Beck

December 30, 2008 1:22 PM

Nick, Tiff, Et al,

First off…whoa, that’s a lot of spam comments (get some filtering on those bad boys!)

Now then, about Digital Web.

I really understand the problem you (and others)are having. Of the options you have presented, I think that developing beat style reporting teams is probably the way to go.

I wouldn’t give up on your existing content model just yet though.

Keep those long features, but spread them out and add shorter form beat reporting and possibly some regular columnists in the gaps.

Nick Finck

December 31, 2008 5:30 PM

Sorry all, I gotta close the comments on this article due to excessive spam from asshats. If you still want to leave feedback you can by emailing me or finding me on twitter, etc. Sorry again.

Sorry, comments are closed.

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