Time To Change
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Published on December 11, 2008
As 2008 comes to a close and Digital Web Magazine enters its annual winter hiatus, I’ve been taking a look at where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished, and where we’re going.
Where We’ve Been
I started this website in May of 1996. After running it as a personal site with my own web-related resources for three years, I asked readers who found my work helpful what they thought it could become. The response was precise and clear: An online publication of tutorials and articles about the web industry. So, in 1999, we published our first issue of what came to be known as Digital Web Magazine.
From the outset, we set rigid guidelines to determine the length, quality, frequency, and tone of every article we published. We also committed to a level of attention each article would get in editorial review and copy editing. We set the editorial bar high—we’ve been able to maintain that bar for a long time, thanks to many volunteer web professionals.
The statistics speak for themselves. We have published 499 articles to date; you are reading the 500th one. We owe this accomplishment to the 191 contributing authors and 290 volunteers that helped create the artwork, edit the content, design the site, build the pages, and publish each issue.
Thanks to our authors and volunteers, we’ve built one of the most well-oiled publications in the industry and have been able to do it first on a monthly then weekly basis for the past ten years. We overcame several hurdles along the way but rarely did we skip an issue. I owe a great deal of respect and gratitude to all of the staff, past and present, for making this happen.
Now, nearly ten years later, I happily look back at the paths we’ve taken and people we’ve helped. And then I look at where we are today—what is in flux; what now seems dated; what are the newest approaches. I look at both the past and present and I wonder, in the words of Merlin Mann, if we could do better. Which leads me to where we are going.
Where We’re Going
The landscape of web writing has changed. The value of well-edited and reviewed content is giving way to faster, less-refined posts on blogs, comments and services like Twitter. It is clear from the dwindling number of article pitches that many prefer to draw traffic to their own sites. The previous value of writing for a community publication like Digital Web has declined…and there is nothing wrong with that. Writing a piece that meets our guidelines is time-consuming for busy web professionals who already produce great content on their own blogs.
I also see ‘generalized’ content giving way to more specialized focus. Because of this, we think that Digital Web Magazine is no longer the right model for today’s web community. We’re ready to adapt.
The staff and I here at Digital Web Magazine brainstormed some of the things we could do, and do better. I’d like to share the ideas we came up with. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive; we could pursue multiple ideas at once, depending on what our readership wants to see:
- An Association Partnership. Several of our sister publications partnered with the primary association related to their editorial focus. These publications maintain readership and contributors needed for long-term growth and are seen as a thought leader within that community. We could partner with just such an association.
- ’Beat’ Style Publishing. Much like the old news reporting style, this focus could be closer to frequently covering a specific topic—a lot like a blog, but with a bit more substance than a typical spur-of-the-moment blog post. Readers could subscribe to the topic that is of interest to them to keep up to date on news, articles, and information in a narrow focus. ‘Beat’ reporting works best with a trusted expert acting as a filter, so we would seek out serious experts to help curate topics.
- Going Niche. Digital Web Magazine covers a wide range of topics, but because we are so general, the community often sees us as publication without focus. To better match potential contributors to our readers, Digital Web could ‘go niche’ and focus on a specific topic (or several topics) really well.
- Future Focused. Finally, we could focus on what is to come, rather than what is already here. By this we mean looking at areas of innovation, not generalized theory or how-to with current technologies. Topics could include newer interfaces and technical adaptations of the web platform in a beta, alpha, or even early prototype phase. It would give our readers a likely map for what’s coming down the road.
What do YOU think?
We’ve come up with some solid ideas, but I want to know what you, our readers, think we should do. Just as in 1999, we want your opinion on Digital Web’s future.
So, a question: How do you want Digital Web Magazine to be helpful to you in the future?
We respect your input and would love to hear what you think. Thank you all for ten great years.
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Nick Finck is a 13-year veteran of the web and considered a web craftsman by trade. His skills traverse web design, web development, user research, web analysis, information architecture, and web publishing. Nick founded his first web consultancy in 1994 in Portland, Oregon, and has since created web experiences for various Fortune 50 and 500 companies including Adobe, Boeing, Blue Cross / Blue Shield, Cisco, CitiGroup, FDIC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, PBS, Peet’s Coffee, and others. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington and is a co-founder of Blue Flavor, a web strategy company that focuses on people-centric solutions. More information about Nick can be found on his web site, NickFinck.com.