My Recipe for an Online Editorial Infrastructure

Another good buddy just became the editor-in-chief of a regional business magazine. He called me up for an hour of consulting on his online operation. The magazine already has a web presence — sort of the standard web 1.0 website. He wants it to do more things for more people.

Here’s what I told him.

  • Identify a good local ISP. Not a global ISP, not a National ISP, but a local ISP where you can look someone in the eye. The kind of place where you get the home number of the head of operations in case the site goes 404.
  • Build out on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)
  • Hire a strong LAMP sysadmin with some AJAX chops.
  • Hire a graphics person with strong Adobe chops and some strong Cascading Style Sheet knowledge
  • Install WordPressMU — as the base content management system
  • Install vBulletin — for reader forums and moderated discussion threads
  • Install PhpAdsNew — to serve ads from local advertisers
  • Open a Flickr Pro account — this is the publication’s photo library
  • Open a Technorati account — this is for ranking
  • Open a Feedburner account — to launder the RSS feeds and manage subscriptions
  • Open a account — for tagging and submitted tags by readers
  • Open a YouTube account — for hosting videos produced by the staff
  • Open a Google Analytics account — metrics metrics metrics
  • Open a Google AdSense account — $$$$$
  • Give the staff digital cameras, and portable MP3 recorders. I prefer iRivers. Buy a decent digital video camera and a tripod.
  • Convert the old magazine archives and populate pages hanging off the page interface in wordpress.
  • Never force a registration on the users.

Total price? Aside from the salaries and capture equipment: ZERO
Develop a CSS template that maps to the brand. Figure out a “homepage” play. Give every staffer a blog. Don’t set any submission minimums or parameters. Over time, offer blogs to strong voices in the readership and expert community. Run it for 90 days and compile a baseline for traffic. Then develop a rate card. Price it low to get local advertisers aboard.

Resist all advice to buy a professional CMS, a professional metrics system, and for heavens sake avoid a page view model. Measure success by engagement, not click-throughs.

That’s what I would do.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “My Recipe for an Online Editorial Infrastructure”

  1. Make that three great posts from an Internet pioneer that all in new media should read. You are right.

  2. And stick a sharpened object through the ear of any organizational scum sucking tard that urges the company to hire he and his two good buddies to build out the site for a paltry $500K.


  3. juan, you are hilarious in the existentialism of your always amusing responses. you should google the cover to an album called “electriclarryland.”


  4. Juan,
    Tell me our friend doesn’t have a $500K rebuild proposal on the table in front of him. Tell him that is a lot of great writers and content. CMS’s don’t get traffic on their own.

  5. Hola David,
    He printed out dozens of copies of your proposal and left them on the desks of every staff member to illicit their involvement and to help build team consensus. The big bucks offetr is being pushed by a subordinate sho wants to reinvent the wheel and do some nest feathering of his own.
    Getting writers is a problem. He can’t pay enough and he has to find the time to bring young nestlings into the fold from local colleges or the MCClatchy papers.
    Vamos ahora, ese,
    Juan from the Ashram

  6. An outstanding saga about journalism; a Subject I know nothing about. I do have a couple of questions, though.

    When you talk about the old school (print) vs the new school (web) (I know it’s on another post), do you think the essence of journalism has changed? or is it just the way news are delivered that has changed? to put it in other words, do you think that the increasing importance on web publishing is changing the way news are conceived and written?

    The second question is relevant to this post (finally!!). Have you ever tried SPIP ( I’ve found out its a great News Publishing CMS, very flexible and customizable, with a learning curve somewhat steeper than that of WordPress, but able to manage sections, news, feeds and even blogs in a wonderful way. Only thing is, most of the documentation is in French, Merci!

  7. Esteban:
    yes, web journalism is more ephemeral and levelling — differentiation between print products are obvious due to the packaging and frequency — that’s lost online where users become scanners versus readers and long form essays (New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly) are less “usable” than short form blurbs such as blog posts to wire stories (Reuters, Bloomberg). The medium is definitely affecting the message.

    I have not tried SPIP but will check it out. There are tons of open sourced CMSs — I have experience with Drupal — but the more I get sucked into the WordPress environment the more convinced I am of its CMS capabilities.

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