Notes for “New Publishing and Web Content”

Moderator: Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of Happy Cog

Panel: Paul Ford, editor @ Harper’s; Lisa Holton, 4th Story Media; Mandy Brown, Creative Director @ Etsy; Erin Kissane, independent editor of web content (A List Apart, Happy Cog)

Abstract: In this panel we’ll explore the creative, strategic, and marketing challenges of traditional and new (internet hybrid) book publishing and online magazine publishing, and how these fields intersect with content strategy and client services.


  • Which will die first, newspapers or Flash?
    • Ford – the same a lot of ways, complicated to get started and all normally funded by advertising – says Flash
    • Brown – Flash; the industry is changing in many ways; one corner is changing quickly and the other is changing very slowly; NYT still makes money off print and will keep doing it for a while
    • Kissane – there are other ways to make things move around than Flash – the content is important and Flash is ephemeral
    • Zeldman – trick question as neither one will go away, but Flash is going to become less important as a platform
  • Given that newspapers and books seem to be in trouble, is this a good time to start a publishing company?
    • Brown – an industry transition is a good time to jump in, so yes – people will be trying new things and that’s exciting
    • Holton – started a new company a while back to marry books with digital media, but a good time because (1) small companies can react to the market, (2) people don’t provide just services anymore, now they teach as well
    • Ford – terrible time to try and shoehorn existing content models into the web (that day is over); really interesting time to leverage the extraordinary ecosystem of what’s out there
  • What’s the web good for as a platform?
    • Ford – not so much a publishing platform, but as a customer service platform – talking to people, giving them what they need, helping them understand what they need, and reaching them in that way – how do I serve and interact with people and give them value for their money?
    • Brown – this is like a return to the independent bookstore – a human connection, conversation, and personal recommendations
  • Zeldman – when publishing traditional books, you’re also providing a unique experience and interaction through the web
    • Holton – “The Amanda Project” as an example – users make a game out of it and create a story as a collaborative experience – weekly publishing of a really good idea to extend the narrative; give the users props for the ideas that you use; two forms of the craft of publishing: editing for print and writing/editing on the web; more specific prompts give you better results
    • Kissane – some of the web participant ideas and such make it into print books – print book schedule is so long, but publishing online happens once per week – provides better engagement for the reader; a sequel takes 1.5 years to bring out, and the readers are 1.5 years older!
  • Zeldman – people who are Tweeting *as* characters from shows (Mad Men) as a social zeitgeist – these are unrelated people who create these things and enhance the experience for those who are watching; we know our users are going to do these things anyway, so why not bring those people in to help the project succeed?
  • Who owns the book in new publishing?
    • Brown – example of Amazon and the 1984 issue – when you buy an ebook, it is likely not going to last as long as a paper book because you really don’t own it, you instead pay for access for a time, but you are gaining the ability to access things you might not normally be able to access
    • Zeldman – it’s also DRM that messes up this relationship
    • Kissane – one of the great things about right now is that you can have both; search and discovery is easier with electronic forms of publishing (Google Books)
    • Zeldman – libraries have been doing this for a while, especially because older documents and manuscripts are damaged every time they are handled and with electronic media you remove that limitation (and limitations of space/geography)
    • Ford – How would this device work after the apocalypse? – there were no Kindles in “The Road” – there is a sense with permanence with paper; so many problems with licensing and ownership now
    • Brown – eBooks are currently by-products of print publishing
    • Holton – different kinds of publishing will be prevalent in different publishing methods
  • Zeldman – does the format affect what we buy?
    • Ford – publishers have an opportunity to play around and figure stuff out – don’t outsource this stuff
    • Brown – a lack of curiosity on the part of a lot of publishers – don’t want to engage, don’t want to learn new things
    • Holton – sympathetic towards big publishers
    • Brown – in a model of expensive distribution, it makes sense to have broad product range and try to reach broad customers
  • Zeldman – the problem for traditional publishing is the loss of control, but we still need editors
    • Kissane – in web content, we have much to learn from traditional publishing, especially long-term planning and content plans
    • Ford – this is a good time to broader the editorial tent
  • Audience questions – I have no notes because I asked one :)

2 comments on “Notes for “New Publishing and Web Content”

Comment navigation

Comments are closed.