Masthead CMC Magazine / May 1, 1996
 Riding the Technology Fence in Online Publishing, by Jim Brain

Similarities Between Print And Online Publications

[]December agrees with the need for a specific schedule for a publication.

Many people suggested that online publishing broke all traditional rules, so none applied. I disagree, as many facets of both traditional and online publishing are simply common rules that apply to all media. In the history of Commodore Hacking, the publisher failed to determine a publication cycle. A consistent periodic publication schedule offers the publisher many benefits. Readers perceive this schedule as a sign of stability. Also, a consistent schedule allows readers to "depend" on the magazine for timely news and information. Multi-issue article spreads are simply less effective when the readers knows not when the next installment will arrive, much less if at all. With these things in mind, I created a quarterly publication schedule that allowed ample time for article reception, editing, and media conversion.

Content plays an important role in any information source. Readers who find too little content in a source will simply not continue reading, but too much content drives readers away as well. The editor must balance these aspects of the publication. This balancing is easier said than done. In Commodore Hacking, the focus was technical, so readers expected more than the average level of complexity in articles. However, stringing article after article of technical content overwhelms even the most intelligent readers. The reader finds that he or she cannot digest the many technical issues flowing from the publication, and loses interest. Prior to issue #11, the magazine suffered from this problem.

Attaining a balance can be done one of two ways. One way involves cutting the content and introducing "fluff" to maintain a consistent size of the publication. The other calls for introduction of sufficient lighter content article content to counteract the weight of the technical content. Size and cost constraints forces many printed publications to choose the first approach, but electronic media publishers can choose either, since additional size has few disadvantages in the electronic world.

As the new editor of Commodore Hacking, I chose to implement both approaches. Many users had complained about the sheer size of issue #10, which totaled over 440 kilobytes of text. Such size is not uncommon for newer computers, but Commodore computers are severely limited in memory capacity. Also, storage requirements for such a large file pose problems, as the majority of Commodore owners still use CBM 1541 disk drives, which can hold only 170 kB of data per side of disk. Many readers suggested that the issues be made smaller and the publication schedule be shortened to deliver the same average article/time ratio. Since the average publication period was 6 months, moving to 3 months intervals and halving the size of the issue pleased many readers.

Still, the publication contained far too much technical information. As well, each issue lacked many traditional elements found in publications of similar types. The content included neither reader feedback nor any newsworthy current information. I consider these elements light in content but somewhat necessary for the overall view of a magazine. As the new editor, I created and inserted these elements between the technical articles that appeared in the issue. This allows the reader time to "digest" the technical content from one article while continuing to read the publication. Also, the inclusion of these articles widens the potential audience. The more technical reader can simply skip ove the "fluff", while the less technical reader will enjoy the lighter content and might read one or two of the more technical articles. Since the inception of the magazine, many general publications for the Commodore computer ceased publication. Many potential Commodore Hacking readers no longer have an alternate source for simple information. --They now look to Commodore Hacking for that information.

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