Masthead CMC Magazine / May 1, 1996

Lessons Learned From Becoming a Self-Publisher on the Web

by David Strom

After writing and editing print publications, I threw caution to the winds last fall and put up my own Web site, David Strom's Web Informant. I'm glad I did and have learned a few lessons along the way that I'd like to share with you.

  1. --Print still matters: it has the vast majority of advertising and is where the attention in our industry still lies.

  2. You may think otherwise, but the best way to get the word out about your site is for others to provide links on their Web sites back to yours, what I call inbound links.

  3. It is a good idea to review your access logs regularly to determine frequently-accessed pages, broken links, who is visiting, and when you have your peak periods. These logs are your best sources for measurements of success.

  4. Community counts. If you are going to start a successful Web publishing venture, make sure you have a good idea whom your community is. This includes reader/viewers, information sources, and people and mechanisms for moving information around (other than yourself, that is.)

  5. Just like running a "real" print magazine, you need to develop a production system and stick to it, and resist any temptations to fiddle with it.

  6. Don't get too enamored with the graphical look and feel of your publication: many reader/viewers will never see these efforts and they ultimately don't matter as much as you think.

  7. The best Web publications make use of email as an effective marketing tool for the Web content, notifying reader/viewers when something is new on a regular basis.

Overall, am I glad I am in the Web-publishing business? Yes, most definitely: it has given me a greater feel for my community, it has helped increase my understanding of the technologies involved, and I have had a great deal of fun over the past seven or so months. My site continues to attract an increasing number of visits (but whether they are real reader/viewers or just search engine robots scanning the pages is tough for me to tell). And, I am pleased by my new online interaction and involvement with my particular community of computer trade press editors and public relations, marketing and executive staff from the computer vendors.

Has it been easy? Nope: Web technologies are changing so fast sometimes you can't keep up no matter how hard you try. Setting up a Web publication will take more time and energy than you've planned, and keeping it fresh and alive is almost a daily responsibility. You need lots of skills: programming, publishing, library science, graphic design, and on top of this a good dose of understanding the nature and structure and culture of the Internet helps too. And a sense of humor and a thick skin come in handy from time to time. [TOC]

David Strom ( has over ten years' publishing and editing experience, including being the founding editor-in-chief of CMP's Network Computing magazine and writing hundreds of articles on networking and communications topics for many computer trade magazines. David Strom's Web Informant is a Web site and regular series of essays on high-technology marketing and Internet-related issues.

Copyright © 1996 by David Strom. All Rights Reserved.

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