Brain Swell Media spends a great deal of time re-designing Web sites. You will note that I said RE-designing, meaning, the business has a Web site and we are fixing it or starting over from scratch. From these ventures have emerged a constant theme that might surprise you; assumptions driven by internal arrogance.
I hear on a weekly basis how a publisher has great content online but no Web traffic. Most editorial teams and publishers assume they know what the readers want online and design their sites based on these assumptions. As an outsider I often sit across the table and see the sharp stares like daggers from editors when I question their assumptions about their readers. When designing a Web site, this arrogance will often yield less than desirable results. Rupert Murdoch recently spoke about this very point when he said, “There is an arrogance that comes from pre-Web years of being the god of the written word. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product.*”
I often advise clients that when you assume you loose! When you let your assumptions drive your site design you often get a reincarnation of the magazine online with extra content. While this seems a solid approach, it is the reason that Brain Swell Media is acquiring clients at such a fast rate. Magazines are not using the power of the internet and they are not seeing success online because readers are finding other sources that offer what they “really” want online.
Categorically users want more from the Web than what can be found in the magazine. This takes planning, resources and commitment to the cause. A very important part of the planning process is to take the time to ask readers or users what they want from your Web site. There is no one better to ask this question to the reader than the editorial team. I always advise that a reader advisory board be formed and maintained. So, where to begin?
• Run an ad in your magazine or ask for volunteers via the editorial column.
• Assemble a list of 20 readers that are willing to serve as your online advisory board.
• Reward them with a t-shirt or a free subscription.
• Create a simple e-mail and begin by asking this one question to the group. If we could offer one thing on our Web site what would you like to see?
• Use this information to begin to form your offerings online.
• Use an online forum to ask questions of your readers and let them debate amongst themselves a bit too.
Do not assume that you know what your readers want online. Ask. Do not let your editorial team determine what is needed online without asking the readers. When you offer what someone “really” wants, you will soon see quick rewards online.
This is just one step in an exhaustive list of items that must be accomplished to have a successful Web site. Again, assume and you will loose online.
Need some help with your online strategy? Want to make money from your Web site? Contact Ryan Dohrn and the Brain Swell Media team today. firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-634-3886.
http://www.RyanDohrn.com or http://www.BrainSwellMedia.com