Valley Business FRONT Post – Going Online with the FRONT

From Dan Smith, Editor, Valley Business FRONT:

Dan Smith, Editor, Valley Business FRONT About halfway through my recent explanation to a prominent business leader that, yes, we hope to eventually become an online only magazine at Valley Business FRONT, she stopped me in mid-sentence.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Please don’t do that. I just love the size and the feel of this magazine and you can’t get that online.”

Well, no, you can’t. But people are already reading FRONT online 10 days to two weeks ahead of the day it arrives in their mailboxes. They’re printing the pages they want to preserve and have confidence that the others will be there in the archive when they want them. They like that little page-turning feature (complete with sound effects that somebody compared to opening potato chips in a darkened theater). And, frankly, every day more of us are turning from paper to electronic impulse for our reading material. I no longer read a hold-it-in-my-hands newspaper, for example, and that doesn’t have anything to do with me being part of the digital generation. I’m 62 years old and when I began as a journalist in 1964, type was made of lead (and men of iron).

The trend, obviously, is toward the Internet and don’t give me the baloney about not being able to clip out articles–the one used when a story was on TV. Reading habits have changed more dramatically in the past few years, I suspect, than in the previous 200. I am of the opinion that Americans in general are reading more, albeit in smaller individual portions.

We determined when we kicked off FRONT that 500 words was a goodly length for the normal story and that 700 words was fine for a more complex piece. It takes a disciplined writer to accomplish that. Covers can run to 1,000, but that’s the exception in a magazine with 40 or more articles per month.

I just finished a story on a woman retiring after running a candy store on Roanoke City Market for 23 years that ran 400 words, has a good photo and will be read. If that story had come in at 1,000 words -which would have been easy to write – it would have looked intimidating, would have continued on one or two more pages, and would have lost substantial readership. Now, it’ll contain on a single page and will invite readers in.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the online version has a number of benefits for the reader (feel not being one of them), but it has several  substantial and lasting benefits for the owners. First, we won’t have to kill any trees to print it, and our ink use will not pollute any waterways. Both my partner Tom Field and I are sensitive to environmental issues and this is one way we can actively support a cleaner environment. Second, we won’t have to pay for printing. And third, the Post Office will no longer hold us hostage and charge us outrageously (nearly 50 cents per magazine, if we do all the work) to mail FRONT. Mail takes days to complete delivery and the Internet takes no time at all. Our two major expenses right now are printing and mailing. If we can reel that in, we can pay writers more, market our product better, contribute more to our community.

That’s the trade: look and feel swapped for practical solutions and a changing world of reading.

When can we accomplish this major change for a magazine that’s going into only its third month of publishing? That’s a decision readers will make in a democratic fashion, one that is market-driven.

When we have as many unique visits to our Web site as we have subscribers, we can begin re-tooling. So hang on for the ride and cast your vote with your actions.

The Valley Business FRONT Post is written by Dan Smith, Editor, Valley Business FRONT, a monthly business magazine featuring the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley of Virginia.  Dan Smith writes the blog fromtheeditr.

Dan Smith's e-mail signature quotes Kingsley Amis:  "If you can't annoy somebody, why write?'

The opinions Dan Smith expresses are solely his own and are not necessarily shared by Handshake 2.0.

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