What Makes Online Publications Super Successful

Editorially’s online publication launched a day or two ago. It’s made by people I pay attention to. I admire them because they’re so good at the things they do.

I’m in the middle of designing a big, exciting, new thing for us at Fizzle so I was extremely curious: what decisions did these people make about their online publishing thing?

  • what’s the reading experience like?
  • what bits about the author, pub date, twitter, comments, etc, do they show?
  • is there a sidebar? What’s in it?
  • what funky things do they do to show the reader “this isn’t some stock WP theme?”
  • of course they’ll have interesting people from that scene of theirs, Craig Mod is a good example.
  • of course there’ll be an editorial angle (it’s called “Editorially” fuggryanoutloud).
  • will it feel like they’re trying to ooze out between the html5 asides, “hey! this is big boy stuff, like the New Yorker, we promise, it totally is.”

Here’s what struck me: it’s fine. The design is the design. It’s fine. And this thing will survive not on the quality of the design or the decisions about the sidebar.

It will survive or not — for me, the individual reader — based on the ongoing relationship I have with what they publish. The “content.”

They probably call this the editorial voice… cuz they’re smart. I look up to them for words and ideas like this.

  • big ol’ background images on articles? Cool. didn’t really care for the article.
  • artsy illustrations that feel made and human and tangible. That’s interesting. And that one, about half way through the article, I was already glad I read it.
  • drop caps… good looking. Different colors, though? Hmmmm.

Investigating this site, the decisions of these lovely and smart people, makes me realize how much I already know about online publishing.

  • stewarding an audience.
  • caring or not caring about the audience.
  • serving them or being cool at them.
  • putting loads of work into a piece that’s immediately forgotten by the web.
  • putting loads of work into a piece that’s immediately forgotten by myself as I rush into the next piece.
  • work, numbers, eventual questions about “wait, why are we doing this again?”
  • revenue questions, ideas, strategies, and results

As people building our thing online it’s easy to get wrapped up in the skin of stuff. “Oh damn, i have got to figure out how to do that big ol’ background header thing. So cool.” But that skin is only valuable as a conduit for the guts. We don’t stay friends with superficial and beautiful people from high school if they stay superficial (unless we’re horny). They’re pretty, which is nice, but they don’t get MST3K, they don’t like to play cards, I don’t feel connected to them. And life is too short for that kind of disconnection.

Wishing the team at Editorially all the best. I hope they connect super hard.

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