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Issue for July 2010

Sharing Content Between Print and Web

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Some tips for formatting content in print and online.

By Lynn Riley

In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever to make the most of your budget. One cost-effective way to stretch your budget is to make content do double duty by offering it in both print and electronic formats. Successfully converting print copy to electronic depends on making the right choices. Here are some tips to guide you.

The goals of both print and the Web are the same: to present content to your audience effectively. To achieve that goal, both formats require a clean layout. But that’s where the similarities end. The available space to create your design and layout differs for print and Web.

With print, you have a finite, predetermined size and shape for presenting the content -- an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, for example. Everyone who sees the print format will see the same thing. Web-based products are more challenging. Readers are using different computers, browsers, and monitors. The publication has to look good on all of them.

Creating a Digital Edition from Print

If a print publication is your starting point, you won’t need to alter your images for the digital version. But if you’re starting with a standard-resolution PDF for the Web, and want to take it to print, it’s not so easy. You will need to obtain the original, high-resolution images from your source -- whether that’s stock photography, your archives, or elsewhere. An image can be downsized from 300 dpi to 72 dpi, but not vice-versa. Color is another issue. A computer monitor displays color in RGB, so if you’re starting with an electronic version and converting to print, all colors will need to be converted to CMYK for printing.

One of the most common digital formats is the flip page book model. Others include e-books (good for mobile media), HTML viewers (which can only be viewed on a website), and PDFs (which can be printed out or read on a computer monitor). The digital provider typically uses your press-ready PDF files (the same ones sent to your printer). There’s no extra work on the designer’s part to prepare these files. When working with the digital provider, however, the editor may instruct the provider to hotlink certain images or boxes of information.

A Word about Digital Providers

Very few organizations have the specialized in-house resources necessary for digital publishing. The vast majority of it is outsourced, most often to a specialized digital provider. Your printer may also offer these services. When you outsource this job, seek a provider with industry experience who can make your job easier. Ideally, your digital provider will be a good communicator and become a trusted partner. Keep your publication staff in the loop as well, as they may have valuable input into the final product. Make sure the provider can accommodate your schedule. In most cases, you’ll want your digital edition to drop well before the print version.

The Successful Downloadable PDF

Many publishers choose the easiest option, a printer-friendly PDF version of the publication available on their website. Here’s what you need to know to ensure a quality PDF. For graphics, decrease the size of each image to 72 dpi, or “save/optimize for Web” in Photoshop. Higher resolution won’t make it look any better, but it will create larger files with longer download times.

If your graphic consists primarily of line or flat colors without gradients, such as logos and line drawings, use a GIF format. JPEG graphics are best for photographs or images with fine tonal variations. Choosing the right file format is not only important for the quality, but also for keeping the image's file size to a minimum.

The two images below are best in GIF format:

These two images are best in JPEG format:

Save your pages in standard resolution mode. This will create a document that is much smaller than its high-resolution counterpart. Adobe Acrobat will automatically make hyperlinks out of all of the email and Web addresses. It’s a good idea to make your links stand out with color so the reader knows they are active.

Choosing a Font

The best typefaces for the Web are different from those for print. If you know ahead of time that your publication is going to be in PDF, then choose typefaces that display well on the Web.

Sans-serif typefaces for Web applications:


Serif typefaces for Web applications:

ITC Charter

Other fonts, like Minion or Helvetica, are either too small and delicate or too thick and chunky to read easily on a computer screen. Keep in mind, too, that while the fonts listed above work well on the Web, they may look awkward or amateur if used in printed versions.

The best fonts are specific to either print or Web. In most cases, you should create two versions to better serve your readers -- one print and one PDF. For the Web PDF version, choose from the Web-friendly fonts listed above. For print, use a typeface from your association’s branding guidelines or go with your designer’s recommendation.

Design Software Recommendations

For the first 15 years of my career, I used Quark. Then, in 2005, I switched to InDesign. I never looked back. InDesign interfaces beautifully with two other popular design software programs, Photoshop and Illustrator. The ease with which you can copy and paste graphic elements between the Adobe family of products is a dream.

The process for creating PDFs from InDesign files is simple. Ask your printer or digital provider for a script to automate this process. These days, InDesign is more prevalent among designers and is fast becoming the industry standard.

Remember This...

In summary, here’s what you need to keep in mind: High-resolution graphics are needed for print, but electronic applications should use lower-resolution images. The best fonts for print publications don’t usually work well on the Web, and vice-versa. Using the right software and finding the right digital provider can make the job much easier.

Lynn Riley, of Lynn Riley Design, specializes in design for association publications. Visit the firm's website at www.LynnRileyDesign.com or email her directly at lynn [at] lynnrileydesign [dot] com.

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Posted in Design (RSS), Technical (RSS)

Classic and Contemporary

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Two books that equal a complete guide to better copy.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Let this serve as a re-introduction to a classic and an invitation to become familiar with a flamboyant, worthy-of-your-attention contemporaneous response.

The classic: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White (4th edition, Longman).

The response: Spunk & Bite, A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style, by Arthur Plotnik (Random House).

A Complete Guide

Separately, each provides a multitude of useful hints to make you stronger, as writers and editors. Together, they're as complete a guide to better copy as you're likely to find. And, in totality, they're really not contradictory, despite Plotnik's stance that Elements is "geriatric." He may argue with one or another of the rules that dominate Strunk and White's short and informative handbook, but he also validates them by using his predecessors' wisdoms as a springboard for his own musings. He simply begs for the addition of "ambience" in the use of language, as supplement to "correctness," which he judges is the principal lesson imparted in Elements.


Plotnik also points out that Strunk, White's English teacher at Cornell, determined that "the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however," he continued, "the readers will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation." And White would later admit, this years after he added his thoughts to the Strunk original (a compressive text that he used to hand out to his students): "I felt uneasy at posing as an expert on rhetoric, when the truth is I write by ear, always with difficulty and seldom with any exact notion of what is taking place under the hood."

Read the Classic Again

You would do yourself good as writer or editor by reading or re-reading The Elements of Style. You will remind yourself to "omit needless words;" to aim for "definite, specific, concrete language;" to "avoid a succession of loose sentences;" to "choose a suitable design and hold to it;" to "write in a way that comes naturally;" to "write with nouns and verbs;" to not "explain too much;" to "make sure the reader knows who is speaking;" to "be clear," and to "not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity."

By sifting through the pages, you will come upon this passage, as part of White's summation: "Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, 'Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.'

This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. If you write, you must believe -- in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing."

Locution, Freshness, Diction

Plotnik's emphasis is on "locution" ("a particular mode of speech -- the use of a word, the turning of a phrase in some stylistic manner"). It is on "freshness" ("Readers love surprise. They love it when a sentence heads one way and jerks another. They love the boing of a jack-in-the-box word. They adore images that trot by like a unicorn in pajamas."). He addresses diction (for writers "always purposeful, always a costume donned for one effect or another"). He spends a chapter on the thesaurus, how to find a good one, how to use it (and not use it).

Attribution gets a chapter, too, focused sharply on attribution and the verb "said." Plotnik counsels flexibility: yes, "said" is probably the most useful way to attach a quote or piece of dialogue to its speaker, but he is accepting of other verbs, depending on situation and appropriateness.

Leads and Closings

He gets around to leads ("'I promise that something will stimulate you if you continue reading.' Do your opening sentences make that promise? Do they wow to scratch the reader's eternal itch for sensation?"). And to closings, too, he gets (he urges a "three-point landing").

Punctuation and Grammar

Like Strunk and White, Plotnik deals with matters of punctuation and grammar: hyphens, semicolons, sentence fragments, and the shape of sentences ("Like the protagonist of a moral tale, a sentence sets out in earnest pursuit of truth and beauty. But soon it finds itself set upon by corruptive elements, which must be vanquished before the glorious end punctuation is attained.").

Two Books That Complement Each Other

Plotnik strays occasionally into the hyperbolic, but Spunk & Bite in execution matches the book's title. It complements The Elements of Style, even when in contradiction. I'd therefore recommend the combination for acquaintance and re-acquaintance.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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Posted in Books (RSS), Editing (RSS), Grammar (RSS), Writing (RSS)

Fog Index

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Assessing the readability of a PC World excerpt.

This month, we assess the readability of an article from PC World, posted on July 14, 2010 ("Consumer Reports Blasts Apple Over iPhone 4 -- Again," by Ian Paul):

"It's unclear whether Apple will need to do more to ally [sic] concerns and stop the blowback against the company over the antenna issue. The company hasn't issued any public statements since announcing the impending iPhone 4 software fix to change the signal reception display, and there is some debate about whether the fix will truly solve the problem. 'It remains to be seen if fixing metering inaccuracies will address the problem of dropped calls,' Consumer Reports said in its recent blog post."

--Word count: 83
--Average sentence length: 28 words (24, 35, 24)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 10 percent (8/83 words)
--Fog Index: (28+10) x .4 = 15 (no rounding)

Notice the spelling error in the first sentence -- likely a simple typo, but worth a mention. We published an article in March that, in part, explores online editing standards. Nearly half of the publications surveyed for a Columbia Journalism Review study were laxer about copyediting online. Perhaps this error supports the CJR data.

In the PC World passage, the clear culprit is sentence length. This is a tough passage to fix, as the last sentence contains quoted material and attribution. So how can we work around this and improve the Fog score?

"Will Apple need to do more to allay concerns and stop the backlash over the antenna issue? It's unclear. The company hasn't issued any public statements since announcing the iPhone 4 software fix to change the signal reception display. There is some debate about whether the fix will truly solve the problem. 'It remains to be seen if fixing metering inaccuracies will address the problem of dropped calls,' Consumer Reports said in its recent blog post."

--Word count: 76
--Average sentence length: 15 (17, 2, 20, 14, 24)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 8 percent (6/76 words)
--Fog Index: (15+8) x .4 = 9 (no rounding)

Reducing our Fog score by six points was, in this case, a simple matter of splitting up longer sentences. We also did some minor trimming to bring down the word count.

It can be a challenge to replace longer words in a tech article like this, especially when quoted matter is involved. Sometimes, there is no substitute for a longer word, especially when using industry lingo. When that happens, check your sentence length and word count. Make cuts where you can. Divide sentences when possible. Your readers will thank you for it.

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Posted in Editing (RSS), Grammar (RSS)

Editorial Repositioning and Redesign Gone Awry

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Mistakes in the process caused Newsweek to plunge itself into failure.

By William Dunkerley

When a publication repositions and redesigns, you'd expect its fortunes to change for the better, right? But, that's not what happened at Newsweek. After a much-ballyhooed process of "reinventing" itself, things came to a screeching halt this past May when parent company Washington Post Company announced, "We do not see a path to continuing profitability under our management." Since then, the newsweekly has been up for sale.

What Went Wrong?

We don't know any of the inside secrets about what they did. But Newsweek did talk a lot about their repositioning and redesign. Based on those utterances, there are a number of things they seem to have done wrong.

First, it is important to understand why they were repositioning editorially. It wasn't that they wanted to gain favorability with their existing readers. Indeed, they voluntarily cut their circulation, dropped their rate base from 2.6 million to a target of 1.5 million. That would allow them to cut costs, and perhaps offer advertisers better rates. On the readership side, they wanted to keep readers who are most interested in news, have higher levels of education, and are of greater affluence. Basically, that's a sound strategy. Any advertising-driven publication, if it's going to be successful, has to do a good job of amassing a readership that will be responsive to the advertisers.

But in deciding how to reinvent themselves, Newsweek says it asked its readers. They reported in Newsweek, "Some of these changes spring from what we learned from all of you during extensive market research."

Simply put, they asked the wrong audience! As editors, we're pretty accustomed to asking our readers how our magazine is doing and what else they'd like to see. But, if a magazine is out to find a different audience, it is the opinions of that audience that should matter. It seems that Newsweek should have surveyed the prospective customers of the advertisers. That's the audience they apparently wanted to attract. That's the group for whom the editorial should have been repositioned.

What Else?

What's more, Newsweek reported, "Some of [the changes] reflect our own editorial goals and financial needs." Doesn't that sound like they were making changes to please themselves? Overall, the new editorial strategy was to include more "well argued essays." Also, it would bring more from regular columnists on "some of the most pressing issues of our time." The intent of the new editorial strategy is apparently "to be provocative, but not partisan." Outside observers characterized the move as a shift to opinion journalism. Is this what Newsweek's new target audience wanted? Or, is it just what the staff wanted?

The Result?

How did the readership market respond to the new Newsweek? A plot of Newsweek website activity shows a bump up around the time of the changes. Afterwards, things settled into a steep downward trajectory.

Aside from these apparent editorial-related missteps, there were others on the business side. I described them in an article entitled "Why Newsweek Magazine Failed." It appears in the July issue of our sister publication, STRAT (www.stratnewsletter.com).

Keep in Mind...

At any publication, a redesign can be a powerful aesthetic move. But it likely will never be anything more than skin-deep when fundamental strategic problems are ignored. Repositioning a publication is sometimes the choice to tackle those deeper issues. But efficacy may elude you if the process doesn't link advertisers with responsive buyers and isn't based on sound readership research. Newsweek seems to have failed to make its intended new audience the target of its research. Indeed, staffers may have pushed their own preferences to the forefront. That's rarely a good path to marketplace success. In the end at Newsweek, what might have been a brand-reviving move for the magazine became the death knell of the magazine as we've known it.

William Dunkerley is editor of Editors Only.

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Posted in Design (RSS), Editing (RSS), Management (RSS), News (RSS)

Printing Your Editors Only Issue

Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:41 PM

Occasionally, people not familiar with Editors Only ask us whether it's a print or online publication. Our answer is that it's both. It's delivered online, but subscribers can easily print entire issues or individual articles.

When you receive the link from us each month, you will see the current issue. You can simply print that. If you print it back-to-back on your printer on 8.5 x 11 paper, it will usually use 4-5 pieces of paper.

If you see an article in the issue and would like to print just that article, click on the article title. That will bring you to a view of just that article, which you can print.

If you want to print a back issue, use the "Archives" menu on the right. Click on the desired issue month and print.

Posted in Technical (RSS)

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