« November 2016 | Home | January 2017 »

Issue for December 2016

Is Your Online Publication Fast Enough?

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Download speeds are becoming more and more important.

By William Dunkerley

"In 2017 not having a fast mobile site will put you behind the curve," according to Target Marketing magazine.

Many sources are telling us that online reading is trending, and that PC reading will become increasingly passé. Are you prepared for that? Or does it present a problem?

A Remedy

One approach editors can take to greet this emerging reality is to design for mobile first. Then adapt that design for PC or tablet viewing.

Past EO articles have covered the positive attributes of using responsive Web design, and many editors have already made great strides with that approach.

Google Gives Points for Speed

The stakes for having good download speeds have increased because of Google's stance on speed.

Target Marketing reports, "Several years ago, Google began advocating for using responsive design for mobile sites. As we move into the future, responsive design will simply be table stakes for mobile search performance. With mobile-first, it is more than likely that even mobile-friendly, slower performing sites will be left in the search rankings dust."

Measuring Performance

Our research department used a site called GTmetrix.com to produce reports of download speeds at a few selected publications. The reports additionally give each website a letter grade that is based on more factors than just speed.

We found that Time magazine got an F. It takes nearly 15 seconds for its landing page to finish downloading. That can seem like an eternity for an on-the-run mobile user looking for some quick information.

Competitors Newsweek and US News fared better. Newsweek got a D, showing a download speed of 8.7 seconds. US News did even better. It downloads in just 3.1 seconds and earned the publication a C.

Huffington Post got only a D, with 11.9 seconds. Eurasia Review did better, receiving a C and a download measurement of 5.2 seconds.

General Newspapers

Newspapers can be a different story. Many have large landing pages, and that presents quite a challenge. We tested the Washington Post. It must be one heck of a long download. Its GTmetrix test repeatedly crashed, displaying an error message. It indicated that the analysis was abandoned when the page took more than 2 minutes to download.

Other newspapers outperformed the Post. The New York Times got a D for its 9.6-second performance. But the Financial Times actually pulled a B. Its landing page takes just 4.7 seconds to come in. Good for them.

No A Grades Found

We didn't find many other good grades in our anecdotal research. Market Watch also got a B (3.8 seconds).

But the technical magazines we looked at are definitely behind the curve. MIT's Technology Review, Power Magazine, and Hydro World all got Fs; display speeds fell in a range of 9.41 to 11.3 seconds.

Now take the test yourself. Go to www.gtmetrix.com, enter your URL, and discover your grade and download speed. Let us know what you find, and, if you're flunking, tell us what you might want to do to pull up your grade!

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

Add your comment.

Posted in (RSS)

Creating the Perfect Lead, Part II

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 3:29 PM

More tips on preparing your reader for what's to come in your introductory paragraphs.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Last issue I presented my three "assigned duties for a lead," and gave examples of usage. What follows are two more exemplars of good lead development.

Exemplar 1: An Autobiographical Approach

The New Yorker invited the respected veteran journalist, Roger Angell, to comment and opine about this year's presidential election. In a timely essay titled "My Vote," Angell prepared the reader for what's to follow with this lengthy but enlightening first paragraph:

"I am late weighing in on this election -- late in more ways than one. Monday brought my ninety-sixth birthday, and, come November, I will be casting my nineteenth ballot in a Presidential election. My first came in 1944, when I voted for a fourth term for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, my Commander-in-Chief, with a mail-in ballot from the Central Pacific, where I was a sergeant in the Army Air Force. It was a thrilling moment for me, but not as significant as my vote on November 8th this year, the most important one in my lifetime. My country faces a danger unmatched in our history since the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, or perhaps since 1943, when the Axis powers held most of Continental Europe, and Imperial Japan controlled the Pacific Rim, from the Aleutians to the Solomon Islands, with the outcome of that war still unknown."

Angell then quickly adds that he's voting for Hillary, which you, my reader, will either approve or disapprove of. But the importance for this column is how Angell gets into his piece. His approach involves autobiography. He explains himself with his own past to let us know where he's coming from, what his belief system is, what motivates him, how he loves his country, how he values the gift of being able to vote. What follows becomes clearer and more definitive, thanks to his here's-who-I-am lead paragraph. Such information can be vital in assignments that require a personal tone, a "Here I am and that's why I'm taking this action" direction. Purpose met.

Exemplar 2: A Data-Strong Approach

One more example: In the New York Times' "Views" section on September 25th, a specialist in writing about health and science, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, discusses "The Trouble with Tylenol." Here is his starting prose:

"If you're a pregnant woman and have a backache or headache, or a fever, your options for over-the-counter treatment basically boil down to one medication: the pain reliever acetaminophen, better known as Tylenol. Doctors advise against using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen and aspirin, during late pregnancy because they can compromise fetal circulation and have other adverse consequences.

"But evidence has accumulated that, when taken during pregnancy, acetaminophen may increase the risk that children will develop asthma or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The elevated risk in most studies is small, and whether the drug itself is really to blame is debatable. But considering that more than 65 percent of pregnant women in the United States use acetaminophen at some point during their pregnancy, the number of children with problems stemming from it could be substantial."

Here we have data-strong material for Velasquez-Manoff's beginning. The title itself is likely to woo readers, but the author wants to set up his discussion with medical background. It's a you-need-some-information-first approach that makes what follows much more approachable and understandable, an educate-before-postulate path toward a reader's understanding of the issue. Purpose met.

Always think about what you want to get across to the reader and, then, decide how best to do it in terms of substance. Do so before you sit down to write. The writing will come easier, and the result will be more successful.

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.

Add your comment.

Posted in (RSS)

The Fog Index

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 3:27 PM

Assessing the readability of an Engadget.com excerpt.

This month's Fog Index sample text comes from a December 28 Engadget.com article ("FDA Issues Final Guidance on Medical Devices' Cybersecurity" by Mariella Moon). Here's the passage, with longer words in italics for reference:

"The Food and Drug Administration has issued its final guidance on protecting medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps from cyberattacks. To start with, it wants manufacturers to boost their cybersecurity measures by incorporating a way to monitor and detect vulnerabilities into the products they make. The FDA also wants them to establish a process for receiving information about potential vulnerabilities from cybersecurity researchers. If they do detect any exploitable flaw, the agency wants the companies to assess the risk it poses to patients. Finally, it wants the medical device makers to issue software patches to fix any vulnerability it finds."

--Word count: 101 words
--Average sentence length: 20 words (21, 25, 18, 20, 17)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 20 percent (20/101 words)
--Fog Index: (20+20)*.4 = 16 (16.0, no rounding)

For the Fog Index to fall within ideal range, we need to cut at least 5 points from the score. (Remember, the ideal score is below 12.) Sentence length and longer word count figure equally into the score, so let's see if we can reduce both. Here's our attempt:

"The Food and Drug Administration has issued its final guidance on protecting medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps from cyberattacks. To start with, it wants device makers to boost cybersecurity by observing and detecting vulnerabilities in their products. The FDA also wants them to create a process for receiving data about likely hazards from cybersecurity researchers. If they do detect any exploitable flaw, the FDA wants the companies to assess the risk it poses to patients. Lastly, it wants device makers to issue software patches to fix any bugs it finds."

--Word count: 92 words
--Average sentence length: 18 words (21, 18, 18, 20, 15)
--Words with 3+ syllables: 10 percent (9/92 words)
--Fog Index: (18+10)*.4 = 11 (11.2, no rounding)

We had to wrestle with the text a bit to cut the 5 points. The sentences were divided in a logical fashion, so it did not serve us well to try and split them up. Minor trimming cut 2 points from the average sentence length. That left us to pare down the longer word count by half, from 20 percent to 10 percent. This helped us cut the Fog from 16.0 to 11.2 in the end.

Add your comment.

Posted in (RSS)

Saving the Newsstand in 2017

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 3:24 PM

In the news: Time Inc. has announced plans to rejuvenate its newsstand sales next year.

Newsstand sales fell nearly 14 percent in the third quarter over the previous year, according to a December 5 article on Foliomag.com by Greg Dool. Summing up the hardest hit categories, Dool writes, "In keeping with recent trends, the high-volume celebrity and women's categories -- which together account for 39 percent of overall market share -- continue to plummet, down 19 percent and 18.3 percent in units sold, respectively." Elsewhere, general interest magazines saw a jump of 8.2 percent over the previous year.

Last week, Dool interviewed Drew Wintemberg, president of Time Inc. retail. Wintemberg addresses some of the challenges facing magazines on the newsstand: "With the Brad and Angelina split, for People, we already had an issue on newsstands and we went to press on a Thursday, because that was a breaking story," he tells Dool. "We're asking ourselves how we can capitalize on breaking news both from an editorial perspective and from a speed to market perspective."

Read more about Q3 magazine figures here. For Dool's interview with Wintemberg, click here.

Also Notable

Magazines Returning to Print

Despite widespread challenges at the newsstand, some magazines are going back in print after a period of digital-only circulation. Paste magazine, which shuttered its print edition in 2010, will be back in print for March 2017. Spin, which last published in print in 2012, put out a print issue in October. Michelle Castillo of CNBC.com qualifies these developments: "The majority of publications choosing to start the print route have niche or very targeted audiences. Paste and Spin both said they have no intention of slowing their digital output or resurrecting their previously monthly editions." Perhaps more notable, then, is the fact that some digital-only titles (such as Digiday) are testing the waters with print editions. Read more here.

Top Magazines of 2016

AdAge.com has named its top magazine titles of 2016. Among the list of 12 honorees are titles such as Women's Health, Shape, O: The Oprah Magazine, and HGTV magazine. The New Yorker took home top honors. Read more about the winners here.

Add your comment.

Posted in (RSS)

« November 2016 | Top | January 2017 »