2 min read

Why are so many products so bad?

Sometimes I wonder what people in B2B media are thinking. Much of what we do in this industry seems to be so ... crappy.
Certainly those of us on the editorial side of the game tend to blame the folks on the business side when our products are less than compelling. We complain that we are underfunded and understaffed. But I'm coming to believe that most of our problems aren't caused by slim budgets and greedy bosses. Our problems are caused by unambitious and unskilled journalists.

Time and again I've seen this same dynamic: A B2B magazine decided to do "something" online. It chose someone from the existing staff to create and manage the new product. However, the existing staff member had never expressed any interest in online products, multimedia reporting or conversational editorial. Heck, the staff member is often just plain lousy in print too. But at least they are familiar with that medium, whereas they don't know a thing about the Web and don't care to know.
Or, even worse, they don't know anything about the Web, but think that they do.

Most distressing is that some of these folks have been running online products for years now, and yet they haven't taken the time to learn anything about the medium. Week after week they drop a print story on to a Web page. Week after week passes and they never take the time to learn how to upload a photo, record an audio file or do some search-engine optimization. They have never read the EyeTrack study. They have never read a blog.

As a result, their sites are ugly and often quite strange.
Look around.
Ask yourself, how is it possible to have an online magazine about the recording industry where the reporters don't do audio?
How is it that the Web site of a magazine that covers videography doesn't have video? Heck, why don't the news stories have photos?
Imagine that you had a pretty good content-management system that surrounded your copy with crisp graphics and white space. Would you cram your stories into unreadable, flush-left squares of multisentence paragraphs?
Want to see something sillier? In an era of conversation, links and targeted ads, imagine a Web site that wants you to pay for the right to tell your friends to read one of their articles. (NOTE: I assume this ridiculous idea came from the business side and not from editorial. But it's the sort of thing that the editorial staff should find a way to stop.)

It seems to me that people should be making more of an effort to at least master the basics. For example, here is a story from a Cygnus publication about digital photography. It has a simple and elegant look. And, most importantly, it has digital photos. I spoke at Cygnus earlier this year and I met the staff of that magazine. And they are as overworked as anyone else in B2B publishing. But they have taken the time to understand a few simple concepts: Web sites should look like Web sites. Stories about photography should have photos, etc.
Or consider what is happening at CMO. I spoke at IDG a few weeks ago and met a few folks from that product. And they too work long hours for inadequate pay. But I think their product is superb.

Look -- this is journalism. We will never have enough resources. We will never be paid enough. We will never have enough time.
But the lack of resources has never been the determining factor in what makes for fantastic reporting or beautiful storytelling. Great journalism is born of talent and ambition. And nothing can be more illuminating...or more difficult...than to look at yourself and your staff and ask if there is enough of either trait at your company.

tags: , , , , ,  conversational media