For the past couple of weeks our Behind The Screens feature has been exploring the world of online publishing, paying tribute to some of the best sites around by talking to the people that make them what they are. From Dezeen to Booooooom, Pitchfork to NOWNESS we’ve been thrilled to hear so many insights about an area we believe doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
To round off the feature we decided to focus a little closer to home, and we asked the current It’s Nice That editorial team, plus founders and directors Will Hudson and Alex Bec, to discuss what they’ve learned about online publishing from their time at It’s Nice That. We’ll add LIv Siddall in when she gets back from holiday and we’ve opened comments so that any of you who run blogs, websites etc can get involved too.
The biggest thing I have learned is that the audience is never big enough. I was pleased when there were more people reading the site than were in my class at Brighton, then a few thousand people and then tens of thousands. I remember setting the 100,000 monthly landmark and when we hit that we immediately moved to 250,000 and then we hit that you jump again. Actually, when you stop and look at it we’ve created something that a lot of people read and enjoy as well as growing a team of 20 super talented people – that is pretty special.
I’ve learned, and am still learning, that you have to be confident in what you believe in as a publication. The instant, detailed feedback you get online via social media and real-time analytics software can create an incredible pressure to bend to what you think people want to see. In actual fact all the online brands I admire (and many of them have featured in this series) have a strong, confident sense of curation. I believe that in the long run this wins out; that readers trust you and want you to help get them to great content. That’s not to say numbers aren’t important, nor that we should ignore the broad insights we get from the analytics, but we as a team have to be on the same page in terms of what we’re trying to do. Also I have learned that some people won’t like it and that’s fine; there are plenty of other arts and design sites available!
I’m still relatively new to It’s Nice That, but it’s been interesting to see what gets a “digital” audience going. What I’ve discovered so far from wading through stats and my own scribbles is perhaps what we suspected already; that people love stories about boobs, beer and rather post-modernly, internet-related things like Twitter. More reassuringly though, I’ve learned that in digital publishing as in any other kind of publishing, covering great work will always look good online, and always get people reading – or at least looking at the pictures.
I’ve learned that it literally never sleeps. In traditional publishing you (sort of) have periods of down time because you have to allow for the creation of a physical object. Online there is no physical object so periods of rest are few and far between. It’s a lot of fun but also a huge challenge.
I’ve learned that the moment you think you’re on top of things, you’re going too slowly. By its very nature the internet creates a kind of moving finish line, which in turn perpetuates a never-ending race to create bigger, better things, and to do so in a shorter time. I’ve learned that you can’t ever stop learning, and that’s the biggest thrill for me.
Behind the Screens
The “golden era” of independent publishing has seen an awful lot written about magazines; their enduring influence as well as the challenges facing the industry. Sometimes those discussions have overlooked the amazing things happening in online publishing so in November, we plan to rectify that. For the next few weeks we’ll be speaking to the people who have been beavering away at making the internet a very pleasant and addictive place to visit, finding out their secrets and asking them why they do what they do.