There's much to learn when moving a print publication online
Published: August 21, 2007
|What happens when a print magazine goes exclusively to an online publication? For one thing, editors and staff must adjust design and style to accommodate technology.|
Diana Rohini LaVigne, online editor of India Life and Style, says, "The biggest challenge was retraining staff. We had to learn to use new software packages, and learn that higher quality images are not the ideal medium." Learning to write in a shorter format was also necessary. LaVigne says the transition was definitely exciting. "But it meant shifting everyone into learning mode."
Based in California, India Life and Style covers news and topics of interest to Indian-Americans. "So our history stories will be based or connected to America," she says. The site also depends on a small staff of reporters, both full-time and freelance, who live in India. "So if we need to get the coverage, we have the resources." LaVigne also uses newswire and press releases for content. "The rest is done by staff."
Top priorities are elements that give online publications an edge--the ability for readers to post comments, discussion forums and member profiles. LaVigne says staff members depend on the knowledge of readers and advertisers to determine what's "worthy of coverage." The goal is to cover a topic differently than other publications focusing on the same market.
There are topics uniquely relevant to LaVigne's readers, some of whom are coming to America for the first time. "They face many challenges," she says. "Learning to operate consumer goods like a dishwasher or washing machine, learning to ride an escalator, and learning to drive because many people in India have drivers." Many newcomers are away from home for the first time. LaVigne hopes her publications helps with adapting to the fast American lifestyle. She says these challenges are the "tip of the iceberg."
Moving the publication online paid off. "We have dramatically increased the number of eyeballs on our stories by going online," LaVigne says. "We get letters from readers in Australia, Dubai, South Africa and other places. Indians worldwide are interested in Indian-Americans." Many non-Indians fascinated with Indian culture, like the increasingly popular phenomenon of Bollywood, also visit the site.
India Life and Style has a global audience, but the approach LaVigne endorses for content could be applied to any Web site. She advocates limiting descriptives heavy on adjectives and modifiers. She wants the bulk of the article up-front and in "simple terms that don't require the reader to leave the page to find a meaning or reference." And she likes multimedia elements like charts or photos that enrich the article.
"The days where photographer and reporter were distinctly different are ending," she says. "I tell reporters to learn another complementary skill like videography or photography to stay current with industry needs for journalists."
LaVigne wears many hats. She is also online editor for India West, the Web site for the second largest-Indian weekly newspaper in the U.S. LaVigne is active in the South Asian Journalists Association, serving as San Francisco Bay Area chair coordinator for the organization.
Born in Boston, LaVigne says she's been "deeply embedded" in Indian culture for over a decade. She travels to India frequently--her in-laws live there. She says she's very much a part of the Indian-American community in the U.S.
LaVigne encourages readers to e-ail comments and to forward online articles to others. She says she loves the immediate feedback inherent in a Web publication. "Online," she says, "is instant gratification!"
India Life and Style
South Asian Journalists Association
--Aug. 21, 2007
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Diana Rohini LaVigne, editor of India Life and Style.