These days, it's so easy for anyone to get up in the morning and decide that day to start their own online magazine or publication. The tools are out there, making it simple, fast, and cheap to do so. however, just because anyone can start and do anything he or she wants doesn't mean that an online publiation should do anything it wants. Here are four things online magazines SHOULD NOT do because they are bad practice to do so:
- Copy and Paste Entire Articles Without Credit - This is the cardinal sin of publishing. Copying and pasting without attribution is a huge no-no. Sometimes, copying and pasting with attribution can be dangerous. This is very tempting for online publications to do, especially if there are pressures to publish everyday or to make deadlines. however, those goals can be met if online magazines plan ahead for their content, or takes on enough writers to cover breaking news appropriately. If you are reprinting someone else's work, make sure to make it clear that it is a reprinting and not an original work of the magazine.
- Vague Sourcing - This is when a quote or a piece of information is purposely sourced in an unclear or general way. For example, vague sourcing be saying "according to a business magazine," or "industrial magazines have said." Vague sourcing is bad practice because it doesn't help the reader, and it doesn't led credibility to your magazine since this type of sourcing makes it look like you're making things up or doesn't know where it's getting its information. You may be doing this vague sourcing for SEO purposes ('business magazine' or 'industrial magazine' are terms you'd like to rank for), but it looks awful from a reporting standpoint.
- Covering Trending Topics Instead of Your Niche - It seems like a good idea to write an article about the latest iPhone for the sake of a few more hits, but if you're an online publication covering environmental news, do your readers care? Probably not, unless you discuss the iPhone and its environmental impact, or the sustainability policy of Apple. Then, it's okay because the topic has been tailored to your audience. But, if you're only covering a topic because you want to jump on a wave and to score some extra web traffic, you're only making your online magazine look bad. How many of those wanting to know about the latest iPhone are also going to care about the latest in the solar industry or how companies are implementing energy management? Probably not many. So, that spike in traffic may not last or be sustainable. How many of your current readers care about the new iPhone? Maybe a lot, but they are expecting environmental news from you, and are expecting to learn about the iPhone elsewhere.
- Disguise the Identity of Your Writers - I used to write for an online publication that didn't want me to go by my professional byline. My professional name would bring up all the work that I've done for other clients in search engines resutls. The publication only wanted their articles to come up, so they wanted me to go by a different name to ensure that happened. The problem? It's shady. At least under my professional name, my identity and credentials can be verified. With the unique name, you won't find a LinkedIn profile or a professional website. You won't find any claim that this person exists beyond those articles for the one publication. That's fishy. Why wouldn't a publication want to acknowledge the accomplishments of their writers, or let their writers add the articles from this publications to their portfolio? Sounds a little greedy, as if the publication doesn't have much regard for their writers.
Doing any of these four things may seem like a good idea because it benefits the publication, but consider that your readers are your customer, and that you ought to do things that benefit your readers. If something that benefits the publication creates a negative reader experience, like the vague sourcing or the inability for your readers to verify the identity or the credentials of your writers, then they are considered bad practice and shouldn't be done. Without your readers, you wouldn't be much of an online publication.