Near San Francisco in the town of Vallejo, there's an old street that was part of the Naval shipyard established in the 1800s called Magazine. In New Orleans, there's a six-mile thoroughfare called Magazine Street. These are the ancient streets where magazines of supplies were kept, storehouses for emergencies. On warships, the magazine is the storage area for ammunition. A magazine is where you can find every essential you might need.
If you are an author who blogs regularly as a way of thinking out loud, or bringing fresh ideas or stories to readers who like your voice, then you are probably familiar with the feeling that blogging is fundamentally Sisyphusian. You say something worthwhile on any given day, it goes up on your blog (which is hopefully on the front page of your website) and it stays there for all to admire forever and ever.
Actually, not really forever. It stays up there until you obliterate it with your next post. And then whatever you've previously written, no matter how brilliant, gets pushed down farther and farther until it rests in a cold damp cellar reserved for ancient blog posts. As in anything written more than two weeks ago.
Fortunately, there's a revolution happening for artful bloggers: the magazine. Magazine-style templates for your blog have the potential to transform your website from flat and old to active, complex, rich, dazzling and involving.
We've been playing with a couple of magazines on two of our websites over the last few weeks, and the implications are percolating through. You can take a look at endleofon.com and agencyforsocialmedia.com and see what the current result is.
Here are a few early observations: magazines are organized by the category you assign your blog posts. In our current versions we can have up to six categories. Since the first category goes on top, we have named that category News, and every post we write will first carry that single category as its identification. Later, when News is full of posts and a post gets pushed out of News, we'll rename it to one of our other five categories.
Maybe the most important driver of the spirit of a magazine template is that it has a dateline, right across the front. That shows your commitment to visitors to keep your site always freshened -- so that every time someone shows up you've got something new for them. The great thing is that all your old posts that had something important to say can now be found in one of the categories on your front page, and listed there as prominently as you want it to be. If you've been in the habit of creating little keynote graphics for each post, Bravo! You're ahead of the game because your website will automatically be lively with lots of great images. If not, then you might consider spending a little time finding and creating graphics to go with every post that you want to keep alive.
Don't hesitate to go back and polish old posts. No one cares if what you said was slightly off six months ago. If it needs to be corrected, updated, revised or even thought through some more, go ahead and refine it.
Magazines are powerful, and not for everyone. If you are comfortable keeping your website up as a notebook for yourself, or as a brochure, you don't need to be a magazine. But if you've been creating blog content for awhile, a magazine might be the best possible way to engage your visitors.
Follow Gerald Sindell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gsindell2