The evolution of Visual Editors

In the evanescent world of the Internet, just because something is working well today doesn’t mean it will still be working tomorrow, said founder Robb Montgomery.

And he should know.

Montgomery, who is also news design editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, launched Visual Editors in 2004 as a forum for newspaper designers to liaise and wax analytical about everything from overbearing editors to new trends in design.

But as with many things on the Web, what started as something simple didn’t end up that way.

“It’s incredible,” Montgomery said. “It feels like we just launched (Visual Editors) and we’re already getting more than 1 million page views a month.”

In addition to an “amazingly lively” job section, and the ability for members to upload their designs and receive instant feedback, VizEd has also recently embraced what Montgomery says so many mainstream newspapers have balked at: podcasting.

With the help of a few great guests – including Deborah Douglas of Fluff magazine and Matt Mansfield of the San Jose Mercury News – VizEd’s podcasts were downloaded more than 26,000 times in the first 30 days alone.

All that traffic necessitated a move to a larger, and much more costly, server.

And this constant evolution, Mongomery said, is the only way for a Web site to get – and stay – ahead.

“I’m always tinkering with my own limits. It’s about always changing, always getting better. It’s about thinking: How can I make the site more intuitive – more informative? I had to learn a whole new set of skills just to get these podcasts to play.”

Of course, it wasn’t enough to simply get the podcasts up and running; Visual Editors offers five different ways for members to play them.

“Why shouldn’t we offer our members every available format?” he asked. “Why make it hard on people? People just don’t want to wait around while newspapers figure all this technology out.”

But despite being willing to grapple with the bells and whistles, Montgomery is ultimately about the basics: “In the end, we want an open and honest discussion about newspaper design.”

Al Gore to headline We Media conference

Former Vice President Al Gore will be the keynote speaker at The Media Center’s October 5 We Media conference in New York City.

The day-long event will gather leading media analysts to discuss the Internet’s effects on mass collaboration, including lectures on citizen journalism, activism and democracy, the business of collaboration, and media watching.

Hosted by the Associated Press at its world headquarters, the symposium will also feature speakers Craig Newmark of; CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer; and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

The Media Center is a non-profit think tank affiliated with the American Press Institute.

Google ads go 'back to the future'

Internet wunderkind Google has begun selling advertisements in the last place anyone expected: in printed publications, reports the New York Times.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which has made billions of dollars selling short text-based ads online, has befuddled advertisers and publishers alike by purchasing ad space in PC Magazine and Maximum PC and then selling spots to smaller companies.

According to the NYTimes, this move resembles ad brokering, a practice shunned by many major publishers.

At a time when most print advertisers are looking to move online, the jump from the Internet to the printed page “‘really is back to the future,'” said Standard & Poor’s analyst Scott Kessler to the Los Angeles Times.

Jason Young, president of Internet publishing for Ziff Davis Media Inc., told the LATimes Google’s new program gives print advertisers some much needed encouragement.

“‘It’s a leading entity in the online world saying that print is really an important solution for marketers,'” Young said.

Not everyone is thrilled with the news, however. Some publishers that have traditionally sold ads directly to their clients are wary of Google becoming an all-too-powerful middleman.

Google would not elaborate on its motives except to say the program was a test, according to the NYTimes. The NYTimes also reported that Google executives have said in the past that they “see their rapidly growing online advertising business extending to other media forms.”