Phillip Smith

Top five resources for folks making the transition from print to online

I recently received some questions from a friend who's applying for a position as an "online editor" along the lines of "What do I need to understand about Web sites to bring value to an online position?" and "What do I need to know to communicate effectively with my Web-development counterpart?"

These questions come across my Inbox often enough to justify a quick summary of what I think are "Top five" resources for folks making the transition from print to online. These aren't editorial resources, specifically, they're mostly technical in nature (as that's my "thing").

  1. Read a book: Probably the best, all around, resource I recommend to folks is the book "Web Style Guide." I've purchased several copies of this book over the years and given it to new clients. It covers all the key steps in the technical and editorial parts of developing a Web operation, and it does it in a very easy-to-understand way. The book is also available online at no cost -- but I recommend the print version.

  2. Build a personal Web site: By and far, the best way to understand the concerns of your Web-developer colleague is to take on the project of setting up your own blog, from scratch, and not using a service like or, which remove the learning from the process. Find some inexpensive or free hosting, learn how to download the software, walk through the steps to install it and get it configured the way you want, and then customize the way it looks. From that experience, you'll have some hands-on experience of what your Web colleagues do every day. (If you already have a site, create a new one just for the practice.)

  3. Ask a lot of questions: To answer the conceptual and strategic questions, you'll need to start having some candid conversations. Questions like:

    • How to effectively have conversations with readers?
    • How to create connections between print and online?
    • How to help your Web operation meet its potential (with zero budget!)?

    ... are only answered in the context of your organization or publication; it will be different for everybody. The important step here is to make the time to have conversations with your colleagues and readers, and to do it regularly. Brainstorm with your colleagues weekly. Connect with your readers monthly. Reflect on your strategic plan quarterly.

  4. Listen to new ideas: Once you're in the flow (or the heave and throw) of things, you'll want to start introducing some new ideas into the mix. Thankfully, there are lots of conversations happening out there about the transition from print to online. Instead of an exhaustive list, I would point to the following sites as a good starting point for your regular reading:

  5. Get up-close and personal: And, most importantly, find some folks in your area to meet up and talk about ideas with. If there isn't a local "Online Editors" meet-up near you already, start one!

Have your own ideas or successful strategies to add? Please take a moment to leave them in the comments.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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