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Old magazine, new medium

Also, a preview of new columns, and the right way to advertise on the Web.

By Michael McCarthy

October  1995
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Welcome to our fourth issue of SunWorld Online. This is our eighth year publishing for the Unix professional (first as SunWorld, then Advanced Systems), but our first foray into the wonderful world of Web publishing.

As a reader, I have mixed feelings about online pubs. They're more immediate, they don't pile up in the corner of my office, and links and multimedia hold the potential (still largely misused) to make it a richer experience. On the other hand, it's not as easy to read a long article on the screen as on paper. I always print out the longer articles I want to read -- do you? (This month's Reader Survey includes a question about that, check it out.) It's hard to remember to check favorite sites regularly. That's why we offer an e-mail subscription service, so we can send you e-mail reminding you that's we've got new articles up.

Editor heaven
As an editor, I've got to say, this online publishing is a lot more fun than paper publishing is. No more cutting a story to fit into the limited page budget! The risk here, of course, is that we don't bother cutting and pruning and editing a rambling story to make it punchier, pithier. Let us know if we ramble too much. (This editorial doesn't count.) Art is a little harder to handle because of download times and limited screen real estate. And you can't control design like you do in print.

But the main advantage is that we can add things without worrying about running out of pages. For example, at SunWorld/Advanced Systems we love columns. On the paper magazine, we had to cut somebody out to bring somebody new on, and that could be really painful. But with SunWorld Online, we can add columns whenever we want!

For the Java developer
So first we're adding a monthly column for the Java developer. Starting in our November issue, three Java gurus will advise you on this, the hottest language to come along in this decade. I went to Java day last month in New York City, and the excitement was palpable. And we can see in our log files that any article with Java or Hot Java in its title gets lots of readership.

If this interests you, now would be a good time to sign up for our e-mail subscription service, hint hint!

Webmasters of the universe!
We wanted to do a column on Web stuff, since we're on the Web and all. But not the same old advice to content producers, home hobbyists, or business consultants. What about the Webmasters? What about the poor schnooks who actually assemble and maintain the server? Who learn CGI scripting and perl, who sort log files and dope out connection failures? Who try to figure out whether the bottleneck is the T1 line, the server software, the OS, or the system hardware? Who advises them? So we started hunting for a Webmaster columnist.

It took about five minutes. We realized that our Software Tools columnist, Chuck Musciano, who manages enterprise-level Unix servers, including corporate Web servers, for Harris Corp. in Florida, doubles as the famed/notorious Webmaster of Melmac, his Web site that serves as a kind of Internet cafe -- or maybe the more apt image is a neighborhood bar -- for Webmasters. Chuck has graciously consented to take up the gauntlet and launch our new Webmaster column, starting in December. Have you signed up for your e-mail subscription yet? Are you sure?

Now we're looking for a software tools columnist. Know anybody with enormous experience across a broad range of Unix tools of every kind, and who can write?

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Mystery man: Who is John McLaughlin/Flashback?
At Unix Expo people kept asking me "Does John McLaughlin work for you? Do you publish Flashback? If I buy a Flashback sponsorship, do I get an ad in SunWorld Online?" I now realize that we never explained the new-products service John provides SunWorld Online, and now that he's getting popular and well known (that Scots accent of his is a kick), there's confusion afoot.

John McLaughlin is a Sun engineer in Florida who created, entirely on his own, an e-mail new-products service (SunFlash) that sends his subscribers (at no charge) digests of Sun's numerous new-product announcements each month. It proved so popular that he added Flashback, a service that does likewise for Sun/SPARC/Solaris ISVs. John's list has grown to an estimated 130,000 readers.

We love new-product listings (it was always one of the most popular sections of our print magazine). We formed an alliance with John: His staff writes up new products listings for us; they are published both in SunWorld Online and through John's Flashback e-mail service. Since we pool our resources (including our extensive vendor contacts), we each get a more robust and complete new-products listing. And if you have a product to sell, your new-product listings seen by both our 50,000 readers and John's 130,000 readers.

So who does a vendor send new-product listings to? Send them to, which mirrors both of us. We read them all and let John know which ones are relevant to our readership. John adds to that list for his own broadcast.

John sells vendor sponsorships to his e-mail service, whereby vendors can add their own messages to his broadcasts. If you're a vendor, you've probably gotten info from John about it. These sponsorships are entirely John's, and are unrelated to SunWorld Online or to our own new products section. There, I hope that clears things up. Or perhaps we are still confused but at a much higher level.

Ads, we got ads
SunWorld Online is an advertising-supported periodical (our business plan says). And now we've sold our first advertisements, as you've no doubt noticed by now. (You'll find Globetrotter ads scattered through the magazine, starting on the Table of Contents). And HAL Computers is supposed to show up soon too (maybe they're already there by the time you read this).

Wearing my Publisher hat, I've got plenty of opinions about how Web advertising ought to be handled; I hate those sponsorship bars that just point blindly to some home page -- where's the pitch? Where's the selling language that makes me want to click-and-jump?

One common comment from our 600 beta testers last June was, believe it or not, "Where are the ads?" Bandwidth and presentation differences mean Web advertising is a new field and has to be handled with imagination and some common sense, two virtues that are only beginning to be seen in Web publishing, pardon me for saying so.

So I am pleased and amazed at how aggressive and sophisticated Globetrotter's ad campaign is. Their banner and their thumbnail ads are not only professional, they are plainly trying to sell you something. Click on them and you go to one of three "staging pages" as we call them. Here Globetrotter gives you a breakdown of all the in-depth information you might want if you're in the market for license manager and related software. Now, when you click on one of these items and jump to Globetrotter's home Web site, you go directly to something specifically of interest to you. They don't just dump you off at the front door/home page. I like that. Advertising that is useful and informative -- what a concept!

Reader power
Building readership online is tricky business. We like to say we're not a surfer's publication. We don't have many two-screen stories or cute backgrounds. What we have is lots and lots of content useful to Unix professionals. Do you agree? If so, help us spread the word. Tell your friends and coworkers. If you've got a home page of your own, please add a link to SunWorld Online at I appreciate it.

Next month: More opinionated discussion of the developing world of online publishing, some detail on traffic to this site and to Sun's home page, the results of our reader survey of 64-bit computing, two new columns, and a pitch to join our Reader Advisory Board. Later this month we hope to add a Unix Expo report and more. How will you know the issue is in if you don't sign up for our e-mail subscription service? Do it now.

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Last updated: 1 October 1995

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About the author
Michael McCarthy is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of SunWorld Online.

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