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From the Listerver: URLs in Magazine Articles - 11/17/2009 -

Your colleagues discuss the best options for using URLs in magazine articles.

Q. What's everyone's thinking about using URLs in magazine articles (especially for your own content)? Our URLs are so incredibly long that it's cumbersome to use them within editorial content. I could use Bitly or Tiny URL or something to shorten them, but part of me thinks we lose a bit of PR if we're not using a URL straight off our own website. And those Bitly/Tiny URLs aren't exactly easy to remember anyway. I could use 'friendly URLs' and make up a new one for each thing I'm linking to, but that requires work from our IT company each time (in other words, more money and more time).

A. We ask our IT staff to give us 'friendly URLs' that are easier to remember than the long string of digits and characters.

For example:

This URL http://www.nctm.org/publications/content.aspx?id=22635 is the location of information about submitting manuscripts to various departments. In the journal we publish this destination as http://my.nctm.org/tcmdepartments.

If there is a more efficient way to deal with URLs we would love to hear it!

Beth Skipper, Editor, Teaching Children Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

A. For paper edition of magazine, I do two things:

1. I use a shortcut like this: Go to Trends online > Search: <<>>. Then they don't have to key the full URL—and they see related content we've posted.

2. Use QR codes. Association Publishing inspired me to try this; I use 1-3 per issue. Many of our members are not tech-savvy, but just having the codes in the magazine helps those who are, and it positions the magazine as forward-looking.

By fortunate coincidence, the December issue of Esquire features a large QR code in a prominent position on the cover. Our members will have seen the QR codes in two issues of Trends before the Esquire cover hits. I like giving my readers a little Esquire cachet.

Lessons learned:

Create a unique landing page for the QR code so you can track use, and format the page for use on a phone. The codes can be used with webcams or cameras, but cameras are the more likely option.

Make sure the QR code is large enough to be used by fixed-focus cameras.

Avoid placing the code on the inside column next to the spine. The camera picks up exactly what it sees; the curve of the page distorts the printed code, rendering render it useless. Better to place the code in a center or outside column. Finally, be careful about high-gloss finishes; glare interferes with the camera's ability to read the code.

Constance Hardesty, Editor in Chief, Trends Magazine, American Animal Hospital Association

A. We ran into the same issue, particularly when linking to government documents. Our solution was to establish an 'Online Extras' area of our newsletter's website. Members are directed to this area with a single URL that's easy to remember (http://www.mcaa.org/reporter/), which is promoted in the folio on each page of the newsletter as well as within the text of articles (see http://www.mcaa.org/reporter/archives/2009-09-Reporter.pdf for an example). The area also includes additional content and links to related documents that would otherwise far exceed our page count.

So far, the feedback has been positive. We're fortunate to have an in-house IT person, so this system hasn't been unduly cumbersome.

Adrienne Breedlove, Director, Communications & Public Relations, MCAA Reporter, Mechanical Contractors Association of America, Inc.


 

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