TechCraft – The Road Ahead

When you strive towards continuous improvement by hard work and determination, you probably don't know what good will eventually come out of it. What you do know is that any effort, however small or large, never goes waste. It may sometimes simply go unnoticed.

A couple of years ago, I had to lobby extensively for TechCraft, trying to convince people to read it. I don't do that anymore. In fact, it's the other way round now…people write to me and congratulate for the wonderful work done for this ezine. While I deeply and wholeheartedly thank everyone for their extended support, I want to share that all this and more definitely comes for a price. Managing TechCraft is an extremely difficult exercise, not because of limited time and resources but the fact that most of the people associated with the ezine have their own personal lives as well.

In my opinion, writing monthly articles is a challenge for volunteers; let alone the time spent in editing and placing these articles into the ezine layout. While we work hard to deliver a quality ezine, we don't always receive the positive feedback that we so truly deserve. But then, these are factors beyond one's control, and I would not like to spend much time talking about it.

What I would like to share with you is my vision for TechCraft.

Vision for TechCraft

In time, I envision TechCraft becoming a magazine that:

  • Is not just read by the TWI members, but the whole world;
  • Serves as an instrument for writers to showcase their talents and opinions to uncountable millions of professionals worldwide;
  • Is similar to MIT's Technology Review for the tech writing fraternity.

Maybe, one day, it can become an open content website. To bridge this gap between where we are today and where we want to be requires a lot of effort.

TWI started in 2004 through the dedication of a small group of volunteers. Despite significant increase in our numbers since then, we still have goals we wish to achieve. Let's get started with what we need to do in terms of resources.

I. Developing a Web Portal

We need to build a web portal that can play host to the fast-growing TWI community, and where we can publish TechCraft as an online ezine accessible to members and non-members alike.

Call for Volunteers/ Corporate Sponsorship

We need volunteers to help build this portal. If you or someone you know can contribute to this cause, email me or anyone on the TechCraft editorial or management team. Our wish is to either receive corporate sponsorship that will compensate the technicians, or find a team of volunteers who are prepared to work on creating this web portal in their free time.

Once the portal is in place, our goal is to sustain its existence through ad revenue. But first things first, the corporate sponsorship and/ or a volunteer base is necessary to start. The best compensation for volunteering to work on this will be receiving free membership if we successfully develop this web portal. You really have nothing to lose; you can only gain by sharing your knowledge and expertise with our membership.

II. Publishing TechCraft in Print

One reason for publishing TechCraft in Print is to reach professionals all over the world, not just the technical writing community in India. For this, we must understand the audience groups, to whom TechCraft will be of value. From my experience and understanding, I have compiled what I think is a comprehensive list of the types of professionals TechCraft targets. Should you think of new professions, I would be very interested in hearing from you.

  1. Technical Writers in the Information Technology domain
  2. Technical Communicators in other domains (Engineering, Pharmacy, Elearning, and so on)
  3. Content Writers
  4. Graphic Designers
  5. Search Engine Optimization Copywriters
  6. DTP and Layout Professionals
  7. Project/ Product Managers
  8. Project Leaders
  9. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  10. Freelancers
  11. Recruiters
  12. Trainers
  13. Instructional Designers
  14. Usability Specialists
  15. Customer Service Engineers
  16. Consultants/ Contractors
  17. Documentation Managers
  18. Product Marketing Analysts
  19. Publications Analysts
  20. Publications Department Supervisors
  21. Marketing Communication Engineers
  22. Owner of a publications shop, managing several consultants
  23. Technology/ System Analysts
  24. Information Architects

Problems involved with publishing TechCraft in Print

Distributing TechCraft as a printed publication might sound like the next best thing to do, yet there are many issues involved around marketing, advertising, printing, editing, distributing, and circulating the magazine.

To market a magazine like ours internationally, we need to contact some of the publishing houses in India, such as Cyber Media and Jasubhai Group. There is also the possibility of finding an independent publisher, who will offer to do the marketing and printing, while will leave us to concentrate only on soliciting the content.

Provided that such a collaboration model could work, co-ordination becomes absolutely necessary during the initial stages. Every discussion back and forth can make the process very painstaking. Yet in my opinion, that's only a temporary factor until both sides get to understand each other's working styles. Once we have published a few issues, things become clearer as to the process, which then makes the co-ordination much easier.

One problem with this is that the publication house may handle the printing and advertising collection, yet they can demand a certain circulation figure, say over thirty thousand readers a month. The circulation needs to be high enough through the marketing or collection of advertisement material to support the magazine.

What needs to be done?

We should approach the reliable publishers suggested above to help publish this magazine. They should be given a clear idea of the magazine's circulation and we should negotiate to either pay a flat fee for their marketing, layout, and publishing services or a percentage of the advertising profits. The latter arrangement is better since the magazine won't then drain our resources and the publisher involved will be actively seeking advertising, which means more money for them. However, this will only work, if we have promising circulation figures that would be enough for the publisher to feel that the advertising will come in. We need to approach many publishers with terms and have an ironclad contract in place to see if this will work out.

I need volunteers willing to help me with the following details:

  1. Readership demographics (types of people who read it)
  2. Publication profile and price list
  3. Format in which the publication should be made available
  4. Ad space considerations: Decide what space can be bought (full inserts, half pages, quarter, side inch column, and so on) and price for the spaces
  5. Marketing Promotion Material (create a web site, prospectus, blurb, articles, and so on)
  6. List of Sponsors: Define a list of potential sponsors
  7. Archive repository: Available back copies archived and stored in a database
  8. Miscellaneous information: Considerations such as how long to run an advertisement and so on.
  9. Legality and non-compliance issues

We are eager to receive your suggestions and recommendations on how to work this out. Of course, you could also make my day by emailing me with your willingness to contribute in terms of effort, expertise, or sponsorship! Let's join hands and see if we can make this a reality... together, we can take TWI, TechCraft, and hence the whole technical writing community even further! Be the wind beneath my wings, and help me achieve this vision, for all of us!

* Refer http://www.technologyreview.com/mag_toc.asp to know more about Technology Review magazine.

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