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    Be Your Own Web Publisher


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2007, © International Trade Centre

    From bringing post-war societies to life, to public attitudes on trade and major export success stories from developing countries - trade stories are reaching new audiences through major online media, web-based discussions, blogs ­- and even phones.

    Though Internet use has been widespread only for about a decade, patterns are changing fast. The "classic" way to use an online site is to read an article, print it, use it as a research reference or link it to one's own site.

    The power of the web

    Yet even as we get used to these online practices, things are moving rapidly. Online use keeps getting more creative and interactive. Though blogs and RSS feeds are still used only by a very small percentage of readers, their use is on the rise. Over the next few pages we'll share a few cases that show how our own stories reach new readers, through media, blogs and discussion forums. Understanding the path trade stories take to reach new audiences can help you structure your own approach to publishing. The Internet has influenced how Trade Forum stories are written. We've modified our print headlines and lead sentences to include essential search terms, so our stories reach more online readers, without rewriting them. We've added online comments features and improved our reporting tools. This feedback influences our choice of articles and how they are written. Today's Trade Forum online has many features and attracts more readers than our print version. Our online readers consume information differently - they want shorter articles, more frequently, and jump from our site to others looking for insights on trade and export topics. Online readers receive information differently, too. While print magazines are delivered to mailboxes or distributed at events, today's biggest online "mailbox" is Google, the world's most popular search engine. Trade Forum stories also reach readers through e-mails, RSS feeds or links by other online "publishers" (trade promotion organizations, international and non-governmental organizations, etc.).

    Changing roles for print

    While there can be surprising paths for web stories online, the route for print stories is also changing. Trade institutions, while looking at web editions, want more copies for their own networks or customized editions, with content and language tailored to their own audiences. Print remains a valuable support for targeted events and a useful service to a dedicated core readership. The power of design and photos can be exploited in new ways: to showcase export success (our back covers have featured successful developing country exporters); to improve event reporting (photo essays); or to bring trade issues to life in a new way (colourful articles on ethical fashion, or Africa's changing image, lend themselves well to a print medium).


    If Trade Forum of old was a source for those who used articles through photocopies and microfiche, new technology is accelerating the pace and possibilities for readers. Readers are increasingly powerful in being able to combine and repurpose content in their own ways and bring it to their own audiences. Our readers increasingly use online and print versions in combination. They'll look at an e-mail service with headlines of new articles, the search function that allows them to delve into online archives and the trade topics section for our selection of articles on a given theme. Print is used for presentations, events, training or as reference in trade information centres.

    Online news services

    A story about the revival of the Sierra Leone ginger industry travelled several roads. The print edition was mailed to thousands of African readers and taken to ITC workshops in Liberia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and other countries. When the story was posted online, we alerted 12,000 readers by e-mail and several hundred more through a Trade Forum RSS feed. We also alerted about a dozen online sites who we thought would be especially interested in the content.
    • All Africa, the world's largest disseminator of online news about Africa, selected the Sierra Leone story (and others) for publication on its web site. It alerted its own readers through the All Africa RSS feed.
    Two other web sites then picked up the Sierra Leone story and sent it to their networks:

    • Big News Network (based in Dubai, providing news headlines in 400 categories) sent the Sierra Leone story to its own readers who subscribed to news about Sierra Leone via an RSS feed.
    • Plusmo (based in California, with users from 125 countries and 100 mobile phone service providers) sent the Sierra Leone and other African success stories to mobile phone subscribers. The titles captured in the mobile phone on the web screen are all Trade Forum headlines (stories about African business success, posted in August 2007).

    What's interesting is that these stories are reaching users not directly through ITC, but indirectly, through new online media. They target a global audience with an interest in trade. Technology helped the ginger story reach the African diaspora, African residents and development officials interested in the story, using a combination of web sites, RSS technology and mobile telephony.


    For the last four years, we've noticed bloggers using Trade Forum articles. They come mostly from Latin America and the United States, with the blogs appearing in Spanish, Portuguese or English. A blog is short for "web log" - a journal published online. Sometimes referred to as "citizen media", there are now 110 million blogs, with over 175,000 new blogs appearing every day. Some are intended for small audiences, a few have a large readership. Blogs make it easy for people to publish ideas and get feedback. As blogging is a very personal medium, it's easy to check into the background of bloggers. We checked into the blogs featured on this page and found they were written by men, originating from Germany, United States, Brazil and Colombia. Some are in their early 30s, while others are in their 50s. While some bloggers are trade professors or development experts, it's been a pleasant surprise to find our stories in blogs on fashion, style and entertainment. How blogs use these stories:

    • News content. Individuals create "news" blogs, make a category for international business and trade and regularly use Trade Forum articles to nourish their news content.
    • Advocacy content. Stories about "Changing Brand Africa" interest businesses with blogs that have an interest in promoting business with Africa or promoting African style and culture. Individuals working in the United Nations or other development organizations create their own blogs on topics like business and corporate social responsibility.
    • Training content. Professors and development experts use blogs to write about business and trade comment on Trade Forum articles or use them to buttress their own research.



    Online discussions

    This online discussion features a combination of ITC articles about public opinions on trade and is watched by development professionals. It has great potential as a medium for sensitization on trade development issues among civil society, including universities and NGOs. Trade support institutions and exporters still turn first to live conferences and meetings to exchange ideas and make new business partnerships. Focused online discussions can be a useful precursor or follow-up for such events and Trade Forum articles have also been used in that context.