Yesterday, Jaime Derringer the Founder & Editor of Design Milk and Dog Milk shared her personal journey so far as she follows her passion as a profession. Today she shares her experience of creating a successful business, highlights the importance of community to building an online magazine and asseses how the interiors world is doing at embracing the digital landscape.
You’ve started an amazing business what tips could you offer to others considering starting a business themselves?
Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media and online engagement.
Prepare to live and breathe your business. You will work harder than you’ve ever worked before, but if you’re passionate enough it never feels like work.
How important is community to what you?
At first, I didn’t think that community was a big deal, nor did I believe that face-to-face networking was all that important. Boy, was I wrong. Just because you run a website doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get involved with your online community or get out in the “real” world and meet people.
I decided to start getting involved by actually going OFFline.
I put my photo on my website, made real business cards, started attending events — really go out there and meet people in my business, both bloggers and designers. It seems that once you attach your face and a human being to a website, there is an instant feeling of comfort. You feel more comfortable picking up the phone, emailing or contact them. They become approachable. You begin to look forward to meeting with them at events, and collaboration seems easier.
Moreover, handing out business cards and shaking hands with people who don’t know who you are is a great way to spread your brand. Once people know your face or see your logo on your business card, they will make the connection when they see your name or website mentioned online.
To anyone who wants to hide behind the computer, I say put on your sneakers and get out there and pound the pavement.
How important have facebook and twitter been to connecting with people and raising awareness for Design Milk and Dog Milk?
Essential. If you’re not on one or the other these days, you can forget about reaching a large portion of the people who spend their time online. I have been able to connect with the design lovers as young as 13, 14, or 15 because of Twitter — before they even decide to become designers or artists.
I have a large non-US population of readers on Facebook. I’m able to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise reach with just a website. Many of my Twitter followers found me on Twitter first before ever hearing of my website.
How important is reader feedback to what you do?
Crucial. I wish I got more reader feedback. I do what I do for my readers.
Here in the UK there is still a bit of uncertainty about bloggers and online magazine. What would you say to convince people as to the merits of online resources?
This is a tough question because there are a lot of quality bloggers online but there are probably twice as many uninformed bloggers. It is hard to distinguish who is who. Since the web basically offers everyone their own voice (anyone can start a blog), everyone can instantly become a source for information. I like to stick to the well-known news resources to get my news about world affairs, science, technology, and politics.
However, when it comes to my hobbies and my own business industry, it’s a bit different. There are top print magazines who have years and years of experience in the industry who have begun to produce online content. This is very promising for the rest of us. The more traditional, well-known top names in the industry who begin to recognize the importance of online media the more their readers will also move in this direction. We need Wallpaper*, Metropolis, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Modernism Magazine, etc to really push their readers into reading about design and getting information online.
Moreover, I think that the current generation of designers who have been in the industry for over 30 years are likely not the target audience of bloggers. We’re targeting the designers, architects, and future designers who are young, still in school, and embracing online media as their FIRST source of information and resource. I want my readers to grow with me, and I want them to tell me where and how I need to grow to meet their needs. I have a feeling that the current generation of 18-30 year olds is going to reshape where and how we get information, so I think that those who don’t accept us as valuable or valid will get pushed out the door by the new generation.
How do you think the interior design world is doing at embracing digital? Who is doing things well?
I think resource sites like Decorati , MyDeco or Modenus are great in reaching the interior design audience. I also think that weekly Twitter chats like Interior Design Chat have become a great way for IDs to connect and share resources or tips with each other.
Some of the top design magazines are doing OK but no one is really standing out just yet. I think they are still in transition. With all the movement in Editor-in-Chiefs and Online Editors happening in the past 6 months, things are changing so we should see more happening online in 2011.
Who should the interiors world look to for examples of best practice in incorporating digital tools and the web into their business plans?
I think that HGTV is doing a pretty good job of connecting online with viewers. They’ve created online video series, promoted their Twitter and Facebook on their TV channel and partnered with interior design bloggers to help promote their Design Star TV show.
I also think that there are great design-related people online like Kenneth Brown, Angelo Surmelis, ABCDDesign, Rue Magazine, Grace Bonney, there are a lot of design folks doing things right online, but I’m not seeing the REALLY big names do anything amazing yet. I think big things are coming soon. I’m hopeful.
If one has a budget allocated, I think looking into getting advice from someone like The Kaleidoscope Partnership is a good start. If designers or companies are struggling, TKP is a helpful resource to strategize, teach, and inform about social media.
Here in the UK a few of our newspapers, such as The Times, have gone behind a ‘pay wall’ and are now subscription based. What are your thoughts on this? Is it counter to what the web is all about?
I think this idea is great, but it’s not for everyone. Magazines and newspapers that were previously popular only in print are now offering their full content online because many people are now going to the web for news. If you think about it you’re essentially reading the same thing in a different format. In my opinion, just because you’re holding an iPad instead of a newspaper doesn’t make the words more or less valuable and you should pay the same price for it. Whatever you paid in a paper subscription you should pay in an online subscription.
For anyone who says online is cheaper than print to produce has never developed an iPad app, had their own server, hired a programmer or a designer. To truly provide quality, attractive, and user-friendly content, the costs add up!
Image Credit: The round-up of social networking sites came from The Ecommerce Solution.