When brands become media: Mozilla launches an online magazine called Open Standard

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As publishing becomes something that virtually anyone can do, more and more brands are becoming media entities, from Coca-Cola with its magazine-style homepage to the growing Red Bull media empire. The latest example of this phenomenon at work comes from a somewhat different kind of brand, however: Mozilla — the non-profit foundation behind the open-source Firefox web browser — just launched an online magazine called Open Standard.

If you were to visit the Open Standard homepage without knowing it’s from from Mozilla, you would see a fairly typical magazine-style layout with feature stories about a variety of topics, including mobile phone security and NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as well as a right-hand column with pieces of interest from around the web, much like what the New York Times has started doing.

And if you perused some of the articles on the Mozilla site, you might or might not notice that there’s a theme running through all of them: namely, a focus on topics that have to do with open technologies — hence the name of the magazine, which according to internal Mozilla documents was originally called Mozilla Voices.

Open Standard1

The magazine is the handiwork of editor-in-chief Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, a former editor with AOL’s hyperlocal news effort Patch and CNN International who was hired in July to build an editorial team for the site. In a post about the launch, Duignan-Cabrera says the magazine is designed to be “an original news site dedicated to covering the ideas and opinions that support the open, transparent and collaborative systems at work in our daily lives.”

Journalism comes from brands too

And since Mozilla is an open organization in more ways than one, there’s plenty of information about the genesis of the site in the company’s wiki — including the former name, which was felt to be too insular, and details about the design of the site and some of the other publishers and media entities that inspired it, such as the Boston Globe and Capital New York.

There’s also quite a good overview of what makes a good magazine or news website, including elements such as a good headline (think about what you would enter into Google to find your story, it suggests as a tip) the need for social self-promotion, and other advice that many mainstream media outlets could learn from — including the necessity for writers to engage with readers and help develop a community of followers for their work through various social techniques.

Recruit your friends and family by sending out a note with a link to your post — whether social organizations, extracurricular groups, or even just your typical family/friends email list. Encourage them to comment! Experience shows that often the more comments a post attracts, the better it does in generating interest and more comments.

Many media companies seem to believe that they are competing just with other established media companies, or possibly with new-media entities like BuzzFeed or Vice or Vox. But as I tried to point out in a recent post, their competition comes from all directions, including many things that don’t look like journalism — and then there are the things that do look like journalism but come from different sources, such as Mozilla’s magazine or the tech articles that other brands commission.

To expect that all of the content from these other players will necessarily be of lower quality simply because they aren’t “real” journalistic or media entities is delusional. Some of it will clearly be good enough for readers, and some of those readers will be well-served to the point where they no longer need traditional sources. That is what the new media landscape looks like, whether we like it or not.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Thinkstock / Sculder19

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